Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Season's Greetings from The Harlem Chamber Players

Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season!


Liz Player and The Harlem Chamber Players

Jessie Montgomery Music: Find Out What's Next!

Jessie Montgomery
(Jiyang Chen)

Jessie Montgomery sends this newsletter:

winter '18 - spring '19

collaboration | new works | concerts

Well, THAT went by fast!
This fall seemed to just whiz by, and I missed sending you an update! Well, it was certainly a busy time and I am happy to offer a brief recap and share highlights for the new year. 2018 was a challenge in more ways than one, but as the great Joan Tower once said to me, "music is a constant friend." That it is, and it was the fabric that held everything together. I hope that for you, music provided as much of an opportunity for reflection, respite and inspiration as it did for me. Onward, folks!

Last fall, basically...
September: I began my fellowship at the Center for Ballet and the Arts at NYU as a Virginia B. Toulmin Fellow to work on a new ballet I am composing for the Dance Theatre of Harlem in collaboration with choreographer Claudia Schreier. October: After a debut performance at the Met Museum with Julia Bullock of my new song-cycle of Black spiritual arrangements, I traveled to Melbourne, Australia with Silkroad and Mark Morris Dance Group for the penultimate run of Layla and Majnun as part of the Melbourne Arts Festival. November: I saw London again with the Silkroad and Mark Morris crew for final performances of their collaboration at Sadler's Wells. It was a joy to perform in the closing of that beautiful production! Jannina Norpoth and I started to wind up our final arrangements for Treemonisha (see below) and in early December I rejoined the stage at the Met Museum with Julia Bullock, Nicole Cabell, Anthony McGill, and Ricky Ian Gordon for a night of music centered around the poetry of Langston Hughes, with the Young People's Chorus of New York giving their 3rd performance of my piece Danse Africaine.   

Jannina Norpoth and I are busy finishing up the final version of Treemonisha for a staging workshop coming up in Toronto in January. We are set to premiere in the spring of 2020 at Stanford Live, so please stay tuned for those developments! 

Dance Theatre of Harlem Collaboration
Choreographer Claudia Schreier is in the thick of her work crafting a new ballet to my music which will have its debut at the Virginia Arts Festival and the Kennedy Center in May. I am excited to be working with the Catalyst Quartet in collaboration with musicians from the Virginia Symphony and National Symphony for these debut performances! 

New Julius Eastman Arrangement for the CSO!
I have been given the distinct honor of a commission by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra to create a new arrangement for strings of Gay Guerrilla by Julius Eastman, whose work has gained attention recently for playing a critical role in the "downtown" and "minimalist" movements in the 1960s. Originally scored for 4-6 pianos, this arrangement will be performed by 7 string players from the CSO as part of the MusicNOW series curated by amazing composer and friend Missy Mazzoli. This concert will also feature my piece Break Away for string quartet. May 20, 2019, Harris Theater, Chicago. Info 

For the kiddos--Children's concerts galore!
This past fall, the National Symphony Orchestra performed my work Starburst on their Inside the Music education concerts, and they will have repeat performances in March 19-22, 2019! If you have family in the DC area, come and see the great work they are doing at NSO to enrich the lives of youth! Similarly, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, in collaboration with playwright Harrison David Rivers, actor H Adam Harris and conductor Christian Reif performed "A Nighttime Story", a beautiful tale of a young boy who learns of his ancestry by his loving grandmother, was set entirely to an immaculate quilt of my works for chamber orchestra including Banner, Source Code, and Records from a Vanishing City. It was a tender and moving portrait and a generous setting of those works. Video of the event will be available on the SPCO Library in the new year, so look out for that.

New Year Premieres...
  • January 26, Toronto, CA: EXCLUSIVE (Invitation only) staging workshop run-through of Treemonisha: A Reimagining of of Scott Joplin's Ragtime Opera. If you have special interests in the production and will be in Toronto, please email me directly
  • May 3-5, Norfolk, VA: New Ballet (title TBD) for Dance Theatre of Harlem in collaboration with choreographer Claudia Schreier, Catalyst Quartet and musicians form the Virginia Symphony. Moss Arts Center. Info
  • May 12, Detroit, MI: New Work for 4 String Quartets: Attacca Quartet, Catalyst Quartet, Dover Quartet and Harlem Quartet, to close the 75th Celebration season of the Detroit Chamber Music Society. Detroit Symphony Hall. Info
  • May 20, Chicago, IL: Arrangement of Julius Eastman's Gay Guerrilla, for 7 string players. Program also features Break Away for string quartet. Harris Theater. Info
  • May 28-30, Washington, DC: New Ballet (title TBD) for Dance Theatre of Harlem in collaboration with choreographer Claudia Schreier, Catalyst Quartet and musicians form the National Symphony Orchestra. Kennedy Center Opera House. Info
Visit and stay updated via social media (Facebook and Instagram: @jmontgomerymusic) and as always, thank you all for listening! Sincerely, Jessie. 

Red Clay Dance Company Presents Choreography by Black Women March 14-16


Red Clay Dance Company (RCDC), which creates and performs a diverse repertoire of Afro-contemporary dance, announces the third edition of La Femme Dance Festival, celebrating choreographic work by women of Black/African Diaspora/African descent. Performances are March 15 and 16 at the new Green Line Performing Arts Center, 329 E. Garfield Blvd. in Chicago’s Washington Park neighborhood.

Open to women artists from around the world, La Femme is curated by RCDC (Chicago) Founder and Artistic Director Vershawn Sanders-Ward, Flyground (Philadelphia) Founder and Director Lela Aisha Jones and Catalyst Movmnt (Chicago) Founder and Curator Aaliyah Christina. The curators will select five choreographers, whose work will be performed in this year's festival, and each will receive an artist fee, publicity, technical support and documentation (video and photos). Participating choreographers will be announced in early January 2019.

Festival activities include evening performances Friday and Saturday, March 15 and 16. There is a post-show discussion on Friday and a pre-show talk and a post-show reception on Saturday. A free community dance class led by one of the festival choreographers takes place Thursday, March 14, followed by a learning circle session in partnership with High Concept Labs.

10th anniversary season
RCDC’s season continues with the world premiere of Sanders-Ward’s Art of Resilience 2.0, a co-presentation with the DuSable Museum of African American History, May 16–18, 2019 at the DuSable Museum of African American History’s Roundhouse, 740 E. 56th Place. RCDC’s Paint the Town Red, a post-show fundraiser, takes place May 18 on the Roundhouse’s outdoor patio. Concluding the season is RCDC’s “Dance4Peace Youth Concert & Community Hug Awards” June 1 at 5 p.m. at Benito Juarez Community Academy, 1450 W. Cermak Rd.
La Femme Dance Festival performances take place Friday and Saturday, March 15 and 16 at 7 p.m.
at the Green Line Performing Arts Center, 329 E. Garfield Blvd., Chicago.
Admission is a suggested donation of $10, available beginning February 1 at redclaydance.com.
A free master class and learning circle take place Thursday, March 14 at 6 p.m.
at High Concept Labs, 2233 S. Throop St., Chicago.
Registration opens February 1 at redclaydance.com.

For more information about RCDC and the 10th anniversary season, visit redclaydance.com.

Red Clay Dance Company lives to awaken “glocal” change through
creating, performing, and teaching dances of the African Diaspora—
change that transforms cultural and socioeconomic imbalances in
our local and global community. Founder Vershawn Sanders-Ward
conceived the idea of RCDC while on her first trip to Senegal, West
Africa, when she became fascinated by the interconnectedness of
dance and everyday life. The name Red Clay comes from her
childhood memories of playing in red earth during her summers in
Mobile, Alabama.

RCDC’s 10th anniversary season is supported by the Chicago
Community Trust, the Field Foundation, the MacArthur Fund for Arts
and Culture at the Richard H Driehaus Foundation, the Gaylord and
Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, the Springboard Foundation, the Polk
Bros. Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Illinois
Arts Council Agency.

The 10th Anniversary Season Host Committee includes Ebony
Ambrose, Jessica Bell, Amy Clark*, Catrina Franklin*, Leslie Guy, Tam
Herbert*, Kesha Jackson*, Jada Russell, Brea Sanders, Marilyn A.
Sanders, and Ira Staples (* denotes RCDC board member).
All photos by Raymond Jerome Photography.
Top: Ysaye McKeever.
Middle: Sara Ziglar.
Bottom: Vershawn Sanders-Ward

Monday, December 17, 2018

African American Composer Initiative News - 10th Anniversary Celebration!

African American Composer Initiative

“Jubilation!” That’s the title of Valerie Capers’ new composition awaiting its premiere at the upcoming AACI concerts on January 26 and 27! She completed it shortly after her return from an inspirational visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

We invite you to join us as we experience together the triumph of spirit expressed in the magnificent music of African American composers through the ages.

We hope to see you in January and encourage you to purchase your tickets as we celebrate ten years of music-making! All ticket proceeds go directly to support Eastside College Preparatory School in East Palo Alto.

AACi is grateful for donations to our organization from our supporters that assist in covering our concert expenses and keep our commissioning program going. We have a matching grant of $3,000 from a generous donor. Please help us reach our goal.

"Where Freedom Rings"-  A 10th Anniversary Celebration
Eastside College Preparatory School Theater, 1041 Myrtle Street, East Palo Alto
January 26 & 27, 3:00p.m.  
Purchase tickets HERE.

To donate online, please click here.
To donate by check - make check to InterMusic SF, with AACI at the bottom of the check and mail to: 
c/o LaDoris Cordell
4124 Wilkie Way
Palo Alto, CA 94306

We wish you a joyous holiday season and look forward to seeing you in January!

Sincerely and musically, LaDoris Cordell, Jodi Gandolfi, Deanne Tucker and all the musicians of AACI

The AAN celebrates William Grant Still Saturday, January 12, 5 PM

Join the CSO AAN for a lecture celebrating composer and conductor William Grant Still, who is widely considered the “Dean of African American composers.” A prolific composer of operas, ballets, symphonies and other works, Still also was the first African American to conduct a professional symphony orchestra in the United States. CSO AAN Director of Community Stewardship Sheila Jones and Columbia College Chicago professor Stan West will share a multimedia presentation about this immensely important composer’s life and music. 

A Celebration of William Grant Still
Saturday, January 12, 5:00

Grainger Ballroom, Symphony Center

Tickets are free but required.

Stay for the evening’s CSO concert to hear Still’s In Memoriam: The Colored Soldiers Who Died for Democracy and Elgar’s Enigma Variations! Use promo code RSVP on cso.org or call Patron Services at 312-294-3340 for $35 tickets.

AaronAsk: Weekly mentoring for a creative life: Too Many Fish in the Sea!

Aaron P. Dworkin writes:

Greetings and welcome to this week's episode of AaronAsk, your weekly mentoring session to live a fulfilling creative life!  This week's episode is titled, Too Many Fish in the Sea!  Enjoy, we wish you a creative day and see you for next week's session!

Comment by email:
Thanks so much Bill! Aaron [Aaron P. Dworkin]

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The Harry T. Burleigh 1866 Giving Day Campaign is continuing through 12/31


Harry T. Burleigh Giving Day 

Thank you to those who donated this past Giving Day! Because of your giving, we will be able to bring more to Burleigh’s legacy in 2019.

We are still seeking support—if you haven't donated yet, there’s still time! The Harry T. Burleigh 1866 Giving Day Campaign is continuing through 12/31. Your support will help us continue to sponsor performances and scholarship that engages with Burleigh's career and musical impact.

 Harry T. Burleigh
(Getty Images, Afro Newspaper/Gado)

Donate now

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Composer & Violinist Edward W. Hardy is Crowdfunding to buy a Unique Violin

Edward W. Hardy

Edward W. Hardy writes:

My name is Edward W. Hardy and I am a composer (Off-Broadway's The Woodsman), violinist and violist. I primarily compose solo violin music for Off-Broadway shows in NYC and perform around the Continental US. 

The Project

Welcome to My Indiegogo Campaign!
My name is Eddie, Edward W. Hardy, and I am a composer and violinist living in New York City. I finally have an opportunity to own an incredible instrument that matches my personality perfectly; The Black Violin. I’ve been performing on this instrument for a year now, recorded and premiered my new music in concert halls, performed around the country, including Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, and even earned great reviews and press coverage. As I grew with this instrument, The Black Violin has become an extension of myself. www.edwardwhardy.com

The Long Story (Like the one Mom tells you)

Guy Rabut gave me the opportunity of a lifetime by loaning me The Black Violin and allowing me to grow and flourish with this unique instrument. We have reached an agreement for purchase and he is allowing me time to raise money which is great because it’s my first time ever doing this.
How did this all happen? Well, this violin and I have a history
When I was ten years old living in Harlem, I attended The Juilliard School Music Advancement Program, Bloomingdale School of Music and Manhattan School of Music Pre-College consecutively. I was proud to have been awarded a violin from MSM, based on my merit, to use during my studies. I finally had a violin to use throughout my high school education. The violin would have to be returned upon completion of the program.
My new mission was to find a violin to own, so my parents researched violin-makers in NYC and came across Guy Rabut. I tried two of his violins and a viola, all quite lovely and all out of my price range. He handed me The Black Violin and said, “try this one”, it was love at first sight. He began to tell me the history of the The Black Violin and why he created it. The sound of it was so beautiful I knew this was the one. I asked Guy “How much is this Violin?” He smiled and responded “Too much”. So for years I never knew how much it cost or if I would ever see it or play it again. Over the years I dreamed about The Black Violin. 
After my high school graduation, I received a promise of a scholarship to attend SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Music but only if I majored in viola, so I temporarily put down the violin in my classical studies and purchased a student viola from SHAR Music. During my first week I received the news; no scholarship.  I was heartbroken, too late to change direction. I was committed to my studies at Purchase College. I worked several jobs while in college in order to pay my tuition. I would later go on to earn a Master of Music Degree in Violin Performance.
Since then, I’ve been building relationships with luthiers learning about violins and borrowing beautiful and sometimes expensive violins for concert appearances.
Flash forward to 2017, I created my first one-man show called “Six Violins”. Some were inexpensive violins that I purchased and restored, others were on loan. I even acquired The Black Violin, But How?? Although several years had passed, I never stopped thinking about it. I could only hope that by some chance Mr. Rabut still had it. To my surprise,​ he did still have it and he did remember that young boy so full of wonder and enthusiasm. Who would have guessed he would have loaned it to me for a show, and then for a whole year? The time would come when I would have to commit to purchase or return it. I fell in love with The Black Violin and now it’s a part of me. He is allowing me time to raise money; somehow we both knew it was always meant to be.​


Edward W. Hardy

Mount Vernon NY Unveils First Arts, Culture & Heritage Master Plan

Mayor Richard Thomas' Weekly Report

City of Mount Vernon, New York

December 15, 2018

Mount Vernon Unveils First Arts, Culture & Heritage Master Plan - Designed to Spur Economic Growth

Mayor Richard Thomas unveiled Mount Vernon’s first Arts, Culture & Heritage Master Plan, a blueprint for economic development that capitalizes on the city’s rich history as a home to legendary singers, actors and entertainers, such as Nina Simone, Denzel Washington, Dick Clark. P. Diddy and Heavy D to name a few.

The product of months collaboration among artists, community members, business leaders, professional planners and city officials, the Master Plan includes 21 recommendations, which are designed to help local businesses capture the almost $400 million that Mount Vernon residents spend outside the city each year, as well as generate new revenue.

“The Master Plan builds on Mount Vernon‘s strengths,” Mayor Thomas said. “We have the talent — arts and culture have long been part of Mount Vernon’s DNA — and we have the location — more affordable than New York City but just minutes away. Combine that with the right incentives and you create a new cultural destination that grows our economy now and into the future.”

Planning Commissioner Chantelle Okarter emphasized that an “incentive community input process.” which included surveys and large and small group conversations and meetings, went into developing the recommendations. She thanked CJAM Consulting for spearheading the effort and the New York State Council on the Arts for funding the initiative.

Patrick D. McCoy: New York Times: Andrew Frierson...Black Opera Singer, Dies at 94

Andrew Frierson with the soprano Billie Lynn Daniel in an undated photo. They married in 1953. “He already has the essential attributes — a beautiful voice, good technique, musicianship, sympathy and a fine presence,” a reviewer wrote after Mr. Frierson’s debut in 1949 (Credit Maurice Seymour)

Patrick D. McCoy writes:

Good Evening,
I am saddened to learn of the death of pioneering opera singer and beloved teacher of many great artists including Ben Holt:  Andrew Frierson.  Here is a link to the New York Times article.  I had the privilege of communicating with him in the beginning of forming the Ben Holt Memorial Branch of the National Association of Negro Musicians here in Washington, D.C.

Patrick D. McCoy

The New York Times

By Sam Roberts
Dec. 14, 2018

Andrew Frierson, whose bass-baritone reverberated from the stages of theaters and music halls around the world as part of the first generation of black opera singers to make their voices heard, died on Dec. 6 in Oberlin, Ohio. He was 94.

His daughter, Andrea Frierson, confirmed the death.

Mr. Frierson (pronounced FRY-er-son) made his New York debut at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1948 while still a student and went on to perform for six seasons with the New York City Opera. He also sang at the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, the occasion of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Mr. Frierson taught at Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., in the early 1950s; directed the Henry Street Settlement Music School in Manhattan in the ’60s; and was a professor of voice at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio in the ’70s.

In the early 1980s, Mr. Frierson and a colleague, James Kennon-Wilson, founded Independent Black Opera Singers, to encourage the careers of black male performers through education and competitions and by calling attention to the scarcity of blacks cast in major roles.

“There has not been a ‘real’ black male opera superstar because of racist and sexist attitudes in America,” he was quoted as saying in “Dialogues on Opera and the African-American Experience” (1997), by Wallace McClain Cheatham.

“Audiences, particularly white audiences, may tolerate a black woman being wooed and pursued by a white male, but to have a black male wooing and pursing a white female is totally unacceptable by the powers that be.”

Andrew Bennie Frierson was born on March 29, 1924, in Columbia, Tenn., the youngest of seven children of Robert Clinton Frierson, a railroad worker, and Lue Vergia (Esters) Frierson, a homemaker. The family moved to Louisville, Ky., nine months later.

His daughter said he started playing the piano on his own when he was 3 and took his first lessons when he was 8. He enrolled in Fisk University in Nashville as a music major, but before he graduated he was drafted into the Army. He served in the South Pacific during World War II.

When he returned home after the war, Mr. Frierson studied with a voice teacher, who encouraged him to apply to the Juilliard School in New York. He was accepted, and befriended two women at the school: the future opera star Leontyne Price and a soprano who would become known professionally as Billie Lynn Daniel. He and Ms. Daniel married in 1953. She died in 2002.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Community MusicWorks: How does music transform lives?

Community MusicWorks

According to a recent survey, almost half of our population feels socially disconnected.
Can this disconnection be remedied? And can a music program be a catalyst for connection in one's own neighborhood?
Every day the staff at Community MusicWorks asks these questions.
As we begin our third decade, we see our work in music and social justice making transformation in big and small ways. At our opening concert and picnic, students, families and community members listened together as the MusicWorks Collective performed a rediscovered work by African-American composer Florence Price.
A woman passing by with bags of groceries joined the gathering. She turned to me as the audience applauded. "I was overcome by this music," she said. "I needed this today."
Small moments of connection like this can be powerful. In a larger sense, we're seeing how our organization's work in the West End of Providence has made profound and lasting change:
in our students, making accomplishments as musicians and developing their voices as thoughtful citizens of the world;

in our Resident Musicians, as the MusicWorks Collective draws larger audiences and programs repertoire that represents all voices;
in CMW's MusicWorks Network, as a national cohort of CMW-inspired and like-minded programs work together to align arts education with anti-oppression practices;
and in our audience members, who engage deeply with the music and the performers to create heartfelt experiences in real time, together.
How does music transform lives? Every day Community MusicWorks asks - and answers - this question in lessons, community discussions, and performances.
Music transforms by creating meaning in moments of connection, and by bringing us together in community.
And isn't that something we all need today?
We're looking for you to join this collective effort. Your gift to Community MusicWorks is the catalyst. Together, we can bring the power of music to students, families, and audiences.
Together, we can make the connection.

Kelly Reed
Managing Director

Donate Now

Los Angeles Times: 'Green Book' composer Kris Bowers taught piano to Mahershala Ali

Actor Mahershala Ali, seated at the piano, was coached in piano technique by the film's composer, Kris Bowers, standing behind him, to portray the story of Don Shirley and the concert tour he undertook through the Deep South in 1962. (Patti Perret (Universal Pictures, Participant, and DreamWorks)

The Conversation: How 'Green Book' composer Kris Bowers taught piano to Mahershala Ali and honors Don Shirley

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Dr. Quintard Taylor of BlackPast.org: We Need Your Help

Dr. Quintard Taylor

Dr. Quintard Taylor writes:

BlackPast.org Newsletter

We need your help.  Since 2007 BlackPast.org (www.blackpast.org) has grown from a website of a few dozen pages to more than 15,000 pages, making it the world’s largest free website on the Internet dedicated to African American and global African history.  Our nearly 5,000 original entries span the globe from the Arctic to Antarctica and from the beginning of human history to the recent 2018 midterm elections. This was made possible by over 800 volunteer content contributors from six continents and a mostly volunteer staff of a dozen people who put in long hours to make sure the website’s information reaches our global audience of nearly five million people. Here is a short video that describes the website: National Education Association Carter G. Woodson Memorial Award to BlackPast.org.
We have achieved this as a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit which relies on donations from people like you to continue this vital work.
In January we will introduce BlackPast.org 2.0, a redesigned website that will simplify the user experience. We still need, however, funding to address other website challenges.   We hope you will support us in this effort.  Your gift at any level will make an immediate difference.  
When there are so many worthy and urgent requests for support, why should you give to BlackPast.org?  Here are a few reasons:
  • BlackPast.org is resource-efficient; the website operates on a modest budget, with 57% of our income as in-kind contributions.
  • BlackPast.org’s resources are regularly used by a variety of institutions ranging from the Library of Congress to small public and private school libraries across the nation and around the world.
  • BlackPast.org ranks in the top 1% of websites on the World Wide Web according to Alexa.  Google ranks our timelines as Number 1 in African American history on the Internet.
  • BlackPast.org’s resources are frequently used.  Our online entry on the Freedom Rides, https://blackpast.org/aah/freedom-rides-1961, for example, has been read by more than 305,000 people worldwide.  Also, according to Google, BlackPast.org in 2017 has registered at least one visitor from every nation in the world except the Central African Republic.
Finally, the words of a website visitor from Nairobi, Kenya, represent the sentiments of many thousands of people who have used the website since its inception in 2007:
I am a Kenyan young man of 23 years and just completed law school...I would like to congratulate you for the things you are doing…You give many people like me enormous hope… --Michael Sang, Nairobi, Kenya.
Your gift will ensure that the thousands of pages of history about people of African ancestry will continue to “give hope” and be available to you and your family and to anyone around the world who has access to a computer screen and the Internet.  
Please donate TODAY.  Consider making a gift of $10, $25, or $100 or any amount you can afford.  Also consider setting up a monthly donation plan as many of our supporters have done. You may donate here  https://blackpast.org/donate-blackpast-org or by mailing your gift to BlackPast.org, 4616 25th Avenue NE, PMB 222, Seattle, Washington 98105.
The world needs BlackPast.org and we need your help to make sure it continues to be available.  


NAACP President Johnson Travels to Ghana for Upcoming 'Year of Return Ghana 2019'

Vice-President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia of Ghana & NAACP President Derrick Johnson

NAACP President Johnson Travels to Ghana in Support of Upcoming ‘Year of Return Ghana 2019’


BALTIMORE/ACCRA  (December 13, 2018)– This week, NAACP President Derrick Johnson traveled to Ghana to meet with Vice President Dr. Mahamudu Bawumia in support of the upcoming ‘Year of Return Ghana 2019’ project, a year-long journey to celebrate the reconnecting of Africans throughout the Diaspora to their African heritage.

In addition to meeting with officials and leaders, President Johnson is also met with officials from the Ministries of Tourism, Tourism Authority and the Diaspora Affairs Office to discuss ways to reconnect greater numbers of African Americans to their roots in Ghana.

“Next year symbolizes a moment in time where people of African descent regardless of where they exist within our Diaspora can reconnect and map out a future which establishes Africa and her descendants in their rightful place on the world stage,” said NAACP President Johnson.

The yearlong event will commemorate the 400th year of the first arrival of enslaved Africans in Port Comfort/Hampton, Virginia. Launched in August 2018, by Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, ‘Year of Return Ghana 2019’will feature a number of activities, including a “Bra Fie Concert” to be hosted by Damian Marley, son of Bob Marley; a Back to Africa Festival to celebrate Black History Month, and a Homecoming and Investment Summit. 

Most importantly, this event hopes to promote business, spiritual and cultural reconnection between the African Diaspora and the Motherland, which many considered damaged beyond repair due to the Maafa – a Kiswahili term denoting great disaster or horrific occurrence and used to describe the Atlantic Slave Trade where millions of Africans were enslaved and transported across the ocean or died during the horrific Middle Passage.

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater Plans for its Future on Chicago's South Side

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater

Deeply Rooted Dance Theater (DRDT) announces significant funding support from the Reva & David Logan Foundation and the Arts Work Fund to support institutional capacity building that will facilitate the first steps of a major initiative: creating a vision for a potential new center for African-American dance education and professional performances on Chicago’s South Side. 
The Logan Foundation is providing $75,000 in general operating funds and two matching grants—$25,000 and $20,000—to offer incentives for new DRDT funders to support this capacity-building. “With these grants, the Logan Foundation has taken a leadership position in helping Deeply Rooted prepare for and define the next era for the company and dance in Chicago,” said DRDT Co-Founder and Executive/Artistic Director Kevin Iega Jeff. “The matching grants are to encourage the philanthropic community to join us in sustaining our future as an organization as well as our participation in considering and imagining this new resource.”
The Arts Work Fund/Idea Lab program is providing $25,000 for each of the next two years to support the visioning process with current committed partners, including the Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago, the Chicago Community Loan Fund (CCLF), and Studio One Dance Theater, and possible new partners in the future. The goal is to build upon the long tradition of dance on the South Side and develop new ways to support professional, pre-professional, and avocational dance in Chicago.
Creating a Vision for a South Side Dance Center
“While Deeply Rooted has served the South Side with our education programs and performances at the Logan Center—including our December 15 and 16 performances coming up this weekend—and other locations, this is an unprecedented opportunity to lead the way, with our partners, in establishing a stronger presence for dance in that part of the city,” Jeff explained. “Shifting our base of operations to a shared studio/office/performance facility on the South Side would help us strengthen our talent pipeline for DRDT’s future by expanding arts education and experiences for youth in South Side communities and exposing them to pre-professional and professional training to accompany the existing recreational opportunities. We are excited to begin the process of envisioning additional space on the South Side to attract more audiences for professional dance by increasing the number of performances there.”
To launch the project, DRDT, the Logan Center, and other partners plan to engage in a two-year Space Pilot beginning in 2019, working in existing spaces on the University campus and across the South Side that will help develop models for the ways a potential shared space might operate.
“We hope a new space will support existing organizations and serve as an incubator for new arts groups committed to fostering inclusion and connecting art and creativity with social change,” Jeff said.
“We are pleased to continue deepening our partnership with Deeply Rooted and other terrific dance organizations in Chicago that have been such a vital part of the creative community on the South Side, across Chicago, and beyond,” said Bill Michel, executive director of the Logan Center for the Arts. “We look forward to working with Deeply Rooted and others to build on their incredible legacy of dance education and performance and envision potential new space that will expand the network of facilities that support this vibrant community on the South Side.”
Artistic Leadership Evolution
Given the demands and challenges of this undertaking, Jeff is shifting his focus with DRDT to developing the necessary long-term initiatives and community relationships to cultivate the project. Additionally, DRDT’s artistic leadership will change to an artistic rotational model. Beginning in the 2019–20 season, Artistic Team member and Dance Education Director Nicole Clarke-Springer and Artistic Team member and Emerging Choreographers Showcase Producing/Artistic Director Joshua Ishmon, also a dancer with the company, will serve as co-artistic directors. Co-Founder and Associate Artistic Director Gary Abbott will take over artistic leadership for the 2020–21 season. They will be responsible for maintaining the company’s repertoire as well as bringing in new choreographic voices, while Jeff supports their leadership by continuing to serve on the Artistic Team.
DRDT has prepared for this capacity building through its Arts Management Workforce Development Program, which launched two years ago to grow new leadership; the Summer Intensive and Company Apprentice Programs; the Chicago Community Trust-funded Smart Growth initiative for strategic planning; the Smart Scope initiative, supported by the Arts & Business Council, to implement ideas from the strategic plan; and overall board development.
“The time has come for the company to become an institution, and a major city like Chicago deserves a world-class, homegrown institution for African-American dance, so I must adjust my priorities,” Jeff said. “Our artistic team has grown and strengthened in competence and vision, and they are ready for this challenge.”

Photos by Ken Carl:
Executive/Artistic Director
Kevin Iega Jeff in rehearsal.
Pierre Clark in Heaven.