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Black History Month Opens

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Black History Month, theatrical division, will kick off Fri., Feb. 4, at 8 pm, with The Trinity Players of Queens' "Salute to Lorraine Hansberry," and end Tues., Feb. 29, with AFTRA's Equal Employment Opportunity Committee (EEOC) program and panel discussion "Radio Now and Then: A Retrospective in Drama and Music."

In between are scheduled a variety of events put on by other performance unions, including the Screen Actors Guild and Actors' Equity, and theatre companies around New York.

The 31st anniversary of Lonne Elder III's "Ceremonies in Dark Old Men" runs Feb. 4-27, at the National Black Theatre, 2033 Fifth Ave. in Harlem. "Lady/Speak/Easy," a jazz/blues day-in-the-life of singer Billie Holiday by Sean Power (who also directed) with Adam Nashman, continues at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club through Feb. 13.

Sunday night, Feb. 6, the world premiere of "Defending the Light," a production of the New Federal Theatre, will take place at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center. The play, written by Ron Milner, is set in 1846 Auburn, N.Y., and centers on the true story of a black man, William Freeman, and his trial for killing a white man, his wife, mother-in-law, and baby son. Former New York governor and later Abraham Lincoln's secretary of state William Seward (played by James Kiberd) defends Freeman, and John Van Buren (Ned Coulter), the son of former U.S. president Martin Van Buren, is the prosecuting attorney.

Jay Broad is directing the full Equity Off-Broadway production of the play, which is based on the Earl Conrad novel, Seward for the Defense. Conrad also wrote books on Dorothy Dandridge and Harriet Tubman.

Equity's Committee for Racial Equality in New York has scheduled four free Monday afternoon or evening programs under the umbrella title "Black and Blue: Blues Traditions in the African Diaspora." The series focuses on women and begins Feb. 7, with a panel discussion on African-American art of the South, at King Juan Carlos I of Spain Center, 53 Washington Square South, 4-6 pm. On Mon., Feb. 14, at Vanderbilt Hall, 40 Washington Square South, Margo Jefferson, The New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning cultural critic, will deliver a keynote address followed by a program of classic and contemporary blues songs and dance. Starting time is 7 pm.

On Feb. 21, at 7:30, in the Ellington Room at Manhattan Plaza, 400 W. 43rd St., there will be a screening of Julie Dash's 1991 movie "Daughters of the Dust." The series closes Feb. 28, at 7:30 pm, at the Violet Caf , 79 Washington Square East, with "Caf Afrocentric," a marathon subtitled "All Women, All Blues, All the Time."

SAG's Ethnic Opportunities Employment Committee will honor actor Joe Morton ("Miss Evers' Boys," "Lone Star") with performances by the Joshua C. Whiting Trio, Feb. 24, 6-9 pm, in the SAG Boardroom at 1515 Broadway (44th Floor).

AFTRA's EEOC's "Radio Now and Then" will be held in the auditorium of Local #1199, 310 W. 43rd St., 6-9 pm, on Tues., Feb. 29; industry and public are invited.

For tickets to the Hansberry tribute call (718) 545-4321.

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