Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #36

Contents

HARLEM REVISITED

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED THIS WEEKEND

BOSTON WOMEN ARTISTS SHOW THEIR STUFF

A DAY AT THE CIRCUS

A DOG, A KID AND A PAIR OF SKATES

THE REAPING WREAKS

UP-COMING EVENTS


HARLEM REVISITED

by Kay Bourne

(pictured: Katherine Butler Jones)

5a73471bd5e6248ce64d9983340f10f3.124.82 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #36Ask any Harlem cabbie to take you to 409. He’ll drive you straight to the neighborhood locals call “Sugar Hill”, stopping directly in front of the swank thirteen floor apartment building on Edgecombe Avenue. The address was that well known in the heyday of Harlem when it was a community-on-the-go for people of color. Among the Black leaders and celebrities, mingled in with more ordinary residents, who lived at 409 in the 30′s were NAACP stalwarts Thurgood Marshall, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Walter White, and poet/anthologist William Stanley Braithwaite (formerly of Boston).

Katherine Butler Jones‘ play, “409 EDGECOMBE AVENUE” about her childhood home, which she describes as “a slice of life in Black America in Harlem,” focuses on Madame St. Clair. The flamboyant Stephanie St. Clair, an immigrant from Martinique, was once the richest woman in Black America. She made her fortune by organizing a gambling operation, and had, at the height of her illegal business, forty runners and numerous security guards important in her battles against Dutch Schultz and other gangsters eager to take over her clientele.

Also residing at 409 in Jones’s play is Eunice Hunton Carter, the first Black woman to work as a prosecutor in a New York D.A.’s office, and the only woman and only African American on Thomas Dewey‘s staff prosecuting organized crime (which convicted Charles “Lucky” Luciano). Carter wants nothing so much as to put St. Clair away for running a numbers racket. (Carter’s grandson is Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter, author of the best selling, unconventional mystery novel ‘Emperor of Ocean Park,’ who came to academia after serving as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall‘s clerk.)

Interestingly, however, while these two women butted heads when it came to the law, they had in common a passion for improving the lot of Black people. Carter had, since a tiny child, been involved in her parents’ goal of opening up the services of the YMCA to people of Color, an activism she continued into her adult years. St. Clair operated a center for French speaking Black immigrants to Harlem where they could learn English and were encouraged to become U.S. citizens. She also bought space regularly in the Black community newspaper, ‘The Amsterdam News,’for a column run with her photograph in which she on the one hand taunted the likes of Dutch Schultz, yet also urged readers to register to vote.

The battle royal between two celebrated figures in the Harlem of the 30′s, “409 Edgecombe Avenue,” has its debut in a production from Up You Mighty Race theater company. Directed by the esteemed artistic director of UPYM’s Akiba Abaka, the historical drama opens April 5 for a three week run in the Plaza Theater at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, in Boston’s South End. Featured in the nine person cast are Fulani Haynes as Madame St. Clair and Christina Bynoe as Eunice Carter. Tickets are on sale at A Nubian Notion and www.bostontheatrescene.com or call 617-933-8600 for more information.

Up You Mighty Race Theatre Company’s website


EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED THIS WEEKEND

by Kay Bourne

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