Image: JBC3PHOTO (Courtney Smith)

Former members of Alabama State University’s Stingettes dance team are using their talents to instill confidence and mold the future—one eight count at a time.

The Stingettes are a part of the school’s Mighty Marching Hornets band and have been entertaining Montgomery, Alabama since 1977. These dancers have been known to snatch edges and annihilate the competition, and now they’re taking their talents outside the stands to give young kids the opportunities they themselves may not have had.

Former Stingettes Courtney Smith, Sha’Diamond Mayfield, Teyawna Lawson, Chelsea Mitchell, Amber Prickett, Mishae Poteat and Ashley Harris are takinng time out of their busy schedules to help those who might not necessarily have the tools to achieve their dreams. These seven dancers recently laced up and dusted off their boots and traveled to Atlanta, Georgia to give young people there a “Simply Sensational” experience.

On January 26th, these dancers greeted 80+ smiling attendees ranging from 9-18 years old at Atlanta’s Carver High School. But what was supposed to be a fun-filled day of dance and personal development swiftly took a turn as the powers that be decided to implement rules that were not communicated to the organizers. On a cold winter’s day, a gymnasium filled with nearly a hundred girls were sent out into the harsh elements by officials. Citing miscommunication, the officials refused to let the children wait in the parking lot for their parents and showed little to no care for the safety of the young girls and boys attending the event.

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Given the unfortunate circumstances, the former Stingettes went into action, quickly devising a plan to make sure these children received the proper event that some traveled across state lines for. Saving the day, a new location was secured and the program went on as planned.

It was very important to each of these ladies to continue this event because they too know what it’s like to want something with all your heart. “When I teach dance, I let dancers know that I am no different from them,” Sha’Diamond told The Root. When she started her journey into dance she did not have a mentor. Now, after years of trial and error, she’s dedicating her time to make sure future generations have tools that unfortunately weren’t available to her.

Sha’Diamond began The Diamond Dynasty LLC in February 2018 with the overall intent of recreating the Black Wall Street through life coaching and venture capitalism. Through her LLC, she offers dancers various routines and shares tips on how to properly present yourself.

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Throughout the day, attendees were taught signature Stingette choreography. The moves held a special place in high school senior Jasmyn Charese’s heart. “The Stingettes have helped build my confidence and my social skills.” Jasmyn told The Root, adding that the event was one she would never forget and that the dancers’ precision has contributed to her own success as a dancer.

During her dance session, Alabama State University senior Chelsea Mitchell touched on the body shaming issues that plague the dance industry. Mitchell stated that no one wants to be the girl that has to pull the bigger sizes out of the box. She shared with The Root and attendees that she had to get to a point where she herself had to realize that there is nothing wrong with her curves; a realization that helped her accept herself the way she is. Mitchell also shared that she uses her talents to inspire other girls, telling the group that “she’s just a city girl from Montgomery, Alabama and if I can do it, so can you.”

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After the festivities, the girls had the opportunity to have a conversation with former Stingette captains Teyawna Lawson and Ashley Harris. “Always create a great image for yourself, because you never know who is watching,” Lawson told a room filled with eager listeners. Lawson stressed the importance of your image on social media platforms. She reminded the girls that we live in an unfair world were unfortunately books are judged by their covers. She reminded them to create a great image for themselves because their image transcends jobs across all platforms. Harris jumped in, affirming Lawson’s statements by reminding attendees that when they make a dance line or receive a new job, they represent an entity and not just themselves.

At the end of the chat, Harris took the girls to church, telling them to never be intimidated, but instead, be inspired. Both women shared that comparison is the thief of joy—comparing themselves to other dancers will only cripple their progress.

It is said that service is the price we pay for living. If that is truly the case, these former Stingettes will not be facing eviction anytime soon. These women have dedicated their lives to helping others and made it their mission to uplift the black community. Through the gift of dance, each of them have helped increase the confidence of countless children—and they’re just getting started!