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Poet Elizabeth Alexander, DJ Spooky to honor NAACP with new works

June 23, 2009 | 11:00 am

Elizabeth_alexanderFile it under the "odd pairings" department -- or maybe it will be a truly inspired cultural event. 

When the NAACP celebrates its 100th anniversary convention next month in New York, attendees will have the privilege of experiencing two very different world premiere works of art: a new poem by Elizabeth Alexander -- the poet laureate who spoke at President Obama's inauguration -- and a new piece by DJ Spooky that mixes music, voices and visual art.

The event will take place July 12 at 6 p.m. at New York's Hilton Hotel Ballroom and also will feature Mayor Michael Bloomberg, scholar and activist Cornel West and the NAACP's chairman Julian Bond. The world premieres represent the work of the NAACP Commissioning Project. The new endeavor, led by Dr. Rae-Alexander Minter, aimed to organize a group of individuals to commission an African American composer and a poet as a way of honoring the NAACP's anniversary. 

For the spoken-word part of the evening, Elizabeth Alexander will read a new poem, or "anthem," as the show's organizers are billing it, that will be set to traditional music by Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr. Alexander, a professor of African American studies at Yale University, was invited by the incoming Obama administration to read her poem "Praise Song for the Day" at the inauguration ceremony in Washington.

Also on tap for the evening, DJ Spooky (otherwise known as Paul D. Miller) will perform a multimedia remix of recorded music, voices and images. According to the event's organizers, he will create a hip-hop-inflected version of "Go Down Moses" that will combine a live performance by the duo Black Violin together with recorded voices and images from the Civil Rights movement.

The evening is co-presented by Meet the Composer, which works to commission new compositions and art via individual patronage initiatives.

-- David Ng

Photo: Elizabeth Alexander delivering the inaugural poem in January. Credit: Associated Press