January 23, 2008

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LEWISBURG, Pa. - Bucknell University will host "Citizenship: A Week of Arts & Ideas," Feb. 4 through 8 with company members from Sekou Sundiata's 51st (dream) state, which will be performed in the Weis Center at Bucknell at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 29.

Held in conjunction with the 51st (dream) state performance, the "Week of Arts & Ideas" is based on Sundiata's "America Project," a nationwide arts and citizenship initiative.

An African-American poet and performer whose works combine poetry, music and drama, Sekou Sundiata was born in Harlem and taught at New York City's New School where he was writer-in-residence until his death in July 2007.

A leading light of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Sundiata was featured in Bill Moyers' PBS poetry series, "The Language of Life" and as part of HBO's Def Poetry Jam. He also earned a Sundance Institute Screenwriting Fellowship for his acclaimed theater work, "The Circle Unbroken is a Hard Bop."

Responses to 9/11
Sundiata's last work, the 51st (dream) state, is a multi-media performance cycle of songs, poems and monologues supported by still and moving projected images about the responses to the September 11, 2001, attacks. Performed by an all-star ensemble of singers and musicians, the 51st (dream) state is a quest to find a vision of what it means to be both a citizen and an individual in a new era characterized by America's unprecedented global influence and power.

In "Poem #1 from the 51st (dream) state," Sundiata reflects on how he enjoyed studying geography and how he felt proud when Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th states.

Then he wonders what the 51st state will be, saying "Some said the Philippines and some said Puerto Rico." Sundiata ends his poem with, "But nobody, in those days, dreamed the next state would be war ... not until now."

Honest and critical conversations
According to organizer Cindy Peltier, operations manager with the Samek Art Gallery, the America Project comprises public engagement activities designed to involve participants in honest and critical conversations about citizenship and civic consciousness.

"The Project also is meant to trigger critical conversations and encounters in the service of teaching, learning and art," said Peltier. "These campus- and community-based events surrounding the 51st (dream) state are intended to inspire fresh perceptions that link imagination, democracy and citizenship."

All artists residency events are open to the public without charge. The schedule includes the following:

• Monday, Feb. 4, 7 p.m., Bucknell Hall: "Singing the 51st (dream) state: A Journey to Citizenship through the Arts." Vocalists and Richard Harper, vocal arranger with the 51st (dream) state, will perform selected songs and poems before disussing their evolution as artists and citizens through their participation in the America Project.

• Tuesday, Feb. 5, 7 p.m., Rooke Chapel: "America Project Community Sing." Cast members and community members sing and discuss their relationships to a variety of American folk, popular, traditional and patriotic songs, facilitated by Richard Harper and La Tanya Hall, singer and narrator for the 51st (dream) state.

• Wednesday, Feb. 6, 7 p.m., Center Room, Elaine Langone Center: "Theatre and Community Action: The America Project from New York to New Orleans." Christopher McElroen, founder of the Classical Theatre of Harlem and director of the 51st (dream) state, will discuss involvement in the America Project and his role in staging 'Waiting for Godot' in the Katrina-ravaged streets of New Orleans.

• Thursday, Feb. 7, 7 p.m., Bucknell Hall. "Excerpts from 'Dis/integrating General Public: Waking up in the 51st (dream) state." A performance and discussion by Sundiata's students from the New School in Manhattan.

• Friday, Feb. 8, noon, Center Room, Elaine Langone Center. "Citizenship and the Arts in the Classroom." Eugene Lang College students and faculty who participated in Sundiata's course on the America Project will discuss how their classroom experience led to the creation of the performance piece, 'Dis/integrating General Public: Waking up in the 51st (dream) state.'"

For more information about artists residency events, contact Peltier at 577-3981, or Peg Cronin at 577-3426.

Contact: Office of Communications

Posted Jan. 23, 2008