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THE HARLEM IN HAVANA PROJECT E-Newsletter | Winter 2013
JIG SHOW!?
by filmmaker Leslie Cunningham

Jiggaboo...jigga...jigger...jig. As a journalist and documentarian, I am compelled to search out truth in my work and without bias of my own positionality in the world or in relation to the subject. Thus, I admit, I was offended when I learned my grandfather’s show, Harlem in Havana, was considered the carnival  ‘Jig Show’. 

In my lifetime, I’ve known the term ‘jiggaboo’, as an insult to black people, and I immediately made this connection. The idea of calling the film JIG SHOW made me very uncomfortable and continues to make me uncomfortable, as I suspect it will make others uncomfortable as well. Yet, the more I become aware of the power and punch this three-letter word holds in the progress of this project, the more I become aware of the inevitability of the title. 

During my research, I found an etymology of the term ‘jig’ born in the European renaissance, in celebration- play and dance to song- that devolved into a racist slur that found a temporary and perplexing home on the pages of Billboard magazine as Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana endeared fans in communities across North America, west of the Mississippi. This so-called ‘jig’ show became a gem in the cap of the world’s largest carnival, while performers of color back east bumped painfully against the walls of the Chitlin Circuit or the coveted few opportunities in America’s major cities. 

I have come to understand that this word and classification reaches beyond the politics of the day as do the discourses on race engaged by my grandfather’s show. A journey into the complexity of American entertainment and race history, JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana, seeks to tell the most honest story. *
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FILM STATUS: Currently in the final stage of development. Stay tuned at jigshow.com.

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HOT FILM NEWS!

JIG SHOW film selected for development funding! 

The long awaited documentary film, JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton's Harlem in Havana has been selected as part of
the ITVS 2013 Diversity Development Fund, a funding initiative that provides research and development funding to producers of color to develop single documentary programs for public television. Read more.

ABOUT ITVS  

The Independent Television Service (ITVS) funds, presents, and promotes award-winning documentaries and dramas on public television and cable, innovative new media projects on the Web, and the Emmy Award-winning weekly series Independent Lens Monday nights at 10:00 PM on PBS. Read more.

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