You and Soka Tribe go way back- how did you find out about Soka Tribe at the beginning? I heard about Soka Tribe from a friend of mine, Michen. Michen and I went to law school together where we played on a rec basketball team. One of the owners of Off Road was also a basketball teammate of ours. Michen tagged me in a Facebook post advertising the second class. I had a baby six weeks earlier and I couldn’t think of a better way to get back into working out.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen since you started Soka Tribe?
I think the biggest change has been growth, on multiple levels. The Convoy has created a platform to share culture through dance with the greater community. Adding Chiefs to teach classes is another sign of this growth. Shermica, Jazelle and Jen all have different styles, but I love them all. And we’ve grown from a group of people who enjoy dancing and Caribbean culture into a family.
What’s the cultural connection for you and Soka Tribe- we often see you in class with your Grenadian flag. Can you talk about that? My mom is and my dad was from Grenada, but they found themselves raising two kids in the Houston area. While a lot of my classmates had never even heard of Grenada, my parents taught my brother and me about the culture through stories, food and music. Although I haven’t spent nearly enough time there, I feel a connection to Grenada because of my parents.
You’re often one of the people in class the chiefs will tell newcomers to follow and watch. What has that meant for you in your Soka Tribe journey?
I’ve never really thought of this. I’m just happy that I have the time and physical ability to keep coming to class. If I can help someone figure out a move at the same time, that’s a bonus.
On a recent Facebook, you said you had no formal dance training when encouraging folks to audition for the convoy. That’s hard to believe based on your skills in class. Can you talk about that? I had ballet and tap classes for a couple of years when I was a small child, and I learned to dance to soca by watching family and friends when I was a kid. I hardly ever danced when I was a teenager, but I found dance again as an adult through various dance exercise classes—from Hip Hop to Bhangra to Soka Tribe. Although, I’ve never really had training with a dance studio or school, I have learned from all of these dance experiences. My biggest lesson from all of them is that, if you’re having a good time while dancing, your joy comes through. So what you’re seeing isn’t skill, it’s joy.
We’ve seen Corrine- your amazing daughter in class off and on. She is also Soka Tribe’s Chief Marketing Officer. How would describe Corrine’s place in the Tribe? My parents moved to Houston in the late 1970s where they had few family members at the time. Most of their family was in Brooklyn or New Jersey. In order to stay connected to their culture, they found friends in Texas who were from Grenada, Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados and St. Vincent. As we celebrated holidays and special events together, these friends became family. Although we debated whether you should have pigeon peas or kidney beans in your rice and peas (the correct answer is clearly pigeon peas), we were a closely knit group connected by a culture that cuts across islands. Having this community was important for my parents and me. They created a local family for us that allowed me to better understand my identity as a first-generation kid.
Now that I live in DC, I am a bit far from my family of origin. Soka Tribe, for me and Corinne, is like the familial community my parents created when I was a child. Through Soka Tribe, I hope Corinne will learn about part of her culture and be surrounded by people who love and support her.
What would you like to do next with Soka Tribe- both in class and the convoy?
Dance is something that simultaneously challenges me and makes me feel happy. I want to keep getting better and keep having fun.
I also want to go to Trinidad Carnival and Spicemas in Grenada. Having a child and a full-time job make this a bit tricky, but I hope to make it to both within the next three years.