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Friday, December 31, 2010

Come and Enjoy the Pennsylvania Ballet's Production of The Nutcracker

A Review by Sojourner Ahebee

The clock is a ticking. Today, the Pennsylvania Ballet will dance its final performance of The Nutcracker for this holiday season. Attending the Nutcracker is an annual event for me and one that never looses its aura of drama and glamour.

I attended a Saturday matinee at the Academy of Music. As usual the performance was spectacular and as always, put me in the Christmas spirit! When I reviewed this ballet last year, I retold the story of the Nutcracker, but I’m sure my readers know it by now. I wasn’t sure what to expect this year. I thought since I saw this ballet last year, it wouldn’t have the same mesmerizing affect. But to my surprise it did.

My mother accompanied me to the ballet with three of her students-Donjae, Akira and Latoya. It was their first time seeing this production and they were very much impressed. To see their smiles light up the room as they oohed and aahed at the luminous Christmas tree, the equally radiant falling snow and the jolly candy canes made my experience even more enjoyable and memorable.

The dancing is just one component of the Nutcracker experience. The choreography and artistry of the dancers is second to none. But, I always end up falling in love, again and again with the costumes and the stage design. Every costume transports you to the heart of the Nutcracker story and the stage design is majestic, mesmerizing and sets you in the middle of everything.

The dancer who stood out for me again this year and keeps me coming back every year is Jermel Johnson. He usually performs the Candy Cane role, but on the day I went he did not. This time around, he danced with the Sugar Plum Fairy, as her cavalier. OMG, he owned his performance! I was not expecting Mr. Johnson to dance this part but when he did you couldn’t stop watching him move! All in all, I hope everyone gets the chance to share with family and friends the Pennsylvania Ballet’s production of the Nutcracker. It’s a great way to say goodbye to the old year and hello to the new one. Happy New Year!

For more information, click on the following link:

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Discover the World Through Another Language

Though it’s only a few days after Thanksgiving, summer is just around the corner. Now is the time to find those summer programs that will engage you in ways you haven’t imagined. Deadlines are approaching and applications need to be filled out and recommendations gotten.
I have been working hard to get my French back and so I am a big fan of language programs.

Last summer, I participated in a French Immersion program sponsored by Middlebury College, the preeminent place for learning languages. My program was hosted at Oberlin College. If French is not your language, how about Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, Spanish and Italian? You are required to take a pledge that you will only speak your selected foreign language all the time, for a month. It is a challenge, but the payoff in terms of you developing your foreign language skills is phenomenal.

I like the fact that the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy hosts its programs on different college campuses around the United States. This gives you the opportunity to get a sense of another college and what it has to offer. I love Oberlin and it is absolutely gorgeous and quaint and has one of the best music conservatories in the country. This program is amazing and empowers you to take on almost any task. And the friendships that are made and ones that I know will be for a lifetime. At first, I was definitely worried about going to a new place and meeting new people and a speaking a language all-day long that I was not fluent in, but the staff at MMLA and the way the program is organized makes you feel you can do it.

Here is the link to information about MMLA’s language immersion programs. I’ll share information about other programs, so keep reading.

As I progress in my French learning, I am learning just how big and small the world is and how exciting it is to learn about it. I am a big fan of music from France’s West African immigrant communities. Also, to my surprise, I am getting into foreign films in French. Now, one of my favorite directors is Ousmane Sembene, who died in 2007. He was from Senegal. I love one of his early films called Black Girl. Learn about him and his amazing insights. You can rent his films on Netflix. Here is a link about Black Girl.
Photo of Man- Ousmane Sembene

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Caminos del Inka-Travel the Inca Trail Through Music This Coming January

A lot of you know I love music from South America. But the music I have listened to from this vast continent has been primarily the music of its African population; a music which is dynamic, diverse and documents the lives and concerns of the African Diaspora. Recently I learned that one of my former teachers, Mr. Diego Luzuriaga, who is from Ecuador, is also a renowned composer who celebrates in his music the glory and beauty and struggles of South America.

I will have the grand opportunity as you can to hear some of his compositions. On January 14, 2011, the Philadelphia Orchestra will play his music as well as other South American composers as part of a series called Caminos del Inka-The Inca Trail. This concert will be conducted by the Peruvian-born conductor Miguel Harth-Bedoya, who is the brainchild behind this incredible event. The concert not only showcases the work covering three centuries of South American composers, including Mr. Luzuriaga, but it is also a multimedia event which includes stunning photography to complement the music.

Click here to get a taste of what’s to come and to learn more about this project.


Be sure to expect to hear more from me about this not to missed, upcoming concert.

The Inca Trail
Friday January 14, 2011
7:00 PM
Verizon Hall

The Philadelphia Orchestra
Miguel Harth-Bedoya - Conductor
Jeffrey Khaner - Flute
Efe Baltacigil – Cello

For more information here is the website for the Philadelphia Orchestra -

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Aung San Suu Kyi Rises

I love this photo of Desmond Tutu and the woman he is raising in his hand. My favorite lady from Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, was freed this past Saturday after 7 years of house arrest. Let’s wish her well on her journey to empower her people.
I give you Ben Harper, again, singing Maya Angelou's I Rise.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Reconsidering Columbus Day ?

I’m back on the block. Sorry for the long silence, but high school is a real challenge. I have lots of great information to share, in upcoming posts, about some amazing summer programs.

But today, Columbus Day, let’s talk about silences. Click this link first.

Here is a quote by a hero of mine-W.E.B. DuBois. He precisely captures what our country has been so unwilling to do-face the truth, acknowledge it and move forward with a head raised high.
One is astonished in the study of history
at the recurrence of the idea that evil must
be forgotten, distorted, skimmed over. We
must not remember that Daniel Webster got
drunk but only that he was a splendid
constitutional lawyer. We must forget that
George Washington was a slave owner . . . and
simply remember the things we regard as
creditable and inspiring. The difficulty, of course,
with this philosophy is that history loses its value
as an incentive and example; it paints perfect man
and noble nations, but it does not tell the truth.

-W.E.B. DuBois

After my doctor’s appointment, I’m headed to Last Word Bookstore, in University City, to find a book my uncle suggested-Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown. I’m kind of ashamed at how little I know of American history, especially the history of Native Americans. That’s about to change.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Are Our Hands Clean?

Yesterday, I had one of those a-ha moments when something I hadn’t quite understood in the past became crystal clear. There’s a Sweet Honey in the Rock song called Are My Hands Clean. My mother on several occasions tried to get me to really listen to this song and understand it. Yesterday, I went to a women’s film festival sponsored by the Leeway Foundation and some other organizations. I saw several films, but the one that made the meaning of Are My Hands Clean so clear was the film Made in LA. I have a lot to share about this film and information when you can see it as well. I will review it tomorrow. For now read the lyrics to Are My Hands Clean and listen to the song as well.

Are My Hands Clean?
Lyrics and music by Bernice Johnson Reagon. Songtalk Publishing Co. 1985
Performed by Sweet Honey in the Rock. Sweet Honey in the Rock, Live at Carnegie Hall

I wear garments touched by hands from all over the world
35% cotton, 65% polyester, the journey begins in Central America
In the cotton fields of El Salvador
In a province soaked in blood,
Pesticide-sprayed workers toil in a broiling sun
Pulling cotton for two dollars a day.

Then we move on up to another rung—Cargill
A top-forty trading conglomerate, takes the cotton through the Panama Canal
Up the Eastern seaboard, coming to the US of A for the first time
In South Carolina
At the Burlington mills
Joins a shipment of polyester filament courtesy of the New Jersey petro-chemical mills of

Dupont strands of filament begin in the South American country of Venezuela Where oil
riggers bring up oil from the earth for six dollars a day
Then Exxon, largest oil company in the world,
Upgrades the product in the country of Trinidad and Tobago
Then back into the Caribbean and Atlantic Seas
To the factories of Dupont
On the way to the Burlington mills
In South Carolina
To meet the cotton from the blood-soaked fields of El Salvador

In South Carolina
Burlington factories hum with the business of weaving oil and cotton into miles of fabric
for Sears
Who takes this bounty back into the Caribbean Sea
Headed for Haiti this time—May she be one day soon free—
Far from the Port-au-Prince palace
Third world women toil doing piece work to Sears specifications
For three dollars a day my sisters make my blouse

It leaves the third world for the last time
Coming back into the sea to be sealed in plastic for me
This third world sister
And I go to the Sears department store where I buy my blouse
On sale for 20% discount
Are my hands clean?

Click the link below to listen to this song.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

US-Afghan Students Photo Exhibition at National Constitution Center

There’s a poem by Nikki Giovanni called Nikki Rosa that I like a whole lot. It’s a poem about stereotypes and how people make assumptions about other people based on superficial things. It’s about how we seldom imagine people seemingly different from us as having the same basic expectations of life. I thought of this poem last week when I visited the National Constitution Center and saw the most amazing photography exhibition called Being "We the People"; Afghanistan, America and the Minority Imprint.

This exhibitions features the photographs of students from Marefat High School in Kabul, Afghanistan and students from Constitution High School right here in Philadelphia. The following information, provided by the National Constitution Center, explains this unique and moving collaboration:

Equipped with digital cameras, the 21 students – many of whom had never held a camera before – learned how to conduct documentary photography and ventured into their communities to capture images of freedom, religious expression, protest, and other civic themes. Their photographs, portraying everything from weddings to parades and prayer services to political demonstrations, explore how minorities in different democracies perceive themselves as citizens and how they define citizenship.

Beginning in July 2009, students from both schools shared their work and ideas online at In March 2010, the Afghan students traveled to the United States and met face-to-face with their American counterparts to curate the exhibition. Together, the students scoured through over 500 photographs in order to select pairs – one image from each country – that showcase both the striking differences and startling similarities between Afghanistan and the United States. They also wrote accompanying captions, explaining the circumstances under which the photographs were taken.

"The camera taught me how to capture moments,” said Fatima Jafari, 16, of Marefat High School. “It is inspiring to be able to deal with living moments in a still frame. I have a tough future ahead, but I am determined not to surrender to the harsh realities of my community and my time. I want to be instrumental for a better change in my fate, and one of the ways I can accomplish this is through photography. There is a lot that can be said through the camera; it is a miracle.”

“This has been one of the single greatest and most poignant projects I've been involved in,” said Ian McShea, a senior at Constitution High School, who taught himself Dari in preparation for the Afghan students’ visit to the United States. “Meeting the Afghan students has taught me volumes of things that I didn't know about Afghanistan, Islam, and the Muslim world in general. I have regained faith, not only in humanity, but especially in my own generation, my global brothers and sisters.”

“This enriching cultural exchange has sparked an important conversation about the meaning of citizenship, and the students are shining examples of active citizens,” said David Eisner, President and CEO of the National Constitution Center. “The exhibition will have a profound effect on visitors, who will be fascinated and shocked by the parallels in the photographs, the products of a visual dialogue between young people in two vastly different democracies.”

Visitors to the exhibition will have the opportunity to join in the dialogue. A total of 70 photographs will be on display, but additional images will be accessible at electronic touch-screens, where guests of both the National Constitution Center and the National Museum of Afghanistan can peruse photo pairings and recommend those that resonate with them most. Through internet connectivity, users in both countries will see how their recommendations compare with those made by other visitors to the Center and the National Museum of Afghanistan.

This exhibition will be open until the end of September.

For more information about this exhibition visit the Constitution Center’s website-

National Constitution Center
525 Arch Street, Independence Mall
Philadelphia, PA 19106
T (215) 409-6693 (215) 409-6693
F (215) 409-6650

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

President’s Obama’s Forum with Young African Leaders August 3-5, 2010

“This is a new moment of great promise. Only this time, we’ve learned that it will not be giants like Nkrumah and Kenyatta who will determine Africa’s future… It will be the young people brimming with talent and energy and hope who can claim the future that so many in previous generations never realized.”
– President Barack Obama

Yesterday, President Obama met with 120 young African leaders, who gathered in Washington, D.C. for three-day forum. I like the focus the President in putting on young people and people who are not in government. The old ways of dealing with the old heads is hopefully over. Click on the link below to learn more about this forum, who some of these leaders are and what their plans are for their own countries. Remember, Africa is a continent.

*Photos- Associated Press

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Last Weekend for Ancient Rome And America Exhibition at the National Constitution Center

A Review By Sojourner Ahebee

This past Tuesday I went to The National Constitution Center to see the Ancient Rome and America exhibition. What an experience! I never knew Ancient Rome and Early America had so much in common. It’s amazing how closely America used the Roman Empire as a model for her own country and created a new republic where the majority of the people’s interests were represented.

In the beginning of the exhibition you are greeted with the myth of Romulus and Remus. No one knows for sure if these supposed twin brothers actually founded Ancient Rome, but it’s always fun to wonder. As I was going through the exhibition with my cousin, (who had actually just came back from Italy), she pointed out that the myths about the conditions of the war for soldiers during the American Revolution were way more believable that the Roman myths. While we’re still on the subject of the American Revolution, George Washington, who led this war, was mentioned many times. I thought the bust of himself ,sculpted by William Ruse, was very amusing. I
mean come on? He was wearing a toga!

I really found the whole slavery comparison between the US and Ancient Rome very interesting. Both Ancient Rome and early America had slaves at one point in time. The exhibition highlighted the slave collars that were used to identify slaves who had tried to escape. It brought chills to the backs of both my cousin and me, who got to see first-hand the actual materials that were used to dehumanize people in both societies.
The American slave collar presented in this exhibition belonged to a man named Ben, who had been enslaved in the South. He had tried to run away from the plantation where he worked, but he did not make it. He was made to wear this very slave collar until he was sold to another slave owner, who had promised Ben on a particular date he would be set free. The day he was suppose to be set free, he was kidnapped and sold back into the vicious cycle of slavery and his exact whereabouts were never known. Great injustices similar to this one happened almost everyday in colonial America. It enrages me that this was the case, but I’m pleased that The Constitution Center chose to present these uncomfortable realities. On the other hand, white Roman slaves had a bit of a greater advantage than slaves in America. They were able to eventually excel in society with hard work and even buy their freedom.

The book Notes on the State of Virginia, written by Thomas Jefferson, was the first book to reference slavery in Ancient Rome and used to justify slavery in America. The fallout from slavery and the horrific problems it created are still with us today.

While the slavery aspect of the exhibition was poignant, the story of Pompeii was heart-wrenching The cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum sat on Mount Vesuvius, an active volcano. In 79 CE, this volcano spit rock and other debris that buried people who were unable to escape the area consumed by the volcanic activity. People were instantly killed by this volcanic debris that reached temperatures as high as 250 C and they were covered by twelve different layers of soil. The Ancient Roman and America exhibition actually shows a cast made from the imprint of a man who was found huddled near the wall of a gymnasium entrance in Pompeii . Pompeii was only rediscovered by accident when in 1738, workmen were digging for the foundations for a summer palace for the King of Naples, Charles of Bourbon. In 1748, the Spanish military engineer Rocque Joaquin de Alcubierre organized an intentional excavation.

Through this journey of comparison between America and Ancient Rome, I learned many new things about my own country as well as Ancient Rome. I don’t want to tell you everything, because you need to experience it for yourself. This exhibition leaves August 1, 2010. So hurry! You do not want to miss it. Below is a link to The Constitution Center’s website for Ancient Rome and America. Remaining dates and times are listed. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Choc Quib Town- Jammin' To Another Tongue

I’m back on the block. I’ve been away for the last month living and breathing and only speaking French. What an amazing experience, of which I will share more later. Now I feel like I want to learn so many more languages. As the saying goes, when you learn another language, the another world is revealed to you.

Here is a group I just discovered. If you think Shakira is the best thing Colombia has to offer musically, well-think again. Give a listen to Choc Quib Town, an African-Colombian hip-hop group. Yes, Colombia has its Black people and they do speak Spanish. After listening to them, I’m ready to get out the history books. That’s the power of music; to open your mind to another experience.

Here’s the link.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

All You Got To Do Is Dream-Kimmel Center Presents Dreamgirls

Reviewed by Sojourner Ahebee

Hello to all my Dreamgirls out there with dreams not waiting to be fulfilled by others ,but by yourselves. Yesterday evening, I attended DreamGirls,which is part of the Kimmel Center’s Broadway Series. It was simply a first-rate performance filled with incredible talent.

Dreamgirls tells the story of three best friends with talent,who all want a career in the music industry. Unfamiliar with the ugly side of the music business, they agree to sing backup for a huge star, James “Thunder” Early played deftly by Chester Gregory. They eventually get their own act ,but throughout the process they lose themselves and try to change their image and sound to attract a white audience. Also, many friendships are destroyed over the position of being lead singer because Effie(Moya Angela) is pushed to backup with Lorrell(Adrienne Warren) and Deena(Syesha Mercado) takes on the role of lead because she is slim and has a somewhat light voice. Eventually Effie gets her solo career.

One of my favorite songs in the performance is called Cadillac Car. The tune of the song is not what most intrigued me . This song represented what many musicical artists of color faced; white acts taking others' original songs, revamping them and claiming them as their own . This original R&B song, Cadillac Car, is sung by Jimmy and the girls and is stolen by a white music artist and is transformed into a pop song. The girls find this type of behavior unfathomable ,but Curtis simply says this happens all the time. This made me feel indignant to know people worked hard to create something and then had their work literally stolen from them because of racism and how the music business was run.

Guess who really blew me out of the house? Moya Angela’s character Effie. Wow ,that girl can blow! When she sang And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going ,I was almost in tears. Through this song, Effie displays her emotions for Curis. She realizes she is being pushed to the back and his new obsession is Deena. In her song her main phrase is you’re gonna love me. I am only familiar with the Jennifer Hudson version of the song ,so this performance was just breathtaking. ( My mom said I need to listen to the Jennifer Holiday version.) Jennifer Hudson sung this song in a movie, if she doesn’t hit the right note, the director just says take 2. But Ms. Angela has to hit the right notes each performance, over and over while projecting her voice to the audience. That type of talent comes with hard work and determination and she has all of these qualities.

I just love how the musical ended. Everyone left on good terms with each other and all FOUR of the Dreamgirls sang their very catchy tuned song DreamGirls . Effie, who was stunning in a black glitter dress, stood out from the rest as did her talent.

Before I end my review I would like to give a big shoutout to conductor Alvin Hough, Jr. for the wonderful live music I was able to experience and to William Ivey Long for his costume designs . The costumes, as you can imagine, were out of this world and can only be fully experienced at the performance and not through my words. This is a must-see show ! Dreamgirls will be at the Academy of Music from June 22nd to June 27th. Below is a link to The Kimmel Center’s 2009/2010 Broadway series dates and times. Come out and support this wonderful production!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Father's Day, Papa !

I love this song , Good Man, by India Aire. Papa, you are always with me in everything I do. Auguste and I cheered on our team today, but they lost to Brazil. We did your special holler!!!

Here are the lyrics and the link to India singing this song. Listen carefully.

I remember the first day
I met you
we were so young
you were a blessing
and there was no guessing
you were the one
Love is so crazy
We had a baby
and said our vows
That's when you told me
should anything happen
I can hear you now
You told me

if the sun comes up
and I'm not home
be strong
If I'm not beside you
Do your best to
carry on
Tell the kids about me
when they're old enough to understand
tell them that their daddy was
a good man

First anniversary
remember we
chose a star
And as i stand under it
I can't help but wonder if
You see it where you are
For whatever reason
We don't see the seasons
Change again
Go there with peace of mind
We'll meet on the otherside
Cause true Love don't end
and baby

if the sun comes up
and you're not home
I'll be strong
If you're not beside me
I'll do my best to
carry on
I'll tell the kids about you
when they're old enough to understand
I'll tell them that their daddy was
a good man

Two eyes
up at me
Pointing to the picture like where is he
Mamma are you OK
What did the paper say
To make you cry that way
it said your Daddy lived for you
and your daddy died for you
and I'll do the same

Now baby
if the sun comes up
and I'm not home
be strong
If I'm not beside you
Do your best to
carry on
Tell your kids about me
when they're old enough to understand
tell them that your daddy was
a good man

Use Your Liberty to Promote Ours- Happy Birthday Aung San Suu Kyi

On the front of the bottom half of my refrigerator, between the coloring pages of the Dalai Lama and Angela Davis is Aung San Suu Kyi, the human rights leader from Myanmar( Burma ) who has been in jail or under house arrest for almost tweny years. No one, except Billie Holiday, can wear flowers in their hair in way that is so symbolic and so beautiful as Ms. Suu Kyi.

Yesterday was her 65th birthday. Ms. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Prize Peace laureate, is still under detention by the military government of Myanmar because it fears the effects her voice and ideas have on the everyday people of Myanmar to challenge an unjust and illegal government.

Here is Ms. Suu Kyi’s message to us: Use your liberty to promote ours.

Happy Birthday Aung San Suu Kyi.

To learn more about her, click the link below:

*painting by Amey Fearon Mathews

A Messenger with A Real Message- Marc Lamont Hill

I went to several college commencement ceremonies in May. I want to give a huge shout-out to my cousin Lauren who recently graduated from Swarthmore College. My mother always makes a point of me needing to pay attention to the words and messages of the various commencement speakers. And to be honest, this season’s speakers didn’t hit a chord with me.

Now give a listen to Marc Lamont Hill, a native of Philly, a professor at Columbia University, a political commentator on Fox News and a former high school teacher at Furness High School, where he recently delivered the commencement address. His words, his message, his delivery and his sense of urgency and his humor struck a chord me.

I even told my mother to be quiet and pay attention to his words and message. Click on the link below to hear part two of Mr. Hill’s address.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Still Rising

School is out and I have much to share before I go away for a summer program in less than two weeks. It is so amazing how following the World Cup has taken me to so many points in history. I learned today that June 16th is the anniversary of the 1976 Soweto Riots. During the apartheid era, laws were passed that made it mandatory for black and colored students to learn their lessons only in Afrikaans, the language of the white minority. Students- Children- from Soweto and all across South Africa revolted against this policy and by doing so, many were killed. But their boldness and outrage changed the course of South African history. Young people.

They are not forgotten. Below is a link to Ben Harper singing one of my favorite Maya Angelou poems-I’ll Rise. The children of Soweto, of South Africa did rise.

color photo-Pernille

Hugh Masekela; Keeping the Record Straight

Thanks to one of my readers, Anna Renee, for introducing me to Hugh Masekela. She, like many people, gives a thumbs down to Shakira’s World Cup anthem and a big shout out to great South African talents like the legendary Hugh Masekela. I was running by Anna Renee’s suggestions to my grandfather and I discovered he is a big fan of Mr. Masekela. My grandfather’s favorite song by Mr. Masekela is Stimela-The Coal Train.

Give a listen. Hugh Masekela’s voice is just as entrancing as his trumpet playing. My grandfather said we must not forget that South Africa has only recently emerged from the evil of apartheid. Last summer I read a few short stories by Nadine Gordimer and Bessie Head when I participated in the Great Books Summer Program. These stories gave me a lot of insight into life under apartheid. We mustn’t forget. We mustn’t forget.

I love this piece. Thanks Anna Renee.
Photo Credits- Miners Going Home to Malawi, 1952-David Goldblatt
Witwatersrand Goldmine , 1962- Ian Berry
Last photo by Eli Weinberg

What Do You Make of Shakira's World Cup Song ?

I just came across the official anthem for the FIFA 2010 World Cup games, which is sung by Shakira. The song is called Waka Waka- Time for Africa. Her selection as the lead singer has created quite a controversy. Many are arguing that Africa has such tremendous musical talent , so why not showcase this talent. I don’t quite know what to make of it. I like the message but is the visual a bit stereotypical and who is Shakira to give this message and why not a real South African singer? Click on the link below and watch the video and tell me what you think.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

We Rise-Go Cote d'Ivoire

I am so proud of Cote d’Ivoire’s performance at the 2010 World Cup. They are real contenders. Today they tied with Portugal. I am still a bit disappointed that Drogba’s injury didn’t allow him to play at his full capacity, but still I give a big bravo to the Elephants. Cote d’Ivoire has the most enthusiastic fans and I love how creatively they express their love for their team. My father would be so proud of his team!!!