This interview is with Weusi Baraka, coordinator of the Midnight Poetry Jam (now called Words & Verses) the backbone of the introduction of poetry to the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Weusi has been coordinator since 1991. Midnight Poetry Jam since its inception has had featured poets, celebrity co-host, and many special guests.
The motto of the showcase is to, “bring your brightest words, and let them shine for the world, at the National Black Theatre Festival, Black Theatre’s Holy Ground.” This year (2019) Midnight Poetry Jam will be coordinated by Weusi and hosted by Larry “LB the Poet” Barron under the new name Words & Verses.
It will begin at a new time, 10:30 p.m. to extend additional “regional and local poet access” to enhance the national base of festival spoken word participants. The interview is by W. Calvin Anderson, publisher of Itz Black Theatre magazine and all rights are reserved 2019.
Woodie King Jr. (82) is the founder of the New Federal Theatre in New York City. He celebrated his “birthday week” as usual, at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston Salem, North Carolina. As far back as 1975 Mr. King was called, “The Renaissance Man of Black Theatre” by theatre arts journalist, Peter A. Bailey. Woodie King Jr. was, even then, a noted actor, producer, director, and filmmaker. Another noted Black Arts’ editor and critic, Hoyt W. Fuller called King, “the leading entrepreneur in Black Theatre in the center of the American theatre industry”.
This part of the interview is about Wood King Jr. and his opening night presentation of a Special Recognition Award to, Herman LeVern Thompson-Jones. Mr. Jones is a Garner, North Carolina native. Herman, an actor, producer, educator, and director of American theatre was an “influencer” in the creation of the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston Salem in 1989.
Herman LeVern Jones (above) is today the founder of TheatreSouth in Homestead, Florida. The 30-year old National Black Theatre Festival was founded by the late Larry Leon Hamlin.
Today, it is continued by his wife Sylvia Sprinkle Hamlin and executive producer Jackie Alexander. The National Black Theatre Festival is not only the premiere Black theatre festival, it is the largest of its kind in the world. The first festival brought 10,000 people to the area. The 2019 festival according to local television media (MSN Channel 12) is expected to have an economic impact of $10 million dollars on the City of Winston-Salem and Triad area. The 2019 festival will showcase 130 performances, free workshops, an international intellectual colloquium, diverse reader’s theatre, a nationally competitive Words & Verses (poetry slam), daily youth/celebrity projects, matinees, teen talent shows and more. This interview is produced and directed by W. Calvin Anderson for Itz Black Theatre magazine. All rights reserved.
Peter A. Bailey writing for the Black World (April 1975) a monthly periodical out of Chicago called, Woodie King Jr. “The Renaissance Man of Black Theatre”.
I call him now, the “Renaissance Man of the Post Modern Period in the Humanities” given that, America has blatantly returned to “square off” in the twentieth century with it seventeenth century racial values, laws, social issues, and its defiance against inclusion and diversifying the Constitution for its own projected fundamental pluralistic ideas. That means: [they] Trump base, southern and northern power elites still don’t like us leaving our “confederate fix” or enjoy women and other minorities suggesting they be given full citizenship, either.
Peter noted in ’75 that, Mr. King’s contributions (to name only a few) included:
- working in lower Manhattan with kids in a program called Mobilization For Youth
- Bringing Ron Milner, Charles Russell, Gil Moses and Ed Bullins to notoriety
- producing and directing the film, “Right On” about the Last Poets Gylan Cain, Felipe Luciano and David Nelson (at the time)
We can conclude that Woody King Jr. has never missed a day doing our bidding in the arts, civil and human rights, and any integrated science of the humanities when it comes to publishing, presenting or promoting our voices, muse and aesthetics.
We are proud of his heart, courage, love, commitment and mindset.
He has written, produced, supported festivals and launched the work and the careers of many celebrities. There are really no words to capture his value as a “man of the people”.
Project-based Learning: Let’s begin to chronicle all of his work from then to this below… and get some students involved to curate and do something… with what we understand about Woodie (?).
Please visit the New Federal Theatre’s website:
BIRTHDAY DECEMBER 18th
HE WOULD HAVE BEEN 101
THERE WILL ALWAYS BE MORE TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT MR. OSSIE DAVIS !
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