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UCR Arts Among the Books

UC Riverside Exports Performances to the Riverside Public Library

Singer-Storyteller Karen Wilson asks "Where is the African in African-American?"

(February 15, 2007)

Karen Wilson, photo by Carlos PumaEnlarge

Karen Wilson, photo by Carlos Puma

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — As part of UC Riverside’s Gluck Fellows Program of the Arts, singer/storyteller Karen Wilson exports her considerable artistic talent and storytelling expertise to the Riverside Public Library, 3581 Mission Inn Ave.

At 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 25, she will explore the African elements of African American music-making, including its historic links to movement in labor, religion, and recreation.

Wilson's free performance is called, “Where is the African in African American?" It will focus on the history of enslaved people through communal activities, song, story and dance.

"I use folklore as a primary source along with more traditional sources to talk about history," she explained. "I am interested in writing the history that people said was not possible to write, as well as to show the way music and movement are linked in these African traditions."

Additional free cultural programs hosted at the library include a screening of the documentary, "The Language You Cry In" on Wednesday, Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m. The film traces the powerful history of a centuries-old African song that traveled thousands of miles from Sierra Leone to present day coastal Georgia, and back to Sierra Leone.

On Thursday, Feb. 15th, Wilson conducted a voice workshop featuring the Norco Singers, a singing group that is looking for new members. "We plan to put on a hands-on showcase of vocal techniques and breathing exercises," she said before the event. "It will be an evening of fun, opportunity and adventure."

Wilson holds two master’s degrees, one in music education and one in history. She is pursuing her Ph.D. in history at UC Riverside, specializing in African-American and African Diasporic Music and History. Her stories address conflict resolution, community building, and the power of change. She has performed with folk icon Pete Seeger, and her performance of Paul Laurence Dunbar's "The Party" was broadcast on PBS as part of the "Favorite Poem Project." She was also a member of the Edward Boatner Chorale. As a member of Blue Wing Dance Company, she premiered "Haunted Red" at the Merce Cunningham Studio in New York City in 1999.

"We feel that the library's cultural events are making our collections come alive for the people in the community," said Kathryn Morton, Cultural Programs Coordinator for the Riverside Public Library.

"We're lucky to have forged this partnership with the Gluck Program at UC Riverside. Everyone knows that we have books, but we also have a broad collection of musical scores and other resources for people to use. Our programs are always based around some part of our collection — whether it's music, books or films — which is why in February we're presenting a triple-header of Karen Wilson and her talents."

The Gluck Fellows Program of the Arts is the premier arts outreach program at the University of California, Riverside. Since 1996, the Gluck Fellows Program of the Arts, made possible through the generosity of the Maxwell H. Gluck Foundation, has provided fellowships to exceptional UC Riverside undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and visiting guest artists to conduct arts-related presentations, performances, and workshops in Riverside County schools, residential facilities for elderly care and community centers.

Additional support for programs at the Riverside Public Library is provided by the Friends of the Library, Merrill Lynch, Reid & Hellyer LLP, Heyday Books, Tomás Rivera Endowment, California Council for the Humanities, San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Karen Wilson, and the City of Riverside.
Karen Wilson performs, photo courtesy of the Riverside Public Library

Karen Wilson performs, photo courtesy of the Riverside Public Library

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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