Black History Month: Rodney M. Gilbert Salon for BIPOC Voices!
Black History Month
Legacy is defined as something received or passed on from an ancestor. The RMG Salon has been established in memoriam of Drew faculty member, community organizer – and more – Rodney M. Gilbert.
In this inaugural event, Drew students performed pieces around legacy with special guest artist Ava Kinsey and guest panelist Ping Chong.
February 6, 2021
In honor of the late Rodney M. Gilbert, the CRCC had the privilege of working with the Frances B. Sellars Program, the Drew University Department of Theater & Dance, and Student Engagement to present the 1st annual RMG Salon. The salon, hosted on February 6th, was meant to highlight themes of racism, ethnicity, and respect in honor of the former Drew professor. A Newark native who gave back to his community, Gilbert was well-loved by his students and the audience was able to feel this connection through the various pieces put on that night.
Four alumni emceed the events via Zoom–Najah Johnson (Co’16), Angelle Whavers (Co’18), Alcides Costa (Co’19), Ashley Backe (Co’19)–and started the program by sharing personal anecdotes of their time spent with Gilbert. Their shared love for the professor fueled the energy in the room that night, setting the stage for the overarching theme of “legacy” and its importance. The rest of the event was made up of several student pieces, ranging from dance/movement pieces to poetry and spoken word. Each performance was heartfelt–promoting a sense of unity despite the individuality that each student possessed and genuinely adding to our definition of “the art of respect.” In the end, three winners were announced, with Mengyuan Chen and her dance piece titled “Qing Yi” taking first place while second and third were occupied by Korka Fall, Jarry Fall, and Donyah Richardson for their movement piece titled “Invaincu” and Shay Al-Ayid with her poem “My Promised Land.”
The night came to a close with a panel from Ava Kinsley and Ping Chong, two renowned artists and theater specialists who brought to light the importance of making spaces for marginalized voices and how art can be an outlet for defining oneself. Their advice truly brought the night to a comforting conclusion, calling on individuals to use their works as a mirror to reflect not only themselves but also the communities around them. Despite the distance felt from the current state of the world, the room was able to unite under the shared ideal of respect and leave with a newfound understanding of how their legacy shapes who they are and what they stand for.
Sponsored by the Frances B. Sellars Program, Drew University Department of Theatre and Dance, Center on Religion, Culture and Conflict, and Student Engagement