Paying Tribute to the Harlem Renaissance

Left to right: Jimmeisha Rowe, Alexandra Greaves, Gary Harris, and Angelou Paul perform “The Contest.”
Left to right: Jimmeisha Rowe, Alexandra Greaves, Gary Harris, and Angelou Paul perform “The Contest.”
Caitlyn, Gabrielle, and Nicholas Rows make a perfect sibling team to emcee the Harlem Renaissance celebration.
Caitlyn, Gabrielle, and Nicholas Rows make a perfect sibling team to emcee the Harlem Renaissance celebration.
Left to right: Rick Dormeous, Chris Corbin, and KB Bamgbelu get into politics in one of the evening’s skits.
Left to right: Rick Dormeous, Chris Corbin, and KB Bamgbelu get into politics in one of the evening’s skits.
Ms. Cynthia Quinlan oversaw a flawless evening that brought the Harlem Renaissance to the forefront.
Ms. Cynthia Quinlan oversaw a flawless evening that brought the Harlem Renaissance to the forefront.
Left to right: Clifford Manie, Berthin Lindor, and Amani Howard perform “Speak Easy” after a video series of some of Harlem’s greatest musicians and performers.
Left to right: Clifford Manie, Berthin Lindor, and Amani Howard perform “Speak Easy” after a video series of some of Harlem’s greatest musicians and performers.
Left to right: Ms. Cynthia Quinlan, Ms. Kathleen Acker, and Ms. Jacqueline Harris conclude the evening by thanking those responsible for all their hard work.
Left to right: Ms. Cynthia Quinlan, Ms. Kathleen Acker, and Ms. Jacqueline Harris conclude the evening by thanking those responsible for all their hard work.
Ms. Beck’s 5th graders at Maplewood Intermediate School created this memorable piece of art.
Ms. Beck’s 5th graders at Maplewood Intermediate School created this memorable piece of art.
Singing
Singing "Lift Every Voice and Sing," left to right: Alexandra Greaves, Ruby Bafu, and Amani Howard.
Ms. Wrights 2nd grade class at Oakwood proudly display their work of art.
Ms. Wrights 2nd grade class at Oakwood proudly display their work of art.

After several snowstorm postponements, South Huntington’s Black History Month celebration was center stage on Thursday evening, March 27.  Sponsored by the African American Heritage Club, advisor Ms. Cynthia Quinlan oversaw a flawless evening that brought the Harlem Renaissance to the forefront.  This rich period in American history centered on the blossoming of African American culture in the creative arts that was primarily centered in Harlem, New York.

It was during the early 1900s, that the African-American middle class began to advocate for racial equality.  Instead of using more direct political means to achieve their goals, African-American civil rights activists employed the artists and writers of their culture to work for the goals of civil rights and equality.

Jazz music, African-American fine art, and black literature were all absorbed into mainstream culture. This blossoming of African-American culture in European-American society, particularly in the worlds of art and music, became known as The Harlem Renaissance. Students in South Huntington paid tribute to this important period in our history with a collection of art works, literature readings, thoughts and prose, and skits that brought to life moments in history that many may not have been aware of.

The evening was smoothly emceed by the Rows children. Caitlyn, an 8th grader; Gabrielle, in the 5th grade; and brother Nicholas a Silas Wood 6th grader, delighted the audience as they introduced each of the evening’s performances.

Gary Harris, playing the role of Langston Hughes; Jimmeisha Rowe, playing Zora Neale Hurston; Angelou Paul, as Claude McKay; and Alexandra Greaves, playing Redmon Faust; performed a skit that brought to light the story behind a writing contest that proved critical in advancing African-American literature.

Ms. Quinlan read aloud a piece by Justin Shepherd, who was unable to be in attendance, about his thoughts on Zora Neale Hurston, long considered one of the pre-eminent writers of twentieth-century African-American literature.

When it comes to politics, a wonderful skit was performed by Rick Dormeous, playing WEB DuBois, Chris Corbin as Hubert Harrison, and KB Bamgbelu playing Marcus Garvey.

Three of the more well known names of the Harlem Renaissance, Cab Calloway, Billie Holiday, and Louis Armstrong, were expertly played by Clifford Manie, Amani Howard, and Berthin Lindor respectively, in a skit titled “Speak Easy.”

Writing and poetry exhibits, facilitated by Silas Wood teachers Stephanie Brown and Robin Nagar, put together pieces from all of the districts buildings. Also on display were two beautifully created mosaic pieces of art depicting the style of Romare Howard Bearden. This multi talented artist and celebrated humanist, as demonstrated by his lifelong support of young, emerging artists, has major contributions hanging in many of the worlds greatest museums. The composition of jazz musicians of the renaissance era, created by Ms. Wrights 2nd grade class at Oakwood, and Ms. Beck’s 5th graders at Maplewood could also easily be found hanging in a Soho gallery. 

Concluding the evening’s celebration, South Huntington’s Deputy Superintendent Ms. Jacqueline Harris and Whitman Principal Ms. Kathleen Acker both spoke highly of Ms. Quinlan, and the students and parent volunteer who helped make the evening possible. A special thanks also to: The South Huntington Black History Committee, Kathleen Acker, Colleen Grady, Dr. David Bernardo, Stephanie Brown, Robin Nagar, Maria Colon, Jacqueline Harris, Theresa Harris, Mr. and Mrs. Rows, Justin Shepherd, Denise Wright, and the Parents and Students of the African American Heritage Club.