The George Washington University
Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre, Marvin Center (1st Floor)
800 21st Street, NW, Washington, D.C.
(Foggy Bottom-GWU Metro Station, Blue and Orange lines)
SPONSORS: GW Department of Theatre and Dance, and the Global Women’s Institute, with the support of the Department of Music, the Africana Studies and Women’s Studies Programs, and the Multi-Cultural Students Association; and community sponsors, the Bokamoso Youth Foundation, the Seekers Church, and St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.
Since the summer of 2003, Professor Leslie Jacobson has traveled to
the rural township of Winterveldt, South Africa, with colleague Roy
Barber from St. Andrews Episcopal School, to work with the young men
and women at the Bokamoso Youth Center, using theatre, music, and dance
to address issues challenging these youth and their families in their
community, struggling with the realities of poverty: lack of education
and employment opportunities; teenage pregnancy; rape and other violent
crime; the HIV/AIDS crisis; etc. Created under the Apartheid regime
in the early 1950’s, and situated about 30 miles northwest of Pretoria,
the sprawling rural township of Winterveldt (population of over 700,000),
though plagued with many challenges, is actively working to heal and
restore its population, with contributions from various civic and religious
organizations and private individuals. One of the most effective community
organizations, the Bokamoso Youth Center, works with at-risk youth to
bring focus and hope to their lives, and to get them into school and
Each summer, Jacobson, often accompanied by GW students (funded by
undergraduate research fellowships), and Barber have developed plays
and songs that address social problems in their community. These plays
evolve from collaborations with the youth and participating GW students.
Since 2004, a dozen youth from the Bokamoso Youth Center have traveled
to the U.S. every January, staying with GW students for a week, attending
classes, participating in the lives of University students. This deeply
meaningful cultural exchange culminates in a performance at the Dorothy
Betts Marvin Theatre of the George Washington University, to benefit
the Center’s Scholarship Fund.
The arts can be transformative in their power – and the relationship
we have with the Bokamoso Youth Center is a living example of this power. This documentary,
created by Caroline O’Grady, a theatre major accompanying Jacobson to
Winterveldt in 2009, was funded by a Gamow Undergraduate Research Fellowship.