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July and August 2021 Exhibition Related Programming at the WaterFire Arts Center

This series of exhibition related programming is presented by WaterFire Providence in association with the exhibition, “EYE TO EYE: Photographs and Projects by MARY BETH MEEHAN” and “ANNYE RAYE PITTS: WITNESS” an installation by Mary Beth Meehan and Jonathan Pitts-Wiley in the WaterFire Arts Center from June 30 to August 22, 2021

The following programming series is funded in part by the Rhode Island Foundation.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021, 5:30 p.m. reception; 6:30 p.m. lecture

Prof. Loretta J. Ross (Smith College) to deliver the keynote lecture “Calling In the Calling Out Culture: A Pathway Forward” followed by a community discussion on a pathway forward, moderated by Sterling Clinton-Spellman.

The lecture is funded in part by the Rhode Island Foundation.
Presented in cooperation with Leadership Rhode Island.

Free | RSVP on Eventbrite | Share on Facebook
Donations encouraged.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021, at 6:30 p.m.

Prof José Itzigsohn lecture on W. E. B. Du Bois – his life, his groundbreaking work, and his ongoing influence on contemporary sociology

W. E. B. Du Bois was one of the most important thinkers and public intellectuals of the first half of the 20th century and his work remains a powerful source for understanding our present. This talk will provide an overview of his life and work, highlighting some of his key insights and their relevance both during his life and now (addressing the current debates on Critical Race Theory).

Free | RSVP on Eventbrite | Share on Facebook
Donations encouraged.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021, at 7:00 p.m.

Return to the Lyceum: Two important Black voices from our past: The Rev. Mahlon Van Horne (1887) and Mr. Frederick Douglass (1865)

Rev. Mahlon Van Horne of Newport often opened speaking programs in Rhode Island that featured Frederick Douglass. Ricardo Pitts-Wiley of Mixed Magic Theatre (Pawtucket, RI) portrays Rev. Van Horne delivering his speech “The Negro in Rhode Island: Past, Present, and Future.” Rev. Van Horne was a much-respected leader of the Black community in Newport, whose leadership led him on to a political career, in addition to his philanthropy.

The second half of the show will be Frederick Douglass portrayed by Mr. Freeman T. Freeman reciting from Douglass’ lecture on photography “Pictures and Progress” (1865). Douglass’ interest in photography was integral to his brilliance on the stage, where he was one of the most sought-after orators of the day. He was also the most photographed individual of his period as well. Orated in period dress by Mr. Freeman presented along with the projected record of all of Douglass’ carefully considered portraits presented in chronological order.

Free | RSVP on Eventbrite | Share on Facebook
Donations encouraged.

Friday, August 6, 2021, at 6:30 p.m.

“Achieving the Beloved Community: Key Concepts in the Philosophy of Critical Culture Theory”  The speakers will be Raymond Two Hawks Watson of the Providence Cultural Equity Initiative and Jonathan Lewis the Director of PECI’s Institute for Social Cohesion. An overview and discussion of the critical culture theory, philosophy of expansion, and key strategies to achieve the Beloved Community.

Free | RSVP on Eventbrite | Share on Facebook
Donations encouraged.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021, at 7:30 p.m.

WaterFire and Mixed Magic Theatre present a staged reading of “THE TRIAL OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS” written and directed by Ricardo Pitts-Wiley.

In “The Trial Of Frederick Douglass,” the celebrated Black American abolitionist and author has been summoned from the grave to be vetted for a great honor that he has been nominated for. The process will be televised live on a popular talk show.

Two other famous figures have also been summoned. The fiery abolitionist John Brown will chair the vetting process while Abe Lincoln has been called to serve as Douglass’ advocate and council.

John Brown, who has arrived early, has been reading Shakespeare’s Hamlet and compares Douglass, Lincoln and himself to three characters from the play. He sees Lincoln as the deliberative and slow to act Hamlet, Douglass as the passionate Player King, and Brown sees himself as the defiant and often overlooked Fortinbras.

The show’s host is a young Black woman named Ophelia who is experiencing issues of her own.

Tensions run high in the waiting area in the studio as the three men put Douglass and each other on trial for things they did and didn’t do and debate how history has defined them.

$10 admission (in advance or at the door) | RSVP on Eventbrite via Mixed Magic Theater | Share on Facebook
Donations encouraged.

Friday, August 13, 2021, at 7:00 p.m

Capoeira and Breakdancing: The Fight Against Enslavement
Mestre Tigri (Silas Pinto) and Grupo Ondas presenting a program on Capoeira and its history from its African roots to South America via Portuguese colonization and its evolution to be a triumphant response to enslavement. Further explorations of its synergistic relationship to Breakdancing will be examined with colleagues from RI and MA including Project 401, Donnie Battle, and Taylor Lomba. Capoeira will be demonstrated in-person, along with the Afro-Brazilian music forms associated with Capoeira. Capoeira and this event will be celebrating the art of resistance, tenacity and resiliency of peoples that refused to be defined by their bleak circumstances.

Free | RSVP on Eventbrite | Share on Facebook
Donations encouraged.

Sunday, August 15, 2021, 2:00 p.m.

An After Church Gathering to Honor Annye Raye Pitts

With great joy and deepest gratitude you are invited to celebrate the Annye Raye Pitts Legacy Project featuring the Mixed Magic Theater Exult Choir & Friends and fruit cobbler of the August season with Granny Squibb’s tea.

Wear your hats for Annye!

Contributions to the Annye Raye Pitts Memorial Scholarship Fund are welcomed at the door.

A special thanks to our sponsor, Granny Squibb’s.

Free | RSVP on Eventbrite | Share on Facebook
Donations encouraged..

Tuesday, August 17, 2021, at 6:30 p.m.

ARTIST TALK: Mary Beth Meehan and Jonathan Pitts-Wiley in conversation with Stephanie Fortunato

Rhode Island artists, Mary Beth Meehan and Jonathan Pitts-Wiley exploring the process and journey of creating the current exhibition, WITNESS: Annye Raye Pitts, via a discussion moderated by Stephanie Fortunato, Director of Providence Department of Art, Culture + Tourism and WaterFire Board Member.

Join us for a Q&A afterwards and explore the exhibit!

Free | RSVP on Eventbrite | Share on Facebook
Donations encouraged.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021, at 6:30 p.m.

Keith W. Stokes, Vice President of the 1696 Heritage Group, will present a lecture titled “A Matter of Truth:  The Struggle for African Heritage & Indigenous People Equal Rights in Providence, Rhode Island (1620-2020)”, reporting on his and Theresa Guzmán Stokes’ research detailed in their just published study of the history of racism and inequity in Providence.  The presentation will be followed by a discussion.

Copies of “A Matter of Truth” are available for sale in the store at the WaterFire Arts Center. 

Free | RSVP on Eventbrite | Share on Facebook
Donations encouraged.

Thursday, August 19, 2021, 5:30 p.m.

Balliamo Dance Collective presents “A Handful of Sand” – A Dance Performance within the Exhibit

The arts collide with a performance titled, “A Handful of Sand” by the Balliamo Dance Collective within the “EYE TO EYE: Photographs and Projects by Mary Beth Meehan” exhibition.

After the performance (or before!) enjoy our Thursday #TroopTop bar with TroopPVD and a local DJ on the roof deck, open 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. Being the third Thursday of the month it’s Gallery Night Providence; make a few more stops at other galleries and art spaces (full list on their website:

Free | RSVP on Eventbrite | Share on Facebook
Donations encouraged.

A collection of Annye Raye Pitts’ hats in the installation “ANNYE RAYE PITTS: WITNESS” an installation by Mary Beth Meehan and Jonathan Pitts-Wiley. Photograph by Elaine Fredrick.

Saturday, August 21, 2021, at 7:00 p.m.

Catching God’s Eye: The Language of Hats
The Grand Tradition of the Black Church Women’s Hats

A Celebration of Style, Leadership and Righteous Rebellion

Designer Everett Hoag and Yemi Sekoni of Donahue Models will be your tour guides through the event-filled decades of the 20th Century’s changing styles in fashion and hats. Early on African American women wore flamboyant hats made from beautiful, brightly colored materials. While they wanted to revere God, obey the scriptures, and complement their Sunday’s wear, they also intended that the exquisite design of their hats would catch God’s eye. It was a silent prayer they hoped would reach heaven and God. Many Black women of a certain age still do not enter a church for Sunday services dressed, as the elders might say, “any ole way.” And that means wearing a proper hat.

Wearing a crisp-cut outfit and matching hat may make you feel more powerful than you think. Not only does it change the way you feel… the way you see the world, it also changes how other people perceive you. Wearing a hat subtly conveys key priorities. It shows that you care about how you present yourself and your priorities of rebellion, independence, and self-expression. Till this day, African American women compliment on beautiful hats with the phrase ‘trying to catch God’s eye’.

Hats are fun and there is more to a stylish hat than pure function. Even if you are not aware, your hat is revealing a tale. Consequently, whatever you place on your head can change your view of the world and how the world views you, more than almost anything else you might wear.

Please wear your favorite hat to our lively, interactive fashion show! Share your hat story with us!

Angela Nash Wade will perform a classic poem by Maya Angelou and Denise Barge will offer a tip of the hat to the Rhode Island Coalition of Black Women’s beloved Sister Hat Tea.

Free | RSVP on Eventbrite | Share on Facebook
Donations encouraged.