Calling all Kizomba/Semba lovers who desire to be a part of a quality unified community, your attention and energy is needed! Ladies and Gentlemen, Kizomba Harmony brings you its first State of Unity Address! What is the current State of Unity in the Kizomba community? Find out here! Video and Text synopsis can be found below! Have a seat, grab a cup of coffee, and have a listen. Feel free to like, share, and comment!
*Disclaimer: the intent of this address isn’t simply to hurt feelings, but some things needed to be said for the long-term health and growth of our community.
The charity mentioned can be found here: http://www.climbagainstsexualabuse.com
The Kizomba Unity group can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/kizombaunity
What is the state of unity in Kizomba? Nonexistent. Though the community of hardcore dancers is relatively small, it’s already divided into little cliques and groups who rarely if ever work together, and sometimes even attack each other. This division can be seen in most cities.
Often these cliques are normally formed about instructors/organizers who are the “leaders” of the cliques. One clique is what I call a “traditionalist” clique, members of which generally do not like “new styles” like Urban Kiz/French Style/etc., and their events rarely feature music suitable to these new styles. Another clique, which I’ve previously called “revolutionary” is all about trying to push “urban kizomba”(and associated music) over Kizomba (Yes, I know, actual Kizomba is already urban, and there is already an “Urban Kiz” marketing term and numerous others for the different “new styles”). Then you have folks who aren’t in any cliques and are kind of in the middle, like us.
Each clique has a festival, or festivals, to promote their interests/agenda, but you will rarely see folks in one clique attending festivals put on by another clique. In Europe, festivals have separate rooms, but in the US, we have separate festivals. The division is disappointing.
Having a group of people who have similar interests band together isn’t in and of itself wrong, but due to clique politics, those in cliques rarely if ever work with folks who are not in said clique, rarely support those not in the same clique, and sometimes will try to attack folks who are not in their cliques. This has happened to us numerous times.
We have numerous “leaders” in our community who are not leaders. For purposes of this discussion, a leader is someone who actually sets a good example. A “leader” is simply someone who has followers (or sycophants).
Why do we have such a cliquish vibe? Because many of the “leaders” in our community don’t want unity. They want to build little fiefdoms where they can feel like kings and queens, control the narrative, and have extreme influence over the minds (and pockets) or their followers. Many of them didn’t achieve their position due to any great talent in dance/music/etc. or shining ethics, but simply because they were first on the scene (or backstabbed the first on the scene). But many are afraid of losing their position/authority/status to others who are joining the community who are more talented, work harder, and/or add more value to the community. So if someone wants to become an instructor/DJ/organizer in a city, the cliques expect folks to get their “approval” or they won’t support them, or will actively try to torpedo them.
In an ideal world, the most successful folks will be the folks who add the most value/quality, but because of clique politics, you will sometimes have high quality events that won’t be supported by the cliques because of politics, because the event is not put on by a member of the clique, because the success of said event doesn’t directly benefit them or their pockets.
Many of the “leaders” in the community are insecure and competitive externally, and when they feel threatened by others who are putting in work, they’d rather try to bring them down than better themselves to remain competitive. So we have people squabbling over a few hundred people when there are literally millions of people out there that could be brought into the community if people worked together.
Many of said “leaders” have been very lazy about the product they are selling. Many instructors on both sides of the divide have been very lazy about their training. We have “urban kizomba” instructors who barely dance Kizomba and have a very weak foundation (though their marketing may be excellent). We also have instructors using the fact that they are “African” to try to use “African privilege” to mislead folks into thinking they are more expert in Kizomba/Semba than they are. Being African in no way makes somebody an expert or master of Kizomba in and of itself.
Many of these “leaders” in our community have been engaging in some seriously bad behavior, ranging from spreading lies about others), backstabbing, being nasty and attacking others unfairly, and now, we’re hearing stories of sexual assault/rape being perpetrated by “leaders” in our community! And we have people trying to defend these bad actors because of clique politics. People who feel they stand to gain from a relationship with a “leader”, either a potential boost or “stamp of approval” for their career, financial gain, ego boost, etc., will ignore his/her bad behavior because of their own self-interest.
We have lots of “leaders” talking about Trump, but some of the same “leaders” are exactly the same, and we our own Trumps of the Kizomba community being co-signed and enabled by people due to clique politics. We have “leaders” taking advantage of women, and people are trying to defend these bad actors for their own selfish reasons instead of doing what’s right. We have others keeping silent on these issues because of cowardice, or because of clique politics. Being selfish isn’t a crime, but to grow the community the right way, we need true leaders who are brave enough to step up and do the right thing.
Part of the issue is that many of the current instructors/DJs/organizers/”leaders”/marketers etc. are “opportunists”, rather than “scenebuilders”. A scenebuilder is someone who cares about more than themselves, who do things for the greater good of the community, even if it doesn’t directly benefit them immediately. An opportunist only really cares about himself/herself. They are focused on their own immediate advantage, their money, their influence, their attention from men/women. Being an opportunist isn’t illegal, but you can’t truly build a sustainable community on selfishness, as this attitude doesn’t lead to building a community, but instead to cliques/fiefdoms.
Many people who currently have status in the dance community had little to no status in the real world before dancing. Many had very little attention from the opposite/same sex before dancing, but now because they are in a position of influence, they find themselves getting more attention/shine than they ever did in the real world and don’t know how to deal with it responsibly. This is part of why you see a very thirsty “meat market” vibe at certain events and the related foolishness that occurs.
There is also an issue with “celebrity” culture. We have people walking around like Jay-Z and Beyonce because they have taught at/performed at/Djed at/organized a festival, with the accompanying ego but without the accompanying pockets. We recently had a charity event supporting an anti-sexual abuse charity (www.climbagainstsexualabuse.com) and reached out to various instructors/DJs locally. We were told “no” by some of these folks because they were too cool to work for free (though none of us made any money off this event, it was for CHARITY). But hey, charity isn’t for everyone. But imagine if everyone who presumed to be a “leader” actually cared about something other than their own money/power/influence/romantic attention.
So what does “support” mean? We have folks trying to create new definitions of the word to suit their own interests, so here’s the dictionary definition: 1. “to bear all or part of the weight of; hold up” or 2. “to give assistance to, especially financially; to enable to function or act”. So now that that is taken care of, how often do you see “leaders” buy a full pass to support an event not put on by a member of their clique? Sometimes you have instructors who presume to deserve a free pass to the events of others just because they’re instructors. Sometimes you’ll see “leaders” go to a party of someone else’s event for a few hours, but you rarely see more support than that.
Many of these “leaders” are looked at as “demi-gods” by members of their cliques/fiefdoms. People in the cliques don’t want to believe that their “leaders” are engaging in bad behavior even when the truth is staring them right in the face. This in turn enables the “leaders” to continue the bad behavior. It’s important to remember that being an instructor, DJ, organizer, “leader”, artist, etc. doesn’t make you a good person, we have plenty “leaders” in our community who have ZERO character, but they are being enabled by people who want the approval of a clique or “leader”. But is having said approval worth compromising your values and integrity? To us, NO, but we will all have to make our own decisions.
There are some artists who are afraid to speak up on the issues facing our community because they are afraid to piss off event organizers and potentially not get booked at a festival. But I say this…
THERE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE THAN A FESTIVAL, even a relatively big one, even a fun one.
THERE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE THAN A FESTIVAL, and I say that as a festival organizer.
THERE ARE MORE IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE THAN A FESTIVAL!
So how do we build a truly unified community? Well… it starts with the leaders! The leaders need to want unity, so the community need to hold “leaders” accountable.
Being unified doesn’t mean having to support crappy teachers or events. If you have a crappy event, don’t expect support. If you are an “urban kizomba”/”new style” teacher with weak African dance foundation, don’t expect support. If you claim to be a Semba teacher but only dance Semba “show”, don’t expect support. But if people are adding quality to the community, it’s important to support as much as is possible. Also, I see many instructors and “experienced” dancers who are too cool to go to workshops. But I say this now, there is nobody in the US too good to attend a workshop, including me!
To my “urban kizomba” lovers, your part in achieving unity is to take the time to actually learn Kizomba (referred to as “traditional” as some, though it’s not a traditional dance). You can’t have unity with someone who is disrespecting you, and particularly teachers, if you are not taking the time to develop the proper foundation and exposing people to Kizomba properly, you are disrespecting an entire culture, not to mention creating subpar dancers and mutations. Put in the work, show true respect for Kizomba, and you will find unity that much easier to achieve.
To my “traditionalist” clique folks. Part of the reason some of the more “urban” leaning folks don’t want to be a part of Kizomba/Semba, is that some of the biggest names/biggest mouths of the “traditionalist” camp have been so nasty and caused so much division around the world. Much of the current division facing our community is due to the shady actions of “leaders” in this clique, not to mention some seriously bad behavior being perpetrated. I’ve seen the division created overseas, and now I’m seeing it happen here in the US. Hold your “leaders” accountable, show respect to everyone, and unity will be much easier to achieve.
If you only support opportunists, you are supporting the growth of cliques. If you see people who support the events of others, who make beginners feel welcome, who show they care about more than their own immediate interests, these are the scenebuilders around whom a sustainable community can be built. A clique” based on opportunism will not stand the test of time.
If you really love Kizomba, see the potential, and want to build, join us in the Kizomba Unity group, where we discuss issue facing the community! https://www.facebook.com/groups/kizombaunity
If you support bad behavior, you’re enabling it. There has been some SERIOUS bad behavior going on in our community that I’m not at liberty to fully disclose here, but I will just make this statement.
WE WILL NOT SUPPORT ANY LEADERS WHO ENGAGE IN CRIMINAL BEHAVIOR, INCLUDING RAPE. WE WILL NOT PUT ANY MONEY IN YOUR POCKETS, WE WILL NOT BUY PASSES TO YOUR EVENTS.
It is our hope that more leaders will step up and do the same for the benefit of our community. We need to hold our leaders accountable.
Kizomba is such a beautiful dance to have the potential to be the greatest social dance in the world. I have seen Kizomba literally change people’s lives around. We could have a diverse community millions strong, where the “urban” lovers also dance Kizomba/Semba, where the “traditionalists” also understood Semba instead of just doing “show”, where everyone can come together in one room where all types of music are being played and everyone can dance together. This is the purpose of our festival, KHADE, which takes place this December 9-12 in Cancun!
If you’re at a festival with separate rooms, try both rooms! If you are an “urban” lover but don’t dance Kizomba, you’re dancing a mutation, and you should train with instructors who have a solid African dance foundation (being African does NOT mean you have the proper foundation). If you are a Semba lover but are dancing “show” on the social dance floor, you’re also a part of the problem.
Remember, unity doesn’t mean supporting crap. But if folks put on quality events/classes, then we should try to support regardless of politics.
We have many “leaders” taking advantage of people, and not just the aforementioned sexual assault. There are folks who want to teach/DJ/perform at festivals so bad that they kiss the butts of clique “leaders” who are just using them with no intention to actually help them succeed. This is wrong.
Instructors, teaching at a festival is not the end all be all. You can build a successful business without teaching at every festival IF you have a quality product. Marketing can help with this. But be wary of marketers, your money is better spent investing in training to get your product up to snuff. Then you can focus more on marketing. Because if your product isn’t quality than no amount of marketing will make up for it forever. There are instructors in the scene with excellent marketing, web presence, etc., but whose actual African dance foundation is very weak. Excellent marketing will only get you so far, because people in the know who actually care (like us) will not allow people to be taken advantage of overmuch and will call out such bad behavior.
Many of the people who are currently “leaders” won’t be around in a few years for various reasons. The future of Kizomba in the US is bright, because we have some upcoming talents who are not resting on their laurels, who work HARD, are hungry, and truly care about building a community. We know because we are working with many of them and will continue to do so.
To those who are on the fence about learning Kizomba, understand that many of the issues facing our community are not Kizomba-specific issues, they are being faced by people all around the world. But we have true leaders who are willing to face these issues to create a special community, and it is a community worth joining.
So in conclusion, support each other. Don’t be so insecure and territorial. If someone makes you feel insecure, work hard to provide a quality product. Show love to people putting in work. Don’t enable bad behavior, and hold “leaders” accountable.
To the “leaders” out there, stop abusing your position and engaging in bad behavior, stop taking advantage of people, and I mean that in every sense of the word. People look up to you. There is no place in our community for “leaders” who abuse their influence and hurt the healthy growth of our community, and if you continue to abuse your position, don’t be surprised if you lose your position of leadership. You have been warned.
To everyone working hard and adding value, thank you. Let’s build the kind community our grandkids will be able to enjoy, a family-friendly community where people of all races and genders feel safe and welcome, where the roots and history of Kizomba are respected such that people of the PALOP community feel welcome, but where the atmosphere is not cliquish or judgmental so that lover of “new styles” also feel welcome. Everyone who supports this vision will be a part of something special, and something that can make money for everyone who puts in the work, even if money isn’t prioritized over community building. Thanks for reading/watching, feel free to comment, and share if you like it!