By FREDI WASHINGTON PV's Theatrical Editor February 9, 1946 p. S-2
THIS COLUMN from time to time has talked about the need for cultural advancement for and among Negroes. We have pointed out the tremendous lack of opportunities for the Negro in this field and tried to show that in many instances where the opportunity does present itself, we do not have the finances with which to avail ourselves of the advantage.
One person who has given a great deal of time and thought to this need is the anthropologist-dancer-teacher, Katherine Dunham. Most of us know about the beautiful, spacious school which Miss Dunham recently opened on West 43rd st. Here the young artist has planned a long range program which takes in every phase of the dance and acting arts and which can have tremendous influence on the social and cultural life of the many young people who participate. A student at the Dunham school, though he or she may never follow the theatre as a career, will learn poise in both speech and manner, the proper use of the body, how to wear clothes, color schemes, self assurance, an appreciation of good literature, body cleanliness and mental cohesion.
These are all things which the average child is not given in his formative years. Hence the high rate of juvenile delinquency and inadequacy on his part to make cultural contributions to his community and immediate environment. We know there are many children, and adults for that matter, who have talent and would like to develop it, but the ever-gnawing sub-standard economic status makes study next to impossible.
While talking to one of the instructors the other day at the Dunham school, I found that many of the young students earn very small salaries working at various jobs but manage to eke out enough for their studies. Many times, when they are unable to earn enough to pay in cash, they do odd jobs around the studio in lieu of tuition.
For anyone who has been in business, it is understood that only so much of this sort of bartering can be done if the school is to be kept going, and at a high level. Unfortunately, it takes a great deal of money to maintain such a school, and while Miss Dunham is most sympathetic and would like to enroll any and all who want to improve themselves, regardless of ability to pay, it is quite impossible for her to do so.
"We had a telephone call from a nun the other day," said one of the instructors, "who said she had eight small talented children in her school and she thought they should have the advantage of cultural studies." The nun, it seemed, was willing to use her personal, meager savings to pay for these studies, since the children all came from poor families; but when she realized the cost would be $20 for each child (this was a very special minimum rate), she had to put the idea aside. Her savings were very little more than the rate for one child. The thought that here were children with talent who wanted to study but couldn't because of lack of finances so upset the staff that they all embarked on a campaign to get various individuals to sponsor their studies.
This spirit of sponsorship is one that could and should be carried into some of the many social organizations which want to make a contribution to their community and fellow workers. Some of the shows which have had long runs could show their appreciation and awareness for the need of such a school, by giving a scholarship to some deserving talented student.
The Dunham School, whose personnel is Negro and white is making a much needed right direction and Miss Dunham [...] credit for her foresight and courage.