In Honor of Dreamspeakers

dreamspeakersth May 26
In Honor of Dreamspeakers
African American Art & Culture Complex
$10 suggested donation
Purple Moon Dance Project announced five women artists who have been named the 2010 recipients of their DreamSpeakers awards. Building upon a tradition begun in 2007, the 3rd biennial “In Honor of Our DreamSpeakers” event honors visionary artists whose groundbreaking work spans all media – from dance, poetry, music, performance art, storytelling, lighting, visual art, spoken word – and whose passion has encompassed the essence of what keeps our cultures alive by telling stories we don’t otherwise hear, honoring our ancestors, and supporting our communities.

“The lives and contributions of women of color and lesbian artists to social change, diversity, artistic expression and equality in our society are often invisible,” says Jill Togawa, founder and Artistic Director of Purple Moon. “Our DreamSpeakers event helps to illuminate the remarkable, history-making achievements of such women; broadening their recognition and opening doors to their enormous body of work. By focusing on their personal vehicles of artistic expression through the lens of social activism, our DreamSpeakers honorees have given shape, voice and power to communities that are often left out of the mainstream.”

The 2010 DreamSpeakers include Bay Area writer/performer Brenda Wong Aoki of First Voice; sculptor and lighting designer Stephanie Anne Johnson; director/dancer Judith Smith of AXIS Dance Company; poet/writer/educator Penina Ava Taesali; and musician/poet/radio host Avotcja. In what promises to be a spectacular evening that will feature over 25 artists performing dance, music, visual art and spoken word, “In Honor of Our DreamSpeakers” will take place on Wednesday, May 26, at the Buriel Clay Theater in San Francisco.

A Special Guest appearance by Janice Mirikitani will be one of the highlights of the evening. Mirikitani is recognized as a visionary, community activist, leader, poet, former San Francisco Poet Laureate, and Founding President of the Glide Foundation. Other special performers include jazz musician Francis Wong, tabla performer Robin Sukhadia, singer Melanie DeMore, and dancer Deborah Vaughn of Dimensions Dance Theater. Several previous DreamSpeakers (Neela Banerjee, Ellen Bepp, Rhodessa Jones, Sharon Page Ritchie, Pam Peniston, Suzanne Takehara, and Theresa Thadani) are involved in this year’s festivities, along with additional “surprise artists” who will collaborate with Purple Moon’s core artists to create an extraordinary evening.

The celebration begins promptly at 6:30 p.m. followed by a reception at 8:00 p.m. at the Buriel Clay Theater at the African American Art & Culture Complex, 762 Fulton Street, San Francisco, CA 94102. Tickets are $10 (or $50 to receive Sponsorship status) and include the awards ceremony, performances and reception. Tickets may be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets at


Writer/Performer Brenda Wong Aoki creates monodramas. Her intense lyrical, song/dance/dramas are drawn from her grandfather’s memories of San Francisco during the Great Earthquake, Kabuki legends and everyday life experience. Her work weaves together Japanese Noh, Kyogen Theater, Commedia Dell’arte, movement and voice. Acclaimed as one of America’s foremost soloists, Brenda’s plays have been produced world-wide. Brenda has deep roots in San Francisco. Her paternal grandfather was a founder of Japantown in the 1890’s, and maternal grandmother was VP of the first Chinatown garment union in the 1920’s. She is married to jazz composer, Mark Izu, and with their son, dancer Kai Kane, they continue to teach and perform internationally.

Avotcja is an award winning poet, multi-instrumentalist and composer who has opened for Betty Carter, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Bobi & Luis Cespedes, John Handy, Sonido Afro Latina, Dimensions Dance Theater, Nikki Giovanni and countless other musicians. She has played with Sonia Sanchez, Janice Mirikitani, Diane Di Prima, and Michael Franti, and with her group Avotcja & Modupue. She opened for legendary poet Pat Parker during the last 3 years of her life, and was featured at Afro-Solo, Carnival, Yoshi’s, Stanford University, Cine Accion, NYC’s Henry Street Settlement Theater and Copenhagen, Denmark. Avotcja is also a popular Bay Area DJ & Radio Personality, and the founder/Director of “The Clean Scene Theater Project.” She continues to teach Creative Writing, Storytelling & Drama in public schools and is an active member of DAMO (Disability Advocates Of Minorities Organization), California Poets In The Schools, and NARAS.

Stephanie Anne Johnson
uses her installations and mixed media sculptures as a way to preserve and honor the history of Africans. She uses large-scale slide projections in settings such as railroad stations, churches, cemeteries and galleries. Stephanie has exhibited at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, De Young Museum, The Jewish Museum, and Intersection For The Arts. Her commissions include Atlanta Arts Festival, City of Oakland, De Young Museum, Intersection for The Arts, Afro Solo, and other national arts organizations. Her recent work of mixed media installation was presented at The Museum of the African Diaspora. Stephanie’s lighting design career spans 35 years (including Cultural Odyssey, Dimensions Dance Theater, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival), with work in India, The Netherlands, Italy, France and Belgium. Stephanie holds a BFA from Emerson College, an MA from SF State and an MFA from UC Berkeley. She is currently a candidate for a PhD in public policy and social justice from Union Institute and University in Cincinnati. She is the Chair and founding faculty member for the Visual and Public Art program at CSU, Monterey Bay.

Judith Smith has earned an international reputation in the field of physically integrated dance and is a founding member of AXIS Dance Company. As Artistic Director, Judith launched Dance Access Community Education/Outreach Program. Prior to becoming disabled in a car accident at age 17, Judith was a champion equestrian. She transferred her passion for riding to dance after discovering contact improvisation in 1983. Judith has been featured in several videos including Dancing from the Inside Out, WNET’s People in Motion, KQED’s Spark, and KGO/ABC’s Profiles of Excellence. In 1997, she was a co-curator and Artistic Consultant for Dance Umbrella’s International Festival of Wheelchair Dance. Judith teaches dance to youth and adults and lectures at community organizations, schools, universities and conferences. She has been on the faculty of Florida Dance Festival and Bates Dance Festival. Judith is on the advisory board of Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, National Art and Disability Center, Dancers’ Group and Bates Dance Festival. She has participated in the Executive Program for Nonprofit Leaders in the Arts and Dance/USA’s Leadership for Artistic Directors. Judith received the 2009 Alameda County Arts Leadership Award, KQED’s Local Hero and Homer Avila danceAble awards in 2005, and Artship Foundation’s Local Hero award in 2009. In her spare time, Judith is actively involved in thoroughbred horse rescue.

Penina Ava Taesali is a poet, writer, activist, teacher and community organizer. Born of Samoan and German working class descent, Penina’s commitment to social change and the arts is rooted in her own personal history, identity and intercultural complexity. She bore the vision of sustaining the arts in Oakland as a vehicle for working class, immigrant, and minority communities to confront the challenges of economic deprivation, violence, and criminalization. For 9 years she served as Artistic Director and founder of one of Oakland’s groundbreaking community arts collaborative AYPAL TRAC (Asian Pacific Islander Youth Promoting Advocacy and Leadership – Talking Roots Art Collective). She was also founder/managing director of the Pacific Islander Kie Association (PIKA), providing services to Pacific Island youth and parents. Penina’s interest in poetry inspired other projects, including “Poetry in the Kitchen,” an intergenerational program she co-founded with beloved oral historian and poet Al Robles. She received the “Best Spoken Word Performance of the Millenium” Award from KPFA FM. Presently she works to bring underrepresented families into school councils in the Oakland Unified Schools District.

DreamSpeakers growing list of sponsors include: Asian Improv ARts, Asian Pacific Islander Queer Women & Transgender Coalition, EastSide Arts Alliance, Juniper Networks, Our Family Coalition, Reclaim Your Health Chiropractic Care, Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble, Vibrant Body Wellness, and ZeroDivide


Purple Moon Dance Project was founded in 1992 by Artistic Director Jill Guillermo-Togawa, with the mission of creating positive social change and healing for a diverse community of women, particularly lesbian women of color, and their families, through the medium of dance. For the past 10 years, Purple Moon has developed holistic programs through its Community Arts & Health Education programs, primarily for women of color with life-threatening illness, elders and in recovery, using dance and movement to heal their bodies. The programs are held weekly in conjunction with the Chinatown Public Health Center and Latino Commission of the San Francisco’s Department of Public Health.

Purple Moon’s work is and funded in part by: Astraea Foundation, The California Endowment, California Arts Council, California Council of the Humanities, California Civil Liberties Public Education Program, East Bay Community Foundation’s Fund for Artists, Horizons Foundation, James Irvine Foundation, and SF Grants for the Arts/Hotel Tax Fund and the Purple Moon Galaxy

For to purchase tickets go to For more information on volunteer, donor and sponsorship opportunities, please contact [email protected], call 415-552-1105 or go to Purple Moon Dance Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. All donations are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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