REVELATIONS: The Legacies of Alvin Ailey and Boston’s Elma Lewis

WED, DEC 6, 2017

In a turbulent 1968, Celebrity Series of Boston took a chance with a one-night engagement of a dynamic African-American dance company. Choreographer Alvin Ailey’s mission to reflect and promote African-American traditions and art-making took hold in Boston that night. Across town that year, Boston arts educator and social activist Elma Lewis founded the National Center of Afro-American Artists to enhance appreciation for black art forms and their practitioners. It remains the largest independent Black cultural arts institution in New England.

+ BIO: Callie Crossley

Callie Crossley is a woman for all media including commentator, public speaker, writer, broadcast journalist, and filmmaker. She appears regularly on National Public Radio (NPR News and Notes with Ed Gordon). She is best known to Bostonians for her weekly television commentary on the media criticism program, Beat the Press, an 8-year-old award-winning program examining local and national media coverage airing on WGBH-TV.

Prior to her current work, Ms. Crossley spent thirteen years as a network television Producer for ABC NEWS' 20/20 reporting health medical stories such as male menopause, breast cancer and young women, and the potential link between viral infection and recycled air in airplanes. In addition, she was a producer on the critically acclaimed PBS documentary series Eyes on the Prize: Americas Civil Rights Years 1954-1965. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored her hour on the series with an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature. Crossley produced the documentary while working for Blackside, Inc., a Boston based independent film production company for which she most recently served as Senior Series Producer on the 2003 PBS documentary series This Far By Faith: African-American Spiritual Journeys. Callie Crossley is a graduate of Wellesley College, and was at Harvard University as a Nieman Fellow, a year long sabbatical for professional journalists.

+ BIO: Edmund Gaither

Edmund Barry Gaither is the founding Director and Curator of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists (NCAAA), an organization that he developed from a concept to an institution with collections exceeding three thousand objects and a thirty-two year history of exhibitions celebrating the visual arts heritage of black people worldwide. Gaither is also Special Consultant at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston where he has served as curator for eight exhibitions including a ground breaking show in l970, Afro-American Artists: New York and Boston.

A world-wide traveler, Gaither has studied and lectured in Europe, Africa, Russia and the Caribbean. He has published many articles and essays and has been a leader In the Museum field. He was the first president of the African American Museums Association. Gaither headed the national committee that commissioned the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. for the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. and has consulted to the National Endowment for the Arts. Gaither was educated at Morehouse College, Georgia State University and Brown University. Among his many honors is the Commonwealth Award for Organizational Leadership, Massachusetts’ highest award in the arts. Gaither has received honorary doctorates from Northeastern University, Framingham State College and Rhode Island College.

+ BIO: Shaumba-Yandje Dibinga

OrigiNation is a performing arts organization based in Roxbury that has been serving youth since 1994. Founding Executive and Artistic Director Shaumba-Yandje Dibinga has extensive training, teaching, and performance experience in all areas of dance and theater and has been writing poetry and producing plays for twenty years. She founded OrigiNation, “The Nation that Caters to Youth,” to provide a safe haven for young people to learn the importance of self-respect, health, public speaking, education, self-confidence, job training, and the extent of African influences on various contemporary art forms.

OrigiNation, home to four professional youth dance companies, implements initiatives to raise students’ awareness about pertinent social issues and to facilitate their development into well-rounded citizens. It serves 400 youth in house and close to 5,000 through artist-in-residence programs. Shaumba-Yandje has won many awards, including the Boston Fellows Award and Boston NAACP Image Award, and is the author of the book Pride in My Stride.

+ BIO: Jean Appolon

n addition to being the Co-founder and Artistic Director of Jean Appolon Expressions (JAE), Jean Appolon is a successful choreographer and master teacher based in Boston and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Appolon received his earliest training and performance opportunities in Port-au-Prince with the Viviane Gauthier Dance Company and the Folkloric Ballet of Haiti. Appolon continued his dance education in the U.S. at the Harvard and Radcliffe Dance Program (1995-1996, Boston, MA), Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (1996-1998, New York, NY) and the Joffrey American Ballet School (1998-2003, New York, NY), where he graduated with a B.A. from a joint degree program offered by The New School. In addition to the companies and schools listed above, Appolon has also performed with Elma Lewis Productions (Black Nativity), Marlene Silva, North Star Ballet Company (Fairbanks, AK), Black Door Dance Company (Miami, FL), and the Atlantic City Ballet Company.

Jean Appolon teaches regularly at Boston Ballet, UMASS Boston and The Dance Complex (Cambridge, MA), among other locations. Beginning in 2006, Appolon conceived and has since directed a free annual summer dance course in Port-au-Prince that serves young, aspiring Haitian dancers who do not have regular access to dance training. Appolon’s vision is to expand the summer course into a year-round dance program based in Port-au-Prince.

Appolon’s Boston-based Haitian Contemporary dance company has performed at major venues in Boston and has toured to Washington, DC and Port-au-Prince, Haiti. JAE also has performed at many schools and colleges, including Harvard University, Lesley College and Wheaton College. JAE has been fortunate to share the stage with celebrities such as Danny Glover, Henry Louis Gates and Edwidge Danticat, and to collaborate with community partners such as Central Square Theater and Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción.

Partner
WGBH