Queens College professor premieres “Action Songs/Protest Dances”

Telling stories of racial injustice through dance

By Stephanie Meditz

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After a two-year creative process conducted via Zoom, Kupferberg Center for the Arts will host the world premiere of Edisa Weeks’ “Action Songs/Protest Dances.”

“Action Songs/Protest Dances” is a live performance that combines original music by Martha Redbone, Spirit McIntyre and Taina Asili with modern dance to tell stories of past and present racial injustice in America.

Three songs incorporate Queens College Professor Edisa Weeks’ research on civil rights activist James Forman, especially his book, “The Making of Black Revolutionaries.”

Edisa Weeks is a Brooklyn-based choreographer, educator and director of DELIRIOUS Dance

The Queens College Rosenthal Library is home to an archive of Forman’s personal documents, including his FBI files, collection of political pamphlets and original drafts of his books.

Weeks was interested in researching Forman’s archive because of his critique of capitalism as an exploitative system.

“As a choreographer, I really believe in a researched performance process where it’s looking at history, looking at what has gone before and to bring it forward into the present. And so, for me, it’s been really satisfying to be able to do that with this project,” she said.

“What are things that James Forman cared about and how many of those issues like reparations are we still needing to address in America? And what are things that we actually have achieved?” she continued. “For me, as a Black woman, it would’ve been impossible for me to teach at Queens College 60 years ago, but now that’s something that’s actually possible because of the work and efforts that people like James Forman did.”

The other two songs reflect current social justice issues and were inspired by the chain of racial hate crimes in 2020, including the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

“I kept on wondering what is a way that I, as a choreographer, can lend a voice to a lot of the ferment or protest that was happening,” Weeks said. “Or just for America to be a just and truly great nation.”

Weeks’ choreography is inspired by African dances from her childhood and modern dance that she has studied.

The creative process paired each of the three composers with two dancers, and each group drew parallels between current social issues and relevant topics in James Forman’s archive.

Taina Asili wrote a song related to the idea in Forman’s “Black Manifesto” of financial reparations for direct descendants of enslaved people.

Composer Taina Asili wrote a song about financial reparations for descendants of enslaved people.

The song and accompanying choreography both incorporate Afro-Caribbean elements.

“Each song is unique to the dancer and also to the message of the song,” Weeks said.

This project began at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, so Weeks worked with the dancers and composers via Zoom until this September.

“I’ve had a month to work with the dancers and to choreograph, so it’s been a little intense and stressful,” she said. “However, also incredibly generative. I think, partially because we were in such a long gestation period, the dancers really are invested in the songs and the songs are coming from them.”

Weeks hopes that the performance will expose a new generation to James Forman’s ideas and motivate people to strive for justice in their communities.

“I’m hoping people can…experience a work that engages song and lyrics and dance and be inspired,” she said.

“Action Songs/Protest Dances” is the inaugural work of the Kupferberg Arts Incubator, an initiative that began in 2020 to give professional artists who teach at Queens College a two-year residency.

“Without the immediate prospect of resuming live events, we decided that we wanted to devote significant resources and energy toward the development of new work, which obviously takes time,” Jon Yanofsky, Kupferberg Center for the Arts director, said.

KCA’s mission is to provide accessible cultural entertainment for both the Queens College community and the entire borough.

The Kupferberg Arts Incubator is geared toward artists of color, artists who live and work in communities of color and artists whose work addresses social inequities.

“We picked Edisa Weeks, a choreographer and professor that Kupferberg had the opportunity to work with on multiple occasions. She led the dance program at Queens College, and we were just all so impressed with the way she connected with students,” Yanofsky said. “She soundly met that criteria.”

“Edisa just has such a unique dynamic point of view and she pulls people along by the strength of her conviction, just her incredibly ebullient spirit and this collaborative nature that is truly authentic,” he continued. “It was really wonderful and refreshing to see the hard work that true collaboration requires…The piece is a composite of all the people involved.”

The Kupferberg Arts Incubator’s next iteration will be in 2024 with Queens College professor Chloe Bass.

Action Songs/Protest Dances will premiere at Kupferberg Center for the Arts on Saturday, Nov. 12 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Nov. 13 at 3 p.m.

Tickets are available for $20.

After each performance, audience members are invited to participate in a discussion with Weeks and the rest of the creative team.

Queens College grad designs Discover cards

By Jessica Meditz

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A recent Queens College graduate now has the chance to be close to people’s hearts — or perhaps, their wallets.

Dana Komsky, a Long Island resident and artist who graduated from the college this spring, is now partnering with Discover on designing their student cards.

Komsky, who majored in design, shares her passion for art with the world through social media.

She goes by the screen name, “@colorintheworld,” on Instagram and TikTok, where she has thousands of followers who she motivates each day with her cheerful rainbow designs.

“I started out on Instagram and eventually moved to TikTok during the pandemic to share my art, because that’s when it got really big. I started growing from there,” Komsky said.

“On TikTok, I was able to video my art and involve myself in the process with raw footage and vlogging the experience,” she continued. “I love working with rainbows and lots of colors because it’s so much fun, and I like to make the world a little more colorful.”

Inspired by her talents and seeking out a young artist’s perspective, Discover approached Komsky online to ask her to partner with them in designing their Student Cards.

As part of the campaign, Komsky created three potential card designs: “Go with the Flow,” “Rainbow Frogs” and “For the Foodies” — which she eventually became inspired to make with the help of her friends.

Folks ages 18 and up are able to vote for their favorite design on Discover’s website through August 26. The winning design will be featured on the Discover Student Card.

“Go with the Flow”

She explained that “Go with the Flow” is an abstract design created using a fluid art painting technique, which allowed her to select the desired colors, pour it onto a canvas and let the paint “do what it wants.”

“For the Foodies”

“For the Foodies” is a lighthearted concept inspired by the snacks that college kids indulge in during late-night study sessions, such as chips, popcorn and pizza.

 

“Rainbow Frogs” was a more deliberate decision, Komsky said, because they are hand-drawn with a specific meaning in mind.

“I used a rainbow realism style to inspire people to look at things differently,” Komsky said.

“I specifically chose the frogs to represent students leaping forward into a new chapter in their lives as they move forward through college and apply for a credit card.”

“Rainbow Frogs”

Komsky, who’s been sharing her art and passion with the world since her senior year of high school, said that she’s amazed that her art has gone from high school art class to a national level, and is excited about her artwork being permanently featured on a card.

“Discover brings a fun and exciting aspect to the card process — between involving my friends and peers and seeing them get excited to get a credit card with my work,” she said.

“I am proud to say that I can make the experience of getting a card more fun and a little less daunting for students, because doing that for the first time can be intimidating.”

She’s also thankful for the small arts community within her major at Queens College for their continued support.

As for the future, Komsky hopes to continue her success by inspiring others to be more colorful via social media, but most importantly, she aspires to keep using her art and skills to make a difference in the world.

Queens College student athlete receives All-American honors

Queens College freshman Marc Cisco has made his mark in the college’s history during his first year with the Knights, earning All-American honors in baseball. He is just the second baseball student-athlete in the college’s Athletic Program Division II era, which began in 1985, to be recognized — and the first since 1998.

Cisco, a Long Island City resident, earned a vast collection of awards for his freshman year. These accolades include 2022 NCAA Division II Conference Commissioners Association All-American Third Team Honors — one of only four freshmen selected — being named to the American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings All-American Third Team and National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Second Team All-American honors.  

The second basemean is one of only four players in the East Region to earn all-American honors, and is the first player since 2019 to be recognized in the East Coast Conference (ECC). 

“We are absolutely delighted at Marc’s All-American honors and offer him and his family our warmest congratulations,” Queens College President Frank H. Wu said. “Marc’s success is a shining example of how well we combine the student-athlete experience with a rigorous course of academic study, as he attained these honors while pursuing a degree in actuarial studies.”

Cisco is the first All-American to be named to the American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings Team since outfielder Justin Davies during the 1998 season.

“We could not be happier for Marc and the incredible season he had,” Queens College Head Baseball Coach Chris Reardon, who incidentally was the roommate of Davies when they played together during their college careers, said. “His numbers show that, but his impact on each game, our season, and program go well beyond numbers. He is an outstanding person and teammate, and we are thrilled that Marc is getting this recognition.”

During the season, the infielder earned ECC Player and Rookie of the Week honors on five different occasions, and became the second ECC player to be named Player and Rookie of the Year in the same season. To further solidify his position in the Queens College history books, he was named to the ECC All-Conference First Team, the Division II Conference Commissioners Association All-East Region First Team, National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Second Team All-East Region First Team and American Baseball Coaches Association/Rawlings All-East Region First Team. He was ranked 12th nationally for his batting average — an impressive .435 — and tied for team home runs at 10.

Since 1998, only 10 student-athletes have earned All-American honors in softball, baseball, women’s basketball, and mens and women’s tennis. Cisco will join them, generating anticipation for the rest of his career with the Knights.

Flushing Town Hall celebrates 160th anniversary

Flushing Town Hall celebrated the 160th anniversary of its historic facility on Northern Boulevard. To commemorate the occasion, Flushing Town Hall held its “Happy Birthday Gala” on June 9th honoring New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and CUNY Queens College President Frank H. Wu.

More than 125 people were in attendance for the historic event, which helped raise funds to support the landmarked building’s operations. The evening was filled with music, performances, networking, and an awards dinner in the renowned institution’s grand theater.

Howard Gilman Foundation Program Officer Emily Sproch (Photos By Dominick Totino)

While the Town Hall limited attendance this year, out of an abundance of caution due to the pandemic, it happily held its first in-person event since 2019.

“In spite of everything, culture never closed, and the arts are essential,” Flushing Town Hall Executive and Artistic Director Ellen Kodadek said. “It’s very simple actually, that’s what you can count on us for here at Flushing Town Hall.”

In attendance were Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, New York City Councilwoman Sandra Ung, New York State Sentator John Liu, Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson, and a representative for Council Speaker Adrienne Adams.

When attendees arrived, they were greeted by The Hellfighters—an ensemble created by Black, Harlem-based artists-educator Elijah J. Thomas—before enjoying performances by the New York Chinese Chours, and a “Global Mashup” featuring seven of New York’s finest musicians including Abdulaye Diop, Alioune Fayé, Frank London, Meg Okura, Arcoiris Sandoval, Cillian Vallely, and Jennifer Vincent, who were representing regions from all over the world, including Senegal, Mexico, and Asia.

The Gala was co-chaired by Flushing Town Hall Board Members Pauline Huang and Timothy Chen. Sponsors included Veronica Y. Tsang, Queens College, City University of New York, Raymond Jasen, Graf & Lewent Architects, Tai Wang/WAC Lighting/Glow Cultural Center/Glow Foundation, Viviana Benitez, TeHsing Niu, Emily Lin/Lin + Loveall Foundation, and New York-Presbyterian Queens.

During the event, Flushing Town Hall honored New York City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, the first Black woman to hold the position and proud representative of the 28th District in Queens. Robbie Welsh, co-director of the community outreach unit / community engagement division of the New York City Council Speaker’s Office, represented Adams, who was unable to attend due to budget negotiations.

Co-Director of the Community Outreach Unit/Community Engagement Division of the New York City Council Speaker’s Office Robbie Welsh

“Your stewardship of this historic institution has made Flushing Town Hall a welcome destination for residents of all ages to watch concerts, dance, theater, and much more,” Welsh said.

The second honoree, Queens College President Frank H. Wu, praised Flushing Town Hall for being a beacon of culture in the borough. “Through concerts and jam sessions,” he said, “Flushing Town Hall has helped to establish this borough as a home for jazz. That is the United States’ musical gift to the world: American classical music.”

During the evening, Howard Gilman Foundation Program Officer Emily Sproch called Flushing Town Hall “a very bright spot in this City’s cultural ecosystem,” announcing that the foundation made a $160,000 gift to Flushing Town Hall.

“One thousand dollars for each year of its impressive life,” Sproch said. “So happy birthday Flushing Town Hall, may you continue to be blessed, and may you continue to share these blessings with this remarkable community.”

Flushing Town Hall is a Smithsonian affiliate, which presents multi-disciplinary global arts that engage and educate the global communities of Queens and New York City in order to foster mutual appreciation. As advocates of arts equity since 1979, Flushing Town Hall supports local, immigrant, national, and international artists, developing partnerships, and collaborations that enhance its efforts. Part of the New York City’s Cultural Institutions Group, it serves to restore, manage and program the historic 1862 landmark on behalf of the City of New York. Flushing Town Hall iscommitted to arts education and hands-on learning, for the arts-curious, art enthusiasts, and professional artists. They continue to serve one of the most diverse communities in the world and strive to uphold the legacy of inclusiveness that has defined the community since the Flushing Remonstrance of 1657.

Townsend Harris High School receives $250K in State funds

Townsend Harris High School recently received $250,000 in State funding for their Bridge Year Program from New York State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and New York State Assemblywoman Nily Rozic.

Stavisky and Rozic presented a check to Principal Brian Condon, after which, they spent the afternoon talking with students who have benefited from the Bridge Year Program and have taken courses such as English, Astronomy, Sociology, and Urban Studies.

Townsend Harris High School has always offered its seniors a unique opportunity to attend classes at Queens College and earn college credit. Under the previous mayoral administration, there were attempts to cut the program despite strong support from local elected officials, the THHS administration, faculty, and students.

Stavisky, who helped fight to fund the program, said “this is a program that should be replicated throughout New York City. With the evergrowing costs of college, this gives students a foot in the door while at the same time exposing them to the excellent opportunities that Queens College has to offer.”

“This is a program that should be replicated throughout New York City,” Stavisky, who helped fight to restore funding from the State, said in a statement. “With the ever growing costs of college, this gives students a foot in the door while at the same time exposing them to the excellent opportunities that Queens College has to offer.”

Assemblywoman Rozic, who is herself an alumnus of Townsend Harris and benefited from the Bridge Year Program said, “Giving our students the tools to advance in their higher education is imperative for their success at the university-level and beyond.”

“I am proud to have secured funding with Senator Stavisky for the Queens College Bridge Program at Townsend Harris High School, which will help transition high school seniors to the new responsibilities of college coursework and allow them to gain college credits at no additional cost to families,” Rozic said in a statement.

Since taking the helm at Townsend Harris High School five years ago, Principal Brian Condon has been an outspoken proponent of the program and has brought together City and State officials to keep the program running.

“On behalf of the entire Townsend Harris Community, I thank State Senator Toby Stavisky and Assemblymember Nily Rozic for securing $250,000 to fund our renowned Queens College Bridge Year Program,” Principal Condon said in a statement. “Their visionary leadership and willingness to fight to keep this program alive for another year will ensure that the next senior class of Townsend Harris High School students will attend college courses while in high school. Furthermore, it will continue to allow Townsend Harris High School at Queens College, a public high school, to be a place that offers students of all backgrounds the greatest educational opportunities this city and state have to offer.“

With a new administration now in place, Rozic and Stavisky said they hope this funding will bring fresh opportunities for the school and encourage Mayor Eric Adams and the City Council to continue to invest in the Bridge Year Program.

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