CINCINNATI — In a neighborhood that has seen an inordinate amount of violence this year, one woman is trying to drown out the distractions with dance.
Though Marquicia Jones-Woods has never been a dancer, she is living her passion and reshaping lives through a studio in the West End.
"I've never danced," Jones-Woods said. "I actually started the dance program because I was trying to give the kids of my community something positive to do to keep them off the street."
Jones-Woods created Q-Kidz, a majorette dance team, 40 years ago. While the group competes across the country, the more than 1,000 girls she has worked with spend the majority of their days with Jones-Woods in a studio on Linn Street.
"It's about helping provide a better life for them," Jones-Woods said. "Dance is just a tool to get them in here and to keep them coming, but we do drug prevention, violence prevention, self-esteem building...90-95% of my kids are honor students. My kids go off to college, they graduate, they become productive citizens."
When a spate of violence recently rocked their neighborhood, Jones-Woods shut her doors so the dancers would not get hurt traveling to practice. The break lasted four days.
"I worried about them the whole time, because then you leave them to play in what you're trying to get them out of," Jones-Woods said. "It's been rough, and I'm hoping change will come soon."
Jones-Woods said though she is worried by increased shootings, the dancers have become numb to the violence.
"They go on business as usual," Jones-Woods said. "Where my reaction is more fear...worry, they're just like, "Ah, it's just a shooting.'"
Funding for Q-Kidz is nearly non-existent, with Jones-Woods saying she knows she could make magic happen with only $2,000 in the bank. She said she worries how they can keep the organization going when she can no longer, wishing there were more people in the West End helping kids instead of hurting them.
"With my kids, I live for today. I don't live for three months later, because I may not have three months later with them," Jones-Woods said.
Neither Jones-Woods nor her daughters who help her have taken a paycheck from Q-Kidz. While she said there are days where she wants to throw in the towel, she cannot and will not.
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