Only Dance Can Save Us!


What an inspiring farewell moment…  It’s my final Friday at my library in Maine and we just hosted a presentation by Urban Bush Women. The work they do is incredible and I had to share a couple of the ideas they are built around which particularly resonated with me.

  • The networking they do is referred to as building Nets that Work.  They borrowed this phrase from the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond.
  • Use your art to probe ideas of community engagement. Let it lift communities.
  • Collect local stories as a part of your creation process.  If you’re trying to help someone why wouldn’t you talk to them about what’s going on?
  • My mom recently got her first tattoo, it’s a strike fist like the one pictured above with the words Strike and Solidarity written around it.  I saw these girls incorporate this into a dance that accompanied their oral history multiple times.  It’s so cool to see how ideas truly can be represented using the whole body whether it’s through decorating your body or using it.
  • The BOLD Network is their community Networking team.  It stands for Builders, Organizers, & Leaders through Dance.  How gorgeous an idea is that?  They chose the term Community Networking over Outreach because they felt outreach left you feeling you were reaching down or up and not really getting to the group you’re looking to affect so there was an inadvertent class system being created.
  • They have these parties to celebrate hair and they also celebrate the term Bati, a Caribbean term for one’s bum.   At this party they discussed how their batis can be celebrated, exploited and dishonored.  There are so many ways this could be repeated but what a wonderful discussion to have with teen girls!
  • Celebrate the body’s ability to tell stories.

Now that I’ve seen this presentation I realize every joke I ever heard about interpretive dance is bullshit.  I plan on incorporating interpretive dance in my next powerpoint.

Check out Urban Bush Women here.

Fighting Social Injustice by Honoring Childhood

Fighting Socail Injustice by Honoring Childhood

An old friend of mine recently became one of the Technology Engineering Directors for a super amazing school in San Francisco.  He’s a really cool guy and our personal history is hilarious.  He was actually my first fight ever.  We were in 5th grade and without getting too much into it or dragging either of our names through the mud he was doing something I perceived as a serious social injustice so I decided my best (and only) course of action would be to kick him where it would hurt the most.  I then proceeded (with my best friend) to jump up and down on him until our teacher separated us.

Later, my mom got a call from the principal and when I got home I was sweating bullets about what would happen to me.  I was definitely a good grades, bad haircut, straight as an arrow, full on dork and had never been in trouble before.  I had no idea what to expect.  Would she hit me?  Take away my flute practicing rights? Deny my current archaeology obsession by taking away my hieroglyphics books? She sat me down and told me that while my heart was in the right place my foot was not and she never wanted to get a call about me fighting ever again.  That was it.  I never got in a fight again.  (Despite my best efforts, but more on that some other time…)

Back to this friend of mine.  This new school is a microschool, meaning they only have 20-80 students at a time.  We all know that a smaller classroom experience is beneficial but it’s admirable to see a school making a go of small classrooms anytime, especially when it’s a for-profit school like this one.  Their focus on technology is not to get all the fancy new gadgets so they can have them on hand as teachers struggle to get trained in one more thing. Instead, they have this amazing team creating personalized experiences and education tools through technology for staff and students.  Finally, when describing themselves they state “We provide a personalized education that honors childhood…”.  Honoring childhood is such an art that can be lost in the struggle of day to day librarianship.  All librarians can get caught up in getting everything done but children’s librarians really need to perform those quantitative tasks as well as the qualitative work of playing with our kids, being silly with our kids, and truly engaging their minds and spirits.  It’s how we really honor their experience as a child and functioning human.

I give myself permission to a half an hour a day to remain inspired.  I’ll read an article I’ve bookmarked but didn’t have time for, I’ll surf Pinterest for strange programming or decorating ideas or I’ll peruse the books in our collection.  It keeps me fresh, keeps me current on what’s going on in my field and keeps me grounded in my collection.

Ultimately, the greatest gift I can give these kids is a refreshed, energetic and inspired me and that honors both their childhood and my continued one.  I still can get carried away by what I perceive as social injustices but now this is how I combat those injustices, one fart joke, book recommendation or shoulder to cry on at a time.

If you’d like to see more about his new school you can check it out here.