Department of Africana Studies

Events and Programs

Current Season and Projects

Coronavirus Update

A Zoom screenshot from the Songs of a Caged Bird Folkthought, featuring Playwright Christopher Lindsday MFA'21, Director Jackie Davis, and Black Panther Party Member Jamal Joseph.


During the ongoing Covid-19 crisis, Rites and Reason Theatre has worked diligently to explore the boundaries of performance in our new, digital world. Though our season looks like none we have seen before, we are grateful for the opportunity to share our programming with audience members beyond our Providence home.

Explore the microsites below to view recordings of our virtual productions. We hope to see you in the BassPas as soon as it is safe! 

2020-2021 Season

Songs of a Caged Bird, a new play by Christopher Lindsay MFA’2 tells the story of Lee Berry, a member of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. As part of the New York 21, Berry and 20 other party members were charged with conspiracy to commit crimes across New York City and jailed. Amid the pain of incarceration, his failing health, and the erosion of hope, Berry finds a way through.
Within Africanist frameworks, art is not a thing, but a doing. Art is a verb. Art causes things to happen. During this time of pain and tumult, art provides us an outlet to process, rage, and heal. Students and artist from Las Vegas to Lagos submitted their Responses In Our Time, using spoken word, rap, performance art, and silence to affirm artmaking as an activist practice.
The first in a slate of many, this event commemorates Rites and Reason Theatre’s 50th Anniversary as the oldest, continuously producing Black Theatre in New England, and the phenomenal contributions to its legacy made by Karen Allen Baxter, the Theatre’s Senior Managing Director. After leading Rites and Reason through an astonishing 250 events, Karen retired in December 2020.

The Black Lavender Experience is a project of the course, Black Lavender: A Study of Plays with Black LGBTQ+ Content. Established as a platform for Queer Artists of Color, it has presented the works of professional and student artists for over a decade.
During Commencement/Reunion Weekend, Africana Studies presents He Rises in Spirit and Power, a memorial event honoring the late Professor Anani Dzidzienyo. The telecast assembles tributes from Gilberto Gil, Olodum, and the scores of scholars inspired by Anani's encouragement. The global network of friends touched by his kindness is immeasurable, and we are grateful to have loved him.