Habari Gani?

What a blessing with all the trials and tribulations, to be the Executive Director of the WorldBeat Cultural Center through all these years, 30 to be exact. It took many years for this vision to manifest. A cultural center that one day would heal the world through music, art, dance and culture.  A center with murals that would encompass the Nile Valley Civilization; Kush, Kemet, Ethiopia, and Egypt. It was so great to have a great muralist like Air Mike that could capture the vibration in the outside and inside murals and Mario Torero’s contribution with his students on King Tut . Air Mike also held the vibration of the vision that I have always been fascinated with; the star Sirius and the Dogon Civilization. What a great teaching tool these murals have been to our youth classes and our summer camp. For summer camp we’ve had a great performing arts director “Miss. Monie”, Monica Harris of Diva Works Dance Company. She has now been teaching at the WorldBeat Center for over 7 years and she is priceless, every year we have a theater production during Kwanzaa as well as every Friday during summer camp. About 5 years ago we added citizen science activities for Summer Camp in collaboration with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. We’ve been able to teach the children urban birding and STEM science. Now we have extended our collaboration thanks to the National Science Foundation and are researching noise pollution and plant music. What a great theme when you live in the city and you take noise for granted and have not looked at its effect. This summer we built a noise sanctuary and we had the children do art with the noise.

Working with children really humbled us all because we are teaching the future stewards of this planet. I really never see division among them, how is this? Racism and division is taught, why is this still prevalent in 2020? We are supposed to be an enlightened society. I grew up in San Diego all of my life and when I would travel, I would go outside of the country, running to learn about other cultures. But now in thanks to WorldBeat Center’s national grants I have to travel to different cities across the US for workshops, conferences and annual meetings. In the last 7 years I have visited Georgia, Washington DC, New York, Minnesota, North Carolina, and more. And to hear the people of other cities amazed with everything that we have done at the WorldBeat Center with little funding in the midst of institutional racism is like noise pollution, you just live with it like it’s ”normal” until you get out of the city and see how other museums and institutions of color are more accepted and supported. Recently while in St. Paul, Minnesota, I visited two cultural centers, one Latino and another like the WorldBeat Center with a mixture of culture. They both either owned their building or had a long lease. The new one had been there for three years and was working towards paying off their building. They were so excited! Though Minnesota was cold, I have never seen so many warm hearts and I’m sure they have their struggles too. 

30 years in Balboa Park and we are still fighting for a lease and the respect to be given to an organization that has brought our unique culture to Balboa Park and its visitors. I’m going to need your support before I leave this planet to make sure that like everyone else in this park, WorldBeat Center has a lease after 30 years. I can’t imagine what my ancestors had to do to be a part of making this country. Let me remind you and don’t none of us forget, it took all of us from every nation to build our country. 

Do you realize it’s been 39 years doing Kwanzaa free to the community, next year 40 years for Bob Marley Day, and 31 years for MLK Day? WOW I know we are not the Opera or Symphony but community organizations that give back to our city need to be respected too. If there is anything that goes wrong or if they get in trouble, the city is there to bail them out. We have built this institution and maintained it. We buried other grants with very little funding. I suggest that all city organizations should have diversity training. That’s what we have been researching and have co-authored a workbook on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Most cities are working on this same topic as well.     

We will continue to need your support to secure WorldBeat Center’s 25 year lease and legacy. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”.

One Heart, One Destiny,
-Makeda Ori Cheatom



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