Every Tuesday night at the Wisconsin African American Women’s Center the drummers of Ina Onilu Drum and Dance Ensemble fill the auditorium with the beats of traditional West African music, accompanying dancers at the weekly dance class from 6 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.
According to Akilah Young, Ina Onilu operations manager, approximately 30 to 40 community members attend the class, which costs $10. Children under 12 attend for free.
“We started offering it because nobody else was,” Young said. “It’s not something that’s taught in schools.”
Ina Onilu Drum and Dance Ensemble, 234 N. 37th St., is a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching youth traditional West African dance and music, while incorporating hip-hop into their performances. Ina Onilu also offers drum rentals.
Kenneth Brown II, executive director and a founding member, said the dance class is one of the company’s greatest accomplishments since Ina Onilu began three years ago. In its first year, Ina Onilu auditioned to perform at the Artery and won a cash prize for its performance.
Ina Onilu has also performed at the Marcus Center for Performing Arts. For the first time this year, the group was invited to perform in the Juneteenth Celebration parade, which celebrates the end of slavery in Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana on June 19, 1865.
“Everything that we’ve been doing, my mom calls it ‘kingdom work.’ I call it the work of the ancestors,” Brown said.