By Maureen Hossbacher
Photos by Cat Dwyer
On Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday, the Irish American Writers and Artists, Inc. tribute to the great man got off to a rousing start with a powerful presentation by poet Robert Gibbons entitled “to deify a martyr.” The torrent of applause that followed set the tone for the rest of this wonderful evening hosted by John Kearns and included in the roster of events for the 2018 Origin’s First Irish Theater Festival.
Keyera Bowens returned to the Cell to share another thought-provoking work: Part 1 of a story titled “No Church in the Wild,” a prose poem that explores America’s history through the lens of two brothers. We eagerly await Part 2 from this young writer with a promising literary future.
Incorporating some strategically placed call-and-response phrases, first time presenter Natasha Herring read her lyrical essay ”Black and Blue.” An educator and filmmaker, Herring is a graduate of CCNY’s MFA program and recently completed a memoir entitled, Raining Sunshine (and is looking for an agent). She has also created an on-line community of e-courses called lolforlotsoflove. For more info go to https://natasha-herring.com/natasha
IAW&A was delighted to receive a visit from Irish Vice Consul Shane Cahill who expressed his admiration for our organization and pledged the Consulate’s continued support. In the spirit of the evening, he generously reached out to our diverse presenters and audience and invited other artists with worthy projects to seek assistance from the Consulate.
Vice Consul of Ireland in New York, Shane Cahill, left. George Heslin, founder Origin Theatre Company’s First Irish Festival
Standing in for filmmaker and IAW&A Vice President Mary Pat Kelly who was unable to attend, Board member Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy introduced a tantalizing abridgment of Kelly’s film Proud. The inspiration for the film was an article by Thomas Young, an African-American war correspondent, headlined “Irish First To Treat USS MASON Crew As Americans” and based on the true story of the only African American sailors to take a Navy warship into battle during World War II. Narrated by Ossie Davis and featuring actors Stephen Rea, Eric LaRay Harvey and Aidan Quinn, the section screened at the salon showed the men arriving in Derry and their adventures there. For more information check out Proudthemovie.com.
Kathleen Walsh D’Arcy introducing clip from Mary Pat Kelly’s film Proud
Next we were treated to a musical interlude by Annalisa Chamberlin, accompanied on acoustic guitar by John Kearns. Chamberlin, a NYC-based actor and singer, performed the song ”Only Her Rivers Run Free”, which was written for the civil rights movement in 1968 Northern Ireland inspired by Martin Luther King Jr. Her second selection was a rendition of the stirring ballad ‘The Death of Emmet Till’ written by Bob Dylan.
Annalisa Chamberlin, John Kearns
Funny thing about the truth is, it’s just true, you don’t have to prove it. That lyric from Aiesha Duke’s original song “Sweet Lie” applies to her impressive talent as well. Nevertheless she went right ahead and proved it anyway, with another exciting salon performance. In addition to her work in Off-Broadway musical theater, Aiesha is also the lead singer, lyricist, manager, and choreographer of her own band , Miss Dukes Music.
John Kearns read a draft of a new poem about how movements of non-violent resistance have had far reaching influence. The poem highlights connections between Irish civil rights leaders and Gandhi and Martin Luther King who inspired the civil rights movement in the North of Ireland.
The amazing Rebekah Madebach made her second appearance at the salon. The New York actress performed “New Year’s Eve 2014”, a dramatic monologue written and directed by IAW&A member Dan Brown. The piece explored the idea that a seed of hate may exist even in the most open heart. The goal of this raw and edgy performance was to inspire each of us to look inside of ourselves, and continue to become more open and loving.
First time presenter Janelle Poe, read three poems, the first a found poem comprised entirely of Dr. MLK Jr.’s words in his seminal historic text, “Letter from Birmingham City Jail”. In “Math,” Poe continued addressing the theme of segregation and exploitation by presenting a complicated equation to identify, “How Many Black People Do You Know?” Her final untitled poem draws connections between global “cells” and prisoners of oppression. An organizer for the CCNY MFA Reading Series and selected reader for the Turnstile Series of graduating CUNY MFA students, she will be reading at CUNY Grad Center sometime in the next few months. Visit elle-dj.com or CCNY MFA Reading Series for more information.
Our grand finale was delivered by Maxine Linehan, international concert and recording artist. Maxine travels the world as a solo concert artist and has enraptured crowds in venues from New York’s Lincoln Center and Paris’ famed Théâtre du Châtelet, to Feinstein’s/54 Below and Birdland. Her stunning tribute to fellow countrymen U2, garnered rave reviews at its premiere last year including the Irish Voice who described the show as “the perfect introduction to the megawatt talent of the incomparable Linehan”. Accompanied by pianist Steven Ray Watkins at the salon, Maxine performed U2’s smash hit “One” (her cover single is available on iTunes and all proceeds benefit Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/one-bc-efa-edition-single/1089686719 ). She also performed another U2 classic, “Pride” (In The Name Of Love), which was written in honor of Dr. King. Maxine will give a special St. Patrick’s Eve performance of her show ONE: THE SONGS OF U2 backed by a chamber orchestra at Feinstein’s/54 Below on March 16th at 9.30pm.
This special event was summed up perfectly by Janelle Poe: “ A beautiful evening — and this is what [Dr. King] wanted!”