Sapphire Looks at Arts Funding Cuts

Jul 31, 2011


 "The drums is hot now, the Asian girl moves back in the line. I move on out, dancing fast. One of the drummers has a jembe drum, I love its sound. And when they open up with sticks beating on the side of the big conga drum feeding in another rhythm, it takes me out! I go with what I feel; you ain't got to be no professional to do that. I don't care about being no beginner or having tacky clothes, this is Crazy Horse in the house...

"It's that way when I get to moving like a gate opens and buffalo stampede, everything comes rushing out of me at once. It's like I remember everything that ever happened to everyone. My body is not stiff or tight, I'm like my mom, soft, dark, and beautiful...

"'Yeah' People are screaming... A couple of people run over to where I am press both hands over their hearts, then kneel down and touch the ground at my feet. That's like mad respect for another dancer's effort; no one ever did that for me before."

Abdul Jamal Louis Jones (aka The Kid) has found dance. It is what he was called to do, and it allows him to escape (if only temporarily) from a life that has been profoundly impacted by incest and pedophelia, the AIDS death of his mother, the limitations of adoption and foster care (especially for black boys), and the sexual deviants of some Catholic priests.

Why did author Sapphire select dance as The Kid's saving grace? At a recent book event at Washington, DC's Politics and Prose, Sapphire, who wrote The Kid (a sequel of sorts to her award-winning book Push, which was made into the Oscar nominated movie Precious), explains:


"You can’t think about anything else when you are dancing so you have to be in the moment. From the moment Precious dies, [The Kid's] primal connection is severed. When the connection to his mother is severed, the connection to the earth and a certain reality is severed. And it is through the act of dance that is he able to reconnect first with the earth and the rhythm and then with the force that his mother was.
 
"It is also through, most importantly, the dance which will defy in a certain way the authority of the trauma that has been afflicted on him. So, all of us, when we experience racism, sexism, abuse, those negative experiences have authority. They start to define our lives in a certain kind of way. They take power from us, and it is in the act of dancing that Abdul will literally take back his life and begin to empower himself."
 
In a discussion that covered race and AIDS, victims becoming victimizers, and the affect class can have on the family unit, Sapphire jumped on the arts funding soap box:
/* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;}

“What we are looking at when we start cutting arts programs and sports programs is that these are two areas that often minority kids do very well in. These two areas can be career tracks for children. So, when we cut out arts and music, when we stop the funding for musical instruments and all that, we deliver a death blow for some children.

" /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0in; mso-para-margin-right:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0in; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:"Calibri","sans-serif"; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} I know that had arts not existed in the school for me.. I didn’t want to go to school. I’m not interested in that other stuff that people are doing: What is the capital of Minnesota? So the children who are artists, and I believe that is almost there from 1st grade and kindergarten, and you cut out the arts program and emphasize only science and stuff. That means another group of children will have a chance to excel, but not you. So, what do you get do, grow up and be a crack addict, that’s what you get to do.”





Hear the entire event.