Luz F. Solis-Ramos Safeguards The Garifuna Language, Music and Dance in New York City

Luz F. Solis-Ramos Safeguards The Garifuna Language, Music and Dance in New York City

By José Francisco Ávila
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As we continue the celebration Garifuna Arts & Culture Appreciation in New York City, I am proud to present Luz F. Solis-Ramos whose mission is to teach and preserve the Garifuna Arts and Culture. She has contributed to the Safeguarding of the Garifuna Language, Music and Dancein New York City with a view to confronting the erosion of the Garifuna culture in the heart of modern day communities.

Luz F. Soliz-Ramos has been a performing artist and dancer her whole life. Her specialty is the history of the Garifuna people and the practice of Garifuna language, music and dance.  Her illustrious career spans over three decades in dance, theater, academia and Garifuna Language preservation and author of the book Learn Garifuna Now! Aneasy to read book featuring vocabulary, and phrases to help you learn basic conversational skills in Garifuna

According to the 2015 Center for an Urban Future’s Creative New York report, “Many immigrant artists sustain and promote unique and deeply rooted cultural traditions. Leading practitioners of Garifuna music and dance reside in the Bronx,” Luz F. Soliz-Ramos is definitely an elite member of the select group.

Luzis the founder of the Garifuna Heritage Center for The Arts and Culture Inc. She’s also the Artistic Director and Choreographer for  Hamalali Wayunagu “voices of the ancestors” Garifuna Folkloric and Modern Dance Company. Hamalali Wayunagu’s mission is to reach out to the world and educate as many youngsters as possible in order to maintain a continuous practice of the Garifuna tradition through the art of dancing, singing and drumming.  The goal is to preserve the richness of the culture and maintain its purity. The company is known for its unique and innovative choreographies. The company has been rebranded as   Wabafu “Our Power” Garifuna Dance Theater.

The concept of thrivingis drawn from evolutionary biology, in which a successful adaptation enables a living system to take the best from its history into the future. Over the past 30 years, Luz has achieved the very difficult task of transitioning her cultural group to the Garifuna-American generation represented by her daughter Catherine Ochún Solis-Rey, as well as other Garifuna youth, while the experienced members continue to serve as teachers, singers and mentors. As a result it is the longest lasting Garifuna dance company in New York City and I will venture say the United States!  Only the Ballet Nacional Foklorico Garifuna de Honduras has a longer history.

The Company has always aimed to expose, share and teach audiences about the Garifuna Culture, Heritage and History through music, dance and drama.   They have a diverse repertoire of dances and have dazzled audiences over the course of their twenty plus years of existence, including the Bronx Music Heritage Center,   “Dance Africa” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the New York City Council Chambers, HostosCenter for the Arts & Culture and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture among others.

Just like other iconic choreographers, Luz has paved the way for many Garifuna performing artists’ careers as demonstrated by the many dancers in other local Garifuna Cultural groups who were trained and got their start with her company. She continues to add to the present and future of dance as demonstrated by the formation of the  Anyana Yankunu Dance Group by one of her protégés and active member of her dance company. Another one of her protégés, created the  GarifunaRobics Dance Class- Your Garifuna Style workout. Her cross-cultural activism led her to host workshops for dancers and non-dancers alike, classes include, traditional Garifuna dance, songs, music, and history, as well as Garifuna language classes.

The UNESCO Action Plan for the Safeguarding of the Garifuna Language, Music and Dance, focuses mainly in the preservation of the Garifuna language through language revitalization, lexical expansion programs and the promotion of teaching, learning and practicing. In 2017, Luz Soliz-Ramos published her first book entitled Learn Garifuna Now! She became motivated to create when she realized that a great number of Garifuna people, especially the youngsters are not speaking their language. The book and its accompanying audio version were created with a fun and easy to follow approach. This will help beginners, intermediate speakers, and all people who want to jumpstart their ability to speak the Garifuna language in real, every day conversations.

Luz is a well-rounded Art professional, being trilingual (Garifuna/Spanish/English) has allowed her to serve as an independent court interpreter in the New York State Unified Court System. She is highly sought to serve as hostess or Mistress of Ceremony at various events in the Garifuna Community. Luz was recently honored at the 8th “Abrazo Garifuna Banquet in New York,”   and was presented proclamations  from Councilmember Rev. Rubén Díaz, New York  State Senator Luis Sepulveda, Assemblymen Marcos Crespo, Victor Pichardo and City Council Member Rafael Salamanca, as a distinguished member of the Garifuna community and her outstanding achievements. She served as the hostess of the long running Centro America TV show, cablecast by Bronxnet TV and was the producer of the 1998 Garifuna World Music Award. Luz is a founding member of the Garifuna Coalition USA, Inc.

Luz F. Soliz-Ramos was born in Trujillo Colon, Honduras. At the age of 15 she migrated to the United States to join her parents. After graduating from James Monroe High School, she attended Bard College where she obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Dance with a minor in Drama. She continued her education by obtaining a Master’s Degree in Dance Education from Teachers College, Columbia University. Afterwards, She went on to teach in the New York City public schools.  Currently, she is a full time faculty Facilitator and Adjunct Professor at Boricua College located in New York City.

Luz F. Solis-Ramos has contributed to Safeguarding of the Garifuna Language, Music and Dancein New York City with a view to confronting the erosion of the Garifuna culture in the heart of modern day communities. Her illustrious career spans over three decades in dance, theater, academia and Garifuna Language preservation.

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