ELLA 2017: My Reflection

It has been a couple of weeks since I attended the 3rd Edition of ELLA African Rhythms Affair in New Orleans, Louisiana. The event was organized by women to benefit and empower other women within the Kizomba, Semba, and African Rhythms industry.

As I reflected about my experience, I thought that it would be great to share my point of view with individuals who are or may be interested in learning about the culture and industry. I have attended similar events in the past, but not one organized for women specifically. For me, the event provided a suitable environment for those who value this unique industry I like to call the “Kizomba World”. The setting, in which it took place, encouraged an open and comfortable platform to learn, laugh, and inquire about the different styles of dance and the history behind each of them.

Dance + Inspiration + Empowerment = ELLA

The event sounded intriguing to me from the beginning and I am glad that I decided to attend with Denise, my older sister and one of my travel buddies. It was sort of a last minute decision, but definitely worth every effort.

So, here it goes…

I arrived on Friday, October 6th, checked-in at the hotel, slept for a bit, and then got dressed to attend the first social. The agenda included a reception to welcome all attendees, various workshops, and open discussions to address current issues and concerns within the “Kizomba World”.

The workshops included dance styles such as Kizomba, Semba, Afro House, and Kuduro. As I learned from the different women instructors, I realized the need for such events, where women instructors are showcased. Before attending this event, I was not aware of the incredible influence that women have in this industry. I may sound a bit biased, but I vouch for a stronger presence of women within the industry.

Manuela Marsal Cabitango‘s knowledge about Kuduro and Afro House was quite interesting. As she conducted her workshop, she discussed the history behind each style. Her workshop became more than just the physical act of dancing. I felt more connected to an already existing love for the culture. I have included one of her demonstrations below.

Efy Afro-ginga‘s unique style opened my eyes to my own roots. It was inspiring to see her teach and encourage us to try the different steps, which were quite difficult. She made sure that she provided individual attention so, we could all participate and contribute to the class. It was quite refreshing to move my body in ways I never thought possible. As I sat outside one of the ballrooms in between workshops, I heard her play a very familiar song on her cell phone. As we conversed after I identified the singer, I realized how much she appreciates and enjoys what she does. She is from Guiné-Bissau and that hits close to home to me as a Cabo Verdean woman. You may watch one of her demonstrations below.

Vanessa’s energy was unreal. Her positive energy during her workshops reminded me of why I decided to attend ELLA this year. She exudes happiness as she dances and connects with the audience.

J Lyn’s style was fierce and kept me engaged during her workshops. I was excited to learn that she teaches in New York, which is close to me. I look forward to joining one of her workshops in the near future. In addition to learning dance moves from her, I had the opportunity to discuss prominent social issues while we were outside of one of the ballrooms.

Zilda’s unique style was quite impressive. I enjoyed her workshops as well as discussing her background. It was also a great opportunity for me to practice the Portuguese language as we interacted between workshops. She and Vanessa are featured below as they performed for the attendees.

I have attended workshops led by Chalianna in the past and I appreciate her expertise with Kizomba and Semba. My experience was different this time. I felt more connected to the dance movements and had the opportunity to ask specific questions. The environment felt more relaxed. She wore many “hats” throughout the weekend, which I find quite impressive. She was an organizer, an instructor, and moderator during our discussions.

It was amazing to meet and learn from all of the instructors who showed anything short of excitement and love for the culture.

Upon finishing the last workshop, the organizers and instructors decided that it would be a good idea to have an open discussion. As we sat on the floor (photo below), it became apparent that most of us in attendance were dealing with similar issues within the industry. It was inspiring to see how we learned from each other.

It is imperative to take time to learn about the different aspects of the culture in order to add value to needed conversations and the industry in general. I had the opportunity to make new friends and connect with old ones. It was also a great opportunity to explore the beautiful city of New Orleans, which I had heard so much about.

The workshops and discussions allowed me to appreciate the culture and inspired me to learn more about it. I am grateful to have reconnected with individuals I met at previous events and for the new friendships. It is essential to connect with other women so, we can appreciate and empower one another. It was important for me to be there with women from different backgrounds.

I came home with a sense of accomplishment and, of course, with unique pieces of jewelry and headpieces thanks to vendors such as HIMBA sacs et chaussures en wax, Ginga Pura Clothing, and Banga Society.

It is important for me to thank Chaliana, Carla, and Prazeres, and all involved in organizing such an amazing platform to inspire and empower women such as myself, who love to dance and learn about this incredible industry.

#Music #Dance #Kizomba #Tarraxinha #Semba #Ella2017 #NOLA #ELLA2018 #Inspiration #Empowerment #AfroRhythms #Kuduro #AfroHouse

Education, Leadership, Philanthropy

It’s Our Anniversary! Our Children, Our Future, Inc.’s 10th Year!

It’s Our Anniversary!

Well…not quite the kind that first comes to mind but, a very important one to me and the other members of Our Children, Our Future, Inc. (O.C.O.F., Inc.)


As we reach this incredible milestone (10 years of providing assistance to underprivileged children in the Cabo Verde Islands), I cannot help but contemplate about our journey. The journey has included laughs, cries, challenges, excitement, and much more. It has been a very rewarding experience to lead such an amazing and important organization.

It all began on April 28, 2006. Well, actually the idea came to mind when I took my first trip back home at the age of 15. So, let me back up a little bit. I was born in the island of São Vicente, Cabo Verde and immigrated to the United States of America at the age of 12 to live with my dad, my stepmom, and my sisters. My older sister accompanied me on the trip from the Cabo Verde Islands. My mom and family members on my mom’s side stayed behind.

I had a pretty amazing childhood in the Cabo Verde Islands, one that I will treasure forever. My memories consist of sitting on the porch of our home with my grandmother while she told us vivid stories about her childhood, playing outside with my friends, walking to and from school, and enjoying festivities throughout the year. At first, living in the United States of America was not pleasant…I felt out of place. I soon realized that it is a place full of opportunities where one can make his or her dreams come true with hard work, commitment, and persistence. I began to love and appreciate my new life and all that it offered to me and my family.

At the age of 15, I returned home to visit my mom. There was one incident that stuck with me, which contributed to the foundation of Our Children, Our Future, Inc. While walking in the city of Mindelo in the island of Sao Vicente with one of my aunts, I noticed that there where children sleeping outside and using newspapers as blankets. I was very concerned about their well being as it was getting late. I asked my aunt why the kids were not going home. She said that they did not have homes to go to. That was the moment that I realized what was really going on in the Cabo Verde Islands and decided to assist underprivileged children.

The desire to help the underprivileged children in the Cabo Verde Islands was enhanced during a mission trip with the Cabo Verdean Student Association at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, MA. After that trip, my main goal was to start an organization that would benefit underprivileged children in my homeland. I always think that I could have been one of those children, that my daughter could have been one of those children. That is why I am always motivated to do what I do.

Our mission is to provide food, clothing, school supplies, and toys to the disadvantaged youth of the Cabo Verde Islands. We have provided these goods, donated and purchased through fundraising, to many schools and youth programs since our incorporation, and helped hundreds of children. Our affiliate organizations are located in most of the islands. There are 8 active organizations in the islands of Brava, Boa Vista, Fogo, Sal, Santiago, and São Vicente. Our objective is to include all the islands.

One of the most incredible highlights throughout this journey is the recognition by the Cabo Verdean Government in 2015. As the founder and president of the organization, it was quite an honor to meet the Prime Minister at that time and receive the prestigious medal.

As our Vice-President and Events Manager, Denise, and Treasurer, KyQuan, welcomed our guests during our 10th Annual Fundraiser/Celebration, I felt proud and overjoyed for being present to celebrate such an important milestone for our organization. I felt honored and excited that each individual at the Whitman VFW 697 decided to join us that night. I felt much appreciation for each of them. I saw new faces and most importantly, very familiar faces. It showed me that those who have been supporting our mission have enjoyed and appreciated our journey as much as we have.

It was such a pleasure to stand before everyone as we celebrated our organization and our culture while raising funds for our children in the Cabo Verde Islands. I was thrilled to have my daughter with me to experience it all. As I watched her take part in all the aspects of the event (dancing, speaking on the microphone, taking pictures, talking to guests, etc.), I became more certain about my decision to establish our organization. She told me that morning that she was excited to attend the event and asked if she was considered a member of O.C.O.F., Inc.


As members of our organization discussed our programs, I felt proud as we have been able to establish four programs, which include: Education for Our Children, Child Sponsorship Program , Community Outreach, and Cultural Exchange.

Our Child sponsorship Program is our latest and the most active program at the moment. All details are available here:

O.C.O.F. Inc. achieves its mission by conducting monthly meetings, traveling to the Cabo Verde Islands to assess specific needs of affiliate organizations, attending conferences and workshops about nonprofit management, organizing shipments of donated items to the Cabo Verde Islands, initiating drives to solicit donations (i.e.: Back to School Drive; Toy Drive, etc.), sponsoring an annual fundraising dinner, managing current programs, collaborating with local organizations, and more.

We recruited our first organization, “Centro De Recuperacao Nutricional”, in 2008 and slowly added more organizations. To date, we have assisted 11 organizations (nonprofit organizations and public schools) and we have 8 active organizations dispersed throughout the islands.

It goes without saying that behind a great leader lies a great team of dedicated individuals. Our team has “worked” tirelessly and selflessly to assist underprivileged children in the Cabo Verde Islands. This journey would not have been the same without each and every single of them. The picture below reflects only half of the members of the organization, who were able to attend the fundraiser/celebration. I am excited for what the future holds for our organization.

Our message to all is that a simple act of kindness can go a long way in making a difference in someone’s life. We believe that Our Children are Our Future as they will become future leaders in our communities.

Our 7th mission trip is scheduled for April of 2018, our next “Bidon” Session is scheduled for October 14, 2017, and Toy Drive scheduled for December of 2017.


#ocof #ocofinc #ocof4life #education #caboverde #capeverde


Why the New Journey?

After a very busy holiday weekend with my family, I decided to work on my blog for a bit. As I was working on one of my drafts, my five-year-old daughter came closer, hugged me, and said: “Diva’s Journey…ooooh… how is that going, mommy?”

As I explained my blog to my daughter, I could not help but notice how her eyes lit up with excitement. My goal as a mom is to always nurture her curiosity with positivity and encouragement. It was quite refreshing to talk to her about my new journey and the different topics I plan to discuss. She was particularly interested in knowing if she would be featured in any of my future blog posts.

Continue reading “Why the New Journey?”


“My Heart Beats Dance”

My heart does…and will always beat dance!

As I prepare to continue this journey as a blogger, I thought that discussing my latest adventure would be ideal.  I enjoy traveling and dancing so, I am very excited that my most recent adventure incorporated the two.

With that said, I just returned from yet another amazing trip to Miami, Florida as I attended the Miami Beach Kizomba Festival 2017.  I am eager to share my experience, which is very close to my heart…I say this as a Cape Verdean woman and a Kizomba Lover.

The festival has become a remarkable event, which has gained much popularity within the Kizomba circle…both in the U.S.A. and overseas.  As the preparations for and the anticipation of the festival began, most of the attendees, in particular the “usual suspects”, spent months making sure that they were ready for what was to come.  Not to sound vain, but part of the process included “hitting the gym” to get in shape to acquiring the ideal wardrobe for each event on the anticipated schedule.  All for the love of dance and all that comes with it.

As I engaged in conversations with many attendees before, during, and after the event, the themed parties seemed to be a significant aspect of the schedule.  Such emphasis sent many individuals on the hunt for the perfect dress or suit or for the most unique swimwear or jewelry piece!  It is quite amazing and I am just like everyone else.  It has become truly a “production”, to say the least, as we all prepare for the event!


As I joined the group in Miami, Florida for the fourth year in a row, I was eager to make new friends and learn new “dance moves”.  After all, most of us join the event to expand our social networks while attending dance workshops, enjoying the nightly events, and the beach.

For me, each year has provided its own unique experience and perspective.  This year was no exception.  Five days of dance workshops, live performances, which featured Nelson Freitas this year, multiple pool parties, and more!  Five days where it does not matter if one is a beginner or a “pro” on the dance floor.  We are all there for the same reasons…we laugh, we learn, and we bond with one another.  We embrace the culture and become one entity! The love and energy displayed by the many Kizomba Lovers is inspiring!


The platform provided during the festival is an opportunity to explore new connections, both personally and professionally.  The festival is truly a wonderful experience for those who engage fully and appreciate all of the aspects of it.  It goes without saying that it is an experience like no other.  The ongoing activities are bound to leave one inspired and energized! I say, kudos to the Cedgy team for pulling off such a great experience to the rest of us…year after year.

Here is a link, if you are interested in the body jewelry shown below. I used it during the second pool party at the event:

#divasjourney #divasjourneyblog #miami #mbkf #mbkf2017 #travel #dance #kizomba #semba #batuque #afrohouse #friendship #love #family #sun #beach #nelsonfreitas #fun