Program educates youth on Afro-Latino traditions of drum and dance

NOW: Program educates youth on Afro-Latino traditions of drum and dance

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Music, dancing, history and culture come together at workshops put on by Bembé Drum and Dance.

The community-based cultural performing arts program focuses on teaching Afro-Latino musical and dance traditions primarily to young people.

"We mostly focus on music and dance from Puerto Rico, Colombia, Brazil, Panama and Cuba," Bembé's program and dance director Imani Jalil told CBS 58. "We're able to educate youth on some of the traditions that comes from those different regions and connect that to the traditions of the African diaspora which is where they directly come from."

The program holds workshops at Escuela Verde in Silver City. On some nights, dancing and drumming students learn their skills separately before putting it all together in a performance in the same space.

"The dancers get to experience that live percussion element, the drummers get to learn what it's like to play for dancers," Jalil said.

Jalil shares a personal connection to what she teaches and hopes students are able to experience the same.

"I am Black and Latina and the way for me to connect to my roots and to my heritage has always been through movement, through dance."

While there's a spotlight on Bembé's work during Black History Month, Jalil said the legacy of Afro-Latino culture is embedded in the program year-round.

"Black history is a part of our workshops," Jalil said. "It's a part of our performances, it's everything that we share with our students."

Jalil hopes students in the program are able to carry the power of the traditions they learn throughout their lives.

"Continuing to practice these traditions even though they do evolve over time and they evolve as we transition or move to different places throughout the world I think it's still something we can remember and hold on to and connect with," Jalil said.

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