The annual Women of Color Luncheon, a celebration of diversity and achievement, will take place at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 9, in Colebank Hall on the shared main campus of Fairmont State University and Pierpont Community & Technical College.
Sponsored by the Office of Student Affairs, the event is intended to honor those who have shown a commitment for treating people equally and for celebrating diversity. This year’s event is organized by Dr. Tara Brooks, Director of Multicultural Affairs.
The cost to attend is $10 per person, which includes lunch. Attendees can pay at the door on the day of the event, but pre-registration is requested. Those who would like to attend should RSVP to Jane Delbrook in the Office of Student Affairs by sending an e-mail to Jane.Delbrook@fairmontstate.edu.
The keynote speaker for the luncheon will be Ilene Evans. She is co-founder of Voices from the Earth, a non-profit arts organization and has served as the President of the West Virginia Storytelling Guild. Evans performs, teaches and lectures throughout the United States and overseas. She recently toured the Middle East and Columbia for the United States Embassy to share African American culture. Her work is educational, entertaining and enjoyable for all ages.
“Through my performances and workshops I give voice to the stories and songs that have brought peace and reconciliation throughout time – celebrating our diversity, our creativity, our resilience and our beauty. I seek out the wisdom and humor of the world and examine folk tales and traditional tales to apply their lessons to contemporary issues and build multicultural awareness,” Evans said.
During the luncheon, Evans will present a portion of her one-woman show, a portrayal of Ethel Waters (1896-1977) called “Taking a Chance on Love.”
Ethel Waters had a tremendous impact in shaping American popular culture. Her fiery spirit blazed the way for many stars to follow and opened doors at the height of American segregation. She lit up theaters, tiny clubs and vaudeville houses as the slinky, slithery, sexy Sweet Mama Stringbean, “out shimmying every sister in sight.” Waters broke the color line time and time again and made room for actors, singers, dancers, composers and musicians in radio, then Broadway and Hollywood and even television. By 1930, she had become a superstar – perhaps the first Black superstar. Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Billie Holiday, Sophie Tucker, Sammy Davis Jr. and so many great singers and actors who came after her stood on her shoulders. They took what she did, bent it, shifted it and made it their own.
After receiving her B.A. from Trinity College in Deerfield, Illinois, Evans studied theater and dance at the University of Wisconsin. Evans completed her master’s degree at East Tennessee State University in the Department of Education with an emphasis in storytelling. Evans became a member of the dance collaborative “Momenta!” as dancer and choreographer at the Academy of Movement and Music in Oak Park, Ill. There she also taught ballet, jazz and modern dance. Later, she joined the staff of Whirlwind Performance Company as a teaching artist and performer. At Whirlwind, she taught dance, choreography, storytelling, vocal technique and African American cultural arts.
Evans has a passion for history and in 1991 she created “General Moses: Stories from the Life of Harriet Tubman” to feature the story of Harriet Tubman and her role in the Underground Railroad. Most recently she has developed “Behind Enemy Lines: Harriet Tubman in the Civil War – The Port Royal Experiment.” Evans received the Tidmarsh Foundation for the Arts grant for touring “General Moses.” She has performed her piece in conjunction with a companion workshop she developed about the Underground Railroad. Among Evans’ other original performances are “Harvest of Dreams” and “They Call Me Ms. Memphis.” These pieces reveal the rich African American culture through stories, songs, and poems. Evans performed “Harvest of Dreams” at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, at the Women’s Universities in Saudi Arabia and at Al-Babtain Library in Kuwait.
Evans resides in West Virginia. She has been the featured vocalist and storyteller for “Peter and the Wolf” with the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra. Evans’ original work, “Climbing up the Beanstalk,” was adapted for stage by director Thomas Reese and performed at the Cincinnati State Community College.
Evans is included in the West Virginia Artist Roster and the West Virginia Humanities Council History Alive program. Current projects include “Behind Enemy Lines,” a look at Harriet Tubman’s role in the Civil War, as a freedom fighter. She also portrays lesser known African American heroines such as Memphis Tennessee Garrison, Coralie Franklin Cook, Susie King Taylor, Bessie Coleman and Carrie Williams.
For more information about Ilene Evans, visit www.ilene-evans.com.
About the photo: Ilene Evans is shown here portraying Ethel Waters.