Spike Lee celebration at CALS Ron Robinson Theatre – Part 1: DO THE RIGHT THING

Do the Right Thing PosterThe Central Arkansas Library System is celebrating the works of Spike Lee in the CALS Ron Robinson Theater and you’re invited!

Join CALS on Friday July 12 as they celebrate the 30th anniversary of “Do The Right Thing” with a screening of Spike Lee’s 1989 classic film.

On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone’s hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.

The film stars Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Giancarlo Esposito, John Turturro, Frankie Faison, Robin Harris, Joie Lee, Bill Nunn, and Spike Lee himself.  Aiello earned an Oscar nomination in the Supporting Actor category, and Lee picked up an Oscar nom for his original screenplay.

Tickets for the “Do The Right Thing” screening are $5 for general admission seating. The doors open at 7:00 pm and the film starts at 8:00 pm.

Little Rock Look Back: Thurgood Marshall confirmed to SCOTUS

On August 30, 1967, Thurgood Marshall was confirmed as the first African American to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Ten years earlier, Marshall had been spending much time in Little Rock as he fought for the Little Rock Nine to be allowed to integrate Little Rock Central High School.  While he was in town, he would stay at the home of L. C. and Daisy Bates.  One  can tour the home today and see the bedroom in which he, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee, and other Civil Rights leaders stayed while visiting Little Rock.

His involvement with the Little Rock Nine came about from his role with the NAACP. In had been in that capacity that he was lead attorney for the Brown v. Board of Education decision which paved the way for the Little Rock schools to be integrated.  He worked with local attorneys such as Wiley Branton Sr. and Chris Mercer on the Little Rock efforts.

In May 1961, President John F. Kennedy named Marshall to a seat on the US Court of Appeals. Unsurprisingly, a group of segregationist senators tried to hold up the appointment.  In 1965, he was named to the position of Solicitor General by President Lyndon B. Johnson.

Regrettably there is another Arkansas connection to Thurgood Marshall’s appointment to the Supreme Court.  As he had with the 1961 appointment to the Court of Appeals, Arkansas Senator John L. McClellan vigorously opposed the nomination of Marshall.  As a member of the Judiciary Committee he tried to hold it up.  In the end, McClellan did not vote on Marshall’s appointment when it came before the full Senate.

The final vote was 69 for and 11 against with 20 not voting. Of the 11 former states of the Confederacy, Arkansas’ J. William Fulbright, Tennessee’s Howard Baker & Al Gore Sr., Texas’ John Tower & Ralph Yarborough, and Virginia’s William Spong were the only six votes for yes.  There were six who did not vote, and 10 Nay votes.

The remaining Nay vote came from West Virginia’s Robert Byrd. Among those outside the South who did not vote were future Democratic presidential candidates Eugene McCarthy,  Edmund Muskie and George McGovern as well as Republican former actor George Murphy.  Montana was the only state with neither senator casting a vote one way or the other.

Marshall served on the US Supreme Court until October 1991, when he retired due to failing health. He died in January 1993, just four days after Bill Clinton became president.

Rock the Oscars: Ruby Dee

Future Oscar nominee Ruby Dee was in Little Rock in 1992 for the filming of the Disney Channel movie The Ernest Green Story. The film was produced by Carol Ann Abrams, whose son J. J. Abrams is now an in-demand director and producer.

That Dee and her husband Ossie Davis would appear in this movie was probably no surprise.  Throughout their acting careers, each had been active in the Civil Rights movement and used their status as celebrated actors to advance the cause.

The film starred Morris Chestnut as Green.  The real Ernest Green served as the narrator of the film.  Many local actors also appeared in the film.  The world premiere was held at Little Rock Central High School.  The first airing on the Disney Channel was on January 17, 1993.  The film was introduced by Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, who would take the oath of office as President of the US three days later.

Dee was born in Ohio, but moved to New York as a child. After studying French and Spanish in college, she pursued acting as a way to continue her interest in languages.  In 1950, she starred in The Jackie Robinson Story, which brought her national recognition for her film roles.  She continued to alternate between film and theatre throughout her career.  While she often shared the stage with her husband, the two also pursued independent projects.

She received a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in Ridley Scott’s 2007 film American Gangster.   Dee continued working until a few months before her death in 2014.


Laughter and Lyrics tonight featuring Phyllis Yvonne Stickney

mtcc nps stickneyThe Central High School National Historic Site and Mosaic Templars Cultural Center present a special program tonight.  The program is “Laughter & Lyrics” and stars acclaimed actress, comedienne and author Phyllis Yvonne Stickney.  The event starts at 6:30 pm tonight at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center.

Drawing from the words of some of the leading African American female writers and thinkers in the second half of the 20th Century, Stickney has created an evening of thought provoking spoken word, social commentary, live music, and Conscious Comedy. This 90 minute theatrical presentation will draw on the body works of Nikki Giovanni, Maya Angelou, Ruby Dee and feature excerpts from Beah Richards’ “A Black Woman Speaks.”

Phyllis Yvonne Stickney is a world-class artist, producer, director, author, motivational speaker, clothing designer, community activist, businesswoman and surrogate mother to many. Ms. Stickney is best known and respected for her work in film, stage, television and comedy. Her portrayals range from articulate attorney to feisty comedy club diva, to a Jamaican mother of class. She is regarded as one of the most intelligently hilarious comic talents and was recognized by HBO in THE HISTORY OF BLACKS IN COMEDY. Her film credits include NEW JACK CITY, DIE HARD WITH A VENGEANCE, HOW STELLA GOT HER GROOVE BACK, THE INKWELL, WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?, MALCOLM X, and the “ABC Afterschool Special,” DADDY’S GIRL. She made television history by portraying an Afrocentric character on THE COSBY SHOW spinoff, A DIFFERENT WORLD.

She also played Lena in Lorraine Hansberry’s award-winning play A RAISIN IN THE SUN at the Arkansas Repertory Theatre. The play was produced in January 2011 and received great reviews and exceeded box office expectations.