#FreshestRoots Talks Ferguson: Open Mic


#FreshestRoots Talks Ferguson: Open Mic
Friday, December 5, 7 p.m., Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute


SEATTLE (November 26, 2014) — In response to the grand jury decision whether to indict police officer Darren Wilson in the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in the Ferguson, Missouri; Freshest Roots, in partnership with Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute (LHPAI), will present a place for spoken word dialogue on Friday, December 5 at 7 p.m. The event will feature four artists performing in honor of Michael Brown and teens and young adults everywhere with words, music and poetry of power and remembrance. All ages, doors open at 7 p.m.

Freshest Roots is a Seattle native, urban, all ages open mic that occurs the first Friday of every month at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. Freshest Roots began in 2009 and is one of the most well-known open mics in the Seattle area. “The key to keeping Freshest alive and thriving is to keep things centralized and accessible to the community, and to stay humble on things that can, and cannot be changed,” Eddie Martinez, Freshest Roots co-founder. Freshest features art exhibits, cappella singing, folk guitar, music sampling, dancing, hip hop music and spoken word.

For more information about the open mic, or how to get involved, check out www.freshestroots.com.


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Seattle Premiere of award winning HIV documentary “25 To Life”

Seattle Premiere of award winning documentary “25 To Life”
December 1, 6 p.m., Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute


SEATTLE (November 19, 2014) — In honor of World AIDS Day, a special film screening of the documentary 25 to Life will be presented by Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute (LHPAI), the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement (AFFRM) and the Seattle Vaccine Trials Unit (HVTU) a program of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. This 2014 American Black Film Festival Grand Prize Jury winner is the latest release from AFFRM, which the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival is a proud founding collaborator. 25 to Life chronicles the story of William Brawner, a young man who kept his HIV-positive status a secret for over twenty-five years. Now, William seeks redemption as he embarks on a new phase of life with his HIV-negative wife. The film journeys with Brawner and his family as he struggles to carve out an open and honest future. The Seattle presentation is one of 25 cities to present the film on World AIDS Day.


Monday, December 1

Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, 104 17th Ave South, Seattle, 98144

6 p.m.              Doors open
6-7 p.m.           Informational tables, HIV & Hepatitis testing
7-8:30 p.m.      25 to Life Seattle Premiere
8:30-9 p.m.      Panel discussion

Reservations: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/936507

This contribute-what-you-can film screening event is made possible by the Seattle Pride Foundation and individual donations.

To contribute to the Rev Gwen Hall & Lois Peterson Scholarship Fund at The Pride Foundation, use this link: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/959195

This special screening event will include a panel discussion with HIV stakeholders and community members affected by the disease. Additionally, many local community groups are coming together to share information about their organizations, including African American Reach and Teach Ministries, Center for AIDS Research, Center for Multicultural Health, Gay City, Gilead Sciences, and Hepatitis Education Project. Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Multicultural HIV/Hepatitis Action Network, Project Handle, People of Color Against AIDS Network and the Seattle Pride Foundation. HIV testing will be provided by Center for Multicultural Health and Hepatitis C testing will be conducted by the Hepatitis Education Project throughout the evening.

25 to Life is supported by Sundance Institute, Cinereach, TheGoodPitch, IFP, Firelight Media Lab, and Tribeca All Access.

LHPAI is partnering with Sojourner Truth Ministries and the Rev Gwen Hall & Lois Peterson Scholarship Fund at The Pride Foundation; funds raised will go towards scholarships that support students who identify as LGBTQ or straight-ally, with emphasis given to students of color who are studying religious/spiritual studies or social work, and especially students whose area of focus is HIV/AIDS.

AFFRM, the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement (www.affrm.com), is a grass roots network of Black Film Festivals that empower Black independent filmmakers through simultaneous theatrical distribution in their respective markets.

Seattle HIV Vaccine Trial Unit  (HVTU) is a program of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in collaboration with the University of Washington. The Seattle HVTU is a local site for the HIV Vaccine Network (HVTN), an international effort to test and find an HIV vaccine that will work safely in diverse populations worldwide.


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Call for films for Langston Hughes African American Film Festival

Call for films for the 12th annual Langston Hughes African American Film Festival
Film submission deadline: Thursday, February 5, 2015
Film festival: April 11 – April 19, 2015


SEATTLE (November 5, 2014) — The Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute (LHPAI) is seeking submissions for the annual Langston Hughes African American Film Festival (LHAAFF), which is celebrating its 12th year. The festival, which will run from April 11 to April 19, 2015, is now accepting independent film entries via Without a Box for consideration for the festival.

Call for Films
Deadline: Thursday, February 5, 2015.  
Enter online via Without a Box: https://www.withoutabox.com
Entry fee: $25 USD

Genres/subject areas: Films in the following categories will be accepted: narrative, documentary, children/youth, youth-made movies, LGBTQ, experimental, and animation. Filmmakers do not have to be Black, but films must include significant, relevant content involving Black people. The festival is seeking diverse, multifaceted stories and positive images. No fundraising or training films will be considered. Films originating in languages other than English must have English subtitles. Films are reviewed through a jury process; selected films will receive a $50 stipend for screening.

About the Langston Hughes African American Film Festival 
Beginning as a weekend film series, LHAAFF has expanded over the past decade to include nine days of film, workshops, filmmaker events, and community celebrations. It is renowned for presenting positive, provocative and penetrating independent films created by emerging and established filmmakers. Films, selected by a jury, will include contemporary and vintage offerings, representing, local, national and international filmmakers. The festival will feature panel discussions and audience ‘talk-backs’ with filmmakers, industry professionals and community leaders. Matinee screenings will be offered for middle and high school youth.

LHPAI is a founding member of AFFRM, the African American Film Festival Releasing Movement (www.affrm.com). AFFRM is a grass roots network of Black film festivals. This network empowers Black independent filmmakers through simultaneous theatrical distribution in their respective markets. Anchored by the passion and prowess of founding film festivals like LHAAFF, AFFRM has released eight films since 2010.


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Two public meetings scheduled to collect feedback as Langston Institute transitions to non-profit

Two public meetings scheduled to collect feedback as
Langston Institute transitions to non-profit

Wednesday, November 12, 7 p.m.
Saturday, November 15, 10 a.m.


SEATTLE (October 28, 2014) — The Seattle Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS) has announced two public meetings for community members. These meetings are the first two opportunities for community members to share ideas and offer feedback as LHPAI transitions from a city-run program to a non-profit organization. A community survey is forthcoming. The public meetings are part of a larger effort that includes a dozen focus groups, crafted to engage nearly 200 people including artists, collaborators, partners, arts leaders, parents and families, teens, current and former staff, local businesses, media and community leaders.

The public meetings are scheduled for:

  • Wednesday, November 12, 7 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
    Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, Grand Rehearsal Hall, 104 17th Ave. S., Seattle
  • Saturday, November 15, 10 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
    Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, Grand Rehearsal Hall, 104 17th Ave. S., Seattle

No reservations are necessary to attend. Adult supervision and activities will be provided for children ages 4 -12.

The new LHPAI non-profit should be operational starting in 2016. In 2018 it will become financially responsible for all staffing and programs. The City of Seattle will continue to own, operate and be responsible for major maintenance on the building. The LHPAI transition plan was approved by Seattle City Council in December 2013.

The Langton Hughes Performing Arts Institute is housed in what was formerly the Jewish synagogue of Chevra Bikur Cholim in the Central District at 104 17th Ave. S., 98144. The building is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places as a historical landmark. The Institute was established in 1969 to provide cultural space in Seattle’s historic Central District area, and was part of Seattle Parks & Recreation from 1971 to 2012. In January, 2013, LHPAI moved from Seattle Parks & Recreation to the Office of Arts & Culture (ARTS). Over the past two years ARTS, working with LHPAI and the Seattle Arts Commission, developed a plan for the long-term operations of LHPAI.


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A Re-imagining of Martin Luther King, The Man, A Review of Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop”

Restoring our most exalted celebrity leaders back to the status of mere mortal is not something we often consider. It’s much easier to leave them atop the mountain, where they can continue to do the all-consuming task of making our world a better place to be. Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop” is a one of a few attempts to examine civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King through the lens of humanity. Hall’s rendering allows a brief, imaginative moment to consider how Mike (Martin Luther King’s childhood name) dealt with the stress of fame, the threats on his life, and the distance from his family, as well as endless the desire to want to make humanity better.

Hall reveals a King that was as regular as you and I. He drank too much coffee and was a chain smoker. He commented on the bad weather. He loved his wife and children, and felt intensely their pain due to his absence. He was a workaholic and, in Hall’s rendering, slightly self-important, if not arrogant, when comparing his non-violent methods to what he considered to be the more aggressive efforts advocated and carried out by Malcolm X and the Black Panthers.

King’s juxtaposition against a maid working in the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis where he was staying the night before his assassination serves to bring out these characteristics in a very blunt fashion. Here we see his preoccupation with what he will say at the sanitation workers march he is scheduled to attend the next day, contrasted against the almost, but not completely, inappropriate and innuendo filled discussions with the maid, Camae. Camae, who is presented as staunchly working class, is exactly the kind of person who, in King’s mind, would benefit from the success of his movement.

We see how he begins to doubt himself as Camae expresses that marching and sermons aren’t enough. In his ever-growing doubt he implores her to stay. Eventually, in her attempt to calm what appears to be a panic attack, she blurts out his childhood name Mike. It is at this point, rather abruptly and without warning that we the audience and King find out that Camae is not just a maid but an angel from the future that has come to guide him through his transition.

Though occasionally overacted and slapstick in certain areas, this rendering of Dr. King is an excellent opportunity for reflection on the universal challenges of human life that are significantly less glorious than the seemingly never ending limelight. Had Dr. King not been a man first, he could have never been the leader that we so adored and needed. Hall’s rendering reminds us that no matter how we begin our lives, and regardless of what we do in the middle, eventually we all face the same end: death. Shouldn’t we all hope to approach our final challenge with the same honesty and depth of emotion as Dr. King did from The Mountaintop?

“The Mountaintop” written by Katori Hall and directed by Valerie Curtis Newton is playing through October 5 at  ArtsWest Theatre, 4711 California Avenue SW, Seattle, WA 98116. Tickets available online.

Reflections on the 2014 Summer Performing Arts Academy: Voices of Our Youth

DSCN1806[1] Two of our yong thespians from this summer’s Performing Arts Academy, Ms. Essence Diamond Green and Ms. Mattie Rene Alexander both whom attend Garfield High School,  stopped by LHPAI to visit and I had the pleasure of speaking with them about their experience. Their insights are indicative of the impact LHPAI continues to have on youth and the salience of arts education for youth.

What was the most difficult part of dealing with adults this summer?

Essence Diamond Green: It was sometimes difficult to communicate because I speak to young people and adults in a similar way and I had to learn how to adjust that when speaking to adults.

Mattie Rene Alexander: It was a challenge working with adults because they often believe they are right but that is not always the case.

In what ways do you see the performing arts having had an impact your life?

EDG: This experience taught me the history of our background specifically how the KKK treated African American people in the south and how African American people were able to survive. It impacted me in terms of seeing how people are able to thrive despite intense hardship, especially with groups like the KKK still being existence.

MRA: This experience has impacted me by showing me that it takes a lot of hard work to do something you’ve committed to. You can’t just give up because it gets hard. I’ve acquired a lot of life lessons that I can carry into my adult years. It has also taught me about leadership and community. For those reasons, I will definitely come back next year.

What was the most exciting aspect of this year’s Summer Performing Arts Academy?

EDG: I learned how to dances of the time period specific to the play. Singing was completely new to me. Learning lines was a huge challenge but I was able to do it. Being in a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic environmental opened me up to new experiences that I learned a lot from.

MRA: The performance was amazing. The anticipation that built up in advance was awesome. Meeting new people was very exciting. It was awesome to meet a new group of people who I ended up becoming friends with and with whom I still hang out.

2014 Summer Performing Arts Academy, Teen Musical Director: Marita Phelps

M.Phelps headshot

At the helm of this year’s Teen Summer Musical, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, is a skillful and extraordinary young woman, Ms. Marita Phelps. I sat down with Marita this week, just one week prior to the opening of the musical to learn more about her experience and the highlights of working with the youth on this production. Marita’s insights show a commitment to the performing arts and to it’s salient role in the holistic development of our youth.

Negarra A. Kudumu: What is your artistic specialty? And please share with us a little info on your professional trajectory to date.
Marita Phelps: I love the performing arts and all the roles within it! Although, I have written plays more than anything I love to act and direct as well.
I began playwriting at age thirteen when my first one-act drama, Don’t Ever Call Me Black was staged in Seattle’s FringeACT Festival of New Original Work in 2004. I went on to attend Howard University for playwriting where I earned a BFA. My one-act, Smoke & Mirrors was featured in the DC Black Theatre Festival in 2010 and in the Howard Player’s 24-Hour Playwriting Festival. I was a visiting student of Columbia University in my junior year where I began developing my first full-length play, Baggage of Beauty, later read at Howard University and again in the DC Black Theatre Festival in 2012. Recently, I began to broaden my skillset even further into arts administration. I will enter Master of Fine Arts program this fall at Seattle University to pursue Leadership in the Arts.

NAK: In what ways so you see the performing arts having had an impact on the lives of young people?
MP: The performing arts serves youth development in so many ways! Really I could talk about it forever. This summer some of the positive outcomes I have witnessed are confidence, the gaining of self-worth and learning one’s history. Producing Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry presented the perfect backdrop for creative ways to teach our teens African American history. Since it is proper to research the background information and context of a play, we were able to slide in history lessons with little to no resistance. Being that African American history is underrepresented and misinterpreted in classrooms, it is very rewarding to offer something to our youth that they may not have the chance to learn again until college. I overheard some of them talking among themselves saying things like “Wow, I learned more here than I did at school. “ and “How come they don’t teach this at school?” We were able to offer our youth a long-view history of the people of African descent opposed to beginning the story at the point of enslavement, which is so vital to one’s sense of confidence and self-worth. I love seeing their faces light up when they finally get it after I’ve interrogated them with question after question. Things like, “What’s your objective here? What type of emotional state does this put you in?” I would spend 15-20 minutes working with each young person – even those with the smallest roles, with just a few lines –  in front of their peers and as a result, their sense of contribution to group and their confidence dramatically increased.

NAK: What has been most exciting about this year’s Summer Performing Arts Academy?
MP: The most exciting part about this year’s Summer Academy and Musical is the abundance of natural talent in the group. So many of the youth have never performed before or have limited experience but are immensely talented! I have felt chills a couple of times in rehearsal after songs and well played scenes. I am really excited to be able to mold their talents, teach them basic acting skills and professional theater standards. It’s also been interesting to see some of them become really serious about the performing arts after having experienced the summer academy and musical. I can’t wait for the community to see what we’ve all worked so hard on this summer.

Teen Summer Musical: “Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry”

Teen Summer Musical: “Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry”
Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, August 15-17 


WHAT            Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute (LHPAI) is proud to present the 2014 Teen Summer Musical, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. Based on the Newbery Medal-winning novel of the same name by Mildred D. Taylor, this story follows young African American youth living in the South during the Depression. Along with youth actors, young people will support their colleagues behind the curtain to create the lighting, staging, sound and set design for the production. This year’s production led by a team of renowned performers and teaching artists: Marita Phelps, director; Kabby Mitchell III, dance director; Paul Davis, music director; Cedric Thomas II, music teaching artist; Alaisha Jefferson, dance teaching artist; Ebony Arunga and Kwame Morrow, stage managers; Patrick Crowley and Erica Rose, acting teaching artists.


WHEN:           Friday, August 15– 7 pm, opening night, reception to follow

Saturday, August 16 – 2 pm

Saturday, August 16 – 7 pm, talk back to follow

Sunday, August 17 – 2 pm

Sunday, August 17 – 7 pm


WHERE:       Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, 104 17th Ave S., Seattle 98144


HOW:             Tickets are $7 for youth and seniors, and $12 for adults and can be purchased online at Brown Paper Tickets or by calling the LHPAI box office at (206) 684-4758.


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2014 Summer Performing Arts Academy Teaching Artists Par Excellence: Paul Davis and Kabby Mitchell


Kabby Mitchell

We are  extremely honored this year to count among our teaching artists two amazing gentlemen, Messrs. Paul Davis and Kabby Mitchell. They are teaching music and dance respectively in this year’s academy and serving as musical director and choreographer the summer musical, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. I sat down with these two gentlemen after an intense day of teaching to talk about their professional experiences as well as their perspectives on youth performing arts. It is a joy and pleasure to work with these gentlemen for this year’s Summer Performing Arts Academy, and it is our pleasure to share this with you.


Paul Davis

NAK: What is your artistic speciality? And please share with us a little info on your professional trajectory to date.

Paul Davis: I am a singer/song writer and I am creative director. I have written musicals. I started off with singing and producing theater in the airforce and then studied piano at Seattle Central College where I met several African-American professionals in the arts and culture sector.  I am currently working as a vocal coach and as a choir director and coach with various churches and musical organizations. I am also the Executive Director of the Human Harmony Choral Academy.

Kabby Mitchell: I am a dancer, choreographer and educator with emphasis on the latter two. I was the first African-American to dance for the Pacific Northwest Ballet. I have also danced with Dance Theater of Harlem as well as the Netherlands Dance Theatre. I have also worked in Mexico with Televisa performing in Spanish and English.

NAK: In what ways do you see the performing arts having an impact on the  young people?

PD & KM: It assists them in building their personal creativity. It also gives them a level of discipline that they can transfer to other areas. You see the adverse affects of this when arts were removed the public schools. Many children completely tapped out because they didn’t have  an outlet that allowed them to build confidence, discipline and have a creative outlet.

NAK: What is most exciting about this year’s Summer Performing Arts Academy?

KM: I left a class where we dealt with the history of Jim Crow to teach choreography for a play like Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry. That is amazing! Because of my background in African-American studies, I am able to contextualize the history and events of that time as well as translating that into into choreography.

PM: I get to tap into my gospel roots. The kids are incredibly talented. With the right among of training, they will be able to become artists in their own right.

A Conversation with Rodney Greene of the Seattle Quare Arts Program

rodney jarreau greene

I finally caught up with Mr. Rodney J. Greene  in the Seattle Office for Parks and Recreation who works with the who works with the Seattle Quare Arts Program a partnership between Parks and Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute (LHPAI). In the run up to tomorrow’s film screening and next week’s showcase in partnership with Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute, Rodney was able to take some time to speak with me about the importance of this ongoing partnership and his vision for the progam moving into the future.

Negarra A. Kudumu: What is most exciting to you about the partnership between LHPAI  and Seattle Parks and Recreation, that has birthed the Seattle Quare Arts Project?

Rodney J. Greene: It is so vital that we have access to a place in our community that focuses on people of color, especially black people, in the arts. Being able to work with LHPAI gives our young artists of color an outlet that places the center of attention on them.

NAK: When you speak to the young people involved in this program, what are they saying about it? How is it affecting them?

RJG: They are excited to perform and work with our mentors and I can see them growing as performers all the time.

NAK: What can we expect from the upcoming showcase on June 18?

RJG: We have some great young performers who will be doing music and dance numbers. We are looking to make sure we have a poetry component as well.

NAK: What is your vision for the program moving forward?

RJG: Quare Arts Project is a pioneering program, and as far as we can tell, the only non-service based program in Seattle that specifically focuses on queer youth of color. We love the programs that provide basic services and health care, but we also need to provide things beyond that for marginalized groups. Ultimately, I hope Bearing Witness and Quare Arts Project become a central part of Seattle’s Queer Trans People of Color (QTPOC) community.


On Wednesday June 11th at the film Pay it No Mind: The Life and Times of  Marsha P. Johnson screens at LHPAI in the Grand Hall. Tickets are free on a first come first serve basis. Reserve your ticket here. The following Wednesday, June 18 is Bearing Witness A Queer Youth of Color Performing Arts Showcase in the Theater. This performance is also free, on a first come first serve basis and starts at 7 pm. For more information, visit the Facebook event page.