Nonprofit eyes a ‘Village of Peace’ | AspenTimes.com

Nonprofit eyes a ‘Village of Peace’

John Colson
The Aspen Times
Aspen CO, COlorado

Courtesy photoMembers of the ADE dance troupe perform tradition African dance and music.

ASPEN ” A relatively new and unknown nonprofit organization, which calls itself “Inside OUT Africa,” will hold a fundraising benefit in Carbondale later this month to help a popular dance troupe in Africa build a “Village of Peace,” among other projects.

The benefit, according to its founder, Rochelle Norwood of Carbondale, will take place at the gymnasium from 4-10 p.m. at Bridges High School (the old Carbondale Middle School building) on Sept. 21.

Inside OUT Africa was founded in 2006 while Norwood was attending California State University at Chico in art education studies. As part of her studies, she went to Ghana, an independent nation on the western coast of Africa formerly known as Gold Coast, for a study year abroad.

During her year in Ghana, Norwood told an interviewer for the Chico State newspaper, “The Orion,” a friend who “recognized Norwood’s passion for dancing” introduced her to the Africana dance group and she began dancing with them and getting to know all about them.

Entranced with Africa and with the ADE, Norwood returned to the U.S. and, before long, had purchased cameras and other equipment for a return to Ghana to film the group. What resulted is a 10-minute documentary that she has already shown at fund-raisers in California and plans to show at the Carbondale event.

Her organization came to the Roaring Fork Valley with her when she moved here last January from California.

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Norwood, who grew up in a town called Lotus, California, said she came to Aspen to visit a friend and stayed because she liked the area.

“Actually, it was the art in Carbondale that amazed me,” she said. “This is just a great place to have this project.”

Describing the project, she said, “Our goal is to help Africana get on its own feet financially, as well as bringing them here,” Norwood explained. Her organization has not yet been certified as a formal non-profit by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, and is operating as a “grantee” of another non-profit in the Aspen area, Wildize Foundation (www.wildize.org).

Wildize, according to its director, Ellie Weiss, is a wildlife conservation and community development organization also with ties to Africa, founded in 2000. She told the Aspen times that she agreed to act as the conduit for Inside OUT Africa until Norwood can arrange for 501(c)(3) status for the organization.

Norwood said she plans to apply for 501(c)(3) status when she returns from her next trip to Africa, but for now anyone wishing to make a tax-deductible contribution to her cause must do so through Wildize.

Norwood said she has raised “about $5,000” so far, at two benefits in California where attendees were treated to African-style food, artworks made by the dancers in Ghana and a little African-style dancing.

Of the money she has raised so far, Norwood said $2,000 of it was spent in 2007 to help the dance troupe start a small, partly open-air restaurant near their dance studio, as a way of supporting itself. Another $1,500 went to pay part of the costs of a three-day funeral celebration of one of the dancers who died unexpectedly, and the other $1,500 has gone toward buying art pieces made by the dance troupe members that Norwood has been selling at the fund-raising events.

“I have never used the money that we’ve raised for me, for my plane tickets,” she said, explaining that all the proceeds from the benefits “go right back to them (the ADE).”

She explained that in October she will be returning to Ghana for a three-month stay

As for the Africana group, Norwood said it is a popular troupe in Ghana, founded in 1991 in Accra, the capital city of Ghana.

According to the ADE’s website, at http://www.africanadancecompany.com, the group performs at a variety of occasions including weddings, funerals, naming ceremonies and other events.

Norwood is hoping ultimately to raise as much as $50,000, she told the interviewer for The Orion, at least some of which is to go toward construction of the Village of Peace, which she described as a “vision” that the dance group has been working on since it was founded.

The village, she said in the story in The Orion, is to be “a sustainable arts community that includes an orphanage and a school, and emphasizes respect toward elders and organic and sustainable agriculture.”

jcolson@aspentimes.com

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