Frederick and Anna Douglass Park was recently renamed from Stephen A Douglas Park. The petition and eventual successful name change was due to the efforts of a group of teens from Austin. The name change was only the beginning in rectifying the harm done in honoring a man who kept people in bondage slavery with a plot of land in a Black neighborhood.
We want to honor our young people’s efforts and continue the healing process by establishing another tradition of cultural celebration in Douglass Park: monthly community dance & music jams, also known as cyphers. The cypher, or improvisation circle, is a tradition that has roots in a great many BIPOC-based artistic disciplines. We hope this will help fill our community’s need for further place-based connection to history, and build solidarity across racial and ethnic divides.
The backbone of these community jams is the multidisciplinary collaboration between tap dancers and jazz musicians. However, the jams will not simply be limited to these two disciplines. From trading fours to the roda to the ring shout, a version of the cypher is fundamental to any African Diaspora-based dance or music discipline, and many Indigenous dance and music traditions as well. However, in tap dance the cypher’s original purpose was as a mechanism of nonviolent conflict resolution between young dancers, and that is the reason for our emphasis on tap as one of the primary artistic disciplines involved in this event series.
Funded by Chicago, IL (August 2022)