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On Wednesday, October 23 at 7 pm, a group of dancers from Iraq came to Emmanuel to share their unique art. These dancers from First Step Iraq are part of the YES Academy Iraq, part of the American Voices. American Voices allows these dancers to spend time in the United States working on their dancing and learning from the best of the best. Students and faculty sat attentively in the Auditorium of the Admin building, fascinated by the rhythm and the soulful passion of these young men. They exuberantly danced with life in their eyes, and a certain glow in their smiles.
After their performance, the floor opened for some questions. When asked about the cultural differences between the United States and their regions at home, one of the young men responded that, “there are lots of girls, and there is a one hundred percent difference in the cheeseburger”. It was neat to see that despite the enormous differences between where we go to school in Boston, and where they come from, the group of six boys aren’t much different from the college students here at Emmanuel. One of the dancers asked for some more information and what he revealed was information I now carry close to my heart.
One of the young men from Baghdad announced that, “In my country, hip hop is not accepted. Dancing is dangerous”. Another dancer informed the crowd that his life had physically been threatened because of his choice to dance. Due to the connection between hip hop dancing and America, it is prohibited in Baghdad to do such activities. When this young man would leave his rehearsals or classes, he was often followed and threatened. He would have to keep meeting in different places in order to protect his safety. He then said, “The government doesn’t want us to dance. When I go home, there are targets on my back. There are people who want me dead, and the government is going to want to punish my brother and I for coming to this country to dance”.
As a dancer, it seemed so terribly sad that such a beautiful art was so forbidden and so frowned upon. It was also incredibly honorable that for some of the members of First Step Iraq, pursuing their passions and dreams was something that could potentially kill them. I think we often take advantage of the fact that we have the freedom in the United States to practice our art forms and express ourselves as we please. The fact that these dancers continue doing what they love, however unfavorable to unappreciated it is, is quite simply honorable and courageous.
For more information about the Hiplomacy Tour, or to make a donation to continue to allow young individuals to come and freely practice their art visit http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/hiplomacy-tour-comes-to-boston–2/ . From Iraq with Hip Hop: the Hiplomacy Tour is an Education for Peace program sponsored by both Campus Ministry and Multicultural Programs. May peace be with the six dancers as they return to Baghdad, Basra, Erbil, and Sulaymaniyah. Best of luck to them all.
Ashly Uss is a staff writer for the Hub. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @ashlyuss on Twitter.