A Memory of Light: Past Summits

BlackLight Summit 2021


A Black, POC and LGBTQ+ celebratory space and an open invitation for participation, learning and conversation with all.

To interrogate this unique historical moment, the BlackLight Summit sought to be a spark that ignited daring innovation and revealed the creativity within the dance ecosystem in America. Our inaugural BlackLight Summit was a year-long dance initiative that investigated how time, people, possibility and hope can come together to examine legacy, citizenship and scholarship. The Summit asked, through the practice of being socially responsible within the arts: How do we create traditions? How do we transform them into enduring legacies?

The peak of the BlackLight Summit was a virtual three-day convening that featured roundtable conversations, movement labs and artistic presentations from BlackLight featured artists Micaela Taylor, Johnnie Cruise Mercer, Candace Scarborough and Jamal Abrams. Our initiative aimed to re-envision how dance can be a conduit to galvanize imagination, resilience, and inventiveness.


We are standing on the soil of what is currently known to us as America. This land has been the site of atrocities too great to name, but in an attempt to begin the process of national healing, we take the first step of repair, which is acknowledgement.

We acknowledge that the first people on this land were not Europeans, but indeed the people currently referred to as Native.

We acknowledge that the lives of these people began long before Europeans came here, but that much of the history has been lost due to colonial, imperialist practices.

We acknowledge that the blood, sweat and tears of the people currently referred to as Black or African-American, fertilized this land, their hands tilled the soil and built the edifices.

We acknowledge that their cultural capital has been exploited, stolen and in many cases, all together destroyed.

We acknowledge that today we hike, bike, and walk on the trails in DC, Maryland and Virginia (DMV) that formerly enslaved people used as harrowing routes to freedom.

We acknowledge that today we visit, eat, chat and relax in state buildings, restaurants, schools, houses of worship and even homes in the DMV that were made manifest by the unpaid labor of formerly enslaved people whose very descendants may not currently be welcome there.

We reckon with the fact that our words of acknowledgment are just that, words and only represent a first step in repairing the many breaches of this nation.

We seek forgiveness from the ones able to grant it.

We seek courage to wrestle with our complicity.

We seek the resolve to do better.

Written By Ronya-Lee Anderson



Family and Friends!

I want to express my deepest gratitude for your interest and presence for the inaugural year of the BlackLight Summit. For the Summit, we were anchored by the African proverb "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."

Wow! We went so far over those three days! Thank you so much for becoming a part of this gentle army of artists, thinkers, scholars, citizens and revolutionaries. The Clarice cannot wait to see you next year for our 2022 Summit.

Until then, please remember that:

Greater is Coming, There is More In You, Be Kind to Yourself on Purpose!

With Love and Gratitude,

–Tariq Darrel O'Meally,
BlackLight Summit Producer



Over the course of the BlackLight Summit, 189 guests joined us for a series of dynamic movement workshops!



Candace Scarborough and Micaela Taylor • Thursday, March 4, 2021
Baye & Asa and Carlo Antonio Villanueva • Friday, March 5, 2021
Jamal Abrams & Johnnie Cruise Mercer • Saturday, March 6, 2021


Mentorship is a core value of BlackLight Summit. The Summit’s Career Readiness Program, which kicked off in September 2020, has followed an eight-month arc wherein every participating student is paired with a professional mentor. The program pairs 15 BIPOC mentees with 15 BIPOC working dance artists. By the conclusion of their tenure in the mentorship program, students will have received four 1-1 sessions and 2 cohort meetings, designed to address the unique needs of each mentee.

This series of inspirational conversations and artistic development is aimed at guiding students on the transition from student to professional. Mentees are also participating in the three-day summit.

2020-21 Mentees:

Angelika Albertorio • University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Jada Avery • Shenandoah University
Ashayla Byrd • Shenandoah University
Malik Gomes Cruz • American University
Joshua Gray • University of Maryland, Baltimore County
Gabrielle "Gabbi" Hawkins • Bowie State University
Nateé Himmons • George Washington University
Kayla Jackson • Virginia Commonwealth University
Keola Jones • Virginia Commonwealth University
Kareem Mack • Howard Community College
Kinaya McEady • George Washington University
Nneka Onyima • University of Maryland
Allyson Trunzer • Shenandoah University
Geneva White • Howard University


We'd like to extend special thanks to Ronya-Lee Anderson and Sarah Beth Oppenheim who conceived of and led the Career Readiness Program for this year's BlackLight Summit. Their insightful work made the program's inaugural year successful, and we are grateful for their leadership, commitment and care."

–Jane Hirshberg • Assistant Director–Campus and Community Engagement


College of Arts & Humanities Newsroom: Summit Creates Celebratory Space for BIPOC and LGBTQ+ Dance Artists

"The summit will encourage intimate conversation, and hopefully people will find notions of connection, compassion and grace for themselves and the world that they’re living in, while also being activated to shape the world in the ways they see fit.” Read Full Story

Dance Magazine: This New Virtual Festival Centers BIPOC and LGBTQ+ Artists

"What's been really impressive about [BlackLight Summit Producer Tariq Darrell O'Meally] and why he's been such a valuable team member is that he thinks beyond dance," says The Clarice's acting executive director, Erica Bondarev Rapach. "Dance is his lens, but the conversations that we dream about happening at the Summit go beyond dance. That's what's really powerful about it." Read Full Story

The Diamondback: Underrepresented Artists Got to Shine at The Clarice’s BlackLight Summit

"It’s not just about what [dance artists] are making, but how they’re making and how they’re treating and interacting with the people that are operating within.” Read Full Story

Metro Weekly: The BlackLight Summit at Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center

"The three-day March summit is ... a Black, POC, and LGBTQ+ celebratory space and an open invitation for participation, learning and conversation with all.” Read Full Story


Baye & Asa

Baye & Asa is a company creating movement art projects directed by Amadi ‘Baye’ Washington & Sam ‘Asa’ Pratt. They grew up together in New York City and that shared educational history is the mother of their work. Through the personal dynamics of their brotherhood, they address the larger political landscape of their upbringing, struggling to show a reality of violence while communicating a necessity for empathy.

Charlie Maybee

Charlie Maybee is a music and dance artist from Woodbridge, VA. He holds an M.F.A. in dance from the University of Illinois with a certificate in criticism and interpretive theory, a B.F.A. from Virginia Commonwealth University and is an alumnus of the Metropolitan Youth Tap Ensemble. As an educator, Charlie is currently on faculty at Shenandoah University where he primarily teaches tap dance technique, choreography, history and improvisation.

Greg David

Greg David is a movement artist based in the DMV area. Exploring themes of grief, fear, care and solitude, the work and movement they enjoy making goes hand in hand with human emotion and experience and aims to capture that essence in motion. David joined Culture Shock® Washington DC in 2012 and became the artistic director for their 2015 and 2016 seasons where, nationally and internationally, they presented stage works and taught workshops.

Johnnie Cruise Mercer

Recently acknowledged as a 2021 Princess Grace Award Recipent in Choreograpy, and nominated for two 2021 Bessie Awards in Dance and Performance, Johnnie Cruise Mercer is a queer-black think-maker, freelance-performer, educator and social entrepreneur based in New York City. A native of Richmond, VA, Mercer holds a BFA in Dance and Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University. As the Company Director of Johnnie Cruise Mercer/TheREDprojectNYC, his processes/work has been shared and/or hosted by 92Y Harkness Dance Center, Gibney: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center, Dixon Place, Danspace Project Inc, The Fusebox Festival, Mana Contemporary, The NADA Conference, Abrons Arts Center and most recently at The Clarice Performing Arts Center's BlackLight Summit. As an educator, Mercer facilitates within the New York Public School system through The Leadership Program-a mentorship-based organization that uses art to foster/engage restorative justice and motivate the true empowerment of self. Mercer has also been on teaching faculty/a guest artist at The American Dance Festival, Bates Dance Festival, PRATT Institute, NYU Tisch Dance Program, Gibney, University of Massachusetts Amherst, DeSales University, Muhlenberg College, the University of Texas at Austin, University of Maryland and The Dance Institute of Washington. Mercer was most recently a 2019-2021 Artist in Residence at Brooklyn Arts Exchange, a 2020-2021 Ping Chong and Company Creative Fellow and a 2020-2021 AIR through New Dance Alliance’s Black Artists Space to Create Residency curated by Angie Pittman. He is currently a 2022 Artist in Residence at Center for Performance Research.

Kayla Farrish

Kayla Farrish/Decent Structures Arts is an emerging company combining filmmaking, storytelling, dance theater performance and sound score. The company has been commissioned by Gibney Dance Inc (2020-2021), Louis Armstrong House Museum (2020), Danspace Project Inc (2019), Pepatian and BAAD! (2018) and beyond. Kayla has been supported by creative residencies including Gallim Women + Residency (2021), Gibney Spotlight: New Voices, Barysnikov Arts Center and Arts On Site (2020).


BlackLight Summit Artists & Panelists

Jamal Abrams
Ronya-Lee Anderson
Esperonto Bean
Melissa Blanco Borelli
Laura Jessica Brown
Krystal Collins
Rebecca A. Ferrell
Dr. James Frazier
Kahina Haynes
Elizabeth Johnson
Colette Krogol
T. Lang
Chris Law
Shanice Mason
Gabriel Mata-Ortega
Charlie Maybee-Ferrell
Johnnie Cruise Mercer
Christopher K. Morgan
Tariq Darrell O'Meally
Nneka Onyima
Sarah Beth Oppenheim
Pam Pietro
Erica Saucedo
Candace Scarborough
Dr. Gaynell Sherrod
Micaela Taylor
Carlos Antonio Villanueva
Amadi 'Baye' Washington & Sam 'Asa' Pratt
Cyrah Ward
Aisha White

BlackLight Summit Artistic Partners

Ronya-Lee Anderson • University of Maryland, Doctoral Candidate – School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies
Phil Davis • Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Prince George’s County Countywide Arts Coordinator Arts & Cultural Heritage Division
Elizabeth Johnoson • Dance Exchange , Associate Artistic Director & Director of Partnerships
Rebecca A. Ferrell • Dance/USA, Director of Programs
Gabriel Mata-Ortega • University of Maryland, Master of Fine Arts Candidate – School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies
Charlie Maybee • Shenandoah University, Adjunct Assistant Professor
Alvin Mayes • University of Maryland, Head of Dance Performance and Scholarship – School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies
Christopher K. Morgan • Dance Place, Executive Artistic Director
Vinny Mwano • Filmmaker, Digital Marketer, Photographer & Educator
Sarah Beth Oppenhiem • Teaching Artist & Artistic Director of Heart Stück Bernie
Darlene Watkins • Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, Arts & Cultural Heritage Division Chief
Aisha White • Freelance Consultant
Patrik Widrig • University of Maryland, Professor of Dance Performance and Scholarship – School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies