Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Event Slides Per Node 1415

Mwenso and The Shakes
Love Will Be thee Only Weapon
Opener: Kikora Franklin and dancers

7:30 pm Thursday, September 16, 2021

Michael Mwenso continues his empowering quest to unify through love and healing so we can overcome darkness and ascend to our deepest human potential. In the Center for the Performing Arts’ return to in-person presentations, Mwenso and The Shakes will perform Love Will Be thee Only Weapon on the Eisenhower Auditorium patio.

Mwenso and his Harlem-based roots band will guide us through an experience of original songs and expressions that journey through the kaleidoscope of Black ancestral diasporic music and traditions. 

Move to the music

Dancing and participation in the performance is encouraged. A limited number of patio seats will be available. If you require or prefer seating, bring a folding chair. 

Jazziz writer calls Mwenso and The Shakes “a unique troupe of global artists presenting music that merges entertainment and artistry.” A New York Times critic describes the genre-spanning band as “intense, prowling, and ebullient.”

A native of Sierra Leone, Michael Mwenso moved to London as a youngster and by his early teens found himself on stage with soul-music great James Brown. After organizing a late-night jam session at Ronnie Scott’s, a London jazz club, Wynton Marsalis hired Mwenso as a musician and a curator at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

The band includes vocalists Mwenso and Vuyo Sotashe, pianist/keyboardist Mathis Picard, saxophonist Julian Lee, trombonist Rashaan Salaam, bassist Chris Smith, and drummers Dom Gervais and Ahmad Johnson.

Mwenso and The Shakes performed Harlem 100: Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance in 2019 at Eisenhower. In February 2021, the Center for the Performing Arts presented a recorded concert by the band as part of the Up Close and Virtual series. In June 2021, Mwenso hosted and Mwenso and The Shakes performed in the recorded virtual presentation Juneteenth: A Fierce Urgency Celebration!, produced by Electric Root in partnership with the Center for the Performing Arts.

What if it rains?

In case of inclement weather, the concert will be inside Eisenhower and masks will be required. Even if the performance is outside, masks will be required to use the restrooms inside. 


Kikora Franklin is an associate professor of theatre/dance and associate director of equity, diversity, and inclusion for the Penn State School of Theatre, where she teaches courses on West-African, jazz, and Mojah dance plus hip-hop theatre. She has performed, choreographed, and taught in cities across the globe.

She has choreographed and performed for the Atlanta Hawks Dance Team, Grammy Award-winning group Arrested Development, and renowned poet Sonia Sanchez. Franklin is also an original collaborator and choreographer for the award-winning play Blood at the Root

As co-founder and artistic director of Roots of Life Performing Arts Ensemble, a State College Area School District program for students in grades four through twelve, Franklin shares her passion for dance. 

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Penn State has issued rules and precautions that follow, or may exceed, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit Penn State Event Attendance Policies prior to attending a University event to ensure you are familiar with the rules and expectations.

Mwenso and The Shakes is part of the Center for the Performing Arts Fierce Urgency Festival, with a theme this season of Hope-Resist-Heal.

Patricia Best and Thomas Ray
Charlotte Zmyslo
Nancy Gamble
Nancy Wolf

Secondary Events on Each Event

Inside the Music

5:00 pm Tuesday, September 14, 2021

3 Dots Downtown
corner of Beaver Avenue and Pugh Street, State College

FREE and open to the public *

Join Harlem-based roots band Mwenso and The Shakes for a Tuesdays on the Terrace performance. Inside the Music is an acoustic experience that brings you into the music while showcasing individual members of the band, each a stellar musician. Expore the history of Black music traditions while feeling the music down to your soul.

Tuesdays on the Terrace runs from 5–8 p.m. Mwenso and The Shakes is scheduled to perform in the third hour.

The evening will also include a powerful spoken-word presentation by community elder, artist, and activist Charles Dumas.

Cocktails and other refreshments will be available.

3 Dots Downtown hosts the three-hour event.

* Guests are required to sign in and verify they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Masks are also required.

Blackness and Queerness in Diasporic Communities *

6:30 pm Wednesday, September 15, 2021

LL011 HUB-Robeson Center

FREE and open to the public

Mwenso and The Shakes artists Michael Mwenso, born in Sierra Leone, and Vuyo Sotashe, a native of South Africa, will discuss how Black cultural icons have helped them negotiate their LGBTQ+ identities while living in the United States. The informal one-hour conversation will include discussion of their musical influences and Black queer artists. 

The event is presented in partnership with the Penn State Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity.

Contact Center for the Performing Arts Student Engagement Manager Hope Falk at hrf5014@psu.edu for more information.

* Formerly titled Coming Out in America