February is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of African Americans. In 1926 Carter B. Woodson ,the “father of black history,” started the celebration of Black History in the hope that it would promote school curricula on the topic. He relied on education to help people understand and appreciate the contributions of black Americans. In 1976 the celebration was extended to a month-long acknowledgment of black Americans by President Gerald Ford.
Glendale Community College and student life has seized the opportunity to honor black Americans this month with many events on campus geared toward celebrating Americas richest culture. On Feb. 15 Kawambe Omowale African Drum and Dance Theatre performed several dances for students in the Student Union. Performers Darren Jackson, Dr. Sonja Branch, Evette Minns and Muslimah Hameed showcased rhythmic drumming and high energy dancing for attending students.
The Kawambe Omowale collective has been in existence for thirty years and has performed for the Maricopa Community colleges for nearly twenty-five years. Many of the groups dances are traditional West African dances from places like Senegal, Mali and Ghana. Many Omowale group members have learned the dances while visiting Africa or from master dancers traveling through the US. Evette Minns, an Omowale dancer, thinks that collective has flourished because of their mutual celebration of diversity and inclusion.
Dancing has always been an important part of many African civilizations. Many of the cultural differences and movement styles were captured in the various dances the group performed. Minns said, “It’s always important to know where you are from and be able to share this knowledge with generations to come.” She believes that dancing can lead to self-empowerment, which is important to people who have historically experienced some of the worst oppression in American history.
Many GCC students were invited to participate in the dancing. Omowale made learning a new dance easy and fun. Sophomore Stephanie Michael said, “I’ve never done this kind of dancing before. I had fun.” Minns feels that African dance stimulates the interest in a rich culture that has contributed so much to America and the world. She said, “Black History Month helps to open up dialog enabling others to celebrate our similarities, as well as our differences.”
Kawambe Omowale will be teaching a free dance class on Mar. 17th at Eastlake Park in Downtown Phoenix. This event will be open to the public. The group can also be booked for parties, workshops and municipal event. Please visit www.kawambeomowale.com for more information.