INSIDE Chico State
0 April 3, 2003
Volume 33 Number 13
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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Money Raised for Homeless Through
Rent Party

Tracy Butts, left, with graduate student Dianna Winslow as Dorothy Parker, writer and critic; and Mark Hall, English, as Jean Toomer, one of the key figures of the Harlem Renaissance.

Tracy Butts, left, with graduate student Dianna Winslow as Dorothy Parker, writer and critic; and Mark Hall, English, as Jean Toomer, one of the key figures of the Harlem Renaissance.

The English Honor Society and English Graduate Student Council, working with Professor Tracy Butts, adviser to EHS, hosted a Harlem Rent Party on Feb. 20 that netted $743 for the Esplanade House.

More than 100 guests, dressed as Harlemites from the 1920s and 1930s, enjoyed music, food, poetry, and dance from the period. It was common during the Depression for a host to hire a musician and invite friends, and pay the rent with the profits from the cover charge, food, and beverage sales.

In the spirit of the rent parties, guests made a donation to the Esplanade House and came dressed as any person who would have been alive during the Harlem Renaissance, from 1919 through 1929. The music was jazzy (a torch singer and guitarist), the food from the period (grits, fried chicken, sweet potato pie) and the costumes were, well, “unbelievable,” said one guest.

Cynthia Thompson, left, (Tracy Butts’ friend from out of town, who came just for the rent party), dressed as aviatrix Bessie Coleman.

Cynthia Thompson, left, (Tracy Butts’ friend from out of town, who came just for the rent party), dressed as aviatrix Bessie Coleman. Dolly Solomon, Student Records, came as Madame C.J. Walker, one of the first American women of any race or rank to become a millionaire through her own efforts. Walker was an entrepreneur who developed hair care products and techniques for black women.

People came as aviatrix Bessie Coleman, Langston Hughes, minor league baseball player Jesse Lee “Doc” Talley (known as the “Bearded Babe Ruth”), and several flappers. Mark Hall, English, dressed as Jean Toomer, novelist/poet, who, according to many sources, started the Harlem Renaissance in Literature. Hall, a native of Georgia, read a short piece of creative nonfiction titled “California Haute Cuisine.”

Kathleen McPartland

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