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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Arden Theatre Presents Gee's Bend-The Play

My regular readers know that I have encouraged them and their families to visit The Philadelphia Museum of Art and see Gee’s Bend; The Architecture of the Quilt. I have posted several stories about this exhibition which closes on December 14, 2008.

There are many events happening around the Philadelphia area that complement this exhibition. One of these events is the play Gee’s Bend which is currently being staged at the Arden Theatre Company. I went on November 16th with my Girls' Friendly Society group to see this play which was written by Elizabeth Gregory Wilder.

What an amazing play about family and about how everyday struggles are linked to bigger struggles. Gee’s Bend is a town in Alabama where the play takes place during the Civil Rights Movement. The play revolves around two sisters and their mother and how their quilt-making is a metaphor (I’m learning about metaphors) for family, protection and the struggle to move forward. The youngest sister meets a man and gets married. He builds their home and they decide never to lock their doors. They face many challenges together from trying to get voting rights to protesting against other injustices. This married couple sometimes doesn’t see eye to eye, but it’s up to you to see what happens in their lives. See the play!!!

The play’s dialogue and its beautiful, moving music and how effectively these two things moved me, now makes me open to the idea of exploring what a playwright does. I would like to leave a heartfelt impression on an audience. Gee’s Bend director was also a woman; Eleanor Holdridge. How inspiring!!! Both Wilder and Holdridge are great role models. And if you’re interested in the theatre, there is so much more than just acting. You can write, direct, design the set, design the costumes and do the stage lighting to name a few things.

If you are looking for a play that’s entertaining, moving and full of history , then Gee’s Bend is for you. Tell your parents and the other big people in your lives to take you. They’ll enjoy it just as well.

I also want to thank the Arden Theatre for giving the members of the GFS the tickets for Gee's Bend. This was a phenomenal opportunity for us as young people. We thank you.

Gee’s Bend continues at the Arden Theatre until December 7, 2008. For more information call 215-922-1122.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The 2008 National Book Awards Teen Press Conference

I am fortunate enough to live in a city with many universities and great libraries. Because of this, I have had the opportunity to meet many great writers like Wole Soyinka, Adrienne Rich, Rita Dove and Sonia Sanchez to name a few. But, to be honest, I hadn’t read their works before I met them. I mainly went to see these writers because my mom adores them.

But last week, I had an amazing experience; my own literary experience that didn’t involve me following someone else’s literary interests. I participated in the annual National Book Awards Teen Press Conference in New York City. Since 1998, this organization has given students like me the opportunity to read one of the books of the finalists in the Young People’s Literature category . The National Book Foundation sent teen reporters, like me ,one of the finalists books to read before the press conference. Then on November 18, 2008, upon arriving at The New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, we received professional press kits, we got to meet the finalists and hear these writers read from their books. We also had the empowering honor to ask questions of these writers.

One of the National Book Awards finalists in the Young People’s Literature category was Laurie Halse Anderson. Last year, the sixth grade class at my school read Anderson’s book entitled Fever, 1793. What an incredible book. I am from Philadelphia and this particular book deals with the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793 that killed a third of Philadelphia’s population. It’s kind of an out-of-body experience to read about a city you know and its popular heroes from another era. Fever,1793 like most of Anderson’s books, is a piece of historical fiction. Anderson makes history wonderful and inviting for teens.

This year Laurie Halse Anderson was nominated for her book Chains. Chains takes place during the American Revolutionary War and revolves around the character Isabel and her journey to Freedom. I will review this book next week and I’ll have photos from the press conference as well. But, again, this is another great read by Anderson. I was thrilled to meet her. She is so friendly and open. I even turned my mom on to her books.

The other finalists for the National Book Award in the Young People’s Literature category were Kathi Appelt for The Underneath( Atheneum),Judy Blundell for What I Saw and How I Lied(Scholastic), E. Lockhart for The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion) and Tim Tharp for The Spectacular Now(Alfred A. Knopf). Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson is published by Simon and Schuster.

The winner in the Young People’s Literature genre was Judy Blundell. Congratulations!!

I want to especially thank Rebecca Keith, of the National Book Foundation, for allowing me to participate in the National Book Awards Teen Press Conference. I also want to thank my Tante Marva for accompanying me to New York for this great experience.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Hip Hop Speaks to Children; A Celebration of Poetry With A Beat

Hip Hop Speaks to Children ;

A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat
Edited by Nikki Giovanni
Published by Sourcebooks-Jabberwocky/2008
Reviewed by Sojourner Ahebee

We ,young people, need to be grateful for people like Nikki Giovanni because she always is looking for ways to engage us with fabulous poetry. Her latest book recently came out in stores. It is called Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat. The book also includes an audio CD. You have two great ways of experiencing this phenomenal book; you can read the works of 42 poets and you can listen to 30 performances of the 51 poems included in this anthology.

And what a range of poets-Langston Hughes, Sterling Brown,Kanye West,Maya Angelou, Common,Eloise Greenfield, Mos Def, Queen Latifah, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Lauren Hill and many more. This anthology really showcases the best of poetry that has a particular movement and beat that appeals especially to young people.
One of my favorite poems included in Hip Hop Speaks to Children; A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat is Ego Tripping by Nikki Giovanni herself. It basically talks about loving yourself and proclaiming how great you are. My favorite line in this poem is “I am so hip even my errors are correct” and my favorite stanza is:

I sowed diamonds in my back yard
My bowels deliver uranium
the filings from my fingernails are semi-precious jewels
On a trip north I caught a cold and blew
My nose giving oil to the arab world
I am so hip even my errors are correct
I sailed west to reach east and had to round off the earth as I went
The hair from my head thinned and gold was laid across three continents

Another one of my favorites poems and recordings included in this book is Ham 'N' Eggs by A Tribe Called Quest. This poem has lots of energy, enthusiasm, and it rhymes. I especially enjoyed Ham 'N' Eggs as it is delivered in a banging way by A Tribe Called Quest. I also enjoyed the poem Ladies First by Queen Latifah. This poem reaches out to young girls, teens, and women. This poem challenges females to demand something of themselves and to reject stereotypes, especially those that limit us . My favorite line in this poem is “I’m divine and my mind expands throughout the universe”. And you know Queen Latifah delivers it in her singular way.

It's the rhythm and the rhyme that unites all of these poets and poems. I really gained an appreciation, from experiencing Hip Hop Speaks to Children, that poetry is a oral medium; it's meant to be delivered with the voice. I highly recommend this book. It can be enjoyed by all ages levels. My grandfather recited along with the recording of Langston Hughes voice, Langston Hughes' poem The Negro Speaks of Rivers. My mom, a teacher, shared the poem Doubtless by Steve Ericson, with her fourth and fifth graders. My girlfriends and I, middle school students, did our interpretation of Nikki Giovanni's Ego Tripping and each of us felt so uplifted and inspired. I guarantee that this book will do the same for you.

Now go out and treat yourself to Hip Hop Speaks to Children; A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat.