In Fall 2019, The University of Richmond (UR) and Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) partnered to offer parallel courses on Dance and Commemorative Justice led by MK Abadoo and Free Egunfemi at VCU, and Alicia Díaz at UR.
The semester-long experience did not feel like a class to the UR and VCU students. This journey was a spirit-filled, learning experience where students got the opportunity to engage with African-American ancestral history and dance as a tool for community organizing.
The students participated and collaborated in the creative process, production, and performance of Brother General Gabriel. Students attended workshops, exhibits, and participated in the final performance on October 10. The work was site-specific, but other tools and resources within the city were also used to help students grasp the events of Gabriel’s Rebellion, which took place in 1800.
Brother General Gabriel was commissioned by 2019-2020 Tucker Boatwright Festival–Dancing Histories: This Ground, curated and hosted by the Department of Theatre and Dance at UR. The year-long festival intentionally aligns with the Themed Year of the School of Arts and Sciences–Contested Spaces: This Ground and with the 400 year commemoration of the first enslaved Africans that were forcibly brought to Virginia 1619-2019.
UR students have created a digital story, available to the public for all to see this distinct process, which has never been done before. Students used their experiences from the site, exhibit, personal previous experiences, and interviews to give a holistic view of Dance and Commemorative Justice as it relates to the Black community in Richmond.