BHM: The Amazing Ailey

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Natalie Nevins, Features Editor

Although often times overlooked for other influential African American pioneers, Alvin Ailey’s ongoing legacy still holds a respective impact on society today. Ailey was a legendary modern dance pioneer, choreographer, and civil rights activist who was taken from this life 41 years ago due to an AID’s related illness on December 1st, 1989. Ailey was born into poverty in Texas in 1931, and utilized most of his harsh experiences living in the rural south as fuel and inspiration for some of his most famous works. In 1958, Ailey founded the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater which was a company designated to enrich the American modern dance heritage, and preserve the special African American cultural experience. Ailey established the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center in 1969, and formed the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble in 1974. Ailey pioneered programs promoting arts in education, particularly for those benefiting underprivileged communities. Throughout the duration of his life, Ailey was awarded the Kennedy Center Honor in 1988 in recognition of his tremendous efforts given to American culture. Recently, in 2014, Ailey was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition for his commitment and dedication to the culture of dance as well as to civil rights. 

Personally, I feel that Ailey is underrated, and is deserving of more limelight when it comes to African American history. Ailey was a strong activist for equality and the basic rights of all human beings, regardless of gender, race, sexuality, or any other irrational excuse to treat a person differently. As many say, Ailey stood for “multi-racial brotherhood” and demonstrated his personal feelings about society through his craft. Although his impact has continued to live on through the dance world today, I do personally feel that Ailey is deserving of more recognition and appreciation as one of the early African American pioneers who has contributed to society.