ForeMama Said: Wit and Wisdom of Katherine Dunham

Katherine Dunham was a dancer, choreographer, author, anthropologist, priestess and visionary. Born on June 22nd, 1909, she joined the ancestors on May 21, 2006. She was, and will always be, an inspiration to dancers and lovers of all things Afro-Caribbean. She spoke of Haitian Vodou, and showed people the glory and power of the religion through her dance, her writing, and her community outreach. Her legacy lives on in the Katherine Dunham Museum in East St. Louis, Illinois. She is one of the great foremothers that comes to mind as the days grow shorter and the ancestors come closer. Here is some of her beauty and wisdom that we would do wise to remember.

katherinedunhamquoteI used to want the words ‘She tried’ on my tombstone, now I want ‘She did it. ‘ – Katherine Dunham

The older I grow the more I see the influence of my family on my life. I didn’t always see it. It was up to our parents to see that we had our education in a town that hadn’t yet realized what racial prejudice was but actually knew and practiced it on occasion. – Katherine Dunham”

Black people should have recognition for themselves and their backgrounds and their relationships with other people in the world and thus lose some of their alienation.- Katherine Dunham

A creative person has to create. It doesn’t really matter what you create. If such a dancer wanted to go out and build the cactus gardens where he could, in Mexico, let him do that, but something that is creative has to go on. – Katherine Dunham (Interview)

I wasn’t concerned about the hardships, because I always felt I was doing what I had to do, what I wanted to do and what I was destined to do. –Katherine Dunham

I will leave you with this film of Katherine Dunham speaking about Haiti and Vodou, with an amazing dance demonstration at the end.





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