Rufus King High School Archives

Black Arts MKE has collaborated with Alpha Kappa Alpha, Inc. Epsilon Kappa Omega Chapter Sorority to provide a unique week-long dance summer camp opportunity. I AM. Masterclass will expose local youth to James Gilmer, an accomplished black artist from the internationally acclaimed African-American dance company – Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. The collaboration included hosting 100 local MPS students at Alvin Ailey’s recent performance at the Marcus Center. The dance program is generously sponsored by Gloria F. Gilmer, Philip and Beatrice Blank and the Pauline Redmond Coggs Foundation.

I am from Black Arts MKE. Masterclass will be held at the Marcus Performing Arts Center, June 20e until June 24e and will include a highlight show for young families and friends. Each applying student had to provide an essay to be eligible for the I AM. Master class. “I love to dance. The art of dance is amazing, the way your body is able to move quickly with the beat with every step is so fascinating. I believe dance tells a story and every time you dance, you tell yours,” says Muna Heissan, 14, of Carter Christian Academy.

Executive Director Barbara Wanzo says, “We are continually looking for impactful ways to inspire creativity in our youth. We have amazing MKE-based talent working with students every day. Yet so many young people never have the opportunity to travel beyond Milwaukee, let alone be directly exposed to this caliber of performing arts talent. Through the Epsilon Kappa Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., we have the opportunity to not only launch an exciting new program, but to expose young people to endless possibilities for their future. As we often say in our community, ‘If they see it, they’ll believe it.’

Rufus King High School student Alannah M. Meese says, “I had the privilege of seeing James Gilmer perform recently with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. I think it would be a great opportunity to take a class from someone so talented and successful in the dance industry. Dancing has been part of my life for so long – participating in this program will help diversify my dancing and knowledge!

Black Arts MKE will continue to host I AM. Masterclass with other world-class artists as part of their performing arts education for young people. “We will continue to hold our month-long performing arts summer camp in July in accordance with CDC guidelines for the prevention of COVID-19 for youth summer camps,” says Wanzo.

About Black Arts MKE

Black Arts MKE’s mission is to increase the availability and quality of African American arts and culture. Each year, we collaborate with more than 100 local artists and arts organizations to bring renowned and original works of performing art by African American authors, playwrights, poets, musicians and composers to our community. Our arts community outreach programs serve over 15,000 underserved neighborhood schools, youth and their families, including our annual Performing Arts Camp for Youth. Black Arts’ annual signature performance MKE – Black Nativity by Langston Hughes is a holiday musical favorite in Milwaukee with an all-black MKE-based cast. Black Arts MKE is a recipient of the Association for Performing Arts Professionals, the NEA Grant for Arts Projects, and The Black Seed National Awards. We are proud to be a member group of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) and a resident group of the Marcus Performing Arts Center. Black Arts MKE is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.

About Epsilon Kappa Omega Chapter, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

Established in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on May 11, 1949, Epsilon Kappa Omega is the oldest chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. in the state of Wisconsin. With over 300 members, it is also the largest AKA chapter in Wisconsin. According to Chapter President Debra Brown-Wallace, “We are diverse, college-educated women representing a wide range of backgrounds, accomplishments, careers, expertise, resources and talents. Because of this diversity, we benefit from a multi-generational membership. We are proud to see our chapter members in action at the local, regional and international level of our fellowship. Over the past 47 years, Epsilon Kappa Omega’s signature rookie cotillion, sponsored by their Pauline Redmond Coggs Foundation, has been the catalyst for scholarships and community contributions of over $900,000. The cotillion has been instrumental in the lives of over 1,000 young debutantes who excel as graceful leaders in various capacities across the country.

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