We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
In the ’50s, Joyce Bryant made her mark as a glamorous cabaret chanteuse, appearing in the country’s poshest supper clubs. With her silver hair and clinging gowns, she (along with Eartha Kitt and Dorothy Dandridge) broke the color barrier that excluded black performers from upscale venues. Her emergence sometimes encountered resistance: The Ku Klux Klan burned her in effigy when she sang (and stayed) at a Miami Beach hotel. In 1955, at the peak of her success, Bryant abandoned show business for a life of religious service. She was rediscovered in the ’60s by a Howard University vocal coach, and she embarked on a second career singing classical music. Two years ago, long after Bryant’s retirement, Jim Byers, WPFW-FM broadcaster and marketing director for the Arlington Cultural Affairs Division, tracked her down and requested permission to become her biographer. Byers’ research has inspired Joyce Bryant: The Lost Diva, a documentary-in-progress that he and videographer and archivist Robert Farr, executive producer for Arlington Information Channel 31, began shooting last year. Today, Byers will talk about Bryant’s life and music as part of the Arlington County Central Library’s Black History Month celebration. Brief excerpts from the forthcoming film and Bryant memorabilia will supplement the lecture, which begins at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 4, at the Arlington Central Library, 1015 N. Quincy St., Arlington. Free. (703) 228-6339. (Joel E. Siegel)