On October 5th, Denver Academy of Movement Arts and United Capoeira Association - Colorado will host our 2018 Roda-thon fundraiser. Previous Roda-thons raised money for a kids program in Brazil; this year we are focused more in our own backyard. The California-based Capoeira Arts Foundation, the nonprofit umbrella of the United Capoeira Association (UCA) and the “mothership” of my own school, lost a large, annual foundation grant that has provided vital support during the last decade of operations. As the Bay Area has one of the highest costs-of-living in the nation, this foundation support was crucial for paying teachers, covering expenses, and granting scholarships for families who can’t afford capoeira classes for their kids. It is a cultural icon in Berkeley, CA, and a major landmark for capoeiristas and enthusiasts of Afro-Brazilian arts and culture. UCA-Berkeley is among the most highly-regarded capoeira academies in the world, founded by living legend Mestre Acordeon, and now led by Mestra Suelly, the first North American woman to graduate as a Master of capoeira. The space and it’s programs are very expensive to maintain, and the staff there go to great lengths to guarantee access for all. In the wake of the financial loss, numerous teachers continued to work without pay, so scholarship students could continue to enroll at low or no cost.
For me, UCA - Berkeley is a mecca of capoeira. Before I became a dad, I made several trips a year to practice with the teachers there, help with the academy'’s numerous projects, and build & maintain strong relationships with my peers and mentors on the west coast. I graduated in two formatura ceremonies, my graduations to professor and contramestre, I’ve photo-documented numerous capoeira events, and helped launch the “Berkeley to Bahia by Bicycle” project that began on Mestre Acordeon’s 70th birthday in 2013 (Yes, my teacher’s-teacher’s-teacher spent his 71st year on earth riding a bicycle from Berkeley to northeastern Brazil - 14 months, 14,000 miles. But that’s a different story!).
UCA - Berkeley looms large in my life-story. It’s a fountain that replenishes my motivation and spirit for this unusual art that has captured my imagination. It’s a guidepost, a constant reference that informs my work as a teacher, community organizer, social worker, studio manager, and student. Much of what I know about teaching capoeira to children, I learned there. Much of what I’ve learned about playing good capoeira - the heat, the intensity, the drive I hope to pass on to the students in Denver - have roots in the work that happens in that space. It’s essential to me that the space there continues to thrive!
We have a unique opportunity this year - the other United Capoeira Association groups, through their own Roda-thon fundraisers, have already raised $60.000, enough to barely cover costs for the Capoeira Arts Foundation. With help from the group here in Denver, we have a chance to actually raise surplus funds. Nonprofits and community service organizations exist in a constant state of scarcity, subsisting from grant to grant, fundraiser to fundraiser. Imagine how good it could be, to someone with just barely enough to cover expenses, to actually have a little extra! That’s what I hope to accomplish with this year’s Roda-thon in Denver- to get a little extra for people who already give of themselves beyond their means.
I invite you to donate whatever feels generous and right. Your donations are tax-deductible, easy to do online, and you’ll receive documentation very quickly. And you’ll also receive my undying gratitude!