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NATIONAL BLACK THEATRE FESTIVAL
Longtime festival-goer speaks about NBTF
BY FELECIA PIOGOTT-LONG. PHD
POR THE CHRONICLE
"Put on your Purple and Black!
The Festival is back!
Larry Leon's Black Rep got it goin' on.
A family reunion, lovin* to the bone.
This is holy ground."
I penned this cheer in 1991 as I pre
pared to pump up the crowd of thousands
of our children and their parents, grandpar
ents, camp leaders, and guardians who
would work with the Youth Celebrity
Project coordinated by Cleopatra Solomon
and Cynthia Mack for the second festival.
They are "die Watoto," the next genera
tion, in this village.
The message still resonates in my pur
ple heart. I thought of this little ditty last
night [Monday, Aug. 3] as I entered the
Benton Convention Center for the 2015
Gala for the 14th National Black Theatre
I thought of the great cloud of witness
es, the ancestors, who would meet us at
this great reunion of spirit, right here in
Winston-Salem on "Black Theatre Holy
Ground." When 1 passed by the purple and
black soldiers who provide security for the
events of this week, I had to capture the
intensity of their professionalism - volun
teers on watch for the family. I walked
through welcoming purple and black
doors, marked with the traditional NBTF
shield or coat of arms done by our cousin
La Von Van Williams Jr. The greeting on
the doors said, "National Black Theatre
Festival 2015," which means, "Ya'll come
on in the house!" Once I was inside, I met
the purple and black escorts, connected
with the box office volunteers led by
Natalie Summers and jerome mccoy, and
concessions workers led by Dr. David
Peay and Harweda Coe.
Yes, it is a family reunion! And love is
the main ingredient. As a photographer, I
found it delightfully challenging to com
pete with our cousins on the sidelines who
were also snapping away and connecting
with one celebrity cuz after another.
Young Kya Redd, 8, refused to let a mere
rope separate her from celeb/uncle Dorien
Wilson of "The Parkers" as he strolled
down the royal purple carpet. She ran into
his arms, and he held tight, showing her off
to the family. We all caught that Kodak
moment. The rhythm of the Carver High
School band created a dynamic backdrop
for the evening.
Before dinner, so many reconnecting
hugs and peals of laughter filled the room.
It was hard to get a word in edgewise. I
was able to connect with two kings -
Woodie King. Jr., founder and producing
director of New Federal Theatre, and Bill
Cobbs, winner of the Sidney Portier
Lifelong Achievement Award. I know that
in 1988, Larry Leon shared his dream of
establishing a "national forum where
artists of color from all over the world
could convene in in the spirit of collabora
tive, creative excellence" with King, and in
1989, the National Black Theatre Festival
was born. I was pleased to discover that
Robert Hooks, winner of the Living
Legend Award, introduced Woodie King to
New York. Since I have seen King Cobbs
at so many festivals, he has definitely
become family to all of us. By connecting
with Terrence Spivey, Artistic Director of
Karamu House's 100-year tradition, I
learned of their nurturing African
American actors such as Bill Cobbs,
Vanessa Bell Calloway, Richard Brooks,
just to name a few.
During a family reunion, we always
give honor to family members who have
made accomplishments during the time we
have been apart. The awards gala serves
this purpose. 1 was thrilled to be able to
personally congratulate local awardees
Rachel P. Jackson and Warren Dell
Leggett, two humble contributors whose
exceptional service to the North Carolina
Black Repertory Company is undeniable.
Jackson won the Special Recognition
Award, and Leggett won the Theatre Arts
and Humanitarian Award.
I am sure that Larry Leon Hamlin
smiled down upon this great reunion. Nate
Jacobs gave him honor for taking him
under his wings and for helping to get him
and Aunt Rudele "off the bus stop."
Jacobs earned the Larry Leon Hamlin
Producer Award. I was also pleased to con
nect with the founder and CEO of Project
VOICE Erich McMillan-McCall, because
I saw the wonderful production of Samm
Art Williams' play "Home" at the Arts
Council Theatre. I was pleased to meet
Ralph Womble of the Winston-Salem's
Millennium Fund, who received the
Marvtastic Philanthropy Award.
The production of Black Stars of the
Great White Way made us all proud to be
family. I was elated to see the song
"Glory" added to such a fine set. Thank
you for being the griots who brought the
story of the 100-year history of African
Americans on Broadway to the National
Black Theatre Festival 2015. The sponsors
keep making this inheritance available to
generations. We continue to embrace the
theatrical productions, celebrity recep
tions, International Colloquiums,
Midnightt Poetry Jams, the NBTP Film
Fest, National Youth Talent Showcase,The
National Black Theatre Hall of Fame and
Museum, The Reader's Theatre, work
shops and seminars, Teentastic and the.
Youth Celebrity Project. Let us continue to
love one another on "Black Theatre Holy
Felecia Piggott-Long is author of the
book "The North Carolina Black
Repertory Company: 25 Marvtastic
Photo provided by Pelocio Piggott-Long
Black Rep history author Felecia Piggott-Long congratulates Warren Dell Leggette of Winston-Salem for his humanitari
an award at the opening gala of the 2015 National Black Theatre Festival.
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