Black History Month

UPAF | January 31, 2022

UPAF Members are commemorating Black History Month and further amplifying the voices, stories and histories of African Americans throughout February and beyond.

Black Arts MKE

MILWAUKEE VOICES OF GUN VIOLENCE: Resolute, Resilient, Revolutionary, Feb. 18 & 19

MILWAUKEE VOICES OF GUN VIOLENCE:  Resolute, Resilient, Revolutionary is a documentary theater play that brings attention to the complex and often unheard or forgotten narratives of gun violence that shapes individuals, families and communities.  Bronzeville Arts Ensemble's Producing Artistic Director Sheri Williams Pannell is the author of this compelling staged reading.  Audience members will be invited to participate in a talkback immediately following the reading with a member of the cast, stage director and representative from the collaborators including Bronzeville Arts Ensemble, Mother's Against Gun Violence and UWM Art, Dance, Film and Theater Departments.

First Stage

The Watsons Go to Birmingham — 1963running through Feb. 13

Ten-year-old Kenny chronicles the events of a fateful summer for the Watson family of Flint, Michigan. When Kenny’s older brother Byron starts getting into too much trouble, Mama and Daddy decide the family needs to pay a visit to Grandma Sands in Alabama to set him straight. Mama, Daddy, Kenny, Byron, and youngest sister Joetta set out on a cross-country journey, heading south and toward a moment in American history where the world seems to change before their eyes.

The Dancing Granny, Feb. 12 — March 6, a collaboration with Ko-Thi Dance Company

Kids and adults will be dancing in their seats as Ananse, the clever spider of African folklore, tries to trick Granny into dancing away from her garden so he can take her vegetables. But his plan backfires when he is drawn into the dance himself. “Shake it to the East, shake it to the West, shake it to the one that you love best!”

Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra

Our flagship orchestra, Senior Symphony, is playing Florence Price’s composition Ethiopa’s Shadow in America, on Saturday, Feb. 12, at 7:00 pm at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts.

Florence Price was the first African American woman to be recognized as a symphonic composer (1887-1953). During her life she composed over 300 pieces of music. This piece was brought to the attention of Senior Symphony Music Director and conductor Carter Simmons by students in the Senior Symphony Program Committee in response to his question, “How would we like to represent ourselves with the music we play?” This exemplifies the dynamic culture at MYSO.

Ms. Price wrote about the story she wanted to tell through her music in Ethiopia – “the arrival of the Negro in America when first brought here as a slave.” In this piece one will hear sounds of toil and sadness, gospel, jazz, and music of strength that uplifts.

This piece will not only be played at the Wilson Center, but during the day in a morning community concert given for several city of Milwaukee public schools, and then an afternoon community concert at Kettle Moraine High School, bringing it to a much wider audience.

Other MYSO performances of pieces by African American composers in February include:

Sinfonia orchestra (grades 6-9) is performing Danse Negre by the Afro-English composer Samuel Coleridge Taylor (1875 – 1912) at their Winter concert on Sunday, Feb. 20, at Carroll University’s Shattuck Music Center, and at their community concerts with local schools on Friday, Feb. 11.

String Orchestra North/Central (grades 4–7) is performing The Entertainer by Scott Joplin (1868 – 1917), and All of Me by John Legend (b. 1978) at their Winter concert on Saturday, Feb. 19, at Carroll University’s Shattuck Music Center, and at their community concerts with local schools on Thursday, Feb. 10.

Jazz Heritage Festival featuring various jazz combos, spread out over 3 days, February 23, 24, and 26, at Milwaukee Youth Arts Center. Our Jazz Heritage Festival commemorates the spirit of Bronzeville, the African American neighborhood that was once home to a vibrant jazz and blues entertainment district in the 1920s through the 1940s in Milwaukee. MYSO’s studios are located within Bronzeville’s historic borders.

MYSO continually seeks to stretch beyond traditional classical music compositions and provide our students new windows into music.

Next Act

Pipeline, Feb. 10 — March 6

PIPELINE by Dominique Morisseau: Nya, a committed inner-city public high school teacher, is desperate to give her only son Omari opportunities her students will never have. When a controversial incident at his upstate private school threatens to get him expelled, Nya must confront his rage and her own choices as a parent. Morisseau pens an impassioned and compelling story of a mother’s fight to give her son a future despite society’s challenges stacked against them both. (This is a majority-BIPOC show: five of the six cast members, the director, the playwright and four of the seven designers are Black.)

Skylight Music Theatre

Soul Review, a one-night-only cabaret, will be presented on Saturday, February 19 at 7 p.m. The show stars three of Skylight’s favorite performers, Raven Dockery, Shawn Holmes, and Kevin James Sievert singing with an on-stage band, live in the Studio Theater at the Broadway Theatre Center, 158 N. Broadway in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward.

Soul Review features songs by Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson, Earth Wind and Fire and Stevie Wonder, among others. The three performers are longtime friends who have often worked together on the Skylight stage.

Skylight Music Theatre will also offer free access during the month of February to the virtual production Forgotten Voices – Unearthing the Roots of American Music. In celebration of the contribution of Black artists, Forgotten Voices was directed and written by Sheri Williams Pannell and music directed and curated by Christie Chiles Twillie in honor of Juneteenth in 2021.

Forgotten Voices came from our passion, knowledge, and desire to correct misinformation, especially when it comes to the African American experience and music,” said Pannell. In a musical and theatrical journey, Forgotten Voices highlights how musical roots encompass harmonies and rhythms of West Africa, which then became Freedom Songs, Spirituals and Blues, on through Ragtime, Dixieland, Country, Swing, BeBop, Jazz, Gospel, Rock n’ Roll and beyond.

Monday Night Dance Break music theatre dance classes  taught by two local choreographers, Wanyah Frazier and Christopher Gilbert, celebrating Black History Month will be held on Monday, February 21 and Monday, February 28 at 7 p.m.

Following Black History Month:

Present Music

Ablaze, March 10

This piece will feature featuring several Black composers, and a pre-concert panel discussion on race and identity issues.