Christened Dixie-Ann Joseph, but popularly known in cultural circles as Shakeela, she’s a composer, performer, community activist, teacher and mentor. Nurtured in the bowels of Point Fortin, Shakeela founded Back-Ah-Yard Youth Development Group in 2006 and has inspired and mentored scores of young people thus far.
Because of the negative impact on performing artistes and creatives for two years stemming from the pandemic, they were unable to practice their skill or earn a living, but not Shakeela and Back-Ah-Yard. They persevered and have emerged even stronger.
Back-Ah-Yard continues to strive, bolstered by five projects administered by Shakeela. It’s Poetry in the Classroom project targets primary and secondary school students in Point Fortin, Port-of-Spain, Grenada and Jamaica. This project is now expanded to the classroom, community and online.
The Sip & Paint Project, a youth advocacy initiative, is particularly popular with young children and teens.
Shakeela is flanked by Freetown Collective’s Muhammad Muwakil, left, and Lou Lyons.
Another thriving project is the Regional and International Youth Exchange. Connecting with young people in Germany, Jamaica and Grenada, Shakeela has been successful in connecting young people across the seas culturally. She said the exchange with the youth of Berlin, Germany has been particularly strong, as well as the connection between Back-Ah-Yard and the Tivoli Drummers Movement of Jamaica.
The Poetry Meets Steelpan Project was launched on July 9, in Point Fortin. It featured the young poets of Back-Ah-Yard and the youth pannists of Silver Harps Youth Steel Orchestra.
Shakeela said the 2022 Back-Ah-Yard August Vacation Camp will be up and running on August 15-31. It will climax with an Independence celebration.
Shakeela and Back-Ah-Yard also hosts a platform for young artists to grow and springboard on the first Sunday of every month. At this forum, the young creatives can meet and mingle with star creatives like SuperBlue and Muhammad Muwakil and Lou Lyons of Freetown Collective.
As with almost every creative, Shakeela welcomes any assistance that can be rendered by the state and corporate world, especially enterprises based in Point Fortin.
Founder and director of Back-Ah-Yard, Shakeela (Dixie-Ann Joseph)
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