Lawrence Beamen was 20 when he learned about legendary singer and political activist Paul Robeson, captivated by stories of the historic struggles Robeson went through and how he used his artistic talents to help fight for Black civil rights and equal opportunity.
“I began to immerse myself in the study of his life,” said Beamen. “Robeson believed that fate had drawn him to the path of drama and stressed the only ‘original’ (American) culture was African American culture.”
Beamen has appeared and sung at events and venues all over the country. He will bring his talent to Oakland with his interpretation of Robeson in his show, “From Renaissance to the Struggle of Paul Robeson,” on Friday, Feb. 22, 7 p.m. at Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland.
The event will feature a concert and re-enactment of the 1956 House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) testimony with actors Paul Abbott and Michael Walraven, The dramatization of the hearing will help tell the story of Robeson’s life and tribulations.
“(The show) opened up the door for people to know who I am,” said Beamen. “It has taught me to be more humble and to be patient, to keep moving on with what I do best.”
Beamen, a native of Mississippi, grew up in Oakland and began singing at a young age. He developed his deep baritone voice while singing in the church. He performed locally before getting his national break as a top-five performer on the television show NBC’s “America’s Got Talent. “
“Every attempt was made to silence and discredit Paul Robeson,” said Beamen. “I’ve performed the single most popular Robeson song ‘Ole Man River’ so many times that it has become a powerful mantra and metaphor for me, with a deeper meaning that depicts the inevitable continuum of life.”
Robeson was a Renaissance man. He was an exceptional athlete, actor, singer, cultural scholar, author, and political activist, and he was revered by some and hated by others for his beliefs and activism.
“The ‘Paul Robeson’ show has been an evolving vision of mine for many years, and facets of the ‘Show’ have taken shape in venues throughout my career,” said Beamen.
Tickets for the for the Feb. 22 show at Allen Temple Church, 8501 International Blvd. in Oakland, can purchased at the door or www.allen-temple.org.