Entertainer Jasmine Guy and the Avery Sharpe Trio will present “Raisin’ Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey” tonight at Samford’s Wright Center. Perhaps best known for her role as the pampered BAP (Black American Princess) Whitley Gilbert on the seminal TV show “A Different World,” Guy’s latest endeavor celebrates and pays homage to those black artists who created enduring works of art amid racial strife. I spoke with her (via email) about tonight’s performance.
The Birmingham Buff: What will attendees of Raisin’ Cane: A Harlem Renaissance Odyssey experience?
Jasmine Guy: This show is different in that we are celebrating a time in our history, the decade between the end of World War I and the beginnings of the Great Depression, where art blossomed for writers, poets, painters and musicians. This was the decade of the birth of jazz. Where Harlem reaped the benefits of white patrons inspire of the constant clamped down of the American Negro. This show is full of joy and information. We were dubbed “edutainment ” by the Amsterdam News after our Apollo debut.
TBB: Why do you think the stories of these artists are important to tell?
JG: Our history is important. We are not told the full African American story in school. So, I rejoice in revealing our American Journey to our audiences through poetry, music , dance and song.
TBB: The show’s release mentions that the Harlem Renaissance artists were looking forward but still struggling with the legacy of slavery and racism. We are now about 85 years removed from the Harlem Renaissance. Do you think blacks in this country are still struggling with the legacy of slavery, and if so, in what ways?
JG: Of course, we are still struggling as African Americans. Until our complete history is told we will continue to struggle. Until we are realized as a full and complete people we will know only a portion of our capabilities. This show helps to address the void. We are taught just a modicum, a minute picture of our stories. We go from Harriet Tubman to Martin Luther King and there are many more stories, struggles and songs in between.
TBB: Having left the South for New York City at a young age, I’m sure you can relate to several of the Harlem Renaissance artists who migrated to NYC. Which artist do you relate most to and why?
JG: We are all migrants in the making of this America. We have our own triumphs and humilities. You can say that as a Jewish immigrant or an Irish immigrant or as a Native American in this American story that ours is completely tragic, but that is not true. This show encompasses the best of us, the best of America…..because that is our true message. In the words of Langston Hughes…. I, too, am America.
“Raisin’ Cane” starts tonight at 7 p.m. Get ticket information here.