Early this week I learned that Melvin Deal, joined the ancestors. My heart pounded many months ago when I read on social media that he had COVID. Deal was the founder of the African Heritage Dancers and Drummers. He emerged from the Black Arts Movement and immersed himself in the spirit of the drum, the dance of the African continent and embodied his African ancestry 365 days of the year. He was serious and demanding in that way that American Idol contestants would have seen as bullying. There was a saying about his studio: “You don’t just sweat. You are sweat.” But you knew if you 1/2 stepped with the drum, with your movement, you were not giving the ancestors or the culture the respect, honor, and gratitude they deserved.
One of my proudest moments was to record Deal giving praise to Maya Angelou at Howard University for their annual Hearts Day event organized by then English professor and chair Eleanor Traylor. The video is part of the digital collections of Humanities DC. I was program director and producer of the public access programs when this was recorded. Rest in Power Melvin Deal. We honor you and the ancestors by giving more than our best.