Def Dance Jam Workshop

Award Recipients - 1999

Aziza, Founder

Def Dance Jam Workshop (DDJW) is a uniquely powerful program that addresses the educational, artistic and community needs of children.  Aziza, an activist, choreographer, performer and teacher, founded DDJW in 1994 as an after-school performing arts program and dance company to empower young African American deaf women.  Located in Harlem, the program began with ten young women, five who could hear and five who could not.  The hearing members learned American Sign Language and worked with the deaf members to combine it with hip-hop, African dance, rap and poetry to create original works.  The organization has grown and today includes females and males, ages 8 to 65.  Half the hearing impaired and several face physical challenges.  
DDJW members meet after school to help each other with homework practice their sign language, write journals and create and rehearse original dance pieces.  Members learn many dance forms, but they focus on African dance because it incorporates drumming.  Even without hearing the music, the performers can feel the drum vibrations in the floor.  DDJW regularly performs at schools, community organization and churches.  To encourage participants to continue the work that they pursued as DDJW members, Aziza formed the Community Service Fellowship in 1997 to provide scholarship funds and work experience to a DDJW graduate who is about to enter college.

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