Wednesday October 12, 2005

A Tribute to Paul Laurence Dunbar

The Dayton region's major nonprofit organizations are joining creative forces to stage Celebrate Dunbar! during centennial year.

More than a dozen major regional organizations are joining forces to stage a yearlong community-wide tribute to Paul Laurence Dunbar, Dayton native and the first African-American poet to garner national critical acclaim.

On the eve of the centennial of Dunbar's death, local performing arts and visual arts organizations, universities and colleges, Wright Dunbar Inc., the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and Dunbar High School are planning Celebrate Dunbar! -- a series of public events to honor and draw national attention to the life and work of Dunbar. The poet died Feb. 9, 1906, of tuberculosis at the age of 33. In his brief life, he published six volumes of poetry as well as short stories, novels, librettos, songs and essays.

Two nationally known poets, Nikki Giovanni and Michael S. Harper, will return to Dayton for the tribute. They participated in a University of Dayton celebration in 1972 that marked the centennial of Dunbar's birth. In a year chock full of events, the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company will premiere a new dance work inspired by Dunbar's poetry and life. Dayton Opera will reprise "Paul Laurence Dunbar: Common Ground." The National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce is planning a yearlong exhibition. The University of Dayton and Sinclair Community College will offer seminars and classes on Dunbar's poetry, beginning in January.

"Our goal is to increase visibility of a Dayton gem who is truly a national treasure," said Paula Cosby, community development coordinator for Wright Dunbar Inc., who co-chairs Celebrate Dunbar! with Anne Pici, writing program coordinator in UD's English department. "We are a group of community organizations committed to ensuring that an important pioneer gets his due. We're encouraging and making it possible for the community -- and beyond -- to celebrate his life. We think it's so important that we brought the resources of our institutions to the table and came up with an incredible yearlong program."

Added Pici: "Dunbar's works deserve rediscovery and scholarship. Like the Wright brothers, he brings national renown to Dayton."

For a complete calendar of events, click here.

Contact Paula Cosby or Anne Pici, co-chairs of Celebrate Dunbar!, at (937) 443-0249 and (937) 229-3449.