“We wanted to do something in collaboration with SLAC to sort of bring together the Common Ground community and the Sarah Lawrence community,” said Jessica Isabel ’12 about planning the event.Speakeasies date to Prohibition-era America. They were known for illegally selling alcohol to customers looking for a a classy evening of entertainment. A Speakeasy was generally a higher class establishment where food and liquor were served in addition to entertainment. Saloons or “blind pigs” which sold only liquor and beer were considered low-class dives and forwent the accompanying entertainment of a Speakeasy. Large city Speakeasies often required a coat and tie for gentlemen and evening dresses for ladies. Despite the history, the Sarah Lawrence Speakeasy won’t be serving alcohol.
“We wanted to have alcohol but SLAC events are non-alcoholic,” says Isabel. “Collaborating with SLAC is more important than having alcohol because they’ve been so great with publicity.”
Programming will begin at 5pm with feather-headband making in the Blue Room. Then some of the tables and chairs will be cleared away and the Speakeasy will begin. The evening will begin with an open-mic. Attendees can read either their original poetry or choose among collected works from the Harlem Renaissance. The Jazz Ensemble is among the feature performers at the Speakeasy. “We’ve spoken to a couple individual students about musical numbers,” added Isabel. The party will continue until 1am and seeks to bring together the musical and poetic communities at SLC.
The Harlem Renaissance was a period of racial pride in the African American community in New York. Literature and art flourished in Harlem in the 1920s and 30s, which led to many more African-Americans being published in mainstream houses. The literature and art attracted attention across the nation. It also helped lay the foundation for the post-World War II phase of the Civil Rights Movement.
While it was primarily an African-American movement some white Americans were involved. Whites provided various forms of assistance opening doors that mayotherwise have been closed to the community. Charlotte Osgood Mason used her wealth to fund artists like Aaron Douglas and Langston Hughes.
“I think in a lot of ways it was a real culture explosion,” said Isabel of the Harlem Renaissance
All this entertainment will be accompanied by lots of food, thanks to the Student Activities Subcommittee. Belinda Bellinger ’12 and Burnadette Mahoney ’13 will DJ the dance party.
“It will be different from other Blue Room dances. The dance floor won’t be completely open, there will be places to sit,” said Isabel, on the format of the dance. “People will have to dress up and look kind of classy.”