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Daily Inspiration: Meet Ebonie Barnett

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ebonie Barnett.

Hi Ebonie, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
I was born in San Francisco, CA but raised in Richmond, CA. I was raised by my grandmother due to my mother being incarcerated. I grew up in the southside of Richmond California; my grandmother her sister and her nieces raised me as well as the dance community of Oakland California. Growing up, I was fully aware of the situation I was born into. I understood that my mother was not there nor was my father, I understood that my mother struggled with an addiction; I understood that my mother couldn’t properly take care of me or love me correctly at the age of five. I also understood that the system wasn’t on my side my grandmother ran a daycare so many children with similar stories crowded our small apartment on 4102 Florida Ave. I can remember watching my grandmother selflessly take care of many children throughout my childhood with her own finances. I remember the times my mom would pop up for a few days to get on her feet then disappear.

I remember the many times my grandmother ensured me I was loved and would forever be that. The system placed me in therapy at A very young age only to find out later that dance would be my healing journey. My cousin Latanya encouraged me to dance at a very young age she saw something in me that I didn’t know existed. I remember her coming over and having me perform Santa baby for the family. I can remember being in the back of her green jeep learning how to clap out the rhythms of dungeon family and outkast songs. I began my official dancie training at the age of six at art of ballet in Richmond, California under Roqisha Townsend and from 8 to 18. I study styles such as jazz, ballet hip-hop in dimensions of dance theater’s rites of passage program. A program that was welcoming to inner city kids throughout the Bay Area. At a very young age, the styles that resonated in my spirit were those of the African diaspora. West African Haitian Cuban Brazilian dance helped me find myself, heal myself, process past trauma that was even passed down without knowledge. It allowed me to forgive and ultimately see myself staying in this world. A black girl from Richmond with all odds stacked against her witnessing the world through dance.

Making connections globally through movement. I’ve danced on soils in beautiful places such as Senegal, Cuba, Mexico, New York, DC, Arizona just to name a few. I’ve accomplished so much in my dance career so far such as becoming 2019 sf carnaval queen as well as many performances on grand staged but what I love the most is being able to do what I love and come back to my community to help lil black girls with stories like mine. I’ve been a dance instructor and mentor for Oakland for ten years now. Teaching in spaces such as West Oakland middle and Oakland tech. Here is where I make the difference. Helping young girls and boys find their voice and tell their story through movement. Empowering them to dream bigger, take control of their destiny and fight back against the many obstacles that have been and will continue to be placed in their way.

Dance mentors to name a few Colette Eloi, Alseny Soumah, Phylicia Stroud, Roquisha Townsend, Kendra Barnes.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Not at all. I’ve struggled with mental illness and depression from a young age. I faced a lot of verbal abuse from my mother at a young age. I never truly knew who my father was and at times, I faced microaggressions from family members because of the hard work my grandmother put in to raise me. We didn’t have a lot of money and pretty much family members pitched in financially to help my grandmother raise my brother and I. I was well aware of these things even at the age of 5. I felt like a burden my whole life. I hated myself, I hated my mom I didn’t understand why I had to be born into this situation. I was thinking these things at 5. A time when a kid should be a kid.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I consider myself a diaspora dancer or shape shifter. My body and spirit feels at home in any style of black dance I’ve come across. As a kid my Haitian dance teacher gave me the nickname “Haitian Ebonie” not because I was from there but because at the age of eight, my spirit aligned so easily with the style of dance.

I travel to the African diaspora studying dance. Making connections through movement as well as finding myself and healing.

I teach hip hop in the schools with a focus on its African roots while simultaneously assisting my girls on taking back their bodies and combating Western sexualization of black male and female bodies. We do this through dance. I am most proud of this because I can see the change but more importantly, my students feel the change. In just a short time. I love working with the youth in this way because I know the power of movement firsthand and where it has brought me.

Can you talk to us about how you think about risk?
I’ve always been a risk-taker even when it got me in trouble as a kid. I’ve always been the one to challenge the norm or shake the table. One big risk for me really was traveling out of the country alone to study dance. As well as quitting my regular 9to 5 to become fully emerged in dance. Living in California, that’s a big risk. Taking risks is what separates the go getters and folks that are content. Taking risks is my way of being able to say at the end of this life journey, I did everything I could possibly do.

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Image Credits

Edward miller Marco Sanchez Flavor Films

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