by Lewis J. Whittington for The Dance Journal
Hundreds of people turned out to celebrate with the Community Education Center board members as they took ownership of 3500 Lancaster Avenue on a chilly Friday night October 27. There was wine, food, dancing, singing, exaltation, but foremost, the expression of unabashed community love bestowed on Terri Shockley for all she has done for the CEC over the years. A stellar line-up of musicians headed by jazz vocalist V. Shayne Fredericks got things rolling as a steady stream of well-wishers poured into the CEC throughout the evening to say farewell to Ms. Terri.
It was a night of artistic and community exaltation and there was plenty of news. Shockley passed the torch to Jamie Merwin with the announcement that Merwin will be the interim director as the board considers a permanent director. Meanwhile, Shockley was repeatedly called to the stage for tributes, honorariums, and recognition of her artistic and civic achievements from Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kinney’s office on behalf of the City and from State Rep. Vanessa Brown on behalf of the Pennsylvania State Legislature.
Shockley was visibly moved by the presentations from the CEC Board and offerings by actors, poets, dancers, artists, and musicians, all of whom made it a performance night to remember for everyone in attendance.
Philly jazz singer Ella Gahnt sang a sizzling version of Autumn Leaves, Dancer-choreographer Charles Tyson serenaded Terri with Sam Cooke’s classic song You Send Me- performance wise it was a variety night to remember. An artistic invocation by drum master Karen Smith titled “Calling up the Ancestors” and celebrated actor Brian A. Wilson performed a scene from the play “Thurgood Marshall. A poem and a musical tribute by Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon in praise of Shockley’s arts advocacy and inspiring commitment to community activism, inclusion, and diversity. The finale of a thrilling dance by Camara Arts Dance Company it a joyous African ritualized dance accompanied by a six-piece drum ensemble.
Ms. Terri was visibly moved at several moments, but the emotional highlight came when her final official task as the director came and the old lease of the building was placed in a metal bowl and she said: “does anyone have a match.” Her head bowed over the flame for her final official task, then Shockley raised her arms in triumph.
Celebrating with Ms. Terri, her husband playwright Ed Shockley, greeting many well-wishers and serenely chronicling the evening in his notebook as CEC’s community of artists danced into the night and partied on in the CEC’s Meetinghouse Theatre. The evening and this crowd indeed, symbolizing the bountiful and enduring artistic environment that Terri has inspired.
Terri Shockley steps down & The Community Education Center reorganizes
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