UZIMA!, a local Afro-Caribbean dance company, celebrated Walk the Walk Week for the second consecutive year, spreading Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s message of unity, hope and faith through vibrant drumming and dance.
The group’s name, UZIMA!, is Swahili for “a celebration of wholeness, health and life.”
The celebration featured faith-based songs and dances, including three traditional West African numbers: Kassa — a harvest dance — as well as Tiriba and Soko, initiation dances for women and men, respectively.
“Dance is used as part of the vehicle to get us all to the place where we're celebrating each other,” artistic director Kelly Morgan said.
The diversity of dancers contributes to UZIMA!’s familial and celebratory atmosphere. A choir assembled specifically for the performance accompanied UZIMA!’s three drummers and 25 dancers, who range from seven to 65 years old.
“I've gained [an] incredible family and support system,” Morgan said. Morgan acknowledged that she realized the true depth of this family after she was diagnosed with lung cancer. “They've been so supportive, so much help not just to me, but to my whole family and [they] continue to be that way.”
This sense of unity and family extends to more than just the immediate group of dancers. After their last dance, UZIMA! invited the audience on stage. Hand in hand with performers, the audience danced through Leighton Concert Hall to the beat of African drums.
“I was always someone who was ashamed of being black,” Zoë Morgan, one of the assistant directors and daughter of Kelly Morgan, admitted. “I wasn't comfortable in my skin at all. [UZIMA! has] been a really great way to connect with my roots and to really just reflect on where my ancestors came from and being proud of that history and of who I am and being in the skin that I'm in.”