From left to right - Front Row: Darion Johnson- Pullman Porter, Dailen Johnson- O.W. Gurley and Pullman Porter, Empire Hall- Cab Calloway and Slim Jenkins, Zye Wells- Lena Horne, Parise Burnside- Gwendolyn Brooks; Middle Row: Emperor Hall- Thomas Dorsey and Rev. Allen Allensworth, Nairobi Barnes- Zora Neale Hurston and Mahalia Jackson, Paul Burnside- Jessie Binga, Lebron Blue- J.B. Stratford, Jireh Mathews- Billie Holiday and Katherine Dunham; Back Row: Precious Burnside- Ella Fitzgerald, Londyn Tuttle- Dorothy Dandridge and Pearl Scott, James Blue- Richard Wright, Isaiah Zoller- Duke Ellington, Cinque Barnes- Langston Hughes and Dr. A.C. Jackson. Photo by Stephen Brooks.
By Stephen Brooks, Sr. “Hi dee, hi dee, hi dee ho,” sang five-year- old Empire Hall, impersonating famed jazz musician and bandleader Cab Calloway. Empire’s version of Calloway’s singing and gliding back step dance move, known as “The Buzz,” brought gales of laughter and screams of delight from the enthusiastic audience. Empire and other children ages 4 to 12 were part of Miraculous Foundation Christian Center Church’s presentation of the “African American Xperience,” a dramatic portrayal on Feb. 26 of the lives of 20th century African Americans leaders by children, ages four to 12. Performers were cast in period costumes against stage props decorated to illustrate seven historic African American communities. Film footage showing each figure was streamed through church’s video system, interspersed between the children’s acts. Among the historic people and places represented were Harlem in New York City and Allensworth, Calif.; writer Langston Hughes, portrayed by Cinque Barnes; author Zora Neal Hurston, played by Nairobi Barnes; singer Billie Holiday represented by Jireh Mathews; singer and actress Dorothy Dandridge played by Londyn Tuttle; band leader Duke Ellington played by Isaiah Zoller; gospel composer Thomas Dorsey played by Emperor Hall; and Lena Horne, singer and actress, portrayed by Zye Wells. Miraculous Foundation Christian Center Church, located at 1642 Fruitvale Ave. in Oakland, is co-pastored by Drs. Patricia Scott-Brooks and Jenee Scott.