For most working people there has been at least one occasion when they’ve wanted to pick up a marker, decorate a picket sign with a clever catchphrase and go lead a strike. Yet, instead of striking most simply quit or bear the burden of an unfulfilling 9-5. Not everyone is A. Philip Randolph but that’s why his accomplishments as a civil rights pioneer and American labor movement leader are inspiring.
Randolph’s story was presented in, “The Good Fight” as part of The National Black Touring Circuit’s Black History Month Play Festival at the National Black Theatre. Try repeating the second half of that last line five times straight. But I digress. The point I am getting to is that while Randolph’s story is powerful it didn’t translate well to stage. Ralph McCain’s performance was solid but he was hindered by a script that could have benefited greatly from offering more insight into the man behind the legend. Nevertheless according to special guest, Amiri Baraka African-Americans need to honor Randolph’s legacy by working together to responsibly exercise economic power, which is projected to increase to $1.1 trillion by 2015. “We talk about reparations but we already got billions in our fingers,” he says. “We can get reparations but use these billions to do something too. We don’t use our money collectively.”
Over at the Heath Gallery the theme of unity was present with the exhibition, “Crossing Lines” featuring collaborations between artists, Gilbert Gandia and Michael Dailey, Jr. This was my first-time visiting the gallery and I was impressed with the layout and design, which belies the fact that the space is actually the parlor room of a brownstone. While there I discovered that the founders Thomas and Saundra Heath are transferring full responsibility of the gallery to their daughter, Kai Heath as lead curator. This is a promising opportunity in the 20 year-old’s life and one that she plans to use to support rising artists. “I want to bring other young artists in who haven’t had a chance to have their work up in Chelsea to have their work displayed and appreciated,” she says.
Ella Veres certainly has gratitude for East Harlem’s Savoy Bakery where her exhibition, “Farewell, My Transylvania” is on display. Veres’ vivid images highlight the beauty of her native land of Transylvania, Romania and also help to counter the image of vampires that are often associated with the region. For Veres, choosing Harlem as a place to present her works made perfect sense because of its similarities to her former home. “I wanted to show here because East Harlem is family oriented with lots of activity like Transylvania and the two are also very multicultural.”
Before I left I noticed the family atmosphere that Savoy Bakery manager, Brian Ghaw creates between himself and staff. There is a high-level of respect in the way that he treats his workers, which is all A. Philip Randolph was ever asking for through his labor advocacy work. Now that’s how you avoid a strike.
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This article is courtesy of our partner The Harlem Arts Alliance
The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment in Harlem and the greater NYC area.
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