Inspiring Conversation Invoking Change text on graphic Inspiring Conversation Invoking Change text on graphic
Building Trust Creating Unity text on graphic Building Trust Creating Unity text on graphic

Black Arts Initiative

Hope, Activism, and Reconciliation through Music, Drama, Art, Literature

Accomplished International Artists. Interactive Virtual Programs that Unite.

Goals of the Initiative

Leverage the power of Black Arts and Artists to inspire conversation and invoke change.
Use the exploration and discovery of Black Music and Arts to heal and unite.
Find commonality, build community


Meet the Artists

Michael Mwenso

Michael Mwenso
Music Activist

Shariffa Ali

Shariffa Ali
Director, Creative Innovator


Frank Stewart

Frank Stewart
Black Culture Photographer 

Simeon Marsalis

Simeon Marsalis
Author, Activist, Educator

Let’s Work Together!

Excited by what you see? We are eager to connect and share the wisdom and warmth of everyone involved in the Black Arts Initiative with you.

Let’s get the conversation started!

Gwenmarie Ewing
Performing Arts Series Assistant Director

From the Producers

In response to the ongoing crisis faced by the United States at the hands of racial injustice, it is becoming increasingly more important for organizations and individuals alike to not simply be “not racist” but to actively work to become ANTI-Racist.

By providing a series of Artist-led educational tools and strategies to harness principles of equity, inclusivity and diversity, our team seeks to encourage and empower participants to play a more active and pivotal role in dismantling racism in their workplace and everyday lives.

A Conversation with
Rajiv Joseph 

Pulitzer-Prize Nominated Playwright
Cromer/Flory Artist-in-Residence

Join Rajiv Joseph, playwright, screenwriter and Miami University alum, in a virtual discussion about his life and work including the recent Miami University Theatre Department reading of Describe the Night an epic play that traces the stories of seven lives connected by history, myth, and conspiracy theories.

Get the Zoom Link

Photo of Rajiv Joseph a man with dark short hair and dark eyes smiling

Rajiv Joseph talk graphic

We Gather Together In Music Episode 7: The Flight of the Phoenix

A Concert Series on Diversity Equity & Inclusion

In celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies

For Karen Dawisha


“Phoenix” by Georgi Andreev performed by the Oxford Chamber Orchestra, formed with members of the Miami University Symphony Orchestra, with soloist Mary Harris, viola



Professor Elijah van Benschoten

Miami University Emerging Technology in Business and Design students

Notes on the performance by MUSO Music Director Ricardo Averbach:

Born in Bulgaria, composer Georgi Andreev won awards from the Union of Bulgarian Composers and the Alfred Schnittke Prize for his Piano Sonata. Faithful to his roots as performer of Bulgarian folk music, he has been working for many years as chief conductor of the Philip Koutev State Folklore Ensemble. 

Phoenix was named by the composer Georgi Andreev, a “chamber symphony for string orchestra” dedicated to the Armenian genocide. The work is divided into three movements, and in this interpretation they form a trilogy of colors abstractly conveyed in works produced by the students of Miami’s Emerging Technologies in Business and Design program, under Professor Elijah van Benschoten.

H’rteh (Fire) is represented by the color red

Vohpal (Lament) is represented by the color blue

Hajgagan bar (Armenian Dance) is represented by the color orange

While the first movement is performed by the GBU Orchestra conducted by the composer, the second and third movements are performed by the Oxford Chamber Orchestra with Professor Mary Harris as soloist.


NEW! YouTube Series in collaboration with the Miami University Symphony Orchestra

We Gather Together in Music: A Series on Diversity Equity & Inclusion

Ambitious in scope and impressively innovative, the virtual series brings together a global collection of compositions recorded remotely by orchestra members and then knitted together for an awe-inspiring orchestral sound. Conceived by Miami University Symphony Orchestra Music Director Ricardo Averbach and presented by the Performing Arts Series.

More Episodes to Come!

Available on demand through the Spring.

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YouTube Series in collaboration with the Miami University Symphony Orchestra

Concerto Competition Winners: A Series Celebrating Miami Student Performers

Applaud the skilled performances of the selected champions of the Music Department’s annual competition. In years past, these lauded students would have been soloists at the MUSO’s spring concerts performing for in-person audiences. This year, they each perform a short recital for the cameras in the elegant setting of the Oxford Community Arts Center ballroom.

More Episodes to Come!

Available on demand through the Spring.

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Concerto Competition Winners Final Episode: Joe Kovac, cello

Performance Details

Robert Schumann: Concerto in A minor for cello and orchestra Nicht zu schnell Joe Kovac, cello with Jacob Miller, piano

Joe Kovac discovered the cello in middle school and began lessons in high school. He received a Bachelor of Music from Florida State University where he studied with Mr. Gregory Sauer. Joe is currently working on a Master of Music at Miami University of Ohio under the tutelage of Dr. Sarah Kim. He will graduate in May and go on to pursue a Doctoral degree this fall. Joe currently plays in the Kentucky Symphony Orchestra, and will play with the renowned National Repertory Orchestra this summer. When he isn’t practicing, you would most likely see Joe weightlifting, running, or cooking.

Program notes The Cello Concerto in A minor, op. 129 (1850) was one of Robert Schumann’s last works before his battle with mental illness consumed him three years later. Schumann had two alter egos which he named Florestan and Eusebius. These characters give insight to his quirky genius, and present themselves operatically in the cello concerto. Florestan sings out during the bold, extroverted exclamations. Eusebius peaks through the cracks in a shy, introverted, and perhaps troubled voice. While concertos are usually a virtuosic display of the solo instrument, this cello concerto is more akin to poetry. Schumann uses the cello to narrate the conflict between his alter egos.

This cello concerto begins with a few dark, ponderous chords in the piano. This sets the stage for the voice of Eusebius, which enters shyly through the cello. Though this concerto is written in three movements played without pause, this stand-alone performance of the first movement requires  

Musical Snack #30: Images, Book II, by Claude Debussy

Bruce Murray's Notes

Debussy composed two books (sets) of pianos pieces that he called Images. Each book comprises three pieces. Book I commences with "Reflets dans l'eau," one of the composers's best-known piano pieces, so Book I (1901-05)is more familiar than Book II (1907). Yet Book II contains music to die for, extraordinarily beautiful while being stunningly original. The titles for individual pieces are lovely and poetical, certainly, but irrelevant! Use the titles to refer to the pieces, then forget them.

YouTube series in collaboration with the Oxford Community Arts Center

Musical Snacks: Mozart to Joplin with Bruce Murray

Wednesdays at noon wherever you are, take a break, a deep breath and enjoy a few minutes of exquisite piano music selected and performed by Oxford's own Bruce Murray and recorded in the beautiful ballroom of Oxford Community Arts Center.

New Episodes each Wednesday!

If you miss a week or want to re-watch a piece, don't worry, the videos will remain available on YouTube.

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Feel Hope in the Music!

Michael Mwenso's Songs of Black Hope and Resistance

Black Music has always played a role in American protest, hope, and resilience. 

In this FREE multi-media, web series, curator and host Michael Mwenso investigates meaningful songs from the Black roots expression that speak to the ultimate human expression.

Explore the Songs of Black Hope and Resistance

Michael Mwenso's Songs of Black Hope and Resistance additional information


Get in Touch

Even though our office in Hall Auditorium remains closed due to Covid 19, we want to see you!  Please give us a call or drop us an email and we would be happy to meet via Zoom or schedule a physically distanced in-person meeting.


Contact Us 

We Salute Our Sponsors

Presidential Series on Inclusivity - sponsored by the Office of the President

Chris Adryan, Realtor, Special Agent @Re-Max Alpha Real Estate
The Bothast-Revalee Family of Oxford, OH
Jerome Conley
The Humanities Center
Jack Keegan
The Knolls of Oxford
The Lutz Family Foundation
I Am Miami
MIA Restaurant + Studio
Talawanda-Miami Partnership
Scott and Jennifer Walter
Western College Alumnae Association

Our Partners Amplify Our Impact

Center for American and World Cultures
Enjoy Oxford
Miami Activities + Programming (MAP)
Miami University Office of Diversity Affairs
Oxford Community Arts Center
Oxford Seniors
Talawanda Public Schools
Welcome Week, Division of Student Life