sealPurdue News

August 16, 2002

Black Cultural Center programs highlight Harlem Renaissance

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – The energy and ambiance of the Harlem Renaissance will be the focus of Black Cultural Center programming this fall.

Purdue University's BCC will launch the fall semester with its annual Boilerfest New Student Orientation on Thursday, Aug. 22. The event begins at 4 p.m. in the BCC parking lot. It will feature food and live entertainment by BCC Performing Arts Ensembles. An informal gathering of campus leaders and student organizations also will be held.

Other fall semester events include:

• Saturday, Sept. 14 – BCC Friends & Family Day. Students and their families will gather at the Black Cultural Center immediately following the football game for an afternoon of activities including games, African storytelling, African-American trivia and live entertainment.

• Monday, Sept. 23 – Speech by the Rev. Calvin O. Butts III. Social activist, minister and educator Calvin O. Butts III will deliver a keynote address at 7 p.m. in Fowler Hall. The presentation is entitled, "Harlem's New Renaissance: America's Best-Kept Secret."

Butts serves as the president of State University of New York at Old Westbury and is pastor of the Abyssinian Baptist church in Harlem, New York. He has led efforts to stop police brutality and spearheaded boycotts against institutions accused of employment discrimination. He also led a national campaign to eliminate billboard advertising of alcohol and tobacco products in Harlem. Butts has been at the vanguard of the movement against rap lyrics that denigrate women and promote violence.

• Thursday, Oct. 17 – "Rose McClendon: Harlem's Gift to Broadway." This play, to be performed at 7 p.m. in Fowler Hall, will take the audience for a stroll through history and resurrect Rose McClendon, the leading actress of the Harlem Renaissance. "Rose McClendon: Harlem's Gift to Broadway," was written by, and stars, Vinie Burrows. The play celebrates the distinguished African-American actress and theater organizer of the 1920s and 1930s who earned a niche in American theater. Paul Robeson called McClendon "the leading actress of the Negro race." Langston Hughes wrote his play, "Mulatto," specifically for her.

• Friday through Tuesday, Oct. 4-8 – Harlem Renaissance Expedition Tour in Harlem, New York. The BCC Performing Arts Ensembles will travel to New York to explore the Harlem Renaissance period, when cultural icons like Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston flourished. Participants will walk the historic streets of Harlem and visit sites associated with the 1920s including the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Abyssinian Baptist Church and the Apollo Theatre.

• Thursday, Oct. 31 – BCC Coffee House Production. The BCC Performing Arts Ensembles will perform at 7 p.m. in Fowler Hall.

• Friday, Nov. 8 – BCC Film Series. "Against the Odds: The Artist of the Harlem Renaissance" will be shown at 7 p.m. at the Black Cultural Center. The film will explore how Harlem in the 1920s and 30s was a focal point of artistic creativity for African-American artists. Their work demonstrates how these artists transcended the prejudice that often surrounded them. A facilitated discussion will follow the film.

• Thursday, Nov. 14 – "Ain't Nobody’s Business If I Do: Reflections of Women in the Harlem Renaissance," a lecture by Carole Marks. The lecture will take place at 7 p.m. in Stewart Center, Room 322. Marks will demonstrate how, from the jazz-inspired lyricism of poet Langston Hughes to the audacious effervescence of performer Josephine Baker, the Harlem Renaissance contributed to American culture. She also will address the contributions of several women artists from the renaissance period in Harlem. Her lecture will be accompanied by slides of rarely seen photos of the artists of the Harlem Renaissance that appear in her book, "The Power of Pride: Stylemakers and Rulebreakers of the Harlem Renaissance."

• Friday, Dec. 6 – Cultural Arts Festival. The BCC Performing Arts Ensembles will collaborate to celebrate the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance through song, dance, drama and spoken word. The performance will take place at 7 p.m. in the Loeb Playhouse. Admission is $5 for Purdue students and $7 for the general public.

• Friday, Dec. 6 – BCC Rent Party. This benefit event, featuring music, dancing and card playing, will take place immediately following the Cultural Arts Festival in Stewart Center, Room 306. The event is modeled after the informal Harlem gatherings of the 1930s when Harlem Renaissance tenants who needed rent money would throw parties. The BCC will keep the tradition of "raising the rent" and donate proceeds to a Greater Lafayette charity. Admission is $5 per person.

Renee Thomas, Black Cultural Center director, says she hopes the fall semester focus on the Harlem Renaissance sparks a renewed interest in this period of cultural awakening for African-Americans.

"Typically the term 'Renaissance' is used to describe the artistic boom that occurred in Harlem between 1920 and 1930 when music, art, literature and the struggle for racial identity all converged," Thomas says. "The Harlem Renaissance played a significant role in the development of African-American culture and social history and, as a direct result, influenced American culture and society at large. The BCC is proud to sponsor fall semester activities and programs highlighting the social forces, cultural pride and artistic creativity of this remarkable period."

CONTACT: Renee Thomas, (765) 494-3091,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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