‘Raisin’ Cain’: History with all that jazz

Joe Shust

Quinnipiac University continued its celebration of Black History Month Feb. 15 with a presentation of “Raisin’ Cain,” featuring actress Jasmine Guy.

“‘Raisin’ Cain’ chronicles the 1920 Harlem Renaissance, the post-World War I explosion and popularization of African-American culture. The show featured jazz and dancing from the Renaissance, as well as readings from influential African Americans, including W.E.B. Dubois, Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes,” said David Valone, the director of cultural programs for the College of Liberal Arts. “[Raisin’ Cain] is a celebration of the Harlem Renaissance and the creative spirit of Harlem.”

Guy, an actress from the television show “A Different World” of the late 1980s and early 1990s, performed the readings, which were accompanied by a video montage depicting 1920s life in Harlem. Music was provided by the Avery Sharpe Jazz Trio.

The show was yet another in a series of events dedicated to Black History Month at Quinnipiac. The events have attracted some big names, including scholar of black culture Michael Eric Dyson and former Colorado Lt. Gov. Joe Rogers.

“It’s a great testament to Quinnipiac that we could get Jasmine Guy to come perform,” Valone said.

“Raisin’ Cain” brought out community members and Quinnipiac students alike. “It was really different from a lot of [programs] that you see at Quinnipiac,” freshman Steve Elfenbein said.

Freshman Liz Nissbaum also enjoyed the play. “I liked [it] a lot. The music was great and the readings put a lot in perspective,” she said.

The underlying message of “Raisin’ Cain” is to promote understanding of something that may be difficult for the average Quinnipiac student to understand.

“African-Americans began to really feel that they were full citizens,” Valone said.

Guy did her best to portray this sentiment to the crowd of a few hundred through her stirring readings and dramatic dancing, all of which led to an educational as well as entertaining experience.