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Black History Month

Art Students Prepare for Black History Month

Coming in early February, students from the Toledo School for the Arts will kick off Black History Month with a concert at the Main Library. These students are planning a musical collaboration with the Toledo Lucas County Public Library and retired BGSU professor, Michael Peslikis.

TSA students rehearsing for Black History Month music concert.

What started off as a school project, has quickly grown into something more. The high school students take time out of their busy schedules once a week to prepare their performance. They meet every Monday, sometimes with Dr. Peslikis, to rehearse and explore black history through musical interactions. Even with so few rehearsals, much progress and individual discovery has taken place. During rehearsals, young musicians delve into the rich history of African American music, sharpening their skills along the way, while learning more about black history.

Toledo School for the Arts rehearsing for music concert.

From 1800’s parlor songs to the blues, a wide range of music will be featured in the February program, and they are already looking forward to the performance. It will be a vibrant showcase of some of the country’s most influential songs, as well as other tunes, which may not be as familiar to the average listener.

The concert will be held at the Main Library (February 2018). Admission is free and the concert is open to the public. We hope you’re just as excited as we are. See you at our Black History Month celebration in February!

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Join us for a Black History Month Concert featuring TSA, Feb. 1
Photo of retired BGSU professor Michael Peslikis

Michael Peslikis is a retired Bowling Green State University music theory professor. With over six decades of experience in the music industry, Professor Peslikis’ knowledge of music genres is quite diverse – from ragtime to blues and even polka.

The Queens, New York native grew up with a piano in his home where his Greek father would invite friends over to play music from their native locales. Thus, his love for piano was cultivated by his father’s friends which would serve him greatly in his career as a musician and educator.

After his days as a budding pianist, he would go on to attend Queens College, majoring in music. Since then he has been teaching and picking up a gig or two around the local music scene. The students at Toledo School for the Arts are very excited to be working with such an experienced and talented musician and educator.

As for the performance, look forward to hearing the debut of an original arrangement or two the professor has written just for us! Thank you, Toledo Lucas County Public Library and Professor Peslikis for collaborating with us!

Black History Month Music Celebration Concert

February 1, 2018 | 3 p.m. | Main Library

TSA - Toledo School for the Arts
TLCPL - Toledo Lucas County Public Library

If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also enjoy Arts Students Prepare for Black History Month

Originally posted at http://www.toledolibrary.org/blog/black-history-month-music-celebration-featuring-michael-peslikis-and-the-toledo-school-for-the-arts by Toledo Lucas County Public Library blogger Lainie R.

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Join us for Poetry Speaks! African American Read-In, Feb. 14

Poetry Speaks! African American Poetry Read-in

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 | 6:00 – 8:00 p.m. | Main Library – McMaster Center

African Americans have profoundly influenced American poetry, from Phillis Wheatley to Paul Lawrence Dunbar, through the poets of the Harlem Renaissance, and into this twenty-first century explosion of brilliant new poets.

In celebration, we’re asking people in our community to choose one favorite poem or excerpt by an African American poet to read in a staged reading emceed by Rhonda Sewell, Toledo Lucas County Public Library’s External and Governmental Affairs Manager, and to tell us a bit about what it means to them.

Register to read a favorite poem (not your own, but published), family friendly, and no longer than a 5 minute time slot.  Registration is required only to read.

Online Registration for Readers opens January 15, 2018 and closes February 7, 2018.

Everyone is invited to attend.


Looking for a poem to read at the event? Check out these notable selections.

The Complete poetry by Maya Angelou
Selected poems by Gwendolyn Brooks
Complete poems / James Weldon Johnson ; edited with an introduction by Sondra Kathryn Wilson
Olio by Tyehimba Jess
Heaven / Rowan Ricardo Phillips
SOS: Poems 1961-2013 by Amiri Baraka
Don't Call Us Dead : Poems by Danez Smith
Collected poems : 1974--2004 / Rita Dove
Use trouble : poems / by Michael S. Harper
The collected poems of Lucille Clifton 1965-2010 / edited by Kevin Young and Michael S. Glaser ; foreword by Toni Morrison ; afterword by Kevin Young
The Collected poems of Langston Hughes / Arnold Rampersad, editor, David Roessel, associate editor
Wild beauty = Belleza salvaje : new and selected poems / Ntozake Shange ; translated by Alejandro Álvarez Nieves
Looking for online sources? Check these out:

Black History Month – Academy of American Poets
To celebrate Black History Month in February—and the rich tradition of African American poetry all year long—browse essays on literary milestones and movements, find important books on black history and poetics, look for lesson plans for Black History Month, read archival letters from classic African American poets, and search poems about the African American experience by both classic and contemporary poets.

Celebrating Black History Month – Poetry Foundation
Poems, articles, and podcasts that explore African American history and culture.

University of Pittsburg Center for African American Poets and Poetics
The mission of the Center for African American Poetry and Poetics (CAAPP) at the University of Pittsburgh is to highlight, promote, and share the poetry and poetic work of African American and African diasporic writers.

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Join us for a Black History Month Read-In

February is Black History Month, and we’re celebrating in part with a read-in! We invite you to join us in reading one of these award-winning books:

Chasing light : Michelle Obama through the lens of a White House photographer / Amanda Lucidon
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
The Mighty Miss Malone by Christopher Paul Curtis
Radiant Child by Javaka Steptoe
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Read, watch or listen to any of these African-American authors as well – find them in our online catalog:

Notable Adult Authors

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Elizabeth Alexander
Jeffrey Renard Allen
Ilyasah Al-Shabazz
Maya Angelou
Houston Baker, Jr.
James Baldwin
L. A. Banks
Amiri Baraka
Bernard W. Bell
Patricia Bell-Scott
Gwendolyn Brooks
Octavia Butler
Adrianne Byrd
Lucille Clifton
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Edwidge Danticat
Junot Diaz
Sharon Draper
W.E.B. Du Bois
Tananarive Due
Erica Armstrong Dunbar
Michael Eric Dyson
Zetta Elliott
Ralph Ellison
Angela Flournoy
Flores Forbes
Ernest J. Gaines
Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
Keith Gilyard
Nikki Giovanni
Annette Gordon-Reed
Yaa Gyasia
Alex Haley
Lorraine Hansberry
Peter J. Harris
Terrance Hayes
Wil Haygood
Leban Carrick Hill
Bell Hooks
Nalo Hopkinson
Ravi Howard
Langston Hughes
Kristin Hunter
Zora Neale Hurston
Angela Jackson
Brenda Jackson
Mitchell S. Jackson
Marlon James
N. K. Jemisin
Beverly Jenkins
Mat Johnson
T. Geronimo Johnson
Edward P. Jones
Tracy Jones
John Keene
Ibram X. Kendi
Jamica Kincaid
Laila Lalami
Victor Lavalle
Julius Lester
David Levering Lewis
Shantrelle P. Lewis
Attica Locke
Karen Lord
Manning Marable
James McBride
Janet McDonald
Bernice L. McFadden
Frederick McKissack
Patricia C. McKissack
Terry McMillan
John McWhorter
Dinaw Mengestu
Toni Morrison
Walter Mosley
Marilyn Nelson
Greg Neri
Elizabeth Nunez
Nnedi Okorafor
Jewell Parker Rhodes
Emily Raboteau
Francis Ray
Ishmael Reed
Max Rodriquez
Ntozake Shange
Nisi Shawl
Tracy K. Smith
Lorenzo Thomas Toure
Olympia Vernon
Alice Walker
Jesmyn Ward
Stephanie Powell Watts
Colson Whitehead
Frank B. Wilderson III
Crystal Wilkinson
August Wilson
David Levering Wilson
Richard Wright
Kevin Young

Notable Kids Authors

Benny Andrews
Tonya Bolden
Victoria Bond
Colin Bootman
R. Gregory Christie
Floyd Cooper
Christopher Paul Curtis
Nancy Devard
Leo Dillon
Randy DuBurke
Karen English
Shane W. Evans
Eloise Greenfield
Richard Jackson
Angela Johnson
Jen Johnson
E. B. Lewis
Daniel Minter
Frank Morrison
Kadir Nelson
Andrea David Pinkney
Brian Pinkney
Jerry Pinkney
Sam Qualls
Christian Robertson
Hope Anita Smith
Ronald L. Smith
Javaka Steptoe
Joyce Carol Thomas
Mildred D. Taylor
Carole Boston Weatherford
Deborah Wiles

Notable Teen Authors

Jaime Adoff
Kwame Alexander
Ashley Bryan
Tanita David
Matt De La Pena
Sharon G. Flake
Sudee T. Frazier
Niki Grimes
Kekla Magoon
Sheila P. Moss
Christopher Myers
Walter Dean Myers
Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
Jason Reynolds
Charles R. Smith
Angie Thomas
Rita Williams-Garcia
Brenda Woods
Jacqueline Woodson
Nicola Yoon and Ibi Zoboi

Originally posted at ToledoLibrary.org/blog/black-history-month-read-in by Toledo Lucas County Public Library blogger Heather H.

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Plays by African-American Playwrights

Tarell McCraney’s having a pretty good couple of years. He’s the playwright who last year won an Oscar for writing the daring screenplay for the exquisite movie Moonlight, and next year he’ll see his play Choir Boy open on Broadway.

The Brother/Sister Plays by Tarell McCraney
Choir Boy by Tarell McCraney
Moonlight DVD

He’s also part of a long tradition of African-American playwrights who have long been at the forefront of pushing the art form of the American theater into new artistic, political, and popular territory.  Whether the plays are doggedly realistic, bitingly satirical, or wildly expressionistic, the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library has on its shelves a variety of examples from this tradition that are well worth reading. A selective compendium follows.

The first African-American playwright to reach Broadway with a non-musical play was Willis Richardson with The Chip Woman’s Fortune in 1923, a play you don’t hear about too much anymore. But Lorraine Hansberry was the first African-American woman to hit Broadway (collaborating with Lloyd Richards, a black director), and the play she took there in 1959 has been enormously influential. A searing family drama about class and race and community pride, A Raisin in the Sun is a cornerstone of American literature and continues to dialogue with successive plays and writers to this day.

A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry - book
A Raisin in the Sun with Sidney Poitier DVD
A Raisin in the Sun with Sean Combs - DVD

As disquieting as the economic realities exposed by Hansberry were, the naturalism and domestic setting of her play made her uncompromising vision of the world digestible to a broad audience. Just a few years later, the playwright LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka) took a very different approach.  His 1964 play Dutchman is starkly allegorical and viscerally violent, following the tumultuous interaction between a white woman and a black man on a subway car.

James Baldwin, of course, is a colossal figure in American thought and literature, known primarily for his bracing prose. But he also wrote plays. Most notable is his 1964 play Blues for Mister Charlie, a history play inspired by the horrific murder of Emmett Till.

Vastly different in style is Funnyhouse of a Negro by Adrienne Kennedy, which shared the Obie award with Dutchman in 1964. Ambitious and exhilarating and occasionally exhausting, Kennedy’s play about racism and stereotypes is absurdist and dreamlike, featuring masks and hair loss and an enormous statue of Queen Victoria. Even though she emerged on the scene decades ago, Kennedy is still relevant; the University of Toledo produced Funnyhouse as recently as 2003, and her latest play He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box just opened in New York last month.

Meanwhile, Charles Gordone was the first African-American playwright to receive the Pulitzer Prize for drama, in 1970, for his play No Place to Be Somebody. Inspired by what he observed in his job as a bartender at a Greenwich Village watering hole, the play’s story of struggling urbanites chasing broken dreams seems descended from Hansberry and O’Neill, but with the sordid and flashy elements of gangsters and gunplay mixed in to goose the action.

Gordone’s play has a rough poetry to it, but for a play that takes lyricism to a whole other level check out Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf.  Shange calls this theatrical work, a collection of twenty poetic and idiosyncratically punctuated monologues, a choreopoem, because each character’s speech – some about very difficult subjects and upsetting experiences – is composed to be paired with music and choreography.

For Colored Girls by Ntozake Shange - book
For Colored Girls by Ntozake Shange - Audiobook on CD
For Colored Girls - play on DVD

Samm-Art Williams’s 1978 play Home was originally produced by the Negro Ensemble Company and transferred to Broadway where it was nominated for a Tony.  Like some of the other plays on this list, Home – a kind of staged bildungsroman – chronicles the experiences of a character who enters an urban milieu and is buffeted by crime and economic woes and poor choices. What differentiates the play from a lot of serious issue-oriented theater is its sense of humor and its ultimately sunny outlook; this protagonist, when things are going poorly, merely hypothesizes that God must be “on vacation in Miami.”

Charles Fuller’s 1982 Pulitzer-Prize-winning A Soldier’s Play, by contrast, doesn’t have much humor, but it does do interesting things with genre, appropriating the conventions of a murder mystery to explore violent bigotry and internalized racism. With its use of flashbacks and multiple locations, Fuller’s play is thoroughly cinematic, and it made an effortless leap to the screen in a film adaptation featuring Denzel Washington.

Before George C. Wolfe became one of the most celebrated and influential theatrical directors in the country, shepherding major works by other writers like Tony Kushner to the stage and running the Public Theatre, he wrote The Colored Museum, an exuberant and bitingly satirical series of sketches best remembered for “The Last Mama-On-The-Couch Play,” an irreverent parody of A Raisin in the Sun.

There are few more towering figures in American theater than the playwright August Wilson. His ten-play oeuvre, The Pittsburgh Cycle, chronicles the twentieth-century black American experience decade by decade in plays that range from rambling kitchen-sink naturalism to magic realism while always maintaining a remarkable tonal unity. Probably the most famous of these plays is Fences, which Denzel Washington turned into an award-winning film.

Jitney by August Wilson - book
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom by August Wilson - book
Joe Turner's Come and Gone by August Wilson - book
The Piano Lesson by August Wilson - book
Two Trains Running by August Wilson - book
Seven Guitars by August Wilson - book
King Hedley II by August Wilson - book
Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson - book
Radio Golf by August Wilson - book

Encouraged in college to become a playwright by James Baldwin, Suzan-Lori Parks exploded onto the scene with early plays like The America Play, which established her as someone who writes for the stage with a grammar and orthography that are all her own. She explores about race and America and history by approximating a heightened version of Black English and telling unconventionally theatrical stories about characters with evocative names and symbolic resonance.

The Red Letter Plays by Suzan-Lori Parks - book
The Book of Grace by Suzan-Lori Parks - book
Father Comes Home From the Wars by Suzan-Lori Parks - book

With two actors playing multiple roles, Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith explores how being dark-skinned or light-skinned influences its characters’ experiences of the pressures exerted by race and class – and shapes their relationships with one another. Orlandersmith is currently in New York performing a new play of hers, Until the Flood, about the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

Lydia Diamond often writes about affluent African-Americans, in plays that typically open with congenial interactions among friends and colleagues until conflicts over issues like race and poverty boil to the surface.  Check out her play Stick Fly.

And Passing Strange, an acclaimed musical by a playwright and performer who calls himself Stew, combines autobiography, allegorical drama and rock & roll into a highly entertaining mélange.

Yellowman by Dael Orlandersmith - book
Book / eBook
Stick Fly by Lydia Diamond - book
Passing Strange by Stew - book

One of the most significant writers in the American theater today is Lynn Nottage, a prolific and eclectic playwright who’s also the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama twice: in 2009 for Ruined, a riff on Brecht’s Mother Courage that interrogates the human capacity for resilience and compromise amidst the unrelenting brutality of wartime in Congo; and in 2017 for Sweat, a portrait of working-class malaise in the 21st-century American heartland.

Crumbs From the Table of joy by Lynn Nottage - book
Ruined by Lynn Nottage - book
By the Way, Meet Vera Stark by Lynn Nottage - book
Sweat by Lynn Nottage - book

The playwright Katori Hall has written a number of plays and won several awards, but thus far has attracted the most attention for her slyly metaphysical two-hander The Mountaintop, which imagines an interaction between Martin Luther King and a hotel housekeeper on the night before his assassination. Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett played the roles on Broadway, and the play helped initiate a conversation about theatrical representation of race when another theater produced the play with a white actor in the King role.

Thomas Bradshaw, meanwhile, is a provocateur, writing plays about violence, sexual aberrations, and racism that are designed to make the audience uncomfortable. His (possibly ironically titled) play Intimacy, about pornography, is no exception.

Katori Hall - book
Intimacy by Thomas Bradshaw - book

And then there’s one of the most striking success stories of the recent American theater, the self-made writer/director/actor Tyler Perry. He went from writing, self-producing, and starring in his own plays at community theaters to making feature films and being named the highest paid person in entertainment by Forbes magazine. But his plays are where it all began, and several are available in their theatrical form on DVD from the library, including Diary of a Mad Black Woman, The Marriage Counselor, Madea’s Big Happy Family, The Haves and the Have Nots, Neighbors From Hell, and Madea On the Run.

Originally posted by Toledo Lucas County Public Library blogger Eric P. at ToledoLibrary.org/blog/plays-by-african-american-playwrights.

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