Yelimara (Former) Teaching Artist Profile
TEACHING AFRO-CARIBBEAN ROOTS THROUGH BOMBA
Yelimara was a long-time bomba teaching artist and creative arts therapist at DreamYard Art Center. In this interview, we discussed how singing and dancing traditional Puerto Rican Bomba is a tool for healing, resisting oppression, and building leadership and community for young people in The Bronx. Yelimara masterfully transforms her classrooms in The Bronx into safe and inclusive spaces through her music and dance classes, counseling, and social and emotional learning experiences.
Interviewed by Denisse Cotto Reyes, DY Alum
I use my framework as a therapist to teach in a way that embraces what I have in the space. I believe everyone has the power to make changes or to transform and to enjoy what they are doing. That’s my main focus when I teach. I want to highlight your best self.
Part 1: Yelimara explains what is Bomba and why it’s important to teach Bomba to students.
Part 2: Yelimara explains the ground rules in her classroom in order to have community agreements everyone respects.
Part 3: Yelimara explains how Bomba nurtures inclusion and community.
Bomba shows that young people can lead. Bomba shows that our identity is a pillar for us to move forward. We don’t have to look outside for ways to be. Who we are is already beautiful; it’s already perfect, and it serves us. If something doesn’t serve us, then who is [it] serving? Then, we’re just catering to others. But if it’s a tradition that is about who we are as people, then it caters to our needs. It’s not made for others; it’s made for us to be proud of who we are–strong and also keep the legacy of our ancestors.
As an extra video, Yelimara also spoke about the presence of police officers in public schools and how that affects students’ learning.
School is a safe place for many students, even with the crazy things with the police officers, it’s a safe place for many students. It provides structure, it provides friends, community, people taking care of you and it provides food.
An example of Yelimara’s prompt to her students about healing.
Yelimara: [To students] What is healing?
Students: Healing is recovery, comfort, care, it’s a remedy, it’s cool, it’s dancing, it’s being smart, is to care for yourself and to nurture yourself.
Yelimara: So what does our healing in Bomba looks like?
[Students describe different healing movements in Bomba like rocking their arms back and forth as if rocking a baby or moving their hands sharply to the side.]
Yelimara: What is our message to our community?
Students: Be Brave, be smart, get an education, be free, be amazing, be just the way you are, always try your best, be nice to the world, do something to help others, be in unity, respect the world and homeless people.
Bomba is energetic music that makes me feel happy. Bomba is Freedom. Bomba is a type of dance and art. Bomba is to be strong, is to be brave. Bomba makes me feel free.
— Yelimara’s students
A virtual lesson for the Bomba Minis class at the DreamYard Art center
Bomba shows that young people can lead … our history is important… our identity is a pillar for us to move forward … we don’t have to look outside for ways to be … who we are is already beautiful … already perfect. It serves us. If something doesn’t serve us, then [ who is it ] surviving? It’s a tradition that is about who we are as people; it’s catering to our needs. [ Bomba ] is not made for others, it’s made for us to be proud of who we are … keep the legacy of our ancestors…survive and know what is possible when we are… in the community.
Here is a clip of Yelimara in her field and passion: Bomba.
Yelimara sings in the chorus and dances Bomba with Afro-Inspira, a collective that shares, invokes, re-creates and heals through Afro-derived traditions and culture.