Melvin Van Peebles Symposium

Jasmine Guy to Headline Ohio Wesleyan’s Inaugural Event to Honor Legendary Filmmaker March 31-April 1

By Cole Hatcher

Actress Jasmine Guy will serve as one of the keynote speakers at Ohio Wesleyan University’s Melvin Van Peebles Symposium. The event will examine the legacy of Van Peebles, a groundbreaking Black filmmaker and 1953 OWU graduate. (Photo by NAME)

DELAWARE, Ohio – Actress-dancer-director Jasmine Guy will provide the closing address at Ohio Wesleyan University’s inaugural symposium to explore the artistic legacy of groundbreaking Black filmmaker and 1953 OWU graduate Melvin Van Peebles.

The winner of six consecutive NAACP Image Awards, Guy is well-known for her role as Whitley Gilbert on NBC-TV’s “A Different World” and for her works in films and mini-series including Spike Lee’s “School Daze, Eddie Murphy’s “Harlem Nights,” Alex Hailey’s “Queen,” and Debbie Allen’s “Stompin’ at the Savoy.” Guy will discuss the evolution of Black media, including television and film, during her 40 years as a performer.

The Ohio Wesleyan event will be held March 31 and April 1 on the university’s Delaware campus. It will feature screenings of several Van Peebles films, academic presentations about his work and its impact, and additional speakers including award-winning writer Wil Haygood, author of “Colorization: One Hundred Years of Black Films in a White World,” and academic, author, and artist Simone Drake, an Ohio State University professor whose research focuses on how people of African descent in the Americas negotiate the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class, and nation. Drake also served as an editor of the book “Are You Entertained?: Black Popular Culture in the Twenty-First Century.”

“Melvin Van Peebles changed the future of Black media with his unflinching and unapologetic portrayal of the racism and inequality he saw all around him,” said Eva Paris-Huesca, Ph.D., symposium co-chair and director of OWU’s Film Studies Program. “His impact still reverberates today, and this symposium will recognize his contributions in film, theater, music, art, literature, and business. Through this recurring event, we look forward to examining and elevating his important legacy.”

Tickets for the two-day symposium are available for purchase now at owu.edu/VanPeebles. Ticket prices are:

  • General admission – $115 per person, $135 after March 1.
  • Ohio Wesleyan alumni, faculty and staff, and all non-OWU graduate and undergraduate students – $95 per person, $115 after March 1.
  • Current Ohio Wesleyan students – $25 per person, $35 after March 1. (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. (This hourlong reception will precede the closing banquet. Limited VIP tickets are available.) 

During her career, Guy performed with Van Peebles’ son, Mario, in “Stompin’ at the Savoy” and in his Syfy production of “Superstition.” She currently can be seen in “Harlem,” the comedy series from Tracy Oliver for Amazon Prime, and “Vanished: Searching for My Sister,” a movie for Lifetime that premiered earlier this month. Guy also stars in the new feature film “The Lady Makers,” available on Amazon Prime, and recently completed filming the forthcoming “Not Just Another Church Movie.”

As part of the symposium, Ohio Wesleyan will host a free public screening of Van Peebles’ 1970 film “Watermelon Man” at 8 p.m. March 31. Weather permitting, the film will be screened outdoors on OWU’s JAYwalk. The fantasy film explores what happens when the skin of a racist white man turns black overnight. It has been described as “blistering satire” that “demonstrates how Black directors are able to realize their creative and ideological visions, crafting ingenious ways to articulate their perspectives, even while working within antagonistic institutions.”

The deadline for proposals to present at the first Van Peebles Symposium passed Jan. 18, but anyone with significant and relevant work who wishes to seek special consideration to present is invited to contact symposium co-chairs Eva Paris-Huesca or Antron Mahoney at mvpsymposium@owu.edu.

To learn more about Van Peebles and the symposium, including scheduled speakers and tickets, visit owu.edu/VanPeebles.

The event 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.


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 owu.edu/experts or learn more at owu.edu.