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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!!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Building Bridges

A few weeks ago I met these wonderful ladies from Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire who braid hair. They were so happy to learn that I am originally from Cote d’Ivoire and that I am so open to learning and sharing information about Africa. I was a bit disappointed and sad to learn from them that their exchanges with African-American women as their hair braiding customers had been very limited, despite the fact they spend many hours together. I would like to help, even in a small way, to bridge this gap between these incredibly amazing groups of women.

Today I am featuring the work of one of my favorite photographers- Angele Etoundi Essamba who is originally from Cameroon, but grew up in France and the Netherlands. Along with her work, also enjoy my all-time-favorite poem by Nikki Giovanni called Ego Tripping. I think both women so complement the other. To learn more about Essamba , here is her link

Ego Tripping (there may be a reason why)
By Nikki Giovanni

I was born in the congo
I walked to the fertile crescent and built
the sphinx
I designed a pyramid so tough that a star
that only glows every one hundred years falls
into the center giving divine perfect light
I am bad

I sat on the throne
drinking nectar with allah
I got hot and sent an ice age to europe
to cool my thirst
My oldest daughter is nefertiti
the tears from my birth pains
created the nile
I am a beautiful woman

I gazed on the forest and burned
out the sahara desert
with a packet of goat's meat
and a change of clothes
I crossed it in two hours
I am a gazelle so swift
so swift you can't catch me

For a birthday present when he was three
I gave my son hannibal an elephant
He gave me rome for mother's day
My strength flows ever on

My son noah built new/ark and
I stood proudly at the helm
as we sailed on a soft summer day
I turned myself into myself and was
men intone my loving name
All praises All praises
I am the one who would save

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

I am so perfect so divine so ethereal so surreal
I cannot be comprehended except by my permission

I mean...I...can fly
like a bird in the sky...

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Then They Came For Me

It has been very interesting watching and reading news about the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico which has reached the American states of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. Americans are outraged by the neglectful behavior of BP and are outraged by the environmental damage we are now witnessing. Americans are concerned.

Have you ever heard of the Niger Delta and countless of other places around the world that have been dealing with oil companies which operate with no environmental supervision, where their behavior causes gross ecological disasters, where water is poisoned by leaking oil wells and crops don’t grow because of acid rain from gas flares, and where the extraction of oil is always a part of your life?

In areas like the Niger Delta in Nigeria, where the United States get a large part of its oil, there are no television cameras recording what is just so UNIMAGINABLE. Thank god for people like Ed Kashi whose photographs are part of an incredible book called Curse of Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta, published by Powerhouse Books.

I want you to be just as mad about what’s happening in places like the Niger Delta as you are by what’s happening here at home. We have to make a plan to save this world because things don’t look so good. Above are some photos Ed Kashi took in the Niger Delta where oil companies like Shell and Chevron operate. The billions of dollars of money that the oil from this area generates, as you will see, never reaches the people. How gross!!!!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Crazy Love- Mama Knew Love

This post is dedicated to my mom and Miss Danni and those countless mothers who do what has to be done. School is about to close for me in a week, but I have a summer planned full of some pretty intense activities as does my brother Auguste and my friends Danny and Gideon-the sons of Miss Danni. Since December of last year, my mom and Miss Danni have been fanatical in trying to find summer programs that would move us further to where we need to be, while all the time struggling to keep us full of wonder about the world. They did all kinds of amazing things to raise funds for us to be able to participate in these programs. We are all set to go!!! You guys are a part of an amazing tribe-mothers!

As you know, I love the music of Anthony Hamilton and his song Mama Knew Love is song children all over the world can sing about their mothers. Here’s the link , give a listen and give mom a big bear hug.

Photo/Art Credits-Migrant Mother by Dorothea Lange/1937
African-American Son and Mother, Gordon Coster, 1944
Mother and Daughter by Emil Bainhardt
African Mother and Child by Patrick Hunt
Black and White Photo of Mother and Child, Wazari Photostream