Inspiring the Valley: A Fresno elementary African-American dance troupe honored by Fresno Police

Local News

The King African American dance troupe program started 18 years ago by a King elementary first grade teacher.

And now, the troupe is being honored by Fresno Police.

“I didn’t want to see them on the street doing nothing,” says teacher Mona Tatum. “This is something that occupies their time and also just builds up character.”

Their group promotes peace through dance, she says, and their energy, joy and ability to bring people together caught the attention of Fresno Police Sgt. Brian Valles.

“It is heartwarming,” Valles says of the events he’s seen the troupe at.

He added, “Every time the girls danced, and Ms. Mona’s group danced, everybody got up, nobody was sitting down.”

And that’s when it hit him, what can the Police Activities League do for the talented young ladies.

Valles’ idea: Take this dance troupe to see the Broadway version of the Lion King when it came to town.

“(The show) came to Fresno this November, so as soon as it came, I approached my captain who is a member of the pal board and he presented it, and they said yes,” Valles says.

They wanted this to be a surprise so they told them a pal was taking them to dinner just to show their appreciation.

The girls got dressed in their Sunday best and boarded vans driven by their chaperones; detective’s Angie Isaak and Ariana Kasparian.

They were taken to Joe’s Steakhouse in downtown Fresno for what they thought was just dinner.

“Because you are all dressed up, and we’d like to celebrate you and the Police Activities League would like to celebrate all of you Miss Mona and your King African American dance troupe is, after this at 7 p.m., we are going over to the Saroyan Theater and we are going to see the Lion King,” says a Fresno Police officer.

The girls screamed of excitement.

A gift that touched many lives.

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