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)