The Caged Bird Sings – Introducing Bolanile Ajanaku-Habib

By Chandra Allen

The Caged Bird Sings is the first in a series of Phenomenal Woman program events and a tribute to Maya Angelou and her victory over her personal childhood trauma.

Join us for a dynamic afternoon of poetry, song, and African dance dedicated to those who are working tirelessly to end the oppression of women and children. The program will feature nationally acclaimed “truth teller” and musician, Paula Larke, professional dancer Bolanile Ajanaku-Habib, and a local team of poets, singers, dancers, and young drummers.

This week, I’m excited to introduce Bolanile Ajanaku-Habib, who is the Nashville coordinator and lead dancer for, “The Caged Bird Sings” at Scarritt-Bennett Center on Saturday, February 7th, 2015 from 3:00pm-5:30pm.

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Bolanile Ajanaku-Habib is a professional dancer, dance instructor and school teacher. Born in Memphis, TN, she was raised in The Ajanaku Family, a collective cultural heritage and research movement; where she was first introduced to West African dance and drum at the tender age of three. While in Memphis, Bolanile was trained and danced with the Nubian Dance Theater.

Scarritt Bennett Center: Why is African dance important to you?

Bolanile Ajanaku-Habib: I love entertaining people through dance, culture and education. When I dance I love when people tell me they have learned something new through my performance or presentation. I really love teaching and entertaining the youth because I know that I am passing my knowledge on to the next generation. And that is where I get my motivation for continuing what I am doing.

SBC: What inspires you about Maya Angelou?

Bolanile: Maya Angelou was such a strong and inspiring woman. She knew how to get straight to the point and deliver messages of aspiration and inspiration. When I read her poems as a young girl I fell in love with her. She used her voice and writings to help inspire masses of people.

SBC:  Why did you want to be part of The Caged Bird Sings?

Bolanile: I want to be a part of The Caged Bird Sings because there are a lot of people who have been abused in some fashion and if I am a part of the healing and gaining of strength of at least one person then it is so worth it.

SBC: Where do you see the most hope or progress for women?

Bolanile: We are becoming stronger and more independent individuals.

We are becoming less afraid to speak out and less ashamed of our past. We are employed in the top academic fields that were unheard of 50 years ago. The progress of women shows me that we have come a long way but still have more barriers to break.

SBC: How will The Caged Bird Sings address women’s issues?

Bolanile: With Song and dance we will show even through abuse and wrongdoing we can become stronger and more vibrant women in society.

SBC: What can attendees expect to take away and/or experience at The Caged Bird Sings?

Bolanile: I want to participate in this program because the plight of women and children abuse is very near and dear to my heart. I personally know women and men for that matter who have been victims of abuse. I am a product of abuse and through sharing my story I have been able to help myself and help others. This program is an outlet to learn and hopefully begin some type of healing. If you haven’t been in an abusive situation then maybe you can leave with a sympathetic heart.

The Caged Bird Sings promises to be an afternoon of healing, spirit, heart, movement, and song. We will honor Maya Angelou’s legacy as well as give voice to the victims of abuse and oppression. We will celebrate the efforts to end oppression and abuse for women and girls worldwide. Come be part of the truth-telling on Saturday, February 7th, from 3pm-5:30pm at Scarritt-Bennett Center. Buy your tickets and learn more here.

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Chandra Allen is a native Nashvillian.  She earned a Bachelor’s degree in German from Davidson College in North Carolina and a Master of Divinity degree from Vanderbilt Divinity School.  She is currently an Assistant Director of Education, Programs, and Connections at Scarritt-Bennett Center where she plans programs focused on women’s leadership and women’s empowerment.  Chandra is passionate about creating an authentic environment where women and men gather to explore and awaken the strength of their voices, experiences, and creativity to effect positive change in their communities and for themselves.