Southeast Residents Celebrate the Arts
Sam P.K. Collins | 7/31/2013, noon
Guest speakers at the festival included D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray and Denise Rolark Barnes, publisher of the Washington Informer. D.C. Council members Anita Bonds (D-At-Large) and Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) also attended and chatted with residents throughout much of the afternoon. In his remarks, Gray connected St. Elizabeths’ revitalization and his vision of an economically vibrant Southeast.
“We have a vision for the east end of the city and St. Elizabeths is at the center of it,” said Gray, 70. “The technology and art we’re bringing in opens new opportunities [for] the kids. It shows what's possible for our children instead of feeling doomed to a minimally productive life,” said Gray who also lives in Southeast.
The African Heritage Dancers & Drummers, a renowned African dance troupe, performed traditional West African dance while beating on drums that hung from their necks. The audience nodded their heads to the hypnotic, rhythmic beats during the performance. Some members of the audience jumped to their feet and ran to the front of the stage, dancing in a style similar to that of the troupe.
Melvin Deal, founding executive artistic director of the African Heritage Dancers & Drummers, said that his organization has kept young boys in touch with their African roots. He said it’s an important part of their development as young men. “Drumming [reminds] people of how strong we [as black people] are,” said Deal, 70. “People would rather forget where they come from and it releases them from the [responsibility] of being good, black people. This art is important from the standpoint of [our] presence and history.”