Last year, the African American Arts Institute’s annual Potpourri of the Arts—a concert featuring more than 100 IU student performers in a celebration of Black music and dance—was performed during a monumental time in IU history. It was IU’s Bicentennial year and the 50th anniversary of the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center and the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, and the 45th anniversary of the African American Arts Institute (AAAI).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AAAI cannot host its Potpourri concert for the first time in 26 years. Instead, they will present Indiana Fight!!! Remembering Potpourri 2019, a virtual experience with a live Q&A with the ensemble directors and never-before-seen performance footage, on November 15 at 7 p.m.
The event will feature African American Choral Ensemble Director Raymond Wise, African American Dance Company Director Stafford C. Berry Jr., and IU Soul Revue Director James Strong moderated by Nana Amoah-Ramey, visiting professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies.
“Our main priority is ensuring the health and safety of our students while providing them the best possible academic and artistic experiences given the circumstances this year,” said Charles Sykes, Executive Director of AAAI. “Though we will miss gathering and performing in the IU Auditorium this fall, we’re taking this opportunity to engage our community in a virtual conversation about the significance of Black performance and the work our students and directors presented during our 45th anniversary year.”
The event title comes from the IU Fight Song performed by the AAAI’s three student performing three student performing ensembles—African American Dance Company, African American Choral Ensemble, and IU Soul Revue—featuring members of the IU Crabb Band with special host emcee Bootsy Collins. This was the world premiere of Bootsy Collins’ funk arrangement of “Indiana Fight!!!” created in collaboration with IU Soul Revue director James Strong and former Soul Revue horn coach and IU alum Brennon Johns.
“The finale was such a powerful moment,” Hannah Crane, Events and Communications Specialist at the African American Arts Institute, said. “Even though the AAAI has been part of IU for 45 years, some folks on campus still don’t know about our program. But when our students who represent all races, academic majors, and so many walks of life joined together to perform this funky remix of the IU Fight Song, during the Bicentennial year, on the campus’ biggest stage, it seemed to make a statement of, ‘We are here. We are IU. And we have been and will continue to make IU history.’”
Although the Potpourri will not happen this year, students in the African American Dance Company, African American Choral Ensemble, and IU Soul Revue continue to receive an education thanks to the dedicated faculty and staff within the AAAI.
“Before the pandemic, the students’ education and what we shared with the public focused on live performances,” Crane said. “Now, the directors have been working hard to creatively navigate this new territory and provide students with learning in other aspects of performance. They’re creating video and recording projects that not only allow students to broaden their skills in music, dance, and technology, but also as a way to creatively document this historic moment we’re in.”
According to Crane, the students will share the results of this new format in spring 2021.
To register for Indiana Fight!!! Remembering Potpourri 2019, please click here.