As the work week is rolling to its close, I’ve been thinking about our plans for the weekend. A hair cut and color are a must. And I might squeeze in my fingers, toes, and eyebrows, if the line isn’t too long. (One of the drawbacks of scheduling maintenance on Saturdays.) The gym is a must; I’ve been way too lazy this week. A birthday party for one of the kids at daycare is a possibility. And then there’s harambe.
I first found out about harambe when a dad posted on the neighborhood new parents list serve, asking if parents would be interested in supporting some music and dance classes for kids at a local, dare I say alternative or independent, performing arts space called Bloombars. Of course parents jumped all over it. In fact, response was so positive that management added a Saturday class (and now possibly two!).
So, my husband and I took the kid to try it out last weekend.
Harambe is a Swahili word that supposedly means come together. And come together did parents and kids of the neighborhood that Saturday. Stroller parking was limited both upstairs and out front. (There’s something cute about watching dads lock up strollers on the bike rack.) Pillow seating on the floor also was scarce, so we picked out spots on the wooden pews that lined opposite sides of the room. It was starting to feel like a very strange episode of Modern Family, only we weren’t family.
Then Baba walked in. A giant black man with dreads past his butt and an island accident, he certainly made an impression. He sat down on the stage, grabbed a couple of bongo-type drums, and distributed a bunch of the other instruments–tambourines, bells, percussion stick things, and even something that looked like a gourd with beads wrapped around it that made a pretty cool sound when you shook it. Oh, and there was an electric keyboard on the stage, which I thought was totally out of place–at first.
As he gathered the “scholars”–that’s what he called the children (love it!)–he told the parents to not worry about their kids doing their own things because it would all work out somehow. This was totally reassuring to me because my kid had made a beeline to the keyboard and was banging–very loudly and sometimes with his foot–on it as Baba was talking. But Baba kept on smiling and got the show on the road.
Turns out harambe is not a spectator sport for parents. Not only is clapping and instrument playing a must, but so is singing. And dancing. And generally circling around the room. If I’m totally honest, I felt awkward because I didn’t know the words to many of the songs. Part of me also was totally on edge, as I was waiting for our kid to smash some other kid with a tambourine or something as I was in a conga line on the opposite side of the room. But I was rolling with it because watching this diverse group of kids get into the music–or not, as was the case for a few–was hilarious.
But it was totally fun and with the $7 donation, which is why I’m so planning on going again this weekend. And our kid loved it. I don’t think there was an instrument he didn’t have his paws on at some point and he only stopped jumping to pound on the keyboard from time to time.
However, I would be kidding myself if I didn’t say that at a certain point as I was walk-walk-jump-jump-running-running around the room with all the other parents that I wondered if any of my long-time friends would even recognize me anymore. I mean, I barely recognized my husband as the group headed into the so-called “welcome song.”
As the title might suggest, it’s a song where everyone is introduced. I can’t exactly remember the words, but I do know that there’s one part of the song where everyone claps and sings, “Welcome, so-and-so, welcome so-and-so,” and then there’s some line about that person becoming a new friend. There must’ve been 15 parents (at least in the room) and we did them all. Just when I thought the pain would stop, we did all the kids’ names, too.
But there was something both hilarious and heartwarming about this whole motley crew of parents, stomping around a room for the pure entertainment of their children. These people were probably lawyers and lobbyists, contractors and managers–true professional types–and yet they could’ve cared less about how cool, smart, or rich they looked at that point in time. Because the truth be told, we all looked like idiots. And it was awesome.