At Facing History and Ourselves, our mission is to use the lessons of history to challenge teachers and students to stand up to bigotry and hatred. This requires us to know the ideas and choices that have formed our history and the opportunities we have today to shape our present and future. In this blog post, you will learn about Ògo Tàwa Inc., a creative non-profit organization, and how you and your students can be involved in a Black Lives Matter (BLM) Dance Challenge. This dance challenge provides an opportunity for young people to work together and take a stand against racism, bigotry and hatred.
“Since time immemorial, we have used dance–the language of our bodies–to express our joys and sorrows, our resistance and our passion. Dance is symbolic of human expression–a medium for stories, for movements.”
- Khalidah Aderonke Bello, CEO of Ògo Tàwa
In this interview, you will hear from Soumya Shashikumar, Copywriter at Ògo Tàwa, and Khalidah Bello, the CEO of Ògo Tàwa who share about their Black Lives Matter (BLM) dance challenge which garners global participation towards racial unity–interwoven by song, dance, music and art. The vision at Ògo Tàwa Inc. is to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the contribution that African descendants have made to world heritage, past and present as well as to connect cultures and societies through art.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit more about Ògo Tàwa and how you brought this organization to life?
A: Ògo Tàwa Inc. is a creative non-profit organization founded in the year 2019. The organization was created to assist Black creatives overcome systemic barriers that limit their opportunities to prosper from their art and access wide ranging audiences. There are certain artforms, such as music, that have broad sweeping reach while other arts in the Black community, such as visual art and permanent public art, gain much less visibility. Our goal is to amplify the creative talents of Black artists in ways that help them to reach audiences beyond the Black community and help us find commonalities as well as empathy in life experiences shared artistically. Emerging artists are a particular population of interest for their vast talents and significant underrepresentation in the arts landscape.
Q: You launched a Global BLM dance challenge late last year. How was this challenge created? Why was dance the chosen art form?
A: Express that you value the Black community and disapprove of anti-Black racism with dance. We welcome people who just dance for fun, and professional dancers too.
Black People’s joy, also known as “Black Joy” is its own form of resistance to the harmful effects of racism. We can express Black Joy through dance. Ògo Tàwa has launched a Global BLM Dance Challenge to pay tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement, choreographed to go along with our BLM theme song.
We have two types of dance challenges:
- A 33 second solo #BLMDanceChallenge, that enables people to take part even during COVID lockdowns. This challenge started in Canada.
- A 4 min group #BLMDanceChallenge that can be created by 6 individuals. This challenge started in Nigeria.
For the dance challenges we encourage folks to perform outdoors in front of a landmark or place well known to their communities, so that their cities may be well represented in the dance cover. We also encourage folks to wear their cultural clothing. We seek to show the diversity of interest in celebrating equity advancement for Black people.
- Foster greater understanding of each other’s life experiences as seen by the settings in which we dance and the culturally influenced ways we move.
- Bring attention to important issues, by educating and informing at the same time, while engaging tons of people–with universal moves–that dance challenges tend to attract.
- Unifies us and allows us to use our bodies to tell stories of resilience, triumph, bravery, and potential in the face of anti-Black racism.
- Age-friendly and family-friendly activity suitable for all settings: community, school, social, corporate, youth-focused, and faith-based environments.
@ogotawa Take part in the Ogo Tawa dance challenge to show your support for the BLM movement! Please help spread the news, and we would be honoured if @charlidamelio joined us in promoting black lives through dance! Help us blow up this video for that to come true! Let's all work together to support BLM! ✊✊🏻✊🏼✊🏽✊🏾✊🏿 #blacklivesmatter #BLM #blmdancechallenge #icantbreathe #saytheirnames #BLMEndSarsChallenge #BLMspotlightchallenge #Ogotawa #doOgoTawa #BLMDancewithustostandwithus ♬ original sound - Ògo Tàwa
Q: How can educators/students be involved?
A: We call upon students to participate in the dance challenge, and encourage their friends to do the same, as a fun way to demonstrate leadership and belief in values of justice and equity. Educators can help make the dance challenge known to youth, as one way to stand with us. The beauty of this Dance Challenge is that anyone can participate, no matter their age or ethnicity or dancing ability. This dance challenge thrives on diversity and harmony.
Students can watch the dance challenges and share them with peers by visiting our TikTok page, Instagram, and YouTube pages, then tag us #ogotawa and #BLMDanceChallenge when they do the dance covers that show off their dance skills. Visitors can also comment on videos that they like–popularizing our initiative and garnering community-wide and hopefully global participation. At school, students could also coordinate groups that promote the challenge, with their own spin among their peers.
Q: What are other ways teachers can get involved with & engage with the work of Ògo Tàwa?
A: As part of our work to support rising artists, Ògo Tàwa is leading the Black Statue Garden Project: a Bronze Garden of some of the most extraordinary Black Heroes–powerful role models–that were instrumental to Canadian growth and the Black-lived experience. Bronze statues, icons that will stand proud for a millennia, of Black Heroes will not only pave the way for more diverse monumentalism, it will also invoke a sense of pride and belonging among Black communities.
Keep an eye on ogotawa.ca, sign up for our newsletter, and follow and share our social media content to stay abreast of this transformative work ahead.
Support Black People's History and Contributions Throughout the Year with the #BLMDanceChallenge
As our prime minister said this month, “Black history is Canadian history”. It’s a shared history spanning over 400 years so why contain its curriculum to one month a year?
The Pandemic has given us new ways of coping with the global crisis. We may have had reduced social connections due to our socially distanced lifestyles, but social media has strengthened our connection with the rest of the world. This challenge is a movement– that brings us together as a community dancing for justice and as allies. We want to see your dance moves, we want to see your talents and your skills–we want the spotlight to shine on everyone using dance to help create a world free from anti-Black racism.
Writer: Soumya Shashikumar grew up in Mumbai, India. She is a Writer currently based out of Toronto, Canada. Her areas of focus are scientific writing, short horror fiction and poetry. She has a Masters in Biotechnology. After devoting 8 years to research and development in the sciences, she set her sights towards her life-long ambition of writing professionally. Currently engaged as a Copywriter at Ògo Tàwa, she spends most of her days exploring new topics to write about and honing the craft of writing through her keyboard, pen and paper.
Editor: Ògo Tàwa Inc. is a non-profit company led by its CEO and founder, Khalidah Bello, a creative entrepreneur and cultural producer of Yoruba Nigerian Canadian heritage. Khalidah possesses over 15 years of experience in creating programming that shares the creative talents of Black communities with the North American public in the areas of visual arts, fashion, live music performance, dance, and theatre.