*Click for important messages from the Queen of Carnaval San Francisco 2001 

 

King Theolonius Westin Williams
by Monica Hastings -Smith photos by both Monica & Jan McDermott
ignite the passion by Tambay Obenson


King Theo was found in a large dance studio on a muggy Sunday afternoon. The room was sizzling with energy and the ringing sounds of Brazilian percussion getting in sync for this year's Carnaval.

His Highness was not doing a  solo dance or holding royal court, rather, he was collaborating with a group of young dancers, deciding on the next dance moves to do next in the roda. (A huge circle dancers where the energy is captured in the center for SOUL-O expressions!) With his signature whistle blow, King Theolonius I led the young people into a light footed,

"The Carnaval spirit allows the community to ignite creativity and deal with the best and worst of life with passion. We all need to release."
rhythmic blend of Brazilian ritual dance, Hip Hop, Black College Stepping and Samba Mexe-Mexe. Within moments, the King dropped back into the ranks, moved an older girl up front and encouraged her to lead the group. I would find out later, that our King has a deep concern for our youth and sees them as our greatest assets.
On Sunday April 22, 2001 Theolonius Westin Williams wowed the audience and judges at Roccapulco in San Francisco's Mission district and was voted the King of San Francisco Carnaval. The newly crowned monarch is a charismatic and animated member of Fogo Na Roupa; an Afro-Brazilian performance group, led by the soulful artist, Carlos Aceituno. Among the many awards, the twelve year old Carnival group Fogo has won the best Brazilian contingent award in SF Carnaval the last two years. This event is the largest ethnic event on the West Coast and there are over ten competing Brazilian groups alone.

 

"I’m a man of the people so that makes me the people’s King. Not standing over them but being with, so don’t expect the reveling to stop!”

Theo’s combination of gravity defying leaps, power steps, and overflowing energy continues to make a strong impression. With an extended hand and a smile, the King can get even the most reserved subject to join him on the dance floor; leave inhibitions behind and move in the spirit, which is Carnaval!

He is an arts administrator and Director for Caribelinq. Caribelinq fosters cultural and artistic exchanges with performing artists from Africa and the African Diaspora. I’m usually a behind the scenes guy.” King Theolonius I confesses, “So this is a switch for me.” 

Speaking seriously about the arts, the youth and Caribelinq, Theo expounds on the fulfillment of working with young people in Oakland’s Havenscourt Middle School, his recent work with Cuban filmmaker Gloria Rolando and how we must continue to work to eliminate the free trade embargo with Cuba.
He also expresses his concern for the future of large festivals that bring the masses together in the spirit of celebration.

“I’m passionate about what I do and see my position as a great platform for increasing awareness of issues affecting Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America." he says.

The Oakland, California native speaks proudly about his hometown and attributes much of his success to the exposure he received in early years through the Oakland Public Schools. He points to everyday lessons in multiculturalism with pride. “ We celebrated Chinese New Year, Black History Month, Cinco de Mayo and listened to music from all parts of the world. It was a great time and place to grow up.” He also respectfully acknowledges a solid family upbringing in the Pentecostal Church where joy filled expression is encouraged. On Carnaval day our multi-faceted King says,”
"
I will be representing my family and ancestors, Oakland, Fogo Na Roapa and the African Diaspora”


The assent of King Theolonius I begins with last year's Carnaval when Theo’s returned to Oakland from Atlanta, GA. Fogo Program Manager, Regina Calloway encouraged him to join Fogo’s Carnival Contingent and participate in the Pipoca, which according to popular Bahian Carnaval tradition means popcorn-a jumping up frenzy! 
Theo’s energy while Fogo laid down a musical backdrop of reggae and funk laced Brazilian beats Theo was soon shirtless, running up and down the sides of the contingent jumping 5 feet in the air, landing spread eagle and bouncing up to hit a crowd pleasing dance move or two,  
“ I’m still a student. I thank Mestre Carlos Aceituno for teaching me and thank the Fogo family for accepting me, and the Bay Area for welcoming me home." He continues "I’m a man of the people so that makes me the people’s King. Not standing over then but being with, so don’t expect the reveling to stop!”

When speaking about Fogo’s Carnaval theme for 2001, “EXODUS.blingbling” King Thoelonius I reflects upon Mestre Aceituno’s vision of struggle and celebration and ties it into his own vision. 
“ The exodus that Carlos is talking about is native peoples around the world, starting with our own communities, I see it happening locally in West Oakland through “gentrification.” The youth are focused on the BlingBling cash money culture and technology is moving society at a unbelievable pace. We have to meet the issues of the day head on. The Carnaval spirit allows the community to ignite creativity and deal with the best and worst of life with passion. We all need to release. The bateria lays the musical groundwork and I create on top. It becomes somewhat of a spiritual connection, the drums evoke the leaps and jumps and you forget about how exhausted you really are."
Up he goes, King Theolonius I, son of Fogo Na Roupa, and reigning monarch of the SF Carnaval 2001. When he hits the ground and blows his whistle; the people gather: then get ready!
GET ON!  
The Party is About to Start!

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