Ready for the first Comedy Festival in Harlem? The week long festival celebrating people of color in comedy kicks off this weekend uptown with a stand up showcase, and competition, as well as Improvisation and sketch comedy performers of color in NYC. There will also be a four documentary film series at Maysle’s Cinema in
Protesters Aim to Save Harlems Historic Renaissance Ballroom from Demolition – Video: via Protesters Aim to Save Harlems Historic Renaissance Ballroom from Demolition – NY1.
“The Ballroom was completed in 1924 as part of a larger entertainment hub that included a bustling casino and 900-seat theatre. Built and operated by black businessmen, the “Rennie” was the only upscale reception hall available to African Americans at the time. Prize fights, concerts, dance marathons, film screenings, and stage acts were held at the Renaissance, along with elegant parties and meetings of the most influential social clubs and political organizations in Harlem. The community’s elite gathered to dance the Charleston and the Black Bottom to live entertainment by the most renowned jazz musicians of the age.
“The nightspot even played host to the nation’s first all-black professional basketball team, also called the Harlem Renaissance, considered by some to be the best in the world in their day. On game nights, portable hoops were erected on the dance floor, converting the ballroom into a stadium. Following each game, almost invariably a victory for the Rens, a dance was held where players would mingle and jive with the choicest ladies of Harlem. The team barnstormed in towns across the country, playing exhibition games in which coveted matches with white teams drew the largest crowds. In their best season, the Renns set a record with 88 consecutive wins that has yet to be broken.”
Four African Americans are among this year’s consortium.
These individuals were nominated by an anonymous and esteemed group of people who are experts in their fields. The fellows had to demonstrate not only that they are brilliant self-starters in their respective professions but also that they are pushing the limits on future work that has “the potential for the fellowship to facilitate subsequent creative work,” the foundation’s site reads.
The first widely publicized observance of a Memorial Day-type observance after the Civil War was in Charleston, South Carolina, on May 1, 1865.
During the war, Union soldiers who were prisoners of war had been held at the Charleston Race Course; at least 257 Union prisoners died there and were hastily buried in unmarked graves.
Together with teachers and missionaries, black residents of Charleston organized a May Day ceremony in 1865, which was covered by the New York Tribune and other national papers.
The freedmen cleaned up and landscaped the burial ground, building an enclosure and an arch labeled, “Martyrs of the Race Course.”
Nearly ten thousand people, mostly freedmen, gathered on May 1 to commemorate the war dead. Involved were about 3,000 school children newly enrolled in freedmen’s schools, mutual aid societies, Union troops, black ministers, and white northern missionaries. Most brought flowers to lay on the burial field.
Today the site is used as Hampton Park. Years later, the celebration would come to be called the “First Decoration Day” in the North. David W. Blight described the day:
“This was the first Memorial Day. African Americans invented Memorial Day in Charleston, South Carolina. What you have there is black Americans recently freed from slavery announcing to the world with their flowers, their feet, and their songs what the war had been about. What they basically were creating was the Independence Day of a Second American Revolution.”