Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Nelson Mandela - May Your Legacy Live On

            Nelson Mandela

July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013 

Few things make the life of a parent more rewarding and sweet as successful children. -- 
Letter to Amina Cachalia, written on Robben Island, March 3, 1981

Monday, November 4, 2013

Be Inspired: African American Shadow Puppet Project

Is storytelling a lost art ?  If you ask most young people today to recount a folktale or proverb, they will probably give you a quizzical look. Yet folktales and proverbs have always been important educational tools in African American culture.  Thanks to a minigrant from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, young students in Tennesse are reviving the art of storytelling.  The sixth through eighth graders at The Geeter Middle School in Memphis, Tennesse adapted African and African-American folktales into shadow plays and performed them with puppets and sets they created themselves.  I love the way they are bringing together African American music and  art in the video. I hope their project will inspire teachers, parents and other young people to find stories, and create their own projects.

Ezra Jack Keats Foundation explained why this project received a minigrant from the foundation. "This program wove many strands of culture, history, language and visual arts, culminating in filmed live performances. Sixth- to eighth-graders studied the African storytelling tradition and learned to do a literary analysis of folktales in order to adapt them into plays. Then they made shadow puppets for their characters and produced and performed their plays, first as part of the Black History program and again for the community. A project this multidimensional takes vision on the part of well-organized, knowledgeable and dedicated educators."

For more information on minigrants to public libraries and public schools, visit The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Cocoa Kids Read

It's nice to find kid friendly websites for African American like Cocoa Kids Read. According to their description, "Cocoa Kids Read is a fun, free way to read, write and learn more about your African-American heritage. Here, you can find great books to read, learn more about famous (and not-so-famous) African-Americans, submit your poetry and writings to earn points for prizes, and play games!" Also visit their sister website Brown Baby Reads for information on reading with your child and a listing of books for African American children.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Watsons Go To Birmingham

On Saturday, September 20 at 8/7c the Hallmark Channel will present the premier of The Watsons Go To Birmingham.  The story is taken from the novel, The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis. The film and the book provide an opportunity for families to share and discuss the sixties, a pivotal season in the lives of African Americans. This is the story of a family's journey through the south during a volatile time, and the lessons they learned.

"In the Summer of 1963, Flint, Michigan is home to the Watsons, a close knit family made up of Daniel and Wilona Watson, (Wood Harris and Anika Noni Rose) and their three kids, 15-year-old juvenile delinquent Byron (Harrison Knight), nerdy 11-year-old Kenny (Bryce Clyde Jenkins) and eight-year-old adorable sister Joetta (Skai Jackson). When Byron’s antics go over the top, his parents realize enough is enough and they decide the family needs a dose of Grandma Sands' (LaTanya Richardson Jackson) no nonsense approach in Birmingham, Alabama.

So the Watsons load up their 1948 Plymouth Brown Bomber outfitted with a true tone Ultra-Glide turntable and head South with plenty of comedy en route. When they finally make it to Birmingham, they meet Grandma Sands and her friend, Mr. Robert (David Alan Grier), who show them around town and the Watsons discover that life is very different there than in Flint – and not necessarily for the better. During that historic summer, the Watsons find themselves caught up in something far bigger than Byron’s antics; something that will change their lives and country forever."

Friday, August 30, 2013

March On: Remembering the March on Washington 50 Years Later

This year will be noted for its' historic landmark moments in the struggle for freedom by African Americans. The year began with the 150th Anniversary of the signing of The Emancipation Proclamation. This week we celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington and Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.  Young people today are a few generations away from these historic events yet those who came before them have a message to give them.  The Civil Rights Movement was fueled by young people who had courage, tenacity and determination. The story of their struggle for human rights and dignity needs to be told to young people today. They had a vision and a dream that went beyond their own personal aspirations.  Today they send a message that although the battlefield might seem different, the struggle continues. Now the torch will be passed to another generation. And I am praying that they will bring a new vision and dream to our nation.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Doc McStuffins Mobile is Coming to Town!

Disney Jr is hitting the road with the Doc Mobile, a free family event focused on healthy living and well being.   Little ones can bring in their toys for a checkup and learn the ABCs of good health.  As an added treat they can meet members of  The Artemis Medical Society, real live physicians and women of color who will participate in this event.  The Artemis Society was formed by twelve physicians who saw the Doc McStuffins television series as a reflection of themselves and a positive role model for young children. Since then their organization has grown to almost 3,000 women of color representing 39 states. Now part of their aim is to inspire young people to pursue careers in medicine.

As Dr. Myiesha Taylor, Artemis Medical Society co-founder and president explains “As a physician and mother, I’m grateful to Disney Junior for creating meaningful programming,  We credit Doc McStuffins with sparking a movement, now we are organized for a greater purpose and vision.  Artemis is setting the ground work for a more diverse physician workforce.  We want people to know Doc can be on the small or big screen, and she can also be in your communities.”

Catch them in San Antonio, Dallas, New Orleans, Atlanta, Washington, Phoenex and Los Angeles for a complete schedule  visit their website.

The television series, Doc McStuffins has been renewed for a second season starting in September.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Michelle Obama Inspires Hip Hop CD for Healthy Kids

Michelle Obama (Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images)

First Lady Michelle Obama’s "Let's Move" Campaign has inspired Partnership for a Healthier America and the Hip Hop Public Health Foundation to produce the album, “Songs for a Healthier America,” The Album features hip-hop vets including Ashanti, DMC and Arti Green with 19 songs encouraging young people to adopt a healthy lifestyle.

The album’s tracks include titles like  “We Like Vegetables,” “U R What You Eat” and “Veggie Luv.”  The first single, “Everybody,” featuring Jordin Sparks, Doug E. Fresh and Dr. Oz, has already been released. As promised, the first lady does make an appearance. She briefly talks about the campaign’s beginnings and why the program has been successful. Find out the facts.

Michelle Obama launched the Lets Move! campaign in 2010.  As she noted on her website, "In the end, as first lady, this isn’t just a policy issue for me. This is a passion. This is my mission. I am determined to work with folks across this country to change the way a generation of kids thinks about food and nutrition."

FLOTUS's new partners share her passion.  “Music is so universal, it’s so powerful, that as an educator I’m always amazed of why it’s not being used more ubiquitously within public health,” Dr. Olajide Williams, founder of Hip Hop Public Health and associate professor of clinical neurology at Columbia University Medical Center, told MSNBC.

Music, he added, has greater representation in the brain than language. It not only enhances memory, but also creates an emotional connection with the themes being delivered.

Everyone can hear the entire album on Sept. 30 via free download on the Partnership for a Healthier America’s website. All this to promote Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Arthur Ashe Kids' Day

                          Mindless Behavior performs at Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day. - Philip Hall/USTA

This Saturday Michelle Obama will be attending Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day along with a host of other celeberities including Serena Williams.  Arthur Ashe Kids Day is the largest single-day, grassroots tennis and entertainment event in the world, with chart-topping performers, celebrities and some of the best tennis players in the game coming together to celebrate the life and values of tennis legend and humanitarian Arthur Ashe. The event takes place the Saturday before the US Open.

Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day features a ticketed Stadium Show and concert inside Arthur Ashe Stadium preceded by a free Grounds Festival on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Ethnic Edibles

Heather McCartney is the designer and founder of Ethnic Edibles®, the
Africa-inspired cookie cutter set, and Coquí Cookies™, the Puerto Rico-inspired cookie cutter set. Her captivation with the decorative and tribal arts of African culture, and the indigenous history of the Taíno led to her desire to replicate them and share them in a fun and educational way.  Heather made her first journey to Africa in 1997.  It was in South Africa that she learned more about the tribal arts of the Ndebele and Zulu nations.  Eager to share her enthusiasm with others, she baked a batch of gingerbread cookies with facial scarifications based upon the many masks and dolls she admired. The unique cultural cookies captured the attention of families, educators, bakers and retailers, and they were soon in demand. This interest propelled her to learn more about traditional symbols of African culture and soon after Ethnic Edibles was born!  To get a set of the cookie cutters visit her website.

A Snowy Day in August: Keats Family Day

This summer the National Museum of American Jewish History at 101 South Independence Mall East Philadelphia, PA19106, phone number (215) 923-3811 is hosting a special exhibition, The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats. 

The story of Peter in The Snowy Day  has been enjoyed  by generations of young people.  The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats is the first major exhibition in this country to pay tribute to award-winning author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats (1916–1983), whose beloved children’s books include Whistle for Willie, Peter’s Chair, and The Snowy Day. The exhibition invites visitors to discover over 80 original works by this groundbreaking American Jewish artist, the first to feature an African-American protagonist in a modern full-color picture book. With works ranging from preliminary sketches to final paintings and collages, the exhibition also offers a reading area for visitors of all ages, drawn from Keats's art and stories.    Celebrate Grandparents Day on September 8.

The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats is organized by The Jewish Museum, New York, from the collection of the de Grummond Children's Literature Collection, The University of Southern Mississippi.  The exhibition was funded at The Jewish Museum through a generous grant from the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.  Additional support was provided by the Joseph Alexander Foundation, the Alfred J. Grunebaum Memorial Fund, and the Winnick Family Foundation.

Friday, April 19, 2013

ARTs has arrived in East New York

New York is a cultural haven for all things artistic but there are still certain areas of the city that are  cultural deserts. In Brooklyn, East New York was one of those areas until Catherine A. Green, Executive Director and founder of ARTs East New York took on the task of opening a cultural center for the children and families in the neighborhood. The center includes an art gallery, and classes in dance and music for children. ARTs East New York is located at 851 Hegeman Avenue and Cleveland St., Brooklyn, NY.  Visit their site at http://artseastny.org/.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Goldilocks Revisited Caribbean Style

April is Poetry Month so it is time to celebrate the poetry in all of us. John Agard is a poet of wit and humor. He has recently been awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry for 2012 in the United Kingdom. The British Poet Laureate Carol Ann  Duffy says:

"John Agard has always made people sit up and listen. He has done this with intelligence, humour and generosity. He has the ability to temper anger with wit and difficult truths with kindness. He levels the ground beneath all our feet, whether he is presenting Dante to children or introducing his own (Guyanan) culture to someone who hasn’t encountered it before. In performance he is electrifying – compelling, funny, moving and thought-provoking. His work in Education over years has changed the way that readers, writers and teachers think about poetry."

Here he recites from his recent book, Golilocks on CCTV . Enjoy!

For more Info visit Paper Tigers and the Caribbean Poetry Project.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Anansi Storytelling with Charlotte Blake Alston

Has your child been introduced to Anansi and traditional storytelling?  We are bombarded so much today from media that I think few children are aware of characters like Anansi or Bre'er Rabbit. Master  storytellers like Charlotte Blake Alston are keeping these stories alive by performing at children's program at Lincoln Center, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Carnegie Hall and various venues in Philadelphia.  You can catch her this weekend at  Carnegie Hall on March 2  and Brooklyn Academy of Music on March 3.  See her schedule.

She also collaborated on The Children's March, a choral work commemorating the 50th observance of the children's march in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. Over 1,000 school-age children were jailed for marching on behalf of freedom. The work was commissioned by Singing City Choir and will premiere at the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) on Friday, April 26, 2013.

If you can't catch her live performance, you can buy some of her stories online at her store.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The UniverSoul Circus Comes to a Town Near You

UniverSoul Circus has started their new season for 2013 with an international array of acts.  They will be traveling through North Carolina, Atlanta. Florida, California,  New Orleans, Virginia, and New York.  Check out their schedule for this season.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Building on Our Legacy

For those of us who celebrate our African American history this year started off quite remarkably with some historic landmarks.

First there was the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.  The Emancipation Proclamation is not just President Lincoln's story but the story of all those who spoke out against the evils of slavery...abolitionist, freemen, run away slaves, Black churches and everyone who risked their lives to dismantle slavery.  This year I learnt about the Watch Night Service which was first celebrated on Dec 31, 1862.

"At the stroke of midnight, it was January 1, 1863; all slaves in the Confederate States were declared legally free.  When the news was received, there were prayers, shouts and songs of joy as many people fell to their knees and thanked God."   For more information visit African American Registry and  NPR. January 1 was also a symbolic day for those enslaved because the new year was also the day when slave owners would pay their debts which meant that families members could be sold away from each other read CantonRep.com.  So I can only imagine what our ancestors were thinking and feeling on that historic day.

This year is also the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King's speech, I Have a Dream.  This speech was delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. Today it is considered one of the landmark speeches of the 20th century.  There will be programs throughout the year celebrating this historic event.  I love the fact that Martin Luther King's birthday has been made into a day of service. Share his speech and his dream with your children so that they can hear his prophetic words. 

In January, we celebrated another milestone the second inauguration of Barack Obama, the first African American president.  He started out as a community organizer, and his election was the result of getting people involved in politics on a community level, reminding everyone yes, we can.

As we check the milestones of our history this month we can see that we have participated in the struggle for freedom and justice from the early abolition movement through the civil rights movement until today.  African American History can not be celebrated in a day or a month but February does remind us that when we come  together we can do great things.

Special Discounts to Celebrate African American History

To celebrate African American History, Hue Man Bookstore and Black Ancestry are offering discounts for their products.

Hue Man Bookstore is offering a discount on the Ethidolls, Makeda®, The Queen of Sheba and Kumasi, Queen Mother Yaa Asantewaa through March.  The dolls are collectors items representing the Queens of Africa. They come with a book and audio tape which tell their story. A wonderful keepsake for the little princess in your life.  For more information visit http://www.huemanbookstore.com/ethidolls.

African Ancestry.com is offering a 25% discount for their Ancestry Test Kits this month to find out where your roots are in Africa.  Give a gift to a family member.  Get your kits at http://ow.ly/hHyDM

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Quvenzhane´ Wallis is a Multi-talented Actress and Now Fashionista

Quvenzhane´ Wallis’ star looks bright tonight whether she wins the Oscar nomination for her role in “Beast of the Southern Wild” or not. She will still be the youngest actress ever to receive a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. Wallis was just five years old when she was cast as Hushpuppy fighting for survival in a flooding bayou town in her breakout role in “Beast of the Southern Wild”

She is now also one of the youngest fashionistas with fashion designers like Stella McCartney, Giorgio Armani, Ralph Lauren, and David Meister vying for her attention. In her interview with Andre´ Leon Talley she seems relaxed about all the attention she is getting. However, Quvenzhane (kwuh-VEHN’-juh-nay) must be doubly excited today since Sony Pictures just announced that she will play Annie in a contemporized adaptation of the Broadway musical and the “Little Orphan Annie” comic strip. “Annie” is planned for release during the 2014 holiday season. Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith and Jay-Z are among the producers. The coveted title role of Little Orphan Annie will be an opportunity for her to showcase her talent in acting, singing, and dancing. She's also an animal lover, which will help in working with the canine cast as Annie's beloved pooch, Sandy.

As for her fashion preferences she likes dresses that twirl and her signature dog purses.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Goggle Science Fair 2013 has launched!

Google Science Fair 2013 – It’s Your Turn to Change the World

Calling all parents and teachers here is info for the budding scientists in your life from
Google. Watch the video and be inspired.

The Google Science Fair 2013 has launched!

We are pleased to announce that the Google Science Fair 2013 in partnership with CERN, The LEGO Group, National Geographic and Scientific American, is now LIVE!
Students aged 13 - 18 from around the world are invited to ask questions and answer them through science experiments with a chance to win once-in-a-lifetime experiences, scholarships and real-life work opportunities.

This year we are accepting entries in English, German, Italian, Spanish, French, Arabic, Hebrew, Polish, Japanese, Russian, Portuguese (BR), Korean, or Chinese (Hong Kong or Taiwan). Note that some additional eligibility requirements may apply in your country; check the Official Rules for details.

Go to googlesciencefair.com to find out more information, and follow us on Google+, Facebook and Twitter to stay up-to-date.

Register now or tell your kids about it...
It's your turn to change the world

The Google Science Fair Team

Friday, February 1, 2013

Langston Hughes

Today is the birthday anniversary of James Mercer Langston Hughes (February 1, 1902 – May 22, 1967).  Langston Hughes as he was called was an African American icon of the twentieth century. He is also one of my favorite poets and writers. He wore many hats as an American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist. Hughes is best known for his work during the Harlem Renaissance.  He was one of the earliest innovators of the then-new literary art form jazz poetry. "

I interviewed him when I was in high school, and he asked to see some of my writings. We met at the Schomburg Library and he took time to read and encourage my work. He told me I was  a writer and he would love to work with me. I was very curious and impressed by his generous spirit since I had not thought of myself as a writer. We stayed in contact for only a short while because he passed away in my first year in college.  I am so grateful for that short encounter with this munificent icon.

Recently I learned that "his ashes are interred beneath a floor medallion in the middle of the foyer in the Arthur Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. It is the entrance to an auditorium named for him. The design on the floor is an African cosmogram titled Rivers. The title is taken from his poem, "The Negro Speaks of Rivers". Within the center of the cosmogram is the line: My soul has grown deep like the rivers'."

Maple Sugar Child takes its' name and inspiration from his poem, Winter Sweetness.

                                          Winter Sweetness

                                      The little house is sugar, 
                                      Its roof with snow is piled.
                                      And from its tiny window,
                                      Peeps a maple-sugar child.