Within hours of our arrival in Havana we were at the home of the hip hop duo, Obsesion. This was the first of many encounters where we could so clearly see that music, dance and social justice connected us across any imagined barriers of language, politics or culture. We danced, rapped and beat-boxed together on their roof top, with a view of Havana Bay.
In Matanzas, a port city with strong Afro Cuban traditions, we visited the Esquina de las Tradiciones Community Art and Music Project. We saw some of the community’s public art projects and heard about some of the traditions from Africa that the center has helped revitalize.
We were greeted by a dancer who embodied Elegua, the Orisha that initiates all things. The dancer immediately spotted the two adults of our group who are also under Elegua, and started dancing with them. Drumming and dancing continued and the community gathered around, hanging in the doorways and windows.
"The trip was an amazing and beautiful experience that I will never forget. I learned so much about their culture,music, dancing and more. Very thankful to all of the people that supported us to go." - Zarina
We had a two-hour Salsa class during a thunderous thunderstorm. Cuban-style salsa has some particular nuances that our U.S. crew worked hard to learn. In the spirit of exchange, our instructors performed for us, and we performed for them.
We were honored to be joined one day for lunch by Gloria Rolando, a well known Cuban filmmaker of African descent. She told us about her work and offered advice to the budding filmmakers in the group. We also gave her bags of donations for her community of items that are sometimes hard to find in Cuba like notebooks, toiletries, feminine hygiene products and many other items donated by the delegation.
Back in Havana, we had a fun evening as audience members at la Zorra y el Cuervo where we enjoyed a jazz performance by Grammy winning jazz artist José Luis Cortes and his band.
"I felt really honored to get to explore, hang out and party in Cuba. All the activities were extremely fun and the culture, art and dancing was absolutely amazing." - Makayla
"The drumming class that we took in Havana was incredible. I felt completely immersed in the culture and I felt welcomed with open arms. It was such a blessing to be surrounded by beautiful people. We may live in different places but their hearts are just as big and spirits just as pure." - Mya
"The trip was sensational. I loved going to Cuba. The drumming class was one of my favorite activities." - Imani
The performance we saw by mostly female Cuban dance and percussion group, Habana Compas, knocked us off our feet. DAYPC then brought their A-game and performed for them. A great exchange followed where we did kinetic introductions, Rashidi led a short master class and an intense freestyle circle ensued!
After dinner, we went to visit a neighborhood block organization, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR). It was a highlight to meet Cubans of all ages in their neighborhood and learn about their daily life and the role of the CDR. Everybody enjoyed music, dancing and community building in the residential street. The kids stole the show at the dance party.
The Guanabacoa Museum of Afro Cuban Religion was a highlight for many. The performance of religious music and dance that we experienced was deeply moving.
"Going to the Afro Cuban religion museum made me incredibly emotional and happy because I was able to learn more about a culture and religion that I feel connected to." - Ingrid