Deborah D. Ahmed
Ms. Ahmed took the needs and vision of Better Family Life, and with her creative genius, transformed a former school building into the institution we now call the Better Family Life Cultural, Educational and Business Center, a 60,000 square foot facility that is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Ms. Ahmed has more than 26 years of work in the performing arts and non-profit arts management. She has developed expertise in program design, implementation and evaluation; management and personnel; proposal writing; oversight of large scale projects; budget development and oversight, fundraising, capital campaign development and management; volunteer coordination, issues of cultural diversity, public speaking, and writing. She is the Founding Artistic Director of Rhythms in Anoa Dance Theatre that she started in 1983, an ensemble dedicated to the highest artistic quality in its expression of various performing art forms.
DeBorah served on the faculty of Washington University in St. Louis as an instructor of West Afrikan dance for 10 years. She focuses her 45-year background in dance in the area of Africentric aesthetics, specializing in the cultures, dance and music of that area of West Afrika formerly known as the Empire of Mali. In 1992 Ms. Ahmed was personally selected by Ms. Katherine Dunham as the sole apprentice for the Dunham Centers, in order to be trained as an instructor of Dunham Technique, a very prestigious honor.
In 1987, she conceived and now produces “BLACK DANCE – USA: A Celebration in Movement,” an annual multi-day national dance festival that celebrates dance and music forms of Afrika and the Afrikan Diaspora. This is one of the oldest consecutively running national dance festivals of its kind in the United States. DeBorah has performed with and has been a choreographer for the St. Louis Black Repertory’s Dance Company and Afriky Lolo Afrikan Dance Company; a performer with St. Louis’ Cossan African Dance Company, Chicago’s Muntu Dance Theatre, New York’s Forces of Nature Dance Company, the Izulu Dance Theatre and A Touch of Folklore and More.
DeBorah has hosted and produced her own radio talk show programs, is listed in the University of Missouri at Columbia’s Missouri Cultural Heritage Center’s 1988 “Directory of Missouri’s Folklore Specialists,” and the Smithsonian Institution’s 1990 publication of the “Directory of African American Folklorists.” A chapter was devoted to her in Sonja and Karen Foss’ 1991 book, “Women Speak.”
A leader with multiple talents, DeBorah designs one-of-a-kind jewelry, which she sells under the name “Designs by DeBorah: Jewelry for the Spirit.”
She has traveled to several countries in Afrika and Western Europe; to Mexico, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Panama, Bolivia, Peru, and extensively throughout the United States. She completed her first children’s novella entitled “Dancin’ in Chocolate Heaven,” published in 1999, and wrote the “Urban Rhythms Study Guide” in 2003, a supplemental learning tool for “Urban Rhythms,” the Afrikan cultural arts education program sponsored by Better Family Life, Inc.. DeBorah also wrote, produced, and published a song entitled “Celebration” in 1998, in honor of KWANZAA, an international Afrikan American cultural holiday.
DeBorah received her Masters of Science in Policy Analysis from Southern Illinois University in 1989, and a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Grinnell College in 1977.
She has been married to Malik Ahmed, Founder and CEO of Better Family Life, for 33 years. They have one son, Shabazz, and are the proud grandparents of two beautiful girls and one boy: Aliyah, Aniyah and Amir. One of her philosophies is “We must constantly seek ways to bring the power within without, and grow in the knowledge of what we discover.”
- Culture is the self-conscious means by which people create, celebrate, and introduce themselves to history and humanity.
- Artistic expression can impact, and is a reflection of, personal identity, self and group empowerment, and quality of life
- Cultural participation helps people articulate important aspects of themselves and their communities, thus encouraging attitudes, values, and social ties that underpin a well functioning society.
The Cultural Arts Department sponsors two annual events: “BLACK DANCE – USA: A Celebration in Movement” and Kwanzaa Holiday Expo.