Black history through dance

Kicking off the Chesterfield County Public Library’s Black History Month Program, 2012, attendees for the first program at the Chester Library witnessed intense emotion and enthusiasm from the Virginia State University’s Sankofa Dance Theatre group.  The program was a hodgepodge of black dance in America; stories on how dance which started in Africa, continued when slaves arrived in America and the Caribbean in 1619.

Sankofa is an Akan word, a language spoken in Ghana, Africa, that means, “We must go back and reclaim our past so we can move forward; so we understand why and how we came to be who we are today.”

Dr. Benita Brown, associate professor of dance at Virginia State Department Health, Physical Education, Recreation Dance and Sport Management, conceived the idea for the dance.  Eddie McCall, adjunct faculty in dance, also with the department, choreographed the dances.

Dr. Brown introduced the program and said the dances will follow a time frame beginning in 1619 through the civil rights movement.  Setting the tone, she said, “When we were slaves in the boat we were forced to dance for exercise during the transatlantic journey. When we arrived in America and the Caribbean, we continue the tradition of dance and drums.”  All forms of dance were embraced during the program.

Along with the music and drums by Risegun for the dancers, Poet Sekai’afua Zankel, weaved poems and writings during each dance that contributed to the history of the time period.

Virginia State University’s Sankofa Dance Theatre is scheduled to perform at the Meadowdale Library on February 18 from 11 a.m. – 11:45 a.m. and at the LaPrade Library February 25, also from 11 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.  The program is recommended for the entire family and registration is recommended.  To register go to


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