In June 2021, World Cafe Live presented the world premiere of a brand new multimedia performance titled Revivals of Blackness. Created collaboratively by Philadelphia-based artists Lela Aisha Jones, Luke Carlos O’Reilly, Alex Shaw and filmmaker Aidan Un, this dynamic virtual ceremony interweaves music, dance, poetry, interviews, and visuals.
In the summer of 2020, World Cafe Live asked Jones, O’Reilly and Shaw, who have long histories of collaboration with each other and the venue, if they wanted to create a piece that responded to the murder of George Floyd in conjunction with the heightened attention to systemic racism in the U.S. Revivals of Blackness, which centers and challenges the ways we think about how Blackness intersects with ancestry, archive, ritual, and tradition, is their response.
From the artists:
“As seasoned U.S.-based BIPOC artists, our artistry is intentionally intertwined with our activist practices – collective activations of our lived experiences and cultural knowledge grounded in generations of blackness. Revivals of Blackness was born from the collaborative culmination of our personal storied multidisciplinary journeys through diverse African diasporic music and dance traditions, bringing American jazz, R&B, gospel, and soul into informed cultural dialogue with Capoeira Angola, Afro-Cuban rumba, Afro-Brazilian samba & maracatu, Ewe drumming, and orisha songs from Yorubaland. Through our artistry, we assert that blackness be more centered, be acknowledged, be loved, be humanized, and be honored in all communities, particularly in white spaces and structures of power. Revivals of Blackness centers and challenges the ways we think about how Blackness intersects with ancestry, archive, ritual, and tradition, inviting us all to question and reflect upon the multitude of luscious ways that Blackness shapes our lives.”
For more information, click here.
Aidan Un is a French-Korean-American filmmaker and photographer based in West Philadelphia. He works primarily in the genre of documentary and is interested in questions of culture, place, and identity. Recent works include Sisters of the Soil (2021), a short documentary film made in collaboration with Raishad Momar about a Black-owned bookshop in Philadelphia; The Ancestors Live (2020), a feature-length documentary about Kùlú Mèlé African Dance and Drum Ensemble; video and photo documentation of Modupúe | Ibaye: The Philadelphia Yoruba Performance Project, a community-embedded exploration of the city’s rich and diverse expressions of Yoruba-rooted traditions and culture. His work has been featured at the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival, Mustard Seed Festival, The Outlet Dance Project Festival, New Urban Film Festival, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Blackstar Film Festival. Aidan is also a member of traditional Korean percussion group URIOL and of the Philadelphia chapter of FICA (Fundação Internacional de Capoeira Angola/International Capoeira Angola Foundation).
Lela Aisha Jones is a movement performance artist, an interdisciplinary collaborator, a community-grounded organizer/curator, and the Founding Director of Lela Aisha Jones | FlyGround. A proud Tallahassee, Florida native, her research intimately and artistically archives lived experiences of diasporic blackness to create contemporary cultural memories and ceremony. Themes that rise from her endeavors include cultural nomadism, reciprocal living, and spiritual translineages. Her most recent works are …the bottom up… Catching Souls for Grounds that Shout (2019) commissioned by Reggie Wilson and we:all ~ gon’ die into revivals commissioned by Red Clay Dance (2021). Lela’s artistry and activism has earned her a 2015 Leeway Transformation Award, a 2016 Pew Fellowship in the Arts, and a 2017 New York Dance and Performance/Bessie Award Nomination. Her most influential experiences have been in movement practice with Brownbody | Deneane Richburg, Christal Brown | Inspirit, Barak Ade Sole, Moustapha Bangoura, Edileusa Santos, Anssumane Silla, Sulley Imoro, Omi Osun Joni L. Jones, Urban Bush Women | Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, L’Ecole Des Sables | Germaine Acogny, and Nia Love. Lela earned a B.S. at University of Florida, an M.F.A. at Florida State University, a Ph.D. at Texas Woman’s University, and is a member of the Bryn Mawr College Dance Program faculty.
Luke Carlos O’Reilly is an award-winning pianist and composer that has had a passion for music since the early age of 4. He is most heavily influenced by Jazz, Soul, R&B, Gospel, Latin Jazz, Hip-Hop and Classical music. Before the age of 17, Luke had been given the opportunity to play with the likes of Clark Terry, Joshua Redman, Walter Blanding, and Steve Turre. After graduating from Lexington High School in Massachusetts, Luke moved to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to attend Esther Boyer School of Music at Temple University on an academic and music scholarship. There he studied under Terrell Stafford, Mulgrew Miller, Bruce Barth and many other world-renowned jazz educators. Before graduating in 2004, Luke had fully immersed himself on the Philadelphia jazz and r&b scenes, as well as made a name for himself on the nearby New York scene. After graduating, he recorded and/or toured with Curtis Fuller, Dave Valentin, Billy Paul, Slide Hampton, Nicholas Payton, Fred Wesley, Red Holloway, Steve Turre, Musiq Soulchild, Carol Riddick, K’naan and many others. Luke has released 3 albums as a leader; ’Living In The Now’ (2011), ‘3 Suites’ (2013) and most recently, ’I Too, Sing America: A Black Man’s Diary’ (2021). Between the 3 albums, he has recorded over 20 original songs. Recently, in 2017-2018, Luke was chosen to be an Artist-in-Residence for Philadelphia’s prestigious Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. He is currently a teacher for the Kimmel Center, as well as the University of The Arts (Philadelphia).
Alex Shaw is a Philadelphia-based percussionist, sound artist/composer, cultural producer, and arts educator working in the field for over twenty years. Intercultural, interdisciplinary collaborations and compositions merging diverse percussion traditions, vocal textures, field recordings, and digital imagination encompass his current artistic focus. He is the director of renowned Brazilian ensemble, Alô Brasil, and was a section leader in the award-winning Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra for over a decade. Alex has produced dozens of public performances and cultural programs including Consciência Negra: The Legacy of Black Consciousness in Brazil, a 3-day symposium at Swarthmore College in 2016 that culminated with his original interdisciplinary production, The Mandinga Experiment, in homage to Capoeira Angola and its legacy of cultural resistance. He is a faculty member at University of the Arts, the former Artistic Director for Intercultural Journeys (2014-2020), and Co-Director of Modupúe | Ibaye: The Philadelphia Yoruba Performance Project. Alex has received several competitive artist grants and an Emerging Legacy Award at the UPenn MLK Commemorative Symposium for Social Justice. He holds a BA from Swarthmore College and an MFA in World Percussion from the California Institute of the Arts. Alex is a founding board member and lead teaching artist for World Cafe Live (formerly LiveConnections) since 2008.
Jones, Shaw and O’Reilly all appear in the filmed performance, which combines music, movement and interviews shot at World Cafe Live and on location in Philadelphia with visual imagery created by filmmaker Un and graphic artist Oluwafemi. These artists are joined by musicians Anwar Marshall (drums), Raul Cisneros (percussion), Matt Parrish (bass), Mollie Ducoste (violin), and Chris Williams (trumpet), along with movement artists Patricia Peaches Jones and Fyness Mason.
WXPN’s The Key: “World Cafe Live will host the virtual premiere of The Revivals of Blackness” | June 2, 2021 | By Samantha Sullivan
thINKingDANCE: “Honoring Truth in a Black Existence” | June 28, 2021 | By Lauren Putty White
“I didn’t even realize how much I needed to see and hear and experience this.”
“In these times I long to find and connect to sources that inspire me… this piece was so beautiful; so much love and joy expressed through the music, the movement, and the images. I thank you for this gift you’ve given me as a member of your community.”
“I am still without adequate words to describe my thoughts about the brilliance of your collaborative work. Every moment of the production was spellbinding. Each team member’s contribution was more than stellar.”
—Dr. Ken Dossar
“I really enjoyed Revivals of Blackness; such a great group of artists as well as brilliantly developed and performed selections. The performance was so moving. Spirit permeates and transcends/transforms the performance experience (a truly special group of people). I can’t imagine that most people would not be moved and elevated.”
—Dr. Joan Hamby Burroughs