On 2/28/2019, East Middle School presented “The Rebirth of a Fallen Race: The Fall - The Journey - The Rise of the African American People.” This was the debut production of the school’s newly formed theater program. This original production was written by Kimberly Overton, a teacher at EMS and the program’s director.
Ms. Overton deserves to be recognized for her work, as do all the students involved, of which there were more than 50. The production is a tremendous example of how the arts can be used as a vessel to analyze complex topics, encourage reflection, and provide opportunities for dialog as, 400 years later, we as a nation are still wrestling with our spotted past and the ways that historic systems of oppression continue to manifest themselves today.
The arts have often served as a mirror to society. Through this production, which combined theatrics, song, and dance, the students of EMS have served their communities as artist/activists. As the Executive Director of Erie Arts & Culture, my hopes are that they will continue to explore the cross-sectionality between the arts and social justice. Within each of the students there is a light, and if properly nurtured, they will harness that light to illuminate their communities and the issues for which they are passionate.
I also want to applaud the administration of East Middle School. You empowered your faculty and students to address a subject matter that others may have chosen to shy away from. In doing so, you allowed the production to delve deeper than the surface level on issues that are often difficult to discuss but far too important to ignore. In truth, I believe that EMS has set a precedence by taking a firm stance in the belief that the arts can be integrated into a school and used as a vehicle to teach core curriculum subjects in a meaningful and impactful way.
Through the New Horizons initiative, which was funded by the Erie Community Foundation, Erie Arts & Culture is committed to empowering residents, merchants, community organizers, artists, and culture-bearers to actively be involved in shaping the social character and built environment in their neighborhoods. The initiative, in the first three years, focuses on the following zip codes: 16501, 16502, 16503, and 16507. Erie Arts & Culture and its collaborating partners will work directly with neighborhood residents to enhance and activate public spaces by delivering accessible and relevant cultural programs and activities that tap into the creativity, imagination, experience, and wisdom of community members. Through the New Horizons initiative, we aim to identify and then directly address systems that have perpetuated neighborhood disparities. If you would like to be involved in this initiative, please contact Tiffanie Page-Collazo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Executive Director, Erie Arts & Culture