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Black ink : Black Student Movement, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. online resource ([Chapel Hill, N.C.]) 1969-current, December 01, 1998, Image 13

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Atcllc! The place where dreams are bom, legends are made By Denise Bames Does the Hurtig and Seaman’s New Blessed Theatre and Opera House ring a bell? Perhaps everyone is not familiar with this theatre and opera house because it is now known as the Apollo Theatre in Harlem, New York. The Apollo Theatre is known for hosting major concerts and pre senting the hottest new acts. However, it was not always known as the “mecca of entertainment for the Black community.” Built in 1913, this theatre used to be an all-white opera house. Before 1934, Blacks were not per mitted to see a show, or even per form on the stage. Later that year, Frank Schiffman purchased the building and changed the name to Apollo, derived from the Greek god of entertainment. A place for Black entertainers to perform, the Apollo was christened as a gold mine. The theatre brought artists like Billie Holliday, Nat “King” Cole, James Brown, Bill Cosby, Michael Jackson, Patti Labelle, and Prince. Most of these artists got their start on “Amateur Night,” created by one of Apollo’s late hosts, Ralph Cooper, Sr. A common dream of those struggling to step into the door of entertainment is appearing on “Amateur Night.” Everyone knows the all so common aspects: during the show, the audience determines whether the featured artists make the final cut or are “booed” off stage. If one happens to suffer the humiliation of being rejected by the audience, the Sandman is always eager to run out and sweep some one off the stage. With all of this fun and excitement who would ever think that the Apollo was once unsuc cessful? Well, the theatre was forced to close down in 1977 due to the economy in the area. No one had money to go to the shows, and the music was changing from rock ‘n’ roll to disco and the now popu lar beats of R&B. As usual, the media was viewed as a portion of the problem. The media portrayed the people who lived, worked, taught, and prayed in Harlem as if they were wild animals. Whites were hesitant to venture to Uptown Manhattan in fear of crime. Few people were aware that from Harlem came peo ple of German, French, and Greek descent. Also during this time, the theatre underwent a number of changes from various groups. The Apollo went from a church, to a discotech, to a movie theater, but nothing worked. The Apollo con tinued to remain strong throughout its transformation over a period of five years. Then, in 1982, a man by the name of Percy Ellis Sutton and the Inner City Broadcasting Company purchased the Apollo. Sutton ended up losing a lot of money due to the media. Finally in 1992, the state of New York along with Sutton, began efforts to have the theatre designated as a national landmark; the Apollo Theatre Foundation. Now, the non-profit foundation is run on a daily basis. The Apollo continues to provide major concerts, Amateur Night, “Showtime At The Apollo,” and community services consisting of arts shows, historical tours, and tal ent showcases for adults and chil dren. The Apollo Theatre continues to be the place where dreams are bom and legends are made. ^ Information from Socialstep, Cultural Horizons section, an on-line magazine resource. Article by Tracy Grant. Black Ink 13

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