Shakiah Danielson teaches dance to young people at Northwest Tap Connection, a studio geared toward race and social justice in Rainier Beach. A video clip of her students tap dancing recently went viral on Facebook.
When choreographer Shakiah Danielson watched news reports about the death of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge on Tuesday, she felt disheartened and exhausted – another police killing.
“The part that hit me the hardest, though, was seeing his son break down,” Danielson said, recalling 15-year-old Cameron Sterling’s cries at a news conference, while fighting back tears of her own. “[It] hit me in a different way… I work with his age group.”
Danielson choreographs and teaches hip-hop dance to young people at Northwest Tap Connection, a race- and social-justice-oriented studio in Rainier Beach. A video clip of her students tap dancing to “Hell You Talmbout,” a protest song by Janelle Monáe and Wondaland Records, recently went viral on Facebook. In the song, the artists chant the names of black Americans killed by police: Walter Scott. Eric Garner. Trayvon Martin. Sandra Bland – and more.
“This piece is so relevant because you’re seeing a physical expression of social issues,” Danielson said. “This piece is necessary.”
The Facebook video was originally captured on June 18 at a performance in Beacon Hill, and it hit 1 million views over the July 4 weekend. Danielson said she believes the piece speaks to people and fills a need in light of recent and ongoing events.
“There’s unavoidable outrage,” Danielson said. “Something is so wrong here.”
Watch a full performance of “Hell You Talmbout” by Northwest Tap Connection, performed at Rainier Beach High School on Friday, March 18, above. It was filmed for the story Seattle’s Vanishing Black Community, originally published May 26, 2016 in Pacific NW Magazine.
Watch more short documentaries on Northwest Tap Connection: