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DuBois at Atlanta University,1909. W.E.B. DuBois Library Special Collections, University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Great Barrington Celebrates Annual Du Bois Legacy Festival

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GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — The Town of Great Barrington, together with community partners, welcomes nationally renowned artists and scholars to the Berkshires for the 3rd Annual W.E.B. Du Bois Legacy Festival on the weekend of Du Bois' 152nd birthday, Feb. 22-23.
"Each year we celebrate Du Bois with scholars and artists from the local area and also throughout the country to uplift the values of W.E.B. Du Bois in his hometown," said Gwendolyn VanSant, Legacy Committee vice chair. "In Great Barrington, we celebrate his commitment to racial equity, civil rights, progressive education, and economic justice. We are joined by partners who uphold a commitment to these values in the workplaces and in our shared Berkshire community."

This year, the program centers around Du Bois commitment to progressive education.

"As an educator, Du Bois' impact has been profound," said Randy Weinstein, Legacy Committee chair. "His works like ​The Souls of Black Folk have become springboards of the reflective mind, his lasting gift to our community readying to celebrate his 152nd birthday."

The festival kicks off with the exhibit "Du Bois: An Enduring Educational Legacy," created by The Du Bois Center, at the Mason Library for the duration of February. Then, on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the First Congregational Church (251 Main St.) the event takes a deep dive into the songs, poems and text that make up Du Bois's 1903 ​"The Souls of Black Folk." A trumpet and voice performance, led by Donna Gouger and Bob Paynter with MaryNell Morgan and Barbara Dean will accompany the community read. A book discussion follows, facilitated by VanSant, who is also CEO of BRIDGE, and Stephanie Wright, Legacy Committee member.  

Free copies of "​The Souls of Black Folk"  are available at BRIDGE in Lee, The Du Bois Center, Mason Library, Macedonia, Great Barrington Town Hall, First Congregational Church, Great Barrington, Bard College at Simon’s Rock, Jacob's Pillow, and more locations around the county. Email ​​ for a copy while books last.

On Saturday evening, at 7, 7:30, 8 and 8:30 p.m, at the Daniel Arts Center on the campus of Bard College at Simon's Rock, San Francisco-based choreographer, director and performance innovator Joanna Haigood will present a performance installation titled "​Between me and the other world." This free performance installation is a dynamic exploration of ​"The Souls of Black Folk," created in collaboration with composer Anthony Brown, video artist David Szlasa, and scenic designer Sean Riley. This recontextualization of Du Bois' ideas through live performance, contemporary imagery sourced from current events and a sonic terrain that travels spirituals, jazz and a 21st century postmodern soundscape invites audiences to move through the space between projections, dancers, and vantage points.  

The performance installation is preceded by a panel discussion with Haigood, VanSant and community leaders at 6 p.m. The panel of community leaders includes Dennis Powell, president of NAACP Berkshire County Branch; ​Frances Jones-Sneed, MCLA Professor Emeritus; Whitney Battle-Baptiste, director, W.E.B. Du Bois Center at UMass Amherst; and MaryNell Morgan.
After each performance installation, until 10:30 p.m., there will be interactive spaces for community discussion and reflection on the dance, with trained facilitators. The event is presented by Jacob’s Pillow and the Town of Great Barrington Du Bois Legacy Committee with a list of partners and sponsors including but not limited to Bard College at Simon's Rock, Berkshire County NAACP, Berkshire Bank Foundation, BRIDGE, MCLA Presents! and MCLA Institute for the Arts and Humanities. The event is free (donations welcome), but ​reservations are required​.  

On Sunday, Feb. 22, Du Bois' 152nd birthday, there will be a church service in Du Bois' childhood church led by Rev. Tara Tezlaff and her life partner Rev. Sloan Letman at 10:30 a.m. at the First Congregational Church with fellowship to follow. The Du Bois Legacy Festival culminates in a celebration of the scholar-activist’s legacy in scholarship, progressive education and community activism. Morning services at First Congregational Church will reflect on Du Bois, followed by fellowship with Macedonia and BRIDGE.

At 1 p.m. First Congregational will host a birthday program, with town leaders, Legacy Committee members, Jeffrey Peck, Du Bois' great grandson, Joanna Haigood and Zaccho Dance Theatre and a panel of scholars curated by Emily Williams. The panel will be moderated by Karl Johnson of Ramapo College that brings together in conversation a range of honored guests and speakers, including Danille Taylor of Clark Atlanta University, sculptor and professor, Ayokunle Odeleye and Dr. Chenzira Davis-Kahina, director of the Virgin Islands Caribbean Cultural Center, University of the Virgin Islands. Town of Great Barrington Du Bois Legacy Committee members Leah Reed and Gwendolyn VanSant will facilitate the reflection and community discussion that follows.
This year's festival represents a collaboration between the Town of Great Barrington Du Bois Legacy Committee and community partners Jacob's Pillow, BRIDGE, The Du Bois Center of Great Barrington, Bard College at Simon's Rock, First Congregational Church, Great Barrington, Macedonia Baptist Church and the NAACP Berkshire County Branch, with generous support from sponsors: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, BRIDGE, Jacob’s Pillow, Berkshire Bank Foundation, Greylock Federal Credit Union, and The Ford Foundation.
The full schedule of events can be found online.

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