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Ann Marie Williams

Ann Marie Williams was born Annie Marie Ferrell on October 21, 1937, to Lloyd and Izora Ferrell in Coolidge, Texas, in the Sandy Community of Limestone County. She attended the Sandy Community School, Phyllis Wheatley Elementary School in Hubbard, Texas, St. Anthony’s Catholic School, and Lincoln High School in Dallas, Texas, where she graduated in 1955. She was first exposed to the arts in high school. The field trips to the opera, symphony and ballet provided exposure to dance as a profession, and she also took private dance lessons at the YWCA in Dallas.

Williams attended Prairie View A&M University where she received her early training from Barbara Hollis, who was a member of the Katherine Dunham Dance Company. After receiving a degree in health and physical education in 1960 from Prairie View A&M University, she traveled to New York City to study under Arthur Mitchell. Williams, then, returned to Dallas as a dance teacher for the Dallas School System where she met and married her husband, Nathaniel Williams, in 1963. She took additional dance instruction under Edith James, Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Charles Weidman and Alvin Ailey. In 1968, Williams was the first African American woman to receive a M.A. degree in dance from Texas Women’s University. She also holds a certificate in arts management from Texas A&M University. Williams was hired to head up the first dance department at Bishop College in Dallas, where she received a $1 million grant to fund the program. She formed the Dallas Black Dance Academy to teach children who no longer had a place to take dance lessons after the funding for continuing education ended at Bishop College. At the coaxing of her staff, Williams also started a dance company. As the popularity of the dance company escalated, in 1976, the Dallas Black Dance Theater was born.

Williams serves on the Board of Directors of the Dallas Opera, Arts District Foundation, TAPER, Dallas Dance Council, the Texas Women’s University Alumnae, Dance USA and the International Association of Blacks in Dance. She has received a number of awards and honors for her support and commitment to the arts. The Dallas Black Dance Theater was commissioned to perform during the 1996 Olympics.

Williams lives in Dallas with her husband of forty-three years, Nathaniel Williams. They are the parents of Angelia Williams, a graduate of Florida A&M University School of Business and Industry.

Accession Number

A2006.086

Sex

Female

Interview Date

5/2/2006

Last Name

Williams

Maker Category
Middle Name

Marie

Occupation
Organizations
Schools

St. Anthony Academy

Phillis Wheatley Elementary School

Lincoln High School

Texas Women's University

Prairie View A&M University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Ann

Birth City, State, Country

Coolidge

HM ID

WIL31

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Kleberg Foundation

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

St. Martin

Favorite Quote

Let's Get Moving.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/21/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Dallas

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Potatoes

Short Description

Artistic director Ann Marie Williams (1937 - ) founded the Dallas Black Dance Theater in 1976, which, in thirty-two seasons, performed before 1.5 million audience members worldwide.

Employment

Dallas Independent School District

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Brown

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343969">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ann Marie Williams' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343970">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ann Marie Williams lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343971">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ann Marie Williams describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343972">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ann Marie Williams describes her maternal grandparents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343973">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ann Marie Williams describes her hometown of Coolidge, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343974">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ann Marie Williams describes her mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343975">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ann Marie Williams describes her father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343976">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ann Marie Williams describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343977">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ann Marie Williams describes her eleven siblings, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343978">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ann Marie Williams describes her eleven siblings, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343979">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ann Marie Williams describes her eleven siblings, pt. 3</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343709">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ann Marie Williams describes the Sandy community of Limestone County, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343710">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ann Marie Williams describes the families of Sandy, Limestone County, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343711">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ann Marie Williams describes Sandy Community School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343712">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ann Marie Williams recalls attending Phyllis Wheatley High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343713">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ann Marie Williams talks about her family's landownership in Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343714">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ann Marie Williams recalls becoming interested in dance at Lincoln High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343715">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ann Marie Williams recalls her decision to attend Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343716">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ann Marie Williams remembers Prairie View Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343717">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ann Marie Williams recalls teaching dance at a middle school in Dallas, Texas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343718">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ann Marie Williams describes her friends from high school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360599">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ann Marie Williams recalls her family's involvement in the Masons and the Eastern Stars</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360600">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ann Marie Williams recalls earning her master's degree in dance at Texas Woman's University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360601">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ann Marie Williams recalls founding the dance department at Bishop College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360602">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ann Marie Williams remembers founding her dance company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360603">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ann Marie Williams describes the Dallas Black Dance Theatre style</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360604">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ann Marie Williams describes the Dallas Black Dance Theatre repertory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360605">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ann Marie Williams remembers being honored in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360606">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ann Marie Williams describes her community dance school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360607">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ann Marie Williams describes the company of Dallas Black Dance Theatre</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360608">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ann Marie Williams recalls hiring an administrator after her car accident</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360609">Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Ann Marie Williams describes Chuck Davis' programs at Dallas Black Dance Theatre</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/360610">Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Ann Marie Williams recalls her dance company's trips abroad</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343731">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ann Marie Williams describes the Dallas Black Dance Theatre</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343732">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ann Marie Williams recalls finding a permanent home for Dallas Black Dance Theatre, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343733">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ann Marie Williams recalls finding a permanent home for Dallas Black Dance Theatre, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343734">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ann Marie Williams describes the renovation of the former Moorland YMCA</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343735">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ann Marie Williams describes the community's support of Dallas Black Dance Theatre</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343736">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ann Marie Williams describes her requirements for members of the Dallas Black Dance Theatre</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343737">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ann Marie Williams talks about the future of Dallas Black Dance Theatre</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343738">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ann Marie Williams recalls advice from Alvin Ailey</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/343739">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ann Marie Williams describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/341975">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ann Marie Williams narrates her photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$3

DAStory

3$8

DATitle
Ann Marie Williams recalls founding the dance department at Bishop College
Ann Marie Williams describes her community dance school
Transcript
Then, after I got my master's [degree] from Texas Woman's University [Denton, Texas], I wanted to go into college then to teach college, so I started teaching at Bishop College [Dallas, Texas]. And they needed a dance teacher. Well, they wanted someone to, to open their dance department there, to head their dance department. And that's what I went in and did and formed a dance department there. And what I found myself doing was just as Nancy Duggan [Anne Schley Duggan], bringing a lot of the, the choreographers and artists in to set works and to teach classes for me, as the head of the dance department, because I had a budget and because they had been friends of mine. So I saw that going on like that. And then as I would bring them in, of course being as head of the dance department, I also had a dance company, so they would work with the dance company that was there at Bishop College that I had formed. And we had a chance to tour, so I'm also. So that kind of got me interested in having your own dance company. Years later, I left Bishop to open then my own dance school because while there, I had to apply for a grant, a major grant from the Ford Foundation [New York, New York] that the university had for bringing cultural arts to the City of Dallas [Texas]. And I worked in conjunction with the other arts organizations on campus there, the music department, the theater department. So we had this million dollar grant coming from the Ford Foundation. And through that we brought in people like Alex Haley, Nina Simone. We brought [HistoryMaker] Maya Angelou in. We brought--she, she came in when she first wrote her book, 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,' and we brought Alex Haley in. And from the audience, he had just started working on 'Roots' ['Roots: The Saga of an American Family,' Alex Haley]. And then I was able to bring in the Dance Theatre of Harlem and co-sponsor the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater here through funds that came from the dance fund. So then after the grant ran out, there, we had, we also had a community of continuing education class for kids that I had started there too for community kids. So we had over about fifty kids that were coming in, and we were teaching them evening classes. Some of my dance students were teaching them.$How much of the idea that there was no place where youth to come to learn to dance allowed you to say yes to the school and to the company?$$Company. That, that played a big part; it really did. When, when my one--two teachers came to me and said, "Ms. Ann [HistoryMaker Ann Marie Williams], why don't we form a dance company?" And that was the first thing I told them. I said, "Why don't y'all go and join the Dallas Ballet [Dallas Civic Ballet]?" You know, because I knew that they could. It was an, an all-white ballet company then, and it folded; it is no more. And their thing was yes, we're, we are proficient in ballet technique, but we don't want to do ballet, you know. We don't want to do the Swan Lakes, and the Cinderellas, and the, the Peter Pan. And so, what they wanted to do then was to do their own creation and to do the contemporary, because that, that was really coming into focus in '76 [1976], freestyle movement, as well as avant-garde modern. So, I said, "Okay, let's try that." But I think deep down the meaning was that I remember when I was coming up in Dallas [Texas] and could only take classes on Saturdays at the YMCA [Young Men's Christian Association]. And later on we had a ballet company, and I didn't take classes at the ballet school, but I did later on take classes at Edith James' school [Edith James School of Ballet, Dallas, Texas], which was a private dance school where I really saw then the large dance classroom. At the Y, you know, we were still in a community room where, after we would finish, they probably would play bridge or play checkers or whatever else, you know, they wanted. But really being able to, to know that I could help provide that type of opportunity for minority boys and girls, and that was one of the reasons why even after the first two or three years, how hard it was, I wanted to stick with it, because the goal then became to provide an opportunity for minority boys and girls to have a place to come and take dance classes, and to take disciplined dance classes. We had the street dances, and you had all the social dances. But our kids had not had formal training and neither had many of them ever seen a black professional dancer. And, and that was one of the things that I thought. If, if I could provide that, and this is where it has come to.$$The classes, anyone could come to the classes?$$Yes, that--it was a fee. We, we had its, its--there, there were like ballet classes, tap classes, jazz classes, modern classes, but it operated at a school. I did operate it as a business, so there was a class fee, a monthly class fee that was very low, range--I remember the very--class fee we started out with was like fifteen dollars a month. And you know, you'd come and take one class a week, so every Saturday we had lots of kids there. And, and in the evenings was when the company [Dallas Black Dance Theatre], through the week, was when the company would rehearse. A lot of my dancers at that time were, were students at the arts magnet performing arts school [Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Dallas, Texas], which later was right across the street from the studio before we moved over here. And they, after school at 4:00, where they came across, and at 4:30 or 5, from 5 to 9, then we rehearsed as a company.

Najwa I

Arts administrator and dancer Najwa I was born Arnell Pugh in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Her parents, Ruby and Timothy Pugh, soon moved to Chicago where Najwa attended Medill, Smith and Howland elementary schools. As a young woman, she took dance classes at the Marcy Newberry Association in the Maxwell Street area. Under the instruction of the late Panamanian performer, Jimmy Payne, Najwa studied Afro-Cuban and Calypso dance while still in high school. She started at Farragut High School, but graduated from Harrison High School in 1954.

Soon after graduation, Najwa was approached by impresario Larry Steele’s Smart Affair tour. Taking her first airplane ride, Najwa was flown to Australia, where she joined Steele’s group on the road. Najwa performed in Australia and New Zealand and continued on extended international tour with Larry Steele through the mid-fifties. In her travels she learned the dance styles of different nations and peoples. Najwa performed in swing productions with icons like Duke Ellington and Count Basie. In New York City, her study of African dance was enriched by Asadata Dafora, Baba Dinizulu, Babatunde Olatunji, and Carmencita Romero. At the Cat and Fiddle Club in the Bahamas, Najwa learned to dance with fire. Performing with Julian Swain, she also taught ethnic dance at the Julian Swain Dance Theatre and at Chicago’s Better Boys Foundation.

In 1977 she founded the Najwa Dance Corps in Chicago. The group presents a repertoire that spans the rituals of traditional Africa to the glamorous chorus girls of the swing era. As artistic director, Najwa is also a gifted choreographer and dance historian. The group offers classes in Dances of West Africa, Dances of the Caribbean and Dances of Contemporary African American Culture and holds public workshops, master classes, concerts, two-week residencies, and ensemble performances. The recipient of the Woman in Dance Award, the Woman of the Year Award and the African American Arts Alliance’s Paul Robeson Award. The name Najwa means “one who is spiritually in tune” and because others have named daughters after her, she is now known as Najwa I.

Accession Number

A2004.268

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/21/2004

Last Name

I

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Joseph Medill Elementary School

Wendell Smith Elementary School

Howland School

Maria Saucedo Elementary Scholastic Academy

Chicago State University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Najwa

Birth City, State, Country

Clarksdale

HM ID

NAJ01

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

Puerto Rico

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Gumbo (Okra)

Short Description

Arts administrator and dancer Najwa I ( - ) founded the Najwa Dance Corps in Chicago. Najwa performed in Australia and New Zealand with Larry Steele through the mid-fifties, and also taught ethnic dance at the Julian Swain Dance Theatre and at Chicago’s Better Boys Foundation.

Employment

Larry Steele's Smart Affair tour, Australia

Cat and Fiddle Club, Bahamas

Julian Swain Inner City Dance Theatre, Chicago

Najwa Dance Corps, Chicago

Favorite Color

Yellow

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11236">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Najwa I interview: explanation of name</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11237">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Slating of Najwa I interview continued</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11238">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Najwa I's favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11239">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Najwa I describes her mother's background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11240">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Najwa I recalls her father's background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11241">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Najwa remembers her father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11242">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Najwa I remembers her mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11243">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Najwa I shares memories from her family life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11244">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Najwa I shares a memory of her father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11245">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Najwa I describes her childhood environs, Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11246">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Najwa I remembers Chicago's Maxwell Street Market from her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11247">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Najwa I describes her childhood interests</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11248">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Najwa I describes her upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11249">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Najwa I recalls her early school life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11250">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Najwa I details her childhood avocations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11251">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Najwa I recalls diversity in her neighborhood as a youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11252">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Najwa I describes her college prospects</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11253">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Najwa I recalls her early dance performances with Jimmy Payne</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11254">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Najwa I recalls travels to New York during her youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11255">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Najwa I recalls her dance engagements in Australia, late 1950s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11256">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Najwa I describes the Australian locales she visited</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11257">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Najwa I discusses her early dance engagements in the U.S.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11258">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Najwa I describes memorable dance instructors</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11259">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Najwa I describes her studies in African dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11260">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Najwa I discusses her studies in Caribbean dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11261">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Najwa I considers the popularization of African dance in the U.S.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11262">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Najwa I discusses her dance troupe, the Najwa Dance Corps, Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11263">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Najwa I describes the Najwa Dance Corps's signature dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11264">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Najwa I shares the philosophy behind the Najwa Dance Corps, Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11265">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Najwa I details the Najwa Dance Corps's schedule</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11266">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Najwa I describes the relationship between the Najwa Dance Corps and Malcolm X College, Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11267">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Najwa I discusses the travels of Najwa Dance Corps dancers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11268">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Najwa I reflects on the practice of African dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11269">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Najwa I expresses her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11270">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Najwa I reflects on her life's course</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/11271">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Najwa I considers her legacy</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$4

DAStory

10$1

DATitle
Najwa I recalls her early dance performances with Jimmy Payne
Najwa I describes her studies in African dance
Transcript
How did you get involved in your first show as a dancer?$$Okay, like I said, we used to go downtown to Jimmy Payne's dance studio [Jimmy Payne School of Dance] when we were like thirteen, fourteen years old--me, when I was like thirteen, fourteen years old. But it was also my buddies. We knew that he was teaching African--we knew that he was teaching Afro-Cuban dance and calypso dance. And, of course, all of us wanted to be like Katherine Dunham or be in her dance group. You know, I just knew when I grew up I was gonna be one of Kath--I was gonna join her troupe. You know, you read it in, we're reading in JET and Ebony, I mean not JET, Ebony and, you know, or what--I don't remember what other magazines. It was some other magazines. And you'd see her in Europe, and I used buy--keep those books in my drawer and look at 'em all the time because I was definitely going to, you know--that was it for me. You know, I was aspiring to do that--when I decided I wanted to be a dancer, it was Katherine Dunham. But Jimmy Payne did the kind of dance styles she did, so naturally, that's what I wanted to do, you know. So we went, I used to go down to Jimmy Payne's for his classes. I think they were on Saturdays. I'm not sure. So Jimmy Payne had--I was kind of--.$$And where did he teach?$$Four, at--in the Fine Arts Building downtown, and he also taught in that building where the Oriental Theater used to be, is and always downtown. It was always downtown, but he was in three or four places downtown, and wherever he was, we followed him.$$Tell us something about what you know about Jimmy Payne that you think the people would want to know cause he's no longer with us, and he's a important figure in the dance in Chicago. So.$$Okay, well, what I know about Jimmy is that he was from, I think, Panama. And he lived a lot of--I think he lived in Cuba, and I think Barbados, and I'm not sure which one of those places he was from, but I know he was all around like in areas like that. And he lived in New--he moved from there to New York. And this is just me remembering, so I'm not saying that this is it, but this is what I kind of remember, just listening to him talk. And that's how he started doing all the different kind of dances. But what I was fascinated with Jimmy about was, was him being able to a, some languages, different languages. And he used to every--you know, speak in Spanish, you know, all the time, and I'd, you know, listen to him. But that's, that's how we found out that he was from, one of those Latino countries. But he, he, he taught Lena Horne. He taught Nichelle Nichols, I mean, and he used to fascinate us with all those stories about all the people that he danced with and taught dance to. So, you know, he could play--he played, he could play his drums; he could dance, he could sing, he could tap. He could do everything in dance (chuckle), for, you know, to us, you know, he knew everything. And I learned how, I learned all my basics with Jimmy.$$Now, how old were you when you first started dancing with Jimmy Payne?$$I think, I think maybe like thirteen, fourteen--thirteen or fourteen. But we didn't--he used to let us do gigs. We weren't that good. I don't know if we were that good. We just had a lot of energy. And he used to do a lot of shows at country--at the country clubs, you know. So, all we had to do was like go in and do our little show, and then they'd pack us up and take us out. So one time Jimmy had asked us--well, I guess I must have been about seventeen at the time, I was cause I--and, you know, this is what we'd been doing over the years, country clubs and places like that with Jimmy. Some people used to come through the neighborhood, and at the time, you could do that. You know, it's a man that used to come in the neighborhood and gather up everybody, all the kids who thought they could dance and sing or what, and he'd take us to go do a show and give us three dollars, five dollars each. You know, we did all that in the neighborhood. So, but Jimmy, well, I, we used to do little shows with him. But when we got to be seventeen and we could do other places--when I got seventeen and was old enough to look like, you know, we could dance other places. So he used to go to this place in Wisconsin called the White Pub. And it was a Latino club. And he took us there, and one night I was there and this impresario, his name was Larry Steele, he came in and he watched our show. And we were introduced to him cause one of the girls that danced with us also used to dance with him--did dance with him. And she introduced all of us. And then they said they were going off to Australia, and, you know, I was excited. She was going to Australia, and, but I never thought about it, you know. And then about a month later, well, it might have been a month or so, a month or two later, some time later, I got this call from his wife, and she said, you know, she said, how would you like to go to Australia? I said, Australia? She said, yes, she said, Larry Steele called, and he remembered seeing you at the White Pub in Wisconsin dancing, and he wanted to know, he needed another girl, and he want to know if you would like to go to Australia. So, of course, I said, yes, but I was still scared, you know, cause I had never been on a plane or anything at that time. And she said, well, okay, she said, I'll call you back, you know. So she, you know, called me back. She said, you got to go down and get your fingerprints, and--I mean go down and get your--.$$Passport.$$--passport and that whole bit and all. And my mother [Ruby Tom DeMeyers], she was having a fit, you know, (laughter), oh, no, no, no, no, you can't go that far away. And my aunts, they came over, and "What would your father [Timothy Pugh] think?" And oh, they went through the whole bit, you know. But I did go. And I remember my cousin, Opal, she got me all fixed up, you know, in her clothes. I was skin and bones, little skinny, skinny girl, and she, she fixed me up in her clothes. My coat was big, and everything, you know, to get me ready to go to Australia. So I went, and I went by myself, and that was the first time I was ever on an airplane. I went all the way over there by myself.$$Okay, so the troupe traveled together on the same plane.$$No.$$You went by--.$$No, I went by myself. They were there already.$$They were there already, oh.$$They were there already. That was my first time--I mean I hadn't been very far at that time at all. I don't know where else I had been. And I don't--oh, New York. I went to live--went to New York a lot growing up cause my aunt [Mamie DeMeyers] lived in New York, my mother's sister. So we stayed there a lot, you know. And my mother took us there a lot thinking she was getting away, out of the neighborhood in the summer and all of that. But, and I stayed with her a lot in New York, which I loved.$Give me your impression of when African dance started to become popular in--and you were talking about classes in New York, and some of the teachers there in New York, and--?$$But here in Chicago, I think in the--we, like I said, we took classes in New York, from, you know, all the time. I mean when I'd go to New York, I'd take any kind of classes. It didn't matter what. I took all kind. I took the Spanish dance classes, I took, you know, Egyptian dance. I took Indian dance, everything. You just take classes, but I like, we'd always like to take the African dance classes to, but I had--and we did. Whenever I'd go, whenever I did shows, it was never African dance. It was always jazz, Afro-Cuban, calypso, Caribbean, tap, just some other styles cause I came out of the chorus line. And in the chorus line, you did everything, every style of dancing. So, but what I really remembered for me, African dance and me really thinking, um, yeah, this is good to do, you know, other than what you did as a kid, dancing around. I think, to me, in Chicago, for me in the '60s [1960s], I think Darlene Blackburn made African dance popular, I mean made it something that everybody said, oh, wait, we want to do, we could do, we want to do this. Or let's do that. Why can't we do or why can't--better still, it was why can't we do that kind of dancing on the stage? Or why can't we do this kind of dancing? Why can't we teach it, you know, teach this kind of dancing? And why can't we make people want to learn it? The kids learn it, they'll, you know, like it. And she was working with Phil Cohran a lot, you know, and she had studied in Ghana, I think Nigeria. Anyway, I think, for me, I think that she's the one that for me in Chicago, and I think for us in Chicago, I really think so, that made people think about why can't we do this kind of dancing also. We like it, you know, you know, we feel good doing it. Why can't we put this on stage, you know. So I think, you know, that's, that's kind of what happened because then people, you know, I remember in the '60s [1960s] people all over started doing African dance routines. And we went from the Caribbean, the calypso to Afro-Cuban, you know. I, I or, some ideas of what you think African dance is, into learning some authentic African dance, you know, people coming into the country from different countries. And like I said, a lot of, at first a lot of, I think, the Ghanaians, Nigerians came in, and you learned some Nigerian dance. And maybe a lot of Ghanaians or vice versa, and we learned a lot of Ghanaian dances, oh, just tons of it. Then we throw--the problem with it is, you, as soon as somebody else comes, the more people come from different countries, you know, African countries, you want to learn it all cause you don't know what your country is or what you need to be learning, you know, so you got to learn it all because if you skip one, you might be--and you had an opportunity to learn it, that might be the place you're from. So I know a lot of dancers that do dance, African dance. We always think about what, what's our dance? You hear some, some people, they'll say, you know, Samba is my dance, you know, or Lamban, is my dance. And that says, I'm from these people. And I must--they must be my people. You know, I feel this. And some girls, some dancers like Ghanaian dance cause they feel it, you know. And so they'll think about it like that too. But we learned it all, you know, a lot of different dance, African dance styles, a lot of different African dance techniques, not just styles from, like not thinking that, you know, Ghanaian dance is--okay, you learn the Ghanaian dance, and that Ghanaian dance. Well, they got a lot of styles and techniques and tribes and groups and, you know, that you, that's, that's got different ways of doing some dance, and so, it's, it's a lot to study. But you need to--you know, you got the Asante people, you got, you know, all kind, in Ghana, I'm saying, a lot of different groups in Ghana, a lot of different groups in Senegal, you know. So you got a lot a dance. Today, people are doing a lot of Senegalese dancing and a lot of Guinea dance.$$The Guinea coast is--$$Um-hum, but I like knowing a lot of all, all of it because we always have to use it, you know. Right now, I never thought I--you know, I wasn't thinking that come Kwanzaa and Malcolm X College on the twenty-sixth, the president is being installed and they're using, and they're doing the Asante ritual for it. And we have to, and I'm able to pull, go back and get that dancing that goes with that ritual, you know. So it gave us a lot, you know, to pull from.$$Okay.$$And then another thing about the African dance is, and we're so happy about, is that we learned to learn, to learn about the culture that the dance came from too.

Doris Jones

Artistic director and dance instructor Doris Winnefred Jones was born in Malden, Massachusetts on June 3, 1913, to Maddie Lightfoot Jones and Walter James Jones. She grew up with aspirations of being a ballet dancer, but found it difficult to find dance schools that would accept her as a student because of the paucity of African Americans involved in classical dance. At a young age, Jones was already a formidable tap dancer and was offered an opportunity to tour with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, but her parents would not allow her to go. As a teenager, she traded tap dancing lessons for ballet lessons at a classical dance school in Boston, Massachusetts.

In 1941, Jones and another young dance teacher, Claire Haywood, founded the Jones-Haywood School for Ballet in order to provide young African American students with the opportunity to learn classical dance. Jones and Haywood later formed the Capitol Ballet Company as an integrated performing troupe. Jones served as the company's artistic director until 1982. Today, the Capitol Ballet Company holds the distinction of being the oldest predominately African American ballet company in the United States. In 1980, Jones also formed the Jones-Haywood Youth Dancers in order to provide more opportunities for younger dancers.

During her long career, Jones both trained and studied under some of the biggest names in classical dance including Chita Rivera, Hinton Battle, Sylvester Campbell and Sandra Fortune-Green. She also served as director of the Washington, D.C. Public Schools Dance Program. Over the years, she has choreographed for the Washington Opera Society and the Washington Civic Opera. She has been the recipient of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Medal for Outstanding Service in Human Rights and the Metropolitan Theatrical Society's Mainline to Stardom Award.

Doris Jones was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 25, 2003.

Doris Jones died of pneumonia on March 21, 2006, in Washington, D.C.

Accession Number

A2003.169

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/25/2003

Last Name

Jones

Maker Category
Middle Name

W.

Organizations
Schools

Practical Arts High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Doris

Birth City, State, Country

Malden

HM ID

JON05

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Massachusetts

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

Let's Get On With It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

6/3/1913

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fish

Death Date

3/21/2006

Short Description

Artistic director and dance instructor Doris Jones (1913 - 2006 ) co-founded the Capitol Ballet Company, the oldest predominantly African American ballet company in the United States. Jones formed the Jones-Haywood Youth Dancers in 1980.

Employment

Jones-Haywood School of Dance

Capitol Ballet Company

Jones-Haywood Youth Dancers

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151362">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Doris Jones' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151363">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Doris Jones lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151364">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Doris Jones describes her family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151365">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Doris Jones talks about her mother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151366">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Doris Jones describes her father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151367">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Doris Jones speculates on how her parents might have met</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151368">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Doris Jones talks about going to see shows every Monday with her mother as a child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151369">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Doris Jones talks about her childhood personality and interests</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151370">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Doris Jones talks about her family's records and phonograph</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151371">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Doris Jones talks about her father's profession and musical talent</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151372">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Doris Jones talks about her schooling</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151373">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Doris Jones talks about schoolteachers she remembers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151374">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Doris Jones talks about taking formal dance classes</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/149923">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Doris Jones describes being refused dance lessons because of race</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/149924">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Doris Jones describes her early career as a dance teacher</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/149925">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Doris Jones describes moving to Washington, D.C. to teach dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/149926">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Doris Jones describes the growth of her dance school in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/149927">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Doris Jones talks about her dance company and various dancers including HistoryMaker Sandra Fortune-Green</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/149928">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Doris Jones talks about some of her dancers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/149929">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Doris Jones talks about Chita Rivera and HistoryMaker Louis Johnson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151375">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Doris Jones talks about difficulties in purchasing a house for the Jones-Haywood School of Ballet</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151376">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Doris Jones talks about differences in teaching styles between her and Claire Haywood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151377">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Doris Jones talks about the highlights of her career in dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151378">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Doris Jones talks about her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151379">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Doris Jones talks about the need for the arts in schools and African dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151380">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Doris Jones talks about her trip to Russia for the Second International Ballet Competition in 1973</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151381">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Doris Jones talks about HistoryMaker Sandra Fortune-Green's performance in Russia in 1973</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151382">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Doris Jones reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151383">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Doris Jones reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151384">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Doris Jones reflects upon how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/151385">Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Doris Jones narrates her photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/149941">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Doris Jones narrates her photographs, pt. 2</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$2

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
Doris Jones describes her early career as a dance teacher
Doris Jones describes the growth of her dance school in Washington, D.C.
Transcript
Now, tell us about how you started teaching dance.$$Well, you know I told you how I was asked by the Deltas [Delta Sigma Theta Sorority] to do something on their program, and I had three paying students at fifty cents a week (laughter) and--$$You started--I mean well tell us the whole story 'cause, you know when we were talking I--the tape wasn't rolling, so.$$No.$$(Unclear) tell us.$$Well I, I was teaching three little students, and--$$And you were still a teenager, right?$$Oh, yes. And my sister's [Celestine Bayne] friend said, "Oh, Doris [HistoryMaker Doris Jones]," it was a (unclear), "we need to have you on the program; we're having a annual program, and we'd like to put you on the program." I said, "I don't want to dance, but I would love for my children to dance." So I got seven of them together, three of them were relatives. Two were my nieces and one was my cousin, and then I got four other little people; and I gave them a little dance routine, my mother [Mattie Lightfoot Jones] made costumes for them. And they danced; and they were so wonderful that, starting the following September, I had a registration of thirty people who called who wanted their children to come--still fifty cents a lesson. That was--they came once a week, and I taught some ballet, but I wasn't really up on it yet. So I stuck with the tap and every year the class--every year the class grew. And I taught about ten--let me see about thirteen years in Boston [Massachusetts] before I came here. And I went to--I used to go to Camp Atwater in East Brookfield, Massachusetts [sic. North Brookfield, Massachusetts]. (Unclear) De Berry [William De Berry] had a summer camp there. He had the girls--the boys in July and the girls in August; and he--I went there as a camper and when I grew up and he found that I was teaching dancing, he asked me to come up and teach the month of July--month of August, when the girls were there. So you had to be a counselor and do an activity, teach art or swimming or something. So I said to him, "No, I don't want to come, 'cause I don't want to be a counselor." I said, "I just want to teach dance." So he said, "All right Miss Jones, you come up and you'll teach just dance," which I did. And I used to do a program--I was up there for four weeks, at the end of two weeks, I'd do a program with the children, and the other two weeks I'd do another program. He would invite rich people who had money and they'd come up and they'd be so fascinated with the, you know, what was accomplished in the dance, they'd make donations. So after that, he said, "Well you don't ever have to be a counselor, all you do is put on this program twice a season."$So then we [Jones and Claire Haywood] bought--we rented this place on U Street [Washington, D.C.], which was a very fine--it's coming back, it was very--anything on U Street was really top notch. So then we got our school on U Street, we rented this building, had two stories and three little studios--not particularly big. And then we started our school there, and it grew and grew and grew. So finally we got--decided, well now if we're gonna make these ballet dancers, they can't come once a week; they have to come twice a week. That went all right. And the next year, they had to come three times a week; then the next year, they had to come four times a week. And that's when the people said, "Oh, no, my child can't be--no four times a week. I can't afford it and I can't afford to get them there; it's too much coming back and forth." So we said, "Okay, well we'll take three children who--," you know. And they began to see that the difference between the child who came twice a week, and the child that came four times a week was a big difference. Then they began to realize that if they wanted their children really to dance, they had to be in the studio. So then, now the children take four times a week: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday--(unclear) Friday, we never worked on Fridays; we always had Fridays and Sundays off. And that's when the school grew, and we began to make dancers. And then we realized we had to have a small company because there's no--these people were dancing so well, there was no place for them to dance. So then we had an, assemble professional company and it just grew.$$Now when did you establish the company?$$Nineteen forty-one [1941].$$So that--so--and what's the name of the company?$$Capitol Ballet Company.$$Okay.$$Capitol with an O.

Cleo Parker Robinson

Artistic director and dancer Cleo Parker Robinson Cleo Parker Robinson was born on July 17, 1948 in Denver, Colorado. She almost died at age ten when her kidneys shut down and a segregated Dallas hospital did not admit her quickly enough to prevent heart failure. A doctor told her she would remain bedridden her entire life, but Robinson refused to believe that. She threw herself into dancing in order to overcome the pain of her body and the racism she faced. Today, she is the executive artistic director and choreographer of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble.

Robinson began teaching dance at the University of Colorado at the age of fifteen. She graduated from the Colorado Women's College (now Denver University), having focused on dance, education and psychology. She studied with legendary dancer and humanitarian Katherine Dunham and then founded her own company in 1970. The mission of this ensemble is to foster appreciation, access and the development of new audiences for dance. Robinson attempts to educate audiences about the rich heritage and ancestral gifts on which this predominately African American ensemble draws through a year-round dance school, an international summer dance institute and national and international performances. Robinson also seeks to ensure the arts are carried on by future generations. A program called Project Self-Discovery (PSD) demonstrates her commitment to youth outreach. PSD provides the arts to at-risk Denver youth as an alternative to gang activity, substance abuse and other tragic possibilities. The Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble has performed in prisons, and some inmates have worked for the company after release. Robinson firmly believes in the healing power of art and that dance is a universal language.

Robinson has collaborated with many people on diverse projects, from operas such as Aida and Carmen to commissions with mentor Maya Angelou. She has worked with Marin Alsop, conductor of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, on such pieces as Porgy and Bess and Stravinsky's The Firebird. She has been granted choreography fellowships from the Colorado Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Lila Wallace Foundation, among others. Robinson was featured in the Gordon Parks film, Run Sister Run. She serves as first vice president of the International Association of Blacks in Dance and as a Denver Center for the Performing Arts Board of Trustees member.

Accession Number

A2002.121

Sex

Female

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

6/21/2002

11/4/2008

Last Name

Robinson

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Parker

Organizations
Schools

St. Anthony Academy

George Washington High School

Colorado Women's College

Hill Campus of Arts & Sciences

Archival Photo 2
First Name

Cleo

Birth City, State, Country

Denver

HM ID

ROB03

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Colorado

Favorite Vacation Destination

Hawaii

Favorite Quote

That's Really Deep.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Colorado

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/17/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Denver

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Cheesecake

Short Description

Artistic director and dancer Cleo Parker Robinson (1948 - ) served as the founder and creative executive director of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble.

Employment

University of Colorado

Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble

Favorite Color

Orange, Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12377">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Photo - Portrait of Cleo Parker Robinson, Denver, Colorado, 2001</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12378">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Photo - Dancer Marceline Freeman performing 'Ebony Magazine: To a Village' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 2002</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12379">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Photo - Dancer Terrell Davis performing 'The Coming of the Dawn' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 2002</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12380">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Photo - Dancers Ryan Leveille and Terrell Davis, performing 'Three Too Blue' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 2001</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12381">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Photo - Dancers Patrick Peel and Sheila Mackow performing 'Temple in Motion' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 2000</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12382">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Photo - Cleo Parker Robinson with her dance ensemble on the cover of 'Dance Teacher' magazine, September, 2000</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12383">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Photo - Members of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble performing 'Thinking Heart', 2000</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12384">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Photo - Dancers Terrell Davis and Lisa Thomas performing 'Ebony Magazine: To a Village' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, 2002</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12385">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Photo - Dancer Rachael Ashley performing 'Salome's Daughters' for the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, ca. 1998</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12386">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Slating of Cleo Parker Robinson interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12387">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Cleo Parker Robinson's favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12388">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Cleo Parker Robinson discusses her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12389">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Cleo Parker Robinson explains how her parents met</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12390">Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Cleo Parker Robinson shares stories about her ancestry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12391">Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Cleo Parker Robinson discusses her siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12392">Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her parents' musical aspirations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12393">Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about the racial experience in Denver in the 1950s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12394">Tape: 1 Story: 18 - Cleo Parker Robinson explains her father's initial interest in theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12395">Tape: 1 Story: 19 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her experiences as a child in both Denver and Dallas</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12396">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Cleo Parker Robinson reflects on the Denver neighborhood of her youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12397">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson shares a story about the difficulties her parents experienced while trying to get married</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12398">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks fondly of her father as her role model</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12399">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her father's acting roles and his theater company in Denver</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12400">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about the plays performed by her father's theater company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12401">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her feelings about suddenly being separated from her father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12402">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her father's return and her racial awareness</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12403">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson details the black and white communities in Texas discriminating against her</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12404">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls almost dying as a child and her family's dealings with a segregated hospital</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12405">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Cleo Parker Robinson explains how her brush with death affected her spirituality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12406">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes attending an all-white high school in Denver</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12407">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her high school ambition to be a dancer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12408">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson tells a story about the discovery of her half siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12409">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson discusses the power and importance of the arts</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12410">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson discusses the origins of her love for teaching dance</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12411">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her multicultural philosophy in high school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12412">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her experience at Colorado Women's College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/12413">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Cleo Parker Robinson tells of her father's hiring as the director of Colorado Women's College's dance theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671731">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Slating of Cleo Parker Robinson's interview, session 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671732">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson remembers her start as a dance instructor</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671733">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes George Washington High School in Denver, Colorado</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671734">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her social life in high school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671735">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her early athletic involvement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671736">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her work with the Neighborhood Youth Corps in Brighton, Colorado</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671737">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson remembers her early career aspirations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671738">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her start at Colorado Women's College in Denver, Colorado</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671739">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls her early dance instruction at Colorado Women's College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671740">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her early mentors</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671741">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her experiences as a dance student in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671742">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson recalls marrying Tom Robinson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671743">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson remembers joining the Model Cities Cultural Center in Denver, Colorado</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671744">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her career at the Model Cities Cultural Center</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671745">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes the start of the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671746">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her early choreography</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671747">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes the dance piece, 'Rain Dance'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671748">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes her early dance studios</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671749">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about the gang culture of Denver, Colorado, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671750">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about the gang culture of Denver, Colorado, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671751">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes the legacy of Katherine Dunham, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671752">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes the legacy of Katherine Dunham, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671753">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson remembers her work with Talley Beatty</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671754">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her philosophy of dance instruction</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671755">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson remembers Curtis Fraser</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671756">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about her co-founder, Schyleen Qualls</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671757">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Cleo Parker Robinson talks about the development of her choreography</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671758">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes the piece, 'Granny Dances to a Holiday Drum'</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671759">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Cleo Parker Robinson reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671760">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Cleo Parker Robinson describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671761">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Cleo Parker Robinson reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671762">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Cleo Parker Robinson shares her advice to African American youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/671763">Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Cleo Parker Robinson narrates her photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

2$6

DATitle
Cleo Parker Robinson shares a story about the difficulties her parents experienced while trying to get married
Cleo Parker Robinson discusses the origins of her love for teaching dance
Transcript
Did you ever feel stigmatized for having a--a--a white mother [Martha Mae Parker] and black father [Jonathon Parker], or did any, anybody, you know--?$$Well, I, I, I think, it was confusing after I went to Dallas [Texas]. It wasn't confusing up to then because, it--it was rather natural. It was interesting, I mean, all four of us would be in the, in the car. Yeah--I remember one of the--what did we have? Like a Studebaker [brand of car], and then, we'd have, like the Chevys [Chevrolet, brand of car]--Daddy [Jonathon Parker] wasn't a Ford [brand of car] man, he was a Chevy man. So, the old Chevys with the four doors, and then the--you know, the runways, where you put your foot on it, before you get in the car. And, we'd open up the back seat, and he could get all four of us in the back seat. Well, sometimes, when we'd see a black man with a white woman, we would look back--be like, "What is that?" Because that's what people would do to our parents. They were always looking like, "That's strange!" So, if we saw it, we were looking too. I--I don't know why but that's what--you know, it was like it was a rare thing. So, even though, I think, Denver [Colorado] was rather--there was probably more tolerance for mixed marriages. They had to go to four different states to get married. They could not get married in Denver. And--and they had to go to Wyoming--couldn't get married there. They went to--I don't know the next state--Utah. And then they ended up in Mexico. And even after they married there, they had to sleep in two separate rooms married. And, I remember Mama [Martha Mae Parker] talking about--you know, I mean, Daddy was always connected to Hispanic people, but, he spoke a little Spanish and he heard them talking about coming into Mama's room and raping her. So, she--you know, Daddy had to--on the night of their wedding in Mexico, get a man who was coming through the--you know, how they have the openings in the--the doors, where they have the opening at the top?$$The transom [window]--the--?$$Right, right. He had to get this man, and, and wear him out.$Now, when you graduated from high school [George Washington High School, Denver, Colorado], you wanted--you were thinking of going into medicine? And, how did you end up in--in dance?$$Well, I actually--as soon as I got back, my--my parents--because, my father [Jonathon Parker] worked at the [Helen] Bonfils Theatre [Denver, Colorado] and then, became an actor, and then became you know very, very involved in creating theater on his own. I, then, met two wonderful women there, who ran the Colorado Ballet, and, I saw one of the most magical pieces on that stage: 'Carmina Burana' and that blew my mind. I went, "I wanna do that--that extraordinary music by Carl Orff." I wanted to do that and I wanted to create it. But I also had met another woman who was married to a doctor. And she wanted me to be introduced to the dance. And--and through this circle, Daddy said, "Well this kid needs a job. She's sixteen, or fourteen, or fourteen, I think. She needs to work!" And so, they gave me a little summer job. And then she said, "I want you to take my classes in the summer." And she says, "Now, I'm leaving for about a few weeks, or--and I'm--I want you to take over my classes." And I said, "Like take over the classes?" So I ended up teaching her classes. And she--when she came back, she didn't take over her classes. I continued to teach them. So that was wild! Then I had a little car, and I would teach everywhere. I found out teaching was thrilling for me, because I could bring people together in the most fascinating way and the most extraordinary way and the most physical way. I mean, I love being physical. I was an athlete so I love being physical. So I loved to jump, and turn, and--and fly, and do anything. And doing all that, I loved it, but to be able to find this sense of harmony in dance with others--and it didn't matter how big or small, or if they were rich or not, 'cause you couldn't tell. You didn't know if somebody was rich or not rich, or whether they had--what kind of history they had. They were all--everybody was--there was a common ground, there. This was an extraordinary thing. So I started teaching and never stopped. And then I started my own school once I got into college [Colorado Women's College, later the University of Denver, Denver, Colorado]. I--I started--because I found another kindred spirit, who, very much like me, was not in the mainstream, Chris Kusuma. And she--she didn't have the body of dancer. She was Japanese, and didn't have the body of a ballet dancer. But we studied then, classical Japanese and African dance and Spanish dance, and we--we brought it into our school. It was really a magic time. We had a good time.

Val Gray Ward

Val Gray Ward, actress, producer, cultural activist and internationally known theatre personality, was born Q. Valeria Ward on August 21, 1932 in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, America's oldest all black town. As the daughter of a successful minister, Ward showed an interest early on in performance. She eagerly read poems and did readings for her father's congregation and eventually won various oratorical competitions in school. Above all, she was keenly interested in African American literature.

After graduating from Mound Bayou High School in 1950, Ward dreamed of going to college. Instead, she moved to Chicago in 1951, got married and became Val Gray and a mother to five children. When the marriage failed, Ward went back to school and became active in Chicago's African American cultural activities. She was a regular at the South Side Community Arts Center and the DuSable Museum of African American History as she developed friendships with Dr. Margaret Burroughs, Gwendolyn Brooks, Don L. Lee, Haki R. Madhubuti and Abena Joan Brown.

In 1965 Val Gray met and married journalist, Francis Ward as she continued to make a name for herself as an actress, television host and cultural consultant. Now known as Val Gray Ward, Ward was recognized as part of Chicago's activist Black Arts Movement. In this context Ward founded the nonprofit Kuumba Theatre in 1968. Kuumba is Kiswahili for clean up, create, and build and was dedicated to the revitalization of the black community through the arts.

With Kuumba, Ward has produced and directed such plays as The Amen Corner by James Baldwin, Welcome To Black River by Samm Art Williams, and Five On The Black Hand Side by Charles Fuller. Touring has also been important. Ward took the cast and crew of Useni Eugene Perkins' play, The Image Makers to Lagos Nigeria as part of the FESTAC '77, an international African arts festival. Ward brought Kuumba's musical production, The Little Dreamer: The Life of Bessie Smith to Japan in 1981 and produced Buddy Butler's In The House of The Blues in Montreal, Canada. Ward and the company received Emmy Awards for the PBS television production of Precious Memories: Strolling 47th Street in 1988.

When she is not producing, Val Ward performs one woman shows in the United States and abroad. Performances include Harriet Tubman by Francis Ward, Sister Sonji by Sonia Sanchez and I Am A Black Woman which includes the poetry of Mari Evans.

Over the years, Ward has provided opportunities in the arts for hundreds of inner city youth and adults. All five of her children were or still are active in theatre. Ward currently lives in Syracuse, New York.

Accession Number

A2002.077

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/2/2002

Last Name

Ward

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Mound Bayou High School

John F. Kennedy Memorial High School

Search Occupation Category
Speakers Bureau

Yes

Speakers Bureau Availability

Any

First Name

Val Gray

Birth City, State, Country

Mound Bayou

HM ID

WAR02

Speakers Bureau Preferred Audience

No Preference

Speakers Bureau Honorarium

Yes - $500 - $1,000

Favorite Season

All Seasons

Speaker Bureau Notes

Honorarium Specifics: plus travel and lodging expenses

Preferred Audience: No Preference

State

Mississippi

Favorite Quote

As We Go Into Ourselves, We Come To Ourselves Naturally.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/21/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Fish, Greens

Short Description

Artistic director, stage actress, stage director, and stage producer Val Gray Ward (1932 - ) is the founder of the nonprofit Kuumba Theatre, and was dedicated to the revitalization of the black community through the arts. Over the years, Ward has provided opportunities in the arts for hundreds of inner-city youth and adults.

Employment

Kuumba Theatre

Favorite Color

Black, Earth Tones

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72645">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Val Gray Ward's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72646">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72647">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward describes her father's background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72648">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward talks about her father's upbringing in Mound Bayou, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72649">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward talks about her father's family's origins in Port Gibson, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72650">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Val Gray Ward describes her maternal family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72651">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Val Gray Ward talks about her maternal grandmother, Anna Mae Moten</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72652">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Val Gray Ward talks about how her maternal family ended up in Mound Bayou, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72653">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Val Gray Ward describes her siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72654">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Val Gray Ward describes her earliest memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72655">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward describes the sights, smells, and sounds of growing up in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72656">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward describes the sights, smells, and sounds of growing up in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72657">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward talks about the history of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72658">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward talks about the history of Mound Bayou, Mississippi, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72659">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward describes herself as a youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72660">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Val Gray Ward talks about attending the private Alice Morris preschool and B.O. Felder elementary school, and the public Mound Bayou High School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72661">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Val Gray Ward talks about the encouragement she received growing up in Mound Bayou, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72662">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Val Gray Ward describes her role in her family growing up</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72663">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward describes growing up as a minister's daughter</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72664">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward describes herself as a strong-willed child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72665">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward talks about the uniqueness of Mound Bayou, Mississippi as an all-black Southern town</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72666">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward describes her move to Chicago, Illinois, where she was molested and became pregnant in 1950</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72667">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward talks about her first marriage to John Gray from 1951 to 1957</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72668">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Val Gray Ward describes meeting her now husband, HistoryMaker Francis Ward</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72669">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Val Gray Ward describes her Civil Rights activism in the 1950s and 1960s in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72670">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Val Gray Ward talks about her early performances in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72671">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward talks about the people involved the Black Arts Movement in the 1960s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72672">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward describes founding Kuumba Theater in 1968, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72673">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward describes founding Kuumba Theater in 1968, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72674">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward describes the Black Arts Movement in Chicago in the 1960s, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72675">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward describes the Black Arts Movement in Chicago in the 1960s, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72676">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Val Gray Ward talks about creating Kummba Theatre to address issues in the black community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72677">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Val Gray Ward describes Kuumba Theater's Twelve Principles</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72678">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Val Gray Ward talks about creating The Ritual at Kuumba Theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72679">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward describes early performances of The Ritual at Kuumba Theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72680">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward talks about developing The Ritual at Kuumba Theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72681">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward describes a performance of The Ritual at Kuumba Theater in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72682">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward talks about the influence of Kuumba Theater performances to the Black Arts Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72683">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward talks about the various places that housed Kuumba Theater in Chicago, Illinois</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72684">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Val Gray Ward describes the significance of Kuumba Theater, including attending the FESTAC World Festival of Black Arts in Nigeria in 1977</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72685">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Val Gray Ward talks about the support that African American business leaders provided Kuumba Theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72686">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward talks about the support Kuumba Theater received from publisher and HistoryMaker John H. Johnson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72687">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward describes the launch of 'The Amen Corner' at Kuumba Theater in 1989</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72688">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward talks about producing 'Precious Memories' at Kuumba Theater and on PBS in 1988</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72689">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward talks about the financial support that Kuumba Theater recieved</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72690">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward talks about Kuumba Theater's role in black theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72691">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward talks about her friendship with Hoyt Fuller</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72692">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward talks about losing her friend, Hoyt Fuller, when he passed away in 1981</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72693">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward talks about losing her friend, Gwendolyn Brooks, when she passed away in 2000</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72694">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward describes her friendships with HistoryMakers Nikki Giovanni and Sonia Sanchez</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72695">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward talks about the status of Kuumba Theater and black theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72696">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Val Gray Ward reflects on the significance of black theater</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72697">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72698">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Val Gray Ward reflects on the significance of Kuumba Theater and its ritual</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72699">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Val Gray Ward describes the beauty of black people</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72700">Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Val Gray Ward narrates her photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72701">Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Val Gray Ward narrates her photographs, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72702">Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Val Gray Ward narrates her photographs, pt. 3</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/72703">Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Val Gray Ward narrates her photographs, pt. 4</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

7$2

DATitle
Val Gray Ward describes Kuumba Theater's Twelve Principles
Val Gray Ward talks about developing The Ritual at Kuumba Theater
Transcript
So what were Kuumba's twelve principles?$$Oh, now you would ask me. One is not to--enough to show a black reality, that we must tell why our art exists, its effect or offer some necessary alternatives. Meaning that, for instance, during black exploitation films, lot of people say, oh, '[Sweet] Sweetback' is revolutionary and we say yeah, really, what is revolution and what is revolutionary about it? Let's look at it. Kuumba had a newspaper. We had forums and we would analyze what made--how was it revolutionary and somebody running from here to Mexico or wherever and having a young boy exposed to older women, how is that revolutionary? What do you mean by revolutionary? So those are the serious things we did. And we brought in--we had panels, up to the time of Colored Girls with the sociologists and psychologists. We'd bring people from Lake Forest [College, Illinois], Northwestern [University, Illinois], [HM] Vernon Jarrett and oooh, I'm sure that you've--Herbert Martin, who's also from Mound Bayou [Mississippi]. You know, and we would talk about it and analyze it and then bring in the playwrights and bring in the people, you know, and that's why we had discussions. But we did, you know, plays that were like [Useni Eugene Perkins] 'The Image Makers'. Their reviews--I was just looking over some reviews at the [Chicago] Tribune did twelve pages, way back when and that was about black exploitation films. So it was not enough to talk about 'em because people would say, oh, these militants--or these troublemakers and I--my house was fire bombed. Oh Jesus, there's all kind of stuff and because of this art, right? And Chicago [Illinois] had a red squad and [HM] Margaret Burroughs said, will you and [HM] Francis [Ward] sign this thing with me 'cause I'm getting dossiers--you getting' what? Dossiers, so she got 'em. And what would it have? I was at the Packing House [Chicago, Illinois] and Stokely [Carmichael, Kwame Ture] would say, I said, for instance, "What shall I tell my children who's black," and I was wearing whatever a description of that on there, and if the three of us, Paul, you and Paul--I mean other people were there--they would just cross out, and you tryin' to think, who else was there and that's all you were doing, creating art. And there were as many whites involved as there were blacks in terms of, you know, the struggle of our people coming, you know, getting involved and so forth.$Let's talk about how The Ritual--how did The Ritual develop and what was The Ritual?$$The Ritual developed out of exactly what I do in the one woman show today. I was doing it prior to the founding of Kuumba, starting off with, you taking my blues notes on commercial theater, with the blues and the spiritual and then the things that I'm tellin' you about either prose and/or poetry or just the story that had taken place in the news--out of the newspaper. You had to--I mean in workshop, I mean we'd work on it and create that. So that you could hold the people while you were telling it--they didn't know you were tellin' a story--and then you give credit to the or whomever had the by-line.$$But The Ritual--was it broken down into a certain number of parts?$$Yeah, it was always--it was 'Destruction or Unity,' that was the name of it. But under 'Destruction and Unity,' we would do church. We would do current events, what was happening. And when I say church, the old church and some of the songs like, we used to take songs like, and this is how we got a lot of the church people involved in it. "Were You There", I don't know if you ever heard (singing)-"were you there when they crucified my Lord?" Well, we would change it, (singing)-"were you there when they shot poor Malcolm [X] down," and Fred Hampton or whatever and we would do all the (singing)-"oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble"--people would just be crying and we'd, you know. You know, we would sing well and we would put it together and so we would take what people already knew and then you could always bring anybody, young or old, black or white, and you didn't have to worry about all that cursing. Because a lot of people wouldn't go to--they say I don't want to go to this black theater because first thing they're doing is shooting their momma and their daddy and they're putting down the church and everybody. No, we would just take the forums that people already knew and create from that and so originally when it's time to change it, somebody change it, you know. Change it, if you're the changer, you're the thing from--I mean to blues and gospel or whatever. It was wonderful.