The Harlem YMCA launches HARLEM Y TALKS

Harlem Y Talks Logo
The Harlem YMCA will launch HARLEM Y TALKS, a prospective new lecture series, with two evening programs in December. The first program, on Monday evening, December 2nd, is called “He said, she said…Expanding Bartlett’s Quotable Landscape,” and will feature a discussion and book signing of Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations by Retha Powers, the book’s general editor. Little, Brown and Company is the publisher of the book, whose official release is scheduled for November 19th.

The second program, on Monday evening, December 16th, is called “On Winged Feet…Tracking the Trailblazing Journey of Jesse Owens,” and will feature a screening and discussion of the PBS documentary Jesse Owens with director Laurens Grant. The American Experience film just won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Research at the 34th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards.

HARLEM Y TALKS hopes to offer numerous Monday evening talks on various topics in its Little Theatre, located in the lower level of its landmarked 135th Street building, known as the Claude McKay Residence.

About the Harlem YMCA and the Little Theatre

Generations have called the Harlem YMCA “the living room of the Harlem Renaissance.” Its two West 135th Street buildings hosted much of Harlem’s flourishing artistic, literary and intellectual talent in the 1920s and 1930s. Writer Claude McKay, the namesake of the iconic “Y” tower, was among many of its notable former residents. In 1998, New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission designated the building at 180 West 135th Street an official historic landmark.

“We’re testing the waters with this exciting new talk series,” Thalia Kwok, Program Director of the Harlem YMCA says. “Raising awareness and community pride in Harlemspeaks to our overarching mission of social responsibility. We look forward to once again being known as a haven for developing cultural talent in our neighborhood.”

The Little Theatre is located on the lower level of the Harlem YMCA. It has a proscenium stage and seats about 100 people. In the 1930s the venue figured prominently inHarlem’s Little Theatre Movement offering original dramatics, concerts and public forums. Later well-known actors who performed on the Little Theatre stage have included Cicely Tyson, James Earl Jones, Roscoe Lee Browne and Clarence Williams III.

About Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations and author Retha Powers


“An impressively researched and documented collection of the finest thought produced by writers throughout the African Diaspora. A magnificent achievement,” writes Henry Louis Gates, Jr., in his forward to Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations, a compendium of passages from authors, artists, scientists, philosophers, theologians, activists, politicians, and many others.

Retha Powers has painted a rich canvas of Black history through time. Her new book, Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations, culls five thousand quotes from the time of Ancient Egypt through American slavery, Jim Crow, the Civil Rights Era, Apartheid, to the present day. The book is certain to appeal not only to quote aficionados and researchers, but also to history buffs.

Harlem resident Retha Powers is editor of the anthology, Black Silk: A Collection of African American Erotica and co-editor of This is My Best: Great Writers Share Their Favorite Work. Her journalism and essays have appeared in publications such as Essence, Ms., The New York Times Magazine, and Glamour. Powers holds an undergraduate degree from Howard University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College. A publishing professional for over twenty years, she is currently the Assistant Director of the Publishing Certificate Program at City College of New York.

About Jesse Owens and director Laurens Grant


Laurens Grant has chronicled the most famous athlete of his time. Jesse Owens’ stunning triumph at the 1936 Olympic Games captivated the world even as it infuriated the Nazis. Despite the racial slurs he endured, his grace and athleticism rallied crowds across the globe. But when the four-time Olympic gold medalist returned home, he could not even ride in the front of a bus. Grant’s film about the 22-year-old son of a sharecropper who triumphed over adversity to become a hero and world champion recently won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Research. Yet Jesse Owens also explores the elusive, fleeting quality of fame and the way Americans idolize athletes when they suit our purpose, and forget them once they don’t.

Laurens Grant is a Peabody- and three-time Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker. Most recently, she is the Producer and Director of Jesse Owens, about the African-American sprinter who crushed Hitler’s myth of Aryan supremacy by winning four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Jesse Owens is a Firelight Films production for the PBS series American Experience and is the first feature-length documentary Grant has directed for American Experience. The film originally aired on PBS on May 1, 2012, and just won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Research at the 34th Annual News and Documentary Emmy Awards. Grant has won Emmy Awards as co-producer for two ground-breaking documentary series for PBS: Latin Music USA: The Chicano Wave and Slavery and the Making of America: Seeds of Destruction. The filmmaker served as coordinating producer for American Experience’s The Murder of Emmett Till, which garnered a Sundance Jury Award, Primetime Emmy and a Peabody Award for Best Documentary. Grant produced Freedom Riders, the documentary directed by MacArthur Fellow Stanley Nelson–co-founder and executive director of Firelight Films–which won three Primetime Emmys and a Peabody. Some clips from the documentary Freedom Riders–which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was featured on Oprah–can be seen in The Butler, the latest film by director Lee Daniels. Grant has also produced and directed films for A&E and The History Channel, and has worked extensively in print journalism.

HARLEM Y TALKS is very excited to launch its inaugural talk series with a presentation of Ms. Powers’ new book, Bartlett’s Familiar Black Quotations and with Ms. Grant’sEmmy-winning film, Jesse Owens. Copies of Ms. Powers’ book will be available at the December 2nd event for purchase ($40 US), and the author will also sign copies following her discussion.

Admission is FREE for both HARLEM Y TALKS events. To reserve tickets online:

Bartlett’s/Retha Powers:

Jesse Owens/Laurens Grant:

Harlem Y Talks
Little Theatre, Claude McKay Residence, Harlem YMCA
180 West 135th Street
New York, NY 10030

Author: HarlemGuy

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