August 23, 2016

'Away to the West: Black Cowboys and Black Prosperity' theme of BCC's Fall Cultural Arts Series

convos mavis Gospel and rhythm and blues singer Mavis Staples will be in concert Nov. 4 in Stewart Center's Loeb Playhouse. "Living on a High Note" is co-sponsored by Purdue’s Black Cultural Center and Purdue Convocations.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — How African-Americans helped settle the American frontier will be the theme of the Fall Cultural Arts Series at the Purdue University Black Cultural Center.

"Away to the West: Black Cowboys and Black Prosperity in the American West" will feature an author, an international actress, art exhibitions, speakers, music and other performances.

"As a result of our programming the Purdue community gains a better understanding of how African-Americans built landmarks, towns and a lush cultural legacy on the American frontier," said Renee Thomas, director of the BCC. "The programs are designed to raise awareness and appreciation for the country's most prosperous black community and the entrepreneur spirit of Black Wall Street, located in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The programs will show the struggle and triumph as the Purdue community discovers legendary cowboys and cultural icons."

The series will include "Big Mama Speaks," featuring Vanessa Adams-Harris in a one-act vignette at 7 p.m. Sept. 22 in Stewart Center's Fowler Hall. It traces the history of the Greenwood District in Tulsa's African-American community, known nationally in the early 20th century for its preeminent black entrepreneurs.

Another highlight of the fall series will be a concert by gospel and rhythm and blues singer Mavis Staples. "Living on a High Note," co-sponsored by Purdue Convocations, will be at 8 p.m. Nov. 4 in Stewart Center's Loeb Playhouse. A pre-show discussion at 7 p.m. in Stewart Center, Room 202, will feature James Dekle, Purdue Black Cultural Center artist-in-residence, who will discuss Staples and her influence on gospel music and civil rights. 

convos burton Author Art T. Burton will be featured in a lecture titled "African-American Presence on the Western Frontier" on Oct. 26 in Stewart Center, Room 206.

Also during the series, author Art T. Burton will present a lecture on "African-American Presence on the Western Frontier," at 2 p.m. Oct. 26 in Stewart Center, Room 206. Burton has written three books and lectured extensively around the country about the African-American role in the American West.

"His presentation will entertain and enlighten audience members as he examines the life and times of black men and women who settled the Western frontier," Thomas said.

Students in the BCC's Performing Arts Ensembles will travel to Tulsa and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Oct. 7-11 on a research tour.

"This educational trip will explore the vibrant heritage of Oklahoma by studying the rich influence of pioneers, trailblazers and entrepreneurs," Thomas said. "Participants will learn about the Trail of Tears, Black Towns, the Tulsa race riot and cowboy culture."

Other upcoming events, which are free and open to the public unless otherwise noted, include:

* Aug. 25. 4-6 p.m. Black Cultural Center, 1100 Third St. Annual Boilerfest New Student Orientation. A premier performance by Purdue Express, electronic bull riding and the Friday Night Funk Out Band will be featured. The program introduces new students to the BCC, various student organizations and support services.

* Sept. 17. 6:30 p.m. Long Center for Performing Arts, 111 N. Sixth St., Lafayette. INTERSECTIONS, a collaborative concert to honor the importance of African heritage in the musical traditions of North and South America, featuring the Sabrina Lastman Quartet, Black Voices of Inspiration, the Purdue Jazz Band and other groups.

* Sept. 24. Immediately following the Purdue home football game with the University of Nevada. BCC. BCC Friends and Family Day, featuring a hands-on workshop that will be led by Marcia Fountain-Blacklidge. Participants will create artwork that reflects connections between culture, nature and spirituality. A short theatrical performance of Oklahoma history also will be presented.

* Oct. 14-16. Homecoming. BCC and the Purdue Black Alumni Organization will host several events to meet, socialize and network with alumni and current students. The weekend also will include a Sunday morning gospel brunch, featuring Black Voices of Inspiration Alumni Choir, at The Trails, 325 Burnetts Road, West Lafayette.

* Oct. 20. 6:30 p.m. Ivy Tech Community College-Lafayette, 3101 S. Creasy Lane, Lafayette. Roxane Gay, New York Times best-selling author of "Bad Feminist," founder of the literary magazine PANK and associate professor of English at Purdue, will speak on the intersectionality of gender, race and sexuality. The Indiana Voices of Women, the Purdue LGBTQ Center and the BCC sponsor the event.

* Oct. 21-22. 7 p.m. both nights. BCC. Performing Arts Ensemble Showcase. BCC ensembles will collaborate to present a performance of actions, words, movement and music.

* Nov. 9. 7 p.m. Stewart Center, Room 206. Purdue alumna Kimberly C. Ellis, a scholar of American and African studies and performing artist, activist and entrepreneur, will give a multimedia presentation on the Tulsa race riot of 1921. The lecture, titled "Enemies, Both Foreign and Domestic: The Tulsa Race Riot of 1921," is part of the BCC Alumna Speaker Series.

* Nov. 5 through Dec. 10. West Lafayette Public Library, 208 W. Columbia St. "We Are All Connected" is an exhibit that illustrates the forces that bring women of all cultures from the past, to the present and into the future. It features paintings, glasswork and clay sculptures by Chippewa Indian artist Marcia Fountain-Blacklidge.

* Nov. 15-Dec. 10. "Entertainment in Historic Idlewild: The Summer Apollo of Michigan." BCC. Idlewild, Michigan, was a thriving entertainment and tourist spot in the 1950s and '60s. This black-and-white photography exhibit features big-name entertainers, showgirls and promotional materials from the era.

 * Dec. 2. 7 p.m. Loeb Playhouse. Cultural Arts Festival. The event is the culmination of the fall arts series and features the BCC Performing Arts Ensembles. Admission is $7 for the general public and $5 for Purdue students. 

* Dec. 18-Feb. 26. Art Museum of Greater Lafayette, 102 South 10th St., Lafayette. "On the Shoulders of Our Ancestors: The Art of Willis Bing Davis." Working in paint, pastel, ceramics and mixed media, Davis is inspired by his African heritage, creating works that reflect his ancestral past. His collection has been exhibited at several venues including the Studio Museum of Harlem and the Indianapolis Museum of Art. 

Writer: Greg McClure, 765-4496-9711,

Source: Renee Thomas, 765-494-3091,

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