Outdoor Movies Raise Awareness for Dreamland Ballroom

By Katherina-Marie Yancy

(KATV) In its heyday, the Dreamland Ballroom was the place for African Americans to hang out during segregation. Decades later, organizers with Friends of Dreamland are focused on preserving and celebrating the building and its rich history.

Starting Thursday, they’re hosting drive in movies that highlight its history.

It’s the last building of its kind still standing. A place that during so much heartache people of color were able to let loose and forget about the thin line they couldn’t cross when out in society.

Many people enjoying the drive in movie on the side of the historic Arkansas Flag and Banner building have never even been to one. Its small things like this, Friends of Dreamland want to highlight.

Just a few floors up history lives. Built nearly a century ago by the black community, it’s preservation at its finest. The ballroom hasn’t been restored since the days when musicians like Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald and Nate King Cole sang and people put all their worries aside and danced the night away.

Rychy St Vincent found out he was related to music legends after he became a jazz singer. He says, “My first opportunity to go on that stage, I talked about being on the wood, standing on the original wood of that stage where people like Count Basie, Nate King Cole and Billy Holiday and all these other greats. All these jazz greats stood on that stage, played and sang on that stage, the same exact wood I had an opportunity to come to and I’m jazzed about it.”

Amber Jones heads the Friends of Dreamland. They received a 1.3 million dollar estimate to restore the ballroom, but maintain its integrity. She says, “Too difficult to put into words, but it’s just a touchstone for the community and for it to be here and be in use and be used just as it was in the last 90-years, it’s the perfect use for this space and we’d like to see people come back to it and new people come to it.”

It’s not just about the building; they’re also compiling interviews from people who attended those dances.

Jones says they’re applying for grants because renting out the facility isn’t a significant money maker. They hope to have enough money to get started in about 2- years.

Drive in Movie Schedule 8:30 p.m.:

June 16: Goonies

June 23: The Tuskegee Airmen

June 30: The Blues Brothers (R)

Blazing Saddles at Dreamland Drive-In Tonight

By Karen Martin

Updated: June 9, 2011, 6:24am

Friends of Dreamland Ballroom invite you to a screening of the 1974 comedy Blazing Saddles at sundown tonight (around 8:30 p.m.), the first of four drive-in movies in the parking lot behind Taborian Hall (Arkansas Flag and Banner building) at 800 W. Ninth St., Little Rock.

The Friends of Dreamland, dedicated to preserving and celebrating the history of the Dreamland Ballroom and Taborian Hall, have selected this year’s movies to highlight the history of the building and Ninth Street. Arkansas Baptist College history professor Edmond Davis will give a brief overview of each movie prior to their start.

Blazing Saddles (rated R), deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress, satirizes racism. Count Basie, who performed several times at the Dreamland Ballroom, and his band have a cameo in the film.

The screenings are projected on the back of the historic Arkansas Flag and Banner building, also known as Taborian Hall, with the audio broadcast through your car radio.

Hot dogs, soft drinks, bottled water, ice cream and Diamond Bear Brewery beer will be on sale.

During its heyday, the ballroom at Taborian Hall played host to Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong and his orchestra, B.B. King, Duke Ellington, Arkansas natives Al Hibbler and Louis Jordan, Nat King Cole and his trio, Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzie Gillespie.

Admission is free. Donations are accepted for both cars and walkups (bring lawn chairs). Proceeds from the movie series go toward restoration of the ballroom. For more information click here.

Here’s the rest of the screening schedule:

June 16: Goonies (PG-13) A band of children from the “Goon Docks” neighborhood of Astoria, Ore., hoping to save their homes from demolition, go in search of the buried treasure of One-Eyed Willie, a legendary 17th-century pirate.

June 23: The Tuskegee Airmen is a 1995 HBO television movie based on the exploits of the first African American combat pilots in the United States Army Air Force that fought in World War II. Laurence Fishburne stars. Milton Crenchaw, an original Tuskegee Airman from Little Rock, will share his experiences before the movie.

June 30: The Blues Brothers (R) Jake (John Belushi) and his brother Elwood (Dan Aykroyd) take on “a mission from God” to save from foreclosure the Catholic orphanage in which they grew up. It features musical numbers by R&B and soul singers Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, and John Lee Hooker, who performed at Dreamland.

For more information call (501) 255-5700.