The south side of Madison is in for a very special treat as renowned poet, spoken-word artist, and actor Lemon Andersen will highlight the South Madison Promise Zone's Community Night at the South Madison Center for Culture and Community on Oct. 16.
The event came about due to the partnership of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Office of Multicultural Arts Initiatives' First Wave Program, Nehemiah Center for Justice and Reconciliation, Urban League of Greater Madison, and the South Madison Promise Zone.
“This is a big deal for our side of town. For somebody like him to come here in South Madison, that's a big credit to [OMAI Director]Willie Ney for making that happen,” says Hedi Rudd, development and events manager at Urban League of Greater Madison. “And a big credit to [Urban Community Arts Network Director] Karen Reece for helping to make it sure it will be such a great event. It's such a cool opportunity for all of us. This was perfect for what we're trying to do at the South Madison Promise Zone in terms of creating those partnerships and how important collaboration really is.”
Andersen is a critically acclaimed and award-winning renaissance artist. As a poet, he has the greatest number of appearances on HBO's Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam — eight times in six seasons. He is an original cast member of Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam on Broadway in which he won a Tony Award for his writing and performance, as well as a Drama Desk Award nomination. He has been a mainstay in the spoken-word and theater scene for the past decade, performing in and selling out venues such as the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Apollo Theater, Chicago Theater, and Hollywood's Kodak Theater.
“His story is really compelling,” Rudd says. “He grew up in the black community and had to find his way and to prove himself. When I saw the video of him performing, I was like, 'Wow! We're so lucky to have this guy come out here and spend some time with us.' For him to agree to do all of this stuff in three days … that's amazing.”
Andersen will also be hosting a Lemon Anderson Film Screening and Talk-Back at the Overture Hall's Promenade Hall on Saturday, Oct. 19. Later that night, he will host OMAI's Passing the Mic Tribute Showcase and Tribute honoring 2014 Jazzmaster Richard Davis, Gil Scott-Heron and John Vietnam Nguyen featuring Gia Scott-Heron, First Wave Artists, and friends of Vietnam.
“While he is here, Lemon will also drive up to the Women's Resource Center at Winnebago [Correctional Center] and do a workshop with the people there and then will go to Fox Lake [Correctional Center] and show his documentary,” Rudd says. “They'll have a chance to have a discussion with Lemon. They are so excited at Fox Lake to have someone of this magnitude to come out and spend time with them.”
Andersen was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and still resides there. He is the son of Milagros “Mili” Quiñones from Puerto Rico and Peter Andersen, a Norwegian-American from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. Growing up in poverty as a teenager, Andersen experienced the successive deaths of his stepfather, father, and mother from complications of heroin abuse and AIDS, leaving him and his older brother orphaned and forced to fend for themselves. Andersen became involved in serious crime, but his growing compassion first for hip hop and then acting, and a succession of gifted mentors who recognized and nurtured his theatrical talent, resulted in his development into the powerful artist he is today.
His long journey from felony convictions and incarceration to success will be some of what he talks about at Community Night, which Rudd says that they are targeting both youth and adults to come and see.
“It will be a mix of a targeted audience and people in the community who are interested,” she says. “We've had flyers all over South Madison. I think we should have a pretty decent turnout. It will be a unique Community Night. It will definitely be something different.
“Lemon Andersen will probably show some pieces of his documentary and he will speak to that,” Rudd adds. “He'll probably have a lot of open dialogue with community members. He's an amazing man. I'm sure he'll have no problem keeping us entertained with whatever he has to say. He is an interesting artist.”
Come listen to one man’s journey from felony convictions and incarceration to renowned writer, performance artist, and actor. Lemon Andersen will highlight Community Night at the South Madison Center for Culture and Community on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 5-6:30 p.m..
For more information, call Karen Reece at (608)213-0571.