Photo First: Hope and joy

An evening showcase of student dancers from Faubion and Harriet Tubman schools highlights the talent and promise of a new generation

Jump for Joy: Lighting up the Winter Showcase.

STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY FRIDERIKE HEUER


There were at least two people in awe at Da Vinci Arts Middle School on a mid-January evening while attending the Winter Showcase of Faubion and Harriet Tubman Middle School: this young lady and me.

As Harriet Tubman Principal Natasha Jackson, in unison with teachers, staff and musicians from the other organizations, put it: People of all races and all backgrounds are coming together to celebrate art and the achievement of these young dancers who have worked hard to present an incredible program. Both schools have a diverse student population, with many languages on their website to get information to all those parents who have newly arrived. To see all those different faces merge into dance ensembles that became one in the movement really represented hope: for a future where unity fights back the forces of segregation.

Harriet Tubman Principal Natasha Jackson.
Vice Principal Cleann Brewer.
Vice Principal Lavell Wood, with a student.

The program was focused on African dance but also had some modern dance pieces put in the mix. Oluyinka Parsons- Akinjiola and Sekou Walker did a marvelous job with the choreography; I can only begin to imagine the amount of work they put into this to reach such a tight performance. The Sebé Kan drummers had one of the most energetic sessions I have ever seen them perform, but the glory belonged to the dancers. They have come such a long way and between raw talent and tremendous amounts of rehearsal they were really hitting it.

Teacher/Choreographer Derrell Sekou Soumah Walker, with the next generation.
Teacher/Choreographer Oluyinka Akinjiola-Parsons.
Karida Griffith Walker.

Even during the nightmare of any live performer, when the technical equipment that played the music (by Ella Mai and Burma Boy for the modern dance pieces) somehow decided to quit midstream, they continued to dance with poise when the live drumming simply stepped in and rescued that moment. Bravo!

The musicians, from left: Dré Espinosa, Kahlil Cummings, Jelani Blunt, Hakim Muhammad, Derrell Sekou Soumah Walker, Naby Camara.

Girls and boys, across middle-school ages, showed not just skill and an increasing repertoire. They were so full of passion, so clearly in the moment exuberant and letting it fly that the entire auditorium was humming with excitement. It was simply a joyful moment during these dark January days.

Dances originated from diverse traditions: from an Afro-Cuban background, from the Guinea independence movement, some honoring the Sousou ethnic group, others the Mandeng and the old Mali empire. I will let the photographs speak for themselves.

Last-minute rehearsal and warmup in the gym.
Waiting for the stars to appear …

Boys held their own…

… as did these warriors.

Energy was palpable:

Costumes were beautiful:

And the modern dance was evocative:

Let them all flourish and enrich our communities.

***

  • Friderike Heuer’s photo essay was originally published on Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, on her site YDP – Your Daily Picture,  under the headline There’s Hope. It is republished here with permission.

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