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My first reaction was immediate rage, just rage. Then I started feeling anxiety and fear because it’s very real. I am married to a black man. I’ve been in the car when the police have stopped us, and you can’t say anything, and all this protocol has been drilled into us. You don’t have to be doing anything wrong and someone can snuff your life out. 

It made me relate to the struggles of being a black artist, so there was this continuum of negative feelings. The Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund recently announced a funding of $580,000 and no blacks were funded. The playing field isn’t level and when our participation is desired, it’s only because we are providing diversity and then we get crumbs of support. Some people will try to trivialize and say it’s just the arts, but it’s our culture. We are talking with other black arts groups about why we weren’t funded and what our strategy is. I am always in the background fighting for the rights for black arts. 

For me, I have to get back to what’s positive. With all the rioting and the negative things going on we wanted to connect with our dancers, our audiences and our supporters, so last Saturday we did a “cul de sac gathering” outside our building within the (coronavirus) guidelines. Mama Theresa and Papa Barago led us in dancing and drumming. Calvin Gentry created a line dance that we did with our masks on. We socially distanced and we shared art, dance, music and magic, and it made a world of difference. 

As adults, we sometimes feel displaced because of things that happen to us so I want to put stories out there where we can see our brilliance, our greatness. Like The Leopard Tale. It’s about a solitary hunter who has to live through instinct. There might be a battle and a fight, we are all different, but we can coexist. In Act II, you see not just black dancers, but Asian dancers, white dancers. Everybody from everywhere celebrating the drum.

I am a fighter and through adversity I think you find the root of who you really are. Sometimes it is exhausting and overwhelming but I am like my mother. I have a lot of energy and I am very resilient and I am thankful for that.

(Photo by Sirk photography)

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