Pellissippi State celebrates Black History Month with Harlem Renaissance performance, other events

Actor and instrumental trio
“Of Ebony Embers: Vignettes of the Harlem Renaissance” features one actor and a trio playing cello, piano and percussion.

Pellissippi State Community College will celebrate the music and poetry of outstanding African-American artists by hosting the chamber music theatre work “Of Ebony Embers: Vignettes of the Harlem Renaissance” as one of its Black History Month events.

The work, which features one actor accompanied on stage by an instrumental trio, will be performed at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, at the Clayton Performing Arts Center on the college’s Hardin Valley Campus, 10915 Hardin Valley Road.

The performance is free and open to the public.

“Of Ebony Embers,” written by Akin Babatunde and performed by the Core Ensemble of Florida, examines the lives of African-American poets Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen and Claude McKay as seen through the eyes of the African-American painter and muralist Aaron Douglas.

Actor Dracyn Blount portrays all the characters while interacting with the onstage musical trio playing cello, piano and percussion. The trio will perform music by African-American composers ranging from jazz greats Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus to concert music composers Jeffrey Mumford and George Walker.

Since 1993, the Core Ensemble has toured nationally to every region of the United States and internationally to England, Russia, the Ukraine, Australia and the British Virgin Islands. The Ensemble was the recipient of the 2000 Eugene McDermott Award for Excellence in the Arts awarded by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has received support from the State of Florida Department of Cultural Affairs, New England Foundation for the Arts, Palm Beach County Cultural Council, Aaron Copland Fund for Music and the Virgil Thomson Foundation.

“Black history is America’s history,” said Pellissippi State Access and Diversity Director Gayle E. Wood. “February allows us to highlight the numerous contributions African Americans have made to American history. We celebrate the diversity of this history through music, art, displays, literature, theatre, food and much more.”

Lee Willis and Soulful Sounds Review performing on campus
The Soulful Sounds Revue featuring Lee Willis, center, performs during a Black History Month event on Pellissippi State’s Hardin Valley Campus in February 2019.

All events Pellissippi State has planned for Black History Month are free and open to the public:

  • The Tom Johnson Jazz Combo and Knoxville’s Soulful Sounds Revue will perform on the Hardin Valley Campus on Friday, Feb. 28 – the jazz combo at noon and the Celebration of the Music of Motown 6-9 p.m., both in the Goins Building College Center.
  • The WordPlayers, a Knoxville-based company of Christian theatre artists, will present the one-act play “Jackie Robinson Steals Home” at 11:50 a.m. Friday, Feb. 21, on Pellissippi State’s Magnolia Avenue Campus. The play should end at 12:45 p.m.
  • African-American Read-Ins will be held on all campuses, celebrating the work of black authors: 8:45 a.m.-3:45 p.m. Feb. 18 at Division Street; 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Feb. 19 at Hardin Valley; 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 19 at Blount County; times to be determined Feb. 19 at Strawberry Plains; and 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at Magnolia Avenue.
  • Four “Monday Movies” will be shown on the Hardin Valley Campus, followed by discussions: “Mississippi Burning” on Feb. 3, “Selma” on Feb. 10, “The Hate U Give” on Feb. 17 and “Harriet” on Feb. 24. Each movie will be shown beginning at 12:30 p.m. in the Goins Building Auditorium with a discussion following in the Goins Building Cafeteria Annex.

Other Black History Month events include lunch with guest speaker Vrondelia (Ronni) Chandler, a Pellissippi State alumna and chief executive officer for Project GRAD Knoxville; opportunities to chat about “hot topics” with the Active Black Student Association; and student poetry displays.

For more information about any of Pellissippi State’s upcoming Black History Month events, visit www.pstcc.edu/events/black-history, or contact Wood at 865.539.7160 or gwood@pstcc.edu.

To request accommodations for a disability for any Pellissippi State event, call 865.539.7401 or email accommodations@pstcc.edu.

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