“Ch-ch-tsss. Ch-ch-tsss.” On a chilly Wednesday morning, Baja Poindexter sounded out the steps of the rumba to a classroom of fifth-graders at West Athens Elementary School, located in one of Los Angeles’s most violent neighborhoods. She encouraged her class of mostly Latino students to do the same. They tenuously clasped each other’s hands in ballroom dance “frame,” or body position, and swayed to the music at “Miss Baja’s” command. “Side, together, to the lady! Side, together, to the gentleman!” she bellowed.
Toward the end of the hour, the students grew restless and squirmy, the volume of their chatter drowning out Poindexter’s voice. She paused. “You’ve got enough things against you in the outside world. When you come to school, it should be a safe space for you, but you have to make it that way by being respectful to each other.” MORE HERE