• UWA students to journey through African-American literary works at Legacy Celebration

    Posted: February 23, 2016

    Author: Public Relations

    The University of West Alabama recently announced its annual Legacy Celebration, “We Wear the Mask,” set for Feb. 25. Presented by the University and the Sumter County Fine Arts Council, the performance is UWA’s capstone celebration of Black History Month. This year marks the seventh Legacy event coordinated by Willie Williams to be a celebration of African American contributions to the arts.


    UWA students have collaborated with Willie Williams, director of choral activities at UWA, for an adaptation loosely based on poet, novelist, and playwright Paul Laurence Dunbar’s “We Wear the Mask.”

    Dunbar’s poem, first published in Lyrics of Lowly Life (1896), is a reaction to the racial climate of the late nineteenth century.

    “He talks about hypocrisy, deception, and the façade of happiness worn by African Americans,” Williams explained. “When Dunbar’s assessment is explored it is actually applicable to all sorts of people and circumstances. The Legacy Celebration will take the audience on a journey through several works that celebrate African-American culture and identity of various points throughout history.”

    In addition to Dunbar’s poem, the production includes excerpts from the writings of Langston Hughes, August Wilson, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Richard Allen, Maya Angelou, and Lorraine Hansberry.

    The production will explore the evolution of performance roles of African-Americans within the last century.

    “This journey will illustrate the many ways people assume prescribed roles, and how we all wear masks, whether on our jobs, in our homes, at our churches, and even the masks of gender roles,” Williams explained.

    “We wear masks not just for people outside our race or demographic, but within them as well,” he suggested.” Williams believes that we tend to draw lines between skin tones, dialects, and so many more things than just the broad generalizations. He added, “…subconsciously, we all play certain roles depending on who we perceive to be our audience.”

    Williams said that although the production commemorates Black History Month, the subject matter crosses all demographics, and has already started an exciting and most stimulating line of unending conversation with his students.

    “Our collaboration has definitely created an awareness of social constructs, or behaviors and attitudes that are interpreted as natural to a person but may be a reflection of situation,” he said.

    The event will be held in UWA’s Bibb Graves Auditorium. It is open to the public, and no admission will be charged.

    The SCFAC receives support from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, The University of West Alabama and from other agencies, businesses and individuals. For more information on the Council, visit www.scfac.uwa.edu.

    For more information on the Legacy event, “We Wear the Mask,” contact Willie Williams at 205-652-5414 or WEWilliams@uwa.edu. 
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