by Sophia Shiffman
Apollo Theater Historian Mr. Billy Mitchell will visit WHS March 26 during Period 7 as a special guest speaker to discuss the Apollo Theater and its place in Harlem’s history and America’s music industry. The event is in belated honor of February’s Black History Month and to inform students about the arts.
Mitchell said: “The Apollo Theater… has become the epicenter of African American culture in America.”
According to Special Education Teacher Ms. Gail Alston, who organized the presentation, space will be offered first to social studies and fine arts classes. This presentation follows last year’s field trip during which Mitchell gave the PAL mentoring program students a tour of the theater.
Junior Camila Hernandez, who went on the field trip, said that Mitchell’s energetic nature will have a positive impact on our student body. Alston explained that the Apollo Theater just celebrated its eightieth anniversary, and hundreds of famous artists, including Paul McCartney, Michael Jackson, The Temptations and Alicia Keys, have graced its stage.
According to amateurnight.org, Amateur Night debuted at the Apollo in 1934 and became the leading showcase for new performers. Amateur Night inspired modern competition shows, including The Voice and American Idol, according to Alston.
Mitchell is known as “Mr. Apollo” due to his long-time involvement with the Apollo Theater. He said that he has been with the theater since he was 15 years old and has worked in every department and held almost every position.
Alston said that the history Mitchell provides can benefit the entire student body.
She added: “WHS is a great school; however, there is little diversity…. I want students to gain an understanding of how important the Apollo was for minorities to showcase their talents.”