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Reed College celebrates Black History Month with lectures, music, and performances, January 24 – February 28

Events will feature activist and author bell hooks, scholar Michael Eric Dyson, the percussive dance group Step Afrika, the avant-garde jazz trio Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, and Portland Jazz Festival's special multimedia introduction to jazz.

PORTLAND, OR (December 22, 2005) – Reed College invites you to join in a month-long celebration of Black History Month, January 24 through February 28, 2006. The rich history and cultural heritage of African Americans will be honored with a series of lectures and performances, all free and open to the public.

Featured lectures and performances include scholar and cultural critic Michael Eric Dyson, who discusses the effects of Hurricane Katrina on the black community in his latest book Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and Natural, Racial and Economic Disasters; author bell hooks, who focuses attention on the myriad forms of racism, from subtle to blatant, evident in the United States; the high-energy dance group Step Afrika, who have popularized the percussive dance technique known as "stepping"; the avant garde jazz group Ethnic Heritage Ensemble, fusing traditional African rhythmic and melodic sensibilities with popular African American musical expression; and "The Incredible Journey of Jazz," a multimedia presentation combining a live jazz combo with visuals and narration in a program designed for music lovers of all ages.

All events are free and open to the public. Because seating is limited, tickets are required for the Michael Eric Dyson and bell hooks lectures. Tickets are available at the Reed College Bookstore or by calling 503/517-7935.

For more information, visit or call the Reed events line at 503/777-7755.

Black History Month programming at Reed College is sponsored by the Office of the President, the departments of sociology, anthropology and political science, the Elizabeth J. Ducey Fund, the Multicultural Resource Center, and American Studies. Promotional support is provided by Willamette Week.

In related programming, the political science department will be presenting "African Dilemmas: Debt, Development, and the Diaspora," the 2006 Public Policy Lectures Series in Spring 2006. A series of speakers will address the challenges of economic and democratic development in Africa, including the role of the G-8 and developed world in reducing poverty; the role of NGOs and other non-profits in development issues; rural markets' potential to help lift Africans out of poverty; and how diasporas in Europe and the U.S. affect the demand for political and social change in Africa. All Public Policy lectures are free and open to the public.

Percussive Dance Performance
7 p.m., Tuesday, January 24
Kaul Auditorium

Step Afrika is the first professional company in the world dedicated to stepping, a unique dance tradition in which the body is used as an instrument to create intricate rhythms and sounds through a combination of footsteps, claps, and spoken word. The Washington Post describes stepping as "tap dance without tap shoes, James Brown without the music of the JBs, Cab Calloway sans piano, a marching band without John Philip Sousa. It is jazz, funk, rhythm and blues, and rap without instruments."

Founded in December 1994, Step Afrika is critically acclaimed for its efforts to promote an understanding of and appreciation for stepping and the dance tradition's use as an educational tool for young people worldwide. Based in Washington, D.C., Step Afrika has been featured on CNN, BET, PBS, and NPR, as well as in numerous books, documentaries, and articles that seek to explore the tradition of stepping. Its signature event, the annual Step Afrika International Cultural Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa, is the fruit of a 10-year collaboration with the Soweto Dance Theatre, uniting artists from around the world in dialogue and dance performance.

Lecture: "Come Hell or High Water"
7 p.m., Friday, February 17
Kaul Auditorium
The lecture will be followed by a question-and-answer period and book signing

In his forthcoming book Come Hell or High Water: Hurricane Katrina and Natural, Racial and Economic Disasters, Michael Eric Dyson explores what Hurricane Katrina reveals about the fault lines of race and poverty in America –and what lessons we must take from the flood. In a recent issue of Essence magazine, he wrote "Katrina's violent winds and killing waters have swept a stark realization into the mainstream: The poor had been abandoned by society and its institutions long before the storm. Now that the hurricane and its aftermath have blown the facade off Black suffering, it is a good time to reflect on what the government owes Black folks, and what we owe one another."

Dyson, named by Essence as one of the 50 most inspiring African Americans, is one of the nation's most renowned public intellectuals. The remarkable range of his cultural appeal is evident when he is celebrated in the pages of Time magazine and US News and World Report, and in the rap lyrics of hip-hop legends KRS-One and Nas. Dyson's powerful scholarship has won him legions of admirers and has made him what the Washington Post terms a "superstar professor." Dyson's fearless and fiery oratory has drawn comparisons to Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, leading the Chronicle of Higher Education to declare that with his rhetorical gifts he "can rock classroom and chapel alike."

Dyson is also the author of Is Bill Cosby Right?; Mercy, Mercy Me: The Art, Loves and Demons of Marvin Gaye; The Michael Eric Dyson Reader, Open Mike; Holler If You Hear Me: Searching for Tupac Shakur; Why I Love Black Women; I May Not Get There With You: The True Martin Luther King, Jr.; Race Rules: Navigating the Color Line; Between God and Gangsta Rap; Making Malcolm: The Myth and Meaning of Malcolm X; and Reflecting Black. He is the Avalon Foundation Professor in the Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania.

bell hooks
Lecture: "Talking Intersections: Class, Race, Gender, Nationality, and Religion"
6:30 p.m. Book signing
7 p.m. Lecture
Thursday, February 2
Kaul Auditorium

Feminist, social thinker, intellectual, memoirist, and teacher bell hooks has authored over 24 books, including Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism, named one of the 20 most influential women's books of the past twenty years by Publishers Weekly. Utne Reader calls her one of the "100 Visionaries Who Could Change Your Life," and Atlantic Monthly lauds her ability to bring "moral imagination and critical intelligence to bear on the definingly American matter of race."

Although hooks is mainly known as a feminist thinker, her writings cover the broad range of topics on gender, racism, teaching, classism, and the significance of media for contemporary culture. She strongly believes that these topics cannot be dealt with separately, but must be understood by their interconnectedness. She has criticized the way in which the plight of black women has been either ignored or worsened, not only by what she has termed "white supremacist capitalist patriarchy" but, in many instances, by the mainstream feminist movement and the black liberation struggle.

Born Gloria Watkins in Hopkinsville, Kentucky in 1952, she took the name bell hooks from one of her great-grandmothers, a Native American. Her own use of the name, says hooks, is "about celebrating female legacies." The lower-case spelling of the name relates to her recognition of the gifts and substances of the individual, as opposed to the ego.

hooks received her B.A. from Stanford University in 1973, her M.A. in 1976 from the University of Wisconsin and her Ph.D. in 1983 from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She has taught literature, women's studies, and African American studies at Yale University and Oberlin College. She is currently a Distinguished Professor of English at City College in New York.

"The Incredible Journey of Jazz"
Concert and lecture
Co-sponsored with the Portland Jazz Festival
2 p.m., Monday, February 20
Kaul Auditorium

For the first time, the Portland Jazz Festival and Reed College have teamed up to present "The Incredible Journey of Jazz," a special program designed for middle school age children and their parents, as a free, public performance. This 75-minute program tells the story of jazz from its roots in African music and culture, through its development in the United States, to its current role as one of America's most treasured contributions to world culture.

The program features a jazz combo led by Darrell Grant in combination with narration, using musical illustrations from different eras and styles, characterizations of historical figures, and participatory songs and dances, which will provide the audience with a "living experience"of the jazz art form. The program is presented by the Leroy Vinnegar Jazz Institute, and by Ethos, a non-profit music center dedicated to the promotion of music and music-based education for youth in some of Oregon's most underserved communities.

Ethnic Heritage Ensemble
7 p.m., Tuesday, February 28
Eliot Hall Chapel (third floor of Eliot Hall)
(There will be a 15-minute intermission between sets)

The Ethnic Heritage Ensemble has been "breaking the habits of boredom and pushing beyond nostalgia into the present" for almost 20 years. Their avant garde music fuses traditional African rhythmic and melodic sensibilities with popular African American musical expression. The Ensemble's unique instrumentation –trap drums, African and Latin hand-percussion, saxophone, trombone, digeridoo, bass clarinet, and kalimba –endow their music with a warm textural richness and depth. Within a framework of organic, understated compositions, the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble imparts an ancestral wisdom and conjures an energy and spark rarely encountered in contemporary music.

The group performing at Reed includes Kahil El'Zabar on drums, percussion, and African thumb piano; Corey Wilkes playing trumpet and percussion; and alto and tenor saxophonist Ernest Dawkins.