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I Am.

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

When I was a little girl, I spent a couple of summers in Dance Intensives with Deva Houston. Deva owned a dance company called Art In Motion. She was about 5’ 5” with beautifully brown skin. Her eyes were almond shaped and chocolate. She had locs to the middle of her back. She was an absolute dream.

When I think back on her now, I realize that Deva was determined to make her dancers strong physically and mentally. I remember, one summer, she taught us a poem. She had us recite this poem until we could say it without thinking. It felt like we worked on this poem for a week.

Our exercise was to perform the poem as we danced…move through the space and creatively deliver the breath in this piece:

“I Am. Not because you Think I, or Believe I or Wish I, or Dream I but because…I Am.”-

I can still hear the different girls performing this piece. I hated the last line…it never felt like it flowed for me. Still somehow, I remember every breath of this poem, every attempted dramatic pause, the feel of the room and the fear in my heart. I remember this poem just as I remember Deva…all at once or not at all.

I notice that I remember her when I am awakening a different layer of myself. She taught me the fierceness of being a woman who could, the tenacity of my mind, and the elegance of a black dancer.

When this poem echoes through my mind, it reassures me that I am capable of anything. Not because of my outer possessions, not because of the labels people give me not even because of my name but because of who I am. The makings of me, who I believe myself to be, who I wish to be, and dream of being…it was all up to me. No one else could shape that unless I allowed them.

Sometimes when I am talking with my students, I hear Deva talking to me and I see her gentle eyes shielding me from the world I didn’t need to know yet. So, I gift that to them, you are strong, you are beautiful, and you can have whatever you decide you want…Now go get it!

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