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DEAEF embarked on a new way of delivering martial arts classes by partnering with Capoeira Center of New York

Free Capoeira Classes in the Park and Beyond

In the summer of 2022, the DEAEF embarked on a new way of delivering martial arts classes by partnering with Capoeira Center of New York.

The idea was simple: Hold free weekly classes in a public space so anyone in the community can join, and share the DEAEF message about drug abuse and misuse prevention.

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The program was kicked off in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which is one of the New York’s most iconic parks and the site of the 2022 US Open. As the summer went on, it wasn’t unusual for classes entice over fifty participants. Participants returned week after week and some even brought family members to join in the fun.

It’s no wonder these classes are so popular. Capoeira is an artform that was developed over a 400-year period by enslaved Africans in Brazil who hid martial arts training inside of dance, music, drumming, and acrobatics, and used their skills to escape from slave masters.

“It’s an amalgamation of many different things,” said Michelle Pinzon, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Capoeira Center of New York. “There are many different entry points for people and it’s exciting to share the artform with others.”

Christina Pastras, DEAEF Associate Director of Youth Programs agrees. “What I found interesting is how the instructors from Capoeira Center of New York drew people in. It didn’t matter the age, size, shape for anyone,” said Christina.

“It’s almost therapeutic. People come in and feel welcome immediately. From a Program Director’s standpoint, that’s what we hope for. We attract people with a positive, fun and healthy artform and offer educational resources.”
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The program in the park was so successful that is was extended though October due to the interest from the community.

The DEAEF is continuing its work with Capoeira Center of New York by offering a free 10-week after-school martial arts program at Bayside High School in Queens. This program started in the Spring of 2023 where fifteen students meet once a week for a Capoeira class. Students spend time learning Capoeira and being around role models who talk about how to live healthy lives and make good life decisions.

The DEAEF hopes to return to the park this summer and continue programming at Bayside High School in the coming school year.

by Meredith Liepelt

Updated May 30, 2023