Annual Capoeira Show Inspires Thousands of Kids

by Melchior Maetzener

Joe Miller, the Principal of IS 77, a middle school in Ridgewood, Queens, is all about respect. If a student is not paying attention during the Star Spangled Banner, even at the back of his school’s assembly hall, Mr. Miller notices and immediately talks with the student. That is why for 17 years he has welcomed Afro Brazil Arts to his school for an astounding capoeira demonstration. He says “The presentation stresses discipline, and that’s what we talk about with our kids. We see that carried out with the way the performers go about their jobs.” When the kids see the performers’ intense respect and discipline, the atmosphere in the room instantly becomes exhilarated. Even students completely new to capoeira are able to focus and demonstrate discipline in front of their entire school when they are invited on stage. After, all the students become invigorated to display the same respect in their classes.

Afro Brazil Arts also provides another important service to the school. Miller says his school is “predominantly Latino, and the boys and girls learn something that’s different and totally new about the history of slaves in Brazil.” Whether the history they learn is their own or from another culture, they are exposed to an important, UNESCO-praised tradition that is not yet, though becoming, well known. This knowledge empowers the teens. Learning about the struggle of the Brazilian slaves motivates them to overcome the obstacles they face themselves.