Since the age of 23, Ms. Shorty has been working in the African Diaspora dance program. When the previous leader, Naomi Washington, retired in 2019, Ms. Shorty became even more involved with the class, finding it important to hold onto the culture Washington built. This year, however, Ms. Shorty decided to switch jobs, and is now working in OCI.
“It’s so much bigger than dance. Life is not dance, dance is life. We still move, we still breathe to a rhythm and if we can get the students here, the teachers here, the staff here to understand that part to make it all come together. That’s what I’m here for,” said Ms. Shorty.
Now, Ms. Shorty specializes in welfare and attendance for students in OCI. “It’s about getting you on track, making you understand that being inside the classroom is most important,” said Ms. Shorty. She believes coming to class should be the number one priority for students.
Ms. Shorty is trying to prevent misconceptions about the purpose and use of OCI. She believes OCI is a space not just for students to go when they are in trouble, but rather when they need help. “OCI is not just a space for when you get in trouble it’s also a space to get some advice. It’s also a space to work out a problem, find a solution. It’s also a space to get a snack. It’s also a space to give pound, get a hug, words of encouragement. Whatever you need is what this space is also for,” said Ms. Shorty.
“Ms. Shorty has a very warm personality and (has) really helped (making) people excited about dancing and want to put in the work,” said freshman Lola Lelchuk.
Lelchuk ended up taking the class because she heard a lot of good things about the African Diaspora dance program at Berkeley High. “Everybody who’s there really wants to be there, (and) it’s really fun to learn because it’s things that most people haven’t done,” Lelchuk said about her experiences taking the class.
Freshman Amiya Boone and her classmates, who are in first period Afro-Haitian dance, feel Ms. Shorty’s loss, but they’re happy for her as well. “I think we’re all really sad that she’s leaving because she’s a great role model and we all love her, but we do like the position that she’s in now because she can help us academically. So, she’s still involved with us,” said Boone.
Because she’s been dancing for a while, Boone finds her experience is something she can use to support others; she finds joy in helping other students in her class learn the dances. “African dance can be really hard. The moves are really hard, and like it can be a struggle for some people who’ve never danced before,” Boone explained. She describes the best part of the class as the unity between students, and the community they’ve built in class.
Although the change felt sudden, students in the African Diaspora Dance program are happy that Ms. Shorty has the platform to reach more students than she did teaching the dance class. They find her new job to be a great opportunity for her to do the work she is passionate about, helping students. “We’re sad that she’s gone, we miss her and want her back, but the position she is in is really good for her and we love that she feels comfortable in her position,” said Boone.
Correction: The original article stated that Ms Shorty was the head of the class. This was incorrect, and the Jacket apologizes for any confusion it may have caused.