Ruth Ezell moderator
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ST. LOUIS, MO – Gitana Productions, in collaboration with the Missouri German Consortium, will explore and celebrate the remarkable contributions of German immigrants to the abolition of slavery in Missouri at The Face of Love: Symposium on the Common History of German and African Americans. Historians, community leaders and artists will come together to discuss the shared African American and Missouri German history on Saturday, February 23 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the German Cultural Society’s Jefferson Hall at 3652 S. Jefferson Avenue. This event is free to the public. Please register at www.gitana-inc.org.
Germans came to America in the 1800s seeking freedom from oppression in Prussia. Remarkably, many German immigrants in Missouri also fought to free oppressed African Americans. Using the lens of history, the symposium will bring to life what it means to strive for social justice for “others” while also advocating for one’s own cultural group.
“The rich and shared history between Germans and African Americans in St. Louis isn’t widely known and we want to change that,” said Cecilia Nadal, executive director of Gitana Productions. “Many German immigrants, who often spoke no English, recognized that the hope for a growing democracy in America could only be realized if slavery was abolished. Often threatened and even run out of town by Missouri slaveholders, these men and women even started newspapers to spread their ideals for a color-blind democracy.”
The symposium also will explore the challenges created by contradictions in values and belief systems. While many German immigrants who settled in the Midwest before and after the Civil War staunchly defended freedom for slaves, some chose to set aside those values to survive. Those tensions, with roots in the past, continue today within many American cultural groups.
KETC-TV “Living St. Louis” producer and reporter Ruth Ezell will moderate the symposium, with special guests Colonel John Hayden, St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department Police Commissioner, and Herbert Quelle, German Consul General. Speakers include:
- Sydney Norton, assistant professorof German Studies at Saint Louis University and author of German Immigrant Abolitionists: Fighting for a Free Missouri
- Dorris Keeven-Franke, executive director of Missouri Germans Consortium and author of Missouri – Where the Sun of Freedom Shines in “Utopia – Revisiting a German State in America”
- John W. Wright, author of Discovering African American St. Louis – A Guide to Historic Sites
- Starsky Wilson, CEO and president of the Deaconess Foundation and social activist appointed in 2014 by Governor Jay Nixon to head the Ferguson Commission
Entertainment will be provided by the local German and African American communities.
In June, Gitana Productions also will present a provocative original play inspired by the amazing stories of remarkable German immigrants who became leading abolitionists in Missouri. The performances will be held Thursday, June 20 through Sunday, June 23 at Kranzberg Art Center.
Partial funding and support for Gitana Productions are provided by the Missouri Humanities Council, Kranzberg Arts Foundation, Regional Arts Commission, and Missouri Arts Council. Additional co-sponsors include Saint Louis University’s Department of Languages, Literatures and Cultures and the African American Studies Program.
ABOUT GITANA PRODUCTIONS
Gitana Productions, Inc. is a not-for-profit arts and education organization dedicated to increasing cross-cultural awareness and collaboration using music, dance and drama in the St. Louis region. Gitana events present a rarely seen diversity of international and local artists exhibiting an array of traditional and innovative artistic expressions. Gitana also developed Global Education through the Arts, a community project that uses the arts to promote intercultural competence between youth of diverse backgrounds. For more information, visit www.gitana-inc.org or contact Gitana Productions at (314) 721-6556.
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