The concrete replaced the green as we drove into East Oakland to the elementary school. We parked between what seemed to have once been cars, next to the school and next to trash which danced in wind unbroken by trees. Or, was it to the sounds?
As we got closer to the school, a steady drumbeat grew and grew, competing with the cacophony of usual sirens and shouting. The rhythm was coming from the other side of the wall, in front of which there had once been a strip of grass — the only strip of soil in sight — where the neighborhood residents repair their cars, where they leave their broken car parts, syringes and condoms, where the weaves roll like tumbleweeds in some unimaginable preapocalyptic reality of childhood right here in front of the gym. Inside, all had assembled.
On the stage, a stranger was playing tribal drums. In matching batik prints, students — some of my students — formed a gently pulsing, lightly stepping circle. One by one, the students came to the center and danced. They danced, and they danced with a spirit unexpected, emergency vehicles racing past on hollow streets. The last to come to center hesitantly casting coyly about, but the audience cheered her on. It looked as if she would just stand there swaying, and that was enough. But,in an instance, she exploded, completely enraptured, totally enrapturing, dancing a celebration of joy uncontained, uncontainable, dancing a revolution. And, she stomped, stepped, stomped the sirens out.