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“Student Produced Performance to Infuse African Dance & Rhythm with Hip Hop"
By Keith L. Forest
A group of East New York students decided to spend their spring vacation in the classroom. Not brewing over books, or crunching numbers, but learning movement, dance and rhythm from a group of artist educators with expertise in various South African arts forms as part of Community Works and Groundwork Sharing Our Lives East New York/ South Africa project.
These Brooklyn middle school students, who range in age from 11 – 13 and hail from IS 292 and Public Schools 328 and 260, are being exposed to a variety of South African art forms including Zulu and gumboot dance; mining chants; and African Jazz; while incorporating their own special blend of hip hop, spoken word and rap.  They will present their infused work in a student-produced work-in-progress on Friday, April 21, 2006 at the Fiorentino Campus of Junior High School 292, located at 301 Vermont Avenue in Brooklyn.   The program, which will include a special guest appearance by Brooklyn-conscious rapper Talib Kweli and a performance by renowned South African Dance Troupe Juxtapower, takes place from 3:30 – 5:00 PM.  Elected officials, parents and special invited guests will also be in attendance.
Sharing our Lives is a signature arts and literacy workshop program of Community Works, which offers students the opportunity to make connections with young people in other neighborhoods, locally and globally. In sharing letters and artistic expressions that celebrate their own lives, students discover their commonality with young people around the world.
In addition to art skills, participants are learning about South African history and experiencing contemporary life through a variety of guest artists and speakers. The cultural exchange will be enhanced through video and the internet, with the East New York students and students from the Theo-Thwala School east of Johannesburg, South Africa.
According the Barbara Horowitz, Founder and President of Community Works, “In1994 Community Works created its first global project connecting young students from Capetown, South Africa to students from Martin Luther King Jr. High School in New York City.  Today, we are so proud that 12 years later we are re-visiting post-Apartheid South Africa with this unique cultural exchange initiative.”
Community Works is a leading nonprofit arts education organization that was founded by Barbara Horowitz in 1990. Its mission is to build bridges between diverse cultures and neighborhoods by using the arts as a tool for social and personal change, and sharing community stories that connect us all.  Community Works collaborates with over 550 public schools, 300 artists, and 220 cultural and community associations annually, serving over 200,000 students and community members borough-wide, through its acclaimed public arts exhibitions, multicultural performances, workshops and mentoring programs.
Founded by Richard Buery and Andrea Schorr in 2002, Groundwork’s mission is to help neighbors build powerful communities.  Its after-school and summer programs for elementary and middle school children give them the skills and confidence they need to become engaged, educated citizens.  Groundwork’s work experience and college preparatory  programs for teenagers teach youth to become leaders while guiding them to success in academics and in life.  Groundwork currently serves nearly 600 children and 1,000 familes annually residing in East New York, Brooklyn

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