Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Celebrating Chuck Davis

Chuck Davis is an icon. His reputation extends beyond the boundaries of North Carolina. He is known internationally for his contribution in educating the world about African dance and culture.

Who in Durham hasn’t seen the African American Dance Ensemble? They’re everywhere performing that heart throbbing movement of body blended with the stimulating beat of those drums. For decades now, students within the Durham Public School system have learned to embrace and celebrate the culture of those connected to the African Diaspora.

Davis, along with his dancers, has taught us to smile when we dance. His work has helped us transcend the discomfort related to the cruelty of slavery. There is more to the story then people robbed of their culture and forced to endure the burden of enslavement. Although the past is laced with memories of whippings, lynchings and rapes – from all of that emerged the gift of dance.

Many have been mesmerized by the towering figure packed with charisma that forces you to love and smile. Davis has taken us back to empathize with the intent of our ancestors dance. Each movement awakens the dimming spark needy of reason to skip again. Beyond the dread fostered by an attack of things hoped for, beyond thoughts that bind love and make us evil due to the lie that we are made different – we can all dance together.

For a brief period, I served as the Executive Director of the African American Dance Ensemble. I did so as a volunteer. I took hold of the task due to the anger that was robbing me of the serenity I pray for everyday. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” I was tired of not doing what I could to change things.

What needed to be changed was the lack of stability. I was left devastated and embarrassed by the lack of support that would secure the organization beyond the charisma of its founder. I wanted more for the African American Dance Ensemble. It miffed me whenever I thought of why a community like Durham has been unable to find a way to formulate a strategy to do just that.

Maybe I’m an idealist, but I can’t help but wonder about a lack of village love in Durham. All that talk about it takes a whole village leaves me thinking that none of us live in the same village or have grown so weary by our own quest for comfort that we care less about passing on the culture that makes us dance.

As always, Chuck and the gang will lead us in the celebration of Kwanzaa on Sunday. He will call the village to gather at the Durham Armory at 220 Foster St as we reflect on the meaning of Imani – faith. It’s fitting that it begins on the day many of us will go to church to contemplate the lessons learned over the previous year. Someone will sing “We’ve come this far by faith…” Things at the Armory start at noon, but we will be there most of the day.

I will stand before the crowd clad in my agbada gown. I will pour libations along with leaders of other faith traditions. I will challenge those present to take hold of the messages of Kwanzaa – unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith – and abide in them beyond the day.

Hopefully, prayerfully, it will be enough to inspire a community to support Chuck Davis and the African American Dance Ensemble. It’s the best way to be a community that echoes the message of Kwanzaa. Our failure to do just that could have grave implications regarding our ability to dance in the future.

Beat the djembe drum. I have reason to dance. Say it loud, I’m black and I’m proud. There’s no hatred in my spirit because I know where my people come from.

Usiache mbachao kwa msala upitao (Don’t abandon your old rug for a passing mat)

Contributions to the African American Dance Ensemble can be mailed to: 120 Morris Street, Durham, NC. 27701

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