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I Dream: Boston civic arts program launches

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David Dower, incoming executive director of ArtsEmerson; Jaqui Lindsay of Innovation By Design; LaDawn Strickland, project coordinator, I Dream: Boston; Daniel Beaty, playwright; Kelly Bates, director of Elma Lewis Center; and Polly Carl, director, HowlRound. (Photo by Craig Bailey)

At the Paramount Center’s Mainstage on January 12, songs, poetry, and personal stories helped kick off I Dream: Boston, a three-year civic engagement program with award-winning writer and performer and artist-in-residence Daniel Beaty.

Announced by the College in March 2014, I Dream: Boston and Beaty’s residency is supported by a $350,000 grant from the Barr Foundation.

Naheem Garcia, local actor, artist, and lower school dean of students at the Academy of the Pacific Rim in Hyde Park, emceed the evening that was hosted by ArtsEmerson and Emerson’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Special guests included Afrika Hayes, daughter of renowned vocalist Roland Hayes; recently named Poet Laureate of Boston Danielle Legros Georges ’86, who vividly shared three of her poems including “Boston Backyard” about weekly trips to Haymarket with her grandmother; celebrated baritone Philip Lima, accompanied by pianist William Merrill, who captivated the audience with his performance of passages from French and German operas; and Roland Hayes School of Music 11th-grader James Dumas, who sang an inspiring rendition of John Legend’s song “Ordinary People.”

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Poet Laureate of Boston Danielle Legros Georges '86 performs at the I Dream: Boston launch event at Emerson on January 12. (Photo by Craig Bailey)

Following his performance of “Knock, Knock,” a powerful monologue about the impact his father’s incarceration had on his childhood, Beaty emphasized I Dream: Boston’s focus on race and class inequity in America, and the goal of empowering individuals and communities throughout Boston to have a role in rewriting their narratives. “Individual transformation leads to social transformation,” said Beaty.

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Daniel Beaty performs at the I Dream: Boston launch event on January 12. (Photo by Craig Bailey)

He outlined the four stages of the I Dream model: Investigation, Inspiration, Integration, and Impact, and invited audience members to partner with the project and work together to lead change.      

As evidenced by the large amount of people in attendance, the I Dream: Boston initiative has already captured the attention of many enthusiastic community members. Some of those in attendance were event partner organizations that will be collaborating in the citywide project, including Emerson’s Office of Diversity, ArtsEmerson, the NAACP’s Boston branch, The Word Boston, New England Blacks in Philanthropy, Outside the Box, Discover Boston, Art Is Life Itself, Boston Day and Evening School in Roxbury, and Springfield College.

The event was also a special night to welcome the cast members of Beaty’s Breath & Imagination—an exploration of the life and career of Roland Hayes, which will show at the Paramount Center’s Mainstage January 27–February 8, 2015.