Tess Little talk about REACH, the annual event that seeks to celebrate the various ethnic groups and cultures that make up the Miami Valley.

REACH event brings ethnic and cultural groups together

Sherraid Scott got hooked on the REACH conference many years ago when she and a colleague were searching for a way to introduce Japanese exchange students at Antioch College to American culture.

“We wanted to show them something different from what they could get from TV and movies or the Antioch campus and Yellow Springs,” she explains.

The two discovered REACH, the one-day conference at Sinclair Community College that’s co-sponsored by Sinclair, EbonNia Gallery and the Dayton Visual Arts Center. Scott says it turned out to be the perfect solution.

“It’s endless — cloggers, banjo players, small groups on cultural identity, mind-stirring lectures on important issues and on and on,” she says about the event. “It opened my mind to the cultures available beyond the edges of Yellow Springs. I had no idea that Dayton was 40 percent Appalachian and 40 percent black and that there were actually black Appalachians.”

The annual REACH event, now in its 21st year, seeks to celebrate the various ethnic groups and cultures that make up the Miami Valley. REACH stands for Realizing Ethnic Awareness & Cultural Heritage. Art exhibits highlight each year’s theme.

“I am an artist, a printmaker, so I always enjoy playing with whatever project artist Bing Davis sets up,” Scott says. “I love country music but am too shy to go out to hear it, so am thrilled when REACH gets such great performers — I had no idea what heavenly music steel drums make, for example.”

This year’s event

This year’s conference, “In the Spirit of Greatness,” is slated for Friday, Feb. 28 at Sinclair.

The day, according to organizer Tess Little, will offers many opportunities to consider the theme and ask questions such as: What is greatness? Who defines greatness? Do I know anyone I would define as great? How can I aspire to greatness?

The day begins with a morning song — this year by musician David Baugham who plays fingerstyle slap guitar.

The keynote speaker is Dr. Raymond Doswell, vice-president of curatorial services for the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City, Mo., who’ll share stories and lessons from his years of interactions with former baseball players of the Negro leagues. A panel discussion on the legacy of the Negro Baseball League will be moderated by Dayton Daily News sports reporter Tom Archdeacon and — in addition to Doswell — will also feature Darnell Carter of the Clark County Historical Society, Tony Roseboro, a Columbus lawyer, and Ted Mills, owner of Ted Mills Baseball in Dayton.

Other highlights of the day will include a panel discussion by Sinclair’s international students, an art workshop using recycled materials, a bluegrass musical concert, a discussion on mediation, a presentation on the Cherokee in Appalachia. Participants can see how sculpture can be combined with meditation for stress management, hear a native American flute and stories, learn the history of baseball in Latin America.

The eclectic program will end with a performance by Deron Bell and the Dayton-Funk Allstars Band — a group that performs hit songs of the Dayton-based music groups that created the funk sound in the 80s.

Little says about 300 people come together each year to share experiences from their lives.

“The REACH mission is to bring community together,” she says. “REACH believes: That which unites us is greater than that which divides us, and that open discussion, study, and communication can lead to understanding.”

Art exhibits

Art exhibits are an integral part of the REACH concept: exhibitions are now on display at the art galleries at Sinclair and at the Dayton Visual Art Center.

The Sinclair exhibit is touring from Doswell’s Kansas City museum.

“The exhibit is about the exceptional athletes who couldn’t compete at what was considered the highest level in baseball simply because of their race and started their own baseball leagues,” explains Pat McClelland, who coordinates the galleries at Sinclair.

The art show, on display through March 12, is located in three separate galleries and features 38 pieces by 27 artists.

“It’s a fairly eclectic art exhibit,” says McClelland. “A lot of it is narrative in nature — illustrations of specific moments in baseball — but some is more conceptual and abstract as well.”

He says all sorts of people are enjoying the exhibit including history buffs, baseball fans and art folks. Included are some historical team jerseys.

Jane Black, the former director of DVAC and now director of engagement at the Dayton Art Institute, has been involved with REACH for many years.

“During these two decades, REACH has become a red-letter day for many of us — a time devoted to ourselves and each other; a day to focus on the things that truly matter and will make a long lasting contribution,” she has written. “It is a day to appreciate how we are more alike than different.”

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