Meet the man helping Black boys to dance proudly

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A dancer is hoping to erase the stigma he faced, with his new children’s book, “Black Boys Dance Too.”

Josef grew up dancing in Oakland, California and said his passion for moving to music resulted in bullying and hurtful comments. He remembers thinking it was already hard enough to be a Black man in America and dance would be one more barrier to fitting in with others.

“I would have girls say to me, like, you’re a dancer, my mom said that that’s gay. Or, so, you dance too well to be a boy,” said Josef, 33, who worked with Beyonce on her “Homecoming” concert and other celebrities.

The book tells the story of a boy named Darnell who enters a talent show but isn’t being accepted by his friends. The story shows the importance of loving the gifts you are born with and fighting bullies. One of Josef’s goals is to combat the stereotypes associated around Black dancers.

“When we see … things that are outside of the stereotype of what is masculine and feminine, anything that isn’t quote unquote masculine, what men do, then it’s already just in the feminine category,” he said.

“And I think that that is what’s really made it hard for young Black men to say, OK, yes, I will put on these tights or I’m going to do. It’s almost funny to me because it’s like football, baseball, you guys wear tights.”

The positive responses have overwhelmed Josef.

“I was speaking from my experience, but not realizing that there are millions of people, even older men, who told me that they danced when they were younger,” said Josef. “But due to how society was at that age, they went into other fields and they kind of gave up something that they actually loved.”

Josef’s many hopes for the book include having it distributed in schools, turning it into an animated short, and simply starting a needed conversation.

“I’m hoping that this starts to spark something, to see the need that this is what a lot of kids want. A lot of kids love to dance. A lot of people love to dance. Honestly, you cannot hear music and not move in. If you can, you’re just weird,” he said with a smile.

Reporting by Alicia Powell in New York and Rollo Ross in Los Angeles; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Richard Chang

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