Urban Bush Women, an internationally renowned dance company, will kick off a 10-day conversation about racial equality with a performance at the Contemporary Arts Center on Saturday (July 25). The troupe will team up with acclaimed spoken word artists, musicians and actors to begin thinking about how the Black Lives Matter movement can be institutionalized.
The performance is the first of four events for the Summer Leadership Institute, an annual project headed by the Urban Bush Women and intended to connect dancers and community activists interested in using art for social change. Local partners include Junebug Productions, Tulane University, and The People's Institute for Survival and Beyond.
"We usually try to look at what's on top, what song that communities are singing," Stephanie McKee, executive artistic director of Junebug Productions, said. "With the Black Lives Matter movement and the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, we had to really look at these mass incarceration rates, particularly focused on Louisiana because the incarceration rate is so staggering here. We thought it was fitting."
This year's theme is inspired by Michelle Alexander's book "The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness." Alexander lays out an argument that the criminal justice system nationwide functions as structural racism with a devastating effect on black communities.
Attendees can expect a powerful performance by the Urban Bush Women on Saturday. The U.S. State Department has sent the troupe around the globe promoting cultural exchange. The dancers also have received prestigious Doris Duke and Capezio awards for their contemporary choreography, often inspired by the African Diaspora.
On Monday, the Urban Bush Women will host a dance class and party led by the troupe's founder, Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center. On Tuesday, there will be a panel discussion at Tulane University about how to move beyond protest and create concrete change. The Institute will conclude with performances at Tulane University on Saturday (Aug. 1).
Urban Bush Women and Voices From the Bush begins Saturday, July 25, at 7 p.m. at the Contemporary Arts Center (900 Camp St.). Admission: $20; $15 for students, seniors, and CAC members. For more information and tickets, visit cacno.org.