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Makini Niliwambieni interview, 2018-05-21

Identifier: dcpl_dcohc010

Scope and Contents

Makini Niliwambieni a.k.a. Mama Makini reflects on her life and what brought her to dedicate decades to performing, choreographing, and teaching African styles of dance. She talks about growing-up in Trenton, NJ, where she was exposed to “Black Arts” coming out of the Civil Rights Movement. She first started attending African Dance classes as part of the African People’s Action School, which was closely related to the socialist All African People Revolutionary Party founded by Kwame NKrumah of Ghana. She speaks about her children and how they enjoyed dance to various degrees. She says her youngest daughter could remember dance moves better than her. She also speaks about her first impressions of Washington, D.C. and how she liked the slower pace of D.C. compared to the New York / Trenton Area. Mama Makini talks about why she likes to choreograph and work with young people. She also discusses how she got into religion, particularly sanatoria, and why she thinks it is important for African-Americans to get a sense of identity from Africa.


  • Creation: 2018-05-21


Biographical / Historical

Makini Niliwambieni a.k.a. Mama Makin grew up in Trenton, NJ, where she began to study and perform African styles of dance as part of a revival in interests in African cultures that grew alongside the civil rights movement. In 1989 she moved to Washington, D.C., where she continues to choreograph, teach, and perform African styles of dance.


From the Collection: 1.13 Terabytes

Language of Materials


Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001