MEET THE PLAYWRIGHT!
Mrs. Taiwo Kujichagulia-Seitu is a coloratura soprano, dancer, educator and griot (historian, storyteller, entertainer, musician, praise singer). With a performance history spanning over 2 decades, Taiwo has performed for such legends as Kathrine Dunham, Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt, Nelson Mandela, Regina Bell, Pharaoh Sanders, and Dizzy Gillespie. She has performed with Phavia Kujichagulia and Ma’at, E.W. Wainwright’s African Roots of Jazz, Omega, Imhotep Dance Ensemble, the Houston Ebony Opera Guild, Oakland Opera Theater, Lyric Theater of San Jose and N’Soromma African Drummers and Dancers (an ensemble she co-founded).
Functionally using the arts to tell the history of African Americans, Taiwo weaves inspiring and uplifting tales for audiences of all ages utilizing a combination of Spirituals, Gospel, Praise Dance and traditional West African dance and drumming. Taiwo’s annual production entitled “Go Tell It! – A Harriet Tubman Christmas Story” premiered in December 2012. Receiving rave reviews for its 2012 and 2013 productions, “Go Tell It!” has become a Bay Area Holiday tradition and a Black History Month staple. “Go Tell It!” tells the story of Harriet Tubman’s first escape with passengers on the Underground Railroad. Told through music and dance, a highlight of “Go Tell It!” is the cast’s moving performances of Taiwo’s original arrangements of many well-known and loved Spirituals. In addition to arranging Spirituals, Taiwo lectures on their development, correct historical context and the coding found within. As a result, Taiwo was honored by the Friends of Negro Spirituals as a Negro Spirituals Heritage Keeper.
A passionate educator of 20 years, Taiwo has taught West African dance at Prairie View A&M University; Hip-hop, Stepping, West African and Liturgical dance for Stanford University; dance and musical theater at Kids N’ Dance; dance, 1st and 2nd grade at Ile Omode School; music at the Conservatory of Vocal and Instrumental Arts; and popular music history and chorus at Berkeley City College. Currently, Taiwo teaches performing arts at Madison Park Academy. Taiwo has a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance and a Master of Business Administration in marketing. She is the co-founder of Lyric Dance and Vocal Ensemble (LDVE) and Lyric Performing Arts Academy (LPAA) and currently serves as LPAA's Chief Executive Officer.
In addition to this all, Taiwo is a wife and mother and enjoys spending time with her loving husband, Joshua ‘Six’ Williams and daughters, Sassafras Rose and Saije Orisa-Damilola Awoyefa.
A B O U T
A slight modification to this common saying is in order: Those who CAN do, and those who CARE teach. I am an educator and so are most of the adult cast members of "Go Tell It!" The children in the show are our students. In fact, two of my cast members and I founded Lyric Performing Arts Academy in 2014. Our guiding principles are inspiration, education and service. As teaching artists, we believe that our art should serve a purpose.
"Go Tell It!" does just that. It inspires AND educates in a way that traditional classroom teaching does not. The actors in the show, my fellow cast members (who are SUPER awesome!), bring the characters to life in a way that books (unless they live in my imagination) do not.
Audiences see John Ross (Harriet's brother) wrestle with the decision to escape and leave his wife behind, who had literally just given birth to their third child. Audiences then see her plead with him to stay. Likewise, they witness the struggle Harriet had with her husband, John Tubman, to try to convince him to escape with her; and his subsequent refusal on account of the fact that he was free. Audiences feel the sorrow of those left behind while simultaneously experiencing the joy of those who safely escaped enslavement.
This emotional connection to the historical content in the show leaves a lasting impression on all who see it, and educates viewers in a profound way.
Likewise, the students/children in the show receive a dual lesson. First, they receive a detailed, emotionally charged, lesson about their history and a great ancestor of progress and light. Second, they receive an extremely detailed lesson in applied performing arts. Students have the unique opportunity to share the stage with seasoned, tremendously talented, artists whose ages and experiences span generations. Students are held to the same standard of conduct as adult cast members and are treated like professionals. As a result, they are left with a lasting impression that will shape them as artists and hopefully, as adults, CARING teachers.
For those who CAN do, and those who CARE teach.