5 Great Days of Black Theatre

5 Great Days of Black Theatre
Photo by Seitu Oronde

The Harlem Theatre Arts Festival (HTAF) debuted in Harlem with 5 Great Days of Black Theatre.

HTAF, a groundbreaking creative partnership established to produce, promote and document the works of Black playwrights and artists debuted Thursday, Jan. 26 at the Dwyer Cultural Center in Harlem with an incredible series of notable Black plays and readings.

Founded by Arts & Entertainment Alliance President Joan H. Allen in association with world-reknown Broadway and Off-Broadway producer Voza Rivers, and award-winning National Black Theatre producer Jackie Jeffries, the plays were presented at three of Harlem’s leading cultural institutions – the Dwyer Cultural Center, Faison’s Firehouse and at Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre – all in Harlem!

The HTAF’s first venture featured Pulitzer Prize-winning Lynn Nottage’s play, “Poof,” the story of a housewife, coming to the end of her rope with her abusive husband; mZuri’s “The Fannie Lou Hamer Story,” a powerful portrayal of a woman who defined the term “freedom fighter;” and Karimah’s “Accept ‘Except,’” the meeting of two 19-year olds running from the law, one in 1712, the other in 2012.

In addition to works by these award-winning playwrights, directors and actors, a free reading of Ajani Jackson’s “Portrait of An Earl,” the story of an aged jazzman who is haunted by failure; and, Laurence Holder’s “The General,” which delves into the mind of Colin Powell as he is confronted by the highlights of his life.

For its inaugural run, the HTAF honored three “Champion for Change” Award recipients. Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of the National Action Network (NAN) received an HTAF Award at the presentation of “Accept ‘Except.’”

NAN is one of the leading civil rights organizations in the Nation, with chapters throughout the U.S. Founded in 1991, NAN works within the spirit and tradition of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to promote a modern civil rights agenda that includes the fight for one standard of justice, decency and equal opportunities for all people regardless of race, religion, national origin, and gender.

The HTAF second Award recipient Council Member Inez Dickens was presented with the “Champion for Change” Award at “The Fannie Lou Hamer Story.”

A lifelong resident of the 9th Council District that includes Central Harlem, Morningside Heights, parts of the Upper West Side and part of East Harlem, Ass’t Deputy Majority Leader, Inez Dickens is highly respected as a tireless fighter for basic civil and human rights, justice, equity, inclusion and diversity. She is committed to improving the quality of life for everyone in her community and in the City of New York.

Moreover, for over 30 years beginning as a student activist at the side of her father and mentor, the late Harlem businessman and NYS Assemblyman, Lloyd E. Dickens, Council Member Dickens has taken an active role in economic development, small business with a focus on minority and women owned business enterprise, and political landscape of New York’s celebrated village of Harlem.

The HTAF third “Champion for Change” Award honored wife, mother, philanthropist, actress, singer, and, upcoming reality star, Dhonna Goodale with the HTAF Champion of Change Award at the presentation of “Poof.”

Mrs. Goodale is a crusader against domestic violence. (On Sept. 3, 2003, Dhonna’s youngest sister, Tara, a mother of two, was just short of obtaining her nursing degree when her life was tragically ended by her husband. She was only 25 years-old. The Utopia Safe House for Abused Women in the Poconos was recently named after Tara in her memory.)

The festival included works presented by The New Heritage Theatre Group, The Negro Ensemble Company, and, the National Black Theatre. Impressively representing the directors were: Jeremiah Drake, Charles Weldon, Chuck Patterson, Jamal Joseph and Count Stovall.

The mission of The Harlem Theatre Arts Festival is to celebrate the work of Black playwrights and artists and raise funds vital for the production, promotion and documentation of Black theatre and the arts. HTAF looks forward to presenting notable works that share the common theme of enriching Black culture and empowerment and building a wider diverse audience.

For additional information about the Harlem Theatre Arts Festival e-mail Friendsofthearts@aol.com.