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Public Employee Press

36th annual Black History Month celebration

Motown comes to DC 37

The Motown Show’s Supremes.

The Motown Show’s two sold-out performances on Finale Night Feb. 27 ended the union’s month-long celebration of Black History on a high note.

Motown Spectacular is a musical co-written and directed by DC 37 member Yolanda Brooks-Ruiz, a Local 768 Public Health Sanitarian, and retired New York City Firefighter Juan Ruiz, who studied with renowned acting coach Lee Strasberg.

Black History Committee Chair and Local 1113 President Deborah Pitts emceed the night with DC 37 Executive Director Henry Garrido and Local 768 President Fitz Reid, sponsors of the event.

Brooks-Ruiz’s Motown show highlights the genius of producer/songwriter and music pioneer Berry Gordy, who with writer Smokey Robinson, and later the team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, crafted tunes and smooth stylings that were the first to leap past longstanding barriers and crossover into American mainstream pop.

Playwright Local 768 member Yolanda Brooks-Ruiz.
In the early decades of Motown, its artists were relegated to use the back door to restaurant kitchens, and could not book a room in the hotels where they played. Gordy, like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., shared a vision of a more inclusive America.

As the civil rights movement gained momentum, the Vietnam War dragged on, and racial tensions birthed positive black identity, it was the Motown sound that soothed tempers and comforted hearts.

Motown became the feel good soundtrack for people old and young and the defining the music of a new generation of Americans — baby-boomers who are the largest demographics of Americans to date.

International exposure gained on television’s Ed Sullivan Show and Johnny Carson Show propelled Motown acts beyond the R&B chitlin’ circuit onto Main Street, USA. Steady appearances on Don Cornelius’ Soul Train shored Motown’s close ties to its African American base. Motown became the heartbeat of America.

Stuart Bescombe (l.) and James R. Garrett.
Brooks-Ruiz’s Motown Show relives the drama and the hits by Mary Wells, Robinson and the Miracles, The Supremes, The Temptations, Eddie Kendricks, David Ruffin, Marvin Gaye, and Stevie Wonder, performed by a talented cast of professionals. The show recreates groundbreaking performances on television’s Ed Sullivan Show and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. It ends with an electrifying tribute to the King of Pop Michael Jackson that had the DC 37 audience screaming for more.

The Motown Show also starred Stuart Bascombe, a founding member of ’70s soul group Black Ivory as Smokey Robinson, DC 37 Local 371 member James R. Garrett as Berry Gordy, and Ed DeHart as TV hosts Ed Sullivan and Johnny Carson.