On June 5, 2018 at 6:00 pm, the bonus feature “Langston Hughes: He was a poet who embraced the people” from the documentary Rosenwald was screened at Bus Boys and Poets on 14th and V St in Washington, DC. This popular hangout for food and thought is named after a true story about how Hughes was discovered.
Local activist and poet E. Ethelbert Miller and director Aviva Kempner joined the screening. Director Aviva Kempner had the pleasure of introducing the clip on Langston Hughes, spoke of her work on making the Rosenwald film and what an honor it is to pay tribute to the original busboy himself!
After the screening, E. Ethelbert Miller spoke about the leading events that happened to Langston Hughes prior to his receiving of the Rosenwald grant in 1931. Much like today, Ethelbert noted, it was all about connections and contacts. Langston associated with many affiliates of the NAACP who recommend he receive a grant from the Rosenwald Fund.
Ethelbert read an excerpt that Langston Hughes wrote, recalling his fond memories as a busboy and working at the Wardman Park hotel in Washington D.C., how the experience lead to him meeting the famous writer and poet Vachel Lindsay and slipping him three of his poems that would later lead to his discovery as a poet. Hughes had read in the newspaper that Lindsay would be staying at the Wardman hotel, whic shows how being up on the news can be helpful.
Ethelbert enlightened us on the breadth of work Langston Hughes produced throughout his life including “…poems, novels, short stories, memoirs, children’s books, plays, translations, opera librettos, anthologies, newspaper columns. He was so prolific that, in a 1956 letter, he complained about “a book due yesterday that I haven’t even started (2008, Dwight Garner).” Also, unknown to many, Langston also worked as a translator as he was fluent in Spanish and French. His most notable translation of Cuban poet and activist Nicolás Guillén’s, poems, titled Cuba Libre.
Post screening Aviva advised audience members to visit the room where Langston Hughes stayed during his time in Washington DC at the 12th Street YMCA (now the Thurgood Marshall Center) which is still on display for people to see.
All in all, it was a special evening to celebrate in the venue that commemorates the humble beginnings of a never-ending influence on American literature and culture, the poet for the people; Langston Hughes.
“Dreams Deferred and Lived.” By Dwight Garner. The New York Times, The New York Times, 10 Jan. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2015/02/04/books/selected-letters-of-langston-hughes.html.
In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month, the Cielsa Foundation, in conjunction with the office of Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, hosted a screening and reception of Rosenwald at the Library of Congress on Monday, May 21, 2018.
We were very excited to have had the opportunity to continue to share the story of philanthropist Julius Rosenwald and legacy of the Rosenwald Schools.
We were honored to have Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL), Congressman Danny Davis (IL), and Congressman G.K Butterfield (NC) share their personal stories which offered a unique perspective on the impact of Rosenwald and the Jewish American community. We were also very appreciative to have Congressman Hank Johnson (GA), whose mother attended a Rosenwald school, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (TX) in attendance.
Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (above)
Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, the driving force behind the resolution that declared an annual Jewish American Heritage Month in May, shared her personal story of being a second generation Jewish American. She noted how incredible it is that even though her family has only been in America for two generations, she was elected to serve as Florida’s first Jewish Congresswoman. The Congresswoman also spoke of the Jewish teaching of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, which is embodied through her work and the work of Julius Rosenwald.
Congressman Danny Davis (above)
The Rosenwald schools had great impact on Congressman Danny Davis of Chicago, who is interviewed in the film, recalled growing up in the South and hearing about the schools. Even though Congressman Danny Davis did not attend a Rosenwald school, he said that the influence of Rosenwald and the Sears organization was felt throughout his community once he moved North. The betterment Julius Rosenwald was able to provide for his community, whether by his schools or Sears catalogs, gave Davis hope and the inspiration needed to dream of something greater for himself and his community.
Congressman G.K. Butterfield (above)
Congressman G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina spoke of the impact Rosenwald had on the communities he represents. North Carolina is home to the most Rosenwald Schools of any southern state. Congressman Butterfield spoke earnestly about the Rosenwald schools where his own mother taught. He recalled attending a Rosenwald school alumni reunion in his hometown, where Viola Pittman Boone, 83, stood up and asked to recite “The Julius Rosenwald Song” that she recalled singing every morning as a young girl at her school, The Eden-Rosenwald Elementary School.
The Julius Rosenwald Song
(Composer unknown- the lyrics to this song are based on the memories of Viola Pittman Boone at age 83. She recalled that she and her 4th grade classmates sang this song each morning at the Eden-Rosenwald Elementary School and thinks it may have been composed by her teacher, Ms. Bland but cannot confirm. )
No one will ever know,
Just what his coming has been.
Because we loved him so,
It was something Heaven-send.
It was Julius Rosenwald,
Who would never let us fall.
He answered every call,
Of this dear race of ours.
Director Aviva Kempner introduced the film and explained how hearing civil activist Julian Bond speak at Martha’s Vineyard 15 years back inspired her to make the film. She dedicated the showing to D.C. residents obtaining voting rights!
Enter a cAudience members at Library of Congress Rosenwald Screening
We were incredibly honored and proud that during Jewish American Heritage month, we joined with both African American and Jewish elected congressional officials in the Library of Congress to celebrate Julius Rosenwald, continue Tikkun Olam and support one anothers communities.
In honor of Jewish American Heritage Month and in partnership with the Library of Congress.
You are Invited to a Screening of Rosenwald at the Library of Congress!
Monday, May 21, 2018 at 7:00 pm
Mumford Room (6th floor),
James Madison Memorial Building
101 Independence Avenue, SE
(between 1st and 2nd Streets)
Refreshments will be provided
We are honored to host this screening in cooperation
with Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz,
John Lewis, and Danny K. Davis, who will all share remarks.
Rosenwald School alumni Congressmen John Lewis and
long-term Chicago resident Congressman Danny K. Davis
both appear in the film, and Congresswoman Wasserman
Schultz sponsored the legislation establishing Jewish
American Heritage Month in 2006.
Director Aviva Kempner
will offer commentary on the making the film.
Learn more about Rosenwald here: www.rosenwaldfilm.org
On February 10, 2018 the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission’s Prince George’s Publick Playhouse Theatre held a packed screening of Rosenwald arranged to honor Black History month.
Prior to the screening, the film was introduced by Chairman of the Prince George’s County Planning Board Elizabeth M. Hewlett. Following the screening Aviva Kempner, director of Rosenwald; Stephanie Deutsch, author of “You Need a Schoolhouse: Booker T. Washington, Julius Rosenwald; and the Building of Schools for the Segregated South,” Charlene Drew Jarvis, daughter of Charles Drew, joined together for a panel discussion to discuss the legacy of Julius Rosenwald. Dennis A. Doster, Ph.D., Black History Program Manager moderated the panel.
Mildred Ridgley-Gray, known best for her work saving and restoring the Ridgeley Rosenwald School in Capitol Heights, Maryland was in the audience with her daughter LaVerne Gray. Mrs. Ridgley is also featured in several of the bonus features that accompany the Rosenwald DVD.
With support from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Ciesla Foundation is proud to have offered a free screening of Rosenwald at UDC’s David A. Clarke Law School on November 7, 2017, in cooperation with Howard Law School and UDC. The panel discussion following the film screening, which included Director Aviva Kempner, Dean of UDC Law School Shelley Katherine Broderick, Dean of Howard Law Danielle Holley-Walker and Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis, touched upon a range of issues and topics brought up in the film.
(Left to Right) UDC board member Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis, Dean of UDC Law Shelley Katherine Broderick, Dean of Howard Law Danielle Holley-Walker and Director Aviva Kempner Photo: Bruce Guthrie
Kempner and Holley-Walker spoke about the legacy of Charles Hamilton Houston, his important work as a lawyer and the footage he filmed at segregated schools in the Jim Crow South. His footage was used in Rosenwald.
Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis spoke about the Rosenwald Fund and the impact it had on her father, Dr. Charles Drew. Thanks to the Fund, he was able to finish medical school and later save thousands of lives by pioneering the blood bank during WWII.
As with most Rosenwald screenings, audience members found resonance with the film and were surprised by how unknown Rosenwald’s story is despite his continuing relevance. Many were unfamiliar with the historical alliance between the Jewish and African-American communities. One audience member was named after Julius Rosenwald himself and was enlightened to hear about the legacy of his father’s name and his own. Another audience member had attended a Rosenwald School, while another remembered his family giving their property to build such a school. It is inspiring to see the continuing legacy of Rosenwald’s work to this day, and to experience how this documentary helps inform viewers about their own histories.
(Left to Right) Dr. DeMaurice Moses, Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis, Student of Rosenwald School, Deputy Ambassador for Israel Reuven Azar, Director Aviva Kempner Photo: Bruce Guthrie
The reception after the screening took place at the Israeli Embassy, where cultural attaché Delphine Gamburg welcomed guests. Gamburg also initiated the planning of this event. Following Gamburg, Deputy Ambassador Reuven Azar spoke on the long standing support the Jewish community has had for the equal rights of African Americans and his pleasure in hosting an event that coincides with Jewish values.
Washington D.C. Councilwoman Mary Cheh gave an appreciative and warm appraisal of Kempner’s Rosenwald, saying “Each time I see it, it’s even better than the last. … [F]rom all your films, Rosenwald has to be one of your best.”
Aviva Kempner concluded the night by thanking all those involved in helping coordinate the event. Having a family connection to Israel, Kempner was touched the Embassy extended a hand to host the reception. Kempner announced she is excited to bring Rosenwald to Israel in January to the Diaspora Museum and knows that the film will have resonance with Jewish and black communities there.
The Ciesla Foundation plans to continue forming partnerships with institutions that value the preservation of history, furthering of education, as well as ensuring that if we all continue to work together, we can repair the world.
Julius Rosenwald Ware II (Named after JR) and Israeli Cultural Attache Delphine Gamburg Photo: Bruce Guthrie
The Ciesla Foundation