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O-pa introduces a new series on arts and social justice

Oct 1, 2020, 13:59 PM by Dara Hogan


Omaha Performing Arts launches Voices AMPLIFIED!
A new series on arts and social justice


OMAHA, Neb. (October 1, 2020) – Voices AMPLIFIED! is a multidisciplinary arts and social justice initiative, organized and led by Omaha Performing Arts, to amplify artists in diverse cultures.

Under the direction of Gennean Scott, Vice President of Human Capital and Inclusion and Andy Cassano, Vice President of Programming and Education, Voices AMPLIFIED!  will elevate artists and their work in social justice through live music, dance, and spoken word.  The new series will include panel discussions by local and national artists and community partners on food, health, #BlackVoicesMatter and more. 

Voices AMPLIFIED! is led by a committee of ten community members comprised of educators, artists and O-pa employees: Deborah Bunting, Andy Cassano, Raydell Cordell III, Aaron Gregory, Bill Grennan, Dara Hogan, Matt Mason, Jade Rogers, Gennean Scott and Kathy Tyree.

“Inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility are core values at Omaha Performing Arts and are woven throughout our efforts. Voices AMPLIFIED! is an extension of that work and a long-term initiative to expand our artistic, community engagement and education programs,” said Gennean Scott, Vice President of Human Capital and Inclusion.

During the 2020-2021 season, Voices AMPLIFIED! will partner with performing artists who reflect on Black history and racial equity to amplify Black voices and Black stories and encourage dialogue in the community. While current events have directly shaped the direction of this year’s topic, the community approach to Voices AMPLIFIED! is an ongoing effort at O-pa.

The 2020-2021 season events are listed below. For more information, visit our website Voices AMPLIFIED! Locations, registration and additional details will be available later.

2020/2021 Voices AMPLIFIED! 

Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020 at 4 PM - Panel discussion: August Wilson’s “Fences” – how the themes still matter today

Our groundbreaking Voices AMPLIFIED! series starts with rediscovering one of the greatest Black voices in theater – August Wilson.  Wilson, an award-winning playwright and author, chronicled 20th century Black American life and won a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for his 1983 play “Fences.” Join us for a panel discussion of the movie adaptation of “Fences,” with Omaha thespians: Raydell Cordell III, Kathy Tyree, John Beasley and Tyrone Beasley. The panel will discuss the symbolism of fences, generational differences and explore the father and son relationship within Black families. We invite you to watch the film on your own and then join us for this pre-recorded panel discussion.

Location: Virtual.  Registrants will receive a private link to the digital content on Oct. 25.

Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020 at 4 PM -
Panel discussion: Local filmmakers making movies that move

We turn our attention to amplify local filmmakers who are using their art to influence social justice issues in Omaha.  In partnership with Film Streams, artist Sydney Shead, will share her film series the “Unwavering Project.”  Shead is an Omaha entrepreneur, family advocate and consultant. In her latest film project, she highlights the unwavering resilience, community support, representation and creative self-expression in the Black community and how they overcome adversity.  More information about registration for this event coming soon.

Location: Virtual via Omaha Performing Arts YouTube channel

Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020 at 4 PM
- Worth a Thousand Words: The Photography of Rudy Smith

After hearing Martin Luther King, Jr. speak at a convention in Denver, Omaha native Rudy Smith was forever changed. The award-winning photographer Rudy Smith chronicled news events with his camera including Omaha’s race upheavals and the 1968 visit of Robert Kennedy who was campaigning in North Omaha two weeks before his assassination. Throughout Smith's photography career, he worked as both the objective observer and the committed activist. During a time of Civil Rights turmoil and reform in America, Smith photographed historical subjects such as protests, marches, and riots. We invite you to tune in for a live exhibit of his selected work, along with panelists who will talk about the importance of Smith’s work and how he made a national difference. More information about registration for this event coming soon.

Location: Virtual via Omaha Performing Arts YouTube channel

Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021 at 5 PM
- Dinner and discussion: food, health and the arts

Food is rooted in Black culture and it’s also at the heart of health issues that challenge our society.  Inspired by noted author and cook, Michael Twitty, we’ll be preparing dinner for you.  You'll be able to eat and join our discussion on Black culinary arts, culture and health with guests from the Nebraska School of Medicine.

More information about registration for this event coming soon.

Location: TBD 

Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021 at 12 PM
- Lunch and learn: The food and music of the Gullah Culture

Ranky Tanky is a Grammy-Award winning musical ensemble based in Charleston, South Carolina. The group specializes in jazz-influenced arrangements of traditional Gullah music, a culture that originated among descendants of enslaved Africans in the Lowcountry region.  We invite you to engage with Ranky Tanky over a lunch and learn about the Gullah culture, music and history. More information about registration for this event coming soon.

Location: TBD

Performance:  Friday, Feb. 5, 2021 at 7:30 PM - Ranky Tanky - Holland Center

Wednesday, March 10, 2021 at 5:30 PM
- Live discussion: Alicia Olatuja  

Jazz singer Alicia Olatuja will give an in-depth insight on her upcoming performance, “Intuition: Songs From the Minds of Women,” a musical commentary for the times, as Black women reassert their rights, gain more political clout and speak out against harassment, abuse and exploitation in all walks of life.  More information about registration for this event coming soon.

Location: TBD

Performance:  Thursday, March 11, 2021 at 7:30 PM - Alicia Olatuja Intuition:  Songs From The Minds of Women - Holland Center

Wednesday, April 28, 2021 at 5:30 PM - Live discussion: The Black voice in dance

The Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO) has a legacy of breaking barriers and building bridges across cultural divides. Founded in 1970 by Joan Myers Brown, PHILADANCO is known for using the language of dance to explore Black history, social justice and civil rights.  Dancers and choreographers associated with PHILADANCO will talk about the influence of dance in social justice and the arts, as well as fighting Black stereotypes in dance as an art form and as an artist. More information about registration for this event coming soon.

Location: TBD

Performance:  Thursday, April 19, 2021 at 7:30 PM - PHILADANCO - Orpheum Theater

Friday, June 25, 2021 at 7:30 PM
- "Let America Be America Again”

Titled after the Langston Hughes' poem, The Voices AMPLIFIED! finale event will feature local literary, musical, dance and visual arts talent focused around racial equity, social justice, and the arts, with an emphasis on both the Black Lives Matter movement and past reflections throughout history.

Location: Holland Performing Arts Center