Art Activism Spotlight
by Maya H.
Stellar Scholar. Mental Health Advocator. Passionate Dancer.
As a rising junior at Spelman College, Armani Singh has made her mark. Doubling majoring in psychology and dance, Ms. Singh has dedicated her time to schoolwork and serving the community in which she lives. Being born and raised in Southwest, Atlanta, Armani witnessed the obstacles African Americans face and overcome daily, with mental wellness being one. After graduating from an Atlanta Public School (APS), North Atlanta High School, she completed her four-year dance company and pursued dance at Spelman College. She is using her platform to give back to APS through the Mental Movement Project. This project aims to “bring awareness to mental health through the artistic expression of dance.” She wants to incorporate this program into the school system from which she graduated and beyond. I received the dearest opportunity to interview Armani. In this interview, I asked Ms. Singh what inspired her to promote and commence her vision of dance and mental health.
1. When did you first know that you wanted to pursue dance as more than just a hobby?
As an incoming freshman at Spelman College, I knew psychology would be my major because I was in love with mental health. I loved learning about mental health, such as the minds and behaviors of people. Then, I took a dance course at Spelman. Dance has always been my passion since the age of three. The modern dance course was only an elective, but I realized “this is different.” The fact that I was dancing at the #1 HBCU (Historically Black College and Universities) and an all-women college opened my eyes to how black women should amplify space in the world in which we live. We should not only do so because we are serving leaders but because we are influential people beyond measure. That dance class challenged me as an African American woman to want to do more with psychology and do more for my people in the dance field.
2. What inspired you to start the Mental Movement Project?
Taking modern dance at Spelman College made me want to major in dance to get a degree out of something I was genuinely passionate about. I wanted to fulfill my passion, along with something that could serve as a career path. I knew I wanted to double major, so I went for it. Majoring in dance and psychology is challenging because I defied against "traditional" majors. It is not every day you find a psychologist who loves to dance, but I knew I could make something of it that would serve those around me. Therefore, I thought about the Mental Movement Project. The program's goal was to use dance as an outlet or healing process for mental issues and "BOOM, that's how the Mental Movement Project came about."
3. What accomplishments have you made that best seek the needs of the community?
I have a passion for mental and physical health. It is essential to take care of our bodies, mind, heart, and our soul. African American communities overlook mental health; therefore, our biggest obstacle as a race is being able to cope or understand what we’re experiencing emotionally. What pushed me to make this project an accomplishment is simply because “I want to do better for my black community.” I want people in my community to feel like they have options to get help or treatment in unique ways, just like there are ways in other communities. I want African American people to feel afforded the same opportunities to take care of their mental and physical wellness, similar to our counterparts.
4. Do you use any other tools to help your participants cope, and if so, what part of your project do you feel impacts the youth the most? (Maybe outside of dancing)
Outside of dancing, I am a mentor. I mentor children because once upon a time, I was them. That was me searching for someone to look up to or someone who could inspire me to do better. There was so much in the world to accomplish, but I didn’t know how to get there. As a mentor, my job is to show my mentees how to conquer their dreams through the right path. I feel like the tool I have to help my participants cope is my wisdom from past experiences. My mentorship means having a bond and an authentic relationship with people that allow others to know that I am here for them, and I’m with them for a reason. I tell them, “God use me as a vessel to help better you as a person.” Therefore, if they need me as a sister, friend, or “therapist,” mentorship is a way I can be there for them to cope outside of dancing.
5. How does one know when it is time for them to focus on their mental health through therapeutic sessions (whether that be through dance, exercise, or a physician)?
Any slight change of anxiety or uncertainty can result in needing to wake up and focus on their mental health. When you’re noticing a difference in sleep patterns or eating habits (sleeping/ eating too much or too little), that is an indicator that your mental health may be in jeopardy. These are small but critical factors that something may be off, and you should check-in with yourself. Pay close attention to yourself and your routine. These tips should help you when it is time to understand that you need to come to self-realization and check yourself (not just physically but mentally).
6. Do you plan on expanding the Mental Movement Project, and if so, how will you do so while in the global pandemic?
I realized that going back to school during this pandemic will be a significant challenge for many youths' mental health. Unfortunately, the world can't stop, and education must go on because knowledge is power. Therefore, I wanted to give students at public schools the opportunity to add this to their curriculum. Not leaving the faculty and staff out, there is also a portion for them. Teachers can pull up the project on the website and Instagram page to look at some breathing and dance exercises to allow their minds and spirits to be intact before class or end the day. I want to initiate this project into the school system, and I believe that this will be an excellent start for the upcoming return from this global pandemic.
My takeaway from Armani Singh’s interview is to stay true to your passion, and when the time comes, there will be an opportunity to showcase your talents to benefit everyone around you. Thank you Armani for your amazing contribution to the Atlanta Public School community and other communities you will impact in the future. Please tune in to The Mental Movement Project on Mondays and Wednesdays at 5 pm on the Instagram page @mentalmovementdance for virtual mental movement.
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