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Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Tables Are Starting to Turn- The World Has Spoken

I recently discovered Tracy Chapman and I adore her because she uses her talent to shed light, in a subtle, powerful way, on those who are too often overwhelmed to react against the weight of their obligations and disappointments.  Two years ago, I went to New York with my mom and Miss Trudy and Tante Mona to see a play called The Things of Dry Hours.  ( Here’s a link to my review:  )

The title of the play is taken from a great Gwendolyn Brooks poem called  kitchenette building.  Ms. Brooks,like Tracy,  is subtle and powerful in her presentation of why people sometimes fail to dream or  keep a dream alive. 
Happy Holidays. Power to the Imagination.  Power to the 99%.  Here is Tracy Chapman singing Talking About a Revolution.

Kitchenette Building
by Gwendolyn Brooks
We are things of dry hours and the involuntary plan, 
Grayed in, and gray. "Dream" makes a giddy sound, not strong 
Like "rent," "feeding a wife," "satisfying a man." 

But could a dream send up through onion fumes   
Its white and violet, fight with fried potatoes   
And yesterday's garbage ripening in the hall,   
Flutter, or sing an aria down these rooms 

Even if we were willing to let it in, 
Had time to warm it, keep it very clean,   
Anticipate a message, let it begin? 

We wonder. But not well! not for a minute!   
Since Number Five is out of the bathroom now,   
We think of lukewarm water, hope to get in it.

from "Selected Poems" © 1963 by Gwendolyn Brooks.
Reprinted with the permission of the Estate of Gwendolyn Brooks

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's Our Time; It's Our World

One of my goals is to visit and study in China.  Last year I was selected as an alternate to study Mandarin in China through the National Security Language Initiative for Youth.  This program sends teenagers around the world to study critical languages such as Mandarin, Arabic, Hindi, Farsi, Russian and Korean to name a few.  It’s an intense process to get selected, but if you do, all expenses are paid and you get to open your mind and heart to another culture.  I am undeterred. I will get to China.  Here’s more information about the National Security Language Initiative for Youth:
Another great organization that sends teens abroad is Americans Promoting Study Abroad. The following video tells it all:

To learn more about this summer program, visit

The Ron Brown Scholar Program

 I am so happy to be home.  There is no place like home.   This coming week I plan to focus on upcoming scholarship and summer programs.  Here we go. A big shout out to Ms. Murray for sharing the following:

The Ron Brown Scholar Program
This program seeks to identify African-American high school seniors who will make significant contributions to society.

Applicants must excel academically, exhibit exceptional leadership potential, participate in community service activities and demonstrate financial need. The applicant must be a US citizen or hold a permanent resident visa card. Current college students are not eligible to apply.

Recipients may use the renewable scholarships to attend an accredited four-year college or university of their choice within the United States.

Ron Brown Scholarships are not limited to any specific field or career objective and may be used to pursue any academic discipline. More than 200 students have been designated as Ron Brown Scholars since the inception of the Program.

Award Amount : $10,000
Deadline: Usually in January
Website/Contact Info:

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Reconstructing the Self- The Musical Billy Elliot

Billy Elliot

A Review By Sojourner Ahebee

Sarah Jones is a playwright and actress who has created a cast characters who come from a wide-range of economic, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Ms. Jones, who is African-American, uses her insight and talent and becomes her characters. We, the audience, are enchanted to come into their world and listen to their stories, in their voices.

I was recently listening to a video in which Ms. Jones shared her motivation for creating her characters. She was interested, she said, by how people construct a sense of themselves given the family, the geography, the times, the gender, etc. in which they are born. How do we become ourselves? How do we invent or reinvent ourselves, especially in an environment which is constraining.

Last Thursday I saw the musical, Billy Elliot, as part of the Kimmel Center’s Broadway Presents series, in Philadelphia. My Aunt Mona had seen the New York production and had raved about this musical. So I was certainly looking forward to seeing it, and the Philly presentation, at the Academy of Music, was no let down. Billy Elliot is a must see.

Billy is a kid growing up in a coal mining town in England during the time of Margaret Thatcher’s rule and a time of economic difficulties. His family is working class and the men in his family have been coal miners for generations. My Aunt Mona, who visits England often, said it is difficult for Americans to appreciate the very rigid class structure that exists in British society. It is so oppressive as to almost dictate what your desires are and what you dream and how far you can transcend the background in which you were born.

When we first meet Billy, the coalminers in his town are on strike. His father and brother are coalminers and money is very tight. Despite these economic challenges, Billy’s father sacrifices a lot to pay for Billy to take boxing lessons, which Billy hates. While going to a boxing lesson, Billy sees a group of ballet dancers practicing in a room in the gym. He is immediately enchanted. 
The ballet instructor, Ms. Wilkinson, immediately pulls Billy into the classroom and a love affair begins with Billy and the dance of ballet.

How does a boy, in an English coalmining town, from a family of coalminers, against the background of the 1984 coal miners’ strike, become a ballet dancer? Going back to Ms. Jones, what circumstances are needed for the boy from his geography, economic background, and gender and so on to reconstruct himself as a ballet dancer?

How to knock down barriers so you can rise to grow into who you want to be is the essence of what this musical is about. Go and see it and be inspired.

Here is a link to the dates and times of the performances. The run in Philadelphia closes on Sunday, November 27th, so hurry to see Billy Elliot.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Songs in the Key of Life

Sunday Best

In the Ahebee pantheon of gods, Stevie Wonder ranks pretty high.  It’s the 35th anniversary of Mr. Wonder’s Album-Songs in the Key of Life.  My mom actually has this album-yes album-not CD-that she proudly bought when she was 14. In my grandparents’ house, my grandfather still has this contraption called a 8 track cassette player for his Ink Spots and Nat King Cole tapes.   And yes, they still have a record player, which is the neatest thing of all.  And so, we’re blasting Stevie and singing his songs the old-fashioned way; with a lot of heart.

My favorite song on this album is I Wish.  This song is so universal.  Here is the Korean group Sweet Sorrow singing I Wish.  HappyThanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holiday Cards with Messages that Matter & James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti Singing Together

You can order my socially and politically progressive holiday cards and get a 50% discount only today. Use Code: GIVEMAILINGS    Here is the link to my Zazzle store. Click here, also, to read the messages inside of the cards.
  Here’s my Thanksgiving treat to you; a duet featuring James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti- It’s a Man’s World.  Check out the lyrics of Pavarotti’s part. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Michelle Obama Unveils Student Poet Program

Brave New Voices slam champion Joshua Bennett performs "TamaraŹ¼s Opus" at the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word on May 12, 2009.

This is hot off the press. This is an amazing opportunity for us poets.  Read on.

Reprinted from Reuters:

(Reuters) - First Lady Michelle Obama on Monday helped launched a new arts program to pick five student poets from high schools who will spend one year promoting poetry through readings, workshops and other activities.

The National Student Poets program is created by the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities, of which the first lady is honorary chair, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services through a partnership with nonprofit group, the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

"What you learn through reading and writing poetry will stay with you throughout your life," Obama said in a statement. "It will spark your imagination and broaden your horizons and even help your performance in the classroom."

The five National Student Poets will be chosen from a pool of teenagers who have already received a national Scholastic Art & Writing Award for poetry. The selection panel will be comprised of poet Terrance Hayes, "Kenyon Review" editor David Lynn, Alice Quinn of the Poetry Society of America, and the Library of Congress' Robert Casper.

More than 185, 000 students apply annually for the Scholastic Art & Writing Award and since 1923, winners have included teenagers such as Truman Capote, Sylvia Plath, Joyce Carol Oates and others.

The first five National Student Poets will be announced in summer 2012, and will each receive academic awards of $5,000. They will serve as literary ambassadors in their communities and encourage kids to develop writing and creative skills.

"The National Student Poets work will give greater visibility to the voice and perspective of today's youth," said Virginia McEnerney, executive director of the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers.

The President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities focuses on increasing creativity in schools and engaging students in being innovative. The Institute of Museum and Library Services makes federal grants aimed at creating strong libraries and museums.

(Reporting and Writing by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Ben Heine; Photographer and Illustrator in One

Photograph abd drawing by Ben Heine
Ben Heine, like me, was born in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, and left when he was 7 years-old. And like me, he uses his memories of his birthplace to create some amazing artwork. Here is a link to his site.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Michelle Obama by Jasmine Mans

Michelle Obama- photo credit: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Jasmine Mans is an amazing talent. I'll let her speak for herself.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Stop the Pity; Unlock the Potential

People are beginning to get it right!!! Mama Hope is empowering people across the divide to help each other through recognizing how much they are, indeed, connected.   Mama Hope’s newest video campaign, Stop the Pity and Unlock the Potential, seeks “to show the energy and potential of Africa and the interconnectedness we share. It is only when people are no longer seen through the stereotypes of poverty that we can begin to see we are not so different from each other. When the pity stops, the potential can be unlocked. This means more progress, but it will take all of us.”

I love, love, love this video. Here’s the link to learn more about Mama Hope.
Get my poem, Listen to Africa, which has been published by the Syracuse Cultural Workers as a poster. Display it and spread the word that we’re cool like that. Here’s the link to purchase the poster:

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Mapping Stereotypes

Designer and illustrator Yanko Tsvetkov has created this startling vision of Africa as seen through American eyes as part of his clever Mapping Stereotypes series. 
This is why you need to purchase my poster, Listen to Africa, published the Syracuse Cultural Workers.  I turn those stereotypes upside-down. Here’s the link:

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Socially and Politically Progressive Holiday Cards

Happy Writing!  Happy New Year !
It's your time to bloom.  This is the great Paul Robeson.
Message from Harlem Renaissance Poet
Kwanzaa Card  featuring Sculptor Edmonia Lewis
Inside contains the Solidarity Statement from Cairo

       Please check out my new Holiday Cards. I love them. They are nontraditional in that the messages seek to be inclusive and recognize the aspirations of us all.  This year’s cards celebrate everything from Occupation Wall Street to gay love to Kwanzaa to everything in between. Plus, you can still buy my other cards for different occasions.

Enjoy!  And order.  There’s a sale on at Zazzle that ends Halloween night. Merci.

Here’s the link to my Zazzle Store:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Hahn-Bin: Edgy , Self-loving and Making Classical Music Exciting

Making Classical Music Fun and Young-Hahn-Bin

Hann-bin, a 24-year-old violinist from South Korea, is making classical music fun and engaging for his audiences.

Get to know him:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Life in Marvelous Times-Mos Def & The Brooklyn Philharmonic

It's all about the music and the message.
Who said rap and classical music can’t blend to create something really meaningful  and current? Check out Mos Def and the Brooklyn Philharmonic.   Imagine if The Philadelphia Orchestra paired with some local poet/rapper , say, like Crucial  or Ursula Rucker or even me???? Blend on…..

*Remember, this month I'm promoting my Listen to African poem/poster published by the Syracuse Cultural Workers.  Here's the link:

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Celebrating Teen Entrepreneurship

 The recurring theme of my mom and my Aunt Danni, with regard to the goal of their sacrifice to get their children the best education, is for us to always plan to work for ourselves; to be entrepreneurs .  I, Auguste, Daniel and Gideon have been practicing this concept in a lot of ways and for a while now.  Look at the top of this site, here is my line of greeting cards-Sojo Pokou Cards, which feature historical figures, mostly African-Americans and their words of wisdom.   And now I have my Listen to Africa poster, published by the Syracuse Cultural Workers, to add to my growing empire(Smile.) 

Here are links to
Sojo Pokou Cards:
Syracuse Cultural Workers:

This month I will highlight the entrepreneurial success of teens around the world. Kudos to this teen brother and sister, Catherine and Dave Cook, who built a 100-million dollar business-  Learn more.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Listen to Africa and the rest of the World-This Year's Nobel Prize Peacemakers

Winners of the 2011 Nobel Prize for Peace

        I told you a few days ago that my poem, Listen to Africa, has been published by the Syracuse Cultural Workers as a poster and is available for purchase.  What I am most proud of is the fact that one of my heroes mentioned in this poem- Elle Johnson Sirleaf is one of the co-winners of this year’s Nobel Prize for Peace.  Also recognized in my poem is the wisdom of  Wangari Maathai.  She was the first African woman to win a Nobel Peace Prize, which she received in 2004.  She died last week. 

Listen to Africa.   Here's the link to order this poster:

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Raising Cain-The Occupy Wall Street March

AP Photo-John Minchillo

My maternal grandmother is a southern woman to the core and she has the best sayings.  They’re not all southern in origin, but I associate them with the South because of the precise imagery and over-the-top  sense of urgency they create.  One of her favorite phrases of wisdom is,” go out and raise some Cain.”  …meaning make some noise, let people know you are tired and you’re not going to take it anymore. 

Well, I ‘m happy that everyday people are raising Cain over our failing economy and are  identifying  the role the Wall Street Banks have played in this decline. I’m quite excited about this Occupy Wall Street March which started on Sept 17, 2011.  It has pick-up momentum and sparked demonstrations around the country. Yesterday, New York City saw its largest group of protesters since the march started. Check out the following video and see an example of a teenager, like us, caring about real issues-our country’s future. What I like about this guy-Jelani Gibson-is he knows when to follow Grandma.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My Poster is Ready- Order Now

Sorry, but I need to blow my own horn.  The Syracuse Cultural Workers, which is the premiere catalog company for progressive resources, has recently published my poem, Listen to Africa, as a poster.  So please, check out their site and order my poster and so many other cool items.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Calle 13- Making Clear the Connections

Calle 13

My mom just turned me on to Calle 13, an alternative hip-hop group from Puerto Rico and they are on fire. They infuse their music with a lot of social commentary.  Here is Latin America and with this project they collaborated with artists from Peru like Susana Baca.  Happy Sunday Listening!!! And do get the message.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Happy Birthday John Coltrane

John Coltrane, 33rd and Diamond Sts., Phialdelphia

Every time by mother crosses the Girard Street Bridge and takes that left onto 33rd Street, she always points out the house where saxophonist John Coltrane lived during his time in Philadelphia. Then we have to travel further down to see a mural of him at 33rd and Diamond Streets.   But I never mind. I’m just amazed at the talent that has moved through my city.  Last week was John Coltrane’s birthday and in honor of this, let’s listen to My Favorite Things.  Thank you, Maria!!!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Misty Copeland- My Example

I’m a bit disappointed because I'm away from home and I won’t be able to see the Pennsylvania Ballet’s opening season’s performance of Ratmansky and Balanchine ,at the Academy of Music. on October 20-23, 2011.   But, of course, you will attend.  
It seems like a lifetime that I have had a relationship with this ballet company.  I almost feel like this company is family because I have attended so many performances and because I have become attached to many of its dancers like Jermel Johnson and Heidi Cruz; both of whom are African-American.  Though Ms. Cruz is no longer with the Pennsylvania Ballet, it was she who pulled me on stage and allowed me to imagine, by her example, I could do the same and love this dance medium as my own.  The examples of people of color in the ballet world are minimal and this why I am so excited about Misty Copeland, who is the first African-American soloist for the American Ballet Theatre, in New York.  Her example will get lots of girls and boys dancing and make me feel even more confident that ballet belongs to me, too and it’s an art form-when I get my bucks-I need to support.
Here is your chance to get to know Misty.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Shakespeare in Clark Park-Much Ado About Nothing

A Review by Sojourner Ahebee
Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps."

- William Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

Yesterday evening, my mom and I braved the heat and headed out to Clack Park , in University City to see an open-air performance of William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. What I loved most about Saturday’s event was the ambiance created by the venue, the audience and, of course, the performance of the actors.

Shakespeare in Clark Park annually presents a play of Shakespeare’s in the summer for free. Audience members come with lawn chairs, blankets, picnic baskets and a huge sense of community. All ages and ethnicities are represented and it’s just plain fun to people watch. There are vendors and kids playing and just a very jovial atmosphere. That’s not to say that the intrigues between Benedick and Beatrice and Claudio and Hero aren’t just as compelling. In fact, I believe the best way to experience Shakespeare is not reading his work in a classroom, but acting it out and seeing it performed, especially live. You can have this opportunity tonight.

Directed by Alex Torra, tonight’s performance, Sunday, July 24th , is the last for this season. Come out tonight and enjoy and remember-it’s free.

Shakespeare in Clark Park Presents

Much Ado About Nothing

7:00 P.M.

Clark Park

43rd and Chester Streets

Philadelphia, PA


Love Is Unto Itself A Higher Law-Boethius

Starting today, in New York, same-sex couples can marry. This is great, but I still can’t figure out why so many people are so opposed to same-sex marriages and same-sex relationships. But, I’m glad, as a country, we’re moving in the right direction. Though I am supportive of same-sex relationships, I realize that I know little about the difficulties gay teens face in a society that has not always been open to homosexuality. Here is a site I found of recommended teen books with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters and themes. I plan to enlighten myself and I invite you to do the same.

I know this subject may be difficult for some and offensive to others, but I believe in the power of books to help all of us understand the realities of ourselves and others. I also believe in humor and its power to help open our hearts to the fact that people deserve to be who they are.

Here’s a clip by Wanda Sykes and her take on how it would be if you had to come out about being black. It’s funny and it makes you think.

It's Hard To Save Your Soul-Amy Winehouse

There’s a methadone clinic not far from where I live. It’s on the edge of Fairmount Park, not far from where people picnic, play old world games like cricket, where children touch the world with their hands and where the music from the Mann Center is not strong enough to muffle demons. We pass this opiate addiction treatment center often and see the patients make their daily trek to save themselves. It’s not always a pretty sight, but I imagine addiction is a horrible beast and to fight it requires all your soul. Some people, I guess, aren’t up for the fight.

I was sad, really sad, to learn today of Amy Winehouse’s death, which occurred yesterday. I love her sound, her style and her seeming disappointment with the world. What I appreciate most about Amy was how her sound and style opened my ears to other singers I might have not discovered so easily on my own-Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, and Sam Cooke.

May she rest in peace.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Fire in the Booth-Akala

Illustration by Ben Jennings

Today is Nelson Mandela’s birthday! Happy Birthday Madiba!  Here is my birthday gift to you-my readers-in honor of this special occasion.  Give a listen to Akala, a young and thoughtful rapper from England.  If you can stay with him for the ride-Fire in the Booth-you’ll feel like you’ve been somewhere.  He sounds like a wise, young man.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Tales From Arab America

I count the Video Scribe Center and the projects it produces and the learning it facilitates as having a major impact on how I open myself to the world. Last summer my brother and I took a great filmmaking course for young people at Scribe. As part of its Storyville series, Scribe will present on Friday, July 8th, a series of short films exploring the ideas of culture and identity of Muslim and Arab Americans.

Click the following link to learn more information about this event.

 To learn more about the amazing events, courses and workshops sponsored by Scribe, click this link:

See you at the movies!

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Love Poem from the African Continent by George Steinmetz

   Good Monday.  I have my fiirst final today.  I'm excited.  Yesterday, something very ugly happened right in front of my home. The incident put me in a dark place, but today I received this video showing the the incredible beauty and wisdom of the African continent. After seeing the play Ruined and learning about the conflicts in the DRC, I needed this.  So, here is a good morning video to raise our spirits and to remind us that despite the darkness that may lurk around us, there is so much light.

George Steinmetz - African Air from George Steinmetz on Vimeo.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Ruined by Lynn Nottage Comes to Philadelphia

A Review by Sojourner Ahebee

Last Thursday, I attended the Philadelphia Theatre Company’s production of the Pulitzer-Prized-winning play Ruined.   Written by Lynn Nottage, this play takes place in the Democratic Republic of the Congo during its civil and regional wars, which continue. The DRC holds 80 percent of the world’s coltan, which is a type of ore that can store electrical charges. You can find it in your cell phones, computers, cameras and other electronics, which is why it is so valuable. The DRC's bordering neighbors like Rwanda, for example, have made close to 250 million dollars from selling this coltan that was smuggled out of the DRC. It is because of resources like coltan, that has caused the endless and bloody fighting in the DRC; resources that the United States and Europe are heavily dependent upon.

Not only does this play capture the horrors of war, but it shows the sexual violence that is perpetrated against women as a result of these civil, economic and political conflicts.  During this vicious period, soldiers raping women has become a norm. It is said in the DRC that nearly 90 percent of the women in many villages have been raped. Their ages can range from as young as three to as old as seventy-five. Rape, in essence, has become a weapon of war for soldiers.

Now that you have some background, let me explain the premise of the play. The play takes place in  Mama Nadi’s bar. It is a sort of brothel where the clientele consists of soldiers and miners. This is a place, as Mama Nadi (Heather Simms) puts it, “where people come to forget”. Sophie (Keona Welch), a very bright student, comes to work for Mama Nadi. She was raped and mutilated by a group of soldiers with a bayonet. She now must wear the identity of being ruined; her private area, her vagina, has been so badly damaged and mutilated.   To be ruined in this society is seen as unlucky, unsanitary, and dishonorable. No one is supposed to want anything to do with a ruined woman. Sophie cannot commit any sexual acts because of her past, so Mama Nadi lets her sing in the bar instead. It is horrific how women must resort to these types of situations. It is almost as if their society makes the woman the culprit, even though she was the one who was raped. The rapists are never perceived as vicious perpetrators.
Another important character in the play is Salima (Erika Rose). Her village was attacked by rebel soldiers and she was taken into the bush by them to be their concubine. When she escapes, she returns to her village and finds her husband, but her community chases her away because she had been with too many men. They are ashamed of her. She, too, finds work and shelter with Mama Nadi. When she is explaining her story, she states “I walked into my family compound expecting wide arms. An embrace. Five months suffering…And my family gave me the back of their heads”. Later her husband, Fortune (James Ijames) comes looking for her. He hears she is at Mama Nadi’s but Salima does not want to see him. During this part of the play I did not initially understand why she would not want to see her husband. I thought this was a way out for her and I wondered why she was not happy he had found her. But later, I saw her strife more clearly. Firstly, she is partly ashamed to see her husband because she is working in a brothel. Secondly, you later find out she is pregnant by a stranger she doesn’t even know. Thirdly, why would she talk to a man who did not embrace her after everything she had been through? I do not think I would have come out to talk to Fortune either.

The central character in the play was Mama Nadi herself. Mama Nadi is a strong and no-nonsense woman. She runs the bar and cares for her girls. She is quite a tough character, but you can tell that she is guarded because something has happened to her in the past.  Mama Nadi seems a bit harsh and insensitive at the beginning of the play, but throughout the play you see the acts of generosity and kindness she gives to the woman who live with her. You later find out why she wears a shield of callousness, but I will let you figure that out when you see this play. This play is pure genius! You see all aspects of a war environment and the great writing makes you feel as though you have been placed right there in the middle of it  all. There is no moment in the play when you feel bored. It is a story fueled with non-stop action and brilliance! I urge my readers to see this play and witness the stories of these brave women. What you read in the papers about the sexual violence perpetrated against woman in the DRC, never aptly captures what is really going on in that country. This play does!

Ruined will run at The Suzanne Roberts Theatre through June 12, 2011! Please come out and support The Philadelphia Theatre Company’s effort to bring quality theatre to Philadelphia. You will not be disappointed. Hit the link below to check the theatre’s dates and times for the performances!