All eyes were on Supaman.
The Native American artist, whose given name is Christian Parrish Takes the Gun, was a blur of motion and color Wednesday afternoon as he performed an intricate, energetic dance in the Laramie Junior High School Gymnasium.
Interlaced with his song and dance was an important message for the LJHS students: foster a culture of brotherhood and respect.
“These are your people; this is your school,” he said. “This is your community, and these are your family members right here in this room.”
He shared elements of his culture with the students, explaining the history of the Men’s Fancy Dance and performing several of his own hip-hop songs. He encouraged students to join him on the gymnasium floor to show off their own dancing skills and create beats of their own with his recording equipment.
He also shared the advice his grandfather gave him when he first started dancing.
“‘Before you come up to the circle,’ he said, ‘Check yourself,’” Supaman said. “‘Do an inventory on your own heart,’ he said. He said, ‘Is your heart good? Or maybe you have somebody that you have ill feelings towards, unforgiveness.’ He said, ‘Forgive them first, before you come up to the circle. Make sure your heart is in a good place when you dance.’”
Supaman stressed the importance of staying drug- and alcohol-free, drawing upon a childhood spent partly in foster care and his parents’ struggles with alcoholism. After his father’s death, his mother — his hero — quit drinking and turned her life around, he said.
“At a young age, man, I learned — I learned what alcohol and drugs (do) and I made up my mind, my heart, my spirit, and said I’m never gonna drink,” he said.
This was the first time Supaman came to LJHS; his performance was part of an effort to educate students on different cultures and create an environment of greater tolerance, LJHS Principal Debbie Fisher said.
“I thought it was great,” she said. “I thought he did a great job of just sending a really inspirational message and a positive message.”
Debra Littlesun, an advisor for Keepers of the Fire — a University of Wyoming Native American student group — said there was an incident at LJHS in the fall involving a student who cut a Native American student’s long hair.
“Hair is so sacred to us,” she said. “I don’t think it was done maliciously, but just the lack of understanding of the importance of it. And so we wanted to … bring out that good feeling about who native people are and share that with the community.”