“Men call the shadow prejudice, and learnedly explain it as a natural defense of culture against barbarism, learning against ignorance, purity against crime, the ‘higher’ against the ‘lower’ races.”—W.E.B. Du Bois
In 1991, I was fourteen and entering the ninth grade at Schenley High School in the historic Hill District of Pittsburgh. That same year, John Singleton’s film, Boyz N The Hood was released. For me, the film depicted an idealize “Gangsta Boheme” laying aim to the state of the Black American male at the end of the 20th century. Twenty years later and more than ten years into the 21st century, I am focused on investigating the state of Black America and a history therein.
Reimagined as a dance work and now set in Pittsburgh’s historically black neighborhoods, Homewood and the Hill District, Pavement aims to create a strong emotional chronology of a culture conflicted with a history plagued by discrimination, genocide, and a constant quest for a lottery ticket weighted in freedom.
As two rivaling neighborhoods, their histories run parallel. Both experienced a cultural shift in the 1950s when jazz legends like Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington performed at local theaters and Billy Strayhorn spent most of his teenage years. Over a century later, those same theaters are now dilapidated. And the streets that once strived on family run businesses and a thriving jazz scene now show the sad effects of gang violence and crack cocaine.
The creation and presentation of Pavement is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with the New England Foundation for the Arts though the National Dance Project. Major support for NDP is provided by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with additional support from the Community Connections Fund of the MetLife Foundation. Support from the NEA provides funding for choreographers in the early stages of their careers.
Developed in part during a Choreographic Fellowship at the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University, Pavement was also created during a residency provided by The Joyce Theater Foundation, New York City, with major support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as well as during a residency provided by The Joyce Theater Foundation, New York City, with major support from The Rockefeller Foundation’s NYC Cultural Innovation Fund and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
The creation of Pavement was made possible, in part, by the Danspace Project Commissioning Initiative with support from the Jerome Foundation. Pavement was developed, in part, during a creative residency at the Bates Dance Festival.
Harlem Stage is the lead commissioner of Pavement through its WaterWorks program. WaterWorks is supported by Time Warner, and the National Endowment for the Arts.