And just when we thought Oprah’s power had done it all, she surprises us again.
Oprah is changing the lives for so many women, including Dwana Smallwood, one of the premier dancers for Alvin Ailey who received a half million donation to help create this dancer’s dream.
“Oh my goodness, what a journey from Green Avenue down the street to right now. It’s been an extraordinary journey,” said Dwana Smallwood, a dancer.
Smallwood was raised in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn before she began performing around the world amongst the Alvin Ailey Dance Company for twelve years. She is considered one of the best modern dancers since Judith Jamieson and Mikhail Barishnakof.
“Even though Alvin Ailey is one of the biggest companies in the world, and that was the only place I wanted to dance, and I kept thinking is that my life’s purpose to perform,” Smallwood said.
As good as her life has been, nothing was as critical as when she performed on the Oprah Winfrey Show because that performance ended up turning into something so much more.
“I said please, please, please would you go to my school in South Africa and teach my girls what you know,” Oprah Winfrey said. Smallwood did, and what was supposed to be a one-week stay at a school turned into a four-year journey.
“First I was begging for a week. Then I was begging for a year,” Winfrey said.
The lessons became more than just dance, even for Smallwood.
“It unleashed this person that knew that I could reach young people. I could figure out what’s going on with a young woman and I could help her figure out the brilliance within her,” Smallwood said.
“What she did at my school, she came in to teach dance but she taught them about life, she taught them all of the social emotional skills that we know it takes to really be successful, and not only survive but to thrive in the world,” Winfrey said.
Smallwood returned back to the states, but not before opening up the Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center in Bed-Stuy, the same neighborhood that had been hardned by crime, poverty, and drugs.
“We got to put it right in their faces and make them see there is another choice, there is another way there are other options,” Smallwood said.
“I feel safer in here with people who are about me and I know can protect me,” said Adege Joseph, a student.
The center is 4,000 square feet, and it was made by possible thanks to Ms. Winfrey, herself. Smallwood uses her honesty to mold and inspire young girls to have bigger dreams.
“Ms. Dwana has inspired me to become anything I want to become,” said Sahai Heyward, a student.
“She taught me how to be a better person, how to respect myself,” said Imani Smiley Herring, a student.
For more information please visit: http://dwanasmallwoodpac.org/
(Photo by Toby Zerna/Newspix/Getty Images)