What is a defining moment in your career and life? Looking back over 45 years and all the wonderful experiences with Kulu Mele, I think about our recent annual show in December 2019, which was our 50th anniversary performance. It was the culmination of a beautiful journey, including a company trip to Santiago, Cuba to study and learn (funded by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage.) I had a vision to do this Yoruba Afro-Cuban pataki, as a play. The play was about Ogun & the People. It told a beautiful story. I had travelled to Santiago several times and built a bridge of communication before we made this trip. Kulu Mele studied this play and put together the biggest production ever. This production will stay with me forever. It filled everyone’s spirit.
What challenges have you faced as a woman of color in your field and how did you overcome them?
I found it very challenging studying African culture. It was hard to find material and resources to study when I first started. To get a video with dancing, singing and drumming was like having gold. Now we have You Tube and artists from the continent giving classes. There was no funding back then, either. I stayed with it out of love for the culture and to keep the culture alive by passing it on. I have been the director of Kulu Mele since 1979 with no salary. I helped pave the way for where the culture is today in Philadelphia.
What woman inspires you and why?
Joan Myers Brown inspires me with the amazing job she has done creating a wonderful Black ballet company Philadanco. I look up to her. I want Kulu Mele to be like her company: touring, owning your own building, having a residency at the Kimmel Center for the Arts.
What is your advice to the younger generation of women coming after you?
Follow your dream. Plant the seed and nourish it. God will do the rest
What does being a part of the African Diaspora mean to you?
Keeping the culture alive, passing the torch and feeding the spirit.