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Friday, January 28, 2011

For Tante Pat; The Breath of the World

*Thank you for your supreme example.

Ode to Sadness

by Pablo Peruda

Sadness, scarab
with seven crippled feet,
spiderweb egg,
scramble-brained rat,
bitch's skeleton:
No entry here.
Don't come in.
Go away.
Go back
south with your umbrella,
go back
north with your serpent's teeth.
A poet lives here.
No sadness may
cross this threshold.
Through these windows
comes the breath of the world,
fresh red roses,
flags embroidered with
the victories of the people.
No entry.
your bat's wings,
I will trample the feathers
that fall from your mantle,
I will sweep the bits and pieces
of your carcass to
the four corners of the wind,
I will wring your neck,
I will stitch your eyelids shut,
I will sew your shroud,
sadness, and bury your rodent bones
beneath the springtime of an apple tree.

*painting by Michael Anthony Brown

Steve Biko-A Man You Need To Know

When I left Cote d’Ivoire, so did the African Development Bank. The bank’s headquarters moved from Cote d’Ivoire to Tunisia along with many of my friends whose parents worked for the ADB. So when the people of Tunisia recently took to the streets and demanded, against great odds and possible death, their rights to live decently and with dignity, I knew of Tunisians and cheered them on. I am doing the same for Egypt today. All of this is inspiring.

I was with my grandparents this morning and we were discussing the events in North Africa and my grandmother mentioned that Nelson Mandela had been hospitalized. My grandfather brought up Steve Biko, someone who I had never heard of, and said how he helped to inspire many young South Africans, during the apartheid period, to rise up and demand their rights to live decently and with dignity. Steve Biko was kind of the Malcolm X of South Africa. His contributions are ones that we all should be aware. Coincidentally, I had the opportunity to watch Cry Freedom, a movie about Steve Biko, on this snowy day. ( It’s On Demand/Comcast.) Learning about his Black Consciousness Movement and about the white South Africans who opposed apartheid was eye-opening and inspiring.

Steve Biko is someone who should be on your radar.

Listen again to this remake of Nina Simone’s Young, Gifted and Black. This song is sung by many of southern Africa’s rising young singers. It’s amazing. Here’s to you Steve Biko. And good health to you,

Friday, January 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Paul Robeson !

I took a writing course two years ago at the Paul Robeson House in West Philadelphia. The course was part of the Teen Writers Academy founded by Valerie Harris. You can imagine how awesome it was for eight African-American teenagers to discover their own voices and the history of Paul Robeson-a real renaissance man- while writing in the house he spent his last years.

This Sunday, January 23rd, will be Mr. Robeson’s birthday. Though he died in 1976, he remains a giant of a man who more people need to learn about. This week I’ve been reading a biography about Mr. Robeson with my grandfather.

Here is a link that provides great insight into Paul Robeson’s contributions and personality. Enjoy it and share it with someone.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Silence is Betrayal

Once a month, I will post an anti-war speech. I will post speeches from individuals from around the world. I will offer no comment other than an invitation to just listen and consider... The following is a link to an excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech against the Vietnam War entitled Beyond Vietnam; A Time to Break Silence. It was delivered on April 4, 1967 at the Riverside Church in New York City. I can’t resist in saying so little has changed.

Happy Birthday, Dr. King. I am trying to live the DREAM.

*painting by Heavyweight

In the Heights At the Academy of Music

In the Heights:
A Review by Sojourner Ahebee

On Tuesday the 18th of January, I had the utmost pleasure of attending In the Heights at the Academy of Music. This presentation was part of the Kimmel Center's Broadway Series. This was my first time seeing In the Heights, so I went in not knowing the storyline or what to expect. What I witnessed on that stage was pure genius; and that only begins to describe this musical.

In the Heights tells the story of a diverse Hispanic community trying to find themselves, find value in their culture while aspiring to live out the American Dream. The story that touched me the most was that of a young woman named Nina,who from a child had always succeeded in school . Her hard work and determination really paid off and she was accepted to Stanford University. Even though this was such a huge achievement for Nina, there were still a few problems. She found it quite difficult to fit in because the environment was quite different than of her home surroundings. Also, she had to work two jobs to buy books she didn’t even have the time to read. This is such a heartbreaking yet common story. It very much angers me. You never know what people have to battle before the school day even starts. Consequently, she fell behind in school and was asked to leave. It took Nina forever to tell her parents because she didn’t want to disappoint them, but eventually she did. You will be quite surprised and touched to see what her parents do to enable her to return Stanford. You really get to see their love for their child through their actions.

Okay ,anyways, let’s not forget about the fabulous music. I loved how the play predominantly used music to paint the heart of this tale. One of my favorite songs was “96,000”. It’s about a lottery ticket and what everyone would do with the money if they won. Through this song you understood the dreams and desires of the play’s characters.. You saw their desperation, yet you saw their passion to make the best of what they already had. The song is a very vibrant one that makes you wanna jump out of your seat and dance. I had actually performed it at my choral concert prior to this performance, so it was especially fun to watch. Also, don’t think this musical is only about the serious things in life; there is much humor throughout this musical.. For example, another one of my favorite songs was Piragua. Piragua is a Puerto- Rican frozen treat, almost like water-ice. This musical number was sung by a man who sold these frozen treats. He often sung about how the Mr. Softee truck is ruining his business. But, one day there is a blackout and he sings about the Mr. Softee truck being broken and what a joy this is to him. It is quite a funny performance full of humor and pizzazz.

The choreography was fresh and current, yet it reminded me a lot of the exuberance of the dancing in West Side Story.

All in all, In the Heights ended on a light and happy note. There is not one moment you are not being wowed out your mind! On a scale from one to ten, I would give this show a million! I would definitely recommend this to people of all ages! Everyone can relate at some point in this musical to its theme of identity and how we come to define ourselves. In the Heights is at the Academy of Music from January 18- 23, 2011. I hope everyone comes out and supports In the Heights. Below is a link for more information.