The Kimmel Cultural Campus celebrates Black History Month with an array of digital programs

Courtesy of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts

The Kimmel Cultural Campus celebrates the accomplishments, heritage, and artistic contributions of African Americans through a variety of digital Black History Month programs throughout the month of February. Digital events shine a spotlight on the music of the Civil Rights Movement as well as modern-day struggles for equality, the cultural enlightenment of the Harlem Renaissance, and offer audiences of all ages a “Hip Hop Recess” that moves the body while offering morsels of history about Hip Hop, the dynamic dance form from the 1970s. 

“Our stages have already missed so much this year, from legendary local artists and ensembles like Philadanco to our annual Holiday celebration, A Soulful Christmas, to appearances by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. We hope the fall brings a return of these important artists to our stages,” says Anne Ewers, Kimmel Center’s President & CEO. “We are thrilled, however, that technology and wonderful partnerships allow us to continue our tradition of robust Black History Month offerings, welcoming thousands of schoolchildren to our now virtual, free educational outreach Jazz4Freedom program. We are also honored to punctuate these current turbulent times with the raw beauty of Nina Simone’s music, and we are proud to champion local artists at a time when opportunities are so limited.”   

The Kimmel Cultural Campus will also feature inspirational quotes from African American artists and cultural leaders on its social media channels. The quotes have become the Kimmel’s most popular and shared posts in recent years. This year, because of the pandemic, we will feature a refreshed version of quotes from previous years with updated information on what the artists have been doing during COVID19. Among the featured artists are Philadanco’s Joan Myers Brown, R&B legend Patti LaBelle, Jazz great Wynton Marsalis, and Opera tenor Lawrence Brownlee. 

Additionally, the Kimmel curated playlists on our Spotify music channel have been a huge hit. Be sure to check out our special Black History Month Playlist celebrating generations of African American artists and musicians.  

Here is a complete lineup of the digital performances being highlighted by the Kimmel Cultural Campus. These events are streaming on various platforms. For more detailed information go to www.kimmelcenter.org.  

Strange Fruit- A digital excerpt 
PHILADANCO! 
Kimmel Cultural Campus Resident Company Philadanco 
Streaming FREE on-demand starting February 1 
Strange Fruit is an excerpt from New Fruit, a ballet choreographed by Christopher Huggins, which gives audiences a glimpse into the unchanged landscape of the cycle of sanctioned violence on Black/Brown bodies in America. This moving meditation physicalizes lynching, or Strange Fruit, as described in the 1939 song recording by Billie Holiday.  “We are still smelling strange fruit in 2020. When will the scent of this strange fruit become the perfume of justice?” asks creator Christopher Huggins, who is a former member of the renowned Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. This haunting and beautiful piece was re-imagined off the stage by dancer William Burden and was filmed locally, in a Philadelphia park. Phladanco’s Burden says tapping into this horrific place in American history was no easy feat as an African American dancer; however, he was forced to dig deep to touch the rage and sorrow of his ancestors.  

I Got Life: The Music of Nina Simone
Featuring jazz artists Gerald Veasley & Carol Riddick
In partnership with the August Wilson African American Cultural Center 
Streaming, Thursday, February 4, 8:00 pm 
In a new partnership, the Kimmel Cultural Campus joins The August Wilson African American Cultural Center to bring Philadelphia audiences “I Got Life: The Music of Nina Simone.” This intimate streaming concert experience features two legends of jazz and soul music to celebrate one iconic artist. Philly natives Carol Riddick and Gerald Veasley join forces in this intimate performance that explores the empowering music and messages of Nina Simone through four aspects of her legendary songbook: Quest, Passion, Fury, and Hope. In this streaming concert, vocalist Carol Riddick and bassist Gerald Veasley lead an ensemble that re-imagines Nina Simone’s work with inventive energy. Both sharing a deep appreciation for Simone’s music and her activism, Veasley and Riddick understand there is no better time to perform this timeless music.  

Hip Hop Fundamentals [FREE]
Generously supported by PNC Arts Alive
An interactive, virtual performance by Philadelphia dance troupe Hip Hop Fundamentals
Streaming FREE on-demand starting February 1. 
Now, more than ever, we all need an outlet. We need to “play” and socialize, especially as we spend more and more time on our screens. Join us for an on-demand, free, streaming performance of an interactive, fast-paced “Hip Hop Recess” that combines the academic and social content with the world’s most dynamic dance form created by African American youth living in the Bronx in the 1970s. The certified teaching artists and seasoned performers from the local dance company, “Hip Hop Fundamentals” are passionately driven to inspire audiences of all ages! 

JAZZ4FREEDOM – a Virtual Field Trip                                                                                                                        
The Kimmel Cultural Campus, streaming for classrooms only                                                                   
Streaming FREE on-demand for teachers through February.
This all-new virtual field trip to the Kimmel Cultural Campus gives classrooms free, educational opportunities to celebrate dance, jazz, scat singing, and the Harlem Renaissance. Kimmel’s free educational programs were launched virtually in September, and by popular demand, Kimmel has increased its commitment to meet today’s needs of students – and teachers – by adding to its virtual offerings the creation of four virtual field trips to be made available to Title 1 classrooms. Typically, welcoming thousands of 4th graders for in-person field trips starting the week of MLK day, and taking place throughout the month of February, the Kimmel’s signature Jazz4Freedom program will now be the first virtual field trip released in the four-part monthly series. In February’s program, students will learn about The Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Movement, and modern-day social heroes while “traveling” to a place and time where African American artistic expression flourished, leaving an indelible impact on American culture and the world.  

Save the Boys
Featuring John Holiday, Countertenor, and music by Tyshawn Sorey, Opera Philadelphia’s Composer in Residence & MacArthur Fellow 
Opera Philadelphia 
World Premiere, Streaming Friday, February 12, 8:00 pm  
Opera Philadelphia Composer in Residence Tyshawn Sorey premieres a new work on the Opera Philadelphia Channel inspired by Save the Boys, an 1887 poem by abolitionist, writer, and Black women’s rights activist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911). Save the Boys, which will be approximately 20 minutes in length, premieres on Friday, Feb. 12, and is the first of four digital commissions set to debut on the channel in 2021. Sorey’s music will be written for and performed by renowned countertenor John Holiday, known to Philadelphia audiences for creating the role of John Blue in 2017’s hit world premiere We Shall Not Be Moved. The 35-year-old artist has been impressing television audiences worldwide as a member of John Legend’s team on NBC’s “The Voice,” lending his incredible range to songs like Ella Fitzgerald’s “Misty,” Stevie Wonder’s “Summer Soft,” and Eric Carmen’s “All by Myself.”  

Cycles of My Being 
Featuring Lawrence Brownlee, Tenor; Music by Composer in Residence and MacArthur Fellow Tyshawn Sorey, Lyrics by MacArthur Fellow Terrane Hayes 
Opera Philadelphia 
Streaming now through May 31, 2021 
With music by Composer in Residence and MacArthur Fellow Tyshawn Sorey, and lyrics by MacArthur Fellow Terrance Hayes, and vocals by superstar tenor Lawrence Brownlee, Cycles of My Being is a timely song cycle exploring the realities of life as a Black man in America today. Cycles of My Being premiered at Opera Philadelphia in 2018 and the New York Times said it offers “pointed political questions for the nation,” with “a score that teems with vivid contrasts.” Cycles of My Being went on from Philadelphia to be performed in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Now audiences all over the world will be able to experience this groundbreaking work in a striking new film presentation.  

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