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Due to unforeseen circumstances, all members of the Pima Community College (PCC) Governing Board will be attending the Board's March 8, 2023, Regular Meeting remotely. At the discretion of the Board Chair, PCC administrators and others making scheduled presentations to the Board may also be appearing remotely. Tonight's meeting will otherwise be conducted in a hybrid format as previously noticed, and members of the public may still attend in person at PCC's District Office, room C-105. During the "Public Comment-Call to the Audience" portion of tonight's meeting, public comments may still be made either remotely or in person. PCC staff will be on-site in room C-105 to assist members of the public attending in person who wish to address comments to the Board.
Barbea Williams and her daughter Bea pose for a photo in their dance studio

Pima Alumna Shares Story of College's Intergenerational Impact

Dancer, choreographer and educator Barbea Williams is on a mission to inspire African American students

By Kanika Samra, External Relations

Barbea Williams, artistic director of the Barbea Williams Performing Company (BWPC) has called Tucson home for close to five decades. She moved to Tucson from the south side of Chicago in the seventies along with her mother and siblings. Williams had been enrolled at the Southern Illinois University, Carbondale at the time. Not wishing to lose any time she enrolled at Pima Community College soon after and the rest as they say is history.

Barbea Williams Profile Image
Barbea Williams
Photo By Tanner Grammar, External Relations

Williams’s relationship with Pima has continued and remains intact to this day. In summer 2022, after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, BWPC’s Kuumba in Afrikan Arts summer camp returned to in-person programming in association with Pima. Since 2000, Williams has led the annual summer camp that provides STEAM activities which include music and dance, and professional development for students ages 7-15. She is very clear about her mission - to be proudly Black and share that with the next generation. Recalling her own days at Pima’s West Campus, Williams said she was an active member of the international club which introduced her to myriad dance forms. From dancing the Can-can, Mexican Folklorico to learning from Pascua Yaqui dancers, Williams said she “loved every minute of it”.

After completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Arizona, Williams returned to Pima as faculty in musical theatre and dance. She taught at the college for a decade during which time she used the Dunham technique, devised by Katherine Dunham, to deepen her own exploration of Afro-Cuban and West African dance. Since 2002, Williams has been a faculty at the University of Arizona School of Dance. Today, BWPC provides a wide range of programming for adults and children. 

BWPC's Kuumba in Afrikan Arts summer camp returned to in-person programming with Pima's support.

At the helm along with her mother is Beah Williams, managing director of BWPC. She came aboard five years ago and has used her marketing and business skills to help the non-profit grow. Herself a Pima graduate, Beah said, “Pima is like a second home.” She is especially glad that the college has maintained a relationship with the African American community by inviting them to utilize college facilities and inspiring students to pursue their academic dreams.

Barbea agrees that having Pima as a partner provides tangible examples for students. From the experience of being on a college campus to participating in STEM activities during Kuumba 2022, each interaction with the college has the potential to spark curiosity and inspire young minds. Numerous BWPC alumni have gone on to attend Pima and other four-year universities. Kuumba which means creativity in Swahili, has been running for two decades. In this time, it has become an intergenerational camp with former students enrolling their children when they become eligible. For Barbea and Beah, this is BWPC’s living legacy. 

Barbea Williams and her daughter, Bea, posing for a photo
Barbea Williams and her daughter, Beah
Photo By Tanner Grammar, External Relations

The Williams family’s relationship with Pima is similarly intergenerational. After Barbea and her siblings found a welcoming environment five decades ago, Beah and then her son also studied at Pima. Barbea believes her mother’s decision to move the family from Chicago’s south side to Tucson positively impacted them all.

As a pillar of the community, respected dance practitioner and cultural anthropologist, paying it forward and instilling pride in the next generation is Barbea Williams's mission.

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