‘Rhythm Rushers’ promote culture through dance

There are many organizations on campus that promote understanding different cultures, but one in particular uses the art of music and dance to show different aspects of its customs.

The Bahamian Junkanoo Rhythm Rushers is a group of students who share its performances with hopes that its Florida A&M University peers will develop an appreciation for its Bahamian traditions.

The Rhythm Rushers began nearly 10 years ago with students from the Bahamas who came to FAMU and brought along its cultural dances.

Junkanoo is a historical Bahamian form of expression that uses music, art and dance as a means of communicating their culture.

“Dance has always been an integral part of human culture,” said France Hunter, author of the essay “Making Global Connections through Dance Film,” published in the Spring 2006 issue of the journal Reason & Respect. “Even before language we communicated through movements and gestures.”

Spectators at the 2006 Homecoming Parade expressed excitement as the Rhythm Rushers approached.

The crowd full of parents and children enjoyed the sounds of the cowbells, the choice musical item for the Rhythm Rushers and the trademark colorful costumes that members made themselves.

Bahamian students are not the only members of the Rhythm Rushers. The club is mostly made up of students from Caribbean Islands but also has American members.

Rachel Melson, a senior business administration student from Dayton, Ohio, said she feels that the camaraderie and love was as much fun as performing.

“I enjoy Rhythm Rushers because although we may not speak the same native language, when the drums and brass start playing, the only language you hear is the language of music and dance,” said Melson. “It binds us together.”

Rhythm Rushers uses dance to spread the word about the history of Bahamian Culture, but it also uses dance as a way for American students to participate. For the American students who are members of the Rhythm Rushers, being a part of the organization exposes them to a new culture that they may have otherwise never known about. The group has become a liaison for cultural exchange between U.S. and international students.

“As an American, I’ve come to appreciate the culture of my peers in the group. It was a wonderful experience and I look forward to being with the group in the future,” Melson said.

“Imagine what a great world we would enjoy as we continue to share culture to better understand the other person’s world, my world, your world, our world,” said Avis Simmonds, the Rhythm Rushers’ adviser.

The group’s next performance is slated to be in Tallahassee’s annual Festival of Lights in December.

For more information about Junkanoo culture, visit www.junkanoo.com, and for more information about FAMU’s Bahamian Junkanoo Rhythm Rushers call (850) 412-7087.