Tawana Akins’ dance group, Pretty Girlz Rock Dance Company, dedicated some dances of their annual recital Saturday to victims of gun violence. The faces the rest of Miami sees in the media as victims are faces some of the dancers knew as relatives.
Don’t think the 11-member company performed dances of depression Saturday at Liberty City’s Northwestern High, though. That’s not how they flow.
“I take my positive emotions and turn that into my dancing,” said Veronica Jones, 15, a Hialeah High student. “It’s like I’m dancing for all the good in the world. How we’re working on saving our future and making it better. How we’re trying to provide more jobs for people.”
Saturday’s opening dance, after The Lord’s Prayer and 23rd Psalm, presented joyful movements to Hezekiah Walker’s rousing Every Praise.
“Every practice, I tell them, ‘Let it flow. What’s in you, bring it out!’” Akins said. “When I remind them of that, they usually bring it out and everything flows naturally.”
Kiera Bradshaw, a South Miami Middle School student, said she feels happiest dancing to gospel.
“I think of all the people I have now and not all the people I have lost already,” Bradshaw said. “Because that would make me sadder.”
Bradshaw lost her Uncle Esco to the bullet. Jones lost her Uncle Johnny.
“The bullet wasn’t even for him,” Jones said. “But they drove by and they shot him. I never got a chance to meet him because he died before I was born. But I hear so much about him from my family.”
Veronica’s mother, Rosezina Jones, admits the daily possibility of gun violence in her Brownsville neighborhood is “really scary.”
Akins knows of the fear residents like Veronica live with, a fear resulting from a steady stream of shootings that all too often seem to involve innocent bystanders or those yet to see adulthood. One dance Saturday, to Stay With Me, was dedicated to Santana Akins, killed in February at the age of 19. The Liberty City 10-year-old shot in the leg earlier this month while riding his bike was one of Tawana Akin’ students.
“I do things to bring some kind of hope to a hopeless world,” Akins said. “I work around the corner at Holmes Elementary and there’s just so much gun violence. I’m always speaking out about gun violence because it’s hit my family three times within the last five years. Three of my close relatives died from gunshots.”
“Hopefully, my message will get through to somebody. They will just put down the guns and find something else to do.”