Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Merry Christmas and Happy Kwanzaa!

If you are spending the holidays in New York there are some wonderful events to help us celebrate the our achievement this year. So be inspired and enjoy.

Misty Copeland,  principle ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre has faced many obstacles since  starting her dance career at the late age  of thirteen. As a young girl living with a single mother and sometimes being homeless she found her calling in dance.  She is now performing in the holiday favorite, The Nutcracker.  Misty exemplifies the spirit of  Kujichagulia (koo-jee-chah-goo-LEE-ah)  - Self-Determination.  Kujichagulia means  to be responsible for ourselves and to create your own destiny. Find her story in her memoir, Life in Motion, My Story of Adversity and Grace, an unlikely ballerina.

Catch Kiki Palmer and Nene Leakes performing on Broadway in Rodgers and Hamerstein's   Cinderella. Kiki Palmer plays Cinderella and Nene Leakes plays the Wicked Queen at  Broadway Theatre - 1641 Broadway at 53 rd St.

                                          Jazzed! The Changing Beat of 125th Street

Young people get jazzed at The Children’s Museum of Manhattan! Find your own beat as you tap, snap, clap and stomp your way through. Live music, hands-on art workshops and an immersive environment celebrates the rich history and lasting legacy of jazz in America. This interactive exhibition and program series features rarely seen images, archival footage, and original jazz artifacts. Visit the Children's Museum of Manhattan - The Tisch Building, 212 West 83rd Street, New York, NY 10024. Call 212-721-1223. Catch the exhibit before it closes on December 31, 2014. 

                                       Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art

Many of us remember when the only few positive images of African American people came from the pages of Ebony and Jet. Now a younger generation can discover the history and social role these publications played in African American lives. Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art explores the ways contemporary artists use Ebony as a resource and as inspiration in their practices.  The first exhibition devoted to this topic, Speaking of People features over thirty works by a multi-generational, interdisciplinary group of sixteen artists.  The Studio Museum in Harlem is located in Manhattan at 144 West 125th Street between Lenox Avenue (Malcolm X Boulevard) and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard (7th Avenue).

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Celebrate Native American History Month

People from all over the world flock to America looking for democracy, and make it their home.  However, we don't often acknowledge the gifts of the original inhabitants of this great land. In November we  celebrate, Native American History Month.  This story about their influence on the constitution, adds a new dimension to the history book.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Sesame Street: Lupita Nyong'o Loves Her Skin

Rising star Lupita Nyong'o takes the stage on Sesame Street to talk about skin. She explains how everyone has skin and how important this is, then she and Elmo decide that they love their skin. Thank you again Lupita and Sesame Street for bringing up an old topic that still needs to be discussed.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I Am Here: Girls Reclaiming Safe Spaces

Skylight Gallery at the Bedford Stuyvesant Restoration Plaza - Fulton Street between Marcy and Brooklyn Avenues in Brooklyn, New York will host an important exhibit on young girls starting on October 25, 2014.

I AM HERE: Girls Reclaiming Safe Spaces is an exhibition of photographs and words curated by renown photographer Delphine Fawundu and writer Ibi Zoboi. This exhibit features Delphine Fawundu's images portray girls of color around the world within their own unique safe spaces. Quotes from successful women of color will reflect on memories of a time when they were truly safe in their own skins, homes, and neighborhoods.

Within this context, "Safe Space" is defined as settings where girls of color are validated and affirmed and images portray positive reinforcements of happiness and security. The pure essense of these very candid slice-of-life images counter the often prevailing negative stereotypes of girls of color around the world as the sole victims of violence, sexual abuse, human trafficking etc. This exhibition and its supporting programs will explore the unending need to uplift the images of girls of color in order to reclaim the safe spaces of self, home, school, community, nation, and ultimately, the world. Photographs will be on display from October 25, 2014 to December 19, 2014.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

ABC Me Responses To Ferguson's Outrage With a Positive Message for Children

In the wake of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the  community's outrage, the creators of ABC Me Flashcards,  California teachers Leilani Brooks and Stevi Meredith have responded by sending over two dozen sets of cards to the Ferguson Municipal Public Library and local schools in the area.

 The company was created  to uplift young children of color with educational tools. As Leilani Brooks describes the birth of the company in a Facebook interview, " "It was the night of the Trayvon Martin verdict. I was sick to my stomach and could hear the sounds of protesters gathered at the bottom of the hill from my bedroom window. I thought of how the imagery of young black men contributed to this murder. I wondered how as a mother of a black son I was to teach him of the complexities and injustice of this world and yet preserve his innocence. But then I thought to teach him the opposite. Not the ways of this world but the possibilities afforded to him by those who paved the way before him. I was to teach him that great things are expected of him. Not that the odds are stacked against a brother, but rather hand him a stack of proven successes 26 to be exact from A-Z. Because we have to do better." The flashcards she created have inspiring messages for young children on African American history.

She further explained in an Huffington Post article, " Children have plenty of time in which to find out how ugly this world can be. We only have a small window to build them up and inspire them
“The biggest challenge facing black children to day is the media. We cannot afford to allow our children to derive their self image from the images the dominant culture chooses to share… We must build our children up, empower them with their history, and inspire them to be great.”  “The biggest challenge facing black children to day is the media. We cannot afford to allow our children to derive their self image from the images the dominant culture chooses to share… We must build our children up, empower them with their history, and inspire them to be great.  It's important to educate our children about their past rich with people who did not see lack of opportunity as a reason to give up," Brooks said. "ABC Me Flashcards inspire and empower children to build on their past as they set goals for the future.”
 Visit the ABC Me website for more information about the flashcards, or follow Brooks and Meredith on Facebook and Twitter.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

No One Should Have to Teach Their Children This in the USA

America has been infected with racism for over 400 years. The problems created by this affliction just won't go away. This summer has been very volatile for African American men. Now some of them have become household names. Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and John Crawford are now added to the names of Trayvon Martin, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell and countless others of unarmed young men who have lost their lives.

Yet many in our nation are in total denial as St. Louis children's book illustrator and artist,  Mary Engelbreit found out when she created her poster for the Michael Brown Jr Memorial Fund, and was met with a negative response. She was inspired by watching the news coverage of Michael Brown's death. “I was just appalled and heartbroken,” she said. “The thing that drove me to draw was seeing his mother and her face was devastating. She was trying to get to him while he was lying on the street and of course they couldn’t let her near him. I started crying. And I started drawing.”
  “[T]hese events unfolding now in my hometown and across the country, shining a light on the ugly racism that still runs rampant in our country, made me think that maybe this drawing could help in some small way,” she wrote on her Facebook. This drawing stood in contrast to the cute apple cheeked children that are her hallmark.  When she posted her drawing on her Facebook, Engelbreit received a lot of support from her fans but also received more than her share of hate mail. However, the hate filled and offensive remarks did not discourage her.
She is now selling prints of her drawing, with proceeds from the sales going to the Michael Brown Jr. Memorial Fund that was established by Straub’s.  Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, works at Straub’s. Visit Mary Engelbreit's website to support the foundation.


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Summer Style!

 There is nothing like African and Indian designed clothing to bring out the colors of summer. I especially love to see the beautiful colors in children's clothing that just shout welcome summer!

Masala Baby -   is inspired by Indian roots: delicious curries, authentic spices, Bollywood movies, celebratory marigold flowers, traditional Indian roses, pink stone architectural details, and the colors of the chaotic bazaars all blending together to create a unique palette. The use of color in India in brightly painted streets, palace mosaics, the vivid hues of the women's sarees, the variety of spices used in Indian cooking and the exuberance of the Indian festivals, the love of color celebrated in every facet of Indian daily life. India's textile tradition is a kaleidoscope of colors and cultures. This inspiration has given birth to Masala Baby's numerous unique collections.

Grace + Ellie - brings African art and culture to modern children's fashion. The brand combines African culture and classic designs to create collections that are unique, colorful, fun, and beautifully distinctive.

Global Mamas- is A Fair Trade Organization benefiting the women of Ghana. Women create clothing and crafts for an international market. “Fair trade” means that an equitable partnership exists between producers of goods in developing countries and retailers in developed countries.

Lemlem - Supermodel / actress Liya Kebede started Lemlem, which means to flourish or bloom in Amharic, as a way to preserve the ancient art of Ethiopian weaving.

 Chakra Design Studio - Based in Dallas, TX, CHAKRA for children offers modern eco-friendly clothing, accessories, and gifts for kids and babies inspired by ancient Indian printing techniques and hand sewn from vegetable-dyed, hand block printed 100% cotton fabrics. With the launch of Chakra Design Studio, its founders find balance in blending the traditional with the modern.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Michelle Obama Inspires With her Commencement Address at Dillard University

Michelle Obama's Commencement Address at Dillard University on May 10, 2014 was so inspiring I want to share excerpts with you. Sometimes we forget to impart the stories of determination and sacrifices made by past generations to our children. Here she shares the stories that young people need to hear, and gives encouragement to the next generation.

"And I know that some of you may come from tough neighborhoods; some of you may have lost your homes during Katrina. Maybe you're like DeShawn Dabney, a graduate who was raised by his grandmother -- maybe -- that's your grandmother, isn't it, DeShawn? (Laughter.) Raised by his grandmother while some of his family members were dealing with issues. Maybe just like him, you've been working part-time jobs since you were a teenager to make your dream of going to college come true. And now, today, you're all here ready to walk across this stage and get that diploma.

And no matter what path you took to get here, you all kept your hearts set on this day. You fought through every challenge you encountered, and you earned that degree from this fine university. And in doing so, you are following in the footsteps of all those who came before you, and you have become an indelible part of the history of this school -- a history that, as you all know, stretches back to well before the Civil War, back to 1826, the year a child named Emperor Williams was born.

Now, Emperor was born into slavery. But as he grew up, he managed to teach himself to read and write well enough to create a pass that allowed him to come and go around the city without getting hassled. But one day, his master saw the pass and he said, where did you learn to write like that? Now, just imagine the fear Emperor must have felt when he heard that question -- because remember, back then it was illegal for a slave to learn to read or write. So who knows what kind of punishment he may have gotten -- a beating, a whipping, even worse.

We don't exactly know what happened on that day, but we do know that when Emperor turned 32, after more than three decades in bondage, he became a free man. He decided to stay in New Orleans, and he went on to become a minister -- even founded a church right here in town. And in 1869, when abolitionists, missionaries, black folks and white folks came together to create a school for freed slaves here in New Orleans, Emperor was one of the original signers of the charter. They decided to name the school New Orleans University, because even though most of the classes would be taught at a high school level or below, oh, their aspirations were much higher than that. And when they laid the cornerstone for that university's first building down on St. Charles Avenue, Emperor got a chance to speak.

He said -- and these are his words -- he said, “For twenty years I was a slave on these streets. It was a penitentiary offense to educate a Negro. I have seen my fellow-servants whipped for trying to learn; but today here I am [am I], speaking where a building is to be erected for the education of the children of my people.” He goes on to say, “I wonder if this is the world I was born in.”

See, in the course of his short lifetime, Emperor saw education go from being a crime for black folks to being a real possibility for his kids and grandkids. So no wonder he was asking whether this was the same world he'd been born into. See, for a man like Emperor, getting an education could open up a whole new world of opportunity. An education meant having real power. It meant you could manage your own money. It meant you couldn't get swindled out of land or possessions when somebody told you to just sign on the dotted line; sometimes even determined whether or not you could vote.

So most folks back then saw education as the key to real and lasting freedom. That's why, when New Orleans University and the other African American college in town, Straight University, first opened their doors, one of the biggest problems they faced was too many students. That's right -- too many students. Many of these students barely spoke English; they'd grown up speaking Creole or French. Few had ever seen the inside of a classroom or even been taught their ABCs.

But let me tell you, those students were hungry -- you hear me? Hungry. They studied like their lives depended on it. They blazed through their lessons. And that hunger for education lasted for generations in the African American community here in New Orleans.

When an arsonist set fire to the school's library in 1877, they built a new one. When those two original schools ran into financial troubles years later, they started making plans to build an even bigger and better university. And in the 1930s, when white folks complained that this new school would mean too many black students on their buses, the folks at the school got the city to add a bus line just for their students, because nothing -- nothing -- was going to stop them from achieving the vision of those early founders.

Because we know that today, education is still the key to real and lasting freedom -- it is still true today. So it is now up to us to cultivate that hunger for education in our own lives and in those around us. And we know that hunger is still out there -- we know it.
Those are the kind of big dreams that folks who founded this university reached for. That is how high they set their bar.

And so we owe it to those folks -- the folks who had the audacity to call their little schools “universities” and name their baby boys “Emperor” -- we owe it to them to reach as high as they did, and to bring others along the way. As the history of this school has taught us, no dream is too big, no vision is too bold; as long as we stay hungry for education and let that hunger be our North Star, there is nothing, graduates, nothing that we cannot achieve."

To read the whole address visit the White House website.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Three Year Old Heaven Dances to Happy

Little Heaven has been blessed with lots of talent and energy, and it's wonderful to see it being nurtured by her mother. Seeing them dance together is pure joy! She could be a poster child for Michelle Obama's "Let's Move" program.

See her dance to Beyonce.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Welcome Spring With African Prints From Isossy

On Sunday morning, the African families around my mother's building complex gather to go to church. I love to see the young children dressed up in their beautiful African prints. I also remember how special it was as a child to dress up on Sundays, especially Easter, and head out to church. That was our time to renew our spirit, our family and our community.  

Seeing the colorful African prints in Isossy's children's clothing line reminds me that it is time to welcome in a new season. Easter is around the corner and hopefully, spring will be here sooner than later. Isossy is a UK based clothing line for young children using contemporary style inspired by African design. They are a global company offering a diverse selection online.

Visit their site to see their collection  www.isossychildren.com/

Monday, March 10, 2014

Coming this Christmas ! Quvenzhané Wallis in Annie Remake

Annie, the comic book character comes alive again in a new remake this Christmas. Little Orphan Annie started out on the pages of the Daily News on August 5, 1924. Now after ninety years, her story is being retold for a new generation on the big screen starring Quvenzhan√© Wallis as Annie, Jamie Fox as Benjamin Stacks, a billionaire want to be mayor (the new generation Daddy Warbucks)  and Cameron Diaz as Miss Hanigan. Annie appeared just before the depression, a bleak time in American history and captivated the heart of millions with her cheerful optimism. From the trailer this version produced by Jay Z and Will Smith looks like a fun ride. You just know everything is going to work out fine when Annie hits the lights. Right about now I could use an upbeat story and some fantastic music.  But alas, we will have to wait for Christmas Day to get more than a peek.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Lupita Nyong'o' Congratulations!

Thank you, Lupita for being an inspiration for young girls everywhere, and for addressing an issue that just won't go away. Hopefully,  a new generation will be able to celebrate the rainbow colors that we are.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Janelle Monae Aims To Inspire Children on This Sesame Street Episode

Janelle Monae will bring her energetic, quirky style and positive message to Sesame Street during the show's 45th season this September. The young musician has just been selected to Forbes Magazine's "30 under 30" musicians list.  She will perform the show’s empowerment anthem, “The Power of Yet.” 

"I am so excited to be living one of my dreams, to be here on ‘Sesame Street,”’ she explains.  Her message,  “I'm here because I am teaching everybody on Sesame Street the importance and the power of 'yet'. Never, ever, ever give up because there's so much power in 'yet'."

Catch a preview of the episode above.