Ira L. Bond (Ibramim Diabate) is a performer, dancer, educator, percussionist, African folklorist, educator, researcher, cultural anthropologist, community activist, masquerade, costume, musician and cultural enrichment specialist for 30 years. He has a school principal certification and a Master’s degree in Multicultural Education from Eastern University. He has also earned an honorary degree in Malian Cultural Arts from Antiock University and the National Dance and Drum Ensemble of Mali.
As a leader in education, he has influenced the Philadelphia School District, with his multi-cultural, African-centered, and transformative educational techniques. Ira has traveled abroad to Lebanon, Jordan and several countries in West Africa and the Caribbean learning about cultural arts and educational tradition, thus adding and incorporating those experiences into his philosophy on creating a better state of education in America’s urban schools. Ira’s cultural, artistic and educational mission is to utilize performing and cultural arts as a mechanism to develop positive relationships and to reintroduce African cultural values to the African Diaspora.
Ira’s research interests further include folk and traditional arts, cultural awareness, arts integration in education, cultural anthropology, academic engagement, achievement, motivation, and the current social context and status of urban education. The work emphasizes the development of a socialization process (Rite of Passage) that can transform people to a higher realization of their life’s purpose. The utilization of the creativity of the arts is also essential to the development of academic achievement and life progress for the people that he encounters.
Ira has earned his B.A. in Communications with an emphasis in Public Relations/Broadcasting and a minor in African American studies from Mansfield University. Earning a M. Ed. in Multicultural Education from Eastern University, his thesis was, “Teaching Content through the Arts,” proving that performing arts can improve student’s communication skills, team-building skills, empathy, pride and self-esteem. His interests in traditional culture lead him to Antioch University to earn an honorary certificate in Malian Arts and Culture with concentrations in French/Bamana intensive, traditional Malian aesthetic, contemporary life and politics of Mali, and a traditional apprenticeship with the National Ballet of Mali. Finally, Ira has gained a principal certification from Eastern University.
During Ira’s eight year tenure at the Alliance for Progress Charter School, he served as the Cultural Enrichment Director for the school. It was during these years that he realized the significance of cultural awareness, performance, presentation and self-esteem for students of elementary age. With strong home and school support, students achieved academic excellence through the arts and arts integration.
As Cultural Enrichment Director, Ira facilitated the presentation of cultural awareness through the medium of performing arts. 400 students from K through 5th grade presented three performances a year on various subjects of cultural awareness. Instruction time was used to teach culturally significant subjects, and integrated academic subjects such as writing, math and reading skills. The performances provided an opportunity for the community to support the youth, the youth to feel accomplished, (which increased self-esteem) and for the community to be educated as well.
As a developer and facilitator of Rite of Passage systems for the Sankofa Passages Program and the Imhotep Charter School, Ira has been able to bridge the social, emotional and cultural development of the young people who he encountered through a series of ancient rituals and protocols. These protocols are developed to help young men and women define themselves, name themselves and realize their existence as a foundation to personal identity development.
African Masquerade is Ira’s specialty. Ira maintains over 20 traditional African masquerades in full dress. He was initiated into these traditions in their countries of origin which are Mali, and the Ivory Coast. Masks represent sacred entities in West Africa and are revered for their symbolism. They enable us to show homage to our ancestors, while reflecting on our own mortality and imprint on our world.
Ira has been involved in several after school and professional cultural education programs like the Art Sanctuary’s program called “North” at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia. Ira has a long relationship with Melvin Deal’s African Heritage Dance Company of Washington D.C., lead drummer for Messiah Dance Works of Philadelphia, and lead percussionist for Philadelphia’s eldest African dance company Kulu-Mele. Ira is a member of Dunya Performing Arts Company (DPAC) for 20 years doing an assortment of artist education and performance programs. Currently Ira’s residencies with (DPAC) include Swarthmore-Rutledge Elementary School, Germantown Academy and the Westown School. Ira is also the founder and director of Malidelphia, a folkloric performance-art concert that serves to create a bridge between African immigrant and African-American communities through traditional and contemporary song, dance, music, masquerade and folklore.
It is the calling of Ira L. Bond to be the “Cultural Enrichment Specialist,” by supporting the creation of a truly interactive, arts integrated, multicultural experience for people everywhere. Dzifa means “calm in the midst of a storm” in the Fante language of Ghana, West Africa. When everything becomes unbalanced in life, education and self-awareness, and creative arts can keep things in order. This is the magic of the art that Ira is committed to.