Looking Back, Going Forward with Lecture Series

When choreographer Claudia Schreier was asked to create a ballet recognizing the 400th anniversary of the first enslaved Africans brought to America, she was inspired by one idea: a journey.

This theme guided her choreography for Passage, a 2019 performance by Dance Theatre of Harlem, a multiethnic company that tours nationally and internationally using the language of ballet to celebrate Black culture.

In an Emmy Award-winning documentary by PBS, Schreier said that, for Passage, she thought about “the departure and an arrival.”

“You can’t have one without the other,” she said, “so there’s always this feeling for me of looking back as we’re going forward, and how we can express that through movement.”

Looking back, going forward: the idea is in keeping with the sixth African American Workshop and Lecture Series, which is bringing Schreier and other influencers to campus through March to connect national experts with UO leaders and advocates.

Sponsored by the Office of the President and the Division of Equity and Inclusion, the series resulted from demands made by the Black Student Task Force in 2016. It features lawyers, historians, authors, and others who meet with university stakeholders. The program incorporates public lectures, workshops, panels, and meetings with deans, student leaders, faculty members, staff, vice presidents, and supervisors.

This year’s series kicked off in October with a public lecture by C. Nicole Mason, president and chief executive officer of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research and named one of the world’s 50 greatest leaders by Fortune magazine. It continued with Emerson Sykes, senior staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union, and Julieanna Richardson, founder of The HistoryMakers, the nation’s largest African American video oral history collection. 

Author and journalist A’Lelia Bundles, a vice chair emerita of Columbia University’s board of trustees, visits February 9 to give the Derrick Bell Lecture, named for the first African American dean of the School of Law and cosponsored by the Division of Equity and Inclusion. She is the author of the nonfiction work On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C. J. Walker, a New York Times Notable Book about her great-great-grandmother and the inspiration for Self Made, a fictional four-part Netflix series.

William Darity and Kirsten Mullen, co-authors of From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century, a comprehensive case for economic reparations for US descendants of slavery, will lecture March 8 in a virtual event. Their public lecture is titled “Reconstruction, Redress, and Redistributive Justice.”

Schreier, named resident choreographer for the Atlanta Ballet in 2020, comes February 22. She will give a talk on the creative process for Passage, which has been described as “a moving reflection on the fortitude of the human spirit.”

By Matt Cooper, managing editor for Oregon Quarterly

Photo by Dmitry Beryozkin

Visit African American Workshop and Lecture Series for more.