I considered the topics of poverty and hunger, social justice and civil rights, climate change and alternative energy when I began Global Patriot, but I have to admit that modern dance never crossed my mind. While on a trip to New York City, however, I was invited to attend a performance by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater at the New York City Center.
They were celebrating their 50th Anniversary of bringing African-American modern dance into the lives of people around the world. It was an amazing journey to get this far, from their first performance in 1958 at New York’s 92nd Street Young Men’s Hebrew Association, to 1968 when they performed at the White House for President Lyndon Johnson and in 1977 for Jimmy Carter’s inaugural gala. They were the first modern dance company on a US government tour of the People’s Republic of China.
They kept on dancing until Alvin Ailey’s untimely death in December of 1989 at the age of 58, at which time Judith Jamison became Artistic Associate for the US tour. The company has continued performing to this day, reaching 21 million people in 48 states and 71 countries on 6 continents. In grand tribute to what he brought to the stage, and to how he affected so many lives, Alvin Ailey received a long list of honors during his attenuated career, including:
- International Dance Festival Gold Star
- Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Princeton University
- Dance Magazine Award
- NAACP Springarn Medal
- Capesio Award
- United Nations Peace Medal
- Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award
- The Kennedy Center Honor for Lifetime Contribution to American Culture
- New York City Handel Medallion
So What’s the Connection?
The performance that I attended was nothing short of miraculous. From Episodes, to Solo, Vespers and Revelations, the dancers brought forth a sense of passion, grace, strength and subtlety to their every move. More than that, the stories they told, without voice, were universal in nature, expressed in a common language, the language of dance that has told such stories for thousands of years.
The next day it truly hit me how important the arts were for healing our wounds and inspiring each of us to achieve greatness. How better to exemplify the notion of patriotism without borders and express a devotion to the planet than to share a beautiful representation of what it means to be human?
“When Mr. Ailey began creating dance, he drew upon his “blood memories” of Texas, the blues, spirituals and gospel as inspiration, which resulted in the creation of his most popular and critically acclaimed work-Revelations.”
The history that Alvin Ailey drew upon, with connections that reach back to the age of slavery and the blues and gospel of the south, provided him with a foundation that is common to all who struggle to find their unique voice in the world, especially the indigenous cultures that fight for their very survival to this day. It is to those who feel lost and disenfranchised that his work speaks to loudest.
More Than Governments & NGOs
Global Patriot will still endeavor to bring about social justice and global consciousness by examining official policy decisions and the tireless work performed by countless non-government organizations in an effort to relieve hunger, end poverty and avoid needless bloodshed, but will remain aware of those in the arts who use their unique talents to enlighten millions around the world.
It is through such enlightenment that hope is fostered, dreams are answered, and we’re reminded of how magical life is. Even the poorest children in Africa were touched by an Alvin Ailey performance.
How will you bring an enlightened sense of humanity to the world?