What happens when a college, a high school and local artists join together to celebrate diversity? The result is ‘Breaking Barriers, Building Bridges,’ an evening of multicultural performances of dance, music, spoken word and art. The event will be held on Friday, April 29, 2022 at 5 p.m. in the Perkins Student Center Auditorium on Penn State Berks campus. The program is free and open to the public, but seating is limited and registration is required.
The collaborative project brings together the Penn State Berks Center for Academic and Community Engagement, Reading Senior High School, community organizations and select artists from the Reading community. The program’s community liaison and program production partner is Jobany Bedoya of Red Tie Affairs.
The goal of the program is to bring all members of the local community together through the arts. “This event hopes to break barriers of stereotypes so that we can build bridges between groups to strengthen our community,” explained Donna Chambers, director of CACE at Penn State Berks.
Students enrolled in a variety of Penn State Berks courses including environmental sciences, speech, intercultural communications, criminal justice, digital media, creative writing, and Spanish participated in semester-long service-learning and community engagement projects.
These projects helped to foster empathy and a multi-dimensional understanding of diversity. They also helped to create cultural bridges and enduring relationships between campus and community – all culminating in an evening of diverse multicultural performances.
Each act in the program expresses a message of social justice awareness, to highlight inclusivity, multicultural experiences and issues; create unity, and build community.
The event will include dance performances by community organizations including Gray Cloud – American Indian Song and Dance Group; Rize, a creative arts organization for youth; Barrio Alegria, a community engagement organization that utilizes the arts to create transformations; and WH Dance Academy, as well as the Reading High School Dance Team, and the Penn State Berks Step Team and the Penn State Berks Dance Team.
Spoken word performances will be presented by David Nazario artist-in-residence at South Central PaARTners, and Berks County poet laureates Jayne Brown, retired professor of English at Penn State Berks, and Anthony Orozco, multimedia journalist at WITF, Inc. Live music will be provided by local talent Los Monstros and Juan Londoño. In addition, Penn State Berks will highlight stories and air video on Reading’s Star City Boxing programs.
Reading High School held a student contest to design the program cover artwork, and the winning submission was created by Meyshalee Bonilla.
The program is made possible through a grant from the Humanities Institute at Penn State University.