Connect with us

Activism

Misty Copeland’s New Memoir “The Wind at My Back” Pays Homage to Another Black Ballerina

Misty Copeland, somewhat of a pathfinder herself, weaves the story of her career in with Raven Wilkinson’s, whose work had been hidden in plain sight for decades. In telling Wilkinson’s story, loudly and publicly, Copeland also writes of the friendship the two women had, and how Wilkinson pushed Copeland to soar to greater heights, career-wise and in Copeland’s personal life. This gives the book an intimate feel, sometimes uncomfortably so, but the sense of gratitude and absolute love for a woman who didn’t hear the word “no” when society repeated it overpowers any squirm you might feel.

Published

on

Cover of “The Wind at My Back” pictures Raven Wilkinson, left, and Misty Copeland, right.
Cover of “The Wind at My Back” pictures Raven Wilkinson, left, and Misty Copeland, right.

You don’t belong here.

It’s a declaration that seems confusing, at first. Who says? Who’s in charge here? You don’t belong because…why? The answer is almost always as rude and hurtful as the statement itself, almost as unthinkable now as it was 70 years ago. But in “The Wind at My Back: Resilience, Grace, and Other Gifts from My Mentor, Raven Wilkinson” by Misty Copeland with Susan Fales-Hill, those are four words that strengthen resolve.

Copeland’s first memoir, “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina,” was published in 2014, before her unprecedented 2015 promotion making her the first African American Principal Female Dancer in the American Ballet Theater’s 75-year history.

Her career at ABT started in the ballet corps in 2001, later becoming a soloist in 2007 when she was quite often the only Black dancer on the stage. She got used to it, but never got comfortable with it. Racism is common in dance and most Black dancers in American history were encouraged to stick with “modern” performances.

That wasn’t the kind of dance Copeland had always dreamed of.

Still, she persevered. Just being with the ABT kept her in place for what the future might bring and besides, she felt like she was representing. Her presence there was encouraging to Black girls who were told they’d never be ballerinas.

And then Copeland met Raven Wilkinson, one of several women of color who paved the way in dance.

Wilkinson (1935-2018) was born to educated, upper-crust Black parents and had set her sights on ballet when she was 5 years old, having experienced the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. She cried then at the emotion in the ballet, and she knew that she wanted to dance. Her parents enrolled her in the School of American Ballet and later, she was trained by Madame Swoboda, one of the Bolshoi Theatre’s premiere ballerinas.

On the cusp of realizing her dream, however, Wilkinson was told that it was “never going to happen” because she was “colored.”

And yet, she, too, persevered and she began touring with a professional troupe which took her to the American South where she fought for her dignity, and she endured threats on her life. Still, she danced, a pioneer, a professional, and a “first.” And when she met Copeland, she became a supportive, loving, wise, thoughtful, powerful mentor.

While it sure looks like a book and it feels like a book, “The Wind at My Back” isn’t really a book. No, it’s a love letter to an elder trailblazer with grace, both inside and out.

Copeland, somewhat of a pathfinder herself, weaves the story of her career in with Wilkinson’s, whose work had been hidden in plain sight for decades. In telling Wilkinson’s story, loudly and publicly, Copeland also writes of the friendship the two women had, and how Wilkinson pushed Copeland to soar to greater heights, career-wise and in Copeland’s personal life. This gives the book an intimate feel, sometimes uncomfortably so, but the sense of gratitude and absolute love for a woman who didn’t hear the word “no” when society repeated it overpowers any squirm you might feel.

A working knowledge of ballet will enhance your enjoyment of this book, but it’s not an absolute necessity. If you (or your teen!) merely love a good double-biography, “The Wind at My Back” belongs on your bookshelf.

“The Wind at My Back” by Misty Copeland with Susan Fales-Hill, c.2022, Grand Central Publishing, $29.00, 240 pages

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activism

Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of June 12-18, 2024

Published

on

To enlarge your view of this issue, use the slider, magnifying glass icon or full page icon in the lower right corner of the browser window.

Continue Reading

Activism

ICAC Invites Community to Benefit from Safe Car Park Program

The Interfaith Council of Alameda County (ICAC) will hold a meeting to announce a faith-based expansion of overnight safe car parking for unhoused families on Thursday, June 13, 2024, from 1-2 p.m. at Williams Chapel Baptist Church located at 1410 10th Avenue in Oakland. The ICAC President, Rev. Ken Chambers, announced that Williams Chapel, pastored by Rev. Kenneth Anderson, and members of ICAC, has also planned to open an overnight safe car parking program and day center to provide unhoused neighbors and families with wrap-around services.

Published

on

Chambers said, "ICAC's goal is to just serve Oakland by helping to make the community surrounding 10th Avenue and International Boulevard both welcoming and safe."
Chambers said, "ICAC's goal is to just serve Oakland by helping to make the community surrounding 10th Avenue and International Boulevard both welcoming and safe."

by Post Staff

The Interfaith Council of Alameda County (ICAC) will hold a meeting to announce a faith-based expansion of overnight safe car parking for unhoused families on Thursday, June 13, 2024, from 1-2 p.m. at Williams Chapel Baptist Church located at 1410 10th Avenue in Oakland.

The ICAC President, Rev. Ken Chambers, announced that Williams Chapel, pastored by Rev. Kenneth Anderson, and members of ICAC, has also planned to open an overnight safe car parking program and day center to provide unhoused neighbors and families with wrap-around services.

Rev. Chambers said additional support for the program will also come from Bishop Bob Jackson, Pastor of Acts Full Gospel Church and Pastor Phyllis Scott, head of the Oakland Police Chaplaincy Program.

Chambers said, “ICAC’s goal is to just serve Oakland by helping to make the community surrounding 10th Avenue and International Boulevard both welcoming and safe.”

David Longhurst, a member of Oakland Temple LDS Church and an ICAC board member, said

“We can make the city of Oakland safer, one block at a time, by connecting our community and neighbors.”

Chambers said ICAC has a $450,000 grant commitment from the City of Oakland and a $2.5M grant request has been presented to Nate Miley, President of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors President Nate Miley to cover and expand ICAC’s Safe Car Park Program located at West Side Missionary Baptist Church to additional locations including Center Street Baptist Church, Taylor Memorial United Methodist Church, Corinthians Baptist Church, Allen Temple Baptist Church, Acts Full Gospel Church, and other congregations.

Dr. Ken Chambers said he and ICAC are assisting congregations on how to receive a one-time $5,000 grant. “ICAC has plans for several tiny homes with kitchens, living space and bathrooms that we hope will become available this fall in partnership with the State, County and City of Oakland.”

Chambers is appealing to the public to help with transitioning the unhoused populations into tiny homes or affordable housing. “If you or anyone you know is living out of a car and needs a safe place to park overnight, visit interfaithAC.org, call 510-239-6681, or stop by the ICAC hub at 732 Willow Street, Oakland, CA 94607 between the hours of 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.”

Continue Reading

Activism

Calif. Leaders Discuss Foster Care Reform Strategies for Black and Brown Youth

Before becoming a nationally recognized social justice leader and a member of California’s Mandated Reporting Taskforce, Shane Harris spent 13 years as a foster care youth after he lost both of his parents. As President of the national civil rights organization, People’s Association of Justice Advocates (PAJA), he’s aiming to solve some of the toughest challenges Black and Brown children in the foster care system face.

Published

on

Shane Harris, PAJA President and member of the California Mandated Reporting Taskforce (center) with Hafsa Kaka, Senior Advisor on Homelessness to Governor Gavin Newsom and Dr. Janet Kelly, Founder & Director of Sanctuary of Hope LA (far right) (Lila Brown CBM)
Shane Harris, PAJA President and member of the California Mandated Reporting Taskforce (center) with Hafsa Kaka, Senior Advisor on Homelessness to Governor Gavin Newsom and Dr. Janet Kelly, Founder & Director of Sanctuary of Hope LA (far right) (Lila Brown CBM)

By Lila Brown, California Black Media  

 Before becoming a nationally recognized social justice leader and a member of California’s Mandated Reporting Taskforce, Shane Harris spent 13 years as a foster care youth after he lost both of his parents. As President of the national civil rights organization, People’s Association of Justice Advocates (PAJA), he’s aiming to solve some of the toughest challenges Black and Brown children in the foster care system face.

During National Foster Care Month in May, Harris visited the Sanctuary of Hope in Los Angeles to host a roundtable meeting with current and former foster youth, many of whom, like Harris, have beat the odds and become successful professionals.

According to the federal government’s Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, there are nearly 370,000 American children and youth in foster care.

Nationally, Black children are overrepresented in foster care. According to datacenter.kidscount.org, Black children represented 14% of the total child population in the United States. However, they represented 23% of all children in foster care. Harris pointed out that one out of every four foster youth go homeless upon exiting foster care in California. Across the state, there are nearly 65,000 children in foster care, he added. Of the 65,000 children in foster care across California, 14,000 of them are Black American.

Harris also announced a new effort already underway to push for the removal of the term “case” in L.A. County when referring to foster youth during the roundtable which featured Hafsa Kaka, Senior Advisor to Gov. Gavin Newsom and Janet Kelly, the Founder and Director of Sanctuary of Hope. The session focused on solving problems foster youth face.

Sharing personal stories, insights, and various visions for policy changes, the participants discussed numerous solutions and addressed specific concerns about ongoing challenges with the foster care system.

One top priority was how to close the foster care to homelessness pipeline for the disproportionate number of Black and Brown children in LA County’s and the state’s foster care system.

“When you see the direct connection between the disproportionate rates of Black children in foster care and the disproportionate rates of Black people in the general homeless population, there is a very clear connection there in which our foster youth are coming out of care,” stated Harris during opening remarks.

Kaka said the governor has been intentional about making sure that foster children are homeless prioritized as the state addresses homelessness.

“This is a critical moment for foster care,” said Kaka. “The systems that are working together are looking at leveraging federal, state and local funds.”

Harris said he has already begun efforts in San Diego County to drop the word “case” when referring to homeless youth.

“We are asking for a 90-day public input period, in which the county CEO and leadership can facilitate discussions with the community on replacement terminology. There’s plenty of ideas,” Harris elaborated.

Kelly said a majority of the youth who go through the Sanctuary of Hope program are young people who have experienced some form of housing instability or housing crisis.

“The goal of the work that we do is really centered around helping young people leave here with leadership skills and other forms of what we call protective factors in order for them to continue on with their stabilization journey and become loving, caring and active citizens in this world,” Kelly said.

Continue Reading

Subscribe to receive news and updates from the Oakland Post

* indicates required

CHECK OUT THE LATEST ISSUE OF THE OAKLAND POST

ADVERTISEMENT

WORK FROM HOME

Home-based business with potential monthly income of $10K+ per month. A proven training system and website provided to maximize business effectiveness. Perfect job to earn side and primary income. Contact Lynne for more details: Lynne4npusa@gmail.com 800-334-0540

Facebook

Attorney General Bonta and his team are working to review the decision and consider all options that will protect SB 9 as a state law. Bonta said the law has helped provide affordable housing for residents in California.
City Government1 month ago

Court Throws Out Law That Allowed Californians to Build Duplexes, Triplexes and RDUs on Their Properties

Rev. Amos C. Brown, president of the San Francisco NAACP and pastor of Third Baptist Church. Photo courtesy Third Baptist Church.
Activism1 month ago

S.F. Black Leaders Rally to Protest, Discuss ‘Epidemic’ of Racial Slurs Against Black Students in SF Public School System

Vibe Bistro Logo
Community1 month ago

Opening Soon: Vibe Bistro Is Richmond’s New Hub for Coffee, Cuisine, Community and Culture

Oak Days shelter, once a Days Hotel, resides in the Hegenberger corridor of Oakland. It is used as a temporary home to 60 residents who have experienced chronic homelessness or are medically vulnerable. Photo by Magaly Muñoz.
Alameda County1 month ago

An Oakland Homeless Shelter Is Showing How a Housing and Healthcare First Approach Can Work: Part 1

Activism1 month ago

Oakland Post: Week of May 8 – 14, 2024

Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta.
Community1 month ago

Gov. Newsom, Attorney General Bonta Back Bill to Allow California to Host Arizona Abortion Care

Courtesy City of Vallejo.
City Government1 month ago

Vallejo Continues to Accept Applications for Boards, Committees and Commissions

Shutterstock
California Black Media1 month ago

Cinco De Mayo: Five Interesting Facts You Should Know About the Popular Mexican American Holiday

California Supreme Court (iStock Photo)
Business4 weeks ago

Cal. Supreme Court Could Strip Gov and Legislature of Power to Raise Taxes

Outdoor community events are integral to San Francisco’s vibrant culture and sense of community. iStock image.
Bay Area1 month ago

Mayor Breed Proposes Waiving City Fees for Night Markets, Block Parties, Farmers’ Markets, Other Outdoor Community Events

Rajah Kirby Caruth, an American professional stock car racing driver. (File Photo)
Community1 month ago

Rajah Caruth: Young Trailblazer of NASCAR

ELITE Sit in 1 & 2: ELITE Public School staff and students staged a sit-in at Vallejo City Hall on Wednesday afternoon to protest the City Council’s decision to vote against their Major Use Permit to expand into downtown. Photo by Magaly Muñoz.
Community1 month ago

ELITE Charter School Conducts Sit-In Protest at Vallejo City Hall After City Council Vote

San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed (File Photo)
Bay Area1 month ago

Mayor London Breed: State Awards San Francisco Over $37M for Affordable Housing

Peggy Moore and Hope Wood, photo from their hopeactionchnage.com website
California Black Media4 weeks ago

Activist and Organizer Peggy Moore and Wife Die in Fatal Car Crash

Shutterstock
California Black Media4 weeks ago

Expect to See a New Flat Rate Fee of $24 on Your Electricity Bill

Trending

Copyright ©2021 Post News Group, Inc. All Rights Reserved.