Ds Scholarship

Personality: Amanda Loraine Lynch | Richmond Free Press

Amanda Lauren Lynch helps make a difference in the stage and the streets with ballet.

The May 2020 killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police helped bolster efforts started by her daughter Ava Holloway and three other teen ballerinas, Kennedy George, Sophia Chambliss, and Shania Gordon, to address racial and social inequalities by creating the Brown Ballerina for Change.

Ms. Lynch serves as chair of the board of directors for an organization committed to using ballet to promote activism and social justice and increase diversity in the arts. The organization offers annual scholarships, a mentor network and community programs to empower young dancers.

“The summer of 2020 provided a refreshing opportunity to explore the intersection between racial equality and the dance community here in the former capital of the Confederacy, and to reclaim a space, whether Ballet or Monument Avenue, once rooted in exclusionary practices,” said Ms. Lynch.

“We are living proof that art and dance are also an activity and that blacks and ballet can coexist and act.”

When news broke in June 2020 that Governor Ralph S. Northam had ordered the iconic statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to be removed from Monument Avenue, people celebrated at the memorial’s base, which has been tagged with all kinds of graffiti calling for racial justice and an end to police brutality. Ava and Kennedy, who were dance students at the Central Virginia Academy of Dance, wore ballet skirts and pointe shoes and danced at the memorial. The photo of Monday, captured by a news photographer, went viral, with celebrities posting and retweeting it, including Prima ballerina Misty Copeland, hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa and actress Reese Witherspoon.

The picture became a powerful symbol of strength and equal representation in all areas, including dance.

BBFC Dancers will perform on Thursday, December 30, at the annual Capital Kwanzaa Festival at the Greater Richmond Convention Center. The organization also plans to host a screening of the documentary “Black Ballerina” during Black History Month with an accompanying panel discussion.

As Chair of the Board of Directors, Ms. Lynch’s role is supportive and educational. It strives to keep the BBFC financially sound and sustainable by reaching out for grants and fundraising, and by ensuring that its mission and programs are supported by effective action.

“I always want to make sure that I empower the dancers, the staff and the board from a positive, emotional and healthy place,” says Ms Lynch. “Our CEOs and founders are teenagers, so I want to respect their living experience and talent, while encouraging them to remain humble, self-thinking, teachable, and committed to service leadership.”

Meet Change Agent, Social Justice Advocate, and This Week’s Personality: Amanda Lauren Lynch:

Volunteer position: Chairman of the Board of Directors of Brown Ballerina Company for Change.

Occupation: Training and Trauma Prevention Specialist with Greater Richmond SCAN; Children’s Book Author Malik Rethinking Resiliency; and mindfulness educator at the Innerwork Center.

date and place of birth: June 10 in Richmond.

Where do I live now? Richmond, but I grew up in Glen Allen.

education: Henrico High School; Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, Mary Baldwin College; and Post-Baccalaureate in Autism Spectrum Disorders from Virginia Commonwealth University.

family: Husband, Marcus, Kids, Amani, Ava, Violet, Hazel, Primrose. I would be remiss without also mentioning my parents, Sandra Peterson, Carl Davis (Caroline Edgell) and Bernard Peterson.

Brown ballerina shoes for a change are: A dancer-led organization whose goal is to use ballet to promote activism and social justice and increase diversity in the arts by providing annual scholarships, an mentorship network, and community programs to empower young dancers. BBFC believes that every brown ballerina is a change-maker, promoting ballet through advocacy and social justice and working to diversify the performing arts, with an emphasis on classical ballet.

The BBFC Ambassador Program is: For girls aged 7-18 who may not be able to participate in ballet due to various reasons (cost, proximity, etc.). We offer weekly, tuition-free dance lessons, workshops, and opportunities to engage in public policy and advocacy on social justice issues. So far, we have 16 ambassadors.

How Misty Copeland inspires the BBFC: Misty Copeland has spoken very candidly about her struggle just to get into ballet as a child. Mrs. Copeland was the first black ballerina that many of our girls were exposed to. Her story inspires them to believe that the sky is the limit and that any obstacle can be overcome. When the girls first went viral last year, she retweeted one of their photos shared by Marie Claire contributing editor Chloe Anghel. What a great way for our girls to be recognized and appreciated for their work by this ballet legend.

Strength of Visual Representation and BBFC: Having representation at every level of the profession (from student to teacher to professional performer) is integral to believing that you can do it.

The main obstacles encountered by black and brown ballerinas: Sometimes it is not possible to be “appropriate” in a cors de palais (skin tone, hair, body, etc.). Of course when everyone in the room is white, black dancers stand out and can feel isolated. We hope to bridge this gap by creating a support network for young black and brown ballerinas in our region through our Ambassadors Program. Sometimes it’s hard for others to understand that black and brown dancers deserve a seat at the table, in the boardroom, and a place on stage just because they’re here for work.

How to join Brown Ballerinas for change or support: Our website is www.brownballerinasforchange.com. Information about joining and giving can be found there.

A perfect day for me: An unstructured one, where I can spend time laughing with my son, watching Netflix with my oldest daughter or taking my little girls to the park. We rarely have time away from the dance studio, so when we have time to slow down, I cherish those moments.

What I’m learning about myself during the pandemic: I am learning to give myself a blessing. I don’t always focus on the moment in front of me because I am always looking forward to the next step. I’m in continuous planning mode. I’m learning to be more resilient and to find new ways to live and breathe in the moment.

Quote that inspires me: “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.” – William Shakespeare.

Friends describe me like this: Quiet storm.

At the top of my To Do list: Finding balance, taking breaks, and setting limits. I work a lot.

Best late night snack: Brie, fruits and crackers.

Best thing my parents ever taught me: Always being on the right side of a date, even when it’s not famous, no matter the cost.

The person who affected me the most: I revered my grandparents, Reverend John E. Gordon, Violet Gordon, and Paula Davis. They taught me to be community, to trust God’s calling for my life and to give myself grace when I need to.

The book that influenced me the most: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston and My Grandparents’ Wild Dreams for me and my eldest daughter Ava Holloway.

What I’m reading now: I’m currently re-reading “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros.

Next goal: To slow down and learn to enjoy every moment as it comes.

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