Circle Moment with SHARE Omaha: Creatively Celebrating Black History | SHARE Omaha

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Circle Moment with SHARE Omaha: Creatively Celebrating Black History

Written by Katie Fourney    on February 20, 2022    in
This blog is written by Marjorie M. Maas, SHARE Omaha executive director

What is a Circle Moment?

A Circle Moment is when vital community pieces come together, align perfectly, and create a moment of magic - for good. We at SHARE Omaha are blessed to witness these special instances every day. Whether its givers discovering a cause to support wholeheartedly, volunteers raising their hands to help when a crisis or challenge arises around them, or nonprofit organizations giving their all to strengthen our community, these are the stories that fuel progress for others and personal purpose.

This issue falls during Black History Month, and I have chosen to feature two organizations approaching and championing Black history and appreciation through the arts: The Union for Contemporary Art and The Rose Theater. Their very work is an example of Circle Moments.

“Every month is Black History Month…”

In speaking with The Union’s director of communications, Patrick Mainelli, and asking him about the organization’s focus on February’s Black History Month, he said, “When part of your mission is to amplify voices of people who have been historically marginalized, really every month is Black History Month. Every day is Indigenous Peoples Day, and every month is Pride.”

There is a core belief at the organization that our society needs the vision artists have to offer. Aligned with that mission is the current February exhibition (through February 26) of deceased artist Mavis Pusey’s contemporary abstract work focused on construction and decay in the urban environment. This is the first time The Union has featured work by an artist who is no longer living. Mainelli described this as it “moves the experience in the realm of history.” Her significance as a historical figure is added dimension as she was under-recognized in her lifetime as a pioneer in Black abstraction art.

 

The Union believes in the power of art to create change, to make meaning and help people contextualize their life experience – and putting that work and story-telling in the hands of artists and its audience. For instance, the ongoing exhibit, Undesign the Redline, creates a space where information on segregation and privilege are shared and an idea is experienced and creates a space for conversation, one where visitors can add their own voices to the work.

Also vital to the mission of The Union is its performing arts programming. Mainelli discussed this as, “Theatre is where that kind of work happens most profoundly in the most visceral way.” He continues, “It creates a space for authentic stories of the African diaspora to be told. Plays written by contemporary or historical Black playwrights, featuring Black directors, featuring Black actors.” Intentionally scheduled are stories of the North Omaha experience. Audiences can see experiences they lived reflected back to them in a way that is, as Mainelli says, “not abstract, that is specific and emotional. It contextualizes a lived experience, through theatre, in a way only art can do.”

Young, Gifted and Black
The Rose Theater wants to make sure all stories are being told and that youth and audiences feel heard and safe. As part of their Teens ‘N’ Theater programming, they coordinate the “Young, Gifted, and Black” (YGB) troupe. It is an ensemble of diverse teenaged youth that explores issues of being Black in today’s culture through improvisation to create new theater works to share their common story and learn about themes impacting this generation.



This year’s work will circle around Black excellence with an emphasis on positivity. I spoke with Alease Timbers, co-director of YGB, and she articulated, “Everything is so [down] for COVID. We want to shed light on positivity.” She continued, “In Black history, we tend to only focus on certain aspects. The things we find positive, which others may find negative – these are attributes that make you special.”

This year, they are accomplishing this by spotlighting the history and experiences of the Divine 9, historically Black fraternities and sororities. An additional portion of programming will be looking at step dancing, its African and hip-hop influences and how this is showing up in TikTok dances. Also, discussions on hair textures and the relaxed hair movement will bring in other outside presenting partners.

Since 2006, YGB has been a community outreach program where youth would come to The Rose Theater for a few weeks and have an event of sharing the troupe’s work. The pandemic has taken a toll on everyone, and to be responsive, The Rose and YGB organizers this year are meeting youth where they are physically, like taking the programming to Girls, Inc. to alleviate concerns with transportation – then doing a coming together and sharing of these lessons and ways to solve problems in and with cultural positivity.

If you know of a youth who would enjoy YGB, or you have questions, feel free to reach out to Timbers at AleaseT@rosetheater.org.

What are your Circle Moments?
What moments of community magic have you been a part of recently? We want to hear about it! Shoot an email to info@SHAREomaha.org or find us on social media. SHARE Omaha exists to be a conduit between nonprofit needs and the public doing good. The best way, we think, to spur action is to inspire through telling stories of Circle Moments and emphasizing that tiny acts of goodness add up to a healthy and engaged community.

Find your fit for supporting and serving the causes you care about at SHAREomaha.org.