Dr. Marguerite Mariama uses her “life as a classroom” – transforming hard won lessons into strategies for helping others achieve authenticity, personal and academic success. Her story is one of triumph over adversity – where life-changing forces were always present. And, where arts training and strategic mentoring altered her life’s trajectory.
Photo Above: Marguerite Mariama & Dr. Barbara Sizemore
Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Marguerite credits Dr. Barbara A. Sizemore, her third-grade teacher, who later became the first black female superintendent of schools, as the inspiration and role model for her work in the education arena. As the founder and president, of the non-profit organization, Tomorrow’s Village, Inc. (501c3), Marguerite has been a leader in creating arts integration pedagogy that is designed to empower urban student social, emotional and academic success through an assortment of non-traditional modalities. Her diverse background serves as a foundation for launching innovative educational and creative work that is transformational in depth and scope. Training and experience as an educator, movement/dance therapist and activist performing artist inform her projects.
As an education strategist, she is a critical resource in developing conceptual frameworks for problem solving and growth. Curricula programs and performances are designed to engage, challenge, and inspire participants to their highest potential. Performance Pedagogy®, her trademarked, curriculum-based personal empowerment theory, and methodology has been honed for over 35 + years in the social science and education fields in both New York and Chicago. It has been used with diverse populations including underemployed and unemployed women, K-12 and college students, administrators, teachers, parents and private clients. The Performance Pedagogy® approach, which counts among its strategies the incorporation of critical and higher order thinking skills training, professional presentation skills development and an embrace of the theory of multiple of intelligence – is particularly effective with urban populations, enabling them to redesign their lives and make positive life choices. The outcomes have been extraordinary: students become more engaged in the learning process, attendance improves, grade levels increase, verbal and physical abuse declines, fear of public speaking is conquered, and there is an upsurge in retention and college enrollment. Youth and adults are empowered to move beyond their perceived limitations.
Clients have included Boards of Education in New York City, Chicago, and Long Island, New York; The United Negro College Fund, The City University of New York, The Chicago Urban League, Illinois Head Start Association, Urban Gateways, The Art Institute of Chicago, Queens and Brooklyn New York Libraries, Ravinia Festival, the New York State Legislature, The Institute for Student Achievement STAR Program (Gates Foundation funded), Yew Chung International School in Shanghai, China and Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance. She has also been a consultant to The Cosby Show (wardrobe) – and a variety of celebrity clients including musician, Miles Davis, and actor, Malcolm Jamal Warner.
Photo Above:Harlan High School Girls Choir
Marguerite took her initial music training in high school from international composer and teacher, Dr. Lena McLin, who is also gospel music founder, Thomas A. Dorsey’s niece and protégé. For several years she trained at the famed Tommy Sutton Dance Studio (now Mayfair Academy) and for four years at Harlan High School, as a member of the modern dance ensemble Orchesis. Graduating with a scholarship, she headed to Southern Illinois University where she majored in sociology and minored in black studies. She continued her pursuit of dance, and at SIU she studied for a time, with professor Grant Gray, a former Martha Graham dancer. There, Marguerite co-founded the African/modern dance troupe – MUWARA DADA. The young group traveled from SIU to East St. Louis, Illinois (via a van the university generously loaned the company) to study with Katherine Dunham, who, at the time, sponsored African dancers from Senegal to teach at PATC her performing arts and culture training center. “Sitting at Ms. Dunham’s feet and hearing her stories was awesome, she reminded us of our social responsibility as young artists – and we answered the call in our performances.” Already a civil rights activist by the age of 13 (as an early high school student, Marguerite participated in Civil Rights protest events including the now famous Willis Wagons March documented in the movie ‘63Boycott –and a rally led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1966), Ms. Dunham’s edict was a powerful and poignant affirmation. Traveling around the Midwest, to racial hotbeds like Cairo Illinois, and institutions such as Marion State Penitentiary, with accompaniment that included African drummers and the music of activist artists such as Nina Simone, MUWARA DADA used dance as a tool for social justice commentary.
Graduating from Southern Illinois University with B.A. and M.S. degrees, she headed to New York City where she studied and guest performed with Charles Moore (Dancers and Drummers of Africa), a former Dunham dancer. Several years later she would also meet and study ballet with another Dunham dancer, Livinia Williams at her studio in Brooklyn. Her acting training began while she was a professor at the City University of New York (CUNY); and, she studied at HB Studios and Actors Workshop along with private coaches. (Years later, upon returning to her hometown of Chicago, The Green Room and Actors Studio would provide continued training).
In New York she resumed her musical instruction, with classical vocal work with Kenneth Stroman and jazz training with Amina Claudine Meyers and Muhal Richard Abrams. She also studied jazz improvisation and composition at The Williamsburg Music Center, with Jimmy Sigler and Gerry Eastman. Jimmy Sigler, pianist and composer for Gamble and Huff – and Dinah Washington’s last music director – was Marguerite’s mentor and accompanist. They worked together for 14 years until his death…her CD (Wild Women Never Get The Blues…Well, Not Anymore!) is his final recording. Marguerite also studied with be-bop legend, Barry Harris. And, as a member of his Vocal Orchestra, she had the privilege of being directed by Coleridge Taylor-Perkinson, Lena Horne’s music director. With national and international experience as a big band and small ensemble jazz and blues vocalist, Marguerite has appeared in numerous music festivals including the Chicago Blues Festival, The South Shore Jazz Festival, Ravinia Festival, The Henry Street Music Festival (NY), The Hyde Park Jazz Festival (Chicago), and New York Concerts in the Park. She has been a musical guest on numerous television shows including BET Jazz, and co-produced and hosted the Sounds of Sikia music series for WYCC-TV, a PBS affiliate, in Chicago. She has done extensive tours of Asia, including China, Taiwan and Singapore. Performances have included gigs with Barry Harris, Chico Freeman, Buster Williams, Eric Reed, Stanley Banks, Russell Malone, Lonnie Plaxico, Lui Satterfield, Lafayette Harris, Jimmy Sigler, Famadou Don Moye, Ari Brown, Maurice Brown, Bob Cunningham, Leandro Varady and others. As a family friend, she participated in the memorial service and tribute to hard-bop legend, Von Freeman, performing with his last trio, the 3M’s – Michael Allemana, Michael Raynor and Matt Ferguson. She has also opened for artists such as actor Clifton Davis and renowned ‘smooth jazz’ saxophonist, Najee.
Marguerite was a contributor to “The Blues” a PBS documentary on the history of blues music, produced by director, Martin Scorsese and made a cameo appearance in director, Marc Levin’s segment on Chicago Blues – Godfathers and Sons. As an actor, Marguerite has performed in theatre, film, commercials and print, and has won critical acclaim on New York City stages in both ensemble and solo productions. More recently, she narrated the PBS award-winning documentary 70 Acres in Chicago: Cabrini Green;” and, is currently a member of the Chicago Bulls Basketball Team’s Swingin’ Seniors Dance Troupe. Marguerite is a member of Screen Actors Guild and The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG/AFTRA).
She is a Southern Illinois University CoLa Distinguished Alumni Award recipient, a former Illinois Humanities Council Road Scholar and a member of the International Dance Council (CID). Dr. Mariama holds a Ph.D. in Performance Education with a specialization in African American Musical Culture from The Union Institute and University. She performs, consults and lectures worldwide.