Oakland, CA

How You Can Meet the Brilliant Figures of the Famous Harlem Renaissance

Karin K Jensen

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Cab Calloway and his orchestra, 1936Unknown

Calling all jazz lovers, costume lovers, and history buffs! On August 21st, Legacy of Black Genius, an Oakland-based consortium of small businesses, hosts the Underground Renaissance, a 1920s/30s Harlem Renaissance-themed supper club event with live music.

Participants will hear the music of the era and interact with impersonators representing iconic figures, including:

  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Muddy Waters
  • Billie Holiday
  • Cab Calloway
  • Langston Hughes
  • Adelaide Hall
  • Katherine Dunham

Artists will perform covers of music by these famous performers along with their own tunes. Guests can enjoy a meal with desserts before the show, snacks and drinks during the performances, and being transported back to the era through blues and jazz music. Costumes such as 1920s/30s style dresses, suits, hats, furs, capes, and greatcoats will be admired but not required.

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Organizer Mia Jackson in a period-inspired outfitMia Jackson

Capacity is limited to comply with Covid guidelines, and masks are required. The event will be held from 8 pm to midnight under the stars at “The Island” at 809 50th Avenue in East Oakland.

History of the Harlem Renaissance

Harlem Renaissance refers to the development of the Harlem neighborhood in New York City as a Black cultural mecca in the early 20th century and the subsequent social and artistic explosion. From roughly the 1910s through the mid-1930s, the period is considered a golden age in African American culture, manifesting in literature, music, stage performance, and art.

Out of this era emerged iconic performers, such as Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Adelaide Hall, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Ethel Waters, and many more. Characterizing the Harlem Renaissance was the idea that African Americans could challenge the pervading racism and stereotypes of the era through intellect and the production of literature, art, and music.

Commemorating Marcus Garvey

Mia Jackson of Authentik Afrikan and one of the Event Organizers says, “We’re holding this event in recognition of the honorable Marcus Garvey’s birthday. (Garvey was the founder and first President-General of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and African Communities League in 1914.) With an all-star guest list, you’ll get to meet notables and be entertained by jazz and blues greats!”

A Cooperative of Black-Owned Businesses

Legacy of Black Genius, the event organizer, is a cooperative of eight Oakland-based black-owned businesses, including:

  • Authentik Afrikan, owned by Mia Jackson, Event Organizer. Mia is an experienced designer who had the idea to fuse music with her love of clothing and costumes to create the Underground Renaissance. Her previous experience organizing events for the Greater Bay Area Costumers Guild gave her confidence to launch this production.
  • Good JuJu Good Vibes, owned by Tut Kingdom, who plays Cab Calloway. Tut is a local artist and indigenous spiritual practitioner whose core values stem from his experiences growing up in the streets of Oakland. From gang life to changing lives, his business centers on healing, crystals, and metaphysical education.
  • Black Star Investment Group, owned by Brother Ayinde, who plays Marcus Garvey. His company helps clients navigate financial life relating to auto and home purchases, investments, and commercial real estate.
  • House of Hayes, owned by Cordell "Deli" Hayes, who plays Langston Hughes. Deli is a multimedia artist whose digital art includes web design, graphic art, t-shirt design, photography, and editing. He also designs machine embroidery.
  • SB Management, owned by Shakir Bowens, who plays Paul Robeson, is a solar energy consultant working to lower customer energy costs
  • Tricey Sweets, owned by Patrice Bowens, who plays Ella Fitzgerald. Patrice is a culinary artist who offers cooking, catering, and baking services.
  • Valor and Virtue, owned by Shayara Napashyam, Event Organizer. Shayara is an Oakland-born artist who creates macrame fringe dresses, wire-wrapped jewelry, and crowns.
  • God’s Foundation, owned by Balas Napashyam, who plays Muddy Waters. Raised in East Oakland, Balas creates one-of-a-kind Christian-themed keepsake wall art and mementos.

Repaired Nations, a cooperative incubator, brought the group together and helped them organize and bring the Legacy of Black Genius to life. Members work cooperatively to promote their businesses and African American arts and culture.

Aside from sharing the costs of photography and editing in support of their businesses, their first cooperative art project was a fashion show called Ashe Slay that featured emerging East Bay fashion designers and music artists.

Unique African-American Costume Event

Mia Jackson says, “Underground Renaissance is special because not only have we learned a lot about the artists that we are portraying, we’ll be able to share this history in a fun and engaging way. As a costume creator, I haven’t experienced any African-American-centered events of this nature, so I’m excited to break new ground!”

How You Can Go

Tickets for the Underground Renaissance event at 809 50th Avenue in Oakland on August 21st, 8 pm to midnight, are $50 and available through Eventbrite here. Dinner can be added for $15 in advance.

References

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Proud Alamedan writing about our arts, business, politics, and events. I also write about local Asian American history. On Instagram @karinkjensen.

Alameda, CA
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