Since the age of 16, Nana Mayala Rucker has brought African-centered folklore to life through spoken word and dance. Her craft for telling stories in this manner has taken her around the world. She has before well-known political powerbrokers. In her role as a “cultural ambassador” Rucker introduces people of various backgrounds to forms of African dance and music. In her journey, she learned more about the most remote places on earth and the elements of Africa they possess.

These days, Rucker performs and educates our young ones, ensuring that the arts remain a vehicle for change that people of African descent utilize to their fullest potential. At a time when schools in communities of color have embraced test-based curricula, this elder works hard to bridge the generational gap and ensure that young people have access to a time-tested means of the artistic education that has been proven to uplift. This mission bears a strong similarity to previous ventures, including Nubian Theatre & Dance Co., an international dance company that has exposed children and adults of African descent to the folklore and spoken word since the early 1980s.

In this AllEyesOnDC video, Rucker, a student of August Wilson, John Henrik Clarke, and other prominent African figures and scholars, reflects on her coming of age, how she rose in African consciousness, and the hurdles that she faced in her pursuit of international stardom. She then closes this segment with a performance honoring the late, great Rosa Parks on the 60th anniversary of the day she was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery, Alabama bus.