Insight News

Feb 12th

Kenna Cottman: An example of African-American excellence

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kaliyah bland ashiantae braxton and decarlos loveWE WIN Institute's students learned about great African-American heroines of the past such as Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth and of the present such as Josie Johnson and Kenna Cottman.

WE WIN children have been studying the accomplishments of African-American women leaders in Minnesota. They created posters and life-sized mannequins of Cottman. They also learned that Cottman is an extraordinary mother, teacher, dancer, and drummer. She has a tremendous love for her community and for her people. It is exhibited by her teaching throughout Minnesota, through her leadership and participation in Juneteenth festivities. Cottman has also created various programs such as African Nights, where she brings dancers from the African world together to demonstrate their skills. Ms. Kenna, as children fondly call her, is a dance educator who teaches about the history of African people through art, culture, movement and song. She is a Black American Griot, following in the oral tradition of storytelling through art. Fourth and 5th grade students at WE WIN Institute wrote about the accomplishments of Kenna Cottman.

kenna cottmanKenna Cottman, teacher extraordinaire

By Kaliyah Bland, Deja Miller, Ashiantae Braxton and DeCarlos Love
Ms. Kenna Cottman is our chosen leader. She comes from a very artistic family that supports her. Ms. Cottman is an African-American dancer, teacher, kick boxer and organizer. She has done great work all over West Africa and has been involved in teaching dancing and organizing in the Minneapolis area for over 20 years; doing multiple activities as well as programs.

Ms. Cottman's family contributed greatly to her love for dance. At a young age, she was inspired by several family members. Her mother, Ms. Beverly Cottman, started teaching Ms. Kenna her first dance steps at the age of 5. Her mother is a storyteller. Ms. Beverly's stage name is "Auntie Beverly." Her father, Bill Cottman, inspired Ms. Kenna through his work as a photographer.

After much work and studying under people such as Cauleen Caliman, Ms. Kenna began teaching various classes at many places. She taught African dance at our very own, WE WIN Institute. She also taught kickboxing at the YMCA, she taught hip-hop dance class at North Community High School, and she taught dance classes at Franklin Middle School. Ms. Kenna also taught all over the state of Minnesota, Utah, and California. She traveled to Africa over five times on a mission to learn and to teach.

Ghana, Senegal and the Gambia are all places in Africa where Ms. Kenna has traveled. She has trained with a number of artists including, William Atchouellou and Heriette Gboli. Ms. Kenna is a member of the Baato Askan Wii Drum and Dance in the Gambia, West Africa. Today, Ms. Kenna is the founder, artistic director of Voices of Culture Drum and Dance. Since 2008, her company has created and performed drum and dance as well as studied West African drum and dance throughout Minnesota.

kenna posterMs. Kenna Cottman is an African-American dance teacher who has traveled and done great work around the world. She has been inspired by many, and she has inspired many, making an impact on various schools and programs.

Ms. Kenna is a great dancer and a very nice person. She is a motivation to all of us. She inspires us to dance and give our best. Even though we are not professional dancers, she is a great African-American teacher and leader.

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