"Smudge Stick" Preview: Interview with Almeta Whitis, Gary Dewitt Marshall, and Niema Neteri Atkins

Almeta Whitis is a storyteller, actress, poet, writer and teaching artist who has taught elementary, middle and high school in NYS and Arizona. A former assistant professor of Theater at SUNY Brockport, in 1997, she received their “Distinguished Scholar Public Service Award”. In 1995, Phi Delta Kappa awarded her “Lay Educator of the Year” by unanimous decision. As Chair of ALLOFUS Art Workshop’s Dance Department, a MAG and UR outreach program, she expanded a Saturday class of eight children to a year-round program serving over 450 children and adults. In 2000, National Endowment for the Arts and Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation awarded her “Most Skilled and Experienced Community Artist”-Artists and Communities: America Creates for the Millennium. In 1993, Governor Mario Cuomo awarded her the “Decade of the Child Award” for “her valuable, sensitive work with the children and families of New York State”.


From Gary Dewitt Marshall's webpage: 

Theatre is a community lighthouse, able to illuminate the collective imagination - creating a venue for discourse and debate where attitudes and ideologies can be transformed. I am dedicated to sharing my passion for theatre and the wonderful world of invention and discovery with people from all walks of life. My teaching approach engages and encourages student learners to discover their authentic voice.  Emphasizing individual agency, self-efficacy, and multiculturalism.
Theatre has the capacity to help a person find their niche in complex world, theatre can strengthen character and improve self-concept, and exposure to theatre can enrich a person’s quality of life. At the core of my artistic approach is a passion for truth, integrity, and authenticity. How ‘truth’ is achieved varies in technique and method, ultimately, I believe that having a greater interpersonal understanding allows for richer, bolder, more confident artistic choices and interpretations.

I draw upon my own triumphs and failures to reach, teach, and motivate students to aspire beyond their circumstances. Throughout my career I have benefited greatly from the direction of great teachers and critically acclaimed theatre and acting practitioners. My life’s work reflects a commitment to culturally responsive pedagogy, social justice, and intellectual enlightenment through performing arts.


Niema Neteri Atkins
Educator. Dancer. Activist. Teaching artist. Consultant. Radio station programmer.

Niema received her Bachelors of Science from SUNY Brockport, majoring in African and African American Studies, and Dance. Noteworthy collaborations, performances, and experiences include: Sankofa African Dance and Drum Ensemble (2000-2003) led by Clyde Morgan, Voices Dance Collective (2003), artistic director Chris Walker (University of Wisconsin at Madison) and studying dance abroad at the University of Legon in Ghana, West Africa. After undergrad, she formed her own dance company, Ba Bes Dance with partner Melinda Phillips, and Master Drummer Khalid Saleem. After receiving a Masters in Education (2008) from Roberts Wesleyan College, Niema joined FuturPointe Dance initially as the company's stage manager, then later as a dancer and production assistant (2011).  Atkins has written and implemented curricula for the Rochester City School District's Department of the Arts as well as performed as Artist-In-Residence in numerous schools and colleges in Upstate N.Y. She's choreographed dance for stage and music videos, worked as a teaching artist with Young Audiences of Rochester and Kuumba Consultants; bringing quality African-centered programming and Arts Experiences to K-12th grade audiences throughout Western N.Y. Aside from being a wife and mother of five, she is an active community member and host of AfreeSōl Radio on 104.3 WAYO FM in Rochester, NY. A champion of the Arts and social justice pedagogy, Atkins synthesizes activism, artistry, and education into philosophic expression she's coined Afreesoul Dynamic. Atkins is currently a dance educator at Ballet Afrikana Dance Academy and an award winning educator/ mentor at Rochester Academy Charter School, where she currently teaches 7th grade English.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019