Dr. Kariamu Memorial Tribute
By A’Keitha Carey
“Always, my goal is to show the beauty and diversity of African culture…to educate people about the artistic heritage that people from Africa have, that’s always at the forefront of my mind” (The Temple News 2002).
Watching the memorial for Mama Kariamu, I was able to experience the love, passion, beauty, and brilliance of her lifelong commitment to African dance, education, culture, art, family, mothering, nurturing, and Black excellence. Through the tears and smiles, I managed to sort out my thoughts about how to memorialize the woman who had mentored and educated me prior to our formal meeting in 2010. We first met in London, England at the Association of Dances of the African Diaspora (ADAD) conference in 2010 and in 2017, I had the opportunity to experience her care, concern, and commitment to supporting scholars/artists/practitioners as she helped navigate the process of entering the doctoral program at Temple University. I ended up not attending but I appreciate her complete transparency and the solidarity that she offered.
She will be remembered for her influence in helping me to define and understand what African dance is, how we promote, advocate, and teach African/African Diaspora dance in universities and colleges in the United States and abroad, and the importance of keeping the legacy going. Her work has reinforced my Caribbean identity (focusing on Africanity, Caribbean national and regional dances, addressing education (epistemological apartheid), colonialism, and folkloric traditions “that signal national and regional identity” (2), the importance of the archive, and how to be a scholar/activist.
Everyone who spoke at the memorial truly captured their experiences that were unique to their relationship with this divine empress but both Dr. C. Kamal Nance and Dr. Gaynelle Sherrod dropped several nuggets that I want to share: 1. “Pour life into your passion”; 2. “Do what you could when it’s possible”; and 3. “What are you doing with your gifts?” How will/can we address these points in our life/work?
Mama Kariamu’s departure from our earthly realm saddens us deeply but her memorial and legacy offers us hope, encouragement, and motivation to keep pressing on for there is much work to do. Florida Black Dance Artist Organization attempts to uphold her mission understanding that “African dance [education, culture, principles, and aesthetics] has much to contribute to recent political discussions about restorative justice, economic mobility, and intractable social divides in American societies…social change is integral to the ideas, beliefs, and goals that are woven throughout the process, practice, and performance of African dance (7). We are charged to keep the flame lit and the fiyah burnin’. Her legacy demonstrates the overall theme of her life’s work: “Doing the Impossible.” This is our charge…ONWARD!
The Queen now dances boldly over the shores of stolen lands and beautiful sand in the heavenly province where the ancestors dwell
The tenderness of your voice juxtaposed with the prowess of your perpetual, prolific, intellectual profusion are a reminder of the multifarious layers of Black excellence you leave us with
She dances with us no more
Impartation, Invocation, Salutation
Through the skillful architecture of your nurturing spirit, you reminded us of our inheritance, lineage, and purpose
The performance dexterity (mind, body, soul, and spirit) of those who move, think, speak, touch, feel, know, and imagine your brilliance are better, brighter, and bolder
She dances with us no more
(A’Keitha Carey 2021)
No Author. “Dance Professor Teaches the Importance of African Art and Culture.” The Temple News. February 14, 2002. https://temple-news.com/dance-professor-teaches-the-importance-of-african-art-and-culture/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CAlways%2C%20my%20goal%20is%20to,the%20forefront%20of%20my%20mind.%E2%80%9D&text=%E2%80%9CUltimately%20it's%20a%20celebration%2C%E2%80%9D%20Welsh%20Asante%20said.
Welsh, Kariamu, Esailiama G. A. Diouf, and Yvonne Daniel. 2019. “Introduction: When Where, and How We Enter”. In Hot Feet and Social Change: African Dance and Diaspora Communities, edited by Kariamu Welsh, Esailiama G. A. Diouf, and Yvonne Daniel, 1-17. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.