Black theater audiences are most familiar with the Audelco Awards – the African-American alternative to the Tony Awards – which lauds presentations often overlooked by Broadway and Off-Broadway audiences.
Equally established in the niche market are the HADLEY Players, a theater company founded by Gertrude Jeannette.
In 1984, Jeannette won an Audelco Outstanding Pioneer Award.
She was a star of the screen who appeared in “Nothing But A Man” in 1964 and in 1972, “The Legend of Niger Charley” and “Black Girl.”
Onstage she portrayed Grace Kumalo in 1949 in “Lost In The Stars,” Sarah Washington in 1963 “Nobody Loves an Albatross” and Nursie in 1977 in the play “Vieux Carre.”
Since that time she won numerous theater-related honors.
However, prior to becoming a thespian Jeannette distinguished herself when she became the first woman to get a license to drive a motorcycle in New York City. That was 1935.
She later joined her husband’s motorcycle club in the early 1940s.
In 1942, she took and passed the cab driver’s test and became the first female cab driver in this city. Allegedly, she hid the fact that she was a woman by putting her hair up and wearing no make-up. Although gender was her secondary concern for discrimination, she said she had to battle racism and suffered bigotry on the job due to the fact she was an African-American driver.
Jeannette continued to drive a cab until 1949 when she got her first big acting gig on Broadway in the play “Lost in the Stars.”
Reports are that she was blacklisted during the “Red Scare” which associated targeted creative, Americans with communism.
She is one of several prominent African American theater directors featured in the 13-minute documentary “Drama Mamas: Black Women Theatre Directors In the Spotlight and Remembered,” which was shown at the Reel Sister of the Diaspora Film Festival in Brooklyn.
She joined the American Negro Theatre Workshop and became a leading lady for legendary playwright Tennessee Williams.
Hynes To Fund Annual Race Symposium
The Howard Beach Murder Case continues to impact the lives of New Yorkers and will positively reflect the progress made in improving race relations since white youths attacked Michael Griffith in 1986. Recently during an unveiling at Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn’s District Attorney Charles J. Hynes announced the establishment of an annual symposium that will focus on racial issues, the law and their impact on American society.
To be held during Black History Month at the college the discussion session will be designed to educate the community with a focus on the connection between race and emerging trends or public policies in the areas of criminal and social justice, civil rights, diversity in the legal profession and law enforcement and education.
“We have come a long way in the fight against discrimination but it still exists in our society. One of the goals of the symposiums is educating the community, especially our youth about their history and civic responsibility, and how to use the court system to bring about change. It will enable them to not only better themselves but to also make a positive impact on society,” DA Hynes said.
“I believe it is important to educate the community concerning issues such as race and discrimination and their impact on law and society,” DA Hynes added. “And it is important to reach people at an early age to steer them in the right direction.”
Together with William L. Pollard, president of the college, DA Hynes unveiled a proclamation agreeing to establish an annual symposium focusing on race.
“I’m excited that we will be able to provide our students and the public with a forum for critical discussions on the intersection of history, discrimination, the law, and social justice,” Pollard said.” We want to foster people’s interest in and use of the political and social tools available to them to bring about the kinds of change that will improve our communities. And by combining the wealth of experience and the resources of the District Attorney’s office with our own, we will be able to engage people in a thought-provoking and constructive way.”
The idea for the symposiums allegedly emerged when participants of the DA’s Office’s Youth and Congregations in Partnership (YCP) program created a documentary titled “Slavery and the Law.”
The film was screened at MEC last year. The documentary focuses on Brooklyn teenagers as they create a mural while learning about the history of slavery and the different laws that were passed.
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