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Authentic Diversity

By Tanya

Dancers from all ethnic groups, all ages and gender are led by Zakariya and Naomi Diouf (right). Photos by Gene Hazzard.

America is a country that is defined by its diversity.  However, most people wonder what real diversity looks like. We usually define it as a culture that embraces all races and genders.  Saturday this reporter saw authentic diversity at the Malonga Casquelourd Center in Zakariya & Naomi Diouf’s West African Dance class.
Zakariya, who is from the Congo, and his wife, Naomi, who hails from Liberia, have dominated the African Dance scene in the Bay Area for over forty years.  Zakariya teaches three classes at Laney College and Naomi is a dance teacher at Berkeley High School.
However, it is in their dance classes, open to the public, that you see the true fabric of America: little children go across the floor first with their designated teacher Antoinette Holland, then comes the master teacher, Ibrahima Diouf who is Naomi’s son, leading America personified; Male and female, young and old, French, Chinese, Filipinos, Latinos, African-Americans, Anglos and Africans, plus-sized women and the athletic follow him in rhythm with the drum, united.
Plus-sized women have mastered the art of West African dance in a culture where they are often marginalized as symbols of beauty.  Here, they shine above the other dancers as their graceful bodies seem to embrace the movement more soulfully and deeper than the rest.  They are magnificent to watch! Read more