Kissqwanna King

“One of the things I like about African/Caribbean culture is the drumming because it is fun and you get the rhythm of it and you can go along with the beat. I think the drumming is like one of the most important things of the dancing. It is fun to learn, it is interesting and it is fun to learn the history behind the drums. One of the drums I play is the conga and some of the drums are made out of animal skins which makes the beat come out more. At first my hands were hurt but my teacher Atibu would tell me I would get used to it. I’ve been inspired because when we perform I’m real shy and was scared to perform in front of a lot of people. The first time I was really scared. My heart was beating. But the second time I felt like I could do it, so it help me out from being shy. (Kissqwanna is one of a few young girls learning to play the African drums.)

Alfred Baker

“I like to teach African and Caribbean dance because it helps me to further my dancing career and it is historical as far as the culture is concerned. What inspire me most of all is when I can see young kids who have never learned about Caribbean dance and had no idea what culture was all about. When they grasp it and run with it, it makes me feel as a teacher and as a person great. But the Caribbean dance there is many types of dance and culture because there are many different islands. For instance Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad they have different dance. Trinidad has the carnival. Barbados has Borro. I have been teaching dance for 42 years. One of my favorite dances, and nobody does it anymore, is Ebu. One of the things that happens in Jamaica comes out of the Mandingo Tribe and mixed with the Ashanti Tribe, it is called Kumina. Here it is called a wake. In New York you hear people say they are going to a nine-nite which is a wake. In New Orleans you see the people dance during the funeral, but the difference you all do a wake for one day, we do it for nine-nite.” (Baker teaches at Columbus Park Center at 500 S. Central Ave and is the founder of West Indian Folk Dance Company located at 350 E. 44th Street)

Sali Vickie Casanova

“I really enjoy teaching the young people especially. I love dancing. I’ve been dancing since I was very, very little. I also teach young people especially because the more we learn about our history and our African heritage and realize how connected we are and how great and creative, intelligent and wise our people are, it just helps inspire young people to realize they can achieve anything. A lot of times when you are exposed to a lot of the stress, violence and some of the challenges ¨C I work with Michelle Clark After School Matters Program right on the West Side. And these are some of the most brilliant, creative and promising young people. They may not have had any exposure to iconic Westsiders like journalists, photo journalists who have been working in the industry and helping tell our story. Connecting them with examples of people who share their African/Caribbean descent. To help them realize they can achieve anything they want. My students soon will be working with another group called Chicago West Music Center, with Howard Sandifer group that are jazz musicians. So realizing the similarities and figuring out how to work together and how to be unique and different. On April 17 we will be at Malcolm X College for something called the African Summit. It is a benefit for Haiti .”

Atibu Jali

“I really like culture teaching it because I always learn something in the process. I think that is one of the most important things about a being a teacher is being able to stay open to learn. Working with young people I even learn some things from them. I learn how to work with personalities. I learn different methods of teaching because everybody learns differently. So my challenge as a teacher is to learn how to transmit what I’m trying to get to them in the manner that they can understand it. I’ve been teaching about 30 years and I play all the percussion instruments African and Caribbean. I play a saxophone, guitar, bass, keyboards and I’m also a recording engineer and producer. I produce commercials for radio, also do recordings for industrial videos, independent films and I do a lot of production for independent artists.”

Wonetta Layne

“I’m originally from South America, a country called Guyana. I’ve been here five years, I moved here when I was 11 with my family. My grandmother and grandfather were here already. My family is like from everywhere in the Caribbean. Some of my family is in Antigua. My great-great grandfather and mother are from Barbados. Learning about African/Caribbean just gets me back to culture and the dance they use to do. I love the dancing Ms. Vicki Casanova taught me. I’m inspired because the kids on the West Side don’t know the different foot working and it gives me the feeling that I can be different in the unique way of dancing. I’ve tried to learn the drums but I don’t think I have the rhythm for it. Dancing is what I really like.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. The hottest place in Hell is reserved for those who remain neutral in times of great moral conflict.”