February 11, 2016 by Helen Borgers

The trailer for new documentary, The Passionate Pursuits of Angela Bowen, a film by Jennifer Abod.

There’s an event on February 18th at the Art Theatre in Long Beach that is worthy of special note. It’s an occasion celebrating the numerous cultural contributions of versatile, talented, outspoken, socially-conscious, artist, teacher, and activist, Angela Bowen. The evening includes a screening of a documentary by Jennifer Abod, The Passionate Pursuits of Angela Bowen, and some live music on stage before the film, featuring CSULB music grad, Kevin Kearney, who also performed music in the film.

Angela Bowen 

Angela Bowen, surrounded by students from California State University Long Beach.

Angela Bowen began her career as a dancer and dance teacher in Boston, training some of the dancers who went on to join the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in New York. Later, she, too, left Boston to work as a professional dancer in The Big Apple. She then became an advocate for civil rights, women’s rights, and the rights of the LGBT community. She taught Women’s Studies for 13 years at California State University Long Beach.  Her retirement gave her time to work on a book of short stories (published as Out of the Blue: Aleta's Stories), and to sing some jazz with Tom Dustman’s Evening Jazz Choir at Long Beach City College (currently being directed by Andrea Calderwood, whom I featured here on December 10, 2015). Now, at 80, due to health problems, Angela Bowen has withdrawn from public life.

Jennifer Abod

Award-winning Filmmaker, Jennifer Abod

Her long-time partner, award-winning filmmaker Jennifer Abod, began this documentary in 2000. It features archival footage of the young Bowen dancing, testimonials from students, comments from family members and friends, clips of various rights rallies, and moments, both public and private, of Angela Bowen speaking. It is a portrait not only of an extraordinary person, but also an important account of the social progress in America and the positive changes in individual lives, thanks to the efforts of people like Dr. Bowen.

The Gala Long Beach Premiere is Thursday, February 18th, at 7:30, at the Art Theatre, 2025 E. 4th Street, in Long Beach.

 Swingtime Canteen Quartet

Andi Jones and her quartet of singers from their recent revival of Swingtime Canteen.

The music on stage before the screening will evoke the Jim Crow era in which Angela Bowen grew up. Kevin Kearney will accompany Barbara Bond, Coletta Franciscus, Andi Jones, and Jennifer Walquist, a quartet from the recent community production of Swingtime Canteen, a show about a group of women who perform for the troops during World War II.

The soundtrack from the film will be available, and is a combination of jazz, blues, classical, soulful rock, and gospel. It includes rarely heard Nellie Lutcher tunes, and favorites like “On Broadway,” “Hello Dolly,” and “My Way.” There are also a few songs from Jennifer Abod’s band of the ‘70s, The New Haven Women's Liberation Rock Band. (She was the singer and a songwriter.)

Kevin Kearney 

Kevin Kearney at the piano.

Kevin Kearney has been the Performance Accompanist at Long Beach City College for 31 years. As such, he plays with the vocal jazz choirs, and this is where he met both Jennifer Abod and Angela Bowen. It is a coincidence that they each have CSULB affiliations as well. Both Abod and Bowen have taught at Cal State Long Beach, and Kevin got his Bachelors degree in music as a classical pianist from the university. He went on to get his Masters in Jazz Studies at USC, learning from Alan Pasqua, Bob Mintzer, and Otmaro Ruiz, among others.

Kevin’s diverse experience includes taking over the piano chair when Tamir Hendelman left the group, Brasil, Brazil, and working in a Brazilian band led by Jack Prather and the late Stephanie Haynes. He also teaches a history of rock-and-roll class at Mount San Jacinto College, where he enjoys talking about Bessie Smith, Robert Johnson, and the roots of American music.

For more information about the documentary, its subject, and filmmaker, visit 

On-air personality, Helen Borgers, can be heard on KJazz 88.1 FM from 2:00 pm - 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday. As a jazz broadcaster, Helen has been invited to give pre-concert lectures at various performing arts centers, served on panels in jazz conventions all over the world, and lectured about the history of jazz in middle schools, high schools, and colleges. She has also written articles for international jazz publications and regularly emcees concerts, festivals, and club dates throughout southern California.

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