By Je’Don Holloway Talley
For the Birmingham Times
Bridgette Agee lost her husband nearly two decades ago. She remembers being melancholy until meeting Desi Keith and members of the D2 Line Dancing group in 2016.
“I lost my husband to cancer suddenly in 1998, said Agee, 54. “He died five and a half weeks from his date of diagnosis, exactly one day after our son’s birthday.”
Agee’s children—Christopher, 26, and Cortney, 27—were only 7 and 8 when they lost their dad. Ten years later, Agee said she received a lab report “showing precancerous cells and a dual growth in my pancreas.”
“Cancer is a scary word in my house,” the Vestavia Hills resident said. “When I was diagnosed, my children were scared because of how fast we lost my husband. I was scared, too.”
But Agee and many others have been able to endure with support from the class and Keith.
“It just so happens that a lot of [D2 members], including myself, have gone through loss,” said Keith, founder of D2 Line Dancing by Desi Keith. “We all found our joy back on the dance floor.”
Bernice Tolbert Jones has found solace at D2. After losing her husband in 2016, she made arrangements at the Arrington Funeral Home Inc. in southwest Birmingham, where Keith is a full-time caretaker who supports those in grief. He was assigned to her family, they spent an entire day together making her husband’s final arrangements, and Keith invited her to dance therapy with the D2 crew.
“You see us dancing, but it’s really a ministry because we pray for others,” Tolbert said. “There are cancer survivors in this group. We pray for people when they have death in their families. We feed the homeless on Christmas and Thanksgiving. We do toy drives.”
Tolbert sees the group as an added benefit to her life.
“It’s a blessing when you can be a part of a group of people who love Christ, love to dance, have fun, and also reach out to the community.”
Tolbert said the class “nourishes” the mind, body, and spirit. D2 members agree that a transformation takes place once you take on the lifestyle.
Three-year D2 member Kimberly Leslie Patton, 53, is an 18-year breast cancer survivor who has endured several diagnoses since joining.
“When people are focused on [God] and not tearing anyone down, you have positivity and that energy helps you heal,” she said. “This is a place of restoration, renewal, and healing.”
Last year, Patton went for a routine optometry appointment and was told that her eyes were bleeding behind the nerve endings and she would soon be blind.
“I came to class that night anyway and told everyone,” she said. “They put me in a circle and prayed over me.”
Four months later, she went back to have the corrective procedure, and the doctors couldn’t find any swelling.
“I was healed! The bleeding and swelling behind my eyes was gone!” she said.
Angie Lawson, 57, a Birmingham resident and three-year D2 member, lost a loved one to congestive heart failure in 2014. Her sister-in-law, who ran their family’s diner, enrolled in classes as a weekly outlet—and, unbeknownst to her family, was fighting for her life.
“She died a week or so after our first class, just looking for something else physical to do besides the heavy lifting at the restaurant,” Lawson said. “We came to the class, liked it, and had planned on coming back together.”
Lawson continues to come in honor of her sister-in-law’s legacy and to do her part to stay healthy.
“Nobody knew she was sick. She didn’t even know it,” she said. “That shows you how stress and illness can creep up without you even knowing it.
The group has also helped its founder. After the death of his mother in June 2016, Keith said the dance program helped him avoid slipping into deep depression.
“He is my little big brother and probably the most compassionate, loving, silly-serious person I know,” Agee said. “He is somebody I talk to first thing in the morning, and he’s the last person I talk to at night before I go to sleep. He is what you call a lovebug. … He’s just infectious, and you can’t help but to fall in love with him.”