Maya Angelou’s Harlem “Fun”-raiser

EBR Writers

Maya Angelou’s Harlem “Fun”-raiser for Brother-Friend of 41-Plus-Years Becomes a Highlight of the EBR Writers Club’s 25th Anniversary (Icon-Studded Event Is Benefit/Soiree for Eugene B. Redmond Reading Room and Learning Center at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville)

 

By Roscoe “Ros” Crenshaw/Drumvoices News Service/618 650-3991

On Nov. 5th, in Maya Angelou’s elegant Harlem (NY) Brownstone, a glamorous brain mix mind-stormed at a private dinner party/”fun”-raiser for the Eugene B. Redmond Reading Room and Learning Center–namesake of Angelou’s beloved brother-friend of four-plus-decades–slated to be housed in the Elijah P.Lovejoy Library at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville.

Invitees joined Redmond and members of the EBR Writers Club including President Darlene Roy, Treasure Shields Redmond (EBR’s daughter), Jaye Willis, and Charlois Lumpkin, in what Roy called “Angelou’s Harlem Court.”

Other icons included poets Amiri Baraka and Nikki Giovanni, singers Valerie Ashford and Freddie Jackson, commentator/publisher Tavis Smiley, bankers Brent and Gloria (Bosman) Herndon, “Wiz” choreographer/theater-owner George Faison, AT & T administrator Donahue (and Judy) Redmond, Loretta Dumas (widow of writer
Henry Dumas—1934-68), college media arts administrator Kmur Hardeman, literary agent Marie Dutton Brown, poetry scholar Joanne Gabbin, and Dr. Regina McBride, Dean of Lovejoy Library and Information Services.

The evening’s appetite was captured by Dr. Pamela Plummer, who “took the bus from the airport into Harlem, and leapt into its arms.”

Sumptuous “heavy” hors d’ oeuvres flavored recitations by Angelou, Redmond, Giovanni, Roy, Plummer, Willis, and Shields Redmond–all of whom, according to bluesician/publisher Lincoln T. Beauchamp, “led us through the rapture of
ancestral memory, and the bright promise of our children for generations tocome.”

The “literare” cuisine was marinated by Jackson’s melodies; and, as poet Chris Stanard offered, “peppered with soular spice from Redmond and a kwansaba from Roy.” Eugene’s homage to Angelou, “Cataloging Toward the Autobiography of an
Archive,” and delightful verbal garnishes by the gracious hostess fully filled the festive palates.

(For the 25-year-old Writers Club, the trail to Maya’s began in East Boogie– a.k.a. East St. Louis, Illinois–at a February Black History Month event where poet Haki R. Madhubuti shared his usual excoriating brilliance. A poetic pause to help open the city’s Sesquicentennial celebration followed in April; and in June came the Club’s annual Da-Dum-Dun homage to Miles Davis/KatherineDunham/Henry Dumas {Club Patron Saint}.

Maya Angelou Harlem FundraiserThen came August and September tributes to Miles at St. Louis’ BB’s Jazz, Blues & Soups. Next, October yielded “Break Word with the World,” a “conch-us-nest”-raising event at the SIUE-East St. Louis Center, followed by
East St. Louis’ Sesquicentennial/Writers Club’s 25th Anniversary shindig at the Missouri History Museum {St. Louis,MO}. It was emceed by Roy, welcomed by ESL Mayor Alvin Parks and eloquently seasoned by Redmond, poet laureate of ESL since 1976.

Katherine Dunham-descended dancers led by Theo Jamison, drummers from Sunshine’s Community Performance Ensemble, Kendrick Smith’s Jazz Quartet, and Soular Systems Ensemble members Roy, Lumpkin, Willis, Susan “Spit-Fire”
Lively, Shields Redmond, and Roscoe Crenshaw served sauce for double helpings from incendiary “Black Arts Movement” chefs Madhubuti and Baraka.

As Jaye recalled, “senses feasted on historical stills, music, dance, and soulful knowledge served by Dr. Amiri Baraka and Dr. Haki R. Madhubuti.” Then it was on to DuSable Museum in Chicago, Oct. 30th, for “Speak Truth to the People,” a stunning evening honoring Mari Evans and Lerone Bennett, Jr., co-chaired by Giovanni, Madhubuti, Redmond, and Sonia Sanchez.

Maya Angelou Harlem FundraiserFinally, on Oct. 31, at the 5th Annual Albany (GA) State University Poetry Festival, aptly named “Bloodlinks and Sacred Places” (after a 1973 LP recording by Redmond), Dr. James Hill coordinated a three-day sanguine blend of
workshops and deliveries featuring Redmond and Gloria Wade-Gayles. Panels, readings by community, faculty and student poets, and book signings made up the festival’s menu.)

East St. Louis’ Sesquicentennial treats will wrapped up with a bang at City Hall on Dec. 6th and will be reprised during a Club-sponsored pre-Kwanzaa event on Dec. 20th at the Higher Education Campus.

But let us return to the Harlem edifice of the Grand Gourmet, Maya Angelou, and reflections by Soular Systems Ensemble members: Willis noted that in “Maya’s Harlem . . . we raised funds and consciousness as we gathered in the living room
for impromptu verse”; and Lumpkin observed: “There in the quiet company of great art and dainty cloth napkins embroidered with the letter ‘M,’ I sat beneath a ceiling-sky painted with wisps of white clouds and recessed lights. Looking up, I realized that under Maya’s sky anything is possible.”

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