Press Release

February 28, 2023 | By Cole Hatcher

Celebrating Melvin Van Peebles

Ohio Wesleyan Symposium to Explore Filmmaker’s Legacy with Movies, Lectures, Performances, More

DELAWARE, Ohio – Actress Jasmine Guy, writer Wil Haygood, academic Simone Drake, musician DJ O Sharp, artist Marshall L. Shorts Jr., and others will help explore and celebrate the impact of filmmaker Melvin Van Peebles on the evolution of Black arts.

All are part of Ohio Wesleyan University’s inaugural Melvin Van Peebles Symposium to be held March 30-April 1 on the OWU campus. The symposium will include screenings of the Van Peebles films “The Story of a Three-Day Pass” (1967) and “Watermelon Man” (1970), and a screening of son Mario Van Peebles’ award-winning documentary “Baadasssss!” (20023), a “half-documentary/half-homage” to his father’s seminal film “Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song.”

In addition, the event will feature a remembrance ceremony for Van Peebles, a 1953 Ohio Wesleyan graduate, as well as an opening luncheon and a closing banquet with keynote speakers.

Tickets for the symposium are available now at Organizers are extending the early purchase discount, previously set to expire March 1, for all attendees. Ticket prices will remain:

  • General admission – $115 per person.
  • Ohio Wesleyan alumni, faculty and staff, and all non-OWU graduate and undergraduate students – $95 per person.
  • Current Ohio Wesleyan students – $25 per person. (OWU students volunteering to work at the symposium will be admitted free.)
  • VIP meet-and-greet with Jasmine Guy – $50 per person. Available only with symposium ticket purchase, limited meet-and-greet tickets available.

Discounts are available for nonprofit community groups and schools interested in purchasing multiple tickets for the symposium. Please contact the event organizers at to discuss your group’s specific needs.

Ohio Wesleyan University will examine the legacy of groundbreaking Black filmmaker and 1953 OWU graduate Melvin Van Peebles at an on-campus symposium March 31 and April 1, 2023. (Photo by Georges Baird)

Following Van Peebles’ death in 2021, The Hollywood Reporter said of his legacy: “Considered by many to be the godfather of modern Black cinema, Van Peebles was an influential link to a younger generation of African American filmmakers that includes Spike Lee and John Singleton. The Chicago native also was a novelist, theater impresario, songwriter, musician, and painter.”

Mario Van Peebles summed up his father’s impact in the same article, sharing: “Dad knew that Black images matter. If a picture is worth a thousand words, what was a movie worth? We want to be the success we see; thus, we need to see ourselves being free. True liberation did not mean imitating the colonizer’s mentality. It meant appreciating the power, beauty, and interconnectivity of all people.”

To learn more about Melvin Van Peebles and Ohio Wesleyan’s upcoming symposium, visit

The symposium is being planned by Ohio Wesleyan’s Department of Africana, Gender, and Identity Studies; Film Studies Program; Department of Journalism and Communication; Department of Performing Arts; Office of the Chief Diversity Officer; and Office of Multicultural Student Affairs via a committee that also includes writer Haygood and Delaware educator Francine Butler. The screening of “The Story of a Three-Day Pass” will be held at Delaware’s historic Strand Theatre, 28 E. Winter St., which has been showing first-run films for more than 100 years.

Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more than 70 undergraduate majors and competes in 24 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through its signature experience, the OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan teaches students to understand issues from multiple academic perspectives, volunteer in service to others, build a diverse and global perspective, and translate classroom knowledge into real-world experience through internships, research, and other hands-on learning. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives” and included on the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “Best Colleges” lists. Connect with OWU expert interview sources at or learn more at