Five Towns: One Book to Explore the Life and Work of Writer and Activist, Lorraine Hansberry
Soyica Diggs Colbert
The Coalition for Understanding Racism through Education (CURE), in partnership with The Lorraine Hansberry Coalition (LHC) and ﬁve Westchester public libraries, will host the third annual “Five Towns: One Book,” a series of free events featuring a discussion on February 11th, with Soyica Diggs Colbert author of Radical Vision, A Biography of Lorraine Hansberry followed by four events that run from March through April 15th.
Five Towns: One Book draws on the life and work of Lorraine Hansberry. Hansberry was most noted for her play, A Raisin in the Sun, about a Black family, which opened on Broadway to great success. It addressed many themes such as Redlining, Afrocentrism and who has access to the American Dream. Hansberry was the ﬁrst Black playwright and the youngest American to win a New York Critics’ Circle award. Throughout her life she was heavily involved in the Civil Rights and Black Freedom Movements as an activist and journalist working side by side with the likes of James Baldwin, W.E.B DuBois and Nina Simone. She was a lesbian in a heterosexual marriage with her soulmate and fellow activist Bob Nemiroff. She died in Croton on Hudson at 34 of pancreatic cancer.
The main event to kick off the series will be an intimate, roundtable discussion with Dr. Colbert about Radical Vision moderated by Nicole Alifante from CURE, Lynda Jones from The Lorraine Hansberry Coalition and Tejash Sanchala from the Westchester Humans Rights Commission.
Dr. Soyica Diggs Colbert is the Idol Family Professor of African American Studies and Performing Arts at Georgetown University. She has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities to support a residency at the Schomburg Center, Woodrow Wilson Foundation, Stanford University, Mellon Foundation, and the Robert W. Woodruff Library at Emory University. Colbert has also lectured nationally and internationally at universities, high schools, and middle schools as well as for civic and arts organizations. Colbert’s writing has been featured in the The New York Times, Washington Post, Public Books, Metrograph and American Theatre. She has been interviewed on NPR and commented for the New York Times, USA Today, CNN, and the Washington Post. She is an Associate Director at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C. She has also served as a Creative Content Producer for The Public Theatre’s audio play, shadow/land. Her research interests span the 19th-21st centuries, from Harriet Tubman to Beyoncé, and from poetics to performance.
In the past, Five Towns One Book was heavily focused on one book, however Soyica Diggs Colbert’s biography about Hansberry is such a deep exploration of Hansberry’s artistry and activism that it ignited the CURE team to create events exploring the many themes of Hansberry’s life centered around artists.
The 5 Towns events will feature ﬁve programs with theater artists, visual artists, activists and experts culminating in a theatrical exploration of redlining and other themes from A Raisin In The Sun, Hansberry’s most famous play and Clybourne Park, a Raisin spin off by Bruce Norris on April 15th at The Ossie Davis Theater at the New Rochelle public library. Professional actors directed by Kevin R. Free (Mile Square Theater) will read excerpts from each play. They will be joined by redlining expert Gregory Jost (Fordham University).
The schedule of community programming is: (All events will be recorded. 2/11 and 4/15 will be live streamed for audience members who cannot make the event)
Saturday, February 11th at 2pm – Croton Free Library – A roundtable discussion with Dr. Soyica Diggs Colbert moderated by Nicole Alifante of CURE, Lynda Jones of LHC and Tejash Sanchala, Exec. Dir. of The Westchester Human Rights Commission.
Thursday, March 2nd at 7pm – Rye Free Library- Hansberry: Civil Rights and Freedom Practices – A conversation with Elevator Repair Service theater Company from New York City, the recent creators and actors in Buckley and Baldwin at Cambridge (The Public Theater), featuring director John Collins and actors April Matthis and Greig Sargeant.
Saturday, March 18th at 2pm-5pm – Larchmont Library – A Raisin In The Sun, Film Screening and Talk Back – Facilitated by local actor and activist, Larry Albert.
Tuesday, March 28th at 7pm – Harrison Library – Hansberry & Activism in Black Art. A conversation with artist Alvin Clayton and panelists TBD.
Saturday, April 15th- 3pm – New Rochelle Library, Ossie Davis Theater – Hansberry: A Theatrical Exploration of Redlining. Directed by Kevin R. Free, with Actors (TBD) and redlining expert Gregory Jost.
All events are in person. To register for these events and learn more go to: https://www.learnwithcure.com/events
The ﬁve libraries partnering with CURE are Croton Free Library, Harrison Public Library, Larchmont Public Library, New Rochelle Public Library, and Rye Free Reading Room. In addition CURE continues to partner with over 50 county organizations who believe in this work. This program is generously funded by the Westchester County Board of Legislators.
Dr. Colbert will sign copies of Radical Vision at the Croton library on Feb.11th. Copies are available at By-The-Dam-Book in Croton. You may also borrow the book via local libraries. CURE also recommends local bookseller Otilia Taylor-Tanner of The Humble Bumble who will be curating a list of additional books to complement this program series.
For more information, visit www.learnwithcure.com