BRONZEVILLE — A group of Bronzeville students have the opportunity to see the performance of a lifetime — but they need the community’s help.
Students at Doolittle Elementary, 535 E. 35th St., hope to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater when it comes to Auditorium Theater next month. Principal Iysha Jones and social justice organization Organic Oneness have launched a crowdsourcing campaign to make their dream come true.
So far, the fundraiser has collected $900 of its $2,000 goal, and it has a deadline of March 3. Organic Oneness is accepting donations via its website, asking donors to write “Doolittle” in the “note” section.
Jones and Organic Oneness founder Syda Segovia Taylor know firsthand the transformative power of the arts, and they want to share that gift with their “incredible students.”
“This year, we started a dance program at the school, and they’re being exposed to different genres. They fell in love with the art. Seeing Alvin Ailey gives them a chance to see people who look like them, and it gives them exposure to [a place] outside of 35th Street,” said Jones, who took over the school three years ago.
For most of Jones’ 262 students, Doolittle is home where they can get a hot meal and a warm hug, she siad. Jones aims to make a place where dreams are nurtured, as well. While the pandemic has been hard for students everywhere, the violence plaguing parts of Bronzeville has made it particularly hard for the school’s kids, Jones said.
“It’s a very tight-knit community. We’ve had so much trauma, and hopelessness is the norm. I’m trying to do something that a lot of people haven’t been able to do successfully, which is give them hope,” Jones said.
Hope can come in the form of dance classes, cooking classes or gardening workshops — which Jones plans to add this year. Staff and members of the community have stepped up to offer equipment and manpower.
If Doolittle reaches its goal to take kids to the dance performance, all extra donations will go toward the instructional kitchen Jones is building for the students.
Organic Oneness began its partnership with the school in September 2020, moving into the school to help with programs. The organization was formed by members of the Greater Bronzeville Community Action Council, which became official in 2018. A lot of its programs are centered around racial and environmental justice, partnering with communities to mobilize change.
Segovia Taylor, who is a dancer, said that when Jones suggested the trip to see the famed historically Black dance troupe live she jumped at the chance to help.
“Music and dance activates the creative parts of our brain, and that’s not always activated through traditional classwork. We become solution-oriented. It opens up a whole new world of what’s possible,” Segovia Taylor said.
Listen to “It’s All Good: A Block Club Chicago Podcast” here: