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Joan Gray

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Information about Joan Gray

Profile image of Joan Gray

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Nonprofit Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Grilled Salmon
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere
Favorite Quote:
Clarify The Vision.

Birthplace

Born:
7/29/1949
Birth Location:
Chicago, Illinois

Profession

Category:
ArtMakers
Occupation(s):
Nonprofit Chief Executive

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Blue
Favorite Food:
Grilled Salmon
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
Anywhere
Favorite Quote:
Clarify The Vision.

Birthplace

Born:
7/29/1949
Birth Location:
Chicago
See how Joan Gray is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Dancer and dance company director, Joan Gray, was born on July 29, 1949, in Chicago, Illinois, one of eight children, including her twin sister, Judi. Gray attended Chicago public schools and, after earning her high school diploma in 1967, went on to North Central College in Naperville, Illinois. From 1979 to 1986, Gray worked as an administrative assistant at South Shore Bank.

From 1984 on, Gray was a member of the Muntu Dance Theatre in Chicago. Muntu, from the Bantu word for “the essence of humanity,” was founded in 1972 on the South Side of Chicago by a group of young artists looking for a means of expressing their African heritage. In 1973, the group was joined by choreographer and dancer Alyo Tolbert, who helped them rise to the professional level. Gray first heard of Muntu in 1977 from a drummer who was on his way to the theater; though she did not join until 1984, by 1987 she had become president of the troupe. Gray continued to dance with the theater until 1991.

The performances put on by Muntu included dances from various African countries, such as Senegal, Mali, and Ghana, as well as dances from the Caribbean and the United States. Their performances are known to bring viewers to their feet dancing, and because the troupe so thoroughly studies the significance of each dance, they teach about the culture as the performance takes place.

In addition to her work with Muntu, Gray was active as a board member of the International Association of Blacks in Dance for over a decade, and served on the African American Arts Alliance and the Chicago Dance Coalition.

In addition to her career in dance and arts administration, Gray raised two children.

See how Joan Gray is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Joan Gray interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Joan Gray lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Joan Gray talks about her mother's origins and ancestors
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Joan Gray remembers her mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Joan Gray recalls her father's background and her grandmother's personality
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Joan Gray talks about the skin color prejudice in her family
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Joan Gray reminisces about her earliest memory and sights, smells and sounds of her neighborhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Joan Gray talks about her childhood and religious upbringing
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Joan Gray talks about her activities in her church
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Joan Gray recalls her piano lessons as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Joan Gray details her formal education in Chicago through high school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Joan Gray talks about her grandmother's reaction to the Civil Rights Movement
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Joan Gray recalls her high school experiences in Chicago
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Joan Gray talks more about her high school experiences and her strict upbringing
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Joan Gray discusses her rebellious youth and her negative experiences in college in Naperville, Illinois
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Joan Gray talks about her experience at Roosevelt University and subsequent work with the Black Panther Party
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Joan Gray recalls her involvement with the Black Panther Party in Chicago
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Joan Gray discusses the Black Panthers' cooperation with Chicago street gangs
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Joan Gray recalls the day Fred Hampton was assassinated
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Joan Gray talks about being under surveillance due to her activities in the Black Panther Party
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Joan Gray discusses misogyny within the various black political movements of the 1960s
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Joan Gray talks about her activities after leaving the Black Panther Party
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Joan Gray recalls her introduction to Muntu Dance Theatre
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Joan Gray discusses the public's reception to Muntu Dance Theatre
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Joan Gray talks about Muntu Dance Theatre's growth in popularity
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Joan Gray recalls one of Muntu Dance Theatre's performances
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Joan Gray recounts the death of Muntu Dance Theatre's organizer, Alyo Tolbert
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Joan Gray discusses the direction of Muntu Dance Theatre after Alyo Tolbert
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Joan Gray recalls the steps taken to keep the Muntu Dance Theatre afloat in the 1980s
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Joan Gray details her current activities with Muntu Dance Theatre
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Joan Gray talks about her hopes and concerns for the black community
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Joan Gray discusses her legacy and how she would like to be remembered