Celebrate Black History Month with World Premiere of Multi-Media Performance Ratoon

LINCOLN UNIVERSITY, PA.—Lincoln University announces the world premiere of Ratoon, a multi-media meditation on the global impact of sugar cane plantations and industry on the land and people of the Black Diaspora. This artistic collaboration features documentary photographer and 2023 Guggenheim Fellow Sasha Phyars-Burgess, 2023 Philadelphia Cultural Treasure Fellow, 2015 Pew Fellow, and 2016 Philadelphia Poet Laureate, Yolanda Wisher, and 2023 Pew Fellow, jazz pianist and composer, Sumi Tonooka. This performance highlights the documentary photographs by Phyars-Burgess who captures sugar cane communities in Portugal, Brazil, Florida, Louisiana, and the Dominican Republic; the large-scale projections are arranged and projected by Dr. Michael Lynch, Director of Undergraduate Research at Lincoln University and founder of Projected in Place (@projected_in_place). The performance centers student writing assembled by Yolanda Wisher into a poem and composed into music by Sumi Tonooka and sung by Lincoln University Concert Choir under the direction of Dr. Victoria Pitre.

This event, which is made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to Revitalize Black Studies on Lincoln University’s campus, highlights the history and the brutal legacy of sugar, identified as ‘White Gold,’ and Black labor and production. In addition to the vocals provided by the 58-member Lincoln University Concert Choir, the poem is performed by senior Pan-Africana Studies major Ashley Gillard, senior Pan-Africana Studies and History major Jeninya Holley, and Political Science sophomore Maxwell Gedzah. In this way, students collaborated with the artists, and form the core of this powerful original piece that illuminates how, even within oppressive circumstances, creativity is a vital form of resistance, regeneration, and growth. The year-long project is curated by Dr. Pia Deas, Professor, Department of Languages and Literature, and Director of the Horace Mann Bond Honors program.

Dr. Allen reflects on the significance of this generous gift and the co-curricular programming that results from it: “Lincoln University is proud to be the recipient of this grant geared towards further revitalizing Black Studies. This grant, which supports our Scholars/Artists in Residence program, allows us to showcase Black Studies as a dynamic, interdisciplinary field,” said Allen. She continued, “Ratoon is emblematic of the work produced by this series, which brings innovative Black thinkers and creators to campus to work closely with students and faculty in interactive and meaningful ways. We are excited to offer this world premier to the campus and surrounding communities.”

In addition to the performance, please visit the Lincoln University Langston Hughes Memorial Library to see Sasha Phyars-Burgess’ companion photography exhibit Everything Nice on display on floors 1-4 through April 30, 2024.

This event is Wednesday, February 21st at 7 PM in the Ware Auditorium. This performance and the related exhibit are free and open to the public.

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