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Commentary Detail

Black History, Arts and Culture
Commentary by: Nancy Kranzberg
Aired July 01, 2011


It isn't February, the month we celebrate Black history and culture, but I think we should be thinking, watching and reading about the rich Black culture and art in the greater St Louis region.

The Black Rep is our nation's largest professional African-American Theatre company presenting contemporary works by African American playwrights.

Ron Himes created the theatre 33 years ago and has produced over 100 plays, some that he starred in. Himes has won numerous awards such as Lifetime Achievement in the Arts from the Arts and Education Council of St Louis.

Prince Wells the third is an Associate Professor of music at SIU-E where he teaches music theory and directs the Music Business program.

And of course an incredible nationally known professor from Washington University is Professor Gerald Early who is the Director for the Humanities and Merle Kling Professor of Modern Letters at the school.

Professor Early has edited several volumes, and won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Critcism. He's also served as a national consultant on Ken Burns' documentary films "Baseball," "Jazz,""Unforgetable Blackness,"and others.

Also at Washington University is the Henry Hampton Archives. Hampton was a St Louis native and a 1961 graduate of Washington University. In 1968, he established his Boston-based company Blackside,Inc., which quickly became the largest African American owned film production company of the time.

Let's not forget Nelly, our modern rap star who has not forgotten his native St Louis or internationally famous king of rock and roll, Chuck Berry.

The St Louis Art Museum Friends of African American Art Collector's Circle is a group of individuals committed to strengthening the appreciation of African American art as well as supporting Museum acquisitions of works created by African Artists.

Deborah and Malik Ahmed of Better Family Life bring together African and African American Dance troupes from all over the world to perform at Edison Theatre at Washington University every year and it doesn't get more thrilling than to watch these performances, which follow several days of nationally renowned workshops on Black Dance.

And we can't forget to salute Katherine Dunham that made East St Louis her home. She was a dancer, choreographer, songwriter, author, educator and activist. She had one of the most successful dance careers in American and European Theatres of the 20th century and has been called "Matriarch and Queen Mother of Black Dance."

Kudos to young Dail Chambers who just recently received the prestigious Visionary Award from Grand Center, Inc. for her innovative and creative energies. She founded YeYo Arts Collective which is dedicated to women's issues, including family, youth and community.

I can't leave out my favorite and that's Jazz St Louis, helmed by Gene Dobbs Bradford, which has several educational programs and brings musical greats into the schools and brings those greats to town to perform at Jazz at the Bistro.

The audience is very diverse and I love the idea that we are all one, enjoying great music and just wish that everyone in town would enjoy good art in all the disciplines by the wonderful communities of all kinds.


(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Nancy Kranzberg

Nancy Kranzberg

Arts Aficionado Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some thirty years. She serves on numerous arts affiliated boards, including The St. Louis Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park where she is the Co-Chair, The Sheldon Arts Foundation and the Sheldon Art Gallery Board, Jazz at the Bistro, The Missouri Mansion Preservation Inc., The Mid American Arts Alliance, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Nancy was named Women of Achievement and was awarded the Distinguished Alumnae Award at Washington University Nancy is a docent at the St. Louis Art Museum and is an honorary docent at Laumeier Sculpture Park. At age 60 she became a Jazz singer. She performs with the Second Half which features Chancellor Tom George on the piano.

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