By: Tony R. McCray
Nielah Spears, who is the President and Artistic Director of the Pensacola-based performing arts company called Performers, Blessings, and Jazz, Inc., (PBandJ) sponsored an international African heritage performing arts group in Pensacola this past week. The unique cultural experience was held in Downtown Pensacola at the Pensacola Voices complex across from Seville Quarter. The event was unique in many ways as the talent of West African Drum and Dance by Atlanta-based Ajose Afrikan made the environment seem like an African Village in Downtown Pensacola.
The marketing information sent out by social media and word of mouth described a training opportunity for young and old. Here is an example of the what was sent out: “For all who are interested in your youth receiving an exciting and elevating cultural experience in West African Drum and Dance prepare yourselves All ages 7-70…July 5th-15th 2016, including a Showcase performance for the community. $50 per person for a full session, or $10 per class in Pensacola, Florida for a Summer Dance and Drum Intensive Camp. We have National and International Artists from Miami to Atlanta Georgia by way of the traditions of Nigeria West Africa”.
When the Pensacola Voice spoke with Spears she stated, “This is a part of my roots it is also a part of the vision of the organization and that is to inculcate the Arts as a part of the culture. It is also a way where individuals become aware of self, culture, their purpose and they’re creative abilities in life, putting them to use no matter where they come from who they are and what they believe”! She went on to share that within those goals there is an effort to redefine and to reawaken culture within the communities here on the Gulf Coast. Spears added, “I think the children said it best when they spoke daily about how happy and excited they were to return each day and how everyone felt the sense of community because every adult was responsible for everyone’s child and every elder child was responsible for the youngest”.
The lead performer and choreographer is an international artist (as is Mrs. Spears) whose name is Baba Odun Ogunlano. His wife, London, and their company are the group that cruise ships, Disney, television, and Hollywood call on for authentic performances of the West African and Yoruba traditions. Spears spoke very highly of Ogunlano and his various roles of teacher, guide, facilitator, and trainer of the African heritage traditions, cultural arts of the Yoruba people.
Spears went on to thank the Casey Campbell and Brittany of the Voices of Pensacola for their awesome hospitality and facilitation. “It was like a home away from home” she said in appreciation. She sent out a huge thanks to their donors who included Geraldine Vanguard, Jean Marquez, Chad Franklin, and the Escambia Sheriff Department. Spears said that PBandJ is looking forward to start classes as an after school program and evening classes for adults in the near future. For more information you can call (850) 696-7069 or email Pbandjorg@gmail.com.
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