Faybiene Miranda, known as “Mama Faybiene” to many in her community, is one of the founding faculty members at Ifetayo Cultural Arts Academy, serving the youth in her community for over 22 years. She has helped the organization grow from a series of free modern dance classes in Flatbush to six integrated programs that serve over 2,000 students in central Brooklyn. Faybiene’s unique, progressive methods have had a great deal to do with that growth, connecting with youth on a personal and sometimes spiritual level.
At a recent TEDxDUMBO conference, Faybiene outlined part of the philosophy that drives her commitment to helping youth in Flatbush. She spoke of the West African word mambu, which means “the creative and empowering force of words.” To Faybiene, the word “is there to remind us as educators, as parents, as artists of our accountability to the young minds that we encounter each and everyday; to be aware of the words we say and how we say them.” It’s clear that she takes these words to heart, using the power of poetry and art to inspire children and take them in important new directions. Faybiene has designed curricula, directed performing arts groups, and taught some of the first classes of Ifetayo’s signature Rites of Passage program in which youth are taken through several levels of social and emotional self-realization, enabling them to grow into healthy, independent, compassionate and self-confident men and women.
Faybiene has also been instrumental in spreading the influence of Ifetayo beyond the program site. She has helped to develop professional partnerships with over fifty community, educational and cultural organizations. She has shared her methods through numerous workshops designed to empower students’ creativity and self-image. And in 2004, Former State Senator Carl Andrews recognized Faybiene for her commitment to youth development throughout New York City. Perhaps most important of these recognitions, though, is that of her community. Youth and families familiar to Faybiene see her as a community elder, someone to emulate, respect and look to for guidance.