Revivals of Blackness
at WCL Livestream
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Revivals of Blackness
Revivals of Blackness is an artistic offering to our kindred, honoring the life-giving contributions of global Black folks by staying real and more than well as we navigate legacies of U.S. racial violence. This innovative multimedia performance centers and challenges the ways we think about how Blackness intersects with ancestry, archive, ritual, and tradition.
Created collaboratively by artists Lela Aisha Jones, Luke Carlos O’Reilly, Alex Shaw, and filmmaker Aidan Un, this dynamic virtual ceremony interweaves music, dance, poetry, interviews, and visuals to illustrate the collective lived experiences of diasporic Blackness as effervescent, fluid, infinite, wayward, and always right on time. It invites us all to question and reflect upon the multitude of luscious ways that Blackness shapes our lives.
This project is supported by a Special Projects Grant from The Presser Foundation.
Aidan Un is a French-Korean-American filmmaker and photographer based in West Philadelphia. He works primarily in the genre of documentary and is interested in questions of culture, place, and identity. Recent works include Sisters of the Soil (2021), a short documentary film made in collaboration with Raishad Momar about a Black-owned bookshop in Philadelphia; The Ancestors Live (2020), a feature-length documentary about Kùlú Mèlé African Dance and Drum Ensemble; video and photo documentation of Modupúe | Ibaye: The Philadelphia Yoruba Performance Project, a community-embedded exploration of the city's rich and diverse expressions of Yoruba-rooted traditions and culture. His work has been featured at the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, Mustard Seed Festival, The Outlet Dance Project Festival, New Urban Film Festival, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Blackstar Film Festival. Aidan is also a member of traditional Korean percussion group URIOL and of the Philadelphia chapter of FICA (Fundação Internacional de Capoeira Angola/International Capoeira Angola Foundation).
Lela Aisha Jones is a movement performance artist, an interdisciplinary collaborator, a community-grounded organizer/curator, and the Founding Director of Lela Aisha Jones | FlyGround. A proud Tallahassee, Florida native, her research intimately and artistically archives lived experiences of diasporic blackness to create contemporary cultural memories and ceremony. Themes that rise from her endeavors include cultural nomadism, reciprocal living, and spiritual translineages. Lela’s artistic and activist labor has earned her a 2015 Leeway Transformation Award, a 2016 Pew Fellowship in the Arts, and a 2017 New York Dance and Performance/Bessie Award Nomination. Her most influential experiences have been in movement practice with Brownbody | Deneane Richburg, Christal Brown | Inspirit, Barak Ade Sole, Moustapha Bangoura, Edileusa Santos, Anssumane Silla, Sulley Imoro, Omi Osun Joni L. Jones, Urban Bush Women | Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, and Nia Love. Lela earned a B.S. at University of Florida, an M.F.A. at Florida State University, a Ph.D. at Texas Woman’s University, and is a member of the Bryn Mawr College Dance Program faculty.
Luke Carlos O’Reilly is an award-winning pianist and composer that has had a passion for music since the early age of 4. He is most heavily influenced by Jazz, Soul, R&B, Gospel, Latin Jazz, Hip-Hop and Classical music. Before the age of 17, Luke had been given the opportunity to play with the likes of Clark Terry, Joshua Redman, Walter Blanding, and Steve Turre. After graduating from Lexington High School in Massachusetts, Luke moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to attend Esther Boyer School of Music at Temple University on an academic and music scholarship. There he studied under Terrell Stafford, Mulgrew Miller, Bruce Barth and many other world-renowned jazz educators. Before graduating in 2004, Luke had fully immersed himself on the Philadelphia jazz and r&b scenes, as well as made a name for himself on the nearby New York scene. After graduating, he recorded and/or toured with Curtis Fuller, Dave Valentin, Billy Paul, Slide Hampton, Nicholas Payton, Fred Wesley, Red Holloway, Steve Turre, Musiq Soulchild, Carol Riddick, K’naan and many others. Luke has released 3 albums as a leader; ’Living In The Now’ (2011), ‘3 Suites’ (2013) and most recently, ’I Too, Sing America: A Black Man’s Diary’ (2021). Between the 3 albums, he has recorded over 20 original songs. Recently, in 2017-2018, Luke was chosen to be an Artist-in-Residence for Philadelphia’s prestigious Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. He is currently a teacher for the Kimmel Center, as well as the University of The Arts (Philadelphia).
Alex Shaw is a Philadelphia-based percussionist, sound artist/composer, cultural producer, and arts educator working in the field for over twenty years. Intercultural, interdisciplinary collaborations and compositions merging diverse percussion traditions, vocal textures, field recordings, and digital imagination encompass his current artistic focus. He is the director of renowned Brazilian ensemble, Alô Brasil, and was a section leader in the award-winning Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra for over a decade. Alex has produced dozens of public performances and cultural programs including Consciência Negra: The Legacy of Black Consciousness in Brazil, a 3-day symposium at Swarthmore College in 2016 that culminated with his original interdisciplinary production, The Mandinga Experiment, in homage to Capoeira Angola and its legacy of cultural resistance. He is a faculty member at University of the Arts, the former Artistic Director for Intercultural Journeys (2014-2020), and Co-Director of Modupúe | Ibaye: The Philadelphia Yoruba Performance Project. Alex has received several competitive artist grants and an Emerging Legacy Award at the UPenn MLK Commemorative Symposium for Social Justice. He holds a BA from Swarthmore College and an MFA in World Percussion from the California Institute of the Arts. Alex is a founding board member and lead teaching artist for World Cafe Live (formerly LiveConnections) since 2008.
Mr. Dawson studied filmmaking at the School of Visual Arts (NYC), the WNET-TV Black Journal training program (NYC), and the New York University Graduate Institute of Film and Television. Upon finishing NYU he taught filmmaking at the Studio Museum in Harlem where he initiated their first photographic exhibitions and film festivals. Mr. Dawson left the SMH to study Philosophy and Eastern Religion at Columbia University. He also studied African and African-American Art and Culture with Amiri Baraka (New School for Social Research, Columbia University) and Dr. Robert Farris Thompson (Yale University, New York University).
Returning to the Studio Museum, he became the first James Van Der Zee Curator of Photography, Film and Video, and produced numerous international film festivals as well as mounting many photographic exhibitions. These included Harlem Heyday: The Photographs of James Van Der Zee and The Sound I Saw: The Jazz Photographs of Roy DeCarava. The latter toured Asia and the Far East for the United States Information Service.
Mr. Dawson continued his work in film and video, producing both documentaries and feature films. He, along with award winning editor Frank G. Host, also ran a production house, Cinehaven. Mr. Dawson’s film production experience is all encompassing. He has worked as a producer, director of photography and sound recordist, among others. He has been associated with many prize winning film projects including Head and Heart by James Mannas and Capoeiras of Brazil by Warrington Hudlin.
He was also the Director of Special Projects at the Franklin H. Williams Caribbean Cultural Center-African Diaspora Institute, where for over seven years he developed all of their exhibitions - from conception to the opening ceremony - and documented by video the Center’s activities. He has directed the shooting and compilation of hundreds of hours of broadcast quality video on a wide range of activities, including concerts, conferences, carnivals and exhibitions, contributing to the Center’s position as one of the leading international institutions in the documentation of African Culture. He has also served as Director of Education for the Museum for African Art (NYC) where he developed their educational programs, which included lecture series, film festivals and school programs.
Mr. Dawson is currently working as an art and media consultant, and frequently lectures on African and African-Diasporic Cultures. He has lectured at the American Museum of Natural History, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the House of World Cultures (Berlin), the Kit Tropenmuseum (Amsterdam), the University of California-Berkeley, University of Texas-Austin, University of Wisconsin-Madison, the New School for Social Research, Stanford University, Columbia University, Princeton University and the Federal Universities of Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, Brazil. In addition, Mr. Dawson has taught seminars on African Spirituality in the Americas at Columbia University, the University of Iowa, New York University and Yale University. He has also served as consultant for the Cooper Hewitt Museum, the Museum for African Art, the International Center for Photography, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia University, Ralph Appelbaum Associates and three different divisions of the Smithsonian Institution. For the last seven years, Prof. Dawson has led tours to Brazil that celebrate their African history and heritage. In addition, Mr. Dawson has worked for the last 19 years as one of the curators for La Casita, a division of Lincoln-Center-Out-of-Doors, which produces concerts of poetry, dance and the international musical and orals arts.