Originally posted May 14, 2018. Updated July 12, 2020.
Questions for Event Organizers, Teachers, and Scene Leaders in the Lindy Hop Community
There have been some important discussions taking place in the Lindy Hop community about recognizing the Black origins of the dance. Julia Loving has created a list of some questions for event organizers to think about. This is a great list for Lindy Hop Event Organizers, Teachers, and Scene Leaders around the world to truthfully ask themselves in order to assure their events are inclusive.
Bringing light to an issue that needs correcting is the first step. We thank all event organizers for their efforts to create a more diverse, inclusive swing dance community and increasing Black representation is part of that.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Courtesy of Julia Loving
- Do I actively recognize that Lindy Hop is a Black art form? Is that recognition and acceptance represented in the way that I run dance events, classes, and overall dance scene?
- Am I comfortable dealing with or discussing race matters? If not, am I in a partnership with someone else that is?
- Do I look for, consider, or hire qualified bands or orchestras that are led by or include Black musicians and singers?
- Do I look for, consider, or hire qualified Black instructors on all levels?
- Do I look for, consider, or hire qualified Black DJs for my events or to cover band breaks?
- Does my event’s attendance (instructors, bands, audience, dancers) reflect the diverse populations of the world? If not, do I have a plan in place to make my event more welcoming to people of diverse backgrounds?
- Does the way that Lindy Hop is danced in my community look and feel like the original?
- Do I want to gain knowledge and do I seek out understanding about the African American experience? What about the dance history?
- Do I hire staff that have been vetted for non-discriminatory practices in the scene?
- Do I invite constructive responses for policy and programs to address racial inequities within my events?
- Do I invite local dance communities of non-whites to events?
- Do I share resources with my community about the origins of the dance, Black history, biographies of the original dancers, jazz musicians, music collections, etc.?
- Do I encourage my students to take field trips to venues or historical sites that represent the African American history or experience, especially those cities that are rich with the history?
- Am I committed to the long-term message of Black history and recognition, not just when the topic is trending?
- Do I lead by example as a dance instructor by including history lessons as an integral part of my classes? For example; mentioning during class lessons Lindy Hop Historical facts. Northern racism impacted our dance scene early on. Did you know that the Cotton Club was not an integrated ballroom? Black dancers could only perform there, but the Savoy prided itself on being an integrated ballroom.
- Do you invite lindy hoppers from earlier generations to participate and tell their history at your events? Ex: Mama Lou Parks Dancers, Harvest Moon Ball Competitors, and Savoy Dancers
- Do I pledge to welcome everyone regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identification, age, body type, physical ability, and mental ability?
- Do I encourage my students and fellow dancers to be open to dancing with everyone and to actively ask people of all kinds to dance? Especially those that might not get asked to dance very often? There should be no wallflowers!
- Do I encourage mentorships, trainings, or extra tutelage for any new Black dancers in my scene? Do you offer any financial sponsorship for African American students to your attend your events or participate in other events?
- Am I willing to accept and embrace change even though it may change how I originally experienced the Lindy Hop community?
- Do you pay Black instructors equitable to non-black dancers? Is there equity in your hiring/payment practices?
Thank you Julia for sharing this excellent list of questions. We welcome feedback and suggestions for what can be added to this list.
About Julia Loving
Julia Loving for the past 25 years has been a teacher of Library and Information Science and Africana Studies in New York City public schools. Her Lindy hop training began with the Harlem Swing Dance Society under the tutelage of Samuel Coleman a little over five years ago. She prides herself as being a plus size Lindy Hopper in her blog biggirlslindyhoptoo.blogspot.com which encourages swing dancing free from stigma. She dances socially throughout New York City. She competes in various competitions always happy to note that she won 3rd place at the 2015 Lincoln Center’s Mid Summer Night Swing and Alhambra Ballroom Jazz Vespers competition with her then 15 year old dance partner Brandon Barker (now 19). She is an avid supporter of swing dancing by sponsoring students in different swing communities. She attends weekly social dances in NYC. She recently began co- hosting bimonthly swing dance events in Harlem called “It’s an Uptown Saturday Night Swing Dance.” She has taught introductory level lindy hop to adults at the Marcus Garvey Center in Harlem as well as to her after school program. She loves to galvanize her Harlem Lindy Family and Swingout Group members to attend social dance through text and email. She travels outside of New York City to support the lindy, blues and balboa communities in other states. She is the creator of LuckyLindysNYC undergarments for dancers and yoga enthusiast which has become a hit with many in the swing dance community. Ultimately, Julia says she is “a jazz lover that shares the African American experience through dance.” On any given day you may find Julia dancing away at Brooklyn Swings, Bierhaus, Frim Fram Jam, Swing 46 or dancing to sounds of jazz vocalist Charles Turner in the aisles of Minton’s Playhouse.
Some may ask: Why me?
Julia along with four other people was recently asked by Judy Pritchett Board Member of the Frankie Manning Foundation to assist her in responding to a request from the Swing community in Greece to help them make their events more inclusive with regards to the inclusion of more African Americans into their scene. Why me? I guess because she knew that I’ve learned to navigate through my own feelings of isolation in this dance community as well as that I am a supporter of the art form. I was a wallflower when I first started! Being black, older, plus size, and culturally not use to asking men to dance is not the norm. But I had the encouragement from two great guys Samuel Coleman of New York City and Ryan Francois of England both of whom are swing dance instructors. They encouraged me to learn more and just hang in there and I am thankful for that. Now I rarely sit on the sidelines and I am an advocate for inclusion and relevancy. So for the record, swing dance has changed my life in so many positive ways and therefore I felt it necessary to respond as honest, reflective and thoroughly as I could.