On Saturday, I danced solo across a gym while everyone laughed, cheered, and clapped. It was terrifying.
I was at a health and wellness event put on by the Chicago Foundation for Women. When my friends invited me to the free workshop, I glanced at the website and signed on without realizing that the event was co-sponsored by the African-American Leadership Council. I still would have gone, of course, but it’s nice to know in advance when you’re walking into a situation where you’re going to be the “only” anything.
The group was 4o black women and girls, from adorable four-year-olds who were considerably more rhythmically talented than me, to grandmothers in their 60s, all gathered in a community center in University Village.
After the first hip-hop class, the instructor had us gather on one side of the gym and keep bopping along to Justin Timberlake. Then, to my immeasurable horror, she had each participant “sexy walk” across the gym, pivot in the middle, and “break it out.” Consider it my worst nightmare: public dancing + squeaky gym floors + fluorescent lighting.
My turn arrived, and I started Top Model-ing my way across the gym. Everyone watched, and magically, they didn’t cringe. In fact, they just clapped and hooted and laughed for me as they had for everyone else. One of two things is true: either I am a better dancer than I think I am, or this was an extraordinarily warm and welcoming group of people. In ten seconds, I was on the other side, clapping for the next woman to strut. It was over, just like that.
After a zumba class later in the morning, the teacher gathered us all into a circle, hands piled in the middle, for a rousing cheer to conclude the festivities. “On three,” she said, “Black women rock!” And on three, that’s exactly what we cheered. Then she patted me on the arm, and added, “You too, sweetie.” Several black grandmothers came to give me hugs as we exited the gym, just in case I felt left out. I didn’t, but who doesn’t love a grandmotherly hug?
P.S. There was a photographer (and… ahem… a vidographer) on hand, so you may all soon be lucky enough to admire my hip-hop skills.
Related Post: Rehabilitating the hoodie.