By Jarrel “Chumbinho” Phillips 

Such an amazing sight to see. Plenty of energy, high-flying kicks and flips and live music. AcroSports held its first ever children’s batizado (baptism, capoeira graduation) earlier this year in June. Over 30 little four-and-five-year-old capoeiristas, in all white abadas (uniforms), threw kicks and played to the rhythm of the berimbau and to other capoeira instruments. My students, along with Mestre Urubu Malandro and his group, Capoeira Ijexá, formed a roda (capoeira circle). And one by one, the adult capoeiristas each grabbed a child to play capoeira in one of the four corners of the roda. The children’s hard work over the last two years has earned them their green cords (first capoeira belt). A special thanks to Dorrie Huntington, Capoeira Ijexá, Dharam Khalsa, Tonya White, Christine Joy Ferrer, and to all the Acro staff who have been supporting my many efforts these past couple years.

AcroSports has been a great resource to our community by allowing students to grow in such a creative, healthy environment where they can develop physically, and thus, cognitively. I wanted to bring something worthwhile to the table that would further accentuate our thriving program. And every week, I have the privilege of sharing and learning with them. It is an honor to contribute to the lives of your children.

Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial-art form that combines self-defense, dance and acrobatics. Developed by African slaves who needed to disguise their martial arts from slave masters and other authorities, capoeira helps people of all ages develop self-esteem, coordination, rhythm, strength, flexibility and cooperative skills. It incorporates physical movement and awareness, self-expression, discipline, community, musicality and the Portuguese language. All the reasons why I decided to introduce capoeira to our students.

The Zanzibar Stones Town Capoeira Project

My most recent endeavor has been the Zanzibar Stone Town Capoeira (ZSTC) project, founded under my developing organization, AVE (Access Via Exposure).

The ZSTC crew is a self-taught, acrobatic, capoeira and break dance crew based in Stone Town Zanzibar, Tanzania. These youth are in constant pursuit of their dreams. The ZSTC leaders started training at the age of seven, by simply copying what they had seen on television, videos, and the Internet and then decided to share their knowledge with others. Over a decade later, driven by their passion for movement and commitment to the arts, they continue to teach and share their talents with their community and to other youth. They not only empower one another, but also inspire and amaze anyone they meet.

In 2010, AcroSports founder and executive director, Dorrie Huntington, first introduced me to the ZSTC crew. In 2011, AVE established the ZSTC project in order to support these youth in their endeavors and has since been strongly supported by AcroSports through sponsorship, promotion and collaboration.

We will once again embark on our next Zanzibar adventure this September 2012.  Edwin “B-boy Blakk” Johnson, AcroSports Outreach Manager and member of the legendary Renegade Rockers break dance crew, will be traveling to Zanzibar for his second consecutive year as the break dance instructor and AcroSports outreach representative. Dominik “Swiss Chocolate” Wyss, City Circus acrobatic coach and Sons of Cayuga circus acrobatics trainer, will once again teach acrobatics (www.acroactive.com). Unfortunately, Mestre Urubu Malandro could not make it this year so I myself will be leading the capoeira workshops.

What You Can Do

Donate: If you wish to donate to the next phase of AVE’s ZSTC project on its second voyage Africa, we have put together a fundraising campaign on www.indiegogo.com/zstc.  Our goal is $1,800 to help with housing, food, and some possible things that we can take with us for the ZSTC youth. AcroSports has agreed to match any funds raised between now and our departure date on September 2nd.

Register: Fall session is right around the corner. Please don’t forget to register at www.acrosports.org. This session we are introducing a “Mommy/Daddy and me” capoeira class for three-five year olds on Saturdays at 12:30pm as well as an additional school-age section. However, I will not be around for the month of September. As I expressed, I’ll be traveling in the continent of Africa. I’m currently training a new capoeira instructor. A young lady, Panda, will substitute for me while I am gone and will continue assisting me with my students when I return. I see it as an excellent opportunity to bring in another enthusiastic, young individual on board as the program continues to grow thanks to you all. Plus, we need more female capoeira instructors.

Go: I hope you encourage your children to participate in our growing Capoeira community at AcroSports. Also, on August 18th check out Grand Mestre Suassuna, one of capoeira’s most influential grand mestres and a living legend at the 1st Festa do Folclore Brasileiro sponsored in part by AcroSports. A youth workshop will be held from 3-4p.m. that I will help instruct. For more information, please visit, www.capoeiraijexa.com.

Like: We understand that some of you won’t be able to contribute financially, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help. Please keep an eye out for AVE’s updates and please share them with friends and family. Remember to Facebook it, tweet it, email it, shout it from the hilltops! AVE & AcroSports are currently in the process of working out the logistics to bring some of the ZSTC leaders to San Francisco next year to take part in the AcroSports 20th anniversary celebration.

Watch: You can also check out my 10-minute short documentary film about the ZSTC, “We Want the World to Know Who We Are.” This phrase, I believe, echoes within all of us and has been vocalized by the crewmembers and leaders of ZSTC.

We thrive off human connection and purpose. We all have a voice. We all want to be heard. Every individual wants to feel connected to the world. Life is art and art is our medium. People helping people. Artists supporting artists. We are the creators of our own destiny. That’s what this is all about.

Peace,

Jarrel  “Chumbinho” Phillips, AVE founder, ZSTC project manager and AcroSports preschool head coach

To learn more about the 2011 ZSTC project, please visit, www.zanzibarstc.org and for updates on this year’s next trip to Zanzibar, visit, www.avesidea.org.