'Why should just black lives matter, all lives should matter?' is a question that most race-oriented folks say.
By race-oriented, I mean those who are singularly focused on seeing the world thru the lens of different coloured skin and races than seeing all races as part of one whole human race. The irony is just that. Those who advocate against the Black Lives Matter movement by claiming all lives matter are those who see colour the most and ignore the fact that there is still widespread racism in the world thru systemic oppression.
This movement is a sensitive issue. Why would an artist, not even black in colour or race, mix herself up in this movement and face polarising her audience and even risk losing customers?
The reason is, the black race is part of the human race; it isn't my race but part of the human race; standing up in support of ending racism should not be a debate or even an option!
I decided to honour and support the Black Lives Matter Movement by shining a light over the dance industry. Dance is something that we could all relate to; music is a universal language that has the potential to unite the races. Dance and music have always paid a considerable part in shaping my character and sense of joy in this life. Thinking back over my early childhood and youth, black music and dancers have left an irrevocable impression in my life.
I created the Dance Collection for the black lives that throughout my life had inspired me to elevate my senses and become sensitive to issues broader than my own. They have done this through excelling at their creative talents. They were brave; they turned up even in environments where they were not appreciated, some even were brave enough to speak up against racism while risking their livelihood; as a result of their action, our world is a better place.
Each artwork in this series is dedicated to a black life that had changed the world's perception against racism through dance. When you read their stories below, you will understand why black lives matter and why we should support the movement to end racism in 2020:
#1 of 11 is dedicated to Janet Collins. At the tender age of 16, Collins was invited to join the Ballet Russe but bravely declined the offer because she refused to whiten her skin for the stage. She had said "the reason I became a ballerina of the Metropolitan Opera was because I couldn't be topped. You don't get there because you get there in spite of".
#2 of 11 is dedicated to the great entertainer dubbed the "black pearl" Josephene Baker. Speaking up for the civil rights movement in America, she asked "Americans the eyes of the world are on upon you. How can you expect the world to believe in you and respect your preaching of democracy when you yourself treat your coloured brothers as you do?" Baker refused to perform in segregated audiences in America. Bakers unselfish stance against injustice and her unique contribution to the world of dance is immense.
#3 of 11 is dedicated to the one and only, the Queen of Rock and Roll, Tina Turner. Turner, of course, is known for her singing but no one can deny her electric performances in dance on stage. Her moves are as famous as she is! She was known to have said, "if you'll stand up and go, life will open up for you". I hope that this artwork which shows a group of women in a very physically positive state, it acts as a reminder that each one of us has within us the power to make our dreams come true.
#4 of 11 is dedicated to the tap dancer Savion Glover. I got to hear about Savion Glover from his work in Happy Feet back in 2006. Who among us didn't fall in love with the tap-dancing Mumble, brought to life by the choreography and motion capture talent of Glover? Glover said this regarding working as a coloured dancer in America "my approach to tap has a relationship to what we as African Americans went through in this country. To an extent, it's what we continue to go through the struggle to be recognised".
#5 of 11 is dedicated to Michaela dePrince. Originally from Sierra Leone, orphaned Michaela was adopted by an American couple. She dreamt of becoming a ballerina so with hard work and talent, in 2012, at seventeen, she became the youngest dancer at Dance Theatre of Harlem. Currently, Michaela is a member of the Dutch National Ballet. She said regarding systemic racism within the ballet industry "if a director does not appreciate the aesthetics of African beauty, he will not want to promote a black ballerina to the status of prima, because the prima is supposed to be the most beautiful dancer. She represents the aesthetics of classical ballet, which right now are Eurocentric."
#6 of 11 is dedicated to Boney M. Boney M was an album that my mother played on a continuous loop in my early childhood! As a little brown girl, I loved dancing to the rhythm and the lyrics of "brown girl in the ring, tra la la la la". The group was known for their music, but boy did they dance as well! Just check out Bobby Ferrel's dance moves in the music video while singing Daddy Cool on YouTube, unique and entertaining is an understatement!
#7 of 11 is dedicated to Janet Jackson; I was mesmerised by her dance performance in Rhythm Nation when I first saw it as a teenager. Janet Jackson has always been vocal about her feelings regarding racism. In Janet's hit song "The Skin Game" in 1990, she wrote these lyrics "the skin game is still around(skin game)/ But you can't keep a good man down".
#8 of 11 is dedicated to the one and only, the great Michael Jackson. He was such a great inspiration in my life and as well as millions of others. He was known to have said this "on many an occasion when I am dancing; I felt touched by something sacred. In those moments, I felt my spirit soar and become one with everything that exists". I hope that my artwork captures that euphoria that one tends to feel when one is immersed in creativity.
#9 of 11 is dedicated to The Supremes Supremes take number 9 of 11 artwork that I created. I created The Dance Collection to celebrate black lives that had inspired me and had contributed to the art of dance. The series was also created in honour of the 2020 Black Lives Matter civil rights movement.
The Supremes was Motown's most successful band. They rivalled the immense popularity of the Beatles, a phenomenal achievement by three black females at the time. The Supremes music is so groovy; you can't help but move and dance to it!
#10 of 11 is dedicated to Number 10 is dedicated to Misty Copeland. Ballerina Misty Copeland made history as the first African American Female Principal Dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre. Starting late in life to train as a ballerina, Misty took her natural talent to the ultimate level by sheer hard work and perseverance. She recalls being told as a young dancer that she didn't have the "right" body type to be a professional ballerina. Translation, she says, "It's an acceptable way to say 'you don't belong in the ballet world' without saying 'you have the wrong skin colour.' She feels that a large part of her role as a public figure is to make it easier for black and brown ballerinas to break into the ballet world.
#11 of 11 is dedicated to Prince. Although we all know that Prince was a singer and not a dancer, what some of you may not know is that he was a great supporter and patron of dance. He recognised raw talent and nurtured the likes of Misty Copeland, Carmen Electra, Mayte Garcia and Bria Valente to reach fame. Prince made this statement regarding racism "nothing more ugly in the whole wide world than INTOLERANCE (between) BLACK, white, red, yellow, boy or girl. INTOLERANCE."
Please remember the humanity within all of us. We may be of different races and colour, we may have even shared a history that had pitted us against one another, but that is history, and this is NOW. Let us look into each others soul and find the things that unite us and learn to love one another once and for all. If we don't learn to love one another, we not only put the survival of our race in jeopardy but the entire human race. Let us make 2020 the year we end racism!
I am not asking you to support the Black Live Matter Movement because I do. I am not even asking you to care about systemic racism because I do. I only ask of you this: when thoughts of intolerance and hate well up in your heart, will you promise me that you will put on some music and dance your heart away? Do it long enough, and your negative thoughts may even float away. Beautiful, thank you!
It is 2020, stay well, keep safe, stay alive and make this world a better place! Peace.