The Beauty of Us
Apr 21, 2013

Appreciating the beauty of our Blackness, even in these trying times

This past week was incredibly difficult on the news front. Domestic terrorism in Boston. The rape of a 5 year-old girl in India. An earthquake in Iran. A fertilizer plant explosion in Texas. And the continuing financial woes threatening the future of public education in Philadelphia and many other major cities across the United States. So many hateful actions happening to and by humanity that may cause us to question our very existence. We are a people under siege. And yet, there is a light that continues to shine through the darkness that surrounds us. It is, perhaps, the same light that allowed black people to persevere after nearly 250 years of trans-Atlantic slavery. We are survivors. We are beautiful, even when our pathology dims our shine.

It is this deep-abiding beauty and goodness that was so evident on the Kimmel Center stage during the Philadanco performance at this year's Philadelphia International Festival of The Arts. I have interviewed founder Joan Myers Brown on several occasions over the past year, and have heard her concern over the company's future because of financial woes and a growing apathy among hometown supporters. With so many people focused on their own survival, fewer are making space in their budgets for the continued support of our cultural institutions. This situation is echoed with many similar organizations across America. And yet, this stark reality was nowhere to be seen on stage at the Kimmel. All we witnessed was expert physical interpretation of music and sentiment that provides universal insight into distinctly Black creativity. Philadanco makes no apologies for celebrating Black bodies, Black rhythms and Black stories, but the door swings wide open for anyone to sit in the audience and be welcomed into the experience. For all of those who turn Blackness into a caricature of itself as a means of gaining power or respect, or for those who hide their Blackness under the clothing, grooming or other appearance of assilimation and conformity, Danco's routines present Blackness on a platter of unflinching glory. And Lord knows we need more that in our lives, especially now.

With arts programs disappearing from our schools and the job market ever unkind to people of color, we may view dance as a luxury. But Philadanco's PIFA performance reminded everyone in the crowd how necessary it is to look upon ourselves with awe and wonder. We have come a mighty long way, but we have miles to go before we sleep. And sometimes, we need a fervent reminder of why the sacrifices and struggles are worth it. We need to look in the mirror and see the light that still burns within, despite all attempts to snuff it out. Therein lies our true beauty.

Here is last week's playlist: