Aziza

Recipient of the 2014 Compass Award

Aziza is a Harlem resident and long-time community activist, as well as a choreographer, performer and teacher whose work focuses on the development of community-based art. She majored in dance at the State University of New York at Purchase and went on to a stellar career in dance, theater, film and Broadway. Aziza’s took a hiatus from her performing arts career to answer her spiritual calling connecting her to Gurumayi Chidvilasananda where Aziza lived and worked in the Siddha Yoga Ashram in South Fallsburg, NY developing her spiritual practices for many years.

In 1994, Aziza founded Def Dance Jam Workshop (DDJW), a non-profit inter-generational performing arts troupe and academic program serving deaf, hearing, physically, mentally or developmentally challenged youths and their families. Def Dance Jam services include the DDJW Community Service Fellowship, the Sacred Circle Rites of Passage program-Reunification for families in crisis, DDJW/Summer Youth Employment, Harlem SNAP (Special Needs Awareness Program) among a range of arts, academic, counseling and advocacy services. Aziza expanded programming opening international satellite programs of DDJW sponsored by the American Embassy in Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and Italy serving the special Needs Community and creating bi-communal programs to bridge gaps of peace for countries in distress.

She is also the Founder and Executive Director of The Black Choreographers Project, Inc., an organization providing services to members of the dance community of color who are 50 years and older. She previously worked as Special Programs Director for New York’s famed Judson Memorial Church for seven years, where she received ongoing funding from Yoko Ono for her work addressing women and violence. She developed and led programs such as Safer Injection Kits Assembly Group; Al Anon support Groups for homeless women and their children; Sister to Sister – Single Mothers in recovery sponsoring Single Mothers fighting addictions.

Ordained as an Interfaith Minister in 2003, she considers herself an Arts Advocate and uses her creative talents to make a difference in her community. Aziza has received recognition widely including NYU’s Samuel and May Rudin Award for Community Service; PASEsetter Award; The Union Square Award; Mayors Office for Disability Citation; New Yorker of the Week by NY1 News; and Community Works’ Photo Exhibition, Harlem Women Making a Difference.

Aziza is a certified foster Mother for over 25 years, presently she volunteers with ACS as a Certified Community Representative providing services for biological guardians needing assistance with employment, substance abuse rehabilitation, parenting skills, and spiritual counseling.