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UniverSoul Circus

UniverSoul Circus SJ Dodgson MJoTA 2015 v9n2 p1028

If I could do a back flip, I would run off with the circus. Absolutely. A troup of 300 hardworking athletes and animal lovers who bring with them outside vendors of light-up ears, lazer swords, roses, popcorn, and thousands of eager children, and adults who really, really want to run away with the circus.

The last time I went to a circus was the summer I moved to New Jersey with a husband (who did not last) and 2 little boys, who grew up to be very serious men. Barnum and Ringling set up a large tent in Haddonfield. I remember mostly the excitement and delight of my small sons, because circuses exist to tell us that all things are possible, we can fly through the air, squeeze under fire, balance on each other, and zebras will give each other cuddles.  

I first met Lydia Syed in September, during the monthly meeting of the Mayor's Commission on African Affairs. Lydia's job does not require back flips, but does require her to love the circus. Which is the easy part.  Who does not love the circus?

Lydia moved to Philadelphia to smooth the way for the arrival of the UniverSoul Circus, and came to meet the members of the Philadelphia Mayor's Commission on African and Caribbean Affairs, which, as part of its September meeting, toured Bartram Gardens, Philadelphia's glorious working urban farm. At the annual Philadelphia Labor Day parade after-show, she was there on the stage at Penn's Landing, inviting all to the circus. And also at the October meeting of the Mayor's Commission in Philadelphia City Hall Caucus Room, and at the Malian, Eritrean and Ethiopian festival on Saturday Oct 17 in Clark Park in West Philadelphia, at 43rd and Baltimore.

Lydia works hard, and on the first Saturday the circus was here, when I came to the circus the first time, she looked tired. The next day, the first Sunday, I saw her again and she looked refreshed and revived: Lydia loves her job and she loves the circus. She told me she started off doing radio advertising in Savannah, Georgia, and she kept asking the circus to come to Savannah! And then she ran away with the circus, and goes to cities to help smooth the way for the circus to arrive, set up, and make little kids and adults want to run away with it.
Above, radio announcer welcomes Philadelphia to the circus! Sitting behind her is Lydia Syed, grinning widely. Lydia loves the circus.

Below, member of Philadelphia's African communities and publisher of Fun Times magazine, Eric Nzeribe, welcoming the African and Caribbean communities to the circus.

Delores Mohammed was sitting in the audience, she offered to buy popcorn for the children (10?) that Youma Bah (Kilimandjaro Restaurant) brought. Mrs Mohammed is part of the triumvirate that runs with Mayor's Commission on African and Caribbean Affairs with Councilwoman Blackwell and Stan Straughter, who welcomed the audience on Saturday at noon, before an Ethiopian dance troop by local young ladies.

Then we all sat back, watched the Ringmaster and his sidekick, and had a magical few hours.
Below, member of Philadelphia African community with his son. They arrived early for the 3rd show on Sunday, watching kids ride an elephant, listening to music, absorbing the energy of the circus, which hit me the minute I walked through the entrance.
UniverSoul Circus

Mann Center, 5201 Parkside Drive, Philadelphia. Oct 22 - Nov 15, 2015

Metrolina Expo Fairgrounds, Charlotte
Nov 18 - Nov 29, 2015

Ethiopia click here
Human rights click here
Music click here

Below is a poor-quality picture, usually I immediately delete anything out of focus. My Canon ran out of memory, and I took this with my Nikon, which does not have a zoom lens and does not do well in available light. Apologies.

The picture shows the finale, after the ringmaster made every child stand up and take the Ringmaster pledge, which is about knowing you are worthy of living, and your life matters. Amen.

The finale started with a woman in a red gown dancing over 3 young men lying on the ground, grieving over them, with a chorus of young women supporting her. We realized that one young man was Trayvon Martin, who was shot dead after buying a snack by a psycho who was looking for trouble click here, one was Eric Garner who told police as they murdered him that he could not breathe, the third was Michael Brown who put his hands up and sparked a movement "Hands up, don't shoot" when police shot him dead anyway.

The finale neatly tied up the whole circus: you can do anything with love and hard work, even get elephants to gambol happily like puppies. You must never do anything dangerous unless you have figured out how to do it safely. You must never stop working towards overthrowing the ingrained institutional racism in these the United States of America. Amen.

Collect as many kids as you can, or as many adults, and go to the circus. Just show up with USD21 and you can get a ticket. Kids cost less, and they have all kinds of discounts if you go online or show up with your AARP or veterans card. 

Disclosure: I am not paid in any way by the circus, and will not be. I did get in free on Sunday Oct 25, 2015, so I could take these pictures. I hope you enjoy them, the posted videos, and go to the circus when it comes to town, for their site click here.

I am practicing back flips. So far, I can push myself off the ground when I lie down. Baby steps.