Presents a Virtual Conversation: Return to the Root: Exploring Racism Through Dance
Thursday, March 4 at 1pm
Zoellner Arts Center in partnership with Lehigh University’s United Nations Program, together with the United Nations Department of Global Communications on Thursday, March 4 at 1:00pm (est) present Return to the Root: Exploring Racism Through Dance, a conversation about racism and slavery with moderators Mark Fitzgerald Wilson, Executive Director of Zoellner Arts Center and Dr. Terry-Ann Jones, Lehigh University Director of Africana Studies, featuring insight from Rafael Palacios, Artistic Director of Sankofa Danzafro, an Afro-Colombian dance company, with remarks from Maher Nasser, the Director of the Outreach Division in the United Nations Department of Global Communications.
Return to the Root: Exploring Racism Through Dance discusses the themes of systemic racism, the vestiges of slavery throughout African diaspora populations, and the possibility of living in a city that embraces and acknowledges people of color. The word “Sankofa” translates “to return to the root.” This concept is deeply prevalent in Palacios’ work, using the past as a lens through which to look at the present and future. The company’s mission “is to question the overall knowledge [and] to build a voice of self-awareness, which will allow us to reveal the ‘epistemologíes’ of the African diaspora in the world. “I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this conversation. Although the bodies of Afro-descendants are no longer being sold into slavery, oppression continues through the appropriation of our knowledge and culture,” says Palacios.
For the moderated conversation, participants can register through Zoellner’s website or view the talk via multiple platforms and publicized via the UN’s global network. This talk is a component of an outreach program for hundreds of LVAIC (Lehigh Valley Association of Independent Colleges) dance consortium students who participated in a masterclass with Sankofa Danzafro. As part of Zoellner Arts Center’s virtual presentation of Sankofa Danzafro’s program, The City of Others, a work that draws from the troupe’s personal experiences with racism and oppression in their daily lives while claiming empowerment and opportunity. With the United Nations involvement, a global opportunity exists for thousands of students to watch the dance performance and learn about how racism and slavery informed Palacios’ expression his thoughts through choreographic language. Return to the Root coincides with the United Nations International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade on March 25th.
"When the UN invited Lehigh to collaborate on a project related to the Legacy of Slavery, my team and the Office of Equity and Community cast a wide net to see which departments might be interested to participate. I was thrilled when Mark Wilson and the Zoellner Arts team proposed such a unique approach to the theme. Their initiative really piqued the interest of our UN colleagues, leading to an instantaneous partnership. This is the first time we have partnered with the UN on an arts related project, and I am delighted to see their work on this critical topic exhibited on the global stage," said William Hunter, Lehigh Director of UN Programs.
“As the new Executive Director of Zoellner Arts Center, I felt it was important to use my platform to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in order to advance a dialogue within the community. Lehigh University is committed to anti-racism and the programs at the center need to be intentional in supporting how we can participate in this discussion globally and locally through multiple art forms,” said Wilson.