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Voices in a Nation project kicks-off with Paul Carter Harrison

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Date: Wednesday, February 26, 2003
Contact: Michael Marshall, (808) 974-7524

For Immediate Release

Distinguished Scholar , Paul Carter Harrison

The Art Department of the University of Hawai`i at Hilo is pleased to announce the start of the Voices in a Nation project, a cross-disciplinary Humanities Division initiative to acknowledge significant writers, visual artists, and performers from a pan-ethnic perspective. The project will bring to the UH Hilo campus individuals who have achieved national and international recognition for work in their respective field of knowledge. Organizers for the project believe Voices will significantly influence local scholarship and enrich cultural life in a manner that will generate long-term positive benefits in the community.

The inaugural presentation in the project series, The Art of Folk: The Vernacular and Cultural Memory of People of Color, coincides with the 2003 centennial of The Souls of Black Folk, by W.E.B. Du Bois. This groundbreaking work galvanized consciousness and brought attention to racial perspectives on cultural formation, language, and scholarship. As noted by Du Bois, the vernacular is a mechanism intrinsically used by exploited people to assert identity and rise in spirit above the conditions of oppression.

The Art of Folk will feature Paul Carter Harrison, a distinguished African American scholar, in a ten-day residency from March 3 - 13 on the UH Hilo campus. During his residency, he will conduct a series of guest lectures for the English, Performing Arts, and Art departments, and give two public presentations.

Harrison is a playwright, director, and professor emeritus, Columbia College, Chicago, Illinois. His accomplishments include the publication of The Drama of Nommo (1972), a series of seminal essays examining African retentions in the aesthetics of African American culture, editor of Kuntu Drama (1974), and Totem Voices (1989); and principal editor of Black Theater: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora, Temple University Press, 2003, a collection of defining essays on the foundation of the African Diaspora. He has published and produced numerous plays, including The Great MacDaddy. Presented by the famed Negro Ensemble Company, New York, the work received an OBIE Award in 1974.

Harrison's recent projects include directing Aimee Cesarea's A Tempest, Dartmouth University, Winter 2000, and Marcia Leslie's The Trial of One Short-Sighted Black Woman vs Mammy Louise and Safreeta Mae, Penumbra Theater, St. Paul MN, 2000.

Harrison's first public presentation will take place on Friday, March 7, at 7:00 pm in UH Hilo's University Classroom Building 100. His lecture is entitled, "Genesis: Cultural Formation through the Vernacular Experience." The talk will elaborate on the African continuum and Black aesthetic experience. Harrison will address the performative aspects of Black art and culture, including such familiar forms as Hip-Hop. A reception for Harrison will immediately follow the lecture presentation.

The second public presentation will take place on Saturday, March 8 from 9 am until noon in the UH Hilo Theater where Harrison will conduct a drama workshop, which is free and open to the public.

Harrison, who has numerous directing and producing credits for both the stage and film, will lay the groundwork for the upcoming UH Hilo Theater production of Joe Turner's Come and Gone (1988). The play is by preeminent African American playwright and activist August Wilson, and briefly summarizes deals with the issue of emerging identity and the tension between African spirituality and western Christian values. The play will be cast later this year and produced during the Fall 2003 season. Actors from throughout the State will be sought to fill the 11 roles. For additional information about the Drama Workshop, or upcoming play, please contact Professor Jackie Pualani Johnson at 974-7304, or via e-mail

Disability accommodations for the public presentations may be requested through the University Disability Services Office at 933-0816(V) or

The Art of Folk is made possible with funding and support from the UH Diversity and Equity Initiative 2002, UH Hilo Office of the Chancellor, Office for Student Affairs, Department of Performing Arts, Art Department, Humanities Division, Media Services and Graphics, Office of University Relations, and the Student Art Association.

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