“In the past year and a half, we have been confronted with some uncomfortable truths, and many of us have had to do some deep soul searching. Last summer, in response to the need of this community, Move Together hosted a panel to amplify black voices, teachers, academics, musicians, dancers and scene leaders. As we are aware, we have two viruses going on in the United States, and we only have a vaccine for one of them. We are here to take some leadership and ease in the transition back for all of us into personal spaces.” – Shaheed Qaasim
iLindy is committed to expanding our learning about the Black Community. One way we did this is by attending virtual events like Build Back Better, hosted by MoveTogether. The aim of the event was to boost Black voices from the Lindy Hop Community. We’ve summed up some of the key takeaways that made the most impact on us.
In Part 3 of Move Together – Build Back Better, we’ll highlight some of our favorite moments shared by the brilliant Lori Taniguchi, Rory Lusebrink, Michael Gamble, and Tena Morales-Armstrong as they discuss decoupling gender roles and inclusivity for the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as more Black band members. As these are but a few of the golden moments, we strongly recommend watching the clip for yourself. Enjoy!
Click the image below to watch it on YouTube
1:13:25 – Lori Taniguchi – teacher, dancer, scene builder, and local event organizer. Her interests also broadened into DJing and MCing.
Shared brilliance: “When we talk about the things we are doing to make our scene better, all of this is connected. When we’re talking about anti-racism, we’re talking about including LGBTQIA. When we’re talking about communities that are underrepresented, or feel like they’re ignored or can’t participate equally in this dance, or music that we love, we’re talking about the same things. We’re identifying values that we think are important to pass on in this dance in this community and we are looking at ways to make that happen.”
About personal responsibility:
“I hope everyone has a chance to take some time to investigate what your values are in this dance by looking into the history and values of the dance and its scene and how you can educate yourself and pass that on.”
1:15:40 Realities of being an organizer:
“It feels like a big overwhelming topic but it is our responsibility as organizers to [do the work]. You’re going to mess up. […] You will mess up big time, so start small so that those big-time mess ups are small mess ups.
About lasting change:
“In order to have substantive lasting change, you need incremental progress by lots of people that are encouraging each other towards common values and goals.”
Lori explains the concept of teaching with Everybody Leads, Everybody Follows (ELEF) perspective, using her experience with Balboa as an example as well as Forming your Swarm.
1:29:19 – Rory Lusebrink (per/they) scene leader, DJ, teacher, and organizer in Northern California. They organize with Queer+ Swing Collective, a space dedicated to amplifying LGBTQIA+ voices in the Lindy hop community.
Shared brilliance: “Rethink your assumptions. […] We make a lot of assumptions. When you are approaching someone new, don’t make an assumption about what their gender might be or how to address them. If it’s someone you’ve never met before, maybe start with something more neutral… […] But once you’ve learned what their pronouns are, use them.”
1:39:30 – Michael Gamble – A 20 year veteran of vintage jazz and swing dance, founded Lindy Focus in Asheville, NC. His band Michael Gamble and the Rhythm Serenaders actively performs across the country.
Michael talks about policies related to organizing events and inclusivity. Using Lindy Focus as an example, he discusses the ticket sale process, having a language and values document for the staff to sign off on and agree to follow, and trying to break the concept of levels for classes.
1:44:09 – Deemphasizing levels and assumptions.
Shared Brilliance: “There are definitely time and place for words like beginner, intermediate, and advanced, but we don’t want that to continue to be the default. [It feels like it creates] this very false hierarchy that gives people the idea that they’re dancing can be scored in a single number, but also that there’s this progression that, if you’re a level 6 last year, then you better be level 7 next year. And […] ‘I was level 8 last year, should I be teaching now’ and that kind of system […] I was super done with that energy. I also think that the basic concept of levels is really exclusionary and it keeps people that you’ve rated differently from interacting, from having a social relationship at camp.”
** Organizers ** please, please, please (!) make time to listen to listen to this. We understand there are SO MANY details you need to consider when running an event, so please start building in these considerations before you start organizing your next event.
1:49:11 – Tena Morales-Armstrong – is a renowned promoter, producer, swing dance teacher and judge. She has run international events for over 22+ years including Lindyfest, Frankie95, ILHC and is on the Board of the Black Lindy Hoppers Fund.
“I’m not necessarily looking for [instructors] to teach in a specific sort of way. I don’t necessarily subscribe to this celebrity culture […] I’m looking for excellence so in my hiring practices. I’ve always gone sort of outside the box and hired who I thought could showcase their talent […] so even in the class, whether they had a certain level or a certain style of teaching which is not necessarily what people are expecting, that’s what I’ve [been looking for].”
About searching for new talent and not being “stuck” with the usual “superstars”:
“As an organizer, you gotta be searching for that new spark, and if you’ve got a good eye, you can catch that in people.”
For the Lindy Hop Community to build something different than we currently have, we’re going to have to do something new – we’re going to have to try new tactics if we want a different outcome. As Michael and Tena said, “we need to go to them.” We cannot wait for “other people” to join our Lindy Ho bubble and make it more diverse and inclusive. No, we need to go out, meet dancers and musicians and band leaders, connect with them, see their shows, and support their work. We have to be active in creating the next iteration of our community.
Again, this is not at all inclusive of the entire value of the discussion and we strongly recommend that you go watch it yourself.
“We at #MoveTogether are aware that many dancers have justifiable fears and concerns as the dance scene begins to reopen. We have all had safety concerns around COVID-19 in the past year, but there is a fear that the issues around diversity, equity, accessibility, and inclusion will be overlooked.
We are at an opportune moment in our dance scene. We have a chance to not just restart, but to rebuild from the ground up. A chance to change the systemic issues that plague our scene.
Move Together is partnering with the Black Lindy Hoppers Fund for the Build Back Better event!
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Donations will go towards:
Interested in the Move Together – DEI Toolkit? Check out their resources here!”