‘Brown Ballerinas for Change’ working to diversify the arts

‘Brown Ballerinas for Change’ working to diversify the arts

RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - Since going viral through a photo at the Lee Monument, four teenage dancers have been advocating for social justice and change, and working towards diversifying the arts.

Ava Holloway, Kennedy George and Sophia Chambliss and Ava Holloway, dancers at the Central Virginia Dance Academy cofounded ‘Brown Ballerina’s for Change’ over the summer, as they continued to gain popularity and requests for performances following the photo.

“The mission of Brown Ballerinas for Change (BBFC) is to help create advocacy, social justice, and to increase participation of underrepresented populations in ballet,” they explained online. ”Brown ballerinas are change-makers. We are dancer-led and our purpose is to use ballet to promote activism, social justice, and to increase diversity in the arts by providing annual scholarships, a mentor network, and community programs to empower young dancers.

The dancers decided to take photos dressed in black over the summer, fists raised in the air, they caught the attention of several photographers at the Lee Monument. A photo of Ava Holloway and Kennedy George has since gone viral, and seen all over the world.

“This is us enforcing that we are not putting up with this anymore we are not going to be discriminated against, this is unacceptable. This is us putting our foot down and making things happen,” said George. “I was conflicted on how I wanted to contribute to the movement, I had to take some time and let it resonate--I knew I could use dance because it is always something I have done.”

George says the photo represents empowerment, inspiration and authenticity.

As calls for justice and equity continue across the country, teenagers have continued to use their platforms to elevate the voices of others.

“I am very grateful to have this opportunity because I have been fighting with myself inside because I never had anyone to go to--or an outlet,” explained Sophia Chambliss. “We are going to start a mentorship program soon--I am really excited for that, so maybe girls in my situation going to a predominately white area not feeling included--I feel like I could get people who don’t have their voice yet and give them that voice.”

Chambliss says through their dance and advocacy, the BBFC has been shown love from the Greater Richmond area.

“There are people here to support you, Richmond has shown me it is so loving,” she said.

Shania Gordon says dance has been an empowering outlet for her, through BBFC, she hopes to provide other dancers with a chance to achieve their dreams.

“Dance is happiness. I’ve been through a lot before I started dancing,” she said, “The role I am playing is to show people that Black lives do matter and brown ballerinas do matter---we want to see change so we can see more brown people doing ballet.”

The dancers inspired a local artist to create a mural in the fan.

“Ava is the head, Kennedy is the shoulders, Sophia is the thigh and I am one foot and a leg,” she said. “When you see it in person it is more beautiful, more colorful and it is bigger in person.”

“We are big on rights for everyone and human rights that are very basic to achieve. We support the Black Lives Matter movement,” said Ava Holloway.

Holloway and her mother Amanda Lynch co-authored a children’s book inspired by the viral moment at the monument. My Ancestor’s Wildest Dreams ‘is a tale about a chance encounter at the Robert E. Lee Monument in Richmond, Virginia, which catapulted these Black ballerinas into a summer of activism and dance.’

“It is great to know you can be a part of something greater than yourself and really just help others see the message we want to portray by doing what we love. I think it is really cool that we can be different than other organizations and use dance to advocate for what we believe,” she said.

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