Tivoli Theatre hosts Bessie Smith movie screening - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Tivoli Theatre hosts Bessie Smith movie screening

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - More than 1,000 people were at the Tivoli Theatre in downtown Chattanooga getting ready to watch a free screening of "Bessie".

The film produced by HBO celebrates the life of legendary blues singer and Chattanooga native Bessie Smith. 

Folks will learn about Bessie's transformation from a struggling young singer into the 'Empress of the Blues'. 

Channel 3 spoke with her great niece as well as the director of the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, they say they are glad the city is honoring Bessie in this way.

Bessie's voice was discovered along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in downtown Chattanooga back in the day, it was known as 9th Street. 

Born into poverty young Bessie would sing for money on street corners in order to get by. Her love for singing turned her into 'Empress of the Blues'. 

Her great niece Joyce Terrell will be in the audience watching the film about the music icon.

"Tonight is like a culmination of events. It's like a daughter coming home," said Joyce Terrell, Bessie Smith great-niece.

A lot of Bessie's songs were about her daily struggles, she lived in the 1920's and 1930's. Joyce Terrell learned about her great aunt's trials through her mother.

"The pride that my mother had when she talked about her, I didn't know who the woman was, I didn't know who Aunt Bessie was, but then I would feel the joy and love from my mother and now I get it," said Terrell.

Bessie Smith sang hundreds of songs throughout her life. If you go inside the Bessie Smith Cultural Center you are able to read about some of them. Now you are able to learn about it all on screen.

"Just share some of those little tidbits that we really don't get to see it on screen, to see it in action is a little exciting," said Dionne Jennings, Executive Director.

The city of Chattanooga Multicultural Office organized the screening. They just want to educate Chattanooga about one of our own, who made an impact on the world.

"It's just a wonderful way to celebrate her legacy and what she means to Chattanooga," said James McKissic, City of Chattanooga Multicultural Affairs.

The screening is sold out, but you can still check it out on HBO. Just check your local listings.

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