February Events at the Ritz: Celebrating Black Heritage

January 28, 2009  

The Ritz Theatre & LaVilla Museum present the following events during the month of February in honor of Black History Month:

  • Amateur Night at The Ritz – Feb. 6, 7:30 p.m.
  • Ritz Jazz'n Jam – Feb. 7, 8 p.m.
  • Ritz Black Broadway: Gospitality – Feb. 14, 8 p.m.
  • Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble – Feb. 21, 8 p.m.
  • Living the American Dream: Annual Black History Oratory Contest – Feb. 28, 11 a.m.

Tickets for each event are on sale now at The Ritz box office, Times-Union Performing Arts Center, Jacksonville Arena and TICKETMASTER online. Special ticket packages available. For ticket prices and additional information, call 904-632-5555 or visit www.ritzlavilla.com.


Amateur Night at The Ritz, modeled after Harlem's Showtime at the Apollo, is one of the most attractive venues in town as witnessed by a sold out crowd every month. Audiences from near and far gather to share in Northeast Florida's most engaging talent and entertainment. Audience participation and selection of the best performer is equally as entertaining. Winners go on to compete in semi-final and final amateur night contests.


Ritz Jazz'n Jam hosts an evening of jazz flavors, smooth sounds and cool people. On the first Saturday of each month, The Ritz lobby transforms into the old, lively vibe of the historic LaVilla district of the 1940s. It is an experience of relaxing music and beverages with a contagious laid back and unique atmosphere. Radio personality Naim Rashid and The Ritz Jazz Band welcome you to bring your instrument or vocals and jam with the band or just bring your Jazz Ear! Jazz lovers of all ages are welcome.

In celebration of black history, there will be a jazz film shown in the museum, highlighting prominent jazz musicians.


Gospitality is a hand-clapping, fan-waving gospel revue that takes the audience through the history of gospel music. From slave ship rhythms to call-and-response hymns from the cotton fields like the moving spirituals Wade in the Water and Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen, this event is truly a musical journey and includes more than 20 all-time favorite gospel songs. The show remembers famous gospel pioneers such as Mahalia Jackson, Thomas Dorsey, The Five Blind Boys of Alabama, Rosetta Tharp and Marian Anderson. As the show's line-up moves through the Civil Rights Movement of the fifties and sixties with songs like Lift Every Voice and Sing into the seventies classics like Oh Happy Day, Gospitality explores where we have been and where we are going. This event is a must see for the entire family.


Cleo Parker Robinson is founder, executive artistic director and choreographer of the 35-year-old artistic institution, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble, based in Denver. As Executive Artistic Director she leads a Professional Ensemble, Youth Ensemble, School of Dance, International Summer Dance Institute, a 300-seat theatre that bears her name, and a multitude of community outreach programs. Her philosophy of “One Spirit, Many Voices” is reflected in all that she does.

Guided by the pioneering vision of Cleo Parker Robinson, the stage is transformed into a sanctuary of healing art through an explosive body of works inspired by the African-American experience and rooted in modern dance, dance theatre and jazz dance techniques. The ensemble uplifts and excites audiences through the company's signature blend of raw passion, dynamic energy, grace and superior technique.


On Feb. 28, 2009, 10th and 11th grade students from Jacksonville area high schools will compete in an oratory competition in which each contestant will be given a “living legend” in black history to portray.

The first place winner will receive tickets for four to Washington, D.C. on Amtrak, hotel accommodations for two nights and meal certificates. The trip will include an opportunity to visit the Capitol and the office of Congresswoman Corrine Brown.