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The amazing story of Alice Barker

By Nina Steele 

Alice Barker lived to the ripe old age of 103. She had no children. She became world famous after videos of her in her prime, as a dancer during the Harlem Renaissance, were made public in 2014. Her friends spent years searching for the videos, and Alice’s joy at watching herself perform is deeply moving. Dancing was what she enjoyed doing the most. When asked how long she had been a dancer for, she replied: “That’s all I ever did”. She went on to say: “ I used to say to myself, I am being paid to do something that I enjoy doing, and I would do it for free, because it just felt so good doing it”.

Her love of dancing ran deep. It went back all the way to when she was a toddler. As one of her friends put it, dancing was in her DNA. Alice recounted a story which beautifully summarized her lifelong love of dancing. She said: “My mother told me she was getting ready to bathe me, and on the corner, was a band playing. She had forgotten something, and she went back in the house to get it. When she came out, I was gone. I was down there naked, just dancing”.

Alice’s last years were spent in a care home. Up until then, she had remained in contact with some of her old dancing pals. Moving into the care home meant losing contact with some of her old friends. Thankfully, she was able to rekindle old friendships, once her story became public.

Her new found fame meant that her last years were never boring. The video telling her life story has been viewed over 19 million times on youtube. Not only that, she received a letter from the Obamas when she turned 103. Becoming a celebrity meant that she received fan mails from people around the globe. The messages were all very kind and touching. One message, sent a few weeks before her death, summed up the impact her life story had on those who came across it. The message read: “Dear Ms.Barker: I first saw your youtube video on Friday Feb. 19, 2016. I was touched. I watch it over and over and each time I get so emotional I just begin to cry. To see the joy that comes over you as you look at your “soundies”, brings joy to others. You remind me of my own 92 year old mother. I have much love and respect for older adults as they are living history. May God bless and keep you Ms. Barker”. Alice passed away on April 6, 2016.

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