Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’ dance to be performed for good cause

The Channels Opinion Pages | Guest Column

GRACE STANLEY, Guest Columnist

At 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, hundreds of Zombies will rise from the lawn of Santa Barbara’s stunning Courthouse Sunken Gardens to perform Michael Jackson’s iconic “Thriller” dance. They’ll be dancing simultaneously with groups all over the world as part of a global event, “Thrill the World.” This will be the seventh year that the World Dance for Humanity organization is hosting the experience, which will include flash mobs all over town leading up to Halloween.

The organization is a local nonprofit that is working with 8,400 genocide survivors in 25 rural Rwandan cooperatives – providing livestock, student scholarships, training, and support to help each community create a sustainable business.

This year’s “Thriller” goal is to raise $40,000 for the organization’s Rwanda Education Fund, which sends 150 young people to school from impoverished families throughout Rwanda who would otherwise have no chance to get an education. A portion of the funds will also provide Membership Scholarships for the Santa Barbara Westside Boys and Girls Club.

The SBCC Ambassadors have partnered with World Dance for Humanity by sponsoring one of those students, a young Rwandan man named Valens. He is a 23-year-old from the Kungabu Cooperative in southwest Rwanda, near Lake Kivu. His mother died when he was an infant, and his father died in a refugee camp in the Congo (DRC) in 1997. For three consecutive years, the Ambassadors have worked hard to raise the funds needed to support Valens through high school and into college. This year, the club raised money for Valens through their annual beach volleyball tournament held at West Beach on Sept. 30. He is now in his second year at Kibogora Polytechnic University in Rwanda, studying economics and Management. When he graduates, he will help manage his community’s Tilapia fish farm, which is creating a sustainable livelihood for the cooperative, and setting an example for communities throughout Rwanda.

World Dance for Humanity offers six “Thriller” practices a week throughout October. Everyone is invited to join – and students are free! The Ambassadors will also host Thriller practices and flash mobs on the City College campus – contact them to get involved! For more information on Thriller visit: http://worlddanceforhumanity.org/thriller-2017/.