The Disruptive Power of Why – Celebrating the birthday of a world changer

Some time ago I wrote a post about the power of “why”. Such a small word, yet it carries such a punch. Why causes us to have to pause, to go deeper, to insist on understanding, and to validate that we know what we are talking about. The focus for today’s post is not so much the word, but rather a person who embodies the power of “why”… Imani Tahira Hopkins.

Today Imani celebrates the standard milestone, another birthday. I could (and of course, I will) congratulate her for making it to another year, but knowing her, this is not even a thing she is focused on (oh, she will celebrate, for sure, but that’s just cuz she loves a good party 🙂 ). Thinking back on her life, it has been filled with why’s. I remember being in line at a fast food place, when she asked me why the man next to us had his hair like he did (all power spikes in a Mohawk). She used to drive teachers crazy because she wouldn’t just accept what they had to say – she would question them openly, and have the knowledge and data to back up her challenge (she was raised well). When she was presented with the status quo for dance, and the fact that she didn’t fit the norm – she wasn’t the lithe, petite graceful dancer that everyone was swooning over – she was a strong athletic (yet graceful) African American young lady – she allowed her “why” to transform the dance community around her, creating Tahira The Pure Dance Theatre and driving innovative methods into the schools in the area.

These days of 140 character communication, of bandwagon relationships, and of having to fit in in order to get likes, asking “why” is dangerous. If I ask why you believe the way you do, I am unfriended. If I ask why you think this is important, I am branded a traitor. As a society, we no longer want meaningful dialogue. We want to make our statement, get those to agree with us or get out of our way, and repeat this so we can feel good and comfortable about our thoughts, our positions, and our lives.

Why disrupts all of that. Why says, “why shouldn’t I, as a black woman have a heart for China before I have a heart for Africa?” Imani said that, and backed it up with trip after trip to a land not her own, but one that she made her own to make friends and show them her heart. Why says, “why shouldn’t I give my students a voice and platform to be independent and pursue life unhindered?” Another Imani thing, releasing on the  world a sea of strong, powerful, intelligent and independent women and men who aren’t afraid to buck the trends. Why says, “Why do I have to only be a citizen of one nation? Why can’t I be a citizen of the world, and have the world as my home?” Imani is more at home on a plane going to learn a new culture than she is in the land of her birth.

I could go on about how she has invaded countries, changed cultures, created curricula, influenced leaders and bombarded heaven with so many forms of worship that the angels have a hard time keeping up. Her grandmother used to make maps for a living, and Imani lives to navigate them all… all because she is unafraid to ask why.

So here’s to you, my bohemian, hippie, empath, child of God daughter. Here’s to never being fearless, but always finding reason and cause to find what is greater than fear, and to pursue the world and nothing less – for that is both what you deserve, and what you are destined for.

Want to know more about this young woman? Check out her own site:

A couple of my favorite performances:


Lake Oswego, OR, USA

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