Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More Than One: Homeland Cultural Center

Many of us in the Los Angeles and Orange County street dance scene know about Homeland. The story of this very special place has traveled outside of our local circles the past few years, and even impressed other street dancers overseas. In a nutshell, Homeland is a weekly practice session on Monday and Tuesday nights funded by the city of Long Beach, California State Parks, and Proposition 12. It's supervised by OG BBoy Iceman as well as graff artist Steam. And it has become a crucial part of street dance culture and hip hop history in southern California. (Photo above is from the Facebook Image Archive for Homeland.)

You can see the Facebook page for Homeland here:

And you can see the Myspace page for Homeland here:

Poppers, lockers, and waackers practice at Homeland on Monday nights. Bboys and bgirls get down there on Tuesday nights. Throughout the week, many other dance teams of other styles and music artists will meet at Homeland for classes, rehearsals, and holiday gatherings. Homeland is truly a community center for the community. The Monday night sessions have been noted as being a meeting place for many new generation street dancers who occupy the elite status whether on the underground competitive scene or in mainstream media projects like the LXD, MTV's America's Best Dance Crew, or Hollywood dance films. The session is free and the communal vibe generated by its attendees is largely shaped by BBoy Iceman, Steam, and their closest associates who have contributed to changing the culture of the local area. What was once a gang-infested and troubled community park has now become a stomping grounds for the newest generation of street dancers. Simple measures have helped to create the atmosphere at Homeland whether it's having dance cyphers to celebrate one's birthday or to mourn the passing of a loved one. Those kinds of touches make you feel connected to each other - that we're much more than strangers dancing next to each other in a common space.

Perhaps this last Monday night (Monday, December 14, 2009) is another example of the growing community culture. Locking and waacking teacher Tiffany "Jimini" Bong rallied the attending dancers to perform as part of a video shoot to create a holiday v-card for friends and family. Rarely have so many dancers come together on such short notice and jammed in a short amount of time. Film shoots can be stressful for those who know the process. Even the smallest detail can derail a well-intentioned project. But all the elements were in place on Monday night for dancers to enjoy celebrating the Christmas holidays with each other. There were folks wearing Santa hats, red and green sweats, and elf ears frolicking together. It was like stepping into a primetime television family Christmas special, even with some of the poppers doing a little stop-motion animation. The night was a clear example of how the Homeland community is much more than one. It's a group of people from different backgrounds and ages who have grown together week after week. It's a surrogate family. And it's a tribe of artists who are able to share themselves in a non-judgmental environment.

Where will Homeland go from here? As this new decade starts, we recognize that many dancers have come and gone through Homeland over the years. The faces may change, but the community continues to expand and improve with time. Graff writers, led by Steam, continue to meet there and decorate the walls outside with legal sanction from the city of Long Beach. A new generation of lockers have emerged from the locking classes that Tiffany "Jimini" Bong has led the past few years. And the community outreach shows that BBoy Iceman has done with Homeland dancers at local restaurants, children's festivals, aquariums, and public parks have generated goodwill with the surrounding city. Homeland is a testament to how generous leaders have inspired a generation of dancers to step up and bring social change to their neighborhoods. Perhaps the future for Homeland will involve transforming lives through the relationships inspired by dance as these dancers grow in their personal journeys.

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