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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Samuel Coleridge Taylor; The Man to Listen To

I remember going to library and asking for some books about Samuel Coleridge Taylor. I had heard, via a CD, a South African Orchestra perform his compositions. And the librarian responded in a very arrogant tone, “You mean Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He was an English poet.” No, I replied. I meant what I said and in the order in which I had said the name-Samuel Coleridge Taylor. That day, that librarian made a great discovery , too. Brother Samuel,1875-1912, was an accomplished British violinist and composer. He was often referred to as the African Mahler.

To learn more about him, click this link:

WRTI is celebrating his music in honor of Black History Month. Listen to Five Negro Melodies for Piano Trio Op. 59, No. 1. Scroll down to Black History Month on WRTI.

Samuel Coleridge Taylor is also part of my Sages From the Past greeting card series. When you give one of my cards, you give the gift of history. You can buy them online at*

My Sages from the Past greeting cards are also available at :

1. VIX Emporium
5009 Baltimore Avenue Philadelphia, PA 19143 - (215) 471-7700
Open Tue-Thu 12pm-7pm; Fri 11am-7pm; Sat 11am-6pm

2. National Liberty Museum
321 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 925-2800

Friday, February 25, 2011

Madagascar at the Oscars 2011

Check out this short film by French filmmaker Bastien DuBois called Madagascar; A Journey Diary. It’s about Famadihana, which is a funerary tradition of the Malagasy people in Madagascar. This film is short and so beautiful and it has been nominated for an Oscar this year. Here’s the link.

Don’t forget to check out, too, my greeting cards-Sages From the Past- at*

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre at the Kimmel Center

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Saunders, gave me a biography about Alvin Ailey which I read with great interest, especially since I, too, considered myself a dancer. Now eight years later, I will finally get to see Mr. Ailey’s dance company and I am thrilled. My Tante Pat, who recently died due to cancer and who was a globetrotting translator with the African Development Bank , said there very few cultural productions she had seen over her many years that could match the artistry, the history , the raw and refine talent of an Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre performance.

The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre will perform at the Kimmel Center this coming Saturday, Feb 26 and Sunday, Feb 27, 2011. I’m going with my Tante Pat in my heart and my Tante Mona on my arm. It’s going to be a blast.

Here’s a link for more information:

Fly Me To the Moon

Bernard Harris

Today NASA is scheduled to launch the final voyage of the space shuttle Discovery. Lift-off is to take place at 4:50 p.m. Discovery is NASA’s most traveled shuttle and has been around for 30 years. My little brother, who dreams of being a zillion things including an astronaut, is so excited that a space-related event is in the news.

Now, for all you who have young people in your life who dream of being astronauts and other kinds of scientists check out the Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp for middle school students and it’s FREE. Bernard Harris is a retired NASA astronaut who now commits his time and resources to inspire young people to get excited about science and careers in science. Below is info from the Camp' website and its link. Applications for this summer will be available by March 1, 2011

The ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp (EMBHSSC) is a two-week residential camp hosted at colleges and universities across the nation. For the summer of 2011, The Harris Foundation (THF), in partnership with the ExxonMobil Foundation, will sponsor a total of 30 residential camps held during the months of June-August and provided free of charge to participants. Each camp will provide 48-54 promising middle school grade level students the opportunity to enhance their proficiency in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) education.

**My grandfather said I had to add a link to Sarah Vaughan singing Fly Me to the Moon:

Photo of Crew-collectSPACE/Robert Z. Pearlman
Space shuttle Discovery's STS-133 crew arrives at NASA's Kennedy Space Center on Feb. 20, 2011. From left: Nicole Stott, Michael Barratt, Steve Bowen, Al Drew, Eric Boe and Steven Lindsey

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Where There Be Dragons

My mom always says a person’s behavior-hard work and great attitude- is their passport to great things. So, do you want to trek the Himalayas, visit Tibetan monasteries, walk the Great Wall, learn Arabic in Morocco or Wolof in Senegal …? If you’re 15-22, the world is waiting for you. Check out the programs offered by Where There Be Dragons. And remember, money never gets in the way of you realizing your dreams-there’s financial aid. Go out and change the world!!!

We're Cool Like That

Even though I’m from Cote d’Ivoire and I love our music, some of the best music on the continent comes out of Nigeria, Zaire and South Africa. I recently learned about Trenton and Free Radical. Trenton, the lead singer, is originally from South Africa and his band members are from Uganda, Zimbabwe and Spain. Though Trenton’s musicianship may be minimal, I like where his heart appears to be. Listen to and watch the video of Mr. Mandela. I especially like how African people are presented. I like the range of looks and ethnicities that are showcased and which comprise both South Africa and the continent. I see beautiful people celebrating their hero- Mr. Mandela. …no big stomachs, no big bellies, just people living. Click the link to see what I mean. Also, I’m posting my poem, again, “We’re Cool That” as a complement.

We’re Cool Like That
By Sojourner Ahebee

I’m cool like that, I’m proud like that and I’m African like that.
Not a bloated stomach, not a face encircled by flies, not a beggar’s hand
I am part of a billion people, with a million dances and thousands of tongues
to tell not only stories of tears, to play not only in the mourning band
I have a direct link to the origin of all humanity and shout this fact with my lungs
filled with the sands of the Sahara and the Kalahari.

I’m cool like that, I’m proud like that and I’m African like that.

You place me in your books and newspapers as one mass face
of AIDS and Malaria and T.B. –always the loser of the human race
I am one piece of a mosaic of 53 countries full of resources and grace
I dream, when you come to arm the hungry and take our wealth out of its place
that the Mediterranean and Rea Seas, the Indian and Atlantic Oceans would give chase
to drown your greed and let the waters be its burial place.

I’m cool like that, I’m proud like and I’m African like that.

You dare to rescue Africa with aging rock stars and uninspired actors
with agendas that do not include using us as our own benefactors
Listen to our voices filled with wisdom and experience and not be only our detractors
Listen to Kofi Annan, Nelson Mandela, Wangari Maathai, Wole Soyiknka, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Listen to Africa.

Because we’re cool like that, we’re proud like that and we’re part of humanity like that.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Catch You In The Air !

I love the phrase-lay claim to… You want it, and then claim it. I feel this way about travel and seeing the world. You don’t have to wait until you’re grown to develop an interest in the world and a hunger to wander. There are so many programs for young people-teenagers-to participate in; programs that take you to France, Japan, Tanzania, Australia and Peru to name a few places.

This is what you do. Go to the post office or even Walgreen’s and get a passport application. Fill it out with your parents and send it off. Now, each evening pick a destination on Black Atlas and let Nelson George take you on tour of a city you want to discover. Below are links to his Paris trips. I love how Mr. George not only shows you a place from his perspective, but he introduces you to African-Africans who actually live in the places he is presenting. He makes you feel that you can get there, too and you can. The world is ours.

After bookmarking Black Atlas, check out Oxbridge Academic Programs. Here is a link to information about its Paris program this summer for students in grades 9-12. Financial aid and scholarships are available. This is just one of many programs.

I’m hitting China this summer and next time I’ll tell you about some amazing programs to get you there, too.

Multicultural and Diversity Festival at Chestnut Hill Academy

One of my major entries into the world is food and from there I have opened myself to receive the music, the politics, and the personalities of our global village. It’s amazing the numbers of ethnicities that abound in our local community and it’s equally amazing how little some of us are able to enjoy and learn from some many vibrant cultures.

This is why each year I so appreciate and look forward to the Multicultural and Diversity Festival sponsored by Chestnut Hill Academy and the Springside School. My Aunt Danni is a major organizer of this event which takes place this Sunday, February 27, from 3:00 to 6:00 P.M. at Chestnut Hill Academy, 500 West Willow Grove Avenue, Philadelphia, PA. Here are some words from my aunt, Danni Brockenbrough, about this unique and celebratory festival:

Multicultural and Diversity Day is an annual event hosted by Chestnut Hill Academy and the Springside School. This festival serves to acknowledge and celebrate many of the cultures within our community. The festival fosters understanding and a deeper respect of one another by offering all participants the opportunity to share in learning about and appreciating a wide variety of foods, dress, crafts and performances. We are in our 9th year. We are so thrilled this year to welcome some of the Tuskegee Airmen as our guest speakers. The event is on Sunday February 27, 2011 from 3PM to 6PM. The event is free and open to the public. Please pass this information to everyone you know.

Come out and if you do, believe me, each year you will come again. See you there!

For more information, call 267-974-0050

Monday, February 14, 2011

Esperanza Spalding Wins Best New Artist

I did not watch the Grammy Awards, but I was thrilled to learn that Esperanza Spalding won as the best new artist. WOW! Now a lot more people can discover a REAL talent.
Here’s a link to an introduction to Esperanza.

Photo-from Bass Musician Magazine

Sunday, February 13, 2011

David Mamet's Race at the Philadelphia Theatre Company

A Review By Sojourner Ahebee

Last Saturday, I went to see Race, the smash Broadway hit, written by David Mamet. The Philadelphia Theatre Company is currently presenting Race until February 20th. This play, which takes place at a law firm, really takes you for an emotional ride. The three main characters are lawyers Jack who is white, Henry who is African-American and Susan who is African-American. They have to decide whether or not to take on a very complicated and potentially divisive case. The case involves Charles, a white, wealthy, prominent man, who has been accused of raping an African-American woman. You get the picture now?

Mamet is so effective in taking his audience out of its comfort zone and making people confront truths that have never been deeply explored. When deciding Charles’ innocence or guilt and debating whether to take on this case, it was uncomfortably interesting to hear the three lawyers bring their own prejudices to the table. I am pretty young and I know I am a little na├»ve, but I felt very sad to discover what I kind of knew and that is how race and racism dominates American life. I was so surprised how this play really moved me, even though it was to a feeling of gloom. Mamet is my new genius. His play Race makes you feel, makes you challenge your own racial attitudes and makes you think.

This play is extremely well written and well acted. You see another side to each character you might have not seen if race wasn’t a core part of the play’s premise. I also feel like the viewer of the play also brings his/her own prejudices and stereotypes to the play when deliberating in their minds if Charles is indeed guilty of the crime. It’s amazing how if the race of a character was flipped-for example if the accuser’s rapist was black- the whole dynamic of the play would completely change.

Also, throughout the play, the idea of justice came up quite a lot. The whole time Charles is trying to tell the lawyers what really happened, none of the lawyers want to really listen to the truth. For them it is not about right or wrong, it is about if they have a case or not. This scares me and completely destroys my expectation that justice is always the goal. It seems it is not. When I asked my Aunt Mona did justice exist, she answered by saying, “No, I really don’t think so. I think it’s just a theory.”

I tried not to give anything away. I recommend that ALL my readers to go and see this play. It is by far the best play (not one of the best) I have ever seen! I look forward to seeing this play again when I am a little older and have more experience with the world. Race will be playing at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre through February 20, 2011! To see dates and times click the following link.

Discover Vix Emporium and Sages From the Past Greeting Cards

I recently discovered my hair power and the sassiness of wearing fresh flowers to showcase this newly acquired natural confidence. My hair icons are Nina Simone, Angela Davis and Jill Scott. I like their style and take on the world, too. There is nothing like moving through time like a tigress with a plan and this brings me to Mary Church Terrell, who is featured on one of the Sages from the Past cards.

For whatever reasons, a lot of people are unfamiliar with Mary Church Terrell( 1863-1954). Both her parents were former slaves, yet she rose to become one of the most committed civil rights and women rights activists of her time. Her friends and colleagues were people like Frederick Douglass and Alice Paul.

Mary Church Terrell graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in classics at a time when most of her classmates were white males. She spoke three languages fluently-English, French and German. You know I like that. (Last summer I did a French Immersion program at Oberlin College and I can tell you that Oberlin reveres her. She is recognized by Oberlin as being one of its 100 most influential graduates.) When she traveled abroad to Europe to campaign for human rights, she often delivered her speeches in all three languages. I am talking about a real tigress on a mission. Please take some time to learn more about Mary Church Terrell and buy my card featuring her and her words of wisdom as well as other cards in this collection.

I am happy to report, in addition to buying my cards online and at the National Liberty Museum, at 3rd and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia, you can also buy them at VIX Emporium, which is located at 5009 Baltimore Avenue in West Philadelphia/University City. This place is truly amazing and so complements my ever evolving sense of myself. VIX Emporium is a store with the hippest vibe, as my Tante Mona likes to say, and sells the most unique handmade jewelry, hats, art, pottery, home accents, cards and many more things. I love wearing and giving things made by artists who put their hearts and talents into their creations. Entering VIX Emporium is like entering a treasure chest. Come out and treat yourself to a singular shopping experience.

VIX Emporium
5009 Baltimore Avenue-diagonal to the Firehouse

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Zuhairah McGill Headlined Hedgerow in Sojourner

A Review by Sojourner Ahebee
How often does a person get the chance to see a play about the person he or she was named after? Well, this past weekend I got that chance. I attended a play about my namesake, Sojourner Truth. Exciting , right? This play, entitled Sojourner, written by Richard LaMonte Pierce and staged at the Hedgerow Theatre, presented the extraordinary life of Sojourner Truth. She was an abolitionist, women’s rights advocate and a confidante to President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
Sojourner Truth’s example has always been a source of inspiration for me. Her strength and no nonsense attitude have always amazed me, especially since she lived in a time when African-Americans, especially African-American women were thought of as nothing. She stood her ground, preached what she believed and dared to say what others feared to voice. Sojourner Truth was neither conventionally
attractive nor was she literate, but through the force of her personality and audacious spirit, she made known her view of the world. She demanded her rights as a woman at a time when even white women were being told to stay in their prescribed place. But what most impressed me about Sojourner Truth’s life is the fact that most of her children were sold into slavery and she lobbied and used the court system to get every one of them back into her arms.

Sojourner, the play, successfully portrayed my image of Sojourner Truth. I really felt her presence on the stage. Zuhairah McGill, the actress who portrayed Sojourner, did so with diligence and elegance. I did have a few disappointments with McGill’s version of Truth. Throughout the play McGill spoke in a weirdly southern accent, despite the fact that Truth was from the North and her first language was Dutch.

When the audience meets Sojourner Truth, she is very old and she takes us back in time to explore and recall her life. Even as an old woman, Sojourner, in my mind, was regal and commanding. McGill’s portrayal, I felt , did not capture this. Sojourner Truth came off, too often, as infirmed and broken.

All in all, the play captured all of my Sojourner’s important moments in history. I especially liked McGill’s version of the “Aint I a Woman” speech. What a performance!

Seeing the play Sojourner also provided another treat. I had the opportunity to discover the Hedgerow Theatre in Media, Pennsylvania. This theatre exudes a charm and a power that comes from its own history. This theatre was formerly a mill where free African-Americans, many of whom were run-away slaves, worked side-by-side with whites. It was both eerie and affirming to learn that the road right in front of Hedgerow was one traveled by run-away enslaved Africans looking for their freedom up North, in Pennsylvania.

Lastly, I just want to inform my readers that this play, which ended its run at the Hedgerow Theatre last Sunday, can still be seen. The cast is willing to come out to schools and other venues and perform Sojourner. If you are interested in this offer, contact the Hedgerow Theatre. The address and phone number are below:

64 Rose Valley Road
Rose Valley, PA( near Media )


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

See FELA! at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute

A Review by Sojourner Ahebee

In my ninth grade literature classroom is a poster of Fela, who commands the room even in the mighty company of Emily Dickinson and Toni Morrison. My mom has a postcard of Fela on our refrigerator, displayed between the Dali Lama and William H. Johnson smoking his pipe. It is a card of Fela posing with an entourage of striking women and of him looking quite naughty. His gaze, jumping right through the poster and the postcard, is captivating, even if you have no idea who he is. Well, I really have a better idea, now!

This past Sunday afternoon, I had the awesome opportunity to go to the Bryn Mawr Film Institute and see a live-delay simulcast of the musical Fela! from London. The National Theatre, in London, now broadcasts live many of its productions around the world to participating cinemas. Though Fela!, the Tony award-winning musical, recently closed its Broadway run, it lives on in London.

I was prepared to dislike Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. As an African girl, from Cote d’Ivoire, I never liked that postcard on the refrigerator of Fela and the nearly naked women surrounding him, barely clothed and pushing through all kinds of stereotypes I’ve been trying to destroy. But FELA!, this musical, was phenomenal in showing the very complex life of Fela and doing it with his music, with Bill T. Jones’ choreography and direction and a cast that won me over and made me challenge my own insecurities. And the actor who played Fela- Sahr Ngaujah- so humanized him and made you really care about Fela, despite his flaws. Mr. Bill T. Jones, in an interview during intermission, described Fela best- a kind of sacred monster who you can’t resist loving.

Fela was a Nigerian musician and political activist who challenged his country’s corrupt governments. He was from a very privileged background. His mother, who you will fall in love with in the musical, was a feminist and political activist in her own right and who was viciously killed by the Nigerian military because of Fela’s music and how he used it as his platform to criticize the Nigerian government. Fela’s father was a pastor, he had two brothers who were doctors and his cousin is Wole Soyinka, who won the Nobel Prize for Literature and who I met a couple of years ago at Bryn Mawr College.

Fela! , the musical, is a must, must see. This is what I now know firsthand is a theatrical experience! The music, the beautiful and powerful women and men dancers, the band-those horns and drums , the replica of Fela’ nightclub, the Shrine, all help to tell the story of man whose example of activism should be shared. I so appreciated how this production communicated the major influences in Fela’s life-his mother, his culture, other African cultures, his time in the United States and his relationship with an African-American woman and her political and intellectual influence on him. And all this is communicated in the most intoxicating exchange-because you are a part of this experience-which you will not forget.

As an African-American-an Ivoirian father and an American mother-I was inspired by the example of Africans and African-Americans playing such a key role together to present Fela’s story. Jay-Z, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith were the major producers of this musical.
You have the opportunity to give yourself a treat and a piece of real, mesmerizing history. You can see Fela! only tomorrow, Wednesday,7:00 p.m. at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute. Click on the link for all the details. Go see it.

Also click on link below to read a post I did last year about the environmental devastation Nigeria has been experiencing for years due to big oil companies.