Black Girl Bildungsroman

Fundraiser -

Black Girl Bildungsroman

I thought I would be a dancer as a child and that belief shaped the world and my understanding of place within it. I trained, beginning at the age of 6, in under-resourced schools taught by dedicated dancers to professional dance studios at The Alvin Ailey School. I played nowhere like I did on Marley-covered floors. Onlookers saw a sort of endless practice that surely looked like obsession, but nothing brought me more joy than a développé that stretched just a bit higher and with a bit more musicality than it had the day before. While, ultimately, I did not go on to become a professional dancer, I cannot imagine who I would have become without it. It gave me discipline, resilience, and more ways to express myself than even I can fully articulateall these decades later.

Audre Lorde described her memoir, Zami: A New Spelling of my Name, as a biomythography— “the weaving together of myth, history and biography in […] all the ways in which we perceive the world.”  That is, every telling of our story, is its own story, its own construction designed to reveal rather than to tell. In the text she takes considerable time describing and detailing her childhood. A well-loved child at home, she was ridiculed andostracized at school for how she interacted with the world. Racism and ableism meant her vivid imagination— the way she played was not understood in the limiting academic world where she was expected to learn. She was not seen nor understood as a child and her play was dismissed as obstinance.

 

I do not know how I would be if my way of play was dismissed and if my parents were unable to finance this play. The financial costs, of which I was often oblivious as a child, are not insignificant. Even with need-based scholarships and performance-based awards there are a slew of unseen costs associated with most childhood extra-curricular opportunities. For dance, I can tell you that specialized apparel is required and routinely needs replacement. A good pair of ballet slippers ($40) may last a few months, a good leotard, and pair of tights ($50,)far fewer. And then, there is the enormous cost of time. Adultsoften shuttle young people to and from classes, practices, rehearsals, and for many of the best students, relocate to expensive city centers. Take for example the following budget for a competitive, 6-week, Alvin Ailey School Summer program:

Tuition: $3000

Shoes: $200

Clothing: $150

Transportation: $200

Housing (out-of-state students): $900

 For many, these costs are barriers to participation. And while, childhood dance classes may feel superfluous, extras for parents with means— what if they are not? What if a lack of access keeps our great artists forever hidden from us? It is a convenient myth that cream merely rises to the top. It is coaxed, nurtured, positioned. Perhaps more importantly, what if access denialkeeps those young people hidden from themselves? Without question, Aisha, the professor and maker, would not exist today without a childhood filled with dance.


This month’s Metalsmiths for Change Fundraiser, “Embracing Childhood,“ scheduled January 17-21, focuses on organizations creating opportunities for Black kids to live full childhoods. Artists are tasked with creating pieces that evoke childhood play. You will see hand-sewn stuffed animals, games re- imagined, and even Legos make an appearance.

The majority of proceeds (95%) will be split between:

Brown Girls Do Ballet
Young Black and Lit
Black Girls Code
Fierce NYC
My Brother's Keepers


The remaining 5% goes towards the Metalsmiths for Change Fund.


Aisha Lockridge
Literature Professor and Owner of Aisha Likes It

 

Black and white photo of Aisha as a young ballet dancer, posing with her arms up, one leg up, and the other pointed on the ground.


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