This year's fundraising event for

Rites of Change

was a fantastic sucess, raising $5, 300 to support a cultural program at the Bahia Street School for girls from impoverished families in Salvador, Brazil.

The Capoeira group, Grupo de Capoeira Senzala Seattle, is making waves not only with their dedication to the art, but to the culture from which it came. Capoeira arose amid the slaves brought from Africa to Brazil, both as a means of self-defence, and as a means of creating a common cultural reference within the multi-ethnic African slave community. Because Capoeira arose from and was traditionally practiced by the poorest and most marginalised people, the art form and its practitioners have suffered much persecution. Even today, many Capoeira Mestres (masters of Capoeira) in Brazil live in poverty, despite their enormous life-long contributions to Brazilian culture. Thus, when Senzala Seattle discovered that there was a Seattle-based non-profit organization, Bahia Street, dedicated to promoting social change in the very communities where Capoeira most thrives, they were enthusiastic to support and contribute.

For the second year in a row, Senzala Seattle has joined forces with Bahia Street to raise funds to support a Capoeira program at the Bahia Street School, in Salvador Brazil, that will benefit girls from the poorest neighbourhoods of Salvador. The fundraiser, "Rites of Change ", is performance event and silent auction featuring Brazilian music and dance, including of course Capoeira.   It was held from 7:00-11:00 pm on April 7 th at the Velocity Dance Center (915 East Pine St). Participants enjoyed an evening of high-quality Brazilian-themed performance, featuring Capoeira by Senzala Seattle and the live Brazilian grooves of Bem Brazil and Eduardo Mendonça . In addition, guests will be invited to peruse the impressive spread of artwork on offer, including contemporary sculpture, glass, paintings, photography, fine textiles, and jewellery. Gift certificates for dance, music and theatre performances, for performance and martial art class, for the healing arts, for fine restaurants, and much more are also on auction.

In 2006, Senzala Seattle hosted the first Rites of Change event. It was a tremendous success, attracting over 200 guests and raising over $5000 dollars for Bahia Street. This amount was sufficient to fund a Capoeira program for one full year for 10 girls. This year, the money raised from Rites of Change has allowed 50 girls to participate in the program, and a permanent instructor has been hired.

Bahia Street itself was founded in 1997 by Dr. Margaret Willson and her co-director in Brazil, Rita Conceição, to help break the cycle of poverty in Brazil by providing quality educational opportunities for economically-impoverished young women and girls.   It provides a well-rounded education to fifty girls, all of whom are Afro-Brazilian, as a supplement to their attendance at local public schools.   Girls spend at least four hours a day with Bahia Street where they receive instruction in all basic subjects, in health and reproduction, art, and leadership skills.   For many girls, the Bahia Street program represents the only place that they can eat a hot meal, take a shower, and receive positive encouragement from adult role models.   "Within the chaotic lives of these girls, the Bahia Street program provides a safe and nurturing home where girls can gain the knowledge and skills they need to rise out of poverty and become engaged in the political and professional life of their communities," notes Dr. Willson. Enabling low-income Afro-Brazilian girls to acquire knowledge, a sense of cultural identity, and increased self-esteem will give them the capacity to benefit and work towards improving the social and political rights of their fellow Brazilians.

In 2006, Dr. Willson visited Salvador and found that 4 of the girls from Bahia Street were already practicing Capoeira. Ms. Conceição assured her that she has seen progress both in the girls' self-esteem and their focus and dedication to their studies as a result of their involvement in Capoeira. However, Bahia Street did not have sufficient funds to pay for a permanent instructor, and the girls did not have enough money to purchase the clothing and shoes necessary for them to practice safely.

With the funds raised from Rites of Change, a Capoeira program was be implemented in April 2006 at the Bahia Street school and the girls were provided with uniforms and shoes. Ms Conceição has been thrilled with the results of this project. "Capoeira is teaching the girls leadership" she says, "and gives them both mental and physical strength, survival skills, and a wonderful appreciation of their African-Brazilian heritage.   It is an incredible complement to their academic studies." Senzala Seattle is committed to ensuring the continuation of this program, and to extending it to include a greater number of students.