Since 2012, New American Africans, an organization for community members who have recently emigrated to NH, has offered African dance programs for students in grades K-12. The classes, designed to allow students to connect with their heritage and to teach their community about it, are made possible through a grant from the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.
“The program provides an important link for our teens to their cultural heritage, and prepares them to share their heritage with the wider community,” says one organizer. The program encourages the formation of sincere friendships within the NH community. Once a month, the class performs at “Family Fun Nights”, where friends and relatives come to watch, learn, and participate. “It’s very easy for longtime residents to co-exist with the new Americans in a peaceful, respectful, but fundamentally unconnected manner,” said a coordinator, “New American Africans were able to bring together people from a myriad of backgrounds and create space for genuine interaction”.
Students have reported positive experiences and far-reaching effects of the program. Rehhema, a high school junior, watched her grades improve as she began participating. Rehhema was resettled after experiencing serious trauma, and dancing gave her an avenue to explore and express her emotions. Of the success, an organizer said, “It is joyful to see a completely integrated group having so much fun together”.
This project was made possible through the National Endowment for the Arts and the NH State Council on the Arts.