On March 2, 2019, the SWWYLA committee hosted a Harlem Renaissance Theater workshop at the Ivy Youth and Family Center. The program was led by Marjuan Canady, an award-winning artist, entrepreneur, and educator. From the very beginning, the atmosphere was set with captivating sounds of Duke Ellington while the participants were asked to explore photography from the Harlem Renaissance period and write reflections describing the types of clothing, expressions and scenery that they observed. The participants continued the activity by engaging in an insightful dialogue about the Great Migration of African Americans from the South to the Northern states and how Harlem, New York served as the catalyst for the Harlem Renaissance. Ms. Canady described this time period as the intellectual and artistic social movement that occurred during the early 1900’s and mid 1930’s. Ms. Canady shared the importance of this movement and its influence on African American expression, music, poetry and the arts.We rounded out the discussion with a fun trivia game that tested their Harlem Renaissance knowledge.
The activity was followed by an interactive session on improv and storytelling through movement. Using only body language and rhythmic expression, the SWWYLA participants were challenged to create stories and act out scenes that included characters, problems, and resolutions. Those in the audience were tasked with interpreting the scene and identifying the movements and gestures that helped to relay the story.The final activity required participants to use the skills they learned in the workshop to recite famous poems by Langston Hughes and Countee Cullen, while incorporating movement and dance to create a visual of stories being told through poems. The participants left the workshop with more knowledge of the arts and the influence the Harlem Renaissance had on African American culture.