Together On a Journey Towards Joy and Belonging Cynthia Plouché in conversation with TaKiyah Wallace
Feeling welcomed and being heard in an environment that lets me be who I am is what “belonging” means to me. The need to belong has been an underlying driver throughout much of my life, so the concept of belonging is a core value of the Alzenia Project. We are passionate about connecting people and ideas, committed to the concepts of inclusion and finding joy. Part of our mission is to support organizations that share the same values as we do, and one such organization that has become one of our grantees is Brown Girls Do Ballet (BGDB). Through the medium of classical dance, BGDB provides a mentor network and community programs to empower young girls—we sat down with their founder, TaKiyah Wallace, to discuss their organization’s mission and explore our partnership.
Brown Girls Do Ballet is committed to the development of the next generation of women though increasing the participation of underrepresented populations in ballet programs. When her daughter, Charlie, began to dream of doing ballet, TaKiyah remembers feeling worried that she would feel isolated in the ballet classes where no one resembled her— BGDB was born from her engagement with the ballet community and like-minded parents who said “…that their little girls were the only brown girl in all of their classes.” More than 10 years later, this project has evolved into an organization with programs such as pointe shoe fundraising, scholarships, mentorship programs, and more.
Brown Girls Do Ballet’s mission resonates so closely with me because TaKiyah and I both understand the gravity of belonging. Having a sense of belonging is critical, especially for young girls exploring their dreams and discovering their calling or place in the world, and BGDB helps little brown girls find their own sense of belonging. “I am making it my mission and duty to let every brown girl know that they are welcome in whatever space they wish to be in—we’re going to find a way for you to fit because you should’ve already been there,” reflects TaKiyah. “We’re letting the ballet community know that we are here, we will continue to be here, and we’re going wherever you go.”
Alzenia Project chose Brown Girls Do Ballet as one of our grantees because our two organizations’ values are as aligned as pointe shoes and tutus are. I asked TaKiyah to share her perspective on our partnership: “Our expectations in a partner were just to have one that saw us—we have a niche focus, and not a lot of people ‘get’ us. It’s incredibly heartening to partner with an organization also ran by a woman of color and to see how Alzenia tries to make things more fair in all sorts of industries. Thinking to the ‘Sisterhood is Power’ model, by working together you get more done.” BGDB is devoted to promoting diversity in the arts and building community, and their commitment to helping young women of color express themselves and achieve their dreams is analogous to our own. Through our joint focus on bringing community and joy to the next generation of women, we work together to empower girls to reach their highest potential.
Stay tuned for TaKiyah’s upcoming book, The Color of Dance A Celebration of Diversity and Inclusion in the World of Ballet. The book will be available starting September 26th, 2023.
If you want to learn more about Brown Girls do Ballet, connect with TaKiyah on LinkedIn, or check out their website.
To meet other Alzenia Project grantees, visit the Alzenia Project website; or to get involved, connect with Cynthia Plouché on LinkedIn.