Lifestyle

Up with People Bermuda turns 50

  • Up with People perform on the steps of City Hall while on a visit to Bermuda in 2016 (Photograph supplied)
  • Bermuda’s Janeasha West, standing fifth left, with Up with People in Mexico in 2011 (Photograph supplied)
  • Bermudian Yasmin DeGraff, far right, did some community work while travelling with Up with People last year

(Photograph supplied)
  • Bermudian Yasmin DeGraff, right, did some community work while travelling with Up with People last year

(Photograph supplied)
  • Bermuda’s 2018 Up with People representatives Kayla Halbig, left, Nasya Joell, Alys Webber, Yasmin DeGraff and Angelis Hunt

(Photograph supplied) 
  • Up with People at CedarBridge Academy during a 2016 visit 

(Photograph supplied)
  • DelMonte Davis was the first Bermudian to travel with Up with People in 1969. He is pictured here on tour with the group in Italy

(Photograph supplied)
  • See the world: Bermudians Tariq Brown, Rakaya Simmons, Johnae Tucker, Shannon Dill and Nari Smith travel with Up with People in 2016
  • Bermudians Tishae Davis and Janaesha West at a culture fair in the Netherlands

(Photograph supplied)
  • Bermudian Tishae Davis travelled with Up with People in 2011

(Photograph supplied)
  • First brave soul: DelMonte Davis joined the group in 1969

The celebration was decades in the making: 50 years since Bermuda became part of Up with People.

DelMonte Davis was the first brave soul. Recruited while studying in Abilene, Texas, his travels with the educational performance group began on January 23, 1969.

Up with People Bermuda alumni honoured his adventurous spirit during a “social media celebration” on that date last month.

“By him travelling with Up with Peopler, it paved the way for Bermudians,” said Janaesha West, the Bermuda alumni president and a recruiter for the organisation.

“The first cast visited Bermuda soon after and since then Up with People has visited nine times. Over 100 Bermudians have travelled with the group.”

Five people from Bermuda are now on tour with the group: Angelis Hunt, Alys Webber, Quinn Outerbridge, Nicole Pedro and Makayla Latham. A sixth person, Nasya Joell, is on staff.

Bermuda was one of 22 countries represented when Ms West toured with Up with People in 2011 for six months.

She believes many Bermudians do not join because they think they have to be great singers or dancers.

“That’s not the case,” she said. “Some people want to travel, to give back and learn about different cultures. Performing is a big part — music unites us all — but there are also other aspects you can get involved in.

“I focused more on culture immersion, educational components and community service. I performed, but that’s not why I went. I went more for the travel and community service.”

The 26-year-old became interested in giving back while she was a student at Elliot Primary School. Before she knew it, she was helping with “different community events, anything to benefit my community”.

“Me and my brothers were always there to be helpful if we heard of a person or organisation that needed help,” she said.

Her first public performances were as a student of United Dance Productions; in 2008, she started Graffiti Dance Group with help from her aunt, Sharon Young.

“We were 13 and she was in charge of finances, of sorting out all the costumes for my friends and I,” she said. “I choreographed with my cousin, Jalesa Young, and friends Kameron and Kioshi.”

Up with People visited Bermuda the following year. Staff member Brandon Serna saw Graffiti perform and invited them to watch the travelling show. It was enough to pique Ms West’s interest.

“I interviewed with Up with People and got accepted two months later.

“To participate, you had to have graduated from high school. I actually deferred a semester. I was supposed to go in July 2010 but went in January 2011. It gave me time to mentally prepare myself for leaving my family for six months and do the fundraising for it.”

The trip took her to America, the Caribbean, Mexico and Europe. She believes the experience she shared with the cast of 111 helped her mature.

“Living in Bermuda, we’re so small in size but big in ambition. Going off and seeing different lifestyles and cultures, being exposed to things I wouldn’t be exposed to in Bermuda changed me and made me appreciate my culture, my island and everything its people stand for.

“People always say it’s boring in Bermuda, there’s nothing to do in Bermuda, but when you get out there and see other people who are so proud of where they live it makes you think.”

As she talked about all Bermuda had to offer — the beaches, the Ag Show, fishcakes and hot cross buns — she felt her pride in the island grow.

Once the trip was over, she joined the Department of Youth Sport & Recreation as a community worker but Up with People stayed with her. After a reunion in Tucson, Arizona, three years ago she decided to get involved in a more formal way.

“I had been recruiting on my own but in 2017 a recruitment officer, Beyah Rasool, came to Bermuda and guided me and gave me tips on how to engage and promote Up with People.

“When we recruit, I go by myself or with another alum and get people pumped up about Up with People, give them information on it.”

The 50th anniversary celebrations highlighted “Bermudians that travelled and DelMonte for paving the way”.

“We showed our pride — look at how far we have come. You had to either wear your name tag or something from when you travelled with Up With People, or post pictures.

“We put it out to international people as well so those who performed here could join in.”

The posts included those of a group that walked the End to End in their show costumes in 1999; a meeting with Baroness Pamela Sharples, widow of Sir Richard, in 1973, the same year the governor was murdered; a performance at Casemates, the former Dockyard prison, also in 1973.

The best thing about Up with People is that “they don’t discriminate”, Ms West said.

“People come from any background; as long as you have a passion to learn more about the world and want to make a difference.”

Learn about Up with People at upwithpeople.org. Contact Janaesha West on jwest@upwithpeople.org or uwpbaa@gmail.com