KINDRED YOUR SPIRIT: OPRAH & Former ALVIN AILEY Student Dancer DWANA SMALLWOOD Open Performing Arts Center in Bed-Stuy New York



“Kindred your spirit”

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…a post I just wrote the other day, as, I truly feel that while you don’t have to be in search of a kindred [spirit], if you’re serious, and true, and real about it, “kindering” your spirit (to me) is to remain open and inspired by what inspires or motivates you-and a kindred spirit will connect to you in some way, shape, or form, or by example. And sometimes through that (or being out here doing other things you may feel is your “purpose”) you just may find what really is your “purpose”—for real, for something real doing real things. Because as a person who (has as footprint in real life and in print) engraved in being inspired by something that moved me (via personal experience and before any attention was ever shined on it), that combination both let me know that what I feel is real (and too, is purpose-alongside any other things that I do and feel are my purpose).TEENS TURNING UP

With that being said, I tend to have an eye—a keen eye on getting a feel for “purpose” being something a person feels is theirs inspired by attention (or inspired by intention). There is a big difference.

Unfortunately, I feel that a lot of us have adopted this thinking that our purpose in life comes in the form of something dynamic and showy such that it fills up Instagram square to show the world when sometimes, our purpose in life comes from those same occupations and things done just a few years ago (before we could summon the world to “look at us on social media”): Just simple, things in great ways. We’ve adopted this thinking that all of our “purposes” in life are from things that we can show off to the world for 15 seconds at a time-when sometimes, our purpose in life is simply rooted in a 15 second or 15 minute conversation with one person that, ends up meaning the world to that one person.

Well in “kindering my spirit” –something I always leave open that seems to connect with people (strangers out in my world and people that I’ve met and conversed with all over the world via the world wide web as well), as you may well know, I came upon this story about a young girl (and her high school) that had worked so hard throughout the school year (and pretty much had been in practice for disciplining themselves for all the accoutrements and rewards given to them as far back as middle school up to their high school graduation)-I was so delighted (and intrigued and inspired I might add) that I couldn’t wait to document this girl and their stories).

From there, I felt the need [and that it was a necessity] to make stories like such a spotlight and feature at Other Side of the Fame because it deserves shining light and slowly but surely, I’m seeing these types peek through the cracks of oblivion. They need shine. They need to be “envied” to the point of inspiration-to be shining examples that discipline and focus in obtaining a goal can be cool too. That being said, as I am seeing these youngsters, I see stories and people like such as “stars” deserving the spotlight.



If you keep up with me and you’ve read this piece I wrote in March 2014), I talk about having pretty much given up on young people today-thinking that (considering all that I see in the world and upon log on), they don’t want to involve themselves in things that requires their brain, or their time and a kind of discipline that doesn’t give them instant gratification via attention or insta-career. So I kinda gave up on the notion that these types of young people even existed in today’s climate.



Today I came upon this awesome story that I heard nothing about in the news or on a social media timeline or trending topic or anything like that-a story about woman by the name of Dwana Smallwood [a former Alvin Ailey dancer that] years ago, was on an old Oprah Show segment (before OWN)


She had an experience that lead to not only something greater, but an: opportunity, and epiphany, and eventually: her purpose in life.

After performing on the show, she was asked to take her expertise to Oprah’s school for girl (Leadership Academy) in South Africa simply so she could [quoting Oprah] “teach them you know” [unquote] –Oprah


“I said please, please, please would you go to my school in South Africa and teach my girls what you know” -Oprah


Well “teaching them what [she] knew” (for Dwana) involved more than just moving her body and exiting a class, she felt like she had more than to show them but to tell them.

“First I was begging for a week. Then I was begging for a year”-Oprah

That “show[ing] them what you know” visit intended as a one week excursion ended up being a four year odyssey and journey for Dwana Smallwood: a girl from the Bed-Stuy streets of New York who’s considered to be [Alvin Ailey alum: Judith Jamison and the Mikhail Baryshnikov] of our time!



“It unleashed this person that knew that I could reach young people. I could figure out what’s going on with a young woman and I could help her figure out the brilliance within her,” Dwana Smallwood


Throughout Smallwood’s journey in South Africa, she knew that her mission accomplished was an order and the streets and home she knew in Bedford Stuyvesant needed her too.

“I truly love Brooklyn and I love Bed-Stuy,” -Smallwood

So went she returned home, she returned home with a present: a mini-model and blueprint of Oprah’s Leadership Academy. With the help of a half million dollar donation and thanks for Oprah, Smallwood opened 4,000 square feet of school now known as the Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center in the very same neighborhood she grew up in-plagued by drugs, crime and poverty.



“We got to put it right in their faces and make them see there is another choice, there is another way there are other options” -Smallwood



“I feel safer in here with people who are about me and I know can protect me,” -student Adege Josephscreen-shot-2015-06-22-at-5-46-42-pm

“Ms. Dwana has inspired me to become anything I want to become,”-student Sahai Heyward

“She taught me how to be a better person, how to respect myself,” -student Imani Smiley Herring

“She helped us learn that we can always do our best and to never give up. Whenever we’re falling or we need help with anything, we have to keep on trying and just stand up and be strong” -student


This story was so delightful to me and kindred to my spirit.
Because if you read what I was saying (in my piece written March 2014) about my own personal experience, (like I explained in the beginning of this write up) I have an affinity for the light being shined on young people doing the unexpected (especially atypical of today).larger

Author: OSFMagWriter

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