Island in the Sun, staring Dorthy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte is a 1957 film which contemplates miscegenation, class, and racial labor politics. The sizzling performances of Dandrige and Belafonte is a lesson for actors in conveying sensual restraint . Belafonte created a character simmering with frustration about racial politics . Belafonte transmits this with a cool clarity that even fans of President Obama’s swagger can appreciate. Meanwhile Ms. Dandrige, who possessed considerable acting dexterity, has a cultured and sultry spiciness only women of color exude (I’m just saying). For those engaged with the history of Black film and culturally specific representations, there’s so much more to enjoy. Watch the full length film here:
Yes, we recently roamed around the Caribbean for a minute. We stopped to hydrate and graze in Nassau with our host, extraordinary local personality Vernal Sands. While we have been to Nassau a few times, hoofing around the hills with Mr. Sands was a unique experience. The Clifton Heritage National Park has the famous underwater sculpture garden and is home to a group of cabins built of coral rock and limestone where the captive and enslaved Africans dwelled. The cabins are similar to other such cabins on slave era plantations of the Caribbean. Here is a picture of that problematic cotton plant and two other typical stone cabins that sums it all up for me.
Cotton in Nassau , Bahamas. Photo by Gary L. Moore
Coral Cabins at Clifton Heritage National Park, Nassau,Bahamas. Photo by Gary L. Moore
Coral Cabins at Clifton Heritage National Park, Nassau,Bahamas. Photo by Gary L. Moore
Five on the Black with … Charlene Farmington and Sharon Blake of the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum
Charlene Farrington, Museum Director, earned her bachelor’s in Business Administration from Mercer University in Georgia. As the daughter of the Spady Museum’s Founder, Vera Farrington, Ms. Farrington has worked in Black history and preservation for several decades. She became the director of the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum in the August 2012 and under her leadership, the museum has strengthened relationships with city and county leaders and historical organizations, and has forged new partnerships within the community. Affiliations include: the Florida African-American Preservation Network; Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce Non-Profit Council; Palm Beach County Cultural Council, Cultural Education Committee; and the Delray Beach West Settler’s Historic District Advisory Board.
Roving Buffalo: Preserving a communities oral histories and material culture is the essence of
historic house museums. Why is this particularly relevant for the Spady Cultural Heritage Museum and community?
The Spady Museum is located in Palm Beach County which has a rich and interesting history. The racial and cultural narrative of the county is finally being preserved and shared after a 100 + year delay. The Spady Museum recognizes the importance of educating the community, particularly the youth, on the history of Palm Beach County from the perspective of its black citizens, which include Caribbean and mixed race black and brown immigrants. Located in the home of educator Solomon D. Spady, the Spady Museum board and staff are dedicated to preserving and sharing the black history of Palm Beach County.
How many frogs were in Frog Alley?
There were lots of frogs in Frog Alley, mostly because there were so few people, cars, street lights and even roads in the southwest neighborhood of Delray Beach. Of course, this is during the settlement time period of Delray Beach – the 1850s – 1940s. Because the southwest side of town was more low-lying, water would settle more readily along the dirt roads and frogs were attracted to the pools of water, especially during the rainy season. The term Frog Alley was used by settlers to differentiate between two communities of black settlers. The residents of Frog Alley migrated to Delray Beach from the Bahamas.
I won’t pass judgment on the double lock brushed stainless steel handcuffs hanging from your office bookcase.
The Spady House’s Juneteenth celebration has become a regional event we all look
forward to every year. For the uninitiated give us the rundown on what happens.
Juneteenth is an emancipation celebration that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. June 19, 1865 was long believed to be the date the last enslaved black people were released from slavery in Galveston Texas. We have since learned that people were held in slavery even after that date, but June 19th is celebrated across the U.S. and has been submitted for consideration to become a national holiday. Traditional Juneteenth celebrations include a barbeque picnic with music and games, reminiscent of that first Galveston celebration event in 1865. The Spady Museum celebrates with live music and visual art. Other elements include barbeque, storytelling, drumming and dance. The atmosphere is festive and creative, designed to encourage the participation of all cultures and ages.
By age five your son, decided he wanted to become a baker. What is it like to see him grown up to become a major creative presence.
My 20 year old son, Alex, decided at a young age that he wanted to pursue cooking and/or baking. He focused on that desire and has been working toward that goal since high school. His first cooking teacher was his maternal grandmother, who exposed him to traditional Bahamian cooking. He has been making good decisions and accepting opportunities that move him toward his goal such as an internship at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida that ended this past May. I am both proud of him and excited for him. He is at the threshold of the rest of his life with every direction open to him.
Sharon Blake has over 19 years of experience in nonprofit arts. Formerly the Director of Music, Theatre, and Dance at the Maryland State Arts Council, Ms. Blake oversaw an annual grant portfolio of $3.6 million in general operating support; developed the Maryland Touring Artists Roster and Maryland Presenters Network; and, served as the state ADA/504 coordinator. She has held management positions at the Georgia Council for the Arts, VSA arts, and the Association of Performing Arts Presenters. Ms. Blake has a BA, Art History/Business; MS, Nonprofit Management.
Roving Buffalo: By this time you are a seasoned south Floridian. What has pleasantly surprised you about your move from the very urbane Baltimore to the land of ocean, mangos and palm trees?
Sharon Blake:Well, this isn’t my first time in Florida. My family moved here from Minnesota when I was 14 years old. However, as an adult who has spent much of my professional life in urban centers (Washington,DC, Atlanta, and Baltimore). I can say that the thing that I notice the most is the slower, more casual pace. I do love the ocean, mangos and palm trees, and the ocean. Did I say the ocean already? Love the ocean! Sometimes I miss the buzz of the city and all that goes with it. Fortunately, Miami is not that far away and Palm Beach County has enclave of artists and venues that are interesting and contemporary to quell my cravings for the urban life.
How has your perspective on the arts changed as you have transitioned into the house museum field after a very successfully career administrating in the performing arts?
I wanted to take the next step in my professional life by working in an organization that is directly connected with the community. My previous positions were at the National and State levels in which I was a funder. I saw all these great programs on the pages of an application, but I never had hands-on experience implementing them. I wanted to do that—find out for myself what it means to create a program and give to the community in a meaningful and tangible way. I have to say that I’m hooked. There’s nothing more satisfying than creating something for others to enjoy and, hopefully, learn from that experience.
Belly Dancing was once named the “Hoochie Coochie”. What enticed you to master this dance form?
I was trying to find a creative outlet and came upon belly dance several years ago, which has quite a following in D.C. I wanted to learn this dance form because it is natural to the curves of a woman’s body and actually celebrates it! It wasn’t until after I started dancing that I would get those “Hoochie Coochie” responses but what can I say, people are people and I use it as an opportunity to share with the rich cultural traditions of this particular dance form. Then I ask them to do a shimmy so they get a taste of the level of skill you need — it’s difficult but once you master it, you’re a shimmying goddess!
Has the dance had an effect on how you view your body?
Belly dance has had a very positive impact on how I view my body. Curves are important in this particular type of dance because it accentuates the movements… I have the curves! I feel sensual and confident, flirty and commanding (those layering techniques are no joke!). I recommend that any woman at any point in her life and no matter what she think her dance skills are, should take a class or two—it’s very empowering. By the way, there are male belly dancers too, so for you men out there want to do something different you’re welcome to join us anytime!
What is your favored photograph or artwork currently installed at the Spady?
This is difficult to answer. At least twice a year we install a touring exhibit based on a topic we want to explore or a connection we can make with the community. However, when we have the “ancestors” from our permanent collection on the walls, there is no one picture that I like the best. Viewing the photographs of all of our black pioneers in Delray Beach in a collective format is quite a powerful experience. I feel like they’re watching out for us—protecting the museum.