Moving work honors month of history
In honor of Black History Month, Houston’s Urban Souls Dance Company presented a performance that celebrated both the spirit of what it means to be an African-American and the triumph of the community in the face of oppression.
The USDC collaborated with UH’s African American Studies Department to present “Old Wounds: New Blood” on Saturday at the Cullen Performance Hall.
Artistic Director Harrison Guy said the performance celebrated Black History Month in several ways.
One was to tribute local history through a piece about the Blue Triangle, a community center in Houston. The company also presented a piece about the Buffalo Soldiers.
“We’re celebrating black national history,” said Guy. “We’re celebrating spirituality.”
The tone of the dance was not pity or remorse, but genuine, heartfelt emotion and assertiveness on part of African-Americans.
The dance characterized what African-Americans could do to effect change, which was the case with the Buffalo Soldiers, who distinguished themselves as the first legion of African-American soldiers in the U.S. Army.
“With the Buffalo Soldiers, we told a couple of stories,” Guy said. “We started out with the importance of them becoming professional soldiers right after slavery — how they wanted to use that to prove themselves as citizens.”
Among the Buffalo Soldiers tributed was Lt. Vernon Baker, one of the African-American Medal of Honor recipients.
“He became popular because he was shot five times in the war that he fought in and was successful after the war,” Guy said.
Another of the tributes was to a soldier named Kathy Williams.
“She was the only female Buffalo Soldier and she had to disguise herself as a man to fight in the army at the time,” Guy said.
Moving forward to World War II, a part of the performance dealt with the Double Victory campaign, which encouraged African-American soldiers to do well in the Army in order to prove themselves and help with the Civil Rights movement.
Soldiers were not just fighting for the country, said Guy, they were fighting for themselves.
“They were fighting to fight the fight,” said Guy, adding that there they were motivated by two reasons: patriotism and American citizenship.
“There was a strong desire to prove to themselves that we were citizens and that if we can be successful soldiers, maybe this whole racism thing will go away and we can help with it.”