Anne Spencer Revisited: A Special Day at the Activity Center

The screening of Anne Spencer Revisited on Sunday, March 15, in the Activity Center was not just any screening of any film, and the audience was not just any audience. In her introduction of Keith Lee, who produced the film, Legacy board member Carla Heath pointed out the uniqueness of Anne Spencer Revisited: it is from beginning to end the work of local artists.

The screening of Anne Spencer Revisited on Sunday, March 15, in the Activity Center was not just any screening of any film, and the audience was not just any audience. In her introduction of Keith Lee, who produced the film, Legacy board member Carla Heath pointed out the uniqueness of Anne Spencer Revisited: it is from beginning to end the work of local artists.

Keith Lee explained that when he was allowed to visit the Spencer house alone, he “could feel” the house. As a dancer, he also “felt movement” in Anne Spencer’s poetry and wanted others to experience what he felt. He confessed that his original intention had been to choreograph a dance titled Mama Rose Meets Anne Spencer. In the end, his intention became simply to celebrate Anne Spencer and her poetry, convinced that “if we do not celebrate the great artists that came before us, there will be no art.” Thus, he decided that Anne Spencer as an artist should speak for herself.

The film consists of readings and recitation of Spencer’s poetry in various settings in the poet’s house and garden at 1313 Pierce Street in Lynchburg. Anne Spencer is played by Sonia Langhorne, a local poet and the pre-school teacher of Lee’s son. Phil Spinner was the videographer and editor, and Iliana Lee plays a cameo role as the young Anne Spencer.

After the film and discussion, the VCCA poets, along with other members of the audience, toured the Spencer house and garden, including the poet’s writing house, “Edankraal.” Shawn Spencer-Hester led the group through her grandmother’s home, which Anne Spencer liked to call the “Over-ground Railway” because of its role as a stopover and meeting place for African American writers and artists during the Jim Crow era, when most public accommodations were closed to African Americans. To name only a few, James Weldon Johnson, Langston Hughes, George Washington Carver, and Martin Luther King, Jr., visited Anne and Edward Spencer in their Pierce Street home.

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