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Everyone's invited to a 'rent party'

By Sally Harris

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 20 - February 8, 1996

Count out your nickels and dimes, `cause we're going to a rent party!

What's a rent party, you ask?

"Why, child, that's how folks paid their rent back in the 20s," said Nikki Giovanni, one of the organizers of the event. "That's how jazz and the blues were born."

If you found yourself a little down on your luck come rent time, you didn't moan and groan. You just threw a party.

You called up your musician friend (if you were lucky, it was someone named Fats Waller or Duke Ellington) and said, "Come on over; bring some friends and play us some music." You fried up some chicken (or at least boiled some chicken's feet and rice) and cooked up some chitterlings, and sent out the word: Rent party tonight!

"You get your music; you get your food; you get your evening connection, which is perfection," promises the World Wide Web page advertising the February 9 rent party, which is open to everybody. The party is from 5:30-9 p.m. at the University Club; admission is $1.

"We're holding prices to the `20s and dressing to the nines," Giovanni said. Dinner is $1.50, drinks are 50 cents.

For each thing the guests at a `20s rent party did-enter the party, have dinner, play cards-they contributed something to the house. With the proceeds, the hosts then paid their rent.

"My students in the Harlem Renaissance class are inviting people to see how people made do in the `20s," said Giovanni, poet and professor of English.

While listening to authentic `20s music by Augustus Kitchen, Lorenzo Meachum, Red Clay, and Kenton Tillerson-there'll be music both upstairs and downstairs-you can chow down on some real `20s rent-party food: Dinner of fried chicken or baked ham. "Serious sides" of chitterlings, pig feet, and sauerkraut. "Just a little bit" of potato salad, slaw, and corn bread. Drinks such as faux beer and punch.

You can also participate in or watch a game of whist played by "rent-party house rules." In return, you put "Something in the pot, Honey. Something in the pot."

The party is being sponsored by the Black Studies Program, the Department of English (including the Harlem Renaissance class), the Virginia Tech Dining Services, the National Bank of Blacksburg, Food Lion, Wades, the Blacksburg Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, and the Virginia Tech University Club. It is being coordinated by Gary Giovanni and Joyce Williams-Green.

The event will be "a culinary/musicology/cultural event," Nikki Giovanni said.