When you first arrive at the aerobic studio, the afrobeat meets you at the door. The rhythm of the drums beats through your feet, pulsing through your veins as the music embraces you. The wall of mirrors is reflecting a small strobe light that flashes red, blue, and green, like a twisted stoplight. The air hugs your skin with warmth, giving you a final welcome into space: Afro-Fusion Club.
“I want you to dance like no one is watching,” 19-year old Fatou Diouf says with an encouraging smile to match the upbeat tone in her voice. She walks through the crew of dancers, cheering them on as they dance the choreography that she creates. Weaving through the crowd, she makes her way back to the front to join in with the dancers.
Hips pop, front legs kick, and bodies spin and shimmy across the floor. Cameras record movements as teams show their skills and agility moving to the beat fast and slow. The meeting ends with clapping and cheers as the dancers leave, excited for the next week to come.
“I came up with Afro-Fusion to create a shared space where anyone who wanted to dance could.”
Fatou is the President of the Afro-Fusion dance club at her college. The club incorporates African moves and music mix with Contemporary, Hip-Hop, Latin, Jazz, and Soul styles. In addition to this, Fatou is studying theatre with a concentration specifically in musical theatre. Her passion for dance and music affects every aspect of her life, and she welcomes it all.
“My environment definitely influences my passion because where I live art is a way to express yourself that no one knows about. I want to bring some of these opportunities back home.”
For Fatou, home is the Bronx, New York. Here she witnesses strong themes that she finds damaging to her community including drug and alcohol exposure, gangs, and youth violence. Not only does she see this negative attention in her own community, but throughout the media.
“Most of the representation, especially for people of color, isn’t the best to showcase,” she says.
However, Fatou has faith in not only the positive progression of her community but of the media portrayal that she sees.
She says, “We need more projects highlighting people of color, projects where we are learning and growing. We don’t need anyone’s voices suppressed.”
Fatou also commends her own school for making efforts to promote events for all
students to enjoy through the use of clubs. She feels more participation would
strengthen these clubs even more. “There are cultural clubs on campus, making them more involved with another through collaborations, meetings, and events can bring more people to different clubs. This could bring more immediate change.”
Fatou is making sure she contributes to this with Afro-Fusion. Her goal is to have the club continue to run at her school, even after her graduating. “I want the legacy of Afro-Fusion to carry on for years to come,” she says between smiles. Fatou also wants to become an entrepreneur in the future owning her own theatre company, art center, and dance studio in her hometown.
To be successful in all of these things, Fatou utilizes confidence, ambition, and a positive attitude to keep her moving forward. In addition to this, Fatou also has outside support from her family and friends. Her most notable form of success comes from her big sister and mentor Khaiya. Khaiya has helped shape Fatou into being more confident throughout her high school years.
“She’s the type of person that you can talk to about anything and she’ll use her own experience to help you. She is one of my biggest supporters.”
Fatou knows that she has reached her success when she is happy and satisfied with what she has going for herself. From Afro-Fusion to being involved in dance and theatre at her school, to embodying a positive light in her hometown, Fatou is on a path to create success for her life. She is excited to live her life and continue to pursue her art.
“I want to keep motivating others by just showing them what can be done. I want them to believe that if I can do it, they can do it too.”
For more news about Fatou and all her projects, follow her Instagram @melaninqueen_23
For more news about Afro-Fusion, follow the main Instagram @afrofusion_purchase