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Kuumba Theatre Keeps Blues Alive
Poet Carl Sandburg once said that a
tree is best measured when it is down. If
one tried to measure the musical era bet
ween 1920 and 1930, popularly known as
the Blues — only a giant measuring device
could effectively assess the talent, feelings
and personalities that contributed to the
With creative talent and a strong
desire to keep the blues alive in the
1980’s, Val Ward and Buddy Butler of
Chicago, Illionois, found an appropriate
“measuring stick" for the Blues era —
they designed Kuumba Theatre.
The January 17, 1987, Kuumba
Theatre presentation of 'The Heart of the
Blues ’ in UNC’s Memorial Hall delighted
and educated the audience with emotional
song, dance and narration that extended
into the audience a greater understanding
and appreciation for the blues, its history
and its singers.
The eight-member cast, accompanied
by a five-member musical team, portrayed
six of America's classical blues singers:
Bessie Smith, Victoria Spivey, Ma
Rainey, Alberta Hunter, Mamie Smith
and Billie Holiday.
Songs, varying from expressing
broken hearts to discouraged souls to
spiritual enlightenment, bellowed from the
cast's talented voices while the audience
enjoyed the opportunity to relive the blues
and “meet” the era’s most popular
The “jazzy” introduction by the
company’s musicians was followed by
master of ceremony, Cifford C. Gober,
Jr.’s (M.C.)introduction to the show itself
and a duo of ‘ 'Drink Muddy Water, ’ ’ by
“M.C.” and “Melody.” The two act
revue continued with a combination of
historical facts about the lives of the blues
artists and songs that helped the audience
feel the pain and joy common to the era.
Among the songs performed were:
‘ ‘Nobody Knows You When You ’re Down
and Out, ’ ’ ' ‘Good Mornin ’ Blues, ’ ’ ' 'His
Eye Is on the Sparrow, ” "It Makes My
Love Come Down,” "T’ain't Nobody’s
Business If I Do” and the finale, ‘ 'In the
House of the Blues. ’ ’
Alphas Pay Tribute to Martin Luther King
By Taundra S. Woodard, News Editor
Alpha Phi Alpha paid tribute to slain
civil rights activist Martin Luther King
Jr., Sunday, January 18, in the Great
Hall, as it held its third annual Martin
Luther King, Jr. Celebration.
Second year law student, James Ex-
um, reminded the 125-member audience
that the hardships that our black
forefathers faced should challenge the
blacks of today to overcome oppression
and strive to be the best they can be.
Exum said blacks should not be
threatened and pulled apart on the univer
sity’s majority white campus.
Stuart Scott and Kenneth Smith
presented a dramatic interpretation entit
led, "Seven Days.” The presentation,
which was adapted by Smith from Toni
Morrison’s novel. Song of Solomon, was
about a young man who joined an
organization that killed innocent white
people for every black person killed. The
purpose of the orgnization was to “keep
the numbers straight,” as Scott echoed
throughout the presentation.
The keynote speaker of the evening
was attorney Melvin Watt, a graduate of
UNC, who attended the university during
the turbulent years of the Civil Rights
Watt admitted that he did not par
ticipate as actively as others did, such as
in sit-ins and protests, but strived to gain
the best possible education that he could.
Watt said racism and resistance to
change was apparent everywhere, even on
In addition to the speakers, two sub
groups of the Black Student Movement
performed. The Ebony Readers perform
ed an original work by Eric Walker, ar
tistic director for the group.
The play entitled, "Legacy,” was
about a group of adults trying to educate
children about the teachings of King. In
the play, the adults are met with resistance
from the children. The adults and children
resolved the conflict through the use of
King’s own words.
The BSM Gospel Choir closed out the
program with two inspiring songs of
Off-Broadway Production to
Recount Life and Times of Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Raleigh, NC Chapter Continen
tal Societies, Inc., will present the Off-
Broadway Production of "I Have A
Dream. ” The evening of theatre and
music, based on the words and life of the
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.. will be
February 8. 9 and 10 at the Raleigh
"I Have a Dream” blends King’s
speeches, sermons and other writings
along with 28 musical numbers into a
drama retracing King’s life and hardships
from the Montgomery, Alabama bus
boycotts to his death in Memphis in 1968.
Among the familiar freedom songs,
spirituals and gospel hymns of the play,
adapted by Josh Greenfeld, are "We Shall
Overcome, ” "Precious Lord, ” "His Eye
Is on the Sparrow, ’ ’ and ‘ 'Free at Last.
The National Black Touring Circuit
- LeCarbi International Enterprises, Inc.
production received rave reviews for its
performances in New York and Alaska.
New York Times critic Stephen
Holden called the show a “pageant like
musicai-drama recounting (King’s) life
The National Black Touring Circuit,
founded in 1974 by Woodie King, Jr.,
serves to make existing Black theatre pro
ductions available to larger audiences, col
leges and Black art centers, according to
director Woodie King.
“There’s a rhythm in the words like
poetry,” Bruce Strickland, who will por
tray King in the show, told the Daily News
- Mover in Fairbanks, Alaska. “A color
in the sometimes short, sometimes extend
ed syllables reminds us what we’ve
always known but sometimes keep secret
from ourselves: we are all capable of and
worthy of love.”
Tickets are $10 per person. For
tickets call (919) 755-6060. For tickets
and group information call (919)
772-7382 or (919) 829-1621.
The Raleigh, NC Chapter Continen
tal Societies, Inc., is a nonprofit organiza
tion and funds from the show are
dedicated to underprivileged children.
Chequita Jackson, James Curt Bergwall, Bruce Strickland, Dwight Witherspoon, Diane
Weaver, Herman Jones in a scene from "I Have a Dream”.
(photo by Bert Andrews, Chicago Tribune)