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Our Blackness, Our Heritage step show celebrates Black culture and community

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Dancers with the Barbea Williams Performing Company participate in the 2nd Annual Step Show. Courtesy Barbea Williams Performing Company 

During Black History Month, Americans celebrate Black heritage and history, recognize the past, look forward to the future. 

Last month, many organizations and Tucsonans have found ways to celebrate Black achievement, culture and history while staying safe during the pandemic. One such organization is the Barbea Williams Performing Company, which hosted the 4th annual “Our Blackness, Our Heritage” RISE UP Step Show last month. 

The Barbea Williams Performing Company (BWPC) presented the step show with Team Keeping the Culture Alive (TKCA) on Saturday, Feb. 27 from 4 p.m . to 6 p.m. MST.

“We need something positive you know what we’ve seen a lot of different things over the last year and this just gives everybody a chance to get together in harmony and unity for Black History Month,” Trehon Cockrell-Coleman, co-founder of TKCA said.

The event included footage that looked to the past three years of “Our Blackness, Our Heritage,” featuring dances like hip-hop, Western African and contemporary dance, and step. The program also included singing, choreopoetry and spoken word.

The She Phi Step Team from Holladay Fine Arts Magnet Elementary School performs at the 2nd Annual Step Show. Courtesy Barbea Williams Performing Company
The She Phi Step Team from Holladay Fine Arts Magnet Elementary School performs at the 2nd Annual Step Show. Courtesy Barbea Williams Performing Company

For four years, BWPC and TKCA have been organizing this cultural and educational show to connect the community. This year, because of COVID-19, the show was held online, which allowed participants to share their performances with a broader audience. 

This year’s show was all about rising up. It aimed to reflect Black excellence and make a space for the Black community to stand out and celebrate their heritage. Beah Williams, co-founder of TKCA and Vice-Chair of BWPC, stated that this show exists to celebrate who they are as people.

“This is a change, and our change is here, and it is now. And so, we will rise up and we continue to rise up,” Williams said.

Williams explains that there are different types of dances that coincide with rites of passage. Others incorporate different styles in order to share a particular message. Stepping, for example, sometimes merges the rhythm of the dancer’s clapping and stepping with poetry. 

“When you dance and perform, there is a message using music and body as an instrument,” Williams said.

Cockrell-Coleman explained that big changes happen when people come together to do something.

“The community is together and unified in a culture of collaboration, and community. We’re going to be awesome so that’s what we’re looking forward to doing,” Cockrell-Coleman said. “This year is amplifying some of the issues that the community has always been talking about. But now, unfortunately, sometimes things have to be polarized in the media before [they] get attention. But the issues that [are] going on, are nothing new.”


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