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Vanessa Williams, Cicely Tyson Forge a Bond on Broadway

 

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo

 

All-star cast rehearsals for a major Broadway show can be filled with pressure and anxiety. But for The Trip to Bountiful cast it’s also about style, Chipotle and history lessons. During the press conference at Sardi’s Restaurant in New York City for the revival of Horton Foote’s classic play actors Cicely Tyson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Vanessa Williams and Condola Rashad shared their rehearsal memories before the show begins previews on March 30.

 

In the play Williams portrays an emotionally cold daughter-in-law to Tyson’s character who sets about a journey to return to her home of Bountiful, Texas for one last time. Well it was anything but icy during rehearsals as Williams became so fond of Tyson that she bought her an expensive and stylish gift. "I came in one day with a pair of new lace-up navy high heel sneakers from Nike and Ms. Tyson commented on them. So I surprised her and gave her a pair,” says Williams.

 

But Tyson, a style icon, is in no rush to wear the heels. "I haven’t worn them yet. I can put those on the dresser and they will stay there and I will admire them for years before I put them on,” she says.

 

Williams also connected with fellow cast member, Condola Rashad as the two revealed their mutual appreciation of Chipotle for lunch. Yet what Rashad revealed that she loves more than Chipotle or acting is: music. The Tony-nominee has formed her self-titled rock band and is preparing for a tentative summer release of her debut album, Letter9. "My music is my first passion,” she notes. "It’s different music and new and what people want to hear. It’s a rock band. My mother [Phylicia Rashad] loves it though. I didn’t know she was gonna like it.”

 

For Gooding, acting remains his first love. The experience of preparing for this production has taught him new lessons about African-American history as the play takes place in the racially tense climate of the American South during 1953. "I haven’t been this in-depth in creating a character since Radio and Boyz N the Hood. So I've learned more about the civil rights movement.”

 

There was much to learn at the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce's Quarterly Sponsors Meeting, co-hosted by the Chamber and the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square. The focus was on tourism and its impact on jobs creation, business development and arts and culture. While there was great excitement shared about the economic benefits of tourism, GHCC President/CEO, Lloyd A. Williams reminded attendees not to dismiss local residents in their outreach efforts. "Most of the people who operate businesses in this community are not from this community, and they are not focused on the economic strength of Harlem residents who walk past their business on a daily basis. We spend too much time expecting outside people to support us without asking those inside to be part of it,” he advises.

 

With over a decade of success, one of the businesses that is catering to the community is Melba’s Restaurants founded by Melba Wilson. She confirmed plans to open another restaurant before the end of the year. "I am opening a new place in Harlem. It will not be an exact replica of Melba’s on 114th street or Melba’s 125 but there is a common thread which is comfort and seamless service.”

 

It was all about the community at the opening of the exhibition, Harlem Memorabilia: Reflections in Fiber. In honor of Women’s History Month, Community Works and The Interchurch Center presented the work of 18 fabric artists led by noted Harlem artist and quilt-maker, Dindga McCannon. The exhibit which is part of the Community Matters NYC initiative includes a collection of quilts and hand-made books, created with personal mementos that tell visual stories that are part of the fabric of Harlem. "Women are usually the keepers of memorabilia and this project is about women who have some history with Harlem telling our stories. We all have a love of the Harlem that used to be, as we eye the changes that have come,” says McCannon.

 

One of the most touching stories to emerge from the project is the collaboration between visual artist, Shimoda and her 88-year-old mother, Izola Emanuel, a former hat maker diagnosed with dementia. During the process of helping her mother create a quilt, Shimoda witnessed how the arts can be a healer for those with the health condition. The resulting artwork by Emanuel is entitled Dominica to Harlem, a tribute to her husband of 57 years. "Art really helps to stimulate the brain and give a sense of purpose. My mother now talks about making hats again. I’m thrilled that I can give back to her what she gave me when I was young,” says Shimoda.

 

It may not be a long-distance journey like that of Tyson’s character in The Trip to Bountiful, but with the story of Shimoda and Emanuel we learn there’s more than one way to get back home.

 

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

 

 

 

 

 

Singer Kem Reveals His New Year’s Tip for Success

 

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo

While most people are scribbling down their New Year’s resolutions, singer-songwriter, Kem is already feeling quite victorious. Not only has he released his well-received debut holiday album, What Christmas Means, but he has also attained the goal of being an early-riser. While on the surface it may sound like a modest achievement, it is affording him with more focus than ever before.

"A recent change I made is getting up earlier before the crack of dawn and planning my day. I’m spending time nurturing myself physically and spiritually,” he says. "I’ve been trying to do it for years and now I am disciplined. I want to stretch and sharpen my saw in every area of life so I am happy about that.”

One of those saws is his foundation, Mack & Third. The formerly homeless Detroit native founded the organization to assist the homeless by gathering food and raising funds for shelters and food banks. "Detroit always gets a bad rap in the media but we are on the upside of things. I’m grateful and hopeful I can play a part in that.”

While his hometown has received a barrage of press lamenting its current socioeconomic woes, Kem sees a bright spot in recent developments such as a Whole Foods Market slated to open in 2013 in downtown Detroit. Gentrification is a controversial topic but, Kem believes the good will outweigh the bad. "There is a pro and con to every issue but I think the revitalization of our city is a good thing. It will attract more business to downtown Detroit. I would rather there be something than have it be desolate.”

Singer-songwriter, Ne-Yo is doing his part to give back as he recently completed his 6th annual Compound Foundation Giving Tour. He teamed up with the Boys and Girls Club to create awareness and action towards their goal of helping under privileged youth and foster care children. The tour hit Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Newark and Atlanta as children received toys, sneakers, clothing, electronics and bicycles. Some of those who supported Ne-Yo at various stops along the tour included Newark Mayor Corey Booker and celebrities Angela & Vanessa Simmons, St. Louis Rams player Steven Jackson andNFL Superbowl champion Deon Grant.

During Ne-Yo’s stop in Newark, it might have been a good idea for him to pick up a few life lessons from Double XXposure Media Relations founder, Angelo Ellerbee. The company is now celebrating its 40th anniversary, a commendable achievement for an independent company. Newark native, Ellerbee’s career has gone through several phases from fashion designer to model to finally publicist when he got his first major break by mentor, musician James Mtume. From that point forward, Ellerbee has worked with a wide array of clientele, ranging from Michael Jackson to DMX (whom he also managed) and all in between. One of his lasting legacies is his commitment to artist education as demonstrated through his highly-lauded artist development program.

Although Ellerbee expressed hopes to find someone in the next 10-15 years to eventually run his company, for now he is committed to ensuring that it empowers talent and enriches communities. One of his new goals is to prove that age is nothing but a number when it comes to advocating for talent. "There is a stigma when you grow old that you’re not diverse or young enough to deal with the Ne-Yo's of the world. My goal is to break that lie. I can teach them longevity to stay in this business as long as I have stayed.”

With that amount of motivation and focus, it sounds like Kem isn’t the only early bird on the scene.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.


Spike Lee Honored at MoMA Gala & Vanessa Williams Helps Launch New Foundation

 

photo credit: Scott Rudd

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo

Iconic film director, Spike Lee may be a man of few words in interviews but perhaps that’s because he lets his films do all the talking. And for those powerful films, Lee was honored at The Museum of Modern Art’s 2012 Jazz Interlude, where Harlemite Sherry B. Bronfman served as event chair. The black tie affair also honored philanthropists Mera and Donald Rubell. The evening featured a benefit gala dinner and live performance by jazz musician Terence Blanchard, whose work has been featured in several of Lee’s films.

While Lee was the center of attention he was even more grateful to see the evening promote support for African American visual artists. "It was great to see so many people supporting African American artists. Hopefully they get more sponsors for Black artists. I’m an artist so all of the arts inspire me,” he says.

It was about promoting more than just African American visual artists at the Strivers Gardens Gallery opening night reception for, Caribbean Diasporas: Harlem Migration and Identity. Curated by Anderson M. Pilgrim the exhibition seeks to explore the influence of Caribbean artists on contemporary art and the interconnection between their Caribbean heritage and Harlem identity and experience. Some of the noted exhibiting artists include Diogenes Ballester, Nicolle Blackwood and Ademola Olugebefola. For Pilgrim this exhibition highlights the role Harlem plays as a crossroads for the Diaspora.

"I wanted to focus on the connection with Harlem and migration of immigrants,” he notes. "Harlem is a Mecca for Black people around the world. Especially today we see the cross section of humanity here in this place and Caribbean immigrants have made contributions to this community.”

Perhaps few things have done more to support the community of spoken word artists than the groundbreaking television show, Def Poetry Jam. Co-founded by Bruce George, Deborah Pointer and Danny Simmons, the series is celebrating its 10th anniversary. For the special occasion some of the stars from the original series reunited at MIST Harlem for an evening of poetry, politics and humor. Abiodun Oyewole of The Last Poets led a powerful call-and-response spoken word performance with For the Millions. Additional performers included Steve Coleman, Black Ice, Carl Hancock Rux and more. Backstage, Jessica Care Moore expressed her thoughts on how Def Poetry Jam successfully balanced art and commerce. "It's a TV show and it’s still about casting and demographics but after all that they pulled off something very authentic. It was my first time seeing a major cable network with live theater and it was the first time many of the poets had national exposure.” Moore is committed to ensuring that exposure is not wasted as she is in the studio working on her first album, which she describes as a jazz record that will feature Ursula Rucker.

Moore isn’t the only one with new projects on the horizon. This past week saw the launch of the Maria Torres Dance Theater Company and the Maria Torres Emerging Artist Foundation (MTEAF) with a special gala event at the Poet’s Den Gallery & Theater. The dance theater company, founded by dancer/choreographer, Maria Torres and husband producer John O’Connor, aims to produce projects that fuse Broadway, contemporary, ballet, African-Caribbean, jazz, and Torres’ signature Latin dance style. "This launch gives us an opportunity to give the public just a little taste of the energy and creativity diversity we will be bringing in the future,” says Torres.

In creating the foundation, Torres had some help from award-winning actress, Vanessa Williams. The two met on the set of the film Dance With Me, and ever since then have been working hard to realize their dream of a collaborative learning and mentorship environment of the performing arts for pre-teens and young adults. Williams noted the importance of such mentorship projects. "You realize early on that in order to excel you are taught and in order to grow you are mentored,” she advises."What we want to do is give direction and cheers of support to emerging talent."

You can support talent of all levels with this week’s highlighted events including the Alvin Ailey season ticket specials here; the American Museum of Natural History’s annual Kwanzaa event here; and the Alumni of the Boys & Girl Choir of Harlem 2nd Annual Christmas in Harlem concert here. Finally Harlem Arts Alliance associate director, Kim George has curated the exhibition "Harlem Resonance" at Bar Thalia in Symphony Space, which will be up until Jan. 27, 2013. We have a feeling Lee would be proud of the latter.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

 

Actress Mo’Nique On Being Out of the Spotlight

 

photo credit: Dario Calmese

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo

So what do you do after winning an Academy Award and having the entertainment industry fawning over your next move? If you’re actress/comedian, Mo’Nique you count your blessings and take a break from it all to enjoy life. Recently we ran into the actress who has been conspicuously absent from the big screen since her Oscar win for her role in, Precious. She revealed what she’s been up to and was decidedly vague when asked about any plans to jump back on the big screen.

"I have truly been enjoying life and that’s what’s going on,” she says. "It’s been enjoyable to have a period where I can watch my babies go off to school, make the field trips and that’s priceless. While I’m in the moment I will stay in it.”

Visual artist, Daniel Hauben is relishing his moment in the spotlight. Hauben was recently the recipient of the largest commission in the Bronx since the 1930’s for a series of paintings at the Bronx Community College’s new library. For him the achievement heralds a new day as the Bronx seeks to further advance its cultural life and prove the economic power of the arts. "I'm hoping that this is the beginning of a new era in the Bronx so that a more sustainable possibility can be established,” he says. "I think it’s great these organizations like the Bronx Chamber of Commerce are dipping their toes in the cultural waters. There has to be key people in that business world who realize art is to their benefit for real estate and the potential of luring people into different areas.”

The Bronx isn’t the only locale seeking to make its presence known on the global cultural market. You can add to the list, Brazil. The country’s cultural contributions was recognized this past week at CELEBRATE BRAZIL, a music, film and fine art experience presented by ImageNation, Afrobeat and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The event included music created by Brazilian scholar and popular musician Beatriz Azevedo, a film screening of 5x Favela, Now by Ourselves, and a two-man exhibition of artworks created by Brazilian artist Andre Cypriano and U.S. artist Cannon Hersey. The exhibition will soon travel from Lincoln Center to Imagenation's RAW SPACE.

While RAW SPACE may not be one of the destinations on the new ArtCrawl Harlem™ tour, there is plenty of other hot venues to check out when the trolley makes its rounds this weekend on Dec. 15th. ArtCrawl Harlem™ and Taste Harlem Food and Cultural Tours will introduce art lovers and novices to artists in select Harlem establishments and public spaces. Stops along the tour include the Studio Museum in Harlem, Arts Horizon LeRoy Neiman Center, Harlem Wine Gallery and Art in Flux Harlem. Guests will enjoy food and wine pairings at each venue, artist meet and greets, introduction to exhibits and a chance to simply enjoy or shop for art. For founder, Jacqueline Orange the tour plays a significant role in engaging the community with Harlem’s new businesses. "Harlem is changing with many new restaurants and galleries. This is something we haven’t had for many years so with that comes new experiences. This tour is for the community to embrace its new Harlem,” she says. For more information and tickets click here.

The week also offers a few more exciting events with the 4th Annual Battle of the Boroughs; Imagenation’s RAW SPACE screening the film, "Yelling to the Sky” starring Zoe Kravitz and Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe; and La Maison d’ Art’s Moroccan Art Decoration & Holiday Sale (call for details). While you’re at the latter check out their latest exhibition, Visions, Art & Matter.

And there you have it from the simple joys of life that matter most to Mo’Nique to the matters of sustaining arts and culture.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

 

 

Celebrities Celebrate Dance with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

 

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo

Dance is more than an artistic display of the physical prowess that lies within the human form. For many of those who attended the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater opening night gala benefit at New York City Center, dance is a catalyst to exploring new possibilities. On the red carpet, veteran actress and Harlemite, S. Epatha Merkerson, revealed that she was once a former dance student and that the experience helped her find limitless potential in the arts.

That door to exploration that dance helped open has led Merkerson to produce and direct her first documentary film, The Contradictions of Fair Hope, which she is now shopping to festivals and distributors. Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg the film traces the development, struggles, contributions and gradual loss of tradition of one of the last remaining African American benevolent societies, known as "The Fair Hope Benevolent Society” in Uniontown, Alabama. "The documentary tells you how it got from that place of nobility to what it is and what happens when you forget your history,” she says.

Inside the event, the evening was all about celebrating the present as Artist Director Robert Battle debuted the new season with a performance of Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16. Grammy Award-winning opera star, Jessye Norman and Tony Award-winners Brian Stokes Mitchell and Anika Noni Rose led a finale of Alvin Ailey’s masterwork, Revelations with live music.

Opening one’s eyes to new visions is the goal behind the latest exhibition, 10 Squared, which is currently on view at the LeRoy Neiman Art Center in Harlem. As the organization’s program director/curator, Omo Misha explains, the work features artists from all communities and mediums presenting affordable works on 10”x10” blank surfaces. "I wanted this to be an opportunity for artists to express their views on whatever they feel passionate about for the collective universal voice of art.”

Also seeking to bridge gaps between global communities is the Rush Arts Gallery exhibition, I Dreamed My People Were Calling. Curated by Danny Simmons, the exhibition, seeks to tie together the ancestral and contemporary forms of artisans of African descent through the dynamic works of Imo Imeh, Sol Sax, and Margaret Rose Vendryes. Simmons expressed that he hopes the show will eliminate romanticized notions of Africa. "All this work is created in the image of Africa but for African-Americans it’s a romanticized view of Africa. I wanted to take an artists’ take on what Africa means to us all. For me it’s a spiritual heritage that ties me back to a long history of art making and community and the cradle of human begins.”

Similarly seeking to encourage unity is the book, Everybody Paddles, a collection short stories and memoirs that stresses the importance of teamwork in family, community and work environments. Author, Charles A. Archer celebrated the release with a private party at Pranna, coordinated by Bee Season Consulting and God-is Rivera of 319 Public Relations. Archer hopes that the book leads to a social movement of change. "This is a call to the end hostiles, rich vs. poor and find common ground to work together,” he says. "If we partner better and collaborate better we can do those audacious things we want to do.”

One of the more touching stories in the book is by senior editor for Juicy Magazine, Taiia Smart Young where she describes how her mother has been instrumental to her success in media. Young notes that the concept of paddling begins in the home. "I feel like sometimes parents can be dream killers. If a child says I want to do something then parents need to find a way to make it possible,” she advises. "My mother knew nothing about writing as a career but she was the first person who taught me to paddle and gave me that push.”

While the organization WAT-AAH!, does not hand out paddles, they do provide water and healthy lifestyle tips. The company which is the first premium line water free of sugar, calories and additives for kids by kids recently produced a benefit event, 1 Act, Give Back, Feel Good in partnership with DoSomething.Org. The event, which was also in response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, collected canned goods to benefit The Food Bank For New York City.

During the event, WAT-AAH!, Founder/CEO, Rose Cameron shared her passion for empowering children to be responsible for their own health. "When a mother talks to a kid they don’t listen to you. So we determined the best way to do is let the kids rule and let them define the branding of the company.” Thus far the approach is working as WAT-AAH!, has major partners including First Lady Michelle Obama’s, Let’s Move initiative.

Be sure that you move on over to the following events this week including: Dance Theatre of Harlem’s Nutcracker Sunday Matinee; the opening of VISIONS, Art and Matter at La Maison d’Art; and From Cover to Cover: 20 Years of African Voices.

Correction: In last week’s column the name of Drumma Boy’s company was incorrectly listed. The actual name is Drum Squad DJ’s.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

 

‘Whitney: Tribute to an Icon’ Captures Superstar like Never Before

 

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo

When it comes to paying homage to the life of a legend like Whitney Houston, one certainly faces a challenge. Yet for photographer, Randee St. Nicholas it’s all part of the job. St. Nicholas curates the new book, Whitney: Tribute to an Icon that contains 130 images of Houston, some never before seen, taken by some of the leading photographers in the business. It also includes essays by Clive Davis and Pat Houston, in addition to one from St. Nicholas. After having photographed Houston for the past 20 years, St. Nicholas was able to witness the sensitive side of Houston.

"She was definitely vulnerable because she was childlike. She was incredibly human,” St. Nicholas says. "No matter the struggles of her life there is something special about her in all those ways that come from just being human and having her own insecurities.”

Being vulnerable is but one of many factors needed to write a successful memoir. According to Regina Brooks, founder and president of Serendipity Literary Agency LLC, non-celebrities are hot commodities for life stories so long as they follow a few key simple rules: research, be truthful and have a hook. In her book, You Should Really Write a Book: How to Write, Sell, and Market Your Memoir, Brooks offers tips for future memoirists. "Think of your hook as an elevator pitch. You need it to sell it to the agent, editor and ultimately to get media attracted,” she advises. "Your hook should be able to make an agent S.M.I.L.E. by being shocking, memorable, inspiring, loving and entertaining.”

Brooks also recommends that in order to demonstrate market value aspiring writers should increase their social media reach. "Publishers are typically looking for authors who have twitter followers of at least 10,000 and 5,000 Facebook followers.” For the rest of the tips you’ll have to check out the book for yourself.

When musical talent such as Mos Def, Wyclef Jean and Yo-Yo Ma want to tell their story they opt for wax instead of print. One of the places where they record is Stadiumred, Harlem’s premier studio in the historic Lee Building at 125th Street & Park Ave. The studio once housed the iconic jazz saxophonist and musician Ornette Coleman’s Harmolodic Studios and has since been transferred into a state-of-the-art facility. Claude Zdanow, founder and CEO of Stadiumred is hoping that the company can continue to reenergize the local music scene. "When we first started people said no one makes music anymore in New York, they go to L.A. and Nashville,” he says. "But I have seen this neighborhood grow so much over the past five years. We want to build a brand that represents all sorts of music and represents New York music and Harlem music.” To make that happen Zdanow has recently launched three other divisions of Stadiumred covering artist development and a record label, an event creation company and a concert/event video streaming company.

Of course you can’t hit the studio without the right producer and one of music’s top beat masters is Drumma Boy (Wiz Khalifa, Kanye West, and Drake). For the 1st Annual Global Spin Awards, Drumma Boy presented an award to give recognition to disc jockeys across the globe. Those in attendance included Grandmaster Flash, DJ Jazzy Joyce, Ralph McDaniels and host Sway Calloway. While the event was celebratory, some argue that the DJ’s of today don’t do enough to break records for underground and independent songs on the radio or in clubs since the industry is heavily commercialized. Drumma Boy who formed, Drum Squad to support new records shared his thoughts on this. "Some DJ’s are put in situations where they are only allowed to play what's ‘in the format’ or in the ‘program’ and run into altercations with the local artists whose music doesn't get played. Many artists don't understand that radio and club spins cost money. It’s so much competition these days so you've really gotta stick out and be the hottest thing buzzing.”

All the buzz this week is a few events including Ballet Hispanico's return to the Apollo Theater on Dec. 1st. The dance company will premiere three new pieces including a contemporary spin on Cuba’s danzón, Argentina’s tango, and 1980’s Spanish pop. From pop to jazz and R&B check out the Lonette McKee and Michael Henderson concert, A Night to Remember. Presented by Aaron Davis Hall at The City College of New York, the event will feature McKee performing hits from Sparkle, Round Midnight, Lady Day and a special duet between the two headliners. But don’t expect any Houston covers.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.


Singer, Amel Larrieux is Ready to Bring Listeners Ice Cream Everyday

 

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo

If you were a guest at singer-songwriter, Amel Larrieux’s Thanksgiving Day dinner you’d likely be served a healthy scoop of ice cream, a treat that is serving as an unlikely source of inspiration for the songbird’s forthcoming album, Ice Cream Everyday. Larrieux will perform new songs from the album and past hits, Nov. 26th-Nov. 28th at the Blue Note, produced by Jill Newman Productions & Blisslife.

For Larrieux the album’s title represents her search for peace of mind while managing life’s stresses including the role of being a mother. "I love being a parent but it is the hardest thing I’ve ever done and often feel like I am going to crack or break or I’m not feeling good enough,” she reveals. "My husband and I are foodies and I said to him ‘I wish I could have ice cream everyday.’ That’s where the title became relevant in my own search as a mother, musician and artist living in this world to find my peace every day.”

The album will also reflect Larrieux’s latest self-discovery of how she’s grown as a woman. "Seeing the things you can handle makes you realize I am really grown up now. I realize I have stress and want to take control of it through meditation and being very regimented.”

Actress Ruby Dee, may not have ice cream to share but she has an abundance of wisdom. During her 90th birthday bash at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture the artistic community came out to honor the Hollywood icon and activist. Guests including Melvin Van Peebles, Danny Glover, Angela Bassett, Rosie O’Donnell and more previewed the documentary film, Life’s Essentials with Ruby Dee, directed by Muta’Ali, grandson of Dee and her late husband Ossie Davis. The film follows Muta’Ali’s quest for their secrets to love, art and activism. Dee shared some insight with guests stating, "After Ossie left me I began to contemplate being a human being. I found out that nothing is beyond our capacity to realize we are products of miracle sustained by it and live by it. Our job for this lifetime is to understand that we are God stuff. We are the power. Let’s get busy.”

 

photo credit: Terrence Jennings

For O’Donnell, Dee represents the responsibility that artists have to give back. "She’s one of the original artist-activists who used the prominence they received in artistic endeavors to help social change. I felt that was the only reason you were given the gift.”

Using the arts to uplift others was the central theme of the Heart to Heart…A Sisterhood Experience at Sylvia’s Restaurant. The gathering featured singers Melba Moore, Meli’sa Morgan, Alyson Williams and Monifah sharing stories and songs of love and overcoming obstacles to empower women. While each singer was remarkable and captivated the crowd with their dynamic talent, one of the main highlights was Williams playfully chiding Morgan for her past "diva” ways.

"Before we started throwing the word diva around she was diva with a capital D,” she says. "She was not a good a thing, that thing was nothing nice. I don’t know what made her so crunchy on the outside but I knew she was made of gooey stuff on the inside. Eventually we evolved our friendship. It took a while. I had to wait on her.”

It was this refreshing honesty, rarely told stories and sense of unity amongst the talent that makes this event one to look forward to when it returns next year to the Apollo Theater.

Unity was one of the key strengths behind the major African-American economic movement depicted in the play, Black Wall Street. The production debuts Friday November 30 at The Malcolm X & Dr. Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center. Presented by Shades of Truth Theatre and The New Heritage Theatre Group the play tells the true story of affluent African-Americans in the Greenwood community of Tulsa, Oklahoma. The town included hundreds of thriving businesses owned and operated by African-Americans, many of which were eventually destroyed in 1921 by one of America’s worst acts of terrorism and racial violence, the Tulsa Race Riot. Producer, Michael Green hopes that by unearthing this rarely told story viewers will be reminded of the African-American community's economic power and question the impact of integration. "We never achieved true integration. That was never part of the plan. It was to create permanent underclass citizens and the numbers prove that methodology of keeping us as the underclass,” he says. "This story proves that we can have our own and govern ourselves and do it very well.”

From ice cream to African-American history, inspiration for powerful artistic statements truly knows no bounds.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

 

Actress Phyllis Yvonne Stickney Returns After Rescuing a Harlem Neighborhood

 

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo

In the late 1980’s to mid-1990’s, actress and comedienne, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney was one of Hollywood’s most promising talents. A string of roles in films such as What’s Love Got to Do With It, Malcolm X and the TV series, A Different World won over viewers and critics. However just as she was reaching her peak, Stickney virtually disappeared from the limelight. Now she exclusively reveals to us what she’s been up to for over a decade including transforming the formerly drug-infested St. James Court building in Harlem to launching several new business ventures.

"There was a building in Harlem that became drug infested. I moved away, kept the apartment and after I became famous I came back to save the building. It took 5 years of my life,” she says. "I closed three crack houses and a heroin shooting gallery in my building. I pretty much became a social worker.”

The Harlem Arts Alliance member also experienced career setbacks due to her personal life, which involved the end of a marriage. "I tried to focus on having a marriage, a child. When I wasn’t able to conceive later with my husband it broke up our relationship. So I came back to work.”

Stickney doesn’t look back on her absence with regret even though she admits to turning down highly coveted roles in hit TV shows such as Boston Legal, and Californication. Throughout the years, Stickney has continued honing her craft and developing new projects including a clothing line, directing and nurturing young talent through the Stickney Theatre Project.

"The challenging thing is connecting to the generation who forgot what I did and remaining relevant. So for me to be a poet, designer and all those things is how I get to pass it on to younger talent.”

Today’s generation could also use a reminder as to the genius of playwright, August Wilson. Signature Theatre is keeping Wilson’s legacy alive with a new production of his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Piano Lesson. The fourth play of Wilson’s epic Century Cycle, The Piano Lesson is a powerful drama depicting the Charles family battling their surroundings and each other over their shared legacy—an antique piano. The new production directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson premiered this past week and runs until Dec. 16th.

Reaching the youth and a broader base is one of the goals of Opera Ebony, the longest surviving African-American Opera Company in the U.S. The organization celebrates its 40th anniversary with a musical montage of Sass’ N Class on Friday, November 16 at Aaron Davis Hall, City College of New York. The 7-year old piece will celebrate America’s best popular music from the catalogs of Duke Ellington, Jerome Kern, Ira Gershwin and Cole Porter. For managing director, Gregory Sheppard the approach of mixing opera with classic and contemporary material is but one of the many ways he aims to make the musical genre more accessible. "We have the ability to take productions to public schools, churches and to areas where the population would more than likely not be exposed to opera and classical singing. By exposing our humanity and presenting programs that are neither stuffy or rigid we break down the barriers that make people feel this music isn't approachable and is an elitist art form,” he says.

Breaking down divisions of gender, class and political status is one of the central themes of the newly released documentary Sweet Dreams, which had a special screening at MIST Harlem. The film by siblings Lisa and Rob Fruchtman, documents the story of Ingoma Nshya, Rwanda’s first Hutu and Tutsi female drumming troupe, which also founded Inzozi Nziza, the only locally owned ice cream shop in Rwanda. The founders of Brooklyn’s Blue Marble Ice Cream played an integral role in the development of Inzozi Nziza. Rob hopes that this depiction in his film sends a clear message for others to get involved in the development of Africa. "We need to do as much as we can to change the mindset of people around the world who think of Africa as a desperate and impoverished land when, in fact, it is full of creative energy, hope and economic progress.”

Still even with 56% of women in political power, Rob notes that Rwanda has more work to do when it comes to the advancement of women. "The country has made great strides in empowering women, creating job opportunities for them and even eliminating the taboos that prevented women from engaging in male activities, such as drumming. But there are still huge challenges. Domestic violence is an enduring problem, as are children raised by single mothers and lack of education,” he notes.

And although we wouldn’t want to see her go another decade out of the spotlight, Rwanda seems like just the kind of place where Stickney could do quite some good.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.


Macy Gray Covers Stevie Wonder and the Arts Post-Hurricane Sandy

 

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo

In these times of political turmoil, socioeconomic inequities and environmental issues the songs of Stevie Wonder resonate deeply. In fact, so deeply that it has inspired Macy Gray to audaciously cover Wonder’s entire classic album, Talking Book. On songs like "Superstition,” "Maybe Your Baby” and "Big Brother,” Gray transforms the songs into a thrilling soundscape.

Gray shared that she felt compelled to tackle the project due to the messages in the songs. "He wrote ‘Big Brother’ so long ago and now everywhere you go you’re on camera. He has a lot of political comments and this beautiful perspective on love and politics without being preachy.”

Gray, whose previous album, Covered, was also a collection of covers, notes that taking a break from original material has reinvigorated her muse. "I haven’t been in love and I didn’t want to make a record whining about myself. There is always politics but the things that made me want to write, were the things that made me want to cry,” she says. "So I did other people’s songs and now I’m in the middle of two records and inspired by great things.”

While the title of her previous album of original material, The Sellout, alluded to her frustrations of not being considered commercial enough, Gray notes that we shouldn’t expect such concerns this time around. Gray is all about avoiding musical trends with no regrets. "There is an art to trying to keep up with the times and I think that is not my presence in music. I don’t want to be worried about all that.”

One worry on the minds of many is the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the superstorm that has devastated the Caribbean and almost crippled the East Coast. A particularly vulnerable group is the arts/culture community and the following organizations are offering emergency grants to ease financial burdens on artists: The Actors’ Fund of America; Adolph and Esther Gottlieb Foundation, Inc.; Artists’ Fellowship; and Craft Emergency Relief Fund. For a listing of other resources please click here.

As always, the resiliency of the arts/culture community demonstrates its strength with several events aiming to keep Harlem’s cultural engine moving. Highlights include Art in Flux Harlem’s November 9th opening night reception for Echoes from Afar: A Time to Keep & A Time to Let Go; The Apollo Theater’s Master Class Songwriting Seminar with Gordon Chambers on November 10th; and The Studio Museum in Harlem’s open house celebrating the premiere of their Fall/Winter 2012-13 season. The latter kicks off on November 11th and one standout featured exhibition promises to be, Gordon Parks: A Harlem Family 1967. Although the concert Ma, Mahalia, and the Man, already had its debut you’ll want to check out for its possible return in the near future. Tami Tyree, led a tribute to the pioneers of blues and gospel: Ma Rainey, Mahalia Jackson, and composer Thomas A. Dorsey—the man largely responsible for the iconic careers of these two women. The concert featured blues songstress LeeOlive Tucker, a jazz band led by Rudi Mwongozi and a gospel ensemble.

In these times, we can use all of this and more.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

 

R&B Diva, Monifah Talks Voting and Finding Inner Peace

 

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo

As the presidential election nears the arts/culture community is playing a significant role in encouraging citizens to vote. R&B Divas docu-series TV show star and Harlem native, Monifah lent her voice to the cause at the event, Go Vote: A Memo to Black America. Pastor Joseph Tolton led the event at Grace Congregational Church of Harlem, which featured a powerful keynote speech by noted economist, columnist and author, Dr. Julianne Malveaux.

Backstage, Monifah shared that voting wasn’t always a priority for her, which is why she hopes to inspire the younger generation to be more politically conscious. "In my 20’s I was like not subscribing to the establishment,” she says. "When you’re younger you don’t realize how disrespectful it is not to vote because people gave their lives and much more for us.”

Monifah gave her all as she performed her new song, "Invincible.” Thematically the song is similar to the recent recording, "She’s Me,” as they both aim to inspire triumph over adversity. The message is a testament to Monifah’s newfound spiritual outlook on life, which has helped her overcome the pain of being raped as a teenager. "At 17 I was raped. I didn’t go to the police because I thought it was my fault,” she reveals. "But when I didn’t harbor that anger [He] came in and got me through that. Everything I’ve been through in my life has gotten me to where I am now.”

Presently Monifah is working on her forthcoming untitled album, which will mark her return to music after over a decade. But one thing she is keeping top secret is whether or not we will see her on season two of R&B Divas.

One of the best-kept secrets on the music scene has been the talent of rising singer-songwriter and Harlem based recording artist, Abiah. After a series of industry challenges mainly from operating within the often-stifling major label process, Abiah returns with his sophomore release, Life as a Ballad. He notes that in order to move forward with his career he had to avoid internalizing the professional setbacks of being on a major label. "I definitely didn't want to be that artist who stayed angry. When you take responsibility for what you could have done, then it actually empowers you. I am not anti-major label but I believe an artist has to know what to expect and what to do in the business. I feel so strong and have a healthy perspective because of the experiences.”

Coming across new artists is always an exciting experience especially when they are as gifted as Shantell Martin. After graduating with top honors in London and honing her craft in Tokyo, Martin has made New York City her residence of choice as she elevates her career. In the exhibition, Continuous Line, Martin integrates analog drawing with recurring words and phrases on canvas, found objects, walls and floors within the indoor and outdoor space of the Black & White Gallery/Project Space. The effect is like stepping into the subconscious mind of Martin as single lines lead to stimulating fantastical and surreal images for a style that some refer to as "free association.” As Martin tells it the goal is to free the viewer of their normal daily routine in an effort to tap into one’s imagination and intuition. "There is pressure to plan everything these days and to know where you’re going,” she says. "But when you don’t plan and you trust your instinct and work spontaneously there is more reward in doing that. I am tugging away from that systematic approach.”

Hopefully everyone’s intuition will guide them to the polls and then off to enjoy an arts/culture event.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

 

ASCAP Honors, DJ Beverly Bond an Advocate for Women in Music

 

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo

Positions of power and visibility virtually always demand a sense of integrity, responsibility and courage. These are the attributes of some of the ladies celebrated during the 4th annual "ASCAP Presents… Women Behind the Music” series. The event which kicked off at New York’s chic club, Tenjune honored women working within all facets of the business including DJ and BLACK GIRLS ROCK! Inc. Founder Beverly Bond, Island/Def Jam Music Group Vice President of Business & Legal Affairs, Nicole Wyskoarko and Universal Music Publishing Senior Vice President and Co-Head of East Coast Operations, Jessica Rivera.

As a woman in music, Bond has been one of the most vocal opponents of controversial depictions of women in hip-hop and mass media. At the event she shared hopes that more women within the industry will stand up against misogyny.

"Women are participating in the destruction of women and their images. There have to be more women who do stand up and say even though I am in here I am still gonna say something. I watch what I play, where I play and there has to be a distinction between what the youth absorb,” she advises.

ASCAP Vice President, Membership – Rhythm & Soul, Nicole George wants the series to remind young women of their potential to make positive contributions in the music business. "This event is for them to see what they can be and that they have positive role models and something to aspire to.”

Securing a role of a lifetime is one of the aspirations of actress, Pauletta Pearson Washington. The veteran talent shared those sentiments as she returned to the stage in Harlem last week in Lorey Hayes’ production "Power Play,” at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. "I want to do the definitive piece,” she shares. "I want to express everything I've experienced as a woman and human being in life and through my art as a healing experience on the stage.”

While she patiently awaits her breakthrough role, Washington has nothing but praise for her husband, Denzel Washington’s performance in the upcoming film, "Flight,” which has generated Oscar buzz. "I must say my husband did some incredible work in this movie. When I saw it I couldn’t’ tell him anything. I was just so full.”

Instead of getting full on movies, try an art snack. Krista Saunders—The Bespoke Curator—is now accepting submissions for The Art Snack Registry, a curated selection of small, ready-to-hang works of art priced under $200. The event, designed to connect novice art collectors with affordable art by emerging artists, will be held at Space on White on Thursday, November 29 and Thursday, December 6.

After that, if you’re still hungry for more arts and culture then Lonette McKee, acclaimed Tony nominated film and stage actress and star the original film "Sparkle,” aims to satiate your appetite. McKee will be in concert with four-time Grammy nominated music legend, Michael Henderson for a one night only performance, "A Night to Remember” at Aaron Davis Hall, City College of New York. You may purchase tickets here.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

 

Valerie Simpson Becomes Bolder and Harlem School of the Arts Gets Major Funding

 

photo credit: Alex Lipowec

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo

One of the major themes of this year's Harlem Arts Advocacy Week was the need for major funding in order to sustain the arts and culture scene in Harlem. Well legendary musician, artist and philanthropist, Herb Alpert has heeded that call by recently bestowing an unprecedented grant of more than $5 million to the Harlem School of the Arts. At the posh Stanley H. Kaplan Penthouse at Lincoln Center, Alpert was honored during the Harlem School of the Arts Fall Benefit. Alpert hopes that the funds will promote the integration of the arts in national schools.

"Many think it is extracurricular but it should be a core subject for all kids to experience," he says. "They learn how to respect each other's uniqueness cause they can find their own uniqueness if they stick with it."

Finding one's own voice has been a recent life lesson for legendary singer-songwriter Valerie Simpson, who was a special guest of Alpert's for the evening. Simpson shared that since the passing of her life and musical partner, Nick Ashford she has had to discover a newfound strength by performing on her own and releasing her recent solo album, "Dinosaurs are Coming Back Again."

"It's interesting when you've been a partner with someone for so long. So now to sing solo and starting all over again I am learning that I am more bodacious than I thought. I don't know where it's coming from but I am glad," she says.

Giving back was a popular theme this week as several other organizations hosted galas and celebrations. Voza Rivers and Jamal Joseph celebrated the 15th anniversary of their organization, Impact Repertory at First Corinthian Baptist Church. The event included a special appearance by actress and volunteer Julia Stiles; film veteran Khalil Kain; and a rousing set by the legendary, Nile Rodgers. Rodgers also lent his support to Peter Gabriel's international human rights organization, WITNESS for their 8th Annual Focus for Change benefit dinner and concert at the Roseland Ballroom.

The music and spirit of giving continued at the St. Paul Baptist Church, where they celebrated the 4th Pastoral Anniversary of Rev. Dr. V. DuWayne Battle and Family. The "Rejoice Concert" produced and co-chaired by Claude Jay, featured the St. Paul Baptist Church Choir and music ministry; gospel singer/musician, Don Corey Washington, Harlem Praises! Dance Ensemble and more.

For those looking for an alternative musical experience, there is "Sangria Sundays" at ImageNation's RAW SPACE. ImageNation Cinema Foundation has partnered with urban eclectic Internet radio station RhythmAndSoulRadio.com to create a listening lounge with short films, spoken word artists and artist chats including special guests Choklate, Anthony David and The Flaocist. The promising series kicks off this Sunday October 21.

Prior to that though on October 18th at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theatre Group, Take Wing And Soar Productions, and Be Rich Entertainment in association with The City College of New York present Lorey Hayes' "Power Play." The theatrical production stars Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Pauletta Pearson Washington and it follows the physiological and spiritual crisis of Franklin Wright, on the eve of an election that could make him the first Black governor of California.

From benefit galas to musical lounges-there is more than enough events to go around, so let's be thankful that the Alpert's of the world continue to help sustain it all.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.


Faith Evans, Chris Tucker and Sinbad Lead the Harlem Fall Event Calendar

 

photo credit: eone music

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo

While the weather gets cooler, the fall Harlem arts and culture scene is heating up with several exciting events featuring international and local talent. When it comes to music the Apollo Theater is offering a Thanksgiving Celebration starring Faith Evans and Tank on November 24th. Evans will perform hits from her Grammy Award winning catalogue and will be joined by songwriter and producer Tank, along with rising singers Luke James and Bridget Kelly. Here's hoping that we also get a surprise appearance from Evans' docu-series "R&B Divas" co-stars too.

Although Stevie Wonder probably won't physically be in the house for Uptown Nights at Harlem Stage, his musical spirit will certainly be present during Robert Glasper's Songs in the Key of Life event on December 13 & 14. Grammy-nominated jazz, hip-hop and R&B performer, Glasper will lead an all-star lineup to reinterpret Wonder's classic body of work.

Listening to the aforementioned performers will likely make you want to get on your feet and dance. But if you're more of a wallflower then observe the dancers at Ballet Hispanico when the dance company returns to the Apollo Theater on December 1. You can expect them to put a contemporary spin on Cuba's danzón, Argentina's tango and 1980's Spanish pop.

From dance to comedy, Sinbad returns to the Apollo stage on December 7 for a night of jokes that won't make you cover your children's ears. But you may want to make it strictly an adult's only affair when Chris Tucker performs at the venue on December 13 and December 14.

Cultural traditions are sometimes no laughing matter as they can have both negative and positive influences on the individual and society. Addressing these dynamics is the Art in Flux Harlem forthcoming exhibition "Echoes From Afar: A Time to Keep & A Time to Let Go." Artists of various disciplines will present work in response to the short film, "Siri Oko Fo (Mending Fences)" by Ebbe Bassey.

Continuing to tap into provocative subject matters, Art in Flux Harlem also presents "Art Speaks!" which addresses concerns about race and identity. It is collaboration with The Movement Theatre Company's latest play, "Blacken the Bubble." You'll definitely want to check out the work of visual artists Andre Woolery, Margaret Rose Vendryes and Ivan Forde.

The season would not be complete without a major theatrical celebration or two. On Monday, October 15 First Corinthian Baptist Church will host the Impact Repertory Theatre 15th Anniversary Gala featuring founders Voza Rivers, Jamal Joseph, award-winning music veteran Nile Rodgers, Oscar and Grammy nominated singer-songwriter, Charles Mack and more. The Audelco Awards keeps the momentum going with their 40th Anniversary-Ruby Jubilee on Monday November 19. The organization will honor people of color in the theatre world with nominated shows including "A Time for Love" (National Black Theatre), "This Way Forward" (HADLEY Players), "Growing Up Gonzales" (Reel Players and Poets Club, Inc./Toptia Prods.), "Hurt Village" (Signature Theatre Company), "Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale" (National Black Theatre) and more.

Finally, this Friday October 12, the independent film, "Middle of Nowhere," arrives in theatres. The film explores the inner world of a woman as she is separated from her incarcerated husband and tries to salvage her marriage and self-identity. The film is already receiving praise and its director/screenwriter, Ava DuVernay made history as the first Black woman to receive the coveted "Best Director" prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2012.

As always you can expect coverage right here of these events and more throughout the season.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

 

Actor and Activist, Danny Glover Receives Harlem Arts Alliance Award

 

 photo credit: Images of Us

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo

It is universally noted that Harlem is one of the central arts and culture centers of the world but in order to sustain that legacy requires greater economic support, visibility and unity amongst institutions. In an effort to promote these values the Harlem Arts Alliance recently kicked off its Harlem Arts Summit during Harlem Arts Advocacy Week. Under the theme "Harlem at the Crossroads: Sustaining Our Arts and Cultural Resources," the seven-day series of free events kicked off on October 1 with presentations to actor and activist Danny Glover, legendary theatrical producer Vy Higginsen, pioneering arts producer/consultant Mikki Shepard and businessman and arts supporter, Fred Powell of Barbara's Flowers at Aaron Davis Hall (The City College of New York).

"Harlem boasts some of the city's most stellar arts organizations and artists, individuals and entities that are, in today's economic climate, struggling to secure and maintain needed support," says Voza Rivers, Chairman, Harlem Arts Alliance. "The Harlem Arts Summit is being held to shine the light on the treasures in our midst and to help them secure and sustain the crucial resources needed to continue their missions."

Glover received the HAA Humanitarian Award and delivered an address about the role of arts and culture in promoting activism. "Art can be many things," Glover said. "It can be a tool that brings us to action."

The Arts Summit is all about taking much-needed action and will feature an array of performances, screenings, panels and presentations designed to build support for the arts in Harlem and in communities of color throughout the city.One of the central highlights includes the opening reception of the fifth annual Strivers Art Circuit Art Tour at Aaron Davis Hall. The self-guided art/gallery tour of key galleries, studios and alternative spaces in and around Harlem's famed Strivers Row district will take place on Saturday and Sunday, October 6 and 7. Tour time is 12pm to 6pm.

Those that attend the tour may also want to stop by the new exhibition, "Unveiled/Unlocked," curated by visual artist, Aleathia Brown. The exhibition being held at The City College of New York; Windows on Amsterdam Gallery located @the NAC Building Plaza addresses perceptions of beauty as visual artists present images about the struggles and triumphs of women with bare heads. Standouts from the exhibit include Jimbe's photograph, "Opposite Direction," which casts a tall bald female model in a dark mysterious shadow as onlookers gasp and stare at her image of proud beauty; and Beau McCall's "Pretty Bald," which dismantles notions of beauty in the commercial realm by featuring a bare head doll on a bed of pink, white and scissor buttons.

"We speak to the social justice of the bare head woman by unveiling her existence to celebrate and acknowledge her presence," Brown notes. "Often she is underrepresented, misunderstood and in a sea of hair headed people alone, bare headed and negatively judged."

It's safe to say, that this is the kind of arts activism that Glover would be proud to support.

Editor's Note: In last week's column we announced the dates of the "Def Poetry Jam" reunion event. However the show has been postponed until further notice due to construction delays at the venue. Please visit MIST for updates.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

 

Dionne Warwick Celebrates 50 Years of Music and Def Poetry Jam Reunites

 

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo

As the legendary, Dionne Warwick celebrates her 50th anniversary in music with the release of a forthcoming album, "Dionne, Now," she is looking forward and hoping to reach a younger generation. "With this album it was time to bring our music into the 21st century and to younger ears. So you get a chance to hear some really great songs," she says.

Music isn't the only thing that she wants to share with youth. Warwick revealed plans to devote some time to finishing a project she began fifteen years ago to create a history book on African and African American history. "I am planning in the next couple of years to gather the first parts of it and do it in parts. I think it is time everybody takes a good look at who we are and how much value we bring to this entire world."

When it comes to the history of the spoken word, "Def Poetry Jam," was a groundbreaking cultural phenomenon that gave an international platform for spoken word artists. It's been 5 years since the HBO television series ended but co-creator, Danny Simmons is presenting a reunion at MIST Harlem on September 27th. Simmons shared that the reunion is a tribute to the show and currently there are no plans to create a tour or do produce another television show. On looking back at the legacy of "Def Poetry Jam," he is proudest of its social and educational impact. "One of the hopes I had when Bruce George and I created the concept was that poetry would become a literacy tool for our youth," he says. "It has and is used by educational institutions world wide to spark deeper interest in writing and reading in students."

The Fashion Institute of Technology's Black Student Union (BSU) are hoping to have a similar impact in the world of fashion and design with their recent event "24|Fashion." The goal was to showcase the talent of its members and to aid in that mission was fashion expert/host, Rae Holiday and BET Music Matters artist, Kimberly Nichole. According to the president of BSU, David Hamilton, this event was necessary since access to mainstream opportunities is limited for the group. "Because our show is student organized and not a formal school presentation, our formal invitation to mainstream fashion is limited," he notes. "But the Black Students of FIT are craving the attention of prominent Blacks in fashion to come speak to and work with us."

Harlem's status as a cultural and intellectual force in the world is being celebrated in the weeklong festival, "Harlem in the City." The event is presented by the City College of New York, in collaboration with the Harlem Arts Alliance and runs October 1-7. The festivities launched with the opening of the photo exhibit, "Harlem & the City Over 100 Years of Special Moments in Time." Dr. Myrah Brown Green, executive director of arts and culture at City College, is coordinating the festival which will also include lectures, panel discussions, film screenings, tours and poetry readings, which you can learn about here.

Perhaps, Warwick would be pleased to know that history is alive, well and being celebrated.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

 

The Last Poets & Melba Moore Honor Television Pioneer, Ellis Haizlip

 

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo

Sometimes history is reflected upon in the mirror of time to reveal unsung glories. One such recent revelation has been the rediscovery of the groundbreaking 1968-1973 PBS series, "SOUL!" The show's deceased host, Ellis Haizlip is now the subject of an upcoming documentary, "Mr. Soul!: Ellis Haizlip and the Birth of Black Power TV," which launches its Kickstarter campaign with a reception at the National Black Programming Consortium in Harlem on Monday September 24th. The event, which is free and open to the public, includes special guests such as Abiodun Oyewole and Umar Bin Hassan of The Last Poets, singer Melba Moore, actress Dr. Loretta Young and more.

The film pays tribute to Haizlip's first "Black Tonight show," which featured discussions surrounding socially relevant topics mixed with arts/culture and first ever televised appearances from icons such as Al Green, Ashford and Simpson, James Baldwin, Maya Angelou, Nikki Giovanni and more. According to Haizlip's niece and the film's co-producer, Melissa, "The film will highlight Ellis Haizlip's groundbreaking accomplishment in Black history-how one man gave voice to the struggles and successes of the African American community, launching the careers of many of the African American icons of the 20th century while changing the perception of African American art and culture. We also hope to illuminate the journey of Black representation in media-how far we've come, and how far we have yet to go to achieve fairness in the battle for diverse images in media. It's time to revisit and reintroduce this fascinating moment in Black media history that's still relevant today."

It's been 40 years since the series ended and for Oyewole, it has yet to be matched in its ability to address controversial topics and simultaneously provide enriching arts/culture programming. Oyewole believes this is attributed to greed and commercialism in the television industry. "It is a big commercial madhouse. They are so concerned about money as opposed to the wellbeing of human beings and we don't have anything that addresses humanity on this level," he says. "I would like to see another show like 'SOUL!' because we need something exclusively Black and powerful at this time."

One topic that the socially conscious Oyewole may address in his forthcoming new solo project is voter suppression. That issue and many others were discussed during the Apollo Theater and BET Networks' free community town hall forum, "Vote Like Your Life Depends On It." The event was held at the Apollo on September 17th and featured a panel including Rev. Al Sharpton who hopes that this initiative will motivate communities of color to vote in the November election. "As we continue pushing back against voter suppression, all of us can and will make sure that we make it to the polls in November no matter what our politics. Far too many sacrificed for us not to," he notes.

Sacrifices and unsung heroes were the focal point of the new art exhibition "Blackball: Illuminating Negro leagues Baseball." The exhibition which is on display at the Arts Horizons LeRoy Neiman Art Center is a joint partnership between the Harlem Historical Society, the Harlem Black Yankees, Friends of Colonel Young Park and Abyssinian Development Corporation. Through paintings, fiber art, sculpture, giclée prints and digital renderings the exhibition attempts to celebrate the remarkable strides made by those in Negro League baseball.

Lately, from Haizlip to "Blackball" history is unveiling profound and glorious tales.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

 

Singer, Vivian Green Forsakes Pop; The New York Film Festival to Screen A Chick Webb Documentary

 

photo credit: Jonathan Pusnick

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo

At some stage in the careers of arts professionals there is a point where they reach the crossroads of art and commerce. For singer-songwriter, Vivian Green that moment came following the lackluster response from fans of her previous album, "Beautiful." After receiving some backlash for it's more "pop" sound she is now returning with a decidedly more R&B/soul affair on the forthcoming release, "Green Room."

"I think ideally you want the audience to love whatever you do but that's not the reality," she notes. "The sound of 'Beautiful' was very pop and this album is not at all 'cause my fans do not like that. This one is very R&B and soulful."

Green adds that getting to that point involved learning to accept what her fans expect of her without comprising her creative freedom. "It took me a minute to get there 'cause creatively I feel like I should do whatever I want. I am an artist and not in a box. But I think there is a way to do it where I am satisfied and the audience is satisfied."

Engaging patrons of the arts was on the minds of several artists throughout Brooklyn for GO. The community-curated project features Brooklyn-based artists opening their studios to the community for a chance to see who garners enough nominations for inclusion in a group exhibition to open at the Brooklyn Museum on Target First Saturday, December 1, 2012. Those vying for an opportunity include Harlem Arts Alliance member Leon Nicholas Kalas, Grace Markman, Bahar Behbahani, Alberte Bernier and the fascinating work of Isabelle Garbani.

Exploring the outer limits of the subconscious is the goal of the exhibition, "Onirism," curated by Hugues Asdrubal. On display at the newest addition to the Harlem Arts Alliance, La Masion d'Art, the work features artists including Mira Gandy, Karen Fitzgerald, Gloria Adams and more. According to the press release the show is, "An examination of the creative process in painting and sculpture from the perspective of the artist and his/her subject matter as accessed through the subconscious rather than the conscious level."

Finally, the New York Film Festival has announced that the documentary, "The Savoy King: Chick Webb and the Music That Changed America," will be screened at the 50th Anniversary of the New York Film Festival. The film, co-executive produced by Voza Rivers (Chairman of the Harlem Arts Alliance) and Jamal Joseph presents the musical and social impact of Webb, who established one of the most celebrated jazz orchestras in America, whose home base was at Harlem's Savoy Ballroom. Plus he is credited with discovering and mentoring the legendary, Ella Fitzgerald. The documentary includes the voices of Bill Cosby, Janet Jackson, John Legend, Billy Crystal and more along with period footage, interviews with those who close to Webb and a focus on the power of art. To coincide with the film screenings are a series of events including a panel discussion at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture which you can learn about here.

Hopefully one of the panel topics will address the relationship between art and commerce all the way from Webb to Green.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.


Singer, Dwele Learns from His Mistakes; a New TV Network Launches

 

Photo Courtesy of eOne Music 

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo

Before taking that next leap forward in your personal life or career you may want to look back to learn from previous mistakes. For Soul singer, Dwele reflecting on his previous relationships helped him evolve not only as an artist but also as an individual. The results of his introspective journey can be heard on his latest album, Greater Than One.

"With this album, I discovered in looking back on relationships that I am human and made mistakes," he says. "I used to be very quiet and wouldn't talk or express myself a lot especially in relationships. I still do it but I've gotten better and don't hold things in as much as I used to. I am also more vocal when it comes to my career."

Dwele is also working on improving his work ethic. "With this album I went hard for three or four months. But I need to get back into the habit of still creating all the time so that I won't burn myself out when it is crunch time."

Harlem power couple Vivian Scott Chew (founder of TimeZone International) and Ray Chew (Musical Director for "American Idol") are hoping to inspire future singers and musicians with the launch of their foundation, Power to Inspire. The foundation aims to provide youth with the insight and knowledge of music appreciation and the music business and its many facets.

"We saw the void and need for someone to assist this next generation coming up," Vivian says. "There is that gray area of musicians who don't know how to be businessmen. It's about how to invest, buy equipment and get it insured and they need to know how to do it in an expanded kind of way."

The foundation isn't the only project that Vivian and Ray are managing. The two co-own Chew Entertainment, a premiere event production firm working with clients like Carnegie Hall, NAACP and the Apollo Theater. Vivian has one key tip for other entrepreneurs juggling multiple projects; remain centered even if it means putting down that smartphone.

"Your inspiration has to come when you sit down and listen. You have to be open," she advises. "What keeps us from not being open is all the technology. So by noon I disconnect to recharge so something new can happen."

Something fresh is on the horizon with the launch of the new television network, UBC-TV Network. The network is the vision of Harlem entrepreneur, Peggy Dodson. UBC-TV will produce original urban lifestyle content and will debut its signature programming this fall into over 50 million households. Among some of the highlights are "The UBC Mix Dance Show," longtime television veteran, Felipe Luciano's political and current events show, "A Different Perspective," and starting this December the first ever national broadcast deal for the American Basketball Association (ABA) games.

For Dodson the goal is to tap into the underserved urban multicultural market.

"This is 2012 and we are still in the dark ages and people of color are tired of it. We don't feel represented. People are looking for a more diversified programming grid. I don't identify as just a black network. We are urban lifestyle which is more multicultural and inclusive."

Dodson also aims to promote emerging talent, many of whom are also in Harlem. "We wanted to get fresh new faces for UBC because there is so much talent that never gets seen and never gets in the door. I want to change that with this network."

For visual artists seeking to change the odds of success in their favor, owner and director of Causey Contemporary gallery, Tracy Causey-Jeffery recommends gallery representation. "Gallery representation gives you more credibility with art world collectors and curators than going it alone." When seeking representation, Causey-Jeffery advises not to sign an exclusive agreement with your first option. "Ask them to help you find galleries in other cities or countries who would be willing to represent you as well. The more people in different places working on your team the better." Of course before entering any partnership an agreement in writing is essential and Causey-Jeffery notes that artists can find great samples here, here and here.

Now, there's a great way to start avoiding a few mistakes.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

 

Rain Pryor Challenges Race and Visual Artist, Willie Cole Reflects on Harlem

 

photo courtesy of RainPryor.com

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo

Sometimes all it takes is a title to pique one's interest and with one such as "Fried Chicken and Latkes," you're bound to ignite a few mind sparks. In this one-woman show by Rain Pryor (daughter of the legendary comedian and actor, Richard Pryor) the comedienne challenges the status quo of race relations by revealing her own personal struggles as a biracial woman. "I show the differences between the two halves: Jewish and Black and the comments people make when they don't think."

Pryor hopes that her show will create greater unity by challenging the very concept of race. "I try to bring us back to see that we are divided by culture and religion. We are not divided by race," she protests. "There is no such thing as race. We are the human race. We have this whole idea in our heads since slavery to look at each other like we are crazy and, it's like really?"

You might find yourself asking yourself "really" after viewing the latest exhibition by renowned visual artist, Willie Cole. In "El Pluribus Unum" at Grounds for Sculpture, Cole repurposes plastic water bottles to create a nine foot tall inverted pyramid chandelier and automobile sculptures. The works reference environmental, clean water and oil issues along with offering a critique on consumer culture. "I thought about those issues around water and plastic," says Cole. "So the car represents the fuel we burn and the water bottle represents the potential for cleanliness and clean air. That's what came to me in the process of making these pieces."

While plastic bottles may have inspired his latest exhibition, Cole also reflected on a general source of inspiration: Harlem. During our conversation, Cole noted how Harlem helped propel him forward in the art world as an artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem and through his work with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and The National Black Theatre. "Harlem for me was the door because I had been in Newark making great art and not getting attention in New York City," he says. "When I walked the streets of Harlem it made me feel important like I was stepping in some great footsteps. I met all the Black artists I had read about and it fueled me to pursue my dream as an artist."

A few Harlem arts and culture notables participated in the African Film Festival, Inc. annual, "Family Day Celebration," on Governors Island. The family friendly event included including storytelling by Malika Leigh Whitney, double-roped fun and fitness led by The Double Dutch Dreamz and needle arts with Michelle Bishop of Harlem Needle Arts. These activities were only a portion of the day's offerings of free African short films, African dance classes and affordable African cuisine.

Speaking of reasonable prices, the latest exhibition, "SMALL," at Art in Flux Harlem aims to make art affordable. Curated by Daniel Pizarro the exhibition features modestly sized artworks by 18 artists with the intent to appeal to those with limited wall space and limited budgets. According to Pizarro, "The notion of access was very much in our minds when we were putting this exhibit together. We felt it would be an opportunity to offer moderately priced small artworks that could be attainable to a wider audience of art enthusiasts." Indeed Pizarro's concept is but one of many examples of artists and galleries seeking alternative ways to build a larger audience for art.

With a similar goal of cultivating a wider market for artists is, "eMerge: Danny Simmons & Artists on the Cusp," which will hold its closing reception on Thursday September 6th from 6-8pm at Strivers Gardens Gallery.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

Melvin Van Peebles Turns 80 and HARLEMWEEK Attracts Crowds

 

circa 1990 courtesy photofest

Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo

If you're in the arts and thinking of calling yourself a renaissance man or woman you should review the career of Melvin Van Peebles. Although his classic 1971 film, "Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss," has made him an icon there is a plethora of accomplishments he has including being an Air Force pilot, novelist, painter, sculptor, pioneer rapper, Tony-nominated playwright and more. If you ask Van Peebles how long it's taken him to do these things he might jokingly say 39 years. The truth is it's been an amazing 80 year-long journey, which he celebrated on his birthday "baasssssh" this past Tuesday at Film Forum. Just prior to the occasion, Van Peebles shared that he hopes his legacy will instill confidence in others to pursue their dreams-even if it includes several different ones.

"People think if he can do it I can and that's the most positive thing to happen," he says. "I feel so good that I've been emulated for our folks. All I wanted to do was show that we could and I did the best that I could."

One individual that has heeded Van Peebles' message is Caktuz, with a renaissance man's resume that covers everything from recording artist to illustrator to web series producer to marketing professional. Caktuz even worked with Van Peebles as he illustrated the graphic novel adaptation of Van Peebles' film "Confessions of a Ex-Doofus-Itchyfooted Mutha." Caktuz notes that balancing various roles is a challenge but that understanding how to market oneself can make a difference. "Most artists have a hard time trying to juggle that balance," he says. "You have to find a way for your fans to respect you for those extra branches on the tree. So I am always aware of where the lines between marketing ploys and true art are drawn."

There was nothing but real art, culture and excitement during this year's HARLEMWEEK "Summer in the City" and "Harlem Day" weekend events. Over 60,000 attendees filled the streets of Harlem and enjoyed outdoor live music, regional dance events, college "Step Show" competitions and an outdoor film festival by ImageNation. There were exhibitors and vendors aplenty providing delicious foods, creative arts & crafts, clothing and much more.

While the adults enjoyed the weekend's festivities such as the "Unveiled/Unlocked" fashion show to celebrate bare or partially bare head females and a "Peace in Our Community Conference," the youth had their NYC "Children's Festival." Over 10,000 children between the ages 5 to 12 years of age and family members were treated to a host of entrainment and community enrichment. Highlights included Ms. B The Doodle Queen's fun and interactive visual arts workshop "Doodles to DaBeat," Malika Lee Whitney's Pickney Productions & The Double Dutch Dreamz; and the CULTURE CRASHERS. The latter featured all three members wowing the crowd with Georgie Exinord and Aliou Abdussami delivering powerful poems and virtuoso Solomon Hicks singing and playing the guitar. It was the perfect ending of a long weekend for the CULTURE CRASHERS after also performing at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA) "KIDFlix Film Fest of Bed-Stuy."

Finally, the Apollo Theater recently announced the first show of the 2012-13 season, "Ask Your Mama," set for March 23, 2012. As stated on their website, this multi-media work brings to life Langston Hughes' epic poem "Ask Your Mama: 12 Moods for Jazz" with music spanning from Africa to the Americas, the South to the North, opera to jazz, gospel to be-bop. The show is a collaboration between GRAMMY Award-winning soprano Jessye Norman and EMMY® Award-winning composer Laura Karpman featuring jazz vocalist Nnenna Freelon along with Questlove and Black Thought of The Roots. Norman exclusively shared with us her enthusiasm for the project.

"'Ask Your Mama' is a quintessential 21st century celebration of a true American art form: jazz," she says. "The words of Langston Hughes, so full of devotion to the music makers whose work he cherished, are given wings to fly through the stunning musical gifts of Laura Karpman. We are all simply thrilled to be a part of this marvelous presentation."

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the "A" w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.

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