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Friday, July 25, 2008

Pump Up The Violin

When I played the violin, all I played was Bach, Beethoven, Schuman, Mozart – the old heads. Which was great, but a lot more can be played on the violin. Damien and Tourie Escobar, the two brothers who formed the duo Nuttin’ But Stringz, are showing just that and are attracting young , urban kids to violin music and violin playing.
Damien and Tourie are from New York City and started playing the violin when they were 7 and 8 years old. In their tough neighborhood, it wasn’t easy moving through the streets with violins. Despite great obstacles , they ended up getting accepted to Juilliard-how about that. Juilliard is one to the best music schools in the world. They played in New York City subway stations for pocket change.
“We would play the trains and we had a captive audience. We broke down the trains on a marketing level. Damien chose the C train for its demographic and I tackled the A train. We raked in over $300 each in 2 hours and we did it 3 times a week.” Damien adds, “The subway is the equivalent of playing several performance hours each week and we were able to refine our technique before a live audience.”
It was their subway playing that got them noticed. They were able to get a manager and a record deal. Nuttin’ But Stringz plays classical music, hip-hop, jazz and R&B. Please listen to Broken Sorrow and Thunder to hear how amazing they are.
Vanessa-Mae is another young violinist whose style of playing is attracting young audiences to the violin. Click on the sidebar to the left to hear Nuttin’ But Stringz
and Vanessa Mae.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Stone Soup; The Magazine By Young Writers and Artists

Hey you guys………! Did you know there are a lot of magazines for young people which are looking for your poems, short stories and artwork? One of my favorites is Stone Soup Magazine for Young Writers and Artists. It’s a favorite because I had one of my poems published in Stone Soup. And guess what, you get paid on top of having your work published in an international magazine. When my poem was published, I got a kick out of going to bookstores and libraries and picking up a copy of the Stone Soup Magazine in which my poem appeared.
Stone Soup Magazine has been publishing the writing and artwork of young people, up to the age of 13, since 1973. You can go into any major bookstore and public library and find a copy. Stone Soup Magazine is published six times a year and is distributed throughout the world.
Do check out its website. It’s amazing. You can read many stories and poems
from children who come from many places. You will see incredible artwork. You can even hear some writers read their work.
All the information you need about how to submit your work can be found on the website. So, go have a look and get started now making your voice heard.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Kindred Cool-A Photo Exhibition by Laylah Amatullah Barrayn

In about a week, I'll be going away to camp. But, when I return, I'm heading straight for the Big Apple-New York-to see Kehinde Wiley's paintings at the Studio Museum in Harlem(*see previous posts on Wiley and Studio Museum )and the photography of Laylah Amatullah Barrayn.

Ms. Barrayn is a photojournalist and her new exhibition is called Kindred Cool . It will be shown at the MoCADA-The Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts. What a mouthful, huh? Kindred Cool is a series of portraits inspired by three friends who loved jazz-the artist Romare Bearden, the novelist Richard Wright and the essayist Albert Murray.
I know the work of Romare Bearden. I haven't read anything by Ralph Ellison. My mom said in the next couple of years I will definitely be reading his book Invisible Man. (Has anyone read it yet? And I have not read anything by Albery Murray. I put both writers on my Future Reading List. These are books I'll read sometime in the future.)
"I've known the works of these giants individually. However, I was introduced to the friendship between Bearden, Ellison and Murray through Horace Porter's book Jazz Country: Ralph Ellison in America," recalled Barrayn, who discovered the book as a student while at NYU in 2002. “I've always been moved by jazz, particularly as it relates to the Black experience in America. I wanted to make a contribution to the ever-continuing conversation on jazz."
"It was important for me to show the diversity of what I like to call the ‘jazz society - not only musicians who create the music, but those individuals who engage the music and perpetuate the culture through an array of ways: writing, visual art, dance. I also wanted to highlight people who are inspired by the music,” explained Barrayn.

Kindred Cool opens August 3rd and closes September 14th, at
The Foyer Gallery
80 Hanson Place
Brooklyn, New York 11217
(Around the corner from the
Brooklyn Academy Of Music)
Check it out if you can with your family and let me know how you experienced it.
*Look to the left for some of the work of Romare Bearden.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Speaking Me; A Youth Anthology

Osbey Books, Inc.



Teen Poetry/ Short Stories

5 Stars

Speaking Me, edited by Pam Osbey, is an anthology primarily of poetry and a few short stories and full of the exuberance of youth. Many of the writers in this unique collection are teens and they share lessons and explore very honestly some of the difficult realities teens,regardless of class or ethnicity, deal with daily.I had such a strong emotional response to the short story "A Single Shard" by Ericka Dickerson. It deals with some of the family hardships teens face like the deterioration of the family and teen suicide. The author's style of writing is simple, yet very direct and powerful."Red Black Green" by Gabriel C. Tyler is one of my favorite poems in Speaking Me. This poem addresses issues of racism, stereotypes,expectations and self-love. I love reading this poem aloud because it speaks a personal truth to me, but it is full of rhythm and energy.Here are a few lines:…

So we refuse to be labeled by stereotypes

And seen as just crack heads and hypes

Just babies raising babies

We will not be limited to being boxed up and locked up,


For we transcend limitations

We are intricate revolution

We are notes in the key of jazz….

Other poems like "Bruised Heart" by Tamasia Johnson which address physical abuse by a loved one or " You Say Sorry… Little Girl" by Marah Langellier ,which challenges readers to see a homeless girl as their child, are just a few examples of talented young people voicing their concerns using the power of poetry and other literary forms.

The book is available online:

Friday, July 18, 2008

Writing in Paul Robeson's House

I'm having the most awesome writing experience this summer. I'm taking an intense writing workshop sponsored by The Teen Writers Academy. ( Click link to learn more about this program ) My writing instructor is Valerie Harris and she is amazing because she is making me feel more empowered as a writer. But the most wonderful thing about this writing academy is where it takes place which is Paul Robeson's House, in West Philadelphia. Paul Robeson is a hero of my grandfather and I'm appreciating his legacy more and more.
Please check out the link to this video. You may get a sense of his power. Mr. Robeson was a real Renaissance Man. He was a respected athlete, Columbia Law School graduate, actor, concert singer, and a political activist. (You have to scroll down to down to video.) Because of the positions he took in support of people who were oppressed in the United States and around the world, some members of the US government punished him. They said he was unAmerican. They took away his passport and he couldn't travel to perform and make a living. He was loved around the world
The house I have been writing in, was his sister's house and his last residence before his death. His spirit is still here and I use it as my muse.
*The painting at the top is by James Marcellus Watkins.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Thelma Golden-Living Her Life Like It's Golden

You know when people ask you what you want to be when you grow up and you might say a doctor, a lawyer, a businessperson, a teacher, an engineer, etc. These are all great professions, but there are many other professions that we as young don’t know about and because of this, we never dream about becoming other kinds of people.
I say of all this to introduce you to Thelma Golden, a tiny giant of a lady. She is the Director and Chief Curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem. If you go to the Kehinde Wiley exhibition I told you about( scroll down), you might meet her.
She’s a curator of a museum. She gets to meet artists, fall in love with their work, and present the work to the public-to us - is a way she determines will excite us about the art. Check out this short video of her describing what she does. We can grow up to be just as fabulous. Click on the link below and then click on her photo/name.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

See The World With National Geographic For Kids

I’m all about laying claim to the world. You can only do this if you are constantly learning about it. Hey, what about learning about the world by actually going to different places and seeing them for you. HOW you ask?

National Geographic for Kids started a contest three years ago for kids. NGK ask young people-ages 8-13-to write an essay about how they explore their community. In 2006, 15 winners went to the Galapagos Islands. In 2007, winners went to South Africa for a safari and this year, winners went to Australia. AMAZING? YES!!!

All winners go on these adventures with one parent and a National Geographic expedition team. EVERYTHING IS PAID FOR BY NGK AND THEIR SPONSORS. You don’t have to wait to be 21 to explore and see the world. There are many opportunities.The deadline for this yearly contest changes, so check for this information. Of course, I’ll let you know as well. The NGK site is a great site to check out often. Check out the video to see the kids who went to the Galapagos Islands and their adventure there. They had a blast. More kids of color need to participate in this contest. Please spread the word. Here's the link to the video
Painting by Earl Keleny.( Check his work out to!)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Kehinde Wiley-The World Stage-Africa/Lagos-Dakar

Teachers, Moms and Dads, if you're looking to inspire your students and children to study and appreciate the art of the great masters ,why not first start with a contemporary master-Kehinde Wiley. This man is fabulous. An African-American artist, Mr. Wiley clearly celebrates the Black Male.
I love his style. It is at once old world and modern urban. Mr. Wiley recently completed a series of paintings based on his travels to Nigeria and Senegal. These paintings-The World Stage-Africa/Lagos-Dakar-will be featured at the Studio Museum in Harlem, from July 17 to October 26, 2008. This is a must see. Grab your kids, the neighbor's kids and show them some light!!!

The B-Side Players

Music is one of the gods in my house. During the the course of any day, the range of music played in my home is wonderful. This morning I heard Erika Miklosa and Bernadett Wiedemann sing the Flower Duet, I heard Marvin Gaye ask What's Going On and John Coltrane kicking My Favorite Things right after Beyonce's Kitty Kat. We jam to the world in this house. Well, I have a new love-The B-Side Players. I heard them when they were featured on NPR's Latino USA. After listening to them, you want to dance and kiss the world.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington , D.C.

This past Easter Break, I visited Washington, D.C. My mom and my brother and I took the Chinatown Bus from Philly to D.C. This was a great adventure. We saw the usual sites which I always enjoy like the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument and the Jefferson Memorial. Though I learn much when I visit these places, I don't make gods out of these men. I know that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slave owners .

But the places that most moved me were the Vietnam Memorial and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. This Holocaust Museum visit made me realize how real history is and how it effects the present. I was moved by my visit to the exhibition Remember the Children: Daniel's Story. You enter Daniel's home and life and you witness what he experienced as Jewish boy in Nazi Germany. When I walked through the remnants of Daniel's house and walked through his life, I was speechless. I never could understand how people like Hitler and his followers could be so evil, so horrible. I highly recommend that you tell your parents to take you to this museum.

Lest We Forget Black Holocaust Museum In Philadelphia

Today I visted the Lest We Forget Black Holocaust Museum in Philadelphia. Listen guys, our history is with us. Put down the ball and the jumprope and the video games and go out and touch some history. I surely did. This museum, which is very much a learning center, run by J. Justin and Gwen Ragsdale, has the real chains, and locks and branding instruments used on African-American people who were enslaved. One of the most uncomfortable, but sobering, exhibitions is that of the many photographs of men and women who were lynched. I also got a sense of what agony the Middle Passage was . This was an intense experience and I feel more empowered because of it.
So when you and you family plan your visit to Philadelphia, just don't go to Betsy Ross' House or to Independence Hall or the Liberty Bell-go, also, to the Lest We Forget Black Holocaust Museum.

Summer Reading for Kids From a Kid

As much as I hate to admit it, my mom has the gift of selecting books for me that I absolutely love. I just read Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen. What an incredible read and what a lesson about integrity and the power of words to change your life. Here's a summary courtesy of Random House Books.

A riveting story of the power of literacy against the inhumanity of the slave system in the pre-Civil War South.Travel to the Waller plantation and meet 12-year-old Sarny, a slave whose mother was sold away when she was four. Sarny first sees Nightjohn when he is brought to the plantation with a rope around his neck, his body covered with scars from many beatings. Sarny is drawn to Nightjohn when she learns that he had escaped North to freedom, only to voluntarily return to the South. Nightjohn has a self-imposed mission—to teach slaves how to read and write. He believes knowledge is the key to helping slaves break out of bondage. Sarny is willing to take the risk, even knowing that the penalty for reading is dismemberment.A word from Gary Paulsen..I came into writing Nightjohn through the back door. I worked for several years on research on a book on Sally Hemings, who was a slave girl owned by Thomas Jefferson. While I was doing the research, I ran into many other stories, the slave chronicles and its interviews of ex-slaves in the ’20s and ’30s in America.I sat in my basement reading these things crying every night. And one of the things I ran into several times was the slaves’ attempt to learn to read. For the slaves it was a capital offense to learn to read and they could be killed. They usually didn’t get killed right away because they were too valuable to the slave owner. So the owners would cut a thumb off, or sometimes a toe. They tried to teach each other to read and were successful in many places. Most of the owners were terrified of the slaves learning to read, because they knew they would want to be free.

Also check out the movie version of Nightjohn which was directed by Charles Burnett. AWESOME!!!! Let me know what you think.