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"Women of Consequence" dancers (from left) Rachel DeLauder,
Melissa Jones, Dianna Ruberto, April Singleton, Amber Rance and Ikira
Peace perform at the Baby Grand Theatre in Wilmington.
audience that filled the Baby Grand Theatre in Wilmington on Saturday,
March 10, was there for an event that was described as consequential in a
variety of ways.
One significant element was the launch of the University of Delaware’s Partnership for Arts and Culture,
a collaboration with organizations throughout the state to advance the
arts and humanities—and improve lives—in Delaware communities.
Another was the performance itself, “Women of Consequence: Ambitious,
Ancillary and Anonymous,” a two-hour production that showcased the
talents and hard work of UD students through their dance, poetry, music,
visual arts and drama. All aspects of the performance were based on the
historical research students conducted, beginning last summer, into the
lives and important contributions of often-overlooked African American
and African women.
Since the start of fall semester, the students have performed
portions of “Women of Consequence” at a number of UD events, for
cultural organizations and at middle and high schools around the state.
Young dancers from the community also took part in the Baby Grand
The UD group’s interactions with
those outside the University are an example of the kinds of
collaborations the new partnership expects to foster.
“Many of the great cultural movements through history have been
inspired by the arts,” Robin Morgan, UD’s interim provost, told the
audience at the launch. “Part of the beauty of the arts is that they
bring people together despite differences.”
The University has long worked with groups and individuals in the
community, seeking to broaden the institution’s impact while also giving
students the educational opportunity to take part in service learning
and other engagement activities, Morgan said.
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
Profs. Lynnette Overby and Dan Rich, deputy director and director,
respectively, of UD's Community Engagement Initiative, welcome the
audience. Overby is also the artistic director of "Women of
But recently, she said, UD’s Community Engagement Initiative in the Office of the Provost has developed a Civic Action Plan to more clearly articulate and advance that vision.
“The plan also complements the University’s strategic plan for
strengthening inclusion and diversity as we dream about a climate in
which students, faculty and staff are able to recognize the
contributions and perspectives of different cultures and genders,”
Morgan said. “We need to integrate that knowledge into our everyday work
… with the communities we serve.”
George Watson, dean of the College
of Arts and Sciences and president of the Delaware Arts Alliance board
of directors, also praised the benefits—to the University, its students,
the arts in Delaware and the community—of UD’s engagement with
organizations and cultural institutions statewide.
“I can’t overstate how much we value these strong partnerships,” he said.
The arts help bridge divides and bring people together in their
common humanity, Watson said: “In the College of Arts and Sciences, we
like to say that we illuminate the heart and mind, and that’s exactly
what the arts do.”
Also celebrating the launch of the Partnership for Arts and Culture
were Delaware Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, who spoke of a commitment by
Gov. John Carney’s administration to supporting the arts and humanities,
and U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware, who praised the
initiative for recognizing “the power of the arts” in bringing people
together and as a force for change.
The event opened with welcoming remarks by Profs. Dan Rich, director,
and Lynnette Young Overby, deputy director, of the Community Engagement
Initiative. A professor of theatre and an internationally recognized
dancer and choreographer, Overby also serves as artistic director of
“Women of Consequence.”
Overby “is passionate about this
partnership, and we are all the beneficiaries of that passion,” Rich
said. “She is, without a doubt, a woman of consequence.”
The partnership now has about 70 members, representing the University
and Delaware arts and cultural organizations. Speakers at the launch
urged the audience to “spread the word” and encourage others to join the
partnership as it continues to grow.
In the piece "Visible Force," performers (from left) Melissa
Jones, April Singleton, Rachel DeLauder, Ikira Peace, Amber Rance and
Dianna Ruberto highlight women's leadership in causes of social justice.
“Women of Consequence: Ambitious, Ancillary, Anonymous” tells the
stories of women who have contributed to the political landscape of
America but have often been viewed as ancillary or, worse, anonymous.
Through the lens of arts-based research, the program incorporates
dance, music, poetry, drama and the visual arts to bring the lives of
these women to life. It also seeks to promote audience discussion about
freedom of expression and equality for all women.
The performance was introduced by
P. Gabrielle Foreman, the Ned B. Allen Professor of English and
professor of Africana studies and history at UD and research director
for the “Women of Consequence” project.
Women highlighted in the production included abolitionist and Union
Army scout Harriet Tubman, writer and reformer Harriet Jacobs, novelist
Harriet Wilson, editor and political advocate Mary Ann Shadd Cary (a
Delaware native), activist and educator Charlotte Forten and poet
The first act of “Women of Consequence” focused on African American
women in the 19th century, examining the Colored Conventions at which
they gathered to advocate for social justice. It continued by
illuminating the lives of “The Three Harriets” and of Charlotte Forten,
who taught former slaves in South Carolina’s “Gullah Country.”
In the second act, performers and narrators told stories of women
from the 20th and 21st centuries. “The Four Roses” was inspired by the
young South African women who joined the anti-apartheid movement in the
The full program was designed to celebrate the past and present
contributions of women and to encourage the audience to foster a
successful future for all women.
The University held the event in honor of Harriet Tubman Day and
Women’s History Month, in conjunction with the Delaware Historical
Society’s Mitchell Center.
An encore performance was held March 17 at the Route 9 Library and Innovation Center in New Castle.
Article by Ann Manser; photos by Jessica Eastburn