Empowerment Through Dance

2 Jul

Confronting self-esteem issues can be a hindrance to a young girl or woman attempting to reach her full potential.  Finding a healthy outlet is always a great tool to overcome body image and self-esteem issues. Founders of the Maryland Dance Institute (MID), Essence Moore and Donita Adams both have used dance as a way to build their confidence and deal with their own personal struggles with self-esteem. Their experience with dance and the arts has led them to open the MID, non-profit that provides quality, affordable dance education to develop purpose-driven performers in the DC area.

“Dance has played a major role in my life, allowing me to build self-confidence that is healthy and positive. It has also taught me to be disciplined and artistic,” said Moore.

Moore and Adams believe that dance allows young girls and women to be themselves without barriers and fear of being ridiculed. The art dance can foster an atmosphere where young girls and women feel free to express themselves and are comfortable with their bodies. It is also a way for them to become more physically active.

This summer, MID kicked off their summer session with “Dance Chronicles”, a dance showcase and silent auction to raise funds for their scholarship program.  Dance Chronicles was established to educate MID students and members of the community about the importance of dance.  “There are so many great dancers who have led us in this discipline, creating many pathways for today’s dance students,” said Adams. Dance Chronicles will highlight influential dancers who have greatly contributed to performing arts. The session will be used to raise money for the school’s scholarship program.

MID also provides community support by empowering students to also focus on their academics and civic responsibilities.  Moore and Adams are planning to develop community clean-up days as well as community projects that will support the homeless.

As the organization continues to grow, Moore and Adams hope to engage more communities through the arts. MID has shown that dance and performing arts can empower young girls and women not just to appreciate their self-image but also to appreciate what their talents can contribute to the community as a whole.

Maryland Institute for Dance on Fox Five News.

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A Day at Calvary

20 Apr

“Hurt people-hurt people,” these are the words I offered “M” as she confided in me that when she values herself by setting boundaries, people lash out at her. Her countenance filled with transparency, “I try to say things nicely and do the right thing but then people take my kindness for a weakness. I’m running out of cheeks to turn.”

I sensed her frustration, but even more I knew all too well the hurt she was feeling in trying to do the right thing. “When people are dealing with any level of hurt that they don’t want to confront, they project that hurt onto others.” The women’s ears perked up. I added, “Whose problem is that? Theirs or yours?”

“Theirs. I hear what you’re saying Shakirah.”

Today, I had the privilege of spending the afternoon with the women of Calvary Women’s Center-DC. I hosted a empowerment workshop with the goal of addressing self-esteem issues and defining their foundational cores. I opened the workshop up with an ice-breaker. Each woman was required to write one word that defines who she is and the foundation of where her word comes from.

“My word is determination because the things I’ve been through, I have no other choice but to keep fighting and pressing forward.” “L” was bold. In the span of just one year she had lost both of her children to violence subsequently becoming homeless. Despite her circumstance she is certain that with determination she can overcome.

Courage. Determination. Bold. Faith. One-by-one the women shared their words. After each admission they chimed in with resounding enthusiasm.  I talked to them about labels and why it is important that they have a word defining themselves and understanding the foundational core of where that word stems from.

“Society puts all kinds of labels on us. Sometimes those labels are bad ones, but we don’t have to allow others to tell us who are are,” I explained.

Many of these women have been labeled by society as drug addicts, whores, outcasts, misfits, and incompetent. These labels have plagued them and bruised their esteem.  A lot of the ladies spoke candidly about their faith. I felt compelled to speak to them as a Christian woman. I confirmed with the shelter Director that this would be okay, she was comfortable with it. I referred to one of my favorite Biblical stories, Paul’s encounter with God on the Damascus road. I explained that I loved his story because it’s a testament to God being able to change who we are.

I likened Paul’s experience being brought from a life of persecuting Christians to becoming one of Christ’s greatest disciples to the women not allowing their pasts to dictate their future. “Just like God changed Saul to Paul, he can change us and our labels. You no longer have to be ‘whore’ or ‘slut’ You can be beautiful, intelligent and amazing.” The women applauded. Paul’s story hit home for them. Like so many women, the past can be like a heavy burden weighing them down prohibiting them from pressing forward to a brighter tomorrow.

At the second part of the workshop I broke the women into small groups for a project developing their self-esteem tool boxes. I explain to women and young girls in these workshops the importance of having a self-esteem tool box they can refer to when their esteem seems to waiver. Just as we have screw drivers and hammers to fix things when broken we need mental tools to help us. We discussed major topic areas that women typically encounter in terms of their esteem; things like appearance, relationships, sex, communication and spirituality.

We went through each category outlining the struggles the women face. Collectively, we talked about what tools they can use to confront each struggle. The women’s tools were awesome. A few of the tools they developed: acceptance of appearance, setting boundaries in relationships and sex, being honest and speaking up for themselves in communication and being accountable for their spirituality.

As we began closing out the workshop M looked at me and smiled. “I think one word that can define us all Shakirah is strength.”

As women, we are indeed stronger than we will ever know.

Thank you to the strong, courageous and beautiful women of Calvary for allowing me to be a vessel.


The Courage to Overcome

19 Jan

This is a guest post by Maureen Tuohy. Maureen shares her story of overcoming domestic violence.

At the age of 17 I began a relationship with an older guy who I believed would love and care for me.  Two months in to the relationship my first encounter with the wall in our apartment was from a punch in my face that would turn out to be the first of many.  As the months moved on I stayed and the abuse continued.  Fear, self-loathing and rock bottom self-esteem kept me there trapped and frightened.  The shame I felt meant I kept everything hidden from family and friends. At the age of 21 I gave birth to a beautiful daughter, which though I did not feel emotionally ready for, turned out to be the catapult that would launch me in to digging deeper for the inner strength I knew was there somewhere.  I found the courage to leave when my daughter was a year old.  I took nothing with me except the pram and the clothes we were wearing.  We lived in a homeless shelter for the next year and I worked two jobs (early morning cleaner) and temped as a typist during the day.  During all of this time I hunted through second hand shops for books on self-esteem, black history and anything that I could soak up to improve my mind and my self-respect  and continued studying.  My first permanent job within the National Health Service (Neurosurgery Dept) offered me the self-confidence I needed and I gave it my all, ensuring I was on time, presentable and receptive to all new challenges.  Promotion followed. I continued working hard. Promotion followed again.  I now work as an Executive Assistant / Personal Assistant to one of the world’s leading Liver Transplant Surgeon’s with the National Health Service, London, England.  My daughter has finished her University degree and is blossoming as a proud, forthright, young woman.
The decisions I have made over the years have not always been right or the best but I believe that even with the many mistakes I have made growth has ensued and consciousness continues to keep me striving for the best in myself and others.

Day 30: YOU DID IT!

19 Jan

Congratulations to everyone who has successfully completed the I Love My Body Campaign. We provided the platform but you all had the courage to take each step closer towards loving your body.

LBDF is extremely proud of each and everyone of you. And you should be proud of yourselves as well.

A special thank you to everyone who forwarded this campaign, sharing it with friends, family members, c0-workers and mentoring groups. Thank you for all the retweets, reposts, and mentions This was a grassroots initiative and it could not have been done without your support.



Day 29: Who Are You?

18 Jan

This may seem like a ridiculous question, but it is one worth asking. Who are you? You have taken one of the most difficult steps and that is confronting yourself and the challenges that you faced with your body issues. Before, you may have identified yourself by the way you look or feel, but today you have evolved. Your lack of self appreciation for your body may have prevented you from answering this question.  So who are you? How are you going to measure the contents of your being? Are you still thinking of yourself as the woman with too much belly fat or whose nose is too big?

Before you answer this question, take a moment to write down all the negative things you saw yourself as. After you have your list compiled, begin crossing out the things you have overcome through growth in your self-esteem. Now, make a list of your positive attributes. Save the list of your positive attributes and as you continue to grow keep adding to the list.

You may not have the answer are of who you are today. As you continue to grow and watch your list grow you will begin to have a better understanding.


Day 28: Don’t Look Back

13 Jan

Now that your esteem and body image have evolved it is important to address a reality. There are going to be days when you want to revert back to your old way of thinking. Change is difficult not because you are working to adjust to something new. The most difficult part of change is resisting the urge to relapse into what you turned away from. There will be times when your strength is challenged. You may feel like loathing and wallowing. It’s going to feel easier to nestle back into the familiar. But, everything that’s easy isn’t good for you. When you have these feelings, don’t look back!  Remember that you turned away from looking at your body negatively because of the pain it caused.

This is easier said than done but you didn’t come this far to turn back. Remember, there are ways to keep yourself uplifted and thinking positively. Have a body buddy, know that you are not alone, take it one day at a time, reinforce positive thinking, and block out negative influences.

Today, agree to only look forward.

Day 27: Pay it Forward

12 Jan

One of the best things you can do when overcoming a challenge is providing support to someone who is going through a similar situation. There is triumph in being strong enough to offer words of encouragement or a helping hand. If you have been able to come through this campaign with a new found love for your body and increased self-esteem share your experience, struggles and story with a woman who is less fortunate. Not only does this help someone else but it is a testament to the path that you have taken overcoming your self-esteem issues. Your support is another example of your growth.

Today’s tip: Become an esteem mentor for someone you know who is going through body and self-esteem issues. Feel free to share the tips we have provided you with!