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Dance and "RIZE"

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On Sunday, January 29, 2006, I went to a Tokyo, Japan movie theater and saw the movie "RIZE." The movie is considered a new release in Japan, where it was probably in it's 3rd to 4th showing week. New releases in the US might be out and shown o­n the silver screen anywhere from o­ne month to six months and sometimes beyond before they are in theaters in Japan. Putting into consideration that "RIZE" is a new release to Japan, and the fact that I watched the movie at a 4:45 PM start time, there was a good audience of near capacity at 180 people viewing the movie.

Directed by fashion photographer David LaChapelle, the documentary showcases a new form of urban dance called "krumping"-evolving from African American youth of South Central Los Angeles. The dance, as described by its originators, is release, expression, and an art form of alternative means to gang life and violence that is heavily present within their community.

Throughout watching the documentary, I was moved by the energy and creativity that the young dancers brought to life. They took ownership of the dance they created, and knew that through what they generated, others would be affected by this powerful force they produced. I interviewed a Japanese person to get a foreign view and perspective of African American imagery in relation to the movie at the show's end.

WEB (Wayne E. Brown): So what was your impression of the movie?

JG (Japanese Guest): I was shocked! The dancing was very good! The movie showed how the dancing (of the Black Americans) was similar to the dancing in African tribes. I didn't know that. I was also surprised to know that these kids live in an area of so much violence.

WEB: What do you mean?

JG: We often see a movie that shows some violence, but this real situation movie shows us that the situation (in some cases) is much worse. It's almost as if the kids have no choices, but the negative way. The movie showed there is some hope through dancing.

WEB: The situations and circumstances that you saw from the movie are reality and a way of life survival for many of those living in Watts, Inglewood, and the greater South Central Los Angeles area. Do you think all Black Americans are like the images you generally see in movies?

JG: We Japanese think so a little, because we don't have so much direct interaction with Black people.

WEB: Are Japanese people afraid of Black people?

JG: Now, no, not really. Maybe in the past more Japanese people were. In fact, with the younger generation, we often admire Black people for their dancing, music, talents, and creative ability. I think a lot of Japanese understand that Black people are strong because they have to be. For us, it's difficult to imagine these circumstances because we don't have these same areas (of town) with guns and gangs in Japan. It's surprising for us.

WEB: Is there anything else?

JG: It's not just dancing (from the movie). They are expressing a part of their life. We have to feel their message. I think the movie would also have a more "deeper" meaning if Black people made the movie.

WEB: Interesting. Thanks!

Black History Month

For the entire month of February, I am dedicating the first half of my classes to tell my Japanese junior high school students about Black History Month. I started 'week o­ne' off by giving an informative translated (English & Japanese) worksheet to students. The worksheet talks about the meaning and importance of Black History Month, as well as giving background history of Black History Month founder, Dr. Carter G. Woodson. For 'week two,' I passed out a worksheet listing names and dates of "Black Inventors & Inventions." I gave half of 144 Black inventors this week, and will give the remaining in 'week three.'

All in all, my students and assisting Japanese teachers have been extremely intrigued and receptive to the worksheets I gave them. I can't help but find it interesting myself, especially with the looks o­n their faces and reflective responses from students as we discuss Black History. Here are some of the questions asked from my students:

Student: How do students celebrate Black History Month?

WEB: Several ways. Students watch documentaries, have discussion, read books and worksheets like I gave you, listen to old or traditional music, and do other things to remember achievements of Black people in history.

Student: Can other people (races) celebrate Black History Month?

WEB: Yes, we should all know about the achievements Black people have made.

Student: Are you a Black person?

WEB: Yes, I am.

Student (a seventh grader): Because Frederick Douglas's birthday (February 14, 1817) is o­n Valentine's Day, did he like chocolate?

WEB (As there were giggles and laughs from several students, I couldn't help myself from smiling and laughing when I replied): I don't know!

Black Samurai-P. 165
Living and surviving in another country, or in a newfound area, is not an inconceivable task. However, it does take courage and a willing desire to learn something different. The people may look, speak, and dress differently from what you may have been accustomed to. ...Simply put, exposure has opened up my mind and allowed me to see things from different perspectives. I am certain that traveling to new places and interacting with people will make anyone see life differently.

Wayne E. Brown is the Founder and CEO of WEB International Publishing. He is the author and publisher of BLACK SAMURAI: Work, Travel, Culture, Religion, Struggle, & Perspective of a Black American Man. For book signing, motivational speaking engagements, and/or appearances email: web@webinternationalpublishing.com or go the website for details: www.webinternationalpublishing.com

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