The Dap Project brings DC communities together to discuss what ‘dap’ means to Black men

Aaron Stallworth, right, and Rhonda Henderson of The Dap Project. (Courtesy The DAP Project)
A D.C. group is creating conversation around a well-known gesture that has become a symbol of respect within the Black community.

The Dap Project was founded by Rhonda Henderson and Aaron Stallworth back in 2019, after Henderson said she became more curious about the roots of the cultural embrace she witnessed everyday.

“I have observed Black men giving daps for years, and I know I’m not alone,” Henderson said. “I remember I saw a lot of the Black men I knew in college greet each other. Why do Black men look so happy when they’re dapping each other up, what is the joy?”

The question has led Henderson and Stallworth to neighborhoods across the District where communities have become families, willing to share their experience with the familiar greeting.

It began with a kitchen table conversation among the co-creators’ family members and has since expanded.

“This quick, two-second dap, I’m letting you know ‘I see you, I dignify you.’ DAP stands for dignity and pride. Every culture has a gesture. For Black men in the Vietnam War, it became DAP,” added Stallworth.

They are now sharing the conversation through their “Dap is a Love Language” podcast and exhibit.

“We like to share this exhibit and this work with young people because we are educators and we see that art is a tool for education,” added Henderson.

The Dap Project is asking communities what the greeting means to them and hopes to take the conversation outside of the District.

“We’ve had interest come from Inglewood and Baltimore and New Orleans. We want to fund the program to go to those cities to let people know that they’re seen and that we see you,” said Stallworth.

Check out the Dap is a Love Language exhibit at Creative Grounds DC on July 20.

Melissa Howell

Melissa Howell joined WTOP Radio in March 2018 and is excited to cover stories that matter across D.C., as well as in Maryland and Virginia. 

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