Upcoming performance honors trailblazing women

Pat Gareau


Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee are both well known for their performances and art, but the two women who both passed away less than 10 months ago were also civil rights activists.

Donald Hyman will be putting the work of these two African-American women on display at Hudson Valley on Feb. 17 in “A Tribute to Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee.” The event is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. in the BTC auditorium and will include inspirational music, the poetry and writing of Dee and Angelou, original poetry, and dramatic skits.

Penny Meachem, a poet and actress, will be featured in the performance.

“One thing you have to note about Maya Angelou’s impact on the African-American community is that every school had a tribute,” said Hyman.

Hyman had produced a tribute to Maya Angelou and given a video of it to her niece only one month before Angelou passed away. After that, his tribute programs came into high demand.

“At that point, I realized it was a divine thing that happened,” said Hyman.

Hyman has long felt it important that students learn about Angelou. Years ago, Hyman found out that Angelou would be coming to the Palace Theatre in Albany and reached out to see if he could get a few free tickets for his students at Albany High School, where he teaches.

“It’s important they see someone who was successful but didn’t come up with a silver spoon,” said Hyman. According to Hyman, all of the students who went with him are now successful.

For Hyman, Ruby Dee also served as an inspiration when he was young. The actress and writer played Harriet Tubman in a TV special called “Profiles of Courage.”

“They were both very well recognized in the performing arts and literature, but the part I will be talking about is social activism,” said Hyman.

According to Hyman, Angelou was involved in the movements of both Martin Luther King and Malcolm X in the 1960s. Ruby Dee was the stage manager at the March on Washington, where King delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech.

Hyman has been performing in the Capital Region for nearly a decade. His first big gig was impersonating Frederick Douglas. Since then, he has been a staple of the performing arts circuit around the Capital Region.

“Because of Maya Angelou and Ruby Dee both passing around the same time, it’s still fresh in the air,” he said.


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