Batoto Yetu (Swahili for “Our Children”) engages inner city youth in African dance, music, and folklore within a caring community of talented artists and volunteers. Dedicated to fostering self-awareness, self-esteem, and the creative and social development of children through dance, our organization introduces African culture through our Africa in the School Residency, our Pre-Professional Training Program, and public performances.
Since our founding in 1990, we have worked with thousands of children in New York City and around the world. More than 75% of these students have stayed engaged in Batoto Yetu programs throughout their childhood. The exceptional dedication, artistry, and personal growth of these children opens many doors for them and the generations that follow, including opportunities to perform around the world—from New York City to Bahia (Brazil), London, Barcelona, Hong Kong, Macau, and Luanda (Angola). Our children have performed with Folklorica at the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and with musical legends Harry Belafonte, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Usher, and more.
The vast majority of our children (more than 85%) proceed to outstanding colleges, including Harvard, Brown, Syracuse University, and City College of New York. Our students defy every statistic of the under-resourced neighborhoods they call home. We know that their confidence, achievements, citizenship, and cultural awareness create a marvelous ripple effect in the world, evidenced by the many success stories we have witnessed over the years. There are, in fact, hundreds of these stories. To name a few:
Cláudia Semedo became a news anchor and an actress—she was the first woman of color to have her own TV show in Portugal is now one of the country’s most celebrated actresses.
Jerijah West grew up in Batoto Yetu, where he received the mentorship and training that he credits for his current success. Jerijah is a dancer working with some of the most well respected choreographers and artists in New York City. He also continues to volunteer his time with Batoto Yetu, and he will perform with our dancers at the November event.
Monica Mendez grew up in Lisbon’s notorious Cova da Moura slum, finding respite from hardship in Batoto Yetu throughout her childhood. She is now the Assistant to the Ambassador of Angola in France.
Batoto Yetu continues to provide a powerful antidote to the hopelessness, confusion, and violence that seem to plague our country and the world today. We believe the children of Batoto Yetu can change the world for the better. That’s why we are committed to developing outstanding individuals filled with confidence, compassion, self-awareness, and integrity. And in so doing, we are preserving important African art forms that are at risk of being lost forever.