And just like that he had finished for the day, back sore, hands dry and cracked. He found himself tired, nearly out of breath. It had been a long two weeks of labor.
Several weeks have now passed and I find myself nearing the completion of project number two, rehousing. It has been quite the arduous task rehousing our archival material. I Imagined at the start of this process that I would be doing some mundane organizing but I had no way of guessing the amount of physical labor ahead of me. Early on however, I knew that our original space was insufficient for proper care and storage of precious materials. DCDC’s Director of Strategic Initiatives, Debi Chess, and I spent several days brainstorming a more ideal location. We eventually settled on the perfect room just a few doors down from our original space, a room with a/c, two locking doors, and no through traffic. Once approved, we set out to find shelving and consulted with our Dance USA representatives for their advice. I spent days in the new space arranging and rearranging material, transferring box after box from the old space, assembling shelves, and planning how it should be used.
I sorted through hundreds of playbills, some going all the way back to 1971, just three years after our founding. I looked at article after article of newspaper clippings and thumbed through magazines in which the company was featured. I began to set aside material for special collections, one for each of our Artistic Directors and one for Mr. Truitte, and the late Donald Hubbard who was our previous education and outreach coordinator. There were so many interesting finds too, I found a play bill dedicated to Debbi Blunden Diggs, Chief Artistic and Producing Director, that was signed by Pearl Primus; I found Ms. Jeraldyne’s honorary doctorate from Wright State University and a host of official letters from previous Ohio mayors and senators thanking her for her contribution to Dayton; and I found myself using the words “we” and “our'' more often too.
I never expected to become so attached to the materials but this was becoming personal for me. I felt that the more I learned about the company’s rich history the more proud I became about being a part of it and being charged with protecting it. I felt like the griot of our village, diligently preserving fifty plus years of history. This got me thinking a lot about legacy and how it is astonishing to me that DCDC isn’t a larger presence in the city as well as across the country. We have such deep roots in the dance community and are just ten years younger than the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and yet our reach isn’t nearly as wide. I would like to see Children of the Passage, choreographed by Donald McKayle and Ron K. Brown, be our Revelations, especially because we have so much documentation around it. We have Jeraldyne Blunden Diggs’s thoughts during the process, the original costumes, the ability to play with the Dirty Dozen Brass band when needed, and members of the original cast and Ron K. Brown available for interview. I'd also love to, as our Associate Artistic Director Crystal Perkins suggested, and get a collection of duplicate material (i.e. small posters, playbills, pictures, etc.) together to be assembled in packets and shared with the archives of different universities across the nation. DCDC history IS Black history and Black history is American history and as we enter times where history is being rewritten, we have to do more to make ourselves known.
We have newspaper clippings, magazines, play bills, promo materials, tons of pictures and their accompanying negatives, video files, audio files, flat posters, rolled posters, framed posters, artwork, awards, legal pads, banners, and files for our second company and our Jeraldyne School of Dance. I am excited for the day that this all lives in a digital space for all to see.