Na Casa Com Baba Jan

Martial Arts:  Capoeira Angola


By Njoli Brown *Entrevista em Português

Conheço o Mestre Mestre Baba há muitos anos e fiquei honrado pela disposição de me dar essa entrevista e de compartilhar um pouco de sua jornada na capoeira, nas artes culturais e na vida, juntamente com algumas das idéias ele ganhava. Agradeço a todos por abordar este primeiro dos meus artigos em português e estou ansioso por mais oportunidades para apresentar trabalhos multilíngues.

 

Njoli: Você pode falar um pouco sobre a primeira vez que você foi exposto à capoeira?

Baba Jan:  Primeira vez quando conhecia a capoeira, na realidade ja existia varias capoeiristas na rua no bairro de Massaranduba que eu cresci. Então minha Mae e meu pai conhecia a coordenadora Ana Rosa responsável pelo Grupo de União e Consciência Negra – nesse grupo tinha varias tipo de atividades que envolvia manifestações de matriz africana. Era teatro, capoeira, samba, maculelê, poesia, musica e mas. Eu entrei a participar e tomar aula com esse grupo com 8 a 10 anos de idades, e eu ia juntos com 2 irmão meu. Ai eu comecei a capoeira com Grupo de Capoeira Angola Pelourinho, núcleo Mangueira projeto Ginga Moleque com Mestre Moraes. Depois Mestre Moraes manda Mestre Valmir, Mestre Poloca e Mestra Paulinha para dar aulas no projeto. 27066904_953079004849403_1343316284227275005_n

Njoli:  Como a capoeira e a cultura “negra” foram vistas e recebidas em sua família e comunidade?

Baba Jan:  A capoeira sempre existia a perseguição e descriminação. Muitos pais não queria seus filhos dentro da capoeira que pensava que capoeira era coisa de marginal ou vandalos. Mas eu começo capoeira e muitos amigos também começava que nosso pais sabia que nos estavam nas boas Maos dentro do Grupo de União e Consciência Negra e de mestres que queria ver nosso bem da parte do GCAP.

Njoli:  Você pode falar um pouco sobre suas primeiras experiências de treinamento? Quem foram alguns de seus colegas? Quais foram as coisas que você achou desafiadoras? Quais foram as coisas que te inspiraram a continuar?12963883_599312533559387_1173904661260471141_n

Baba Jan:  Meus amigos de capoeira que sempre andava juntos da escola, no bairro e na capoeira pra treinar, tocar berimbau e tudo. Ricardinho, Moises, Lourival, Virgilio, Marquinho, Ricardo, Jeane, George, Iverson, Marcelo, e mas. Hoje em dia a única que continuou na capoeira sou eu. Quando comecei no treinamento começou quando mestre falava ‘Ginga’ e ninguém sabia oque era. Nos tinha visto mas capoeira regional na rua então começava tentar movimentar nosso corpo assim. Desafiadora era tentar entrar na roda de capoeira. Nossos pais levava pra roda de GCAP no dia de domingo no Forte do Santo Antonio. Na roda la tinha muitos referencias para nos criança de querer ser que nem Mestre Moraes, ou Valmir, Poloca, Cobra Mansa, Paulinha, Cizinho, Pepeu e dai quando a roda começa tinha que estar pronto no uniforme, no horário certo, e quando tinha momento de entrar na roda com adulto, e vc criança, pequena. Ai era o desafio de jogar com adulto, entra na vida de capoeira, tomar rasteira de qualquer jeito. A inspiração de continuar era e ainda ate hoje são as referencias de pessoas boa, dos mestres levando a tradição da capoeira a seria.

Njoli:  Como sua experiência com a capoeira tem dado conta de sua perspectiva social e política?

Baba Jan:  Capoeira me ajudou na perspectiva social de viver no meio da sociedade misturar com varias tipos de pessoa, de saber entrar e sair em qualquer lugar, fazer trabalho com crianças, incentivar a fazer capoeira e atividades pra tirar da rua e mal caminho.

Njoli:  De que maneira você fez a capoeira por conta própria? Quer dizer, como você inclui sua identidade pessoal na arte?

Baba Jan:  Ninguém começa capoeira por conta própria, eu penso que sempre tem o incentivo de alguém. O aprendizado da vida ajuda a pessoa pega coragem pra se expressar com povo, os alunos, em dia dia pra saber oque falar e como orientar os alunos do jeito que eu aprendi com os mestres.

Njoli:  Qual o papel da sua família no seu desenvolvimento como capoeirista e como artista?

Baba Jan:  A minha familia que me botou na capoeira e ate hoje me apoia.

Njoli:  Quais são alguns dos benefícios que você vê ao usar as artes afro-brasileiras como uma ferramenta para a construção de comunidades?

10929931_10153821319298902_663864320635008944_nBaba Jan:  O que eu vejo e que as artes afro-brasileiras não existem sem comunidade. E essas comunidades são importante para fortalecer qualquer pessoa, participante nessas artes de ter um apoio de amizade e ate un tipo de familia maior para poder apoiar e depender na vida. Eu penso numa sociedade como aqui nos Estados Unidos, pessoas tem visao muitas individualistas e precisam mas desses tipos de comunidade e apoio na vida de cada um.

Njoli:  Quais são alguns dos desafios que você enfrentou na construção da comunidade?

Baba Jan:  Desafio na construção de uma comunidade e voce começar com um trabalho e aparecer pra compartilhar sua sabedoria, e ninguém aparece o dar valor daquilo que vc sabe nem o tempo que você estar la. De chegar todos os dias no seu espaço e nao tem ninguém pra querer aprender. Ai voce volta pra sua casa triste. Mas ai que precisa a forca de continuidade que aos poucos aparece alunos. Com 20 alunos ou 1 aluno o professor precisa esta presente e resistente pra nao desistir da comunidade.

Njoli:  Quais são algumas das aspirações que você tem para o seu projeto atual?

Baba Jan:  As minhas aspirações e manter o grupo firme e forte, de samba e de capoeira. Tentar conseguir que o povo veja meu objetivo e trabalho, e que as pessoas reconheço o esforço que dou pra estar presente cada dia pra ver os alunos progredir. Quero ver o Espaço Cultural Samba Trovao crescer cada vez mas, com projetos com crianças ate os adultos. Quero também que os meus mestres reconhece o meu trabalho de manter a tradição com dignidade fora do Brazil.

Njoli:  Quais são algumas maneiras pelas quais você chamaria sua comunidade para ajudar e apoiar?

Baba Jan:  E a comunidade sempre comunicando e participando. E eu convidando e sendo presente de sempre abri o espaço pra qualquer um chegar e sentir respeitado.

Adicionando:

 

 

Babajan-da-Cruz-225x300Livaldi “BabaJan” da Cruz was born and raised in Massarunduba, in the Lower City of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil.  He has been training Capoeira Angola for over 30 years and has been a practicing and performing musician for more than 20 years.

 In 2003 Baba was invited to come from Brazil to Washington DC to be the director of a residency program at Kamit Institute for Magnificent Achievers (KIMA) public charter school.  There, using Capoeira and Afro-Brazilian music, he developed a unique program of physical education and music studies for high school and middle school students.  At this time Baba also became one of the teachers at FICA DC and founded the samba reggae group Samba Trovao.  In 2013 Baba started his own chapter of FICA in Maryland.  In 2015 Baba Jan received the title of Contra Mestre in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil at the 20th conference of the International Capoeira Angola Foundation (ICAF or FICA) and soon after began his own project Capoeira Angola No Mato.

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A Sister in Brotherhood Spaces

By JL Umipig

It’s been 2 years now since I arrived to Central Park on a spring evening and was welcomed by Guro Njoli and two of my brothers of Pekiti Tirsia Kali (PTK) Vin and Chris. And I recall so distinctly why I returned after that first moment- it was the feeling of being held in a process of betterment and strengthening through comraderie. From day one, my brothers of MSMB and PTK held me to a caliber of that encouragement to better and strengthen my being.

I a20161126_105810m one of the few Womxn who consistently trains with the brothers of PTK Elite and MSMBNYC. In two years I have watched sisters come through and I emphasize to them why I continue to train which consists of the reasons that most people do, to have consistent physical regiment for my fitness and health, to be able to defend myself when the time comes, and to strengthen my body and confidence. But also I continue and commit to PTK and MSMB because of what I felt in that initial moment that I began learning with this circle: the camaraderie and mutual betterment of self as a practitioner that I feel growing with my brothers. There is a real pride we have for the betterment of one another, the push to excel as a family unit, detached from competition amongst those in our crew. They push me to go hard, to be able to hold my own amongst anyone, no matter their size or their strength level.  There is a belief that I feel from the respect my brothers hold for me, that when we train, our genders have nothing to do with our ability to train hard, and be able to step up to the challenges of body, mind and spirit that our practice teaches us to stand up to.

Our guros hold us all to our strengths, and also hold us to strengthening our weaknesses. I see how each of them in their teachings see the value of each individual in the group, and I watch the camaraderie between them that is model to us all. It roots our circle, the way they are able to respect and hold one another in collaboration and in unique styles of giving knowledge to our training. And as the little sister in the crew they rarely mention my gender, only with the recognition of how to apply their teachings to the very real degradation and violence Womxn face on the daily and how to use the learnings for my protection and ability to be prepared should I be confronted with the realities of misogyny and gender violence in this world. They teach me to use my size to my advantage, and help me understand my power to survive.

When we talk about Kali, we orient the learnings around the ability of Pilipino ancestors to fight and survive in battle with their colonizers, who were often larger and more equipped than them. These teachings of Pilipino Ancestral practices and traditions is the other reason I stay. My guros value this and respect the roots of the a20160625_114602rt, they help us understand the context and it brings me closer to my ancestors in a new way of understanding. I feel them in my movements. I feel their spirit of survival and resistance. And they and my brothers make room for me to share my learnings and cultural practices and values as a healer, activist and artist in connection to our training- another way they welcome what I have to contribute to our circle of my strengths.

“Respect everyone, Fear no one” our MSMB mantra is core to the way we train, is core to the way we learn, is core to the way we build camaraderie. Every time I come to train, I feel valued, respected and cared for as a member to this circle of warriors. I believe that is how my ancestors intended this practice to be upheld. So I bring myself fully to every training and every gathering, ready to step into my power. Sure, every now and then the testosterone is real, the frustrations of having to deal with my femininity being sometimes a hindrance because I can’t hide I am a Womxn physically and there are instances of societal stereotypes that surface (that’s real), and the moments of having to step it up extra notches to have new members that are men see me the way my brothers who I’ve trained with from the beginning is real as well. But what outweighs all of that is that my brothers will always remind me I am valued, that I am seen and I am held and so the humanization is real, the honoring is real and the love that makes me feel Family in this circle of brothers is real.

 

Jana Lynne (JL) Umipig is the creator of “The Journey of a Brown Girl” www.thejourneyofabrowngirl.com  Director, Producer, Actress, Educator and Organizer she currently resides in NYC. JL image5has worked with different community organizations developing curriculum and programs that integrate theatre and visual arts with activism and leadership development, working with schools, community organizations, detention facilities, and rehabilitation and support group centers. She believes in the power of the arts to activate and move the human spirit for individual toward community empowerment and transformation.  She creates with the intention to connect human experience and spirit between all communities.

Forum for Community Action at FICA Seattle

By Njoli Brown

I was graciously invited by FICA Seattle to facilitate a conversation on how cultural orgs can effectively engage in social action.  In Seattle there are a large number of groups which participate in the ethnic/cultural arts of Latin america, Africa, central – SE Asia and so on.  But, aside from the artistic endeavor, how many make the determination to actively and positively effect, in profound and long term ways, the communities within which these arts were sustained through centuries of struggle and an infusion of intellectual, emotional and spiritual energy?

The first thing that came to mind for me was a discussion on the spate of ongoing disturbing events throughout our communities, but it seemed that the first step needed to be a deep dive into “identity.”  One of the most common falsely held presumptions in groups is that, “if we’re all here then we’re all ‘down.’ ”  But before getting to the “what” we’re doing, there’s a lot of figuring that has to go into the “why” so that when it becomes difficult and laborious there’s a foundation that we’re working from in common.  I give FICA a lot of credit for often trying to provide opportunities for critical evaluations of itself by its members.

How does this collection of people see itself?  Does the collective mission align with each individual’s personal mission?  Are we willing to lose members if we determine the mission is of tantamount importance? From where are we garnering vital information and through what lens are we evaluating it? Do the actions we hope to take stay true to the missions we’ve established for ourselves?   Etc, etc.  There is a lot to be said for a group which decides to wrestle with itself and deal with the discomfort of recognizing the failings, doubts.. the humanity of all its members.

There is a long history of misdirected actions which can often times do more damage than help. Often times these are a result of not establishing all the predetermination that will provide you with the fortitude to stay in the process for the long haul.  Simultaneously, there are advocates who have, at times, been discarded without a dedication to the difficult conversations which provide soil for effective growth and leadership.  I hope to hear more from the participants of this recent forum, to hear if they found worthwhile takeaways, if there are plans for next steps, suggestions.  I also hope that other groups will make use of the currently aroused energy to figure out how they can utilize their organizations as nuclei for positive change.

*Gratitute to co-facilitator, Jabali Stewart, and to Mestre Silvinho (FICA Seattle), Leika Suzumura and Chelsea Rae for getting the ball rolling.

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Training, Well Rounded

By Njoli Brown

I was recently having a conversation with some other martial arts instructors of various styles.  One of the things that came up was the fact that, for the most part, along with the physical stimulus that training provides, one of the things that’d kept us involved for so long was feeling a sense of richness through involvement with the people and  ideas of another culture.  Now, I don’t want to say that this is or must be an interest for all students.  But for us, in common, it’s been an integral part of our practice and, as such a priority in our instruction.

So how do we convey that to our students?  As importantly, how do we convey that in a way that doesn’t diminish the reasons that each individual has for investing their time and energy into an activity that often has no reward other than that which the participant gleans?

Is it timely?  Sometimes a moment presents itself.  Perhaps a situation occurs, a movement or idea reveals itself and, in this time a historical or cultural reference is the perfect framing feature.  It might give context for a way of doing things or for the evolution of a concept.  It might, as well, give some insight into the mindset of those figures who had, at times, practical reasons for the design of their craft.

Is it enriching?  For many students, having a deeper knowledge of the practice to which they have dedicated themselves gives them a greater sense of purpose.  They come to see themselves as guardians of ideas and, in the most fortunate of instances, as researchers who dispel myths and contribute to  the archive of developmental resources.

Is it relevant?  Class isn’t the time to bloviate about all of your past accomplishments, about the awards you’ve won or the opponents you’ve beaten. Check yourself and, if it isn’t in service of the practice maybe keep it til you’re out having a drink with your buddies.  Remember that your stories and the ideas they convey become part of the culture of your school as well.

Integrating history and culture into the practice of your students takes a real sense of scope and a strong concept of what you hope for your community to embody.  You are shaping values in subtle ways.  It can be tremendously enriching or it can be the “turn-off” that pushes hard training students out the door. Done well, it turns your students into teachers and re-creates the story as a living thing.

The Art of Risky STEM

When I reflect back on my experience as a student during my middle and high school years I don’t have a lot of instances when I can recall real joy or excitement happening during most of my academic classes.  I do recall though, being driven to succeed in those courses because I felt like they were a pathway to participation and accomplishment in my artistic endeavors.

This is not to say that I always thrived and/or exceled in those academic spaces but that I recognized them as tied directly to my aspirations, for better or for worse.  I’ve been thinking about this tremendously during an era where it seems that the arts are continually excluded from the scope of educational development in schools.  Yes, there are co-curricular programs, many of them funded through state and federal grants. But, in truth, when these programs are included as “add-ons” they are relegated to a space of secondary importance.  Simultaneously, we forget that at the core of mathematical and scientific discovery is the capacity for abstract thought and the creative translation of this into its physical being.

So, if school systems will continue to devalue artistic pursuits, how will educators develop the practice of creativity in their young people? Risk.

One of the most vital aspects of creating something new is the recognition that, perhaps, it might somehow fail.  Perhaps, you might change and so your perspective on your design might change as well.  I am prepared to see my design as a reflection of myself.  I am prepared to have others examine and find fault.  I am prepared to excel and prepared to feel defeated at times.

Inspiration is tied directly to risk and the success or failure of STEM programming is tied inextricably to these both.  Are we, as educators, feeling inspired by our STEM objectives?  Are we invested in inspiring our students?  Do we recognize that this feeling is the drive that carries students to look “beyond the numbers?” Along with all of this, are we willing to take the risk of exploring our own creative humanity in the context of the classroom?

I’m leaving this with a lot of questions which I should continually ask myself.