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New York St. Patrick's Day parade Photo by: Sebastien Barre

Black, white and green: exploring links between the Irish and African Americans for St Patrick’s Day

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New York St. Patrick's Day parade Photo by: Sebastien Barre

The paths of African-American and Irish communities in Harlem – both parallel and crossed – and the contributions they have made to American culture are explored in “Black and White and Green: St. Patrick’s Day in Harlem,” a frank and entertaining discussion and performance timed to the traditional Irish holiday. 

This final event in Irish Arts Center’s Two Roads Diverged series features cultural leader Lenwood O. Sloan and NYU Global Distinguished Professor of Music and Irish Studies Dr. Mick Moloney on March 12th at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse (150 Convent Avenue at West 135th Street, in New York City). Tickets are $10 ($8 for IAC and Harlem Stage members) and can be purchased via www.harlemstage.org or by calling 212-281-9240 ext 19 or 20.

“Black and White and Green: St. Patrick’s Day in Harlem” comprises an evening of debate and discussion that explores the vaudeville-era exchanges and rivalries among African Americans and Irish Americans through the language, song, dance, costumes and performances of the time. Live music and dance performances accompany an open dialogue about the links between Harlem’s African American community and Hell’s Kitchen’s Irish origins.

Among the artists and institutions that inspired “Black and White and Green” are turn of the 20th century black comedian and dancer Billy Kersands, the controversial BBC television series “Black and White Minstrel Show,” the Black Patti record label, Irish vaudevillians Harrigan and Hart, black minstrel singers Williams and Walker, actor/singers Eddie Cantor and Al Jolson, and acclaimed tap dance team The Nicholas Brothers.

Sloan, who previously served as Pennsylvania Film Commissioner and Director of Cultural and Heritage Initiatives, and Dr. Moloney, Global Distinguished Professor of Music and Irish Studies at NYU, developed the Two Roads Diverged series. The series has delved into Irish American and African American cultural experiences; exploring fusions, exchanges and rivalries, and the cultural stereotypes that developed from the Caribbean and Southern communities in the 1650s through the birth of Broadway and vaudeville.

Two Roads Diverged is presented by Irish Arts Center in association with Harlem Stage, and with special thanks to the New York Public Library.

Over 30 years Harlem Stage has become one of the nation’s leading arts organizations, achieving this distinction through the commissioning and presenting of challenging, relevant and topical performances by artists of color and bringing them to socially conscious audiences in the communities it serves.  Harlem Stage has a long-standing tradition of supporting such artists—around the corner and across the globe—including legends such as Harry Belafonte, Max Roach, Sekou Sundiata, Abbey Lincoln, Sonia Sanchez, Eddie Palmieri and Tito Puente, as well as contemporary artists like Bill T. Jones, Vijay Iyer, Mike Ladd, Tania León, Carl Hancock Rux, Nora Chipaumire and Jason Moran.  Its education programs each year provide 10,000 New York City children with access to a world of diverse cultures through the performing arts.  In 2006, Harlem Stage opened ­the landmarked, award-winning Harlem Stage Gatehouse – in an abandoned space that was once the source of fresh water flowing to New York City, and is now a vital source of creativity, ideas and culture.  For more information, visit www.harlemstage.org.

The Irish Arts Center, founded in 1972, is a New York-based arts and cultural center dedicated to projecting a dynamic image of Ireland and Irish America for the 21st century, building community with artists and audiences of all backgrounds, forging and strengthening cross-cultural partnerships, and preserving the evolving stories and traditions of Irish culture for generations to come.  Our multi-disciplinary programming is centered around three core areas: Performance – including live music, dance, theatre, film, literature, and the humanities; Exhibition – including visual arts presentations and cultural exhibitions that tell the evolving Irish story; and Education – with dozens of classes per week in Irish language, history, music, and dance.  Located in New York City, a world capital of arts and culture, Irish Arts Center serves as a dynamic platform for emerging and established artists and cultural creators to reach a New York, national, and global audience, and as a gateway for other institutions to access first-rate Irish and Irish American culture. www.irishartscenter.org

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