Follow by Email

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Anna Karenina; Food for Thought and a Feast for Your Eyes

Last night I saw the newest film version of Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina. Loved it!   I loved it so much that I went to my favorite bookstore for used books, Last Word Bookshop, and I got my copy of Tolstoy’s epic story. The number of pages seems a bit daunting, but I am determined after seeing this film. I will also take a couple of Russian Literature courses at school. 

Visually the film is a nonstop feast for your eyes. What had me sitting on the edge of my seat was nothing scary. It was how the director Joe Wright presented this story.  It was presented not as a play, but it is told from a stage, in the most original, imaginative, and surreal and bold way.

Another great discovery for me is playwright Tom Stoppard who wrote the screenplay for Wright’s Anna Karenina.  Playwright Tony Kushner visited my school this past semester and shared his insights on the craft of playwriting.  I had previously seen his Angels in America.  Consequently, I was excited to see Spielberg’s Lincoln film, because Mr. Kushner was the screenwriter.   It has been a new and interesting journey meeting all kinds of writers and studying their work and seeing the creative ways in which they present their work to the public.

Tom Stoppard and Joe Wright are now at the top of my list for delivering on the wonder and delight.  You have to experience how this story is told. 

My mom was constantly whispering historical commentary in my ear throughout the film, which, I will admit, made me more excited about reading and discovering more of Tolstoy.

A few years ago, I participated in The Great Books Summer Program at Amherst College, where all I did for a few weeks were read and discuss books.  It was WONDERFUL!  You can also study with this program at Stanford University and Oxford University, in England.  This program also has a film component, where students watch and learn how to critique films.  Here is a link to learn about this program.

Last Word Bookshop
Address: 220 South 40th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104
Phone:(215) 386-7750

Monday, November 26, 2012

Say No-UNiTE To End Violence Against Women

Join forces with the Say No- UNiTE To End Violence Against Women campaign.  Say NO – UNiTE to End Violence against Women is a social mobilization platform on ending violence against women and girls.  November 25, 2012  marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, kicking off 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence that highlight the connection between women, violence, and human rights.  This campaign stands as a reminder to the world, local organizations, and most importantly, ordinary citizens to say “No” and unite to end violence against women.
My local Amnesty International chapter’s focus project for this campaign will be Malala Yousufzai, the Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban.  I  urge you, too, to do a simple, but powerful gesture; to send a message of support to Malala, her schoolmates and friends and let them know you stand with them and for the rights of women and girls everywhere. It was a shocking act of violence: 14-year-old Malala Yousufzai was shot by Taliban gunmen, and her condition is slowly improving in a UK hospital after a bullet was removed from her brain. Two fellow students, Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Ahmed, were also injured in the attack.
The Taliban targeted Malala -- a child -- specifically for her human rights activism. Malala has bravely spoken out for the rights of girls to receive an education. Her father ran one of the last girls' schools to defy a Taliban ban against female education in Pakistan's Swat Valley, and both Malala and her family have received threats from the Taliban in the past.
You can easily visit the Amnesty International’s homepage and click on the feature about Malala and submit your letter online. You can customize your message of solidarity or use the sample provided. Whatever you do, take action.

When you have submitted your letter of support, email me at , so I can share your messages of support and include them in my chapter’s campaign efforts.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

How To Feel Fulfilled As An Artist

My mom posted this on my timeline today.  Wise words, especially number 2. 

Who Will be the First Youth Poet Laureate of Philadelphia ? Maybe You!

Who Will be the First Youth Poet Laureate of Philadelphia ?

      Philadelphia has always been in the vanguard of the creative arts.  Here is yet another great example that proves this point.  The City of Philadelphia’s Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy is establishing Philadelphia’s first Youth Poet Laureate position.  I just applied and I encourage all my fellow Philly poets to do the same. Here is a link for more information.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Meet the 2012 National Student Poets

Lylla Younes
Natalie Richardson

Claire Lee

Luisa Banchoff

Miles Hewitt
BRAVO !!! Congratulations to Luisa Banchoff , Miles Hewitt, Claire Lee, Natalie Richardson and Lylla Younes;  the 2012 National Student Poets 

On Tuesday, these literary luminaries were  officially  appointed  during the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival in Washington, DC.

To lean more about the National Student Poets Program and these winning poets, click here.

Did I mention I was a semi-finalist?  Ah, to dwell in possibility…

Foreign Language Programs for the Summer 2013


This has got to be the longest period of time I haven't posted something.  Pardon!- with a French accent !  I had such a busy summer and now school has resumed. I had an amazing time this past summer, in France, studying Parisian architecture and American expatriates and practicing my French.  Did I mention also gorging on macaroons?   I 've been through the fire and now I can go almost anywhere on the metro.  I also got to visit friends in London during all of that Olympic mania.

Anyway…   Believe it or not, NOW is the time to apply for so many remarkable summer programs, most of which offer financial aid and/or scholarships.  Since I am in a foreign language state of mind, I will share some links to language programs, many of which take you abroad.

Does studying in England, France or Spain interest anyone?  Try Oxbridge Academic Programs, the organization that arranged my studies in France. They are first-class all the way.

How about you guys who are interested in learning critical languages like Chinese, Arabic, Hindi, Farsi, Russian, Korean and more?  How about if you want to learn these languages in the countries where they are spoken?  I got you covered.  Check out the National Security Language Initiative for Youth.    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.  Here’s more information about the National Security Language Initiative for Youth:

Ok, I know, some of you want to stay stateside, but still want the rigor and intensity of a total language immersion experience.   Look no further.  Here is the link to the Middlebury-Monterey Language Academy.  I did the French immersion program a few years ago. AWESOME.  The institute offers the total immersion experience-you sign a pledge not to speak English during your 4-week stay-in Mandarin, Arabic, German, French and Spanish.  You can do it:

Friday, June 15, 2012

Kehinde Wiley's Economy of Grace at the Sean Kelly Gallery-One More Day

Kehinde Wiley, Kancou Diaovno (2012)

Kehinde Wiley, Dacia Carter (2012

Sojourner in front of Princess Victoire of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (2012)
by Kehinde Wiley


Besides the above, what was great about being in New York was being able to visit so many dynamic places.  One of those places was the Sean Kelly Gallery. I went there with my mother and aunt. This gallery is featuring the work of Kehinde Wiley. You know how I feel about his work. 

It was exciting and odd at the same time to view this particular collection because the subjects are all women.  Wiley is synonymous for his almost exclusive portrayal of men.  True to his signature style, this body of work, entitled Economy of Grace, is over the top and spectacular.  It was kind of eerie and neat to see his work in this huge gallery with just four or five people in there.  It felt very intimate.

Wiley has said he based these paintings on historical portraits by masters like Jacques-Louis David, Thomas Gainsborough, and John Singer Sargent, and that Economy of Grace challenges society’s views of feminine beauty and the place of black women in art history.
“I am painting women in order to come to terms with the depictions of gender within the context of art history. One has to broaden the conversation,” he is quoted as saying.

Kehinde Wiley, Judith and Holofernes
To learn more visit the Sean Kelly Gallery website:

Thursday, June 14, 2012

2012 National Scholastic Art & Writing Winners

Three-time Academy Award-winning actress Meryl Streep provides young artists and writers with inspiration at the 2012 Scholastic Art & Writing Awards at Carnegie Hall, New York, Friday, June 1, 2012. (Stuart Ramson for Scholastic Inc

Me, Sojourner Ahebee, with my gold medal.
 Two weeks ago I was in New York City because I was selected as a 2012 National Scholastic Art & Writing Award Winner, along with 800 other talented teens.  I won a gold medal for my poetry. We all had our names published in the New York Times-Thursday, May 31, 2012, and we were given sage advice by the actress Meryl Streep at an event held in our honor at Carnegie Hall .  Our work is currently on display at Parsons The New School of Design.

If you are a teen artist, enter next year.  Here is more information:

Open Auditions at The School of Pennsylvania Ballet

Ballerina Misty Copeland
The Power of Dance-Misty Copeland

Like many girls and some boys, I went through a beautiful phase in my life when I wanted to be a ballet dancer.  I took ballet lessons at the Gwendolyn Bye Dance Center  I went religiously to performances of the Pennsylvania Ballet to see my then idol Heidi Cruz.  I even went to an audition, with my friend Kristen, for the Rock School for Dance.  I passed through that phase.  Though I am not a dancer, I love dance.  And I always will.

But there are those young people for whom dance is not a phase, but in the blood and their desire to dance will not be quieted.  They are my idols, too.

The School of Pennsylvania Ballet has announced a second date for open auditions. It will be this Saturday, June 16, 2012.  Here are the details from the source.  Let the dancing begin.

Source: Marissa Montenegro of the Pennsylvania Ballet

This session will accommodate students who were unable to attend the first open audition in April. Set to open in Fall 2012, the School also has named current Company Member Laura Bowman and former Principal Dancer Martha Chamberlain to its faculty. Guest faculty will include current Principal Dancers Amy Aldridge and Zachary Hench and former Principal Dancers Alexei Borovik and Alexander Iziliaev.  

Auditions on Saturday, June 16 will be held at Pennsylvania Ballet’s studios at
3502 Scotts Lane
, Building 4, Philadelphia, PA, 19129.
There is no audition fee. Girls and boys ages 8 to 18 are invited to take an audition class, divided by age (see schedule below). Girls should wear tights and a leotard. Boys should wear a white t-shirt and black tights or shorts (no long pants). Girls ages 12 and above should bring pointe shoes. Previous ballet training is not required to audition. To register for auditions, please complete the form on this link:

Ages 8 to 12
Check-in: 9:30 a.m.
Audition Class: 10 a.m.-11 a.m.

Ages 13 to 18
Check-in: 11 a.m.
Audition Class: 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.

All ages indicated are as of September 1, 2012. Auditions are for the Student Division (ages 8-18) only. The School of Pennsylvania Ballet also will offer Pre-Ballet (ages 6-7) and Open Adult classes, with no audition required.

Based on current contractor projections, the Louise Reed Center for Dance, Pennsylvania Ballet’s new home on the Avenue of the Arts, will be ready for occupancy in December 2012. The School of Pennsylvania Ballet will move into the new facility in January 2013. In the meantime, fall classes for Levels 3, 4, 5, 6, and adults will be held in the current Pennsylvania Ballet studios in the East Falls section of Philadelphia. Fall classes for Pre-Ballet and Levels 1 and 2 will be held at the Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School in South Philadelphia. School of Pennsylvania Ballet staff will assign a level to each student accepted for Fall 2012.

Re-opening the School of Pennsylvania Ballet is one pillar of the Company’s current $25 million capital campaign, Building Beyond 50. Other goals include constructing the Louise Reed Center for Dance; artistic priorities such as expanding the repertoire, increasing the number of dancers in the Company, and maintaining the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra; as well as strengthening the Company’s balance sheet and working capital. For more information on the Building Beyond 50 campaign, please contact Hilary Alger, Director of Development, at 215.587.6912 or

Founded in 1963 by Balanchine student and protégée Barbara Weisberger, Pennsylvania Ballet is one of the nation’s leading ballet companies. Headquartered in Philadelphia, the Company’s annual local season features six programs of classic favorites and new works, including the Philadelphia holiday tradition, George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker™.  For more information, visit or call 215.551.7000.

Topdog Underdog: A Review By Sojourner Ahebee

Suzan-Lori Parks


      Last Wednesday night at The Walnut Street Theatre, I attended Suzan-Lori Parks's Pulitzer winning play entitled “Topdog Underdog”. This play takes on the narrative of two brothers, Lincoln (played by Kash Goins) and Booth (played by Roderick Slocum). Already you are presented with a story, a play, swimming and rich with history. If it isn't obvious, Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. The brothers in this narrative have a relationship I wouldn't hesitate to characterize as volatile and dysfunctional but the love between the two siblings is still present as well.
     Lincoln and Booth were abandoned by their mother and father at the age of sixteen, and left with an inheritance of 500 dollars each. They had to learn what it meant to be an adult before most teenagers their age. Their harsh and unpleasant childhood follows them into their adult lives, which is where the heart of the play exists. Lincoln used to be a 3-card Monte con-artist but he stopped because he saw his friend shot as a result of this. He now takes on a job at a carnival arcade, where he dresses up as Abraham Lincoln and lets people shoot him. I find it interesting that he stops his prior job because his friend was shot but he takes on a job that involves people shooting him just for fun. There is something so haunting about this and it is here that you, as the audience, really begin to see the brilliance of Lori-Parks and the complexity of Lincoln's character. But back to the point. Lincoln's change of profession does not bring in the same amount of money as the cards but it's enough to support he and his brother in their shabby rooming house. Booth on the other hand has no job and completely depends on the income of his brother. He dreams of becoming good at 3-card Monte and when he's not dreaming, he's shoplifting. Booth is a character you can find yourself easily hating but deep inside all of his bad qualities, there is sometimes good. At one point in the play he steals some clothing from a department store,two suit to be exact, but one of the suits he steals for his brother. It's easy to just look at Booth as this “bad guy” but that's not how people really are. People contain multitudes.

     What's even easier is to make Lincoln the good guy but what really separates him, morally, from his brother, Booth. Yes Lincoln stopped playing cards but he starts up again towards the end. On a literal level there is a tan folding screen separating the two brothers in the room but is that enough of a borderline? This all makes the audiences questions the moral differences between President Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth themselves. When it comes down to it, Abraham Lincoln was not concerned with the welfare of slaves if it meant the union was going to become split. He wanted the union to stay together. Then on the other hand you have Booth, a man who assassinated the president. He is painted as this racist southerner throughout the eyes and perspective of history books. Even though his actions were completely wrong, (especially considering the fact that I feel like Lincoln evolved as a president and as a person) are his views towards the slaves and African-Americans in general, any better than Lincoln's? But, at the end of the play, the character Lincoln receives the same fate as our 16th President. It's then left up to you, as the viewer, to make the decision on who's the “bad guy” or the “good guy”. Maybe neither exists.

     Finally, this is a story about childhood nightmares and how they manifest into reality. This is a story about morals and lastly, this is a story about asking questions. You can never stop asking questions and finding new perspectives, which tend to hide in the dark corners of history.

     “Topdog Underdog” will be at the Walnut Street Theatre until June 17, 2012. This is definitely a must see so I urge everyone to go out and support! Click the link below for more information concerning the showtimes.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Nina Simone Looming Large

Monica A. Hand
me and Nina by Monica A. Hand

Hi.  I’m reposting a post by my mom.  It concerns a great poet by the name of Monica Hand, who I got to see and hear at the AWP conference in Chicago.  Do support her campaign.  Here it is.

Nina Always Looming Large

By Octavia McBride-Ahebee

Jazz reigns supremely in my family home.   I had many momentous occasions to see, with my father and brothers, live performances of our best jazz artists.  One such occasion was when my dad and I saw Nina Simone at the now defunct Chestnut Street Cabaret, in Philadelphia.  A fantastically long line of her fans wrapped around 38th Street onto Filbert and while they waited for doors to open, they shared their Nina Simone stories.  These were tales not only of Nina’s concerts and her wonderfully singular editorials which ranged from indictments on the music business to charges that racism and sexism were still running amok in our country, but they were tales of a more intimate dimension.  Most of those side-walk shared vignettes were about where people were in their personal development when Nina so wonderfully, so unabashedly, so melodically blasted the world with her take on things.  It was as if Nina’s songs served to document their lives and they were there for that concert not only to hear her, but to continue on their journey with her serving as a pivotal backdrop in illuminating the truth of their lives.
This brings us to poet Monica Hand and her new poetry collection, me and Nina, which perfectly exemplifies all of the above.   Poet Tyehimba Jess said of this collection and of Hand:  “Monica A. Hand sings us a crushed velvet requiem of Nina Simone. She plumbs Nina’s mysterious bluesline while recounting the scars of her own overcoming. Hand joins the chorus of shouters like Patricia Smith and Wanda Coleman in this searchlight of a book, bearing her voice like a torch for all we’ve gained and lost in the heat of good song.”

Not only do I encourage you to purchase this book, but I invite you-TODAY- to support Hand in her immediate project, which is raising funds to get her to England, so she can participate in the Keats Festival in June.  With the advent of fundraising platforms like Kickstarter and Indigogo, we can become patrons of the arts for a minimal contribution; but it’s a contribution combined with others that has a resounding impact.

Here is the link to a video of Hand reciting one of my favorites poems from me and Nina as well information about her fundraising efforts and how you can contribute:

You can order the me and Nina from here as well:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Trayvon Martin Is My Brother, Too !

By Kehinde Wiley

an excerpt from An Ode to Liberty
By Sojourner Ahebee

I have a brother and he is brown
My mother tells her son that the world is his oyster
Lay claim to all around you, she begs
And he smiles and believes in dreams that can’t be scaled down.

As he gets older, like now, like 10 years old
My brother, who is brown, tall like the Sahara Desert on stilts,
Handsome like the Grand Canyon in a rainstorm
Has only the weapons of a violin and a painter’s brush
And a bedroom plastered with heroes to calm his fears of the things foretold.

Maybe not his fortune, doesn’t have to be
But the wails of a mother tied to the wails of another
Linking hundreds of death cries over lost sons,
Released in one year, cascading through one city
Can spook a little brown boy thinking about living.

I’ve been selected as a gold medal winner for poetry by the Alliance for Young Artists & Writers, representing the Midwest region where I attend school. Other notable past winners include Andy Warhol, Sylvia Plath, Truman Capote, Richard Avedon, Robert Redford and Joyce Carol Oates.

 The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH) and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) have partnered with the nonprofit Alliance for Young Artists& Writers to create the National Student Poets Program, the country’s highest honor for youth poets whose original work exhibits exceptional creativity, dedication to craft and promise. Five outstanding high school poets will be selected annually for a year of service as literary ambassadors for poetry, encouraging a wide range of youth to explore and develop new creative capabilities.

National Student Poets will be chosen from among the national medalists in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards by a national panel of literary luminaries and leaders in education and the arts. Student Poets will receive academic awards and opportunities to present their work at writing and poetry events, and will be featured at the National Book Festival in Washington, DC, in cooperation with the Library of Congress. Awards will be presented in September 2012.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

I also would like to promote my poem “Listen to Africa”, which has been published as a poster for sale by the Syracuse Cultural Workers.  Here’s the link:
*Painting-Kehinde Wiley

This is What Philly Brings-Denice Frohman; Gangsta Poetry

Again, it’s great to be home and reconnecting with Philadelphia’s vibrant poetry scene.  In honor of National Poetry Month I will highlight some Philly poets you need to hear. Day 1: Denice Frohman

Monday, March 26, 2012

Athlete Meets Artist- Sean James and Misty Copeland

Dancers are the athletes of God.
~Albert Einstein
Sean James and Misty Copeland

Enjoy the Majesty:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Fela Musical at the Kimmel Center

My readers already know that I am a big fan of the musical Fela!  Last year, I saw a performance of Fela at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute; a performance which had been a simultaneous broadcast from London.  It’s still a must see.  Here’s my earlier review.  Read it and then go get your tickets to see the production which is now in Philadelphia at the Kimmel Center.
Fela !
The Kimmel Center of Performing Arts
260 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA
( *actual performance hosted at the Academy of Music)

Sunday, February 12, 2012

2012 African Cup Of Nations- Allez Les Elephants-Go Cote d'Ivoire

You haven't seen a real soccer fan until you've seen an Elephant supporter

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Ayub Ogada- Spendid

I listened, again, this morning to Kenyan writer Binyavanga Wainaina’s “How Not to Write about Africa” and this time I was pull into this piece by the background music.  I wondered how I had not first said OMG, who is this.  Well, it’s Kenyan musician Ayub Ogada.   He is splendid.  Listen.

The Geek Shall Inherit the Earth; Kick It With A Geek

If you’re a fan of, of the Black Eyed Peas, you know he is a technology fan. That’s why I wasn’t surprised to learn that he is even a bigger fan of promoting young people to explore the sciences and make their own inventions. Listen to following video to learn more.

Here is a link to learn more about the science program I Am First:

And here is a great scholarship opportunity from Goggle for those interested in computer science, software development or computer technology in general.

As part of Google’s commitment to advancing computing and technology, they are providing scholarships to support students in their study of computer science.

The Generation Google Scholarship is a new program for aspiring computer scientists to excel in technology and become active role models and leaders in the field. Selected students will receive $10,000 USD (for those studying in the US) or $5,000 CAD (for those studying in Canada) a year for up to four years (or until graduation, whichever comes first) so long as they maintain criteria for renewal. Recipients will also be invited to attend Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute (CSSI) in the summer of 2012.

Who Should Apply?
Applicants must be high school seniors and meet the following eligibility criteria:
• Intends to be enrolled in or accepted as a full-time student at a university in the US or Canada for the 2012-2013 school year
• Intends to be enrolled in or accepted for enrollment in a baccalaureate Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Software Engineering, or related program
• Exemplifies leadership and demonstrates a commitment to and passion for computer science and technology through involvement in their community
• Strong record of academic achievement
• A student from an underrepresented group in computer science (African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Female, or a Person with a Disability)
• Demonstrates financial need.
For complete details, visit the Generation Google Scholarship site.
Deadline to apply: Monday, February 20, 2012
Questions? Email us at

For more information about student opportunities at Google, check out

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Versatile Blogger Award- Sojo’s Trumpet ?

I'm the girl with the bows. I'm with my family in my grandfather's village in Cote d'Ivoire. It's all about memories.

We have all read books that have moved us forward in some important way and made us wonder about the world and our place in it.  After Gandhi: One Hundred Years of Non-Violent Resistance by  Anne Sibley O’Brien and Perry Edmond O’Brien is one of those books that made me want to go out and  change the world for the better because it gave examples of people who did just that.  Here is my review of this book almost three years ago. This is the best gift you can get to inspire a young person in your life to see the possibility of one’s actions making a real, moral difference:

I am revisiting this book today, because recently Ms. O’ Brien was kind enough to nominate me for the Versatile Blogger Award.  I thank her and here is a link to her blog- Coloring Between the Lines;  Reflections  on Race, Culture and Children’s Books

The Rules

1. Thank the award-giver and link back to them in your post.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass this award along to 5  blogs you enjoy reading.
4. Contact your chosen bloggers to let them know about the award.

Seven things you didn’t know about me

1.       I am one of the 55 finalists for the 2012 Knight Foundation Arts Challenge/Philadelphia.   More than 1200 people applied.

2.      I am from the Baoule ethnic group in Cote d’Ivoire and one of my heroines is Queen Pokou:

3.       I am now a major fan of Junot Diaz  and his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

     4.       I am also a major fan of  French tennis player Gael Monfils:

      5.      I am also a Philly girl and no one represents us better than Jill Scott:

6.      I support the honesty and goal of the new film Pariah. Go see it.

7.      I love Korean food and my Korean language skills are coming along.

  Blogs I Enjoy

1.       Coloring Between the Lines;  Reflections  on Race, Culture and Children’s Books

2.      Africa is a Country

3.      Black Girl Flow

4.      Girls’ State of the Union

5.      Amnesty International