Former child soldier Ishmael Beah to speak in Santa Cruz Friday

January 16, 2014

Ishmael Beah grew up as a child soldier in the Sierra Leone civil war in Western Africa and later wrote a bestselling book about the horrors he endured, titled “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier.”

He has since become a UNICEF ambassador and Advocate for Children Affected by War and has been praised by the literati. He’s now released his first novel, “Radiance of Tomorrow,” which tells the tale of two longtime friends who return to their hometown of Imperi after the civil war there.

Beah will join Santa Cruz Sentinel columnist extraordinaire Wallace Baine for a conversation Friday night, sponsored by Bookshop Santa Cruz.  The event will be held at Santa Cruz High School and starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $27.50 but that includes a copy of the book.

Santa Cruz resident Harry Weston, who now lives in Los Angeles, will also be performing his dance piece, “Without Fear.”

From the Santa Cruz Weekly’s story:

Weston first performed “Without Fear” in 2012 as part of his senior undergraduate choreography showcase at UCLA. 

Primarily a hip-hop dancer, Weston choreographed the piece, and performed it with a couple back-up dancers. He wrote it, however, through improv and freestyling. It has a particularly vibrant, street-dance feel to it, while at the same time evoking powerful emotion.

The piece is divided into three sections, and is intended to express the different stages of grief: anger, sadness and acceptance. Weston pulled from his own experience losing his father when he was two, and then a family friend that was very close to him—and whom he refers to as his “surrogate mother”—when he was 19.
“Really what I wanted to do with the piece is I wanted to take the audience on kind of the emotional roller coaster that is the grieving process. In order to do that, I had to create a piece where we go through that roller coaster,” Weston says.

The anger portion of the piece is set to hip-hop, to which Weston does a lot of aggressive moves. In the sadness portion of the dance, Weston dances to a somber piece by cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Weston says that during this section, more than any other, while performing, he relives the feelings he experienced when he lost his father and surrogate mother. In the final portion of the piece, acceptance, Weston dances to house music, and does a solo upbeat style of house dance style called “jacking.”

By the end of the piece, it has affected the performers as much as the audience, he says.  

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