Dance Inspires Change, and this Oakland-based Artist is Proving It

Growing up in Oakland, seeing the changes as her community became less representative of her beliefs, and dealing with the issues the Black Lives Matter movement faces, Kyziah Shavers knew she needed an outlet — a way to wake people up and express her own feelings of frustration and hope. Then she found Destiny Arts Center. Kyziah shares her experience creating and performing in their new play, Illuminate.

People are asleep. They’re asleep on political and intergenerational issues, and many aren’t aware of our own bodies and minds because we’re so overwhelmed by people telling us what to think, how to look, what to feel. It’s exhausting — combating stereotypes and being told that you have a big nose, big lips, you’re too loud, too much. We beat ourselves up because we’re not a certain way. And that’s not just for POC; it’s something we all go through.

Destiny Arts is a place for me to express myself productively. With dance, I can share how I’m feeling and know that I’m surrounded by people who also believe that we can make a difference. We can create the world we want to live in, and share that hope with others.

The climate is different than at my high school. I feel like I’m pretty “woke” (awake) and that the people around me are “sleep.” When I go to school, it’s a different culture. I feel like my classmates are asleep, and I want to wake them up. That’s why we do the school shows. I want younger kids to be awake so they can infect others to be awake.

Illuminate is a show we wrote and choreographed together, which expresses one’s inner spirit as being “woke” or “sleep.” Our story surrounds around my character, The Woke Girl, who finds herself at a dance and is already awake to the injustices of political, intergenerational, and internalized issues.

The Woke Girl sees her friends/peers asleep and negligent to the injustice around them. The Woke Girl knows that not everything is perfect, and you have to accept the darkness in order to see the light. She wants others to see that light is the opposite of darkness.

Within our political climate was how the cast developed the storyline for Illuminate. We drew off of our perspectives of society being either asleep or awake towards areas of injustice.

I know we cannot perform Illuminate at every school in California, or the United States, but we can present our show to some students. The hope of Illuminate is that people will feel passionate to infect others with “wokeness” and see the unjust that is happening in our society. That’s what dance is about for me: finding a way to tell our story and inspire others to change with us.

Photos by Layeelah Muhammad and Ella Newton, Destiny Arts Media Students.