Love Letter from a Sponsor

… And, so I Sing!

Dan Perkins

Minority Business Advocate with expertise in Supplier Diversity. | Cultural Historian specializing in Boxing from 1890 through 1929. | Facilitator and Innovator.

October 25, 2023

When I sat down in front of my computer this morning, I knew it was Wednesday but it was not until I opened an email from my dear friend, Christine Steyer, founder of Bellissima Opera, that I discovered October 25th is World Opera Day, a day set aside globally to celebrate the many contributions of Opera to the arts and society.

Opera puts a dramatic frame around big and small moments in life and at times I feel as though my life could easily be the subject of an opera. I love that my activities as a consultant specializing in supplier diversity put me at the forefront of significant trends impacting how many organizations recognize, utilize, and develop businesses owned by minorities and women. I find meaning in knowing that my recommendations regarding the procurement of goods and services hold the potential of yielding substantial benefits for diverse businesses and minority communities. I love advocating for the advancement of minority communities, businesses, and institutions. Being a cultural historian makes me feel like an opera star. It allows me to contextualize my activities and many others through cultural and historical lenses. This trifecta of professional involvements keeps me busy, blessed, grounded, and satisfied – and today, I have decided to honor World Opera Day by singing about the good in my life.

One of the great benefits of my work is the access I have to a wonderfully diverse array of people, many of whom are brilliant thought leaders working to improve conditions in their areas of specialization and the world in general. Christine Steyer is one of those individuals who inspires me with her endless creativity and drive to do good. Through her organization, Bellissima Opera, Christine develops, produces, and performs in operas that engage audiences visually and audibly.

Christine and I became friends several years ago when she agreed to perform at an event I co-produced honoring the centennial of America’s entry into World War 1. Our friendship grew as I learned of a program she co-directs along with a fantastic music organization known as Working In Concert (WIC). Christine and WIC operate a program called Opera in Classrooms, which introduces students in Chicago’s under-served communities to opera. I have been blessed to attend several classroom sessions, and there is nothing like seeing the expression on young faces as they hear an operatic voice for the first time, live and in person. Through Opera in Classroom, Christine Steyer and her creative partner Claudia Hommel constantly renew my hope for our nation and the future. They manifest the transformative potential of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the arts and education.

Above is a series of photos from a March 2023 Opera in Classroom session held at a grade school on Chicago’s West Side. Shown in the lower left corner is Dan Perkins (far left), Christine Steyer of Bellissima Opera, and the musicians and performers.

If you are part of an organization struggling to figure out how to make DE&I more impactful and transformative, please get in touch with me. I will gladly introduce you to Christine Steyer and Claudia Hommel. The pair will be delighted to share the gift of opera with your organization. I would add that they could achieve even greater good if they had some serious corporate dollars behind them. Such collaboration could create a win-win scenario for everyone, and your organization’s leaders would have a program they could point to with pride. I invite you to join me in celebrating this special day. Together, we can make World Opera Day a day of exceptional creativity, beauty, and social progress.

As a boxing historian, I would like to close my celebration of World Opera Day by highlighting a little-known fact. During the first two decades of the twentieth century, many prominent boxers battled opponents in opera houses. Below is an illustration showing a book cover featuring George Dixon, a Canadian boxer who is the first Black man to hold a world boxing title. Dixon became World Bantamweight Champion in 1890 and held the World’s Featherweight Championship Title three times beginning in 1891 and continuing through 1900.

The above graphic highlights the intersection of Black excellence, boxing, and opera in the 1900s.

Dixon was not only a fearless boxer and pioneer, but he was also innovative and entrepreneurial. Dixon is credited with developing shadowboxing, and he also established a vaudeville troupe called the “George Dixon Specialty Co.” which toured Canada and the United States in the mid-1890s. It is worth noting that Dixon’s troupe appeared at the Naylor Opera House in Terre Haute, Indiana, on November 8, 1894. For more on George Dixon, visit Wikipedia.

So, there really is a lot to sing about on World Opera Day. I hope you find a way to belt out a few notes in celebration of the good in your life.

Published by

Dan Perkins

Minority Business Advocate with expertise in Supplier Diversity. | Cultural Historian specializing in Boxing from 1890 through 1929. | Facilitator and Innovator.