Winning Essay by Brandy W. from Missouri
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Dance is an art,and a tool of expression. Rather it’s because our jam is on the radio, or to entertain others, it feels like the world stops for a moment when our bodies move to a rhythm of some sort. I haven’t always felt this bliss in life. I knew that dancing was a talent I possessed, but I was too shy to share my talent with those around me. I didn’t realize how much I loved it, and how much of an impact it would have on my life, until I was introduced to Ms. Katherine Dunham.
    
Katherine was a black woman who, despite the hatred her community experienced because of their skin color, continued to pursue education and make a difference. She got her PhD in Anthropology and after tracing the origin of dance back to Africa, she started one of the first negro ballet companies amidst so much hatred between black and white citizens at this time. She took back something that was stolen from her people: self-expression. She showed the people in her community and all over the world through her shows that everyone has their own talent, and the best way to get back at your enemies was to use that talent to succeed. She dedicated her life to making sure that people, especially African-American children, had something that they could call their own; a place to go and do something they loved without any worries. Ms. Dunham even married a caucasian man, showing that the color of our skin shouldn’t stop us from loving each other. She left a legacy of strength, perseverance, and optimism for others to look up to, and to this day, people are reminded of her legacy everytime they step into one of her many studios and attend the programs she created for her community.
    
Sadly, I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Dunham. However, I did go to a local exhibit at a museum when I was 12, and it changed my life. Seeing how she changed the world simply by moving her body was astonishing. I witnessed how one ripple can birth a grand wave. Ms. Dunham was a maverick, and didn’t let the segregation and hatred in America crush her dreams. She inspired me to overcome my fear of dancing, and this led to me becoming the captain of my dance team six years later. Dancing isn’t the only area in my life Ms. Dunham’s wave broke barriers.Not only am I a more confident dancer, but I’ve become a more confident person: a leader. I no longer fear being in front of a crowd,and I’m not afraid to be a change agent and break the norm. Because of one museum visit , I am the successful, young, black woman that I am today, and I give all of the props to Katherine Dunham who once said, “ Go within everyday and find the inner strength so that the world will not blow your candle out.”
 
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