Black History Month Play Festival: Tribute to Poet Amiri Baraka

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Amiri Baraka


National Black Touring Circuit’s Black History Month Play Festival in Harlem On Feb 8

The National Black Touring Circuit’s 2014 Black History Month Play Festival will hold poetry, music and drama performances in Harlem that celebrate acclaimed poet Amiri Baraka, legendary singer Billie Holiday, the Great Divas of Gospel and Ossie Davis’ renowned play “The People of Clarendon County” from February 7 – March 2.

The Black History Month Play Festival will showcase biographical tributes to visionary African American cultural heroes in music, literature and theatre. In addition, there will be post-production discussions focusing on issues these African American performers faced during their lifetimes. Woodie King, Jr., the producer/director of the National Black Touring Circuit and Kim Weston Moran, associate producer, produce the Black History Month Play Festival.

“We are happy to have all the productions for the Black History Month Play Festival performed in historic Harlem this year,” said King. “However, this year is bittersweet. Amiri Baraka, a longtime supporter, was scheduled to bring his “Blues People” to Harlem. Instead, there will be a powerful poetry and music memorial tribute to the man and his words. Each of this year’s productions brings a significant historic story about these African American cultural visionaries, who continued to create their art and messages while facing discrimination.”

“A Tribute in Memory of Amiri” will be held on Saturday, February 8 at Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 135th and Lenox Avenue at 7:30pm. It’s a Harlem homage to the late Amiri Baraka, the legendary author, poet, playwright and scholar. It will feature words and music by Ted Wilson, Haki Madhubuti, Sonia Sanchez, Quincy Troupe, Blu Ark, Bill Harris, Umar Bin Hassan, Craig Harris, Dwight Trible and others.

“Great Divas of Gospel” starring Lady Peachena, Debbie Malone Sargeant, Betty Cook, Dolores Morales will be held on Saturday, February 22 at 7:30pm and Sunday, February 23 at 3:00pm at the New York Academy of Medicine, 103rd St. & Fifth Avenue. Through drama and song, "The Great Divas of Gospel salutes the female pioneers of Gospel music including: The Clara Ward Singers, The Sallie Martin Singers, Marion Williams & the Stars of Faith and Mahalia Jackson. This inspirational show journeys through these legendary ladies’ lives. How they faced segregation, discrimination, and tough Jim Crow laws but they were undeterred and totally committed to winning lost souls for the Kingdom. These talented performers are also renowned as the Late Show's Gospel Choir, which has been singing on CBS Network’s “Late Night with David Letterman” since 1995.

Sunday, February 23 at 3:00pm—Special reading of Ossie Davis’ play “The People of Clarendon County” by Kim Weston-Moran

“Yesterdays: An Evening with Billie Holiday” starring Vanessa Rubin, written by Reenie Upchurch and directed by Woodie King Jr. will be held February 28 – March 2 at National Black Theater, 2031 Fifth Avenue. Performance are Friday, February 28th and Saturday, March 1 at 7:30pm; Sunday. March 2 at 4:00pm.This solo performance is a fictional portrayal of Billie Holiday’s last show in New York, where she died in 1959. Against the backdrop of a small nightclub, Holiday poignantly shares personal and professional memories from childhood to racism to stardom to drugs. Intertwined is the stylistic singing of classics “God Bless the Child,” “Don’t Explain” and “Fine and Mellow.”

Friday, February 28th at 7:30pm -Special reading of Ossie Davis’ play “The People of Clarendon County” by Kim Weston-Moran

The Black History Month Play Festival performance tickets are $25. Group rates are available. For more information call (212) 279-4200 or visit

The National Black Touring Circuit was founded in 1974, by Woodie King, Jr. to make existing Black theatre productions available to a larger audience by presenting to the Black communities at large, to colleges, to Black art centers, and to resident professional theatres.

This program is funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, Time Warner, Inc., West Harlem Development Corporation and individual contributions.                                                 

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