Penn State panelists to join ‘Frederick Douglass Project’ discussion Feb. 8

A man of color with a full head of hair and beard looks solemnly off the frame into the distance.
Frederick Douglass circa 1879
Actor Keith David will read abolitionist’s historic 1883 speech in free virtual event
A panel of seven featuring members of the Penn State and Black education communities will join audience discussions after “The Frederick Douglass Project.” Emmy Award-winning actor Keith David will deliver the dramatic reading of a speech by the legendary 19th-century American abolitionist in the free program. The virtual event will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 8, via Zoom. It is co-presented by the Center for the Performing Arts and Theater of War Productions. The program is free, but registration is required. Visit “The Frederick Douglass Project” for more information and to register. After the reading, the Penn State-affiliated panelists will prompt discussion about the speech. Event Director Bryan Doerries and company community liaison Dominic Dupont will moderate a public, townhall-style audience discussion. The panelists are:
  • Natnael Abate, fourth-year Penn State student majoring in biobehavioral health with a minor in human development and family studies;
  • Alessandra Ayoub, first-year criminology student at Penn State Wilkes-Barre;
  • Avery Chahl, doctoral candidate in Penn State College of Health and Human Development;
  • Janel Moore-Almond, 2018 recipient of the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching, and curriculum writer and reviewer for the Colored Conventions Project;
  • Ava Starks, third-year Penn State student and president of the Student Black Caucus;
  • Julio Toussaint, a student at Penn State Abington and member of the Black Student Union; and
  • Terry Watson, assistant director of Penn State Student Disability Services and founder of Strategies for Justice at Battle with Moses People LLC.
David will read a speech delivered by Douglass at the National Convention of Colored Men in Louisville, Kentucky, on September 24, 1883. The convention was controversial. White and Black leaders debated its necessity, optics and chance of vote interference. Douglass’ speech answered the posed question—why are we holding this convention?—by explaining the importance and urgency for Black communities to secure full voting rights and fair and equal treatment. Watch a preview of the reading by David. David is a three-time Emmy Award-winning narrator (Ken Burns’ “The War,” “Jackie Robinson” and “Unforgiveable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson.”) He also is a classically trained actor (“Nope,” “Platoon,” “Blackish,” “Community”) and voiceover artist (“Adventure Time,” “Rick and Morty”). He was nominated for a 1992 Tony Award for his role in the musical “Jelly’s Last Jam.” As a singer, David has toured for the past several years with “Too Marvelous for Words,” in which he portrays Nat King Cole; and “Here’s to Life,” a show about legendary jazz singer Joe Williams. Theater of War Productions is a social impact company that uses theater and other media to address pressing public health and social issues. Group discussions help to underscore how the texts resonate with contemporary audiences and invite discussion to help break down stigmas and foster a deeper understanding of complex issues. Acknowledgements Richard Robert Brown Program Endowment provides support. The Center for the Performing Arts thanks these Penn State partners for their support: College of Arts and Architecture; College of Health and Human Development; College of the Liberal Arts; Office of the Vice Provost for Commonwealth Campuses; Penn State Wilkes-Barre; Smeal College of Business; and University Libraries. We also acknowledge the Colored Conventions Project and Douglass Day at the Center for Black Digital Research at Penn State. Douglass Day will celebrate the birthday of Frederick Douglass with a global Black history transcribe-a-thon on February 14, 2023. Visit for information. Find the Center for the Performing Arts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Unit Outreach: Center for the Performing Arts
Offices: Alumni, Office of Access and Equity