Alum Deborah Vaughn's 'Project Panther' Honors the Positive

Thursday, October 06, 2016
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE -- The name “Black Panthers” conjures visions of leather jackets and berets, mayhem and murder. Oakland choreographer Deborah Vaughan prefers to focus on the social justice efforts pioneered by the controversial black power movement, founded in the city by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale in October 1966. On October 15, Vaughan’s Oakland dance company, Dimensions Dance Theater, will honor that legacy with a performance of “Project Panther” at Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts, in celebration of the Panthers’ 50th anniversary. The mixture of dance and politics is not new to Vaughan, who has long used her art as advocacy. She first encountered the Panthers as a dance student at San Francisco State in the late 1960s, through her teacher and mentor Ruth Beckford-Smith. The modern and Afro-Haitian dance legend, now 90, was a sympathizer, and she ran the breakfast program. “She invited us to the breakfast and told us how important it was,” Vaughan says.