On the series: Voices del Camino is our series of stories and reflections from the company, while on tour. El camino, in Spanish, literally means "the road"; but el camino is also the journey that we're on towards witnessing, creating, and sharing the beauty and complexity of humanity, and towards transforming our world through love and movement.
Stop 1: MIDLAND, TX | Dancing Out On Faith... by Samad Raheem Guerra
Initially, I had questions about the way that our work might be received in Midland, Texas - a predominately Christian town with very liberal gun laws. How would a piece like "Agua Furiosa" sit with people, I wondered. All of my concerns seemed to fly out the door as soon as we arrived at bag-check. We were greeted by the nicest man, Mr. Fuller, who turned out to be the husband of Robbyne Hocker Fuller, one of our presenters. He introduced us to Pastor Hale and then briefly explained the strong network of faith-based communities, the Midland African American Roots Historical Cultural Arts Council (MAARHCAC), that rallied together on our behalf to make sure that we could perform in Midland. I immediately felt at home with Mr. Fuller and Pastor Hale and had questions about the role that faith plays in the African-American community in Midland. I wondered if they knew that "Agua Furiosa" conjures up the spirit of Oyá, a deity in Africa and the Diaspora, who narrates the story from Her perspective.
Pastor Hale told me that Midland, like other small towns in Texas, faith is the binding force that keeps people connected to each other, regardless of their differing political views. We also learned that faith-based organizations like the MAARHCAC, are heavily involved in local politics in Midland. Mrs. Fuller, for example, has helped educate residents about policies affecting the environment and real-estate.
Later in the week we were given copies of The Weekender, a local guide to events in Midland. On the front page was a picture of me and a large caption that read: Contra Tiempo brings themes of social justice. Whether anyone knew that some of the dances presented in our work embody African deities didn't worry me. I was excited to perform and couldn't wait to hit the stage! Before getting to my place, I peered into the audience and smiled at the almost-full crowd of predominately Black and Brown faces, young and old. If this is what faith can do, I thought, I want to be a part of it.
After my solo, the crowd clapped, which had never happened before. It must have landed and resonated with people in a way that it hadn't before. A Council member approached me after the show and said that we were the best thing that's come to Midland in a long time. I gave her a hug and introduced myself to her son, an aspiring performer. Before heading out, Mr. Fuller sat us all down and reminded us of the importance of the work we are doing. "It's God's work," he said, and the work of a true artist.