Dance meditation for Black liberation

The Lawrence Dance Series was back again over Zoom on Sunday, Nov. 1 at 7 p.m. to host a conversation with members from Street Dance Activism’s Global Dance Meditation for Black Liberation, which is a global collective based around bringing liberation for Black people. The idea of street dance activism is that street dance can be used as a political action. Connected through Instructor of Dance Margaret Paek, the conversation was held by Amelia Leafaitaulagi, Grace Shinahae Jun, Ph.D. and Shalom Cook, who each take part in various meditation and choreography aspects of the group. 

Their discussion centered around the work of Black liberation by way of collective embodied practice and healing. During late summer, Shamell Bell, Ph.D., a street dance activism scholar, dancer and choreographer, sent out a call on Facebook about a dream that she had had the night before. The post opened by saying, “I just woke up from a dream that I was to gather choreographers and dancers all over the world for that beautiful dance of liberation that I’m always talking about.” The post ended with, “I guess I’ll start by setting the intention that all who are called to dance toward liberation, drop me a comment or an email […]” 

By word of mouth, what came out of this post was a group of over 50 “artists, activists, academics, parents, children, practitioners and healers,” as stated on their website, from around the world that met to come up with a framework and toolkit for 28 days to focus on using the body as a tool for Black liberation. The goal was to create “a place where everyone can feel seen and heard,” says Jun. Each day, there was a livestreamed grounding exercise, as well as several meditation sessions, journal prompts, musical selections and documents with vocabulary to learn. The four weeks each have a theme: What Does Liberation Look Like in the Inner Sanctum?, Liberation in Intimacy, Liberation in Spirituality and Liberation in Our Identity. Cook explained that during a time when it is hard not to be consumed with darkness, this group allowed her to move toward a place of hope: to “heal, celebrate, rejoice, be liberated. That work is all our work.” 

Reflecting on the experience of creating this healing curriculum, the members within the panel spoke about the power of a space where Black women’s voices were heard and prioritized as part of the conversation. That centering became crucial to the dynamic of the group, showing the power that Black women hold. 

Another important aspect that was discussed was the value of community and connectivity, especially in times of uncertainty. One of their mantras that tied together the lessons was, “I am, and that is more than enough.” Leafaitaulagi remarks how special it was to see people reflect on the “enoughness” that the organization is trying to help people instill in themselves. The entirety of their conversation and the tone surrounding the work that they do emphasized that those with shared vision and intention, even in a small pocket of the world, can create opportunities for the sharing of gifts and laughter and love, where people can lift each other and move toward a more compassionate future. 

For those who are interested in joining in this movement, the resources can be found on streetdanceactivism.com. As Cook urged, go against whatever fear you have of starting and take part in this work.

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