- Associated Press - Monday, January 18, 2016

HOUMA, La. (AP) - Seven years ago, a Restoration of Hope Outreach Ministries of Houma pastor asked Shiloh Harley and her cousins if they wanted to perform in honor of Black History Month.

“I remember shouting, I do,” Harley recalled.

Ever since that performance, Shiloh, also known as Awakening Praise, found her true calling as a praise dancer and danced at various churches and religious events in the area.

Through praise dancing, the 15-year-old Houma girl ministers the word of God to audiences.

“It’s supposed to be your time to express how you’re feeling,” Shiloh said. “That’s my time where I can ask God for anything through dancing.”



Although dancing is a form of entertainment, Shiloh does not see it as such.

To her, it’s simply ministering.

While other teens are doing the Nae Nae or hitting the Quan, Shiloh is using her body to illustrate God’s message with the help of gospel songs.

“The first song she danced to was called ‘Amazing God,’ and I was like, ‘Where in the world did she find that song?’” Lolita Harley said of her daughter. “She literally told the story so that you can understand the song better. When I heard the song again, it was so clear as to what the meaning was.”

So it was no surprise to Lolita Harley when she found out her daughter was nominated for a New Orleans Gospel Award late last year in the Praise Dance/Mime Group category.

“We don’t have the answer yet, but being nominated in itself is a grand accomplishment to me in the midst of all that’s going on around here,” she said.

Crime in Houma is a reality that both Shiloh and her mom understand.

It wasn’t until this past summer that Shiloh herself got back on the right track.

“From 2012 to 2014, I wasn’t really focusing on praise dancing,” Shiloh said. “I started following the wrong crowd.”

And when a young man from her junior high school had a front row seat to one of her performances in 2014, her desire for praise dancing waned even more.

“I remember he followed me at school the next day and said, ‘Oh, you’re a praise dancer?’ Then he went around school telling everybody, and after that I stopped dancing. I didn’t want anyone knowing.”

She found herself aimless and sitting around the house when she decided young people in the area needed a leader, a role she wanted to tackle head on.

So last summer she started dancing again and didn’t care what anyone thought.

“I went back to Restoration of Hope and danced and everyone was on their feet,” Shiloh said. “I remember crying and saying to myself, ‘This is my calling. This is who I am.’”

The New Orleans Gospel Awards program is Saturday at Carver Theater in New Orleans.

Shiloh hasn’t yet found a dress to wear to the event but will likely wear gold and white, two of the most common colors in her wardrobe.

“White represents purity and righteousness,” Lolita Harley said. “Majority of her garments are gold and white, which are strong colors that represent God’s righteousness.”

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