Jean Perry Writes
Capoeira instructor Ahmed Simmons moved to Brazil six days after 9-11. He’d visited there before, invited by famed martial arts teacher Edna Lima, the first female to achieve the title of mestre in the Capoeira system and a Shotokan karate black belt. Capoeira is a fighting system developed by African slaves in Brazil, who hid their combat moves under acrobatic forms.
“My heart moved to Brazil on the date of that tragedy,” he recalled, “and “I physically moved to Bahia/ Salvador state, in Morro de Sao Paulo city, six days later. My goal was to establish a school to help homeless street children. ”
He founded Guerreiros Da Luz to teach martial arts, music and various academics to poor kids, particularly the homeless, abandoned ones who live on the street. In addition to homeless youth, he recruited a few parents most of whom had no money to send their children to more established Capoeira schools, and held classes wherever he could for six to thirteen year olds.
Growing up in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Housing Projects, Simmons is no stranger to poverty and is well aware of the struggle boys and girls have in the America. But the U. S. offers far more programs and services to children and teens than those living in Morro de Sao Paulo. Years later, his dream to help children there is still under construction.
Although he studied and ranked in the school of highly esteemed Mestre Boneco, who founded Capoeira Brasil, at 5557 W. Washington Blvd in Los Angeles, life in Brazil had unforeseen challenges.
To read more about Guerreiros Da Luz go to:http://www. gdluz.webs.com
To visit Simmons’ fundraising video go to:http://igg.me/at/feijao/x/154545
To learn about capoeira in Northeast LA: go to www.capoeirebrasil.com and click on Community at the top of the page.
You’ll see an excellent video about Jessica Carla de Lima-Moran and Sean Anthony Moran’s work with youth and families there.
He didn’t speak Portuguese, wasn’t connected to the influential Mestres, and knew little about that community’s politics. He’s wiser now.
“I lacked two essentials, he says of his experience, “ knowledge of administration and knowledge of funding.
“I’d worked in non- profits but that wasn’t enough. I didn’t have the hands on experience of administering day to day.”
Realizing that answers are often closer than we think, Simmons suggested I talk with a capoeira teacher who does in LA, what he hopes to do in Brazil.
Capoeira Professora Jessica Carla de Lima Moran, AKA “Pavao,” is a capoeirista who, with her husband, Professor Sean Anthony Moran, AKA “Chegado,” runs both Capoeira Brasil Los Angeles and its offshoot, Capoeira Brasil Northeast LA. “Before you embark on any dream you have to
have done the research. There are a lot of different organizations, California Endowment, and The Foundation Center, for example, that present workshops and seminars.
“Once you have some background knowledge, you need to get boots on the ground. Start your project right where you are, in your community. Open your program, or some aspect of it, so you’ll have something to show when you want to fundraise. People who fund want to see an up and running program.”
“Working or volunteering with an organization isn’t specific enough. If you’re answering phones and what you really want is to learn administration, ask to shadow an administrator. If its grant writing or corporate funding, go shadow the person who does that.” In New York now, Simmons plans to return to Brazil in December. “I’m still close to my group of parents and students and I’m preparing to raise funds for a documentary about the work I do with them.” Believing that struggles are a part of attaining a goal, he maintains his love for Brazil and its people. “Going there,” he smiles, “is always a rewarding experience for me”. Brazilians, especially those in Morro de Sao Paulo, treat me like family.” Plus, he now speaks fluent Portuguese.