William & Mary

W&M commemorates 50 years of black students with events, performances

  • Building the Legacy:
    Building the Legacy:  Associate Professor of Biology Shantá Hinton will present the Tack Faculty Lecture, "It’s a marvelous night for a Brain Dance! So grab on, and hold on…like MK-STYX," at 7 p.m. on Oct. 4 in the Sadler Center’s Commonwealth Auditorium.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
  • Building the Legacy:
    Building the Legacy:  Artist Steve Prince led an Africana Studies class over the summer installing a permanent mural in Swem Library in honor of the 50th commemoration. The mural was unveiled in a special ceremony the week of Convocation.  Photo by Skip Rowland '83
  • Building the Legacy:
    Building the Legacy:  Composer, performer and media artist Pamela Z will give a performance and artist’s talk on Oct. 27 (time and location to be determined) as part of the American studies symposium on Race, Memory and the Digital Humanities.  Photo by Donald Swearingen
  • Building the Legacy:
    Building the Legacy:  (From left) Karen Ely, Janet Brown Strafer and Lynn Briley are W&M's first African-American residential students. They led the university's new students through the Wren Building as part of the 2017 Opening Convocation ceremony.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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The 2017-2018 school year marks the 50th anniversary of the first African-American residential students admitted to William & Mary. In 1967, Lynn Briley, Janet Brown Strafer and Karen Ely arrived at William & Mary. The university honors them and William & Mary’s entire African-American community, past and present, this year through “Building on the Legacy,” a series of special events, guest speakers and performances.

The commemoration’s theme is Sankofa, which, in the Akan Language of West Africa, reflects the idea that “it is not taboo to go back and fetch what you forgot.” The philosophy is famously represented by the Adinkra symbol of a bird with its head turned backward, taking an egg from its back. "Building on the Legacy" calls back to the Sankofa teaching that the past must be known and understood in order to move forward and make the most of the future. – Ed.

Artist Steve Prince led an Africana Studies class over the summer installing a permanent mural in Swem Library in honor of the 50th commemoration. The mural was unveiled in a special ceremony the week of Convocation.

{{youtube:medium:left|kPekBudxyjA, Creating the mural 'Lemonade'}}

The Leah Glenn Dance Theatre is offering two free performances at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 2 at the Muscarelle Museum of Art. The event features choreography by Leah Glenn, associate professor of dance, and poetry by Hermine Pinson, associate professor of English and Africana studies. Although the events are free, space is limited. Please reserve a free ticket here.

Martin Luther King, Jr., 2002 by John Wilson (Photo copyright, estate of the artist)The performances line up with two new exhibitions at the Muscarelle Museum of Art connected with the 50th anniversary. The first, Building on the Legacy: African-American Art From the Permanent Collection, features the Muscarelle’s own holdings.

The second, Fred Eversley, 50 Years an Artist: Light & Space & Energy, features a survey of the important African-American artist’s work. Trained as an engineer, Eversley began crafting polyester resin sculptures to “create kinetic art without using kinetic elements, such as mechanical movement or artificial light changes.” His interest in energy led him to use wind currents, solar and fossil energy in his work.

Eversley's ''Red Vice Versa, 1984'' (Photo by Maria Larsson)Interestingly, Eversley pointed out to Muscarelle staff that as William & Mary’s first African-American students arrived on campus in September 1967, he was embarking on his career as an artist.

The shows open on Sept. 2 and run through Dec. 10 for Eversley and Jan. 14 for the permanent collection. Admission is free to museum members, W&M faculty, staff and students and children under 12 years old. It is $10 for the general public.

Warren W. Buck III M.S. '70, Ph.D. '76, D.Sc. '13The founding president of W&M’s Black Student Organization and member of the Board of Visitors, Warren W. Buck III M.S. '70, Ph.D. '76, D.Sc. '13, is the keynote speaker at a private dinner on Sept. 12 for organization members. Buck earned a bachelor’s degree from Morgan State University in 1968 and his master’s and Ph.D. in theoretical physics from William & Mary. Internationally known for his work in physics and physics education, Buck is a professor and chancellor emeritus of the University of Washington, Bothell. Buck was a prominent member of a team that established the scientific program at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson Accelerator Facility, or Jefferson Lab, in Newport News and was the founding director of the Nuclear/High Energy Physics Research Center of Excellence and a professor of physics at Hampton University.

Brenda Marie OsbeyPoetry is the program at 5 p.m. on Sept. 14, when award winner Brenda Marie Osbey reads in the Tucker Theatre. A highlight will be an original poem by Osbey commissioned to honor the 50th commemoration. A New Orleans native, she writes in both English and French and was appointed Louisiana’s first peer-selected poet laureate in 2005. Her work focuses on narrative language, voice and placement; narrative and material texts of culture; and the place of New Orleans in Atlantic and inter-American spheres. She has a special interest in the history of poetry of the Americas of the precolonial and colonial eras. She is the recipient of the 2014 Langston Hughes Award, and has received fellowships and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Louisiana Division of the Arts, the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Foundation and others. From 2011 through 2015, she served as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University.

Trudier HarrisThe Cloud Lecture series will host Trudier Harris, American literary historian and professor of English at the University of Alabama, at 5 p.m. on Sept. 28, in the Tucker Theatre. Harris in the 1970s was the first tenure-track African-American professor at William & Mary. She has won numerous awards for both teaching and scholarship and is the author, editor or coeditor of 23 books, most recently The Scary Mason-Dixon Line: African American Writers and the South, South of Tradition: Essays on African American Literature and The Concise Oxford Companion to African American Literature.

Associate Professor of Biology Shantá Hinton will present the Tack Faculty Lecture, "It’s a marvelous night for a Brain Dance! So grab on, and hold on…like MK-STYX," at 7 p.m. on Oct. 4 in the Sadler Center’s Commonwealth Auditorium. The 50th committee chose this semester’s lecturer.

The Tack Lecture is a newer W&M tradition uniting the university and local communities to celebrate faculty excellence and the university’s intellectual liveliness. Every semester, a William & Mary professor addresses the community on a topic of general interest. The lecture is free and open to the public, but space is limited. RSVP here.

W&M Theatre opens the semester on Oct. 5 with “Our Lady of Kibeho,” written by Katori Hall and directed by Claire Pamment, assistant professor of world theatre. The play, chosen for the 50th commemoration, tells the story of a Rwandan village girl who in 1981 claims to see the Virgin Mary. She is denounced by her superiors and ostracized by her schoolmates until they begin experiencing apocalyptic visions of their own. Skepticism gives way to fear, causing upheaval in the school community and beyond. Based on real events, the play is an exploration of faith, doubt and the power and consequences of both. The show runs through Oct. 8 in Phi Beta Kappa Memorial Hall. Show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. A special talkback addressing the themes of the play and its relevance today will be held on Oct. 7.

Oscar BarbarinThe School of Education kicks off its Diversity Lecture Series at 6 p.m. on Oct. 11 when Oscar Barbarin, chair and professor of the African American Studies Department at University of Maryland, College Park, presents a free talk, “Promoting the Development of African-American Boys.” Barbarin will summarize recent findings and discuss what families, schools and communities can do to overcome risks and promote positive development among African-American boys.

Barbarin’s research focuses on determinants of ethnic and gender achievement gaps beginning in early childhood. He has developed a mental health screening system for children pre-K through 8th grade and was principal investigator on a national study examining the socioemotional and academic development of boys of color. His work on children of African descent extends to a 20-year longitudinal study of the effects of poverty and violence on child development in South Africa. He has served as editor of the American Journal of Orthopsychiatry and on the Governing Council of the Society for Research in Child Development.

William & Mary’s Homecoming presents special opportunities to recognize the first three African-American residential alumnae, Lynn Briley, Karen Ely and Janet Brown Strafer. The three will be grand marshals for the Homecoming Parade, scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 20 on Richmond Road. At 11 a.m. the next day, Oct. 21, they will be honored with a special alumni brick dedication at Alumni House, 500 Richmond Road.

Pamela Z performing a study for Baggage Allowance (Photo by Kimberly Young)Composer, performer and media artist Pamela Z will give a concert and artist’s talk at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 27 in Ewell Recital Hall as part of the American studies symposium on Race, Memory and the Digital Humanities. Z works primarily with voice, live electronic processing, sampled sound and video. Her solo works combine vocal techniques with electronic processing, samples, gesture-activated MIDI controllers and video. She has toured and exhibited throughout the U.S., Europe and Japan and has composed scores for dance, film and chamber ensembles. Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Doris Duke Artist Impact Award, among others.