Remembering Arthur Mitchell: A Monumental Legacy

NEW YORK (AP) — Arthur Mitchell, who broke barriers for African-Americans in the 1950s as a ballet dancer with the New York City Ballet and who would go on to become a driving force in the creation of the Dance Theatre of Harlem, has died. He was 84.

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Our Story:  My daughter auditioned and was selected to attend the world-renown Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) Summer Intensive program.  DTH has helped her improve her dance acumen, hone her technique, and learn more about the history of dance, dancers and “pretty brown dancers.”  This summer, her friends from Studio A Academy and Sudbrook Magnet Middle School attended with her, and it is a treasured memory that she will cherish for a lifetime.

Oliva_DTH (2)I am so grateful to Arthur Mitchell for not moving to Europe 50 years ago.  They say that everything happens for a reason.  Well, Arthur Mitchell was leaving New York ballet to start a dance school in Brazil when he learned of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.  He decided that he did not have to start a school in Brazil for dancers who look like him when there were dancers right here in America, in his hometown of Harlem.  Mr. Mitchell, along with Karol Shook, founded Dance Theatre of Harlem “to give the children of Harlem the same opportunities Mitchell had as a teenager.”  There were very few opportunities for classically trained dancers of color at that time.  Arthur Mitchell paved the way.  He did what no one else had done, and it still lives today!

My daugher, her friends and lots of young ladies and men are better dancers, better people today because of the vision and work of Arthur Mitchell.  I salute you Mr. Mitchell.  I salute the wonderful company dancers, administrators, teachers and mentors of Dance Theatre of Harlem for your hard work and dedication to developing dancers and leaders in our community.  Thank you!

To learn more about Dance Theatre of Harlem, please visit their website at Dance Theatre of Harlem.

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Going to school in America where shootings are the “new norm”.

img_4435These are my girls at school!  Happy-go-lucky and free to be a teen and pre-teen!  They are students, learning, growing, making friends and having fun! img_3188

To my friends, colleagues, and followers: have school shootings in America become the new normal, commonplace?  There have been 288 school shootings in America since 2009.  There have been 433 shooting incidents in America since the Santa Fe, TX shooting on Friday – that just three days ago.  In 2018, there have been 22,190 total shooting incidents in America and 16 school shootings in American in 2018.  Why?

Twenty-three (23) families have changed: 8 students and 2 teachers are dead; 13 others were injured.  One student who was a Pakistani exchange student who came here to study with American students and interact with American families.  Her family will never see her again.  Why is this the “new norm”?

As I sent my daughters to school today, it was like nothing happened on Friday.  It happened and life has gone on.  The same students that I see every school day were at the bus stop.  The country is not having a moment of silence; it is contained to the state of Texas.  If the reports are correct, more students have died in school shootings this year than soldiers in the two (2) wars that America is currently engaged.  So I wondered, is this the norm in other countries.

Based on what I learned, it is NOT!  Again, since 2009, here are the number of school shootings for other countries.  Mexico – 8; South Africa – 6, India – 5, Canada and France – 2, China, Germany, Greece and Russia – 1, all other countries listed including the UK are zero (0).  Let me put it another way, America is 36 times more likely to have a school shooting than any other country in the world!  So this is just the norm in America!

I agree with Arne Duncan, former Secretary of Education 2008-2015, that it is our responsibility as parents to ensure our children’s safety.  The question becomes, how do we do that?  Is it something that we need to do collectively?  Is it even a problem for my community?  We need to have the conversation.  We need to talk about if and how gun violence affects our children, our families, our communities.  We need to discuss options to make a difference, to make our children, our students, our teachers, our communities, our seniors, our colleagues – Americans safe!

Are you willing to have the discussion with me?  Or, are we going to continue to live our lives as if this only happens to other people, until it happens to us?  What are the steps that we can take as parents?  Should we work individually or collectively or both?  What role do the politicans that we elect play?  What is the political responsibility to affect change in this area?  Is there one?  Are the parents of the student who committed this heinous act responsible for providing access to these guns and other weapons of mass destruction?  Let’s discuss, and then take action.