Dance professor organizes public event to commemorate, recognize Black women

Troy PiersonReporter

Live jazz music filled the air at Dan Smith Community Park in downtown Kent on Saturday, a somewhat irregular sight given the cancelation of many public events throughout the local area. But for this particular event, those who participated in the festivities came to commemorate and recognize those lost to police brutality and systemic racism, particularly Black women. 

The Dancing in Solidarity event was held at 3 p.m. Saturday afternoon and was organized by Kent State assistant professor of dance Gregory King, who brought together speakers, a jazz band and a DJ for the event. King said the act of dancing can be used in a joyous and celebratory expression while asking for both justice and accountability at the same time. 

“A lot of times in protests, we are activating our bodies,” King said. “I wanted to ensure that I allowed my art form to be centered while centering the voices of Black women, because I think for too long the movement has been very male-gender specific, and I wanted to ensure that there is room in the conversation for Black women.”

King, alongside Kent State fashion design associate professor Tameka Ellington and Kent State Pan-African studies associate professor Charmaine Crawford, gave speeches about Black women and minorities who have been subjected to years of racism and discrimination. 

The music began with a performance from Nathan Paul and the Admirables, a local instrumental band that focuses on afrofuturism and plays a combination of jazz, soul, funk and rock. King contacted the band through saxophonist Chris Coles, a Kent State Jazz ensembles instructor. King had collaborated with Coles before when they organized a choreographed dance for the Nine Lives Project, a performance piece Coles created for the past two years to tell the story of the 2015 Charleston church shooting. 

Paul, an inner-city Cleveland music teacher, said that while he and the band have participated in a number of Black empowerment events, this was the first event they have participated in that ties directly with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Other groups at the event included the Kent League of Women Voters, who supplied voter registration forms. The Southern Comfort food truck was also set up outside the park, selling New Orleans style cuisine.

Contact Troy Pierson at [email protected]