COMPTON, Calif. — In 2021, there were 400 homicides reported in Los Angeles — the most of any year since 2007. An organization in Compton is aiming to be the change they want to see through dance.
What You Need To Know
- Divas of Compton is aiming to be the change they want to see through dance
- Dancing has helped Kiara Staggers navigate a pandemic, especially after father was nearly killed after he was shot five times just months ago
- Kiara said Divas of Compton was her one constant, and her dance leadership program was there to pick her back up
- Her mom, Shendonna Mclaine, said she is grateful the dance team was formed to keep the young girls on the right path as gun violence hits a 15-year high in LA
Dancing is all Kiara Staggers wants to do, and she even runs eight counts while watching television. She is not just dancing for fun anymore, but there are big stages she will be performing on soon.
"We are practicing for the Super Bowl today," she said. "It actually helps me."
Dancing helps the 15-year-old navigate a pandemic, which is hard enough as it is, but when her father was nearly killed after he was shot five times just months ago, she hit rock bottom. Her dance leadership program was there to pick her back up.
Kiara said Divas of Compton was her one constant.
"All I thought about when I was going through tough times was Divas and it helped me push through because I knew I had my Divas sisters," she explained.
Her mom, Shendonna Mclaine, said she is grateful the dance team was formed to keep young girls on the right path as gun violence hits a 15-year high in LA.
"I get emotional because I'm like, 'They're not out here doing the bad things,'" Mclaine said through tears. "They're trying to do something positive."
As they grabbed a quick bite before practice, Mclaine said her fiancé, Kiara's dad, barely survived the shooting that she still cannot make sense of.
She said the 50-year-old works with kids and never once was affiliated with any gangs, but he became one of 1,400 people who survived a shooting in LA in 2021.
"Hopefully this ends with this generation," Mclaine said. "That everybody will realize there's other stuff out there and they don't have to pick up a gun to solve their problems."
Hoping instead for more positive outlets like the Divas of Compton, the director, Kehli Berry, said she started the organization that has now grown to 80 girls ages 2 to 22. The organization allows them to dance, cheer and model, choose colleges, learn public speaking skills, and become a leader.
"We try to make sure that they have confidence, self-esteem, cooperation and collaboration skills, but most importantly they know how to assert themselves and advocate for themselves," Berry said.
The idea was born after Berry found a similar sisterhood while attending Clark University. She returned home and decided she would be the change she wanted to see in Compton.
"To make sure there's extracurricular activities that's going on for them that can keep them from being a victim of the streets," Berry said.
For Kiara, it has already been life-changing. She was just named captain and Diva of the Year.
"That means a lot to me because, after everything I have been through I still got Diva of the Year," Kiara said.
The Divas of Compton were also recently quarter-finalists on "America's Got Talent," but this group runs largely on donations. To learn more, visit: 1shineyouth.com.