Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish, returns to the stage to perform in Alvin Ailey's "Revelations

The voice on the phone belonged to Masazumi Chaya, the associate artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, and he had a startling proposition. Would she — Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish, 55 years old, former Ailey superstar and current artificial-hip owner — come out of retirement to dance at a special performance on New Year’s Eve?

“Are you kidding me?” 
Elizabeth Roxas-Dobrish (NY Times Photo)

she responded.

No he was not kidding and Roxas-Dorbrish has come out of retirement along with other alumni Guillermo Asca, Linda-Denise Fisher-Harrell, Renee Robinson, Donna Wood Sanders, and Dudley Williams, are returning to the stage to perform in the Alvin Ailey classic, "Revelations" on December 31 at 7pm.

The first performance of Revelations was on January 31, 1960 in New York's Kaufman Concert Hall. This enduring classic is a tribute to that tradition, born out of the choreographer’s “blood memories” of his childhood in rural Texas and the Baptist Church. But since its premiere in 1960, the ballet has been performed continuously around the globe, transcending barriers of faith and nationality, and appealing to universal emotions, making it the most widely-seen modern dance work in the world.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Real Diversity or Token?

In this Oct. 29, 2013, file photo released by NBC, actress Kerry Washington, right, stands with cast member Taran Killam during a promotional shoot for Saturday Night Live, in New York.
Kerry Washington hosting SNL last month

SNL has taken a bit of heat about the lack of diversity among its cast members over the last several years. One of their responses has been to hold casting calls for African-American women.  It seems we may be seeing a new face or two pretty soon.  Even so, we all know the challenges of being the first and/or the only....what about the challenges of being the "token."  Will the people they hire always feel like they were hired just because they were black?  At what point do you transition from being the "token" hire to the real value added hire?   Either way, I wish them very much success.  Maybe now the African-American men in the show won't have to play women anymore.

Read the story here:

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Happy Independence Day to Kenya!

The first direct elections for Africans to the Legislative Council took place in 1957. Despite British hopes of handing power to "moderate" African rivals, it was the Kenya African National Union (KANU) of Jomo Kenyatta that formed a government shortly before Kenya became independent on 12 December 1963, on the same day forming the first Constitution of Kenya.  On 12 December 1964 the Republic of Kenya was proclaimed, and Jomo Kenyatta became Kenya's first president.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Celebrating her 100th Book...Congratulations Brenda Jackson!

Brenda Jackson is the 1st African American female romance writer to become a USA Today and New York Times bestselling novelist.Now celebrating the milestone of her 100th original work, romance author Brenda Jackson releases “A Madaris Bride For Christmas” (Harlequin Kimani Arabesque Press); one of her many series’ books now in its 3rd generation of the Madaris family saga that millions of readers have come to know and love, since Jackson first introduced them in “Tonight and Forever” in 1994.

Read more here:

Monday, September 2, 2013

Racial Identity Development Across the Diaspora

We have often explored issues of Black racial identity of African-Americans.  Today I ran across a blog post that made me consider racial identity across the African Diaspora.

Quite simply put, identity is a person's comprehension of themselves as a discrete, separate entity.  Racial identity development as often discussed in America is actually not based on ethnicity alone, but on culture as well.  Since history has produced varied experiences across the African diaspora, we recognize that racial identity development varies as well.  But people of African descent experience it differently in other countries.

"in the US, “one drop” of “black blood”, or African ancestry, made one black regardless of their physical appearance, many believe that, in Brazil, one drop of “white blood”, or European ancestry, could make one non-black or in some cases, white."

Read one man's experience of racial identity development in Brazil on the Black Women in Brazil blog on these two blogs here:

These are both great blogs and provide perspectives that are often not considered in America.

What do you learn about your own racial identity when considering how it differs in other countries?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

August in Black History

Each month we'll list daily black history notes for the month.  Here's what happened in August in Black History.

On August 31 in Black History...
Pigeon Point in Tobago
In 1962, Trinidad-Tobago proclaimed independence. The Republic of Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state in the southern Caribbean, lying just off the coast of northeastern Venezuela and south of Grenada in the Lesser Antilles. It shares maritime boundaries with other nations including Barbados to the northeast, Guyana to the southeast, and Venezuela to the south and west. Trinidad and Tobago is known for its Carnival and is the birthplace of steelpan, calypso, soca, and limbo.
Trinidad and Tobago gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1962. The presence of American military bases in Chaguaramas and Cumuto in Trinidad during World War II profoundly changed the character of society. In the post-war period, the wave of decolonisation that swept the British Empire led to the formation of the West Indies Federation in 1958 as a vehicle for independence. Chaguaramas was the proposed site for the federal capital. The Federation dissolved after the withdrawal of Jamaica and the government chose to seek independence on its own.[citation needed]
In 1976, the country severed its links with the British monarchy and became a republic within the Commonwealth, though it retained the British Privy Council as its final Court of Appeal. Between the years 1972 and 1983, the Republic profited greatly from the rising price of oil, as the oil-rich country increased its living standards greatly. In 1990, 114 members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen, led by Yasin Abu Bakr, formerly known as Lennox Phillip, stormed the Red House (the seat of Parliament), and Trinidad and Tobago Television, the only television station in the country at the time, and held the country's government hostage for six days before surrendering. Since 2003, the country has entered a second oil boom, a driving force which the government hopes to use to turn the country's main export back to sugar and agriculture.[citation needed] Great concern was raised in August 2007 when it was predicted that this boom would last only until 2018. Petroleum, petrochemicals and natural gas continue to be the backbone of the economy. Tourism and the public service are the mainstay of the economy of Tobago, though authorities have begun to diversify the island. The bulk of tourism visitor arrival on the islands are from Western Europe.

Thomas M. Gregory
In 1879, Livingstone College was founded in Salisbury, North Carolina, began as an educational institution for clergy in the African Methodist Church (A.M.E.). It was located in a small house on seven acres of land donated by the Reverend Thurber, and was called Zion Wesley Institute. Livingstone is a coeducational, residential, church-related college located in Salisbury, N.C., largely supported by the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. The college consists of two schools: an undergraduate College of Arts and Sciences and a graduate school of theology named Hood Theological Seminary.
In 1887, Thomas Montgomery Gregory was born in Washington, DC.  He was an African American dramatist, educator, social philosopher, and activist. 1842, Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin, a Black journalist and civil rights leader, was born.
In 1935, Frank Robinson, first black manager in major league baseball was born in Beaumont, Texas.
In 1979, Donald McHenry named to succeed Andrew Young as UN.

On August 30 in Black History...
Roy Wilkins at the White House in 1868
In 1966, Constance Baker Motley was confirmed as U.S. district judge and became the first Black woman on the federal bench.
In 1983, Lt. Col. Guion S. Bluford Jr. became the first Black US astronaut enters space.
In 1881, W.S. Campbell patents improved, self-setting animal trap.
In 1843, Blacks participated in a national political convention for the first time at Liberty party convention in Buffalo, New York.

In 1901, Roy Wilkins was born in St. Louis, Missouri. Wilkins was a prominent civil rights activist from the 1930s to the 1970s. Wilkins' most notable role was in his leadership of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).  In 1955, Roy Wilkins was chosen to be the executive secretary of the NAACP and in 1964 he became its executive director. He had an excellent reputation as a spokesperson for the civil rights movement. One of his first actions was to provide support to civil rights activists in Mississippi who were being subject to a "credit squeeze" by members of the White Citizens Councils.
In 1936, Buddy Guy, influential blues guitarist and singer was born in Lettsworth, LA, USA. His most popular records include "First Time I Met The Blues" and "Stone Crazy".

On August 29 in Black History...
In 1957, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1957, the first federal civil rights legislation since 1875. The bill established a civil rights commission and a civil rights division in the Justice Department. It also gave the Justice Department authority to seek injunctions against voting rights infractions.
In 1962, Mal Goode becomes the first African American television news commentator when he begins broadcasting on ABC.
In 1894, Sociologist ,E. Franklin Frasier was born. 
In 1924, Dinah Washington was born. 
In 1920, Jazz musician, Charlie "Bird" Parker was born in Kansas City. 
In 1958 Michael Jackson was born.

On August 28 in Black History...
In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr gives his "I Have A Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial.

On August 20 in Black History...
In 1989 - The first National Black Theater Festival closes in Winston-Salem, N.C.
In 1964 - President Johnson signed Economic Opportunity Act
In 1944, Spingarn Medal presented to Charles R. Drew "who set up and ran the blood plasma bank in the Presbyterian Hospital in New York City which served as one of the models for the widespread system of blood banks now in operation for the American Red Cross."
In 1941, William Herbert Gray, III (Bill Gray) was born on this day.
In  1939, The National Negro Bowling Association was organized in Detroit, Michigan and Wynston Brown became its first president.
In 1856 - Wilberforce University was established in Ohio.
In 1831, Nat Turner, a brilliant minister and moody slave, led the first slave revolt of magnitude. The revolt was crushed, but only after Turner and his band had killed some sixty whites and threw the South into panic. After hiding out, Turner was captured on October 30...
In 1830 - First National Negro Convention took place in Philadelphia, chaired by Richard.
In 1619 -Twenty Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, aboard a Dutch ship. They are the first blacks to be forcibly settled as involuntary laborers in the North American British Colonies.

On August 19 in Black History...

1989 - Desmond Tutu defied apartheid laws by walking alone on a South African beach.
In 1958, youth from the NAACP Council begins sit-ins at lunch counters in Oklahoma City. The Dockum Drug Store sit-in was one of the first organized lunch-counter sit-ins for the purpose of integrating segregated establishments in the United States. The protest began in July 1958 in Wichita, Kansas at the Dockum Drug Store, a store in the old Rexall chain, in which protesters would sit at the counter all day until the store closed, ignoring taunts from counter protesters. The sit-in ended three weeks later when the owner relented and agreed to serve black patrons.

Twenty-year-old Ron Walters, president of the local NAACP Youth Council, organized the Wichita protest together with his cousin Carol Parks-Hahn. Wichita was heavily segregated in the late 1950s, with schools segregated up to high school and blacks excluded from public accommodations. While working at a job in downtown Wichita, Walters went for lunch to a Woolworth's store, which would only serve blacks bagged lunches sold from one end of the lunch counter. Seeking to find a way to protest against the practice, Walters and his cousin Carol Parks-Hahn met with attorney Frank Williams, who described a sit-in by students at a California college who ended segregation at a campus restaurant by occupying it with students reading newspapers all day long. The protest was inspired by the actions of the Little Rock Nine and the earlier Montgomery Bus Boycott. The plan they developed targeted Dockum, a downtown store that was part of the national Rexall chain, which had a lunch counter that only served white customers, starting on July 19, 1958, with ten well-dressed and polite students seeking to place orders while sitting at the lunch counter. Parks-Haun ordered a Coca-Cola from a waitress, who served it to her but then pulled it back when she realized that "store policy was not to serve colored people". Students sat quietly all day at the counters, enduring taunts and threats from white customers. After three weeks, in early August, the manager came in and said "Serve them — I'm losing too much money". Historian Gretchen Eick called the Dockum Drug Store sit-in as setting "a precedent that really began what would be a very significant strategy — a strategy that would change the way business was done in the United States". Ultimately, all of the Dockum locations in Kansas were desegregated.

Though the Dockum sit-in had attracted little media attention, on August 19, 1958 in Oklahoma City a nationally recognized sit-in at the Katz Drug Store lunch counter occurred. The protest there was led by NAACP Youth Council leader Clara Luper, a local high school teacher, together with young local students, including Luper's eight-year old daughter, who had suggested the sit-in be held. The group quickly desegregated the Katz Drug Store lunch counters. Following the Oklahoma City sit-ins, the tactic of non-violent student sit-ins spread. The widely publicized Greensboro sit-ins began more than a year later at a Woolworth's in Greensboro, North Carolina, starting on February 1, 1960, launching a wave of anti-segregation sit-ins across the South and opened a national awareness of the depth of segregation in the nation.

A 20-foot-long bronze sculpture first announced in 1998 at a cost of $3 million marks the site of the successful sit-in, with a lunch counter and patrons depicting the protest.

In 1791 - Benjamin Banneker writes letter to then secretary of state Thomas Jefferson. The letter showed the hypocrisy of slavery. After departing the federal capital area, Banneker wrote a letter to Thomas Jefferson, who in 1776 had drafted the United States Declaration of Independence and in 1791 was serving as the United States Secretary of State. Quoting language in the Declaration, the letter expressed a plea for justice for African Americans. To further support this plea, Banneker included within the letter a handwritten manuscript of an almanac for 1792 containing his ephemeris with his astronomical calculations. In the letter, Banneker accused Jefferson of criminally using fraud and violence to oppress his slaves by stating:

“…Sir, how pitiable is it to reflect, that although you were so fully convinced of the benevolence of the Father of Mankind, and of his equal and impartial distribution of these rights and privileges, which he hath conferred upon them, that you should at the same time counteract his mercies, in detaining by fraud and violence so numerous a part of my brethren, under groaning captivity and cruel oppression, that you should at the same time be found guilty of that most criminal act, which you professedly detested in others, with respect to yourselves.”

On August 18 in Black History...
In 1963, James Meredith, the first Black person admitted to the University of Mississippi, graduates from University of Mississippi, 1963.  James H. Meredith (born June 25, 1933) is an American civil rights movement figure. He was the first African American student at the University of Mississippi, an event that was a flashpoint in the American civil rights movement. Motivated by the broadcast of President John F. Kennedy's inaugural address (which did not mention civil rights per se). Meredith decided to exercise his democratic rights and apply to the University of Mississippi. Meredith's goal was to put pressure on the Kennedy administration as to the issue.  Meredith was married to Mary June Wiggins Meredith, now deceased.They had one daughter, Jessica Meredith Knight, and three sons: James, John and Joseph Howard Meredith. In 1989, the junior James Meredith (then 20) was sentenced to one year's house arrest for his role in a 1987 car crash in which two of his co-workers were killed and he suffered serious injuries. In 2002, Joseph Meredith graduated from the University of Mississippi as the most outstanding doctoral student in the School of Business Administration. Joseph had previously earned degrees from Harvard University and Millsaps College. James Meredith said of the occasion, "I think there's no better proof that White supremacy was wrong than not only to have my son graduate, but to graduate as the most outstanding graduate of the school...That, I think, vindicates my whole life." Joseph Meredith died in 2008 at age 39 of complications from lupus. At the time of his death, he was an assistant professor of finance at Texas A&M International University. He left behind a daughter, Jasmine Victoria. James Meredith currently lives in Jackson, Mississippi with his second wife, Judy Alsobrook Meredith. Meredith wrote a memoir of his days at the University of Mississippi entitled Three Years in Mississippi, published by the Indiana University Press in 1966, and also self-published several books.

On August 14 in Black History...

In 1883, Biologist and pioneer of cell division, Ernest E. Just was born.  Just was a pioneering African American biologist, academic and science writer. Just's primary legacy is his recognition of the fundamental role of the cell surface in the development of organisms. In his work within marine biology, cytology and parthenogenesis, he advocated the study of whole cells under normal conditions, rather than simply breaking them apart in a laboratory setting. Ernest also assisted three Howard students (Edgar Amos Love, Oscar James Cooper, and Frank Coleman), in establishing Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. Just was the subject of the 1983 biography Black Apollo of Science: The Life of Ernest Everett Just by Kenneth R. Manning. The book received the 1983 Pfizer Award and was a finalist for the 1984 Pulitzer Prizefor Biography or Autobiography

In 1968, Halle Berry was born.  Berry is an American actress, former fashion model, and beauty queen. Berry received an Emmy, Golden Globe, SAG, and an NAACP Image Award for Introducing Dorothy Dandridge and won an Academy Award for Best Actress and was nominated for a BAFTA Award in 2001 for her performance in Monster's Ball, becoming the first and, as of 2011, only woman of African American descent to have won the award for Best Actress. She is one of the most highly paid actresses in Hollywood and also a Revlon spokeswoman. She has been involved in the production side of several of the films in which she performed.  Before becoming an actress, Berry entered several beauty contests, finishing as the 1st runner-up in the Miss USA Pageant (1986), and coming in 6th place in the Miss World Pageant in 1986. She made her film debut with a small role in 1991's Jungle Fever. This led to starring roles in The Flintstones (1994), Bulworth (1998), X-Men (2000) and its sequels, and as Bond Girl Jinx in Die Another Day (2002). She also won the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actress in 2005 for Catwoman and accepted the award in person—one of the few performers to do so.

In 1959, Ervin "Magic" Johnson was born.  Johnson Jr. is a retired American professional basketball player who played point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). After winning championships in high school and college, Johnson was selected first overall in the 1979 NBA Draft by the Lakers. He won a championship and an NBA Finals Most Valuable Player Award in his rookie season, and won four more championships with the Lakers during the 1980s. Johnson retired abruptly in 1991 after announcing that he had contracted HIV, but returned to play in the 1992 All-Star Game, winning the All-Star MVP Award. After protests from his fellow players, he retired again for four years, but returned in 1996, at age 37, to play 32 games for the Lakers before retiring for the third and final time.

In 1914, Dr. Herman Branson, physicist and chemist, was born in Pocohantas, Virginia. Branson was an African-American physicist, best known for his research on the alpha helix protein structure, and was also the president of two colleges.

On August 13 in Black History...
Dr. Charles Anderson
In 1919, Meteorologist, Charles Edward Anderson, PhD was born in St. Louis, Missouri.  Charles E. Anderson earned a bachelor of science degree in Chemistry in 1941 from Lincoln University and received high accolades as he graduated third in his class. Lincoln University was also the place where he met his wife-to-be, Marjorie Anderson. Upon graduating, World War II had begun and enlisted in U.S. Army Air Forces.He was assigned to the meteorology division and Anderson claims that this came about due to the process of elimination. The Army sent him, along with 150 other cadets to the University of Chicago to study meteorology. While there along with an exceptionally heavy academic course load, Anderson also underwent physical training, weapons training, and specific training in military intelligence. Anderson completed this training in May 1943 and earned his meteorological certification. Upon finishing, he was stationed in Tuskegee, Alabama where he was assigned as a weather officer for the 332nd Fighter Group now known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
After his service in Tuskegee, Anderson became a squadron weather officer and trained fighter pilots across the country. Anderson temporarily left the Army Air Corps after the war to pursue an opportunity in high polymer chemistry at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1946. After receiving his Master's Degree, Anderson became a research and development officer for Watson Laboratories, supervising the works of many notable German scientists. In 1955, Anderson decided to further pursue his academic studies and applied to the doctoral program in Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During this time he wrote his dissertation: "A Study of the Pulsating Growth of Cumulus Clouds." Anderson earned his Ph.D. in 1960, becoming the first African American to earn a Ph.D. in Meteorology.

On August 5 in Black History...

In 1962, Patrick Ewing was born in Kingston, Jamaica.  He played most of his career with the NBA's New York Knicks as their starting center and played briefly with the Seattle SuperSonics andOrlando Magic. Ewing was named as the 16th greatest college player of all time by ESPN. He won Olympic Gold Medals as a member of the 1984 and 1992 US Men's National Basketball teams. In a 1996 poll celebrating the 50th anniversary of the NBA, Ewing was selected as one of the 50 Greatest Basketball Players of All Time. On April 7, 2008 he was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame on September 5, 2008 along with former NBA coach Pat Riley and former Houston Rockets center, Hakeem Olajuwon. His number 33 was retired by the Knicks in 2003.  

Check out these sites are where I get many of the daily black history info:

Friday, August 30, 2013

Saying Yes to Community

This week we celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washiington. There were several speakers in attendance, but one of my favorite moments came during Bernice King's speech which she echoed her father's question 50 years ago - "Where do we go from here?". She said we must say no to chaos and yes to community. She continued on to urge us to follow the advice of the prophet Nehemiah when you hear the sound of the trumpet, come together.

Bernice King, March on Washington 2013
So what does that mean for us today?  It means we should get busy in our communities doing the work of building, not tearing down.  Is it enough to just talk?  No, every person should get busy rebuilding.  Get busy voting.  Get busy feeding our kids.  Get busy educating our kids.  Get busy helping one another.  That's what saying YES to community looks like.  Ask yourself today...what are you doing in your community?

Here is a clip from Bernice King's speech on the 50th anniversary March on Washington this past Wednesday:

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Ori-Ire, Aligning Your Passon with Your Destiny

I ran across this Yoruba notion of "Ori-Ire" while listening to an interview with Thomas Parham, PhD.

"Ori-Ire is the quest of one's actions, thoughts, and feelings to operate in accord with one's destiny". Thomas Parham, Counseling Persons of African Descent

What if in our families and communities we all implemented the concept of Ori-ire, and focused on getting busy making positive change in our communities.  What would that look like in your community?

Here is the interview with Thomas Parham...He mentions Ori-Ire around minute 34...

Friday, August 16, 2013

African-Americans Leading the Way in Classical Music

Kelly Hall-Tompkins
"I frequently introduce myself as a violinist and people say,  Oh wow, that is so terrific. Where do you sing?' And their mind automatically goes to it because we have such a wonderful tradition of African American singers but I would like for people to recognize, you know, that we have an equally large and growing tradition of African-American string players." 
Violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins

Check out Kelly's website here:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Bringing Civil Rights to a New Generation

Rep John Lewis, a 26-year veteran of the House, made his debut at Comic Con this year to promote his new comic book, "March", an account of his early years in the Civil Rights Movement as one of the original Freedom Riders.

Read more here:

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Meet Girl Detectives Katrin and J. Dyanne DuBois!

Katrin's Chronicles: Vol. 1
Katrin's Chronicles
"Remember Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden? Now meet girl detectives Katrin and J. Dyanne DuBois! Written by screen and television writer, Valerie C. Woods ( this breakthrough novel, Katrin's Chronicles: The Canon of Jacquel√©ne Dyanne, expands the girl detective genre to include these smart, sister sleuths from the south side of Chicago."  Read more here:

Read an excerpt from the book on Wood's website here:  Katrin's Chronicles: The Canon of Jacquel√©ne Dyanne Vol. 1

Friday, August 9, 2013

Congratulations Gabrielle Turnquest, the Youngest Person to Pass the Bar

Teenager becomes youngest person to be called to the Bar
Gabrielle Turnquest

“I am honoured to be the youngest person to pass the Bar exams but, really, I was not aware at the time what the average age was....“I didn’t fully realise the impact of it.”  Gabrielle Turnquest

Gabrielle Turnquest, 18, just became the youngest person to pass the Bar of England and Wales.  She actually took the course with her sister, Kandi, 22, who passed the Bar as well.  Gabrielle, a native of Florida, had already made history at 16 when she became the youngest person to complete an undergraduate degree in psychology.  She wants to become a fashion law specialist.

Read more here:

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