ÌYÁguration is a dance film celebrating the history, resilience, joy, and sisterhood across the African Diaspora. Honoring the legacy developed by great mothers of this world and celebrating Black women is the inaugural work.
Kara’s piece celebrates Black women, their legacy in movement work, and their ingenuity in all aspects of life. How can you actively continue to elevate the legacy and histories of Black women and femmes? Who are some powerful Black women and femmes you can support, follow, fund, hire, and/or center?
What dance activists have inspired your path?
Activism plays an integral part in my life from inspiration and the reason “WHY” I dance; to representation and the mission to create change through my artistry. Activists such as Shirley Chisolm, Tamika Mallory, and Nina Simone are some of the women who have informed my creative vision. Choreographers such as Camille A. Brown, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, and Liz Lerman are three inspirations that have utilized dance to create stories of culture and “artivism” and whose paths have also molded the trajectory of my career.
What artists and thought leaders keep you inspired and motivated?
On a more personal level, I have to give so much love and admiration to Dr. Shamell Bell, Nina Flagg, Rachel Hernandez, and Ana Maria Alvarez for being local examples of success when it comes to their artistry and activism. Not only have they each created their own collectives and/or companies; but they also represent women of color, based in/or from Los Angeles, while also connecting academia and their art forms to the streets and stages around the world.
What does radical joy mean to you?
Radical Joy to me, means unapologetic happiness. The bliss that comes from breaking barriers is birthed from being aligned in your destiny. JOY is from my passion and the RADICAL movement is established in my unique approach to be loud in my truth!
How do you and your community honor and uplift the legacy of Juneteenth?
As a young girl, my parents would always take my siblings and me around the monuments and Smithsonian Museums in Washington, DC. We were taught at an early age about the sacrifices that were made in order for us to participate in public schools, have the chance to pursue any career path, and take pride in our culture and identity as African- Americans. Though textbooks taught us otherwise, in my household, we knew that our history did not begin with slavery and Independence Day was not the same for our people as it was for the majority of our nation. So, Juneteenth has always been a time to acknowledge the Emancipation Proclamation of 1865 as the beginning of our freedom in America. Annually, I participate in liberation movements, festivals, art performances, and more to bring awareness and advocacy to black issues and the correct information surrounding our heritage and history. We also promote Black-owned businesses and markets — such as Leimert Park — and opportunities to share knowledge in communal and educational settings for the next generation. This work, ÌYÁguration is just a moment into that celebration and the work that will continue to positively represent my people and culture through black excellence.
Dance Artist, Choreographer and Scholar
Kara Jenelle (KJ) is a dance performer, choreographer and teaching artist based in Los Angeles. Since relocating from Washington, DC she has worked as a performer and choreographer for artists such as Janet Jackson, Lauryn Hill, Black Eyed Peas, Beyoncé, Jidenna, Khalid, and Will Smith just to name a few. Her work has been seen on platforms such as BET, Black Girls Rock, NBC’s The Voice, Nike, Lifetime, Essence and more! As an international educator she has taught in over 10 countries and she works diligently to represent the African diaspora in the commercial dance industry. KJ is completing her MFA at UCLA as a Graduate Fellow while always advocating for the culture and encouraging positive representation of black women through her movement. While balancing her work between academia and advocacy throughout the crisis of COVID-19 and the Black Lives Matter movement, KJ’s mission is to amplify voices from marginalized communities while also establishing impactful solutions and content. She is currently a faculty member at Movement Lifestyle (LA) and for the annual Ladies of Hip Hop Festival. Kara Jenelle is the Founder of Delta Chi Xi Honorary Dance Fraternity, Inc and a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated.