A Celebration!!! A celebration of Black creativity. A celebration of the Black theatrical aesthetic. A celebration of the Black artistic conscience. A celebration of the Black soul. These are the ingredients that make up the 2017 Paul Robeson Theatre Festival.
The Harlem Renaissance was a reflection of Black identity and shaping of the ‘New Negro’ along Los Angeles ‘s Central Avenue corridor that became a continuation of that reflection and development, both important in shaping the black consciousness that has influenced the fabric of this country.
In 1926 Langston Hughes defined an artistic declaration of independence in an essay published in The Nation “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”.
We younger artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too. The tom-tom cries and the tom-tom laughs. If colored people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, their displeasure doesn’t matter either. We build our temples for tomorrow, strong as we know how, and we stand on top of the mountain, free within ourselves.
The commitment, determination, and passion that compelled Black writers to follow their personal artistic vision, and its diversity was the principle characteristic of the Harlem Renaissance. It is still so.
Across the country and many stops along the way where people of color landed that cultural influenced played a part in shaping America in every way. Following World War II this future blossoming of the phenomenon took hold and shook Los Angeles along Central Avenue in ways that still reverberate through California and the entire west coast. From Little Tokyo to Pasadena, to South Central the jobs and opportunities that were available made the promise of fortune and fame inviting to those whose abundance of talent sought outlets to be appreciated.
The destruction brought on by the war also brought a demand for laborers and the residents of Central Avenue helped punch those clocks, tens of thousands were lured by the promise of a paycheck and ultimately needed a place to spend them. Central Avenue’s Dunbar Hotel, Club Alabam, Lincoln Theatre, Jungle Room, Cabin Inn, Kentucky Club, The Downbeat, Shepps Playhouse, and for those celebrated the higher powers could attend the Moorish Revival Theatre. The California Eagle led the charge for Civil rights for decades.
The Paul Robeson Theatre Festival will offer a brief glimpse that reflect some of the moments that speak to these Historic events that change us all. The artist participating will bring their wonderful talents and many of the elements that originated, developed, & celebrated Black life. We invite you to be there to celebrate with us.
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