Embrace the cultural beat at Balboa Park

by Sydnee Brooker

Antonio Zaragoza / Photo Editor
Antonio Zaragoza / Photo Editor

Heading north on Park Boulevard just past Inspiration Point, visitors will come to an establishment that honorably supports Balboa Park’s reputation as a landscape of art and culture. The World Beat Culture

Center is home to music and knowledge with a mantra of self-determination and an ultimate goal to raise awareness of African and indigenous world cultures.

Makeda Dread Cheatom, the founder and executive director of the WBC, claims its biggest contribution to the community is “uniting all of the races together in one place through music, art and culture.” The WBC offers classes in meditation, drumming, dancing, African studies and more to people of all walks of life. Classes including African Dance Workout, African Djembe Drumming and Tribal-Style Belly Dance are offered on a weekly basis for $12 a class for non-members.

The WBC has made vast contributions to the health and vitality of San Diego residents. Through the Ethnobotanical Garden program, WBC has planted gardens at local schools including Ocean Beach Elementary and Morse High School to inform youth about the importance of the earth and personal health.

Project Star gives support and shelter for women on parole. Love Your Body, Heal Yourself is a free bimonthly alternative health event offering instruction for yoga and meditation along with music and massage. WBC even opens its doors to those from out of the country through its media arts internship. International foreign exchange students are provided room, board and education in English and communication studies, while learning how to run their own radio programs.

The actual WBC building supports the health of the globe by being the first Balboa Park building to convert to solar energy. Its latest on-site project is a vertical garden. Pots are stacked on top of one another allowing water to drip down through all of the plants. This gardening style only uses 20 percent of the water needed for a typical garden of that size, and according to Cheatom, is the gardening of the future.

This center carries its music and health much farther than Balboa Park. Recently, it has been working in Tijuana to raise awareness about the African presence in Mexico, and for the past seven years has extended the Annual Tribute to the Reggae Legends, also known as Bob Marley Day, to Ensenada and Tijuana. Cheatom called this event “a sound meeting of international stars celebrating and coming together.” This year will be the 30th annual Bob Marley Day, and it will take place on Feb. 21 at the

San Diego Sports Arena. World famous artists such as Bunny Wailer and Tribal Seeds will be performing.

During a Skype interview, Cheatom disclosed more about her own views and the beliefs of the organization.

“Everything in the universe is interconnected, and we’re trying to build together a rainbow of power,” she said. “It’s the uniting of all indigenous people in this world, of all people suffering, even rich people (that will) alleviate (pain). We still have to struggle for all of our freedoms and we need to come together as a rainbow tribe.  Once (people) apologize and look deeply within and gain compassion, they will find the key to opening their hearts. People will begin to see things, see suffering and see that they do not need a lot to live. A lot in the world has happened because of greed, and we as a giant can turn this thing around.”

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