The Caged Bird Sings – Introducing Tasha “Alaba” Mitchum

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.

I hope you have enjoyed getting to know more about the amazing artists who will be part of “The Caged Bird Sings” program. This week, I’m glad to introduce Tasha “Alaba” Mitchum, who will be a featured dancer at Scarritt-Bennett Center on Saturday, February 7th, 2015 from 3:00pm-5:30pm.

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Tasha “Alaba” Mitchum is a professional African dancer. She is originally from St. Louis and moved to Nashville at a young age. She has danced with the Village African Dance and Drum Ensemble for quite a while. She dances and teaches African Dance professionally. She also performs with several local groups and some that are outside of Tennessee. She has a real passion for African dance and it shows in her performances.

Scarritt-Bennett Center: What does African dance mean to you?

Tasha “Alaba” Mitchum:  African dance is everything to me – it saved my life.  I joined an African dance group in middle school and I have been dancing ever since.  I teach and perform African dance because it saved me from a lot. I grew up as a village child and I’m thankful for that family life it taught me.  African dance is an outlet for my emotions.  When I hear the drum beat – it is freeing.  Dancing gives me energy and life.  I love kids and being able to share our stories are amazing because we to have a history.

SBC: What inspires you about Maya Angelou?

Alaba: How her words touched everybody.  I was in a bad space and her words uplifted me to come out of that space.

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

Alaba: I want to be part of this, because the program will bring up important issues that we need to talk about.  For me, dancing is my self-expression. I know people who are victims of abuse. I, too, am one, but the beat of the drum gives me life – it’s my heartbeat, my passion, my safe place.

SBC: In your opinion, what challenges are women facing?

Alaba: Many young women are growing up with no self-esteem, no role models.  They do not have good connection or support.  The pressures that are put on women are often unfair standards. I feel like a lot of women are under a lot of mental pressure.

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

Alaba: I think women have seen a lot of progress in the workplace.  There are women in fields that were once off limits to women. There are more examples of women in the workplace doing a variety of jobs.  I also see progress being made in women’s concern for their health and their bodies.

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

Alaba: I hope that attendees will feel everything that is being given through the dance, song, poetry, and drumming.  This is our way of expression. We hope to speak out about issues of violence and abuse that are often muted.  We hope to be a witness and a voice. One of our goals is to foster a deeper understanding of these important issues. We want to build bonds in the community and hope that attendees will be inspired, especially the youth and young adults.

“The Caged Bird Sings” will be a program of connection and inspiration.  In honor of Maya’s legacy, we will use many forms of artistic expression to address issues of violence, abuse, empowerment and healing.  We will honor those voices and stories that are often silenced.  We will celebrate the activism in support of women and girls.  Join us 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.