For release March 30, 2011

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For release March 30, 2011

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JUNE 11-25, 2011

Bill T. Jones creates the centerpiece for tracing “Freedom’s Journey”
During June 2011, the International Festival of Arts & Ideas will present an immersion experience entitled “Freedom’s Journey,” which encompasses a series of performances, ideas discussions, and tours that address the topic of the Civil War and the cultural heritage within the state of Connecticut.
Two works by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company form the centerpiece of this exploration into the progression of civil rights in the United States and in the state of Connecticut.
Bill T. Jones is the recipient of many awards, including two Tony awards, a MacArthur “genius” award, Kennedy Center Honors, and an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from Yale University. The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company is known for its profound exploration of important social issues. Currently celebrating its 25th anniversary season, the company has performed in over 200 cities in 30 countries and is recognized as one of the most innovative and powerful forces in the modern dance world.
In 2007, the Ravinia Festival commissioned the Company to create a trilogy of work to honor the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth. The Festival will present one of the three resulting pieces, Serenade/The Proposition, which explores the passage of time and the unique moral conflicts America has struggled with since its founding, through the use of movement, plainsong, and text.

The International Festival of Arts & Ideas is collaborating with cultural organizations and heritage sites throughout the state to explore the Connecticut Freedom Trail this spring through the poetic imagination.

The poetry readings are a pre-Festival component of “Freedom’s Journey” that will culminate at the Festival, June 11-25.
The Festival has asked Elizabeth Alexander, author of the collection American Sublime, to invite well-known poets Gabrielle Calvocoressi, Jarita Davis, Randall Horton, Bessy Reyna, Kate Rushin, and Ravi Shankar to write new works about sites on the Connecticut Freedom Trail. Each poet will give a reading at his or her chosen location prior to the Festival.
All will convene during the Festival on June 23 for “Freedom’s Journey: Poetic Reflections on African American Legacies,” with Robert Stanton, an early proponent of the Connecticut Freedom Trail, who is currently Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior and former Director of the National Park Service.

The poetry readings are free, although admission to related sites and events is often required.

The Connecticut Freedom Trail was authorized by the State’s General Assembly in 1995 to recognize the experiences and contributions of African Americans in their journeys toward emancipation, liberty, and self-determination. A new web site,, was launched in February 2011.


Sunday, April 10

1pm Norfolk Historical Museum, 13 Village Green, Norfolk, CT

CT Freedom Trail Site: James Mars Grave

Poet: Ravi Shankar will read the original poetry he created inspired by the story of James Mars and the Freedom Trail site of the James Mars Grave.
Docent led tours of Norfolk Historical Museum’s exhibit on James Mars entitled “Of African and Princely Descent” and self-guided walking tour of Center Cemetery on Old Colony Road of flagged Mars gravesite and others will be available.

Saturday, April 16

1pm First Church of Christ, Congregational, 75 Main Street, Farmington 

CT Freedom Trail site: Farmington Historical Society

Jarita Davis will read poetry she created in response to the stories of the Freedom Trail’s Underground Railroad and Amistad sites located in Farmington, CT.
Walking tours by Farmington Historical Society include the Congregational Church, Union Hall, Samuel Deming House, Deming Store, Mrs. Freeman’s House, Noah Porter House, 1665 Old Cemetery, Austin William’s House, Mendi Dormitory, and Riverside Cemetery.

Saturday, April 30

1pm Event Location: Danbury Museum, 43 Main Street Danbury, CT

CT Freedom Trail Site: Marion Anderson Studio

Poet Kate Rushin, will present her original poetry paying tribute to the story of Marion Anderson whose studio is part of the CT Freedom Trail.

The Danbury Museum hosts the poetry reading and will provide docent led tours of the Marion Anderson Studio, and the Danbury Museum.


Saturday, May 7

1pm Prudence Crandall Museum, 1 South Canterbury Road, Canterbury, CT

CT Freedom Trail Site: Prudence Crandall House

Poet: Gabrielle Calvocoressi, will read her new work written especially for the Prudence Crandall house, a location on the CT Freedom Trail.

The Prudence Crandall Museum will have docent and self-guided tour of the museum’s period rooms, exhibits, and video.


Saturday, May 21

12pm Event Location: Custom House Maritime Museum, 150 Bank Street, New London

CT Freedom Trail Site: Custom House, New London

Poet: Randall Horton will read his original poetry about the Custom House and the Amistad story.

The reading takes places following the New London’s Public School’s annual Hope Week Parade and the Custom House’s third annual Chowda’ Fest. Tours aboard the Schooner Amistad will take place in the harbor.


Sunday, June 5

11:30am Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford

CT Freedom Trail Site: Amistad Center for Art & Culture

Poet: Poet Bessy Reyna will read poetry she has written in response to the stories from the Lincoln and Civil War archives from the Amistad Center of Art & Culture.

The poetry reading is a part of the Amistad Center for Art & Culture’s Juneteenth lucheon followed by a performance of August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean at Hartford Stage. Please contact or 860.838.4133 for tickets.

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Elizabeth Alexander

Elizabeth Alexander is a poet, essayist, playwright, and teacher born in New York City and raised in Washington, DC. Alexander has degrees from Yale University and Boston University and completed her Ph.D. in English at the University of Pennsylvania. Most recently, she composed and delivered “Praise Song for the Day” for the inauguration of President Barack Obama. The poem has recently been published as a small book from Graywolf Press. In addition, she has published five books of poems: The Venus Hottentot (1990), Body of Life (1996), Antebellum Dream Book (2001), American Sublime (2005), which was one of three finalists for the Pulitzer Prize and was one of the American Library Association’s “Notable Books of the Year;” and her first young adult collection (co-authored with Marilyn Nelson), Miss Crandall’s School for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color (2008 Connecticut Book Award). Her two collections of essays are The Black Interior (2004) and Power and Possibility (2007), and her play, “Diva Studies,” was produced at the Yale School of Drama.

Professor Alexander is the first recipient of the Alphonse Fletcher, Sr. Fellowship for work that “contributes to improving race relations in American society and furthers the broad social goals of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954.” She is the 2007 winner of the first Jackson Prize for Poetry, awarded by Poets & Writers, Inc. Other awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, two Pushcart Prizes, the George Kent Award, given by Gwendolyn Brooks, a Guggenheim fellowship as well as the Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching at University of Chicago. She is currently chair of the African American Studies Department at Yale University.

Robert Stanton

We are delighted to have received confirmation that Robert Stanton, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Interior Department, will participate in a program in the Festival’s Ideas program to celebrate the CT Freedom Trail. Mr. Stanton is the former Director (and first African-American Director) of the National Park Service (NPS). He served as Director of the NPS at the time Congress passed the legislation to establish National Park Service's National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program. We anticipate that he will be in conversation with Jonathan Holloway, Professor of History, African American Studies, and American Studies at Yale University.

Poet Bios
Bessy Reyna is the author of two bilingual books of poetry, The Battlefield of Your Body (Hill-Stead Museum, 2005) and Memoirs of the Unfaithful Lover/ Memorias de la amante infiel (tunAstral, A.C., 2010, Toluca Mexico). She Remembers, was published in 1997 and her Spanish language writing, includes Terrarium (Instrucción Programada de México, 1975), and the short story collection, Ab Ovo (Instituto Nacional de Cultura, Panama, 1977). Her poetry can be found in the anthologies El Coro: A Chorus of Latino and Latina Poetry, In Other Words: Literature by Latinas of the United States, The Arc of Love: Lesbian Poems and The Wild Good. 
Bessy earned her Masters and Law degrees from the University of Connecticut. She was a monthly opinion columnist for The Hartford Courant and frequent contributor to its Sunday magazine Northeast, and conducted radio interviews at Hill-Stead Museum’s Sunken Garden Poetry Festival. Currently, she writes an arts-and-culture page for Identidad Latina and is a Master Teaching Artist for the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism. Awarded First Prize in the Joseph E. Brodine Poetry Competition and artist award grants from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism and the Greater Hartford Arts Council, she is also the recipient of the Connecticut Center for the Book Lifetime Achievement in Service to the Literary Community Award.


Gabrielle Calvocoressi is the author of The Last Time I Saw Amelia

Earhart (Persea. 2005) and Apocalyptic Swing (Persea. 2009), finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Award. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including a Stegner Fellowship and a Jones Lectureship from Stanford University, a Rona Jaffe Woman Writer's Award, and a fellowship to Civitella di Ranieri in Umbria. Her poetry has been featured in numerous journals including the Washington Post and Garrison Keillor's Poet's Almanac. She writes the Sports Desk column for The Best American Poetry blog and is the virtual editor for Broadsided Press. She is on the advisory board of The Rumpus' Poetry Book Club and the Poetry Editor for the soon to be launched Los Angeles Review of Books. She lives in Los Angeles.
Jarita Davis is a poet and fiction writer who earned a B.A. in classics from Brown University and both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in creative writing from the University of Louisiana, Lafayette. She was the writer in residence at the Nantucket Historical Association and has received fellowships from the Mellon Mayes program, Cave Canem, and Hedgebrook. In addition, she was awarded a Woodrow Wilson Travel Research Grant, a Neiheisel Phi Beta Kappa Award, and a grant from the Louisiana Division of the Arts. Her work has appeared in the Southwestern Review, Historic Nantucket, Cave Canem Anthologies, Crab Orchard Review, and Plainsongs and Tuesday; An Art Project. For more, see her website:
Kate Rushin is the author of The Black Back-Ups (Firebrand Books). Her “The Bridge Poem” appears in This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, a groundbreaking feminist anthology edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa. Recipient of the Rose Low Rome Memorial Poetry Prize and the Grolier Poetry Prize, her work is widely anthologized and has been published in such journals as Callaloo. Kate teaches creative writing at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts. Previously, she taught at Wesleyan University, where she served as Adjunct Assistant Professor and Visiting Writer in African American Studies. She has read at Hill-Stead Museum's Sunken Garden Poetry Festival, the Geraldine Dodge Poetry Festival and Smith College Poetry Center, and has led workshops for the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies and Cave Canem Foundation. She has served as a judge for the Connecticut State University-IMPAC Young Writers Award, the Connecticut Poetry Circuit Student Poetry Contest, and the NEA’s/Poetry Foundation’s Poetry Out Loud.
Randall Horton is the author of The Definition of Place and the Lingua Franca of Ninth Street, both from Main Street Rag. Randall is the recipient of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Award, the Bea Gonzalez Poetry Award and most recently a National Endowment of the Arts Fellowship in Literature. His creative and critical work has most recently appeared in Callaloo, Crab Orchard Review, and The Packingtown Review. Randall is a Cave Canem Fellow, a member of the Affrilachian Poets and a member of The Symphony: The House that Etheridge Built. He has a MFA in Poetry from Chicago State University and a PhD in Creative Writing from SUNY Albany. Randall is Assistant Professor of English at the University of New Haven.
Ravi Shankar is founding editor and Executive Director of Drunken Boat, international online journal of the arts and Co-Director of the Creative Writing Program at Central Connecticut State University. His books and chapbooks include the National Poetry Review Prize winner Deepening Groove, Seamless Matter, Voluptuous Bristle, Wanton Textiles (with Reb Livingston), and Instrumentality, finalist for the 2005 Connecticut Book Awards. Along with Tina Chang and Nathalie Handal, he edited W.W. Norton's Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from Asia, the Middle East & Beyond, called "a beautiful achievement for world literature" by Nobel Laurate Nadine Gordimer, and with Leslie McGrath, he edited Radha Says, the posthumous poems of Reetika Vazirani. He has won a Pushcart Prize and Connecticut Commission on the Arts grant, has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Jentel Foundation and the Djerassi Residency Artists Program, has appeared in the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Financial Times and the Chronicle of Higher Education, performed his work around the world, including on the BBC and on NPR, and currently teaches in Fairfield University's MFA Program and in the first international MFA Program at City University of Hong Kong.

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