Jani & Jewel Jeppe: Working double time for the community
Every black community contains a central location that acts as its heartbeat, a gathering place defined by the cultural experiences it offers and unifying spirit it embodies.
In Las Vegas’ Historic Westside community, that soul can be found at the West Las Vegas Cultural Arts Center and the West Las Vegas Library Theatre. Situated adjacently on West Lake Mead Boulevard, they nourish our community with expressions of pride, literacy and education. Working “double time” are Jani Jeppe, performing arts center coordinator at the West Las Vegas Library Theatre, and her twin sister, Jewel Jeppe, cultural activities specialist at the West Las Vegas Arts Center. Under the direction of Marsha Robinson, the sisters have, together, devoted more than 20 years to the enrichment of West Las Vegas’ historically black community.
“My primary responsibility is to uplift our community,” said Jani Jeppe, “to bring to our community the very best that we can in programming to illuminate literacy through means other than books. We seek to bring books to theatrical life.” In this work, the West Las Vegas Library Theatre has hosted such talents as the Alvin Ailey Dance Company; but locals also play crucial roles. Said Jani: “We are also proud of many of our young collaborators, (such as) Bernard Gaddis and Nicole Pryor, who have participated in giving back to the community while also performing on the Las Vegas Strip in shows such as Cirque Du Soleil and ‘The Phantom of the Opera.’”
The West Las Vegas Arts Center also serves as a theatrical training ground for youth and adults. “We provide the art experience and training to our community at large,” said Jewel. “We have been able to bring in people like Katherine Dunham before she passed away; and one of our long-standing programs is called ‘Poets Corner,’ which is hosted by award-winning poet Keith Brantley. He is also our ‘Rites of Passage’ (mentorship) facilitator for young men.”
The sisters have declared that April 2011 is “Youth Month,” with a series of free programs such as the Young Women’s Conference (for young women 17-25 years old) to be held April 9 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., and the Young Men’s Conference (for young men 10-15 years old) to be held April 30 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Young Women’s Conference will be facilitated by author and holistic health practitioner Queen Afua; and the Young Men’s Conference will be led by the Honorable Judge Greg Mathis. Those interested must register at the West Las Vegas Library or Arts Center (947 W. Lake Mead Blvd.) or call 702- 229-4800.
In addition, high school-age youth will be targeted April 14-16 with a special program and presentation called “Moving Past the Past,” funded in part by Nevada Arts Council, Nevada Humanities and the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District Foundation.
For additional information on programs visit www.LVCCLD.org and www.artslasvegas.org. You can also call 702-507-3989 or 702-229-4800.