The Culture Report: 30 years of Sankofa and Diddy tries the Bunkey Jr. Strut

Published 11/6/2022 6:00 a.m. EST, Updated 11/7/2022 10:11 a.m. EST

Every Sunday in this new weekly column, I’ll be running through some arts and culture-related things throughout the Baltimore/DMV area and, when it makes sense, some broader, non-local topics, too. Plus, every now and then I’ll provide some of my favorite tunes.

This week, we’ll be getting into a new exhibit at downtown Baltimore’s historical museum, The Peale, and a hip-hop mogul who made a splash on the internet by trying out an already-viral Baltimore dance.

Celebrating over 30 years of Baltimore’s Sankofa Dance Theater

A little over a week ago, the historic Peale museum in unveiled its newest show, “The Sankofa Experience.” It’s a beautiful three-room show that serves as a tribute to the 30-plus-year history of Baltimore’s Sankofa Dance Theater, which has traveled near and far to preserve West African cultural traditions through movement.

The Peale’s third floor is filled with costumes, masks and a plethora of instruments. It’s hard to not feel like you’re waiting for the gradual beating of drums to ensue before a troupe of dancers pop out to demonstrate, even though that sadly didn’t happen during my visit.

But what’s most rewarding about The Sankofa Experience is the archival material that really drives the theater’s longevity home. There are monitors all around that play old taped performances and interviews with instructors on what Sankofa is all about. Collages of old news clippings (more than I could count) from the likes of The Washington Times, The Baltimore Times, Towson University’s The Towerlight newspaper and more line the museum’s walls.

The Peale, as a historical museum, is in perfect alignment as a home for Sankofa’s legacy. And if you’d like to witness it for yourself, it’ll be up until New Year’s Day 2023.

Diddy Tries His Hand at the Bunkey Jr./Park Heights Strut

Here at The Banner, we’re no strangers to the magic of West Baltimore native Bunkey Jr.’s strut dance that has absolutely dominated the TikTok universe over the past few months. The Bunkey Jr. Strut is a derivative of the Park Heights Strut (the neighborhood from which Bunkey originates), but he added some sauce to it like leg lifts, spins and more of an exuberant bounce. He’s made a name for himself in local social media circles over the years, but the past few months have seen the dance explode to a level no one was expecting — including him.

Part of the reason for its rise on TikTok is due to Baltimore’s DJ Zayy remixing Nigerian superstar singer Tems’ single “Free Mind,” which is the perfect tempo for a strut. WJZ anchor Denise Koch ried to master it, which is likely why Fox New York’s dancing weatherman Nick Kosir headed down to give it a try in Station North’s Graffiti Alley.

But the dance probably rose to its celebrity peak last week when legendary hip-hop mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs (who’s always shown a passion for moving his body) posted a video to his Instagram page attempting the strut for himself, with Baltimore rapper King Los showing him how it’s done. He even went so far as to personally shoutout Bunkey Jr. and Baltimore after it went viral.

Moments like this could seem small to others, but in a small, often-insulated city like Baltimore, it’s nice to know that our contributions to music and dance culture are being championed by the best in the business.

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