Listen. Listen well for I have a story to tell. It is a story of sadness, pain, terror, resignation, desolation, hurt, pain, anger, betrayal. It is a tale of hope, courage, resilience, faith, defiance, leaning in, love, survival, tribute, longing, victorious beauty. This is the story of Merengue, Bachata, Salsa. Birthed by ancestors who were taken from all they knew. Taken from family. Taken from home. Taken from friends. These beautiful artistic manifestations of survival were in the heart, blood, breath of those who survived the darkness, disease, close quarters of the ship holds in which they were packed as livestock. Brought to the shores of the Caribbean in the feet of those who did not die or jump from the deck of the floating prisons. Despite loss of drum, family, country, and voice, the shackles around their ankles could not stop the movement that would become Merengue and Bachata. Salsa, as mixed as the children born of the slave masters and slave women, a phoenix of strength, defiance, and beauty. Kizomba born of Mother Africa’s children of Angola. Rooted in family. Rooted in celebration. Rooted in the legacy of music. Rooted in history and love. Born of the longing of Angola’s children displaced by conflict.
These dances born of such Han, deep sadness, manifest all that is victory, beauty, resilience, and strength. Each dance intimately tied to music as old as time, full of the echoes of the voices, rhythms of their ancestors. Every step taken is a tribute to those who created beauty out of such ugliness.
So we Dance. Dance in celebration. Dance in memory. Dance in love. Dance in tribute. Listen. Listen well for I have a story to tell of a people long silent who speak to us through the beauty they gifted to the world. So we Dance!
Author's Note: This Spokenword piece is part of a performance in which there is limited time. There is so much more that can be written and shared. This serves as a tribute to the roots of what we know today as Afro-Latin dances. The journey and revelation of each of these dances follows long and winding paths that I hope to write about in more detail at a later time. For now, these words have been sitting in my heart for a long time and I have thought of the history of these dances for some time. Being a descendant of slaves I am particularly drawn to speaking of the contributions of those stolen from the Continent. All we have today came from somewhere, someone, some experience and in honoring those gone before we bring some of their love and life into what we do.