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A Legacy Grounded in History

The Founders
Pictured (l to r): The Founders: Cindy Young (Current Artistic Director) Tania Archer, Velmalia Matthews, and Jamillah Warner

The Rhythm & Roots Performance Company was born out of the work Cindy Young performed at the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center. For six years she was the Activities Coordinator there, planning events and organizing the everyday activities that went on. Black History Month was one of the fullest months to plan for. In the Fall of 1994 students decided they wanted to do something different for BHM and went to Cindy with ideas of a BHM Kick –Off performance. After much thought and consideration, Young agreed to assist the students in any way she could, especially in light of her years of performance experience.

Young and the students spent many hours planning for the event which they eventually called Just Kickin’ It. Being true to themselves with the variety of talent that surfaced that year, the title of the show was perfect! It was evident that there was fun to be had by all (including Young) who actually performed with the students that year. They truly “kicked it” as they danced, recited original poetry and sang songs that lifted the spirits of many.

Just Kickin’ It, debuted in Sarratt Cinema on February 1, 1995 to a packed house! To the surprise of Young and the student participants, they received a standing ovation and cheers for more! Needless to say, the Vanderbilt community received just what they asked for. This one time BHM event snowballed into one of the biggest events of the year. What started as a fun way to let off some steam, meet new people and tap into our creative side, turned into a program that has spanned 13 years on campus and has touched the lives of many students, staff, faculty and community members who attend the performances every year without fail! It has produced students that graduate and go on to further their education in town, but come back to participate in Rhythm & Roots productions because to them, “there’s nothing like being a part of the R&R family.”

Rhythm & Roots Performance Company does not just “perform” for the sake of performing. They perform with the expectation that lives are going to be changed and burdens lifted from those who attend. Tackling subject matters that haunt our society, such as domestic violence, the war, homelessness, Hurricane Katrina, AIDS, racial reconciliation and more, the group’s main objective is to bring awareness to these topics using performance art. To build bridges on campus by incorporating other student organizations on campus, but not stopping there, but merging students from other campuses and community members!

We are proud of what we have been able to accomplish through this organization and look forward to planting many more seeds of change in the coming years!

The Founders
Rhythm & Roots performs on Channel 5 television show, Talk of the Town. February 1996