Heritage program interprets history through dance


Dancers from the Justine Roberts Performing Arts Academy range in age from 12-18 years old.

Katrina Moses, Staff Writer

FMU’s Multicultural Advisory Board hosted their annual Black Heritage Program featuring a performance by the Justine Roberts Performing Arts Academy on Monday, Feb. 9.

Keanna Jones, co-chairperson of the Multicultural Advisory Board, explained what the process was like to get everything together for the Black Heritage Program.

“[Chiquita Fox, co-chairperson of the Multicultural Advisory Board, and I] met with other people of the board to try and figure out what would be the best thing to bring our campus for Black History Month,” Jones said.  “We decided that performing arts would be great. Because we always have speakers, we wanted to do something a little bit different.”

The girls from the Justine Roberts Performing Arts Academy said they practiced for the program for two or three weeks. The performers believe that dancing expresses emotions and helps them display the challenges African-Americans faced during their enslavement. They that they conveyed the struggles to the audience better than a speaker would have.

Justine Roberts is the head dance instructor of the academy. She is a native of New York, and she did not know much about what southern African-Americans went through. She said she had to do research to find songs that conveyed the challenges that the slaves endured. She watched movies, read books and talked to people who experienced the hardships of that time period.

Roberts chose Nina Simone’s song, “Four Women,” because she saw something profound in Simone’s life and the powerful content of the song.

“[Simone] talked about how women were ashamed of color; some were dark and some were light,” Roberts said. “We should all be happy that we’re black. I wanted to interpret a dance for it [to show] people that have a complex about their color [that] they need not have a complex about their color.”

Sophomore sociology major Thomas Brown also talked about the importance of an event like this.

“It exposes people to other cultures, and it opens people’s eyes,” Brown said.


A few of the performers, most of whom attend local middle and high schools, spoke about the program as well.

Lea Green, a junior at Marion High School, is Roberts’ assistant and a performer for the evening.  She explained that when preparing for an event or performance, dedication is key.

“We had a lot of practices, dress rehearsal time and dedication,” Green said.

Not only was there a performance from the Justine Roberts Performing Arts Academy dancers, but the Young, Gifted and Blessed Gospel Choir (YGB)  took the stage as well. Kira Davis and Deona Mills performed with YGB, and they said it is important to have an event like this one.

“Many of African-Americans were not in attendance,” Davis said. “More should have come because it’s important to know where you came from. That’s what some of us in this younger generation lack today: the knowledge of where we came from.”

Mills agreed with Davis in that education is vital for our future.

“I feel like it helps us as African-Americans,” Mills said. “We don’t get taught black history anymore. This will help get us real facts, [learn] who did what and [see] how we have progressed in the African-American society.”

Roberts also shared a few concerns about people attending events such as this.

“More people needed to attend, not just blacks either; we all need to be here,” Roberts said. “United we stand, divided we fall. If we all stand together, we can get a lot done, and I try to interpret that through dance.”