Rev. Malika Leigh Whitney and Double Dutch Dreamz

When Rev. Malika Lee Whitney was a child growing up in 1940s Harlem, street games were very popular among kids. Hopscotch, jacks, stick ball and stoop ball were played until the sun went down. But there was one game that she particularly loved jumping Double Dutch.

For the past 14 years Rev. Whitney has been running the youth development program Double Dutch Dreamz in Harlem and around New York City. Now in her 70s, she still jumps. She says it contributes to her overall well being, exercising her heart and balancing her body through its meditative rhythms. 

Some of her young jumpers got to ask her about her passion during a podcast workshop at The Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling and created this audio postcard. 

Listen to Rev. Whitney’s Story


Grandparents StoryLab Featured on NPR!

NPR's The Pulse featured our story on Rev. Malika Leigh Whitney and Double Dutch Dreamz.

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“When I double dutch I feel free”

This story came out of a podcast workshop The Grandparents StoryLab ran at the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling with Rev. Whitney’s Double Dutch Dreamz crew.


Zariah: Why do you like double dutch so much?

Rev. Malika Lee Whitney: Well I love it for what I see it brings out of the young people that I work with and I really enjoy it because I know it's a great way to exercise. And it's a wonderful way to make friends. And it gives you an opportunity to test your skills and be confident

The heart is racing, you're excited. You feel like everything is working for you. You know the feet are moving the correct way. You're maintaining a rhythm. Very often you're being watched somewhere either by your friends if it happens to be on a stage... that encourages you. So you feel good about yourself.

You have a sense of accomplishment.

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Tilar: When you had boys doing Double Dutch did you ever have a crush on one of them?

Rev. Malika Lee Whitney: I was wondering when this was going to get personal. Well, one of the things that I can tell you, is that if you were jumping in the community, like in front of your building you put your best jump when you saw someone that you liked!

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Milan:Why did you choose to work with youth and teach children?

Rev. Malika Lee Whitney: I think working with children is something that I inherited from my mother because she also not only took care of me but she also took care of children in the neighborhood.

There is a lot of seriousness going on in the world and I think you can use sport and play as a means of being able to change the course of ideas. In Double Dutch program one primary part of what we do is under the umbrella of “social justice”. So we write rhymes that address issues of racism, sexism and all the other ‘isms’.

So using games as an approach is a way to get young people involved... and look what it yields. Games can help. They’re like oh you're doing that? I want to do it too... Can you show me how? You know cooperative learning through games is a wonderful way to help a child grow up.

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It invites people of all cultures all backgrounds all sizes. Ropes don't discriminate. If one does have some physical limitations we can find some kind of way that they can participate you know even if doing the call and response rhyme chants.

So it doesn't doesn't discriminate by age.

If the knees continue to work I think I’ll be doing it until I’m 100.

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This Grandparent’s StoryLab workshop was held in collaboration with The Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling, Double Dutch Dreamz, and The Significant Elders.

To book a podcast workshop with The Grandparents Storylab please email