Kúkátónón means “We are one” in the Kpelle language of Liberia
Rolia Manyongai-Jones, Founder
Imagine a young girl in Liberia, on the west coast of Africa, dreaming of becoming a teacher in America. Rolia Manyongai saw herself as a teacher here, filled with the ecstasy of African dance and music, and the rich history and culture she was eager to share with white America, black America, and multicultural America.
Through much struggle and hardship, she hung on to her dream. She nurtured it and protected it, and today, she is living that dream.
Rolia Manyongai-Jones holds a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and health education, and a master’s degree in multicultural education. For 25 years, she taught second and fourth grades at Woodlawn Elementary School. In 1983, she created Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe. Her dream of sharing her passion and heritage has been realized in her role as its founder and artistic director.
In concert with local teaching artists and regional schools, she has had the privilege of developing and sharing a renowned, award-winning dance program. Even after more than 30 years, Kúkátónón continues to thrive, showcasing the talents of these children and broadening the multicultural experiences of Oregon and southwest Washington communities. The dancers, performing at Trail Blazers playoff games, universities, schools, and community events, promote pride and cultural awareness, and foster respect for both our similarities and differences. The children raise themselves up through hard work and commitment to learning to dance, understanding what it takes to grow into a responsible adult.
Rolia has also been deeply engaged in her community in other ways. She co-founded the African Women’s Coalition, a community-based organization funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement; is a member of the Center for Intercultural Organizing; and participates in a leadership pilot program with the City of Portland’s visionPDX project.
Rolia’s passion in life is to always nurture, support, and serve children and women, to help them reach their highest potential through guidance in educational and cultural opportunities. In Rolia’s Liberian Gola tribe, a wise woman is known as a ne’yah-zulu. It takes a whole village to raise a child, and Rolia is the ne’yah-zulu of her small Portland village, Kúkátónón, touching the lives of young children with hope and dreams and knowledge that the future can be better.