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Posted October 31, 2005

Carl Harms Receives Robeson Award Posthumously

Equity's Paul Robeson Award was given posthumously on October 7, 2005 to Carl Harms, Councillor Emeritus and long time chair of the Robeson Committee. Julia Breanetta Simpson, newly-named chair of the Committee, made the presentation "to a great man, a true artist and a friend" at the Eastern Regional Membership Meeting.

L-R: Tessa Kleeman, Merrill Mecklem Piera, Sarah Greer Mecklem, Arrow Kleeman, Julia Breanetta Simpson

"When we lost Carl on August 11," she said, "we, his fellow Councillors and the membership, lost a friend the likes of which rarely, if ever, come around again in one's lifetime. He was an accomplished actor, dancer, puppeteer, and a committed and active member of this Association as well as a vital part of our legacy." Regarding the special place the Paul Robeson Citation Award Committee held in his heart, Ms. Simpson spoke of Carl's "longstanding active campaign over the years to establish a stamp commemorating Paul Robeson, and his sense of pride when the Postal System finally issued that stamp; his involvement in the procurement of the Robeson bust that we proudly display in the Council Room, and his personal recruitment of prospective new members for the Robeson Committee. I can attest to his steadfastness and commitment to keeping the true legacy of Paul Robeson and the ideals that he stood for ever present within this Association and his sense of pride in bestowing this award because of the precepts for which it stands: Concern for and service to fellow humans, respect for the dignity of the individual, freedom of expression, and universal brotherhood and the artist's responsibility to the profession and to the greater society.

"The fact that Carl exemplified all of these tenets as a member of this Association, as a concerned citizen and as an artist is without question. And today he joins the illustrious list of previous recipients of this award... that reads like a who's who of socially and artistically committed artists."

Mr. Harms' daughters, Merrill Mecklem Piera and Sarah Greer Mecklem accepted "this incredible honor," noting their pride in the role Carl had played at Equity. Also present for the ceremony were Mr. Harms' grandchildren, Tessa and Arrow Kleeman, and several friends, including Shepard Sobel, Artistic Director of the Pearl Theatre.

Officers Speak

President Patrick Quinn was working and unable to attend the meeting, but sent remarks that were read by Eastern Regional Vice President Arne Gundersen.

"Paul Robeson stood for excellence as an Actor and as a human being. His legendary dramatic and musical performances electrified audiences while his unbending fight for racial equality and human dignity made him at once an object of intense loyalty as well as an object of fear and hatred. On stage and off, he was larger than life. "Today we are proudly awarding the Paul Robeson Award posthumously to Carl Harms, a member of Equity since 1946 and a Councillor for almost 50 years who passed away recently at the age of 94 (and 11/12ths). Carl was a tall, slight, soft-spoken man--hardly larger than life in appearance--but the strength of his beliefs, his loyalty to his fellow Actors and his service to this Union are. This Paul Robeson Award, and Carl's devotion to it, have helped to keep alive the history and spirit of this incredible actor, not only here at Actors' Equity, but in turn, throughout the world... I can think of no more appropriate way to honor Carl. I know without a doubt that he would be so very, very proud..."

Secretary-Treasurer Conard Fowkes and Third Vice-President Ira Mont also spoke--emotionally and lovingly. Mr. Fowkes called Carl a "gentle man who dignified this Association." He told how at 90+ Carl was still laying brick on the roof and climbing trees. "It is an understatement to say that I loved him." Mr. Mont called Carl "respected and respectable," and said he was in awe of Carl's grasp of the business side of the business and his commitment to the social contract of what this union is here for. "It is beyond an honor to say I served here with Carl Harms." Mr. Gundersen also spoke, bringing a touch of levity to the proceedings and a smile to everyone's lips.

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