Sankofa Center set to present ‘The African Diaspora’

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Inner City Cultural League founder and CEO Reuben Salters of Dover and Delores Blakey of Dover are front and center in front of a group of local children singing “We Are The World” during a Wednesday night rehearsal of “The African Diaspora,” written and directed by Don Blakey, inside the Sankofa Cultural Arts Center in Dover. Performances are at 7 p.m. March 4 and 5. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — Don Blakey hopes to take people through a cultural journey with his original theatrical and musical production “The African Diaspora,” coming to the Sankofa Cultural Arts Center March 4 and 5.

It will be the first production presented at the center, which opened last fall.

For at least three decades, Mr. Blakey and wife Delores organized countless young people in central Delaware in theatrical ventures through their DonDel Productions, an offshoot of DonDel Enterprises.

Mr. Blakey said “The African Diaspora” will focus on countries and communities throughout the world that are descended from the historic movement of peoples from Africa.

“The plot of the play is time travel,” Mr. Blakey said. “We have a person that is taking us on a tour.

“It starts in Africa and then we will move to Brazil, and then the other countries that we have highlighted throughout the program.”

He said his production company consists of local actors and performers.

“We have people that work with us that sing, dance and do different things,” Mr. Blakey said. “I wrote the script, so that the actors don’t talk to anyone and they don’t exchange dialogue.

“They talk to the audience and so the actors have had their monologues for a while. We check on them now and then to see if they’re learning it, to see if it becomes second nature.”

He said the idea of the screenplay was sparked after hearing Reuben Salters’ students speak about their heritage of being Haitian, Puerto Rican and Jamaican.

Mr. Salters is the founder of the Inner City Cultural League Inc. in Dover.

“The thought popped into my head that this a great topic to explore, and it’s a great time to teach them about something they don’t get in school,” Mr. Blakey said.

The wider audience of Dover needs to be schooled as well, he said.

He believes most non-African people look at all black people in America as African-American.

“There are many black people living in America, who don’t see themselves as African-Americans, but come from many of the Caribbean Islands.

“Most black people don’t know much about Africa, relying on TV and movies for the truth. Many don’t want to know and-or will not visit because of their misleading information.”

Mr. Blakey said it’s important people know their history, but they can’t know it if they don’t know it exists.

“It’s like eating a particular kind of food that comes from a different place or country,” Mr. Blakey said. “If you didn’t know about it, then you wouldn’t want it.

“You have to introduce it to people and say here’s something that comes from another country. It’s really good; you should try it. Then when they try it, they say it’s good, I want more or want to try something else. That’s how this operates.”

The ICCL, known for its Sankofa West Africa dance and drum teams, will participate in the program as well.

“We want to take kids from here and expose them to the culture,” Mr. Blakey said. “We want to expose them to something that they don’t know.”

Mr. Salters agrees.

“We’re trying to spread the word,” Mr. Salters said. “Most people don’t have a clue to our history, and we’re going to demonstrate through dance and song that you can take pride in who you are.

“We’re trying to educate the kids and get them interested as to who they are.”

The Sankofa Center, which opened in November, a 4,000-square-foot facility on 39 S. West St. is a 25-year dream come true for Mr. Salters.

It houses the league’s offices, its youth programs and activities and will serve as a performance venue.

All funds raised from next weekend’s program will go toward the building.

“We still have a mortgage and a lot of expenses that we have to clean up,” Mr. Salters said.

“It will help with the operation of the buildings and help us create more programs for our youth.”

Mr. Salters praised Mr. Blakey’s continuous effort of supporting community and cultural programs for more than 30 years.

“Don and his wife are very instrumental to the community,” Mr. Salters said.

“They kept me going and encouraged me to stay on the city to get this building done. It’s an honor to have this event here with Don.”

Mr. Blakey is hopeful the greater Dover community supports “The African Diaspora.”

“We want everyone to come out,” Mr. Blakey said. “We want everyone of all races to come out to get an understanding of history.”

He believes it’s important everyone learns about different parts of history. He also has a vision for the center.

“Mr. Salters has done an excellent job of building a place where children can understand their culture, and it’s open to anyone to do that, and that’s what it’s all about,” he said.

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