Move Me Soul's 10th Anniversary Celebration was a one-hour performance showcasing five pieces from the dance company's repertoire. The program culminated in a special post-performance discussion featuring founder Ayesha Jaco, Codirector Diana Muhammad, Rehearsal Director Artez Jackson, and Lupe Fiasco on their commitments to fostering the artistic capital of Chicago's youth. The conversation was moderated by artist Krista Franklin.
ABOUT MOVE ME SOUL
Move Me Soul is a youth dance company founded by Ayesha Jaco in 2008. The company is committed to providing an innovative platform for inner-city youth to train and evolve as the next generation of dancers, choreographers, and teachers. Performers are engaged in dancemaking, storytelling, and character development that allows them to curate their own aesthetics of the past, present, and future.
Move Me Soul Transcript
Gibran Villalobos: Good afternoon, everybody. How are we doing? All right. So, my name is Gibran Villalobos and I'm the partnerships and engagement liaison for the Museum of Contemporary Art, and tonight, we have a community program that's been coauthored with Move Me Soul as part of our ongoing work with grassroots organizations throughout Chicago. Today's program is incredibly special and important to me.
I'm lucky to have been working with the talented Move Me Soul for over four years now. Our work started during the presentation of the Doris Salcedo retrospective held here at the MCA back in 2015, and during the exhibition, we invited Move Me Soul to see the exhibition with myself and with artist and poet Krista Franklin. What came from that project was an interpretation of that work through the form of dance––so, rather than wall labels, they were dancing for us. Our work continued throughout other exhibitions like the The Freedom Principle, taking Chicago jazzists' inspiration all the way through the Merce Cunningham project, where, along with artist Damon Locks, they developed new choreography. Most recently, they also shared MCA Commons space with the floating museum and community group field work collaborative projects to choreograph a protest dance about 1968.
What this all tells me is that the movement really never ends. So, today we're here to celebrate their 10-year anniversary. They will share a few key pieces from their repertoire, and afterwards, Krista Franklin will join founder and artistic director, Ayesha Jaco, managing director Diana Muhammad, rehearsal director, Artez Jackson, company member, Tacori Halliburton, and artist and community activist, Lupe Fiasco in conversation. The MCA wants to thank all of you and everybody that has made this possible. I'd like to take this moment to also remind everybody to please, place your gadgets on silent, and if you must take an image or two––and I know I will––be sure to turn off your flash.
We do welcome your thoughts and share them with us on social media by joining our hashtag #MCAChicago. Now, I got one more thing to say before I leave the stage. I have the honor of bringing you a very special message from the City of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. It's an official proclamation. I'll put on my mayoral voice.
"Whereas Move Me Soul, a youth dance company that combines technique, performance, and character development, was founded in 2008 by Ayesha Jaco at Austin High School with 30 students as a way to empower students both onstage and off, and whereas the youth company provides dancers with up to seven technique classes a week and 20 performances a year––both in the country and abroad––and whereas Move Me Soul dancers have performed for the Chicago Park District, Windy City LIVE, the Pritzker Theater, the Harris Theater, the Stony Arts Bank, the Joffrey Ballet, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the DuSable Museum, the Chicago Architecture Biennial and many, many, more, and whereas today, on December 16, 2018, Move Me Soul will celebrate its 10 year anniversary with a concert at the MCA, I Rahm Emanuel, mayor of the City of Chicago, do hereby proclaim December 16, 2018, to be Move Me Soul Day in Chicago in recognition of 10 years of inspiring, uplifting, and empowering our city's youth. And I urge all residents to support this dance company and their commitment to community and creativity." Please, join me in welcoming, Move Me Soul.
I know I been chained I know I been chained, you know I been chained You know the angels in heaven done sigh my name You know that I I said that I know I been chained Angels in heaven done sigh my name
If you don’t believe that I Been redeemed, You know the angels in heaven done sigh my name
Follow me down to battle Angels in heaven done sigh my name I step in the water And the water was cold
You know the angels in heaven done sigh my name Ohh they chain my body But not my soul Angels in heaven done sigh my name
You know that I know I been chained I know I been chained Angels in heaven done sigh my name
Somebody said, “How can a brown cow eat green grass And give ya white milk?” Well if ya think that’s something God’s chemical laboratory of redemption Took my black soul and dipped it In red blood, and I came out White as snow
Angels in heaven done sigh my name The angels in heaven done sigh my name
Oh lord Hey lord
Ayesha Jaco: Good evening. I’m here with us tonight as we celebrate 10 years. It was such an honor to share this stage. It's such an honor to bring West Side youth and show them that they are worthy to represent Chicago on this stage tonight.
We're gonna go down a timeline very quickly, because tonight, we are honoring where we've been. So, we are employing the main position of [indecipherable] where we look back in order to move forward. And so, this vision of Move Me Soul was planted back in 1985 for me by a man by the name of Sensei Gregory Jaco, who opened a karate school that sat right next door to the Stony Arts Bank. And in that karate school, I saw hundreds of young people as they passed through the threshold transformed. I saw them make their dreams come alive as scientists, teachers, police officers, and that planted a seed in me to want to do the same.
Also, across the hall was Sho’nuff Dance Studio, and that incubated companies like 1-2 Dance Theater, and Nashua Dance Corps. And seeing all that magic right in the hood of Chicago really employed a sense of pride in me, and I knew that I had to follow the same footsteps and find a way to make young people feel that certain, special feeling that I saw my father share with so many. If you fast forward to 1995, I went to Curie High School and I met a woman by the name of Diane Holder, and she would pack us up in her minivan. We had to take off our shoes when we rode in her van, because she wanted to keep the value up, I guess, of the car. And in that van, we went all across the city.
Similar to my father's station wagon, we would go and see Dance Theater of Harlem and the Albany American Dance Theater. But one time, we went to see the Joseph Holmes Dance Theater, and there was a dancer there who really touched my heart and I left there and never thought about it, until I got a flyer and it invited me to the Austin Town Hall Park for a ballet class. And I went there, and I saw the man that I fell in love with on stage, and he was my teacher. And so, the class didn't last long, because it was just one of me and him and so, we transitioned, and he invited me to something called Gallery 37 in the Park. And from that time, I got to dance with people from all over the city of Chicago, and I met a man by the name of Artez Jackson, who's our rehearsal director.
We went through high school, and a few years later, in 2008, after graduating college, I wound up back in the Austin community. And I met another person by the name of Sharif Walker, who gave me the opportunity to provide a program, through After School Matters, to West Side youth. So, this seed that my father had planted kept growing and growing and growing, and I was compelled to follow that voice that told me to keep going. I picked up Sharif, and then, he brought along his wife and they helped us build a dance company. I met Diana Muhammad, who's my codirector.
We danced together with Nashua Dance Corps, and now, we're here today. So, in the tradition of St. Culpa, and a decade later, we look back to move forward. We are honored to have each and every one of you in these seats. I'm honored to be what my father was to so many––what Ms. Holder was to so many. I am honored to pack my West Side students and take them across the city––to take them to Jamaica––but none of that would be possible without those that have come before me, those that we are working with now, and those that are to come. So, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you, I thank you, I thank you.
1960 what? 1960 who? Hey the motor city is burnin’
1960 what? 1960 who? Hey the motor city is burnin,’ ya’ll
There was a man–– Voice of the people Standin’ on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel Shots rang out–– Yes it was a gun, He was the only one That ain’t right People scream Ain’t no need for sunlight Ain’t no need for moonlight Ain’t no need for streetlight It’s burnin’ real bright Some folks say we gonna fight Cause this here thing ain’t right
1960 what? 1960 who? Hey the motor city is burnin,’ ya’ll Great God almighty the motor city is burnin’
Young man comin’ out of a liquor store With three pieces of black licorice in his hand, ya’ll Mr. Policeman thought it was a gun Shot him down, ya’ll That ain’t right Then his mama screamed Ain’t no need for sunlight Ain’t no need for moonlight Ain’t no need for streetlight It’s burnin’ real bright Some folks say we gonna fight Cause this here thing ain’t right
1960 what? 1960 who?
Ayesha Jaco: Weren’t they great? So, at this time, we're gonna take you on a journey that we've been traveling for the last 10 years and show you just some of the work that we've been able to do in Jamaica. There'll also be a time where we'll ask you to pull out your phones. You'll see a QR code that you can hold up and scan and make a donation, and it's right there. So, if you'd like to test that out to make a donation in our 10 years of celebrating growing and evolving, feel free to do that. So, in our program, we work with young people that typically have no dance training, and we work with them in our basic techniques of ballet, modern, jazz, West African dance, but most importantly, we meet them where they are.
So, if they come to us and they're hungry, if they come to us and they need help finding employment, we really work with them to make sure that they have all that they need––so much so that in our program for After School Matters, we hire our students that still attend college in Chicago or that are here working other jobs. So, we believe in building them back into the framework that we built to give back––not only to West Side teens, but to teens all across Chicago. So, sit back, pull out your phone, click the QR code, give what you can, and learn more about what we've been up to. Thank you.
[Recorded message begins]
Diana Muhammad: Good evening. My name is Diana Muhammad. To continue on with the Move Me Soul journey in our timeline, eight years ago, my friend and dance colleague Ayesha Jaco, asked me to come as a guest choreographer for her dance company, Move Me Soul at Austin High School. I came there and fell in love. I soon realized that we had something in common.
What she was doing on the West Side, I was trying to establish on the South Side. And so, we decided to join forces. And from that joint force––'cause we are a force––came our masterpiece, Curtis Suite & Sour. When I was a child, my dad always played Curtis Mayfield music in the house, and he let me know that Curtis Mayfield told the story of the people. In our community programs, we always give the students a voice, and what we realize is––it's their voice that matters.
So, in this piece, Ayesha had already choreographed a portion of a Curtis Mayfield song and I had just choreographed a Curtis Mayfield song from my company Dada Dance Connection, and we put it together and there told a story. It's the journey of the highs and lows of our people in the community working together to create change. So, from this, I would like to present to some and introduce to others, our modern-day revelations––Curtis Suite & Sour.
[Song, Curtis Mayfield “Keep on Pushing,” plays]
[Recorded message begins]
Speaker: Move Me Soul, I'm the chief operating officer.
Speaker: And I'm Melissa, program officer, at After School Matters.
Speakers: Congratulations on 10 years of providing young people an artistic outlet to dance.
Speaker: Thank you so much for the impact that you've had on so many After School Matters teens.
Speaker: We value and love your partnership and wish you many more years of success.
[End of recording]
[Beginning of recording]
Art Richardson: Hi. My name's Art Richardson. I'm the central region director of the Chicago Park District, and I’ve been with the park district for 25 years. And in my 25 years, I have yet to run into an organization as professional and as incredibly wonderful as Move Me Soul. I want to congratulate you guys on 10 years of service within the city of Chicago––West Side, South Side––it really doesn't matter. Wherever you guys go, you do an incredible job. Congratulations on 10 years and hopefully you have many more.
[End of Recording]
[Beginning of Recording]
Chris Taliaferro: Hello. This is 29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro and I am here to celebrate with Move Me Soul and to celebrate and congratulate them on their 10 year––proclamation for 10 years of providing incredible services to our teens in the city of Chicago––particularly on the West Side. So, happy Move Me Soul Day to Move Me Soul and may you continue to work with our students to provide both a brighter future not only for their lives, but for our community. Thank you so much.
[End of Recording]
DM: At this time, I would like to acknowledge all teens and adults now that have been in our programs before. If we could have the house lights, we'd like to acknowledge you. Can we give a round of applause to all of the teens who have been a part of any Move Me Soul program who are now in their adulthood? And I would also ask that those that are a part of our presentation to come forward now. As it was said, this was started with a vision.
And, as you heard from Ayesha Jaco earlier, her vision was inspired by those that came before her. Today, we would like to honor her.
Now, for those of you that know her, this was quite a challenge keeping from her [laughs]. We had to move her out of the way several times, ask her to excuse herself a few times, as we attempted to put this together, but I've invited a few people to the stage that will say a few words just about how she has impacted their life, how they have worked with her, and how this all comes together to create this special day.
Speaker: I can't go first.
Cyrus Rab: Welcome, everybody. My name is Cyrus Rab. I am the board chair for M.U.R.A.L. I had to think about that for a second. And I met Ayesha through Wasalu––or kind of indirectly through him––several years ago.
And she came up to me at an event for Donda's House and was like, "Hey. I know you know my brother. We do this great stuff, and I heard a little bit about what the foundation was up to back then." And she's like, "We need to connect." And she was very persistent about us meeting up.
So, I was like, "Okay. Let's do this." So, we actually spent some time––she explained to me what M.U.R.A.L. had done, what Move Me Soul does. And, you know, I think back on that day and I realize that I feel like these days, we live in an environment where compassion has sort of been withdrawn from community. You see it in our politics around us, online with bullying and all that, and then, I look at what Ayesha did and I've seen Ayesha in our organization be in a position where we felt like we weren't treated the right way or things didn't go the way they should have, and she's always been extremely patient and sort of like, understanding and cool, whereas, I'm the person who kind of flips out about all this stuff.
So, she's––and for that and for all the work she does, I'm really impressed by her. She's just a very, very well-tempered, active, compassionate, caring person, and she's been great. I've learned so much from her while working with M.U.R.A.L. for the last five-six years––more than I'm sure she's learned from me. So, congratulations, Ayesha.
Lupe Fiasco: I'm Ayesha's brother, Wasalu Jaco “Lupe Fiasco,” and I was just thinking, "What can I say about my sister?" I mean, a lot. But one of the things that stands out is I remember my first memories of Ayesha was actually when my parents would go to pick her up or drop her off––I can't remember; we're two years apart––at dance school, at ballet school. And it's just interesting to see that the things that we initially start doing that are true to us are the things that maintain their trueness throughout our lives, and to see them blossom and to grow in our––are we old? Are we old yet?
I'm old. I got gray hair. But to see them blossom as they get older––but not only blossom for us, but to see them spread out and help other people cultivate and plant seeds in youth––and even older folks––to kind of find their past youth's inner passions through the arts. And so, as a big part of my family, the arts––whether it be the martial arts or the musical arts or the dance arts or writing or what have you––everybody in my family has a touch of that creative. My mother made clothes and costumes and things of that nature. So, it's just good to see that the traditions that have kind of been instilled in us since youth are still present, still active in the community, and still progressing.
And hopefully, they'll progress forward, continuously, into the future and touch more and more people. But just to know that it's honest. It's not something that she just started when she was a teenager or started when she was in her 20s or started when she was in her 20s––
but it started when we were babies. Babies. And I can attest to that. So, as a witness to that––and hopefully a witness to more growth and progression in the future––much love, Ayesha. Yeah.
Mariel: I'm not gonna cry. I'm not gonna cry. I'm not gonna cry. Ms. Jaco is the sole reason why I went to Ghana, Africa at 16-years-old. She's the sole reason why I was able to dance for Nike.
She's the sole reason why I was able to dance for Universal Circus. She's the reason why my personality is the way it is when I dance. When I first met her, I just saw this vivacious, dreadlocked woman come in like, "Okay, okay, okay. It's time to go. It's time to go. I want lines not lies."
And I'm like, "Okay. All right. Cool. Straight line."
And she taught this piece that I have never seen before a day in my life. I'm like, "What type of dance is this? It's not hip hop. It's not contemporary. It's not tap."
It's a mixture of things that she made her own, and I can honestly say, she has a style of dance that no one can ever copy. She taught me how to live through my facials. She taught me how to live through my lines, taught me how to live through my soul, and Ms. Jaco, I can honestly say, from the bottom of my heart, you really changed my life.
Speaker: Mariel, really? And I gotta speak now? So, I am actually also sort of speaking on behalf of my husband, too, who's sending me texts of him in traffic, 'cause he couldn't be here, Ms. Jaco. You know this. So, I was a dancer when I was younger, and so, when you think about the older people that are also in their passion, that was me.
And so, he said, "Hey, there's this dance program at Austin. Why don't you go over there and check it out?" I was really not doing anything, 'cause I had just left my job. We had just gotten married, and I was kind of like, "Eh. All right. I'll go do some volunteer work."
And so, I remember walking into the auditorium, and you're right, Mariel––she came in, "Okay. Okay. We're getting started." And the energy, the love, the genuine care for the young people that you serve, Ayesha, was just all over. I fell in love, and you know this, 'cause I was like, "Oh, I'm just gonna show up one day a week" and I found myself a fixture in the school and loved and enjoyed every minute of working alongside you with your vision, being able to say, "How do we actually take this amazing auditorium and try to do something with it," with the talented team that you pulled together and the young people?
I think there's one thing that I can truly say about who you are as a person. You took young people who may never have thought that they could actually get on stage, put a costume on, throw some lights on, get some makeup, get some music on, and truly perform from the bottom of their heart. And they may not have been talented, but you, indeed, were able to figure out how to bring that talent out in all those young people. And 10 years later, it's still attested. I have a personal story.
It kind of came full circle. I was just here earlier this week. I was sitting right there. My step-daughter––who I've been in her life for about 14 years––had been kind of coming to rehearsal and sort of seeing what was going on, and then, I saw her on this stage, perform for you, and I was in tears, because it was the most amazing experience to see that this little person had been able to blossom and that you really––this year of dance that she has had––which has been a short time––you really have helped her. So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. And I've always loved doing everything that I could possibly do for you.
DM: So, at this time, I'm gonna ask you all to stand as we welcome our founder––can somebody help her––our artistic director Ayesha Jaco to the stage.
At this moment, on behalf of the Move Me Soul staff––Ms. Jessica, Ms. Rasheeda, Mr. Jackson––we would like to present her with the official plaque from the City of Chicago, signed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, marking this day as Move Me Soul Day. She has worked so hard to get us to this moment and there's so much more to come. We also have a personally signed––by the company that you saw today––Move Me 10 T-shirt for her to have in her archives.
To close our presentation, I would like to ask Mr. Jackson now to say a few words and introduce our final piece.
Artez Jackson: Ayesha Amira Jaco, I met you in '95 and what I loved most about you is you have so much soul. Here we are, 2018, and we still rockin’ together. I am so honored to be your friend, to be your dance partner, and most importantly to be your brother. I pray that we continue this. We said that we were gonna do this, and God as saw fit.
I'm waiting for the next 10 years, baby. From the words of Mr. Ailey, "Dance is for everybody." And our dream was to give it back to the people. So, tonight, Ayesha Amira Jaco, I want to give the dance back to you. So, if you guys could stand on your feet and give a round of applause for our founder, Ayesha Jaco.
So, as we give the dance back to you, Amira, enjoy.
[Nina Simone “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” plays]
Voice: Baby, you understand me now? If sometimes you see that I'm mad Don'tcha know that no one alive can always be an angel? When everything goes wrong, you see some bad
But oh, I'm just a soul whose intentions are good Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood
You know sometimes, baby I'm so carefree Oh, with a joy that's hard to hide And then sometimes again it seems that all I have is worry And then you're bound to see my other side
But I'm just a soul whose intentions are good Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood
If I seem edgy I want you to know I never mean to take it out on you Life has its problems And I get more than my share But that's me one thing I never mean to do 'Cause I love you
Oh, baby, I'm just human Don't you know I have faults like anyone? Sometimes I find myself alone regretting some little foolish thing Some simple thing that I've done
'Cause I'm just a soul whose intentions are good Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood Don't let me be misunderstood
I try so hard so please don't let me be misunderstood No, no, no, please
[Rhythmic music plays]
GV: Amazing. Amazing. One more round of applause for Move Me Soul. Congratulations.
Now, before we walk away, I want to keep––stay in your seats; the conversation is gonna continue. Now, we get to hear from Ayesha Jaco, the director of Move Me Soul, Artez Jackson, Diana Muhammad, Lupe Fiasco, and––I'm so sorry, my notes––and Tacori Halliburton. So, hang tight. We're gonna set the stage and join us for that conversation.
Krista Franklin: Hello? Hi. Hi, you guys. Thank you so much for coming today. Welcome to all the panelists.
We're gonna try to move this as quickly as possible. I just have a couple of little small things I want to say. My name is Krista Franklin, by the way. I've been here in the city of Chicago for quite some time and I'm very grateful to be here on the stage with these remarkable performers and organizers and founders and architects of some super cultural movements in this city. So, let me get started quickly, with the little announcements that I want to say.
Thank you very much to the MCA for hosting this event with Move Me Soul and celebrating this 10-year anniversary for them. Partnerships and engagement at the MCA is managed by Gibran Villalobos, who you just had an opportunity to see shortly here ago, and partnerships and engagement with MCA work with organizations that are civically centered and creatively led, so, we're really grateful to have this partnership kind of take place. Over an extended period of time, Move Me Soul and the MCA kind of begin to join forces a little bit in 2015 with the Doris Salcedo exhibition, and that was a wonderful opportunity where they had to come in and they did choreographed pieces and designed pieces that were in response to that particular exhibition while it was here in 2015, and they also have done projects with Damon Locks, who you had a pleasure to see as well on stage with them here at the MCA, inspired by the Merce Cunningham exhibition, and, of course, as they really beautifully showed us throughout the course of this program, have had a chance to travel internationally. So, they're really internationally known, so, I'm just very honored and grateful to be here, you know, with these magic folks. So, yeah, we have a bunch of people here on the stage. I'm gonna have you guys just say your names again for the audience very quickly, and then, I'll get into a few questions for you all.
Tacori Halliburton: My name is Tacori Halliburton, and I'm a dancer at Project Company.
LF: Lupe Fiasco––Ayesha's brother. I'm a rapper.
Artez Jackson: Artez Jackson––rehearsal director.
DM: Diana Muhammad––executive managing director.
Ayesha Jaco: Ayesha Jaco. Hi.
LF: Oh, Ayesha Jaco. How you all doing?
DM: Founder and artistic director.
LF: Founder and artistic director of Move Me Soul.
KF: And very humble, at that. Very humble. I want to just say––I think I want to start off with this question. I'm only gonna ask a couple of questions. I'm really gonna leave it open to you guys to kind of facilitate this conversation and also, open it up to the audience pretty quickly. I wanted to begin, I think, by asking you all about your roots on the West Side of Chicago.
I think it's very significant that this momentous force has come out of the West Side and has really maintained ties––deep ties––with the West Side of Chicago, and I really wanted you all to talk about that as well, as your legacy and of seeds that you have planted––specifically in that area, but that have expanded and thrived really across the city. So, would you like to talk a little bit about like, where just that impetus or that love or that rooting, that grounding happened specifically in that location and what, if any, significance that has for you all moving forward into the future, 'cause I know you're continuing to expand and grow.
Ayesha Jaco: Sure. I would just like pay homage to my mom because––and my grandmother.
My mom––they came to the North Lawndale community in 1968, so, the West Side was destined––predestined for me and my siblings. And one thing about my mom was that we grew up in East Garfield Park, and right outside of our door, there were prostitutes, there were drug deals. We had an older brother who lost 25 friends over a 10-year period. But when you walked in our front room, you might have thought you were in Morocco, 'cause there were lentils on the stove, National Geographic magazines, NOVA––so, she gave us another world to connect to right away. Alice Coltrane records, Nina Simone records––all this amazing fabric.
Like, people––and we lived in public housing and people thought our house was a museum. So, my mother framed, for us, what we could be beyond our circumstance and empowered us to reclaim where we were using whatever art and gift form that we chose to study in. So, for me, it was always dance. It was creative writing. And so, because of that seed, the West Side just became a platform for me to look outside of my window and find beauty beyond what was happening on my block.
So, that was the Park District, the Boys and Girls Club, and other places where we could just go and kind of take some of that seasoning that Mama gave us in that house and share that with people. So, that then became, for me, taking kids that lived in our apartment complex to the library, starting a dance company in the empty lot, to Move Me Soul.
KF: Thank you for that. Does anybody else want to speak to that at all?
DM: I'll add in a little. I was born on the West Side, but my parents moved us to Oak Park. They are both from the West Side––East Garfield and Austin––and one of my most fondest memories growing up, although I lived in Oak Park, I was constantly on the West Side––my father, a pastor of a church there and an activist. So, I call myself a picket line kid, because I was there helping to keep Manley open. When Malcolm X––there was a threat for Malcolm X College to be closed––I was there on the lines.
And I feel like I grew up there, so, when I graduated college, I moved back to Austin, and not too long after that, after working on the South Side and doing my dance projects on the South Side when I got the call from Ayesha, it was like coming back home, because there, I felt a personal connection––my mother being a business owner in the Austin community at some point––and just knowing and feeling the energy of this side of town and the creativity that comes that's underrecognized. And so, I felt very inspired to want to give back as much as possible, specifically to the West Side.
LF: Artez got that. I got something to say about––I don't like the West Side? What you talking about I love the West Side. No, I think part of being in certain places and being approximate to certain realities is a reminder––or even a challenge––to recognize that you don't have to stay there. And some people shouldn't stay there.
Some people should be––they should use that as a foundation and then transport to somewhere else and then come back. It's all about the return. But part of returning is leaving at some point, you know? And I think that everybody who authentically comes up on the West Side has aspirations to go out and be bigger than the West Side, you know––to reach all across the city, to reach all across the country, reach all across the state, planet, whatever––but to always return. There's something about the impetus––'cause we started in the west suburbs, which is one thing.
We started in Maywood until I was like, five, I think, and then, moved to Ford and then, we moved by Christiana on the West Side and then, we went to Garfield Park. And so, it was kind of like this descending into the lower levels of violence and gang violence and stuff like that, and then, it was the coming out, you know? And in that coming out process––that venturing out––you start to recognize. Of course, you appreciate the outside world, so, we always had to look––we lived right on Madison, so we could look straight downtown and see the Sears Tower and see that it was something else out there to go out and get. And we went out there and got it.
We're here at the MCA right now. We're a straight shot down Chicago Avenue back to the West Side. But even when you get here, you learn, and you get a greater appreciation for where you came from––that there's a lot of magic and a lot of vitality and a lot of potential in the West Side. And you kind of overlook those people––you see people here downtown or you see people in other cosmopolitan areas or what have you––in Hyde Park and Oak Park––and you think, "Oh, those people are so good because of their locality" and you kind of write off the kids on the West Side. And then, when you return––once you go out and you venture in those places and you judge those people and you participate with them and collaborate with them or whatever, and you go back to the West Side, you say, "Oh, the people on the West Side have the same qualities and the same potentials and same abilities and capabilities as those people who are not on the West Side."
When I say "not on the West Side" I mean like, in more upscale areas––whether it be suburbs or what have you. So, there's no––you almost feel doubly empowered. You feel doubly valued that you had the opportunity to come up in the West Side––which has its bad parts, its negativities––but also, those positive aspects. So, I think, for me––'cause my sister expounded on all the things that were internally in our house, externally, we lived in a very violent neighborhood. But we got the realness, the push––again, the challenge––the motivation to recognize the realness––that it was imperative that we went out and became ambassadors and became a bridge to both communities so we could have kids come out, but also, kids who were out, go back in and prep for that return.
KF: I think––I just want to really say that I think how wonderful and remarkable and powerful it is that you all have harnessed the wealth of the West Side, because I think a lot of times, we talk about the many areas that we live in––especially in the city––in this city, but also in urban areas––as being kind of pathological, whereas what I see when I walk into the spaces where Move Me Soul is performing is this rich and deep well of wealth, of creativity, of genius in terms of the storytelling. And I also kind of wanted to have––you know, Artez, as well, I wanted you both to talk about just the process––the creative process that you guys have gone through to harness these stories and to encourage young people that you are engaged with to tell these stories with their bodies, with their souls, with their spirit. I see so much fire in their eyes when they're on stage, and that's one of the things, I think, that has captivated me about this company from the moment that I encountered you guys, you know what I mean? Like, just the excitement around moving and being a part of something bigger than yourselves.
Artez Jackson: Well, Krista, you know, I too grew up on the West Side of Chicago, but for me, my story was a little different than theirs. We moved around a lot. I remember living in a shelter on the Northwest side of Chicago, and I remember, in that shelter, we had one room and my family had to live in that one room. And from there, I would go outside those doors and I would see, like Ayesha, prostitution, drug deals, gang violence. But what was so special about my surroundings is that the pride of the people––the people around me had so much pride, you know?
When I was introduced to dance, that was my way to really let go of all the anger I had as a kid––to let go of all the misunderstandings, you know? Dance brought me so much joy. We were blessed to be introduced to Alvin Ailey––one of the top black dance companies in the world––and one of my dreams was to study with them. And I did, you know? So, when I teach these babies, I'm thinking of a legacy.
Ayesha always tell 'em "What are you gonna leave behind and what is your legacy gonna look like, you know?" So, for me, dance is everything. It's everything. It's a story. It's life. It's real. So...
Ayesha Jaco: And I think with that, the storytelling and the fire––it's already in the young people. They come with so much resiliency. We've had students––one student, I'll never forget––got locked out of her house and she walked to rehearsal in her socks and she lived maybe two miles away. We've had students who've lost people that are close to them. One student lost a cousin on a Thursday; she came to us on Monday and said, "I haven't eaten, I haven't slept, but I'm here because I have to dance."
So, they come with this fire and this resiliency that we just use them as a catalyst, talk, give them a framework. We like to, in legacy, introduce them to people like Curtis Mayfield, Fela Kuti. We warm up to Alice Coltrane, and that's all my mother, right? Giving them a frame outside of what they had so they'd pour into that what they find. And I think you can speak to the ability in how you've been able to tell stories and inspire and carry that with you as a college student and performer, et cetera.
TH: Being raised in the Austin community, it was limited resources when it came to the arts, but mom did everything she could to make sure that I was dancing, even if she like, drove me to 47th, to the hair washing cultural center, she made sure I was dancing. But, as a 14-year-old, I came into Move Me Soul and I think my whole world changed. I walked in and I seen Mary and [indecipherable] doing Zombie, and I was blown away. I didn't know that people on the West Side was dancing like that. I couldn't wrap my head around it.
And I knew at that moment––as a 14-year-old––that that was home, and I knew I wasn't going anywhere. So, Move Me Soul has just made me a creator. It has made me a leader. I would never be able to stand on this stage and talk to you all today if it wasn't for Ms. Jaco and Mr. Artez that told me to go out and experience and step out of my comfort zone. So, I definitely thank everyone on this stage for helping me be who I am today.
KF: I kind of want to––I want to open it up. Can we open it up, you guys? You guys are gonna make me cry. I can't do this today. I'm not gonna do this with you all today, this afternoon.
I've already been crying in the audience. Every time I encounter this troop, I'm in tears. So, let me open it up a little bit to the audience, 'cause I want you guys to have time to ask questions as well of our illustrious panelists. There are microphones––there's a microphone over here if anybody has questions. Come on down.
Gibran is gonna pass it around. Thank you.
DM: While we're waiting, I'll just add––we're so proud of Tacori. We asked her to join us so that we could have a voice of the youth, and she is a leader in her college. She started some organizations. Mariel, who was on stage earlier––you heard a little bit about some of the things that she's done. We get a personal joy out of seeing how our program can impact their lives for them to go on, inspire other people to do greater things, and I think that's a part of the process.
You know, it's dance and beyond, because we always ask them to present themselves, because if you've ever seen a dancer walk in the room, you say, "Oh, they look like a dancer. They have a certain stance about themselves." But that says more than just the art. It says who they are as a person, what they have to offer, and how they contribute to the community. It's also a healing process, because I will recall a specific time.
Like Ms. Jaco, we have all piled teens in our car to drop them off at home before or pick them up and drop them off after performances and, Tacori, you were actually in my car one time and you said something to me. You were quiet, and so, I was like, "What's going on? You quiet." And you said, "Oh, at a party the other day, I saw someone get killed." And I thought, "Oh my God."
You know, you never know what someone is coming to you with and what they're releasing on that stage and in that space, and I think that we provide that atmosphere for healing––for teens to express themselves and to tell their stories and to connect with other people that have similar experiences, specifically relating to what takes place on the West Side and throughout Chicago in certain neighborhoods. So, I just wanted to point that out––that, you know, this is a part of what this program does.
TH: Yeah. Just to piggyback off that––I am a college student. I go to Northern Illinois, so I––
I drive home for practices on Saturdays, and it was a Thursday and I had just failed my final and I was just like, distraught. I did not feel like––
Artez Jackson: And I knew something was wrong with her.
TH: He––Mr. Artez knew something was wrong with me. He just asked like, "What's going on?" I'm like, "I'm not feeling good." And all he said was, "You alive." And that was just a place for healing for me and I got over it as soon as that––as soon as he said that.
Audience: So, I want to know the vision was [inaudible]. I know that many of the companies I heard from [inaudible] so, I'd like to know [inaudible].
Artez Jackson: It's so funny you say that, 'cause just last night, me and Ayesha was just talking about––I'm gonna talk loud. They know. We were just talking about what the next 10 years is gonna look like. And so, for us, we were talking about possibly having a dance center now––housing for dancers, for artists.
DM: I'm gonna step into my role and then I'm gonna step out. Your donations––
KF: Talk about it. Come on.
DM: ––make this possible.
KF: See the link? We need that QR code back up there.
DM: Yeah. We'd like to put it back.
DM: Now, I'm back.
KF: Holidays. Happy Holidays.
Ayesha Jaco: Yeah. So, as Artez said, I know you're active with the Austin Coming Together and they just unleashed their quality of life plan and there's an arts and culture piece in there, so, it's syncing with things like that so we can build an art center. We've had students that have come and they're homeless. If we're able to place them in and build their capacity to have a roof over their head––we also employ our dancers. So, we want to build out what a pathway looks like as an arts educator.
How do we pair them and build connection for those that stay in Chicago and that are not necessarily ready to jump into a university? Herald Washington has an associate's degree in dance. So, just thinking about the pipelines in which we are more intentional. The first decade, we wrapped our arms around the youth. We partnered with After School Matters.
We're building after school programs for the company. We want to be able to feed them. We want to be able to build their capacity to perform and to continue to grow as choreographers as the next generation of arts administrators. So, it's all about us thinking forward for the next 10 years––how we do that effectively. So, that's where we are.
Audience: For those of us who'd like to donate who aren't able to scan that code, can you give us more ways to donate on the website?
DM: Yes. So, there was supposed to be a website on that same screen. I apologize about that. But you can go to donorbox.com/MM10 and make a donation there. You can also write checks to Move Me Soul and hand them to me. Thank you. And if you, on your way out––we are also selling Move Me 10 T-shirts, so, if you'd like to purchase a T-shirt––if you see the table just across from the theater, you can purchase one there.
KF: I saw a question in the back.
Ayesha Jaco: Roll up your sleeves. I think there's no denying just the challenges and tribulations. That's what's gonna make you stronger. Find your allies. So, who are people like Gibran?
Who are people like Krista Franklin? Who are people like Damon Locks that have the same vibe and energy and vision as you that want to help you build that up? Find your tribe. Who are people like Artez Jackson, Diana Muhammad that can help you and you guys get together and you speak the same language? What is it that you can do in the most innovative way that only you can do that meets the highest need of the young people?
West's Zoie Reams––the next opera singer, 'cause that's who she is––travels all around the world, this young lady up here, and her mom is sitting right next to her from Brown Sugar Bakery. Just givin’ it up. What's up, family?
So, I would say narrow down what it is that you want to do, what is your mission, vision, what's your big, hairy, audacious goal. Who are the people that are gonna help execute that? And then, just get very strategic around what your goals are, how you're gonna fund and sustain it. This is a grassroots effort and we did that purposely, because we didn't want to be tied and in bondage to certain things that certain funders dictate. But, with that, we've been very blessed to find people like Shoni Currier, who, at the time, was at D-Case, who tapped us and gave us an opportunity to step on the stage of Pritzker Pavilion.
So, as you get that gumbo, your roux together right, and you start adding in the different ingredients that make up what make you––what’s your DNA as a program and you have your target audience identified, it'll start to grow. So, all in between there, there were a lot of lessons, losses, a lot of grunt work, a lot of stuff on the ground. We met Gibran and we're here today because we were sweating in the park district rehearsing tired. We see this guy walk in. We're like, "Hey."
And then, it led to, "Hey, don't you want to come and see this exhibition? Bring the kids." And if, you know, we went like, "No" we would not have––we would have not been here. You know? And from there, it just evolved and evolved.
They spoke true to the promise. They came in and were really invested. So, you will find your tribe. This is tribe right here, right? They'll come to you and they'll start aligning divinely.
KF: Can I add something to that really quickly? I'm so sorry. I jumped in. I want to say, too, to be of service. I think that sometimes, we have this––we're in this cultural moment where everyone wants to be an innovator.
They want a platform. They want to be, you know, one of the people who was a tastemaker, you know? And I just want to say, one of the best ways to learn how to build something, is to be in service of people who have already built something and to join your forces to learn from them––not to poach their contacts, not to poach right from them, but to actually be of service to the vision that they've already kind of created, right? And that way, just in being of service, you learn these different skills that enable you and empower you to build your own think in the future, right? That's how you learn. We learn through being apprentice to people that we love.
Artez Jackson: Mr. Ailey––he didn't see black dance represented around him. Same for us. We didn't see that in our neighborhood. So, we said we were gonna create that and that's what we did, right? So...
Ayesha Jaco: Oh Was, he's a budding musician. This young man––you could give a lot to him.
LF: Oh, no.
Ayesha Jaco: Yes. About your drive. And how do you––
LF: Get a job. Get a job, young man. I mean, it's gonna be different strokes for different folks. I know that seems cliché, but so much of life is cliché if you allow it to be cliché. But I think the truth in that is to recognize your specific context, the specific things that you know push and pull you, things that build you up and break you down, and associate yourself with those things that build you up and the things that push you as opposed to pulling you.
I think that there's a lot to––the only advice that I stand on that I give to people is to know what you want and know what you're willing to do to get it. And part of knowing what you want––the beauty of it is, it eliminates all of those––a lot of those trials and tribulations. If it doesn't eliminate it, it makes it somewhat numb or irrelevant to you, because your goal––once you know exactly what you want, no matter how materialistic is it, no matter how spiritual it is––you know, third eye open, that whole situation––no matter what it is, if you know exactly what you want, the universe––not to get super spiritual with it––but the universe will clear that path for you, right? In a technical aspect, it'll highlight the people that can push you to it. More importantly, it'll highlight the people that'll keep you away from doing it and then, you need to make the decision whether you want to still operate with those people.
Thus, you might have a mother who doesn't want you to do that––who wants you to follow in the footsteps of something else––and you're gonna have to make the decision to say, "I gotta go live with my uncle, 'cause if I stay with my mom, I'm never gonna achieve this thing that I want to do." And those are the decisions that we come into contact with––where for me––I brought up leaving the West Side––I had to leave the West Side. If I went to Marshall High School – which was the high school around the corner from our housing project––Madison 3054––I'd be dead. And I say it with a straight face. I know I'd be dead. 'Cause almost all my friends are dead.
And there's something to saying like, "I have to go live with my father," right? And in that, you get that creative space, right? You get those new influences. But the sacrifice is that I'm leaving this space that I grew up in to go achieve this thing, and people are gonna call me a lame fool or they're gonna call me a coward––you know, they going, "You not gang. Bababababa."
But there's––knowing what you want doesn't necessarily mean that it's gonna be easy. Right? It's still gonna highlight, again, the difficulties and the decisions that you need to make to get to where you want to be. In terms of just music specifically––which I know like the back of my hand––it's the lottery sometimes. And if you pick the wrong numbers, you're gonna pick the wrong numbers. You're not gonna win.
I think if you're really pursuing a career in music, pursue all of it. Strive to become a musician. Strive to produce the things that you sing or perform. Master your performance abilities. Be a chameleon in any aspect, and constantly, consistently, not just learn the craft itself, all of it; learn the science behind it.
Learn the underlying principles and learn the psychology of it. Go deep, deep, deep, deep, deep. Go so deep and so wide that any circumstance that you find yourself in in this universe that is music, you have a––if not an expertise, at least a competency of how to operate in that field, no matter what it is that has to do what you have to do. Lighting. Stage design.
Whatever it is––'cause you're never gonna know, again, 'cause it's that lottery, where you're gonna find your niche, where your dice are gonna land. But where you want to beat the game is––no matter how the dice land, you win. Right? That's my two cents. And I say that to say––I'm sorry––I say that to say––don't approach it just with feelings.
Don't approach it with the spirit. Approach it with the mind and the rationale and the work ethic and the technical things. That's how you approach those issues of drive and lack of self-determination and lack of self-confidence. Approach it not just with a pep talk and a cliché statement. Approach it with layered attacks of "I'm going to defeat this mentally, psychologically, chemically, metallurgically”––whatever process and scientific approach that you need to have to defeat that. Yeah?
KF: We have time for one more––one more question. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.
Ayesha Jaco: Well, okay, maybe you can speak to the other piece, but we tell them similar to what Wasalu just said. Sharpen your tool kit. So, we push them to go to school. I personally don't push for a dance degree, because I feel like if you're taking classes and you're doing everything you need to do––which I did get, by the way––but to get your education, get some kind of certification. Dig deep in what it is that you want to do, and if you're able to surround and have many––like, I was a, I guess you could say, independent contractor for almost a decade, but I was teaching at a university.
I was running After School Matters programs. I was doing consulting. So, find a way to master all that it is about––for me, it was arts administration and how do I flip that. How do I work that so that feeds me in the way that I want to work? Ironically, recently, I've went back to a 9:00 to 5:00 'cause I had enough of the hustle in that way, but we just––my answer to that is it's––you gotta have multiple streams of income.
You gotta figure out how you gonna flow and land on what it is that's gonna feed your ability to be able to do what you want to do.
DM: I was gonna just add and then, we can close out with Tacori––we also like to just give our students that professional polish. Like I said earlier, when we're always challenging them to present themselves, that's not just a physical thing, but is your resume done? Have you attended a class here, workshop there? Did you network? How do you greet someone?
We go over like, very specific details in terms of how to basically make it in this competitive world, not just in the arts, but for whatever you want to do. And, like Ayesha said, we do encourage school education. We, ourselves, are the examples of that. And we constantly tell them and try to lead by example, and we praise when they do go and do that. And then, also, resources.
We try to flood them with as many resources as possible. If we know people––we have a student now in New York at Ailey Intensive. We have a lot of different things that are going on, and if there is a way that we can pour into them or help feed something that they do want to do, we try to do that.
Ayesha Jaco: And I just want to add, too––school is not the end all be all, right? And I just look at this young man, who could probably teach any college course––very well read––and that's been since here, though––debating people on why they shouldn't eat pork at six, you know, that type of stuff. But it's about––
LF: It's got worms in it. That don't die when you cook it.
Ayesha Jaco: Yes, yes. But with that, it's really about that goal and that motivation and just aligning yourself to what it is that you want to be able to do. And that focus will carry you. And I'll just say one last thing. So, our father taught us how to break boards and bricks, right?
And you would think, "Oh, that's cement." Or, "They're crazy. That's not real." But the key to that––and this is what we tell them, right––"You are the thinker that creates the thought that creates the thing" and that's a quote from Dr. Johnny Coleman, okay? But when breaking that brick, you tune out everything there is around you.
When setting that goal, when getting that job, when doing whatever it is that you need to do––and this goes back to what Wasalu said––you tune out everything around you and you see yourself going through that brick. And, as motivation, we have some [indecipherable]. You get hit with this bamboo stick to get your chi up and you tune everything out and before you know it, you had to have the proper stance with your foot so you don't break it and your hands, so those are the lessons and whatever it is you need. So, once that [indecipherable] hits you, once those challenges hit you and you decide on what it is that you want to do––which is break that brick––you break it. And my father––he would break 30 with his head.
We got pictures. No. I'm just playing. But with that, that's all you need.
TH: So, Ms. Jaco definitely encouraged us to pursue other things. In college, I thought I was gonna be a dancer. I thought I was gonna major in dance. But when I talked to Ms. Jaco, she was just like, "Why you getting a degree in dance? You could do something else. It could be a minor."
And that's exactly what I did. I became a health administration major with a minor in dance and I think that was the best decision of my life, because I got to open myself to different things. I also started an organization on my campus. I'm the president and a founder of the National Association of Colored Women's Club Incorporated.
So, I am now giving back to my community because of what I was taught here. So...
KF: Thank you very much, you guys. Thank you so much for attending, for spending your Sunday afternoon with us in this Sunday service that we have been blessed with today. Thanks. Congratulations to Move Me Soul––10 years down.
[Cheers and applause]
Yes. Thank you to all the dancers. Thank you to Gibran, to the MCA, and we hope you guys have a great evening. Get home safely.
[End of Audio]