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Motown a ‘hit’ at the Schomburg

By Lapacazo Sandoval, Yuko Shimozto and Art Shrian | 2/13/2014, 12:19 p.m.
The myNewYorkeye crew was invited to the unveiling of “Motown: The Truth is a Hit,” the new exhibit currently at ...
Motown at the Schomburg Photo by Lapacazo Sandoval

The myNewYorkeye crew was invited to the unveiling of “Motown: The Truth is a Hit,” the new exhibit currently at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

I feel comfortable using the words “expansive” and “impressive” to describe the exhibit, but it’s much more than a well-crafted collection of memorabilia. Officiating the evening was Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, and Khalil Muhammad, the director of the Schomburg. Of course, there was also key cast and crew members from the award-winning Broadway smash “Motown the Musical,” including the legend himself, Berry Gordy.

Oh yes, the legendary Gordy was holding court in Harlem, accompanied by the sound he helped shape.

The soundtrack for the evening was the best of Motown and the soundbites that, while I drifted through the diverse crowd, reflected such sweet memories that I ached for a hidden recorder I could use to document and add to the exhibit. Reflections with a personal soundtrack—that’s one of the most interesting things about “the sound,” it lives.

Immortality is achievable, and this sound, as well as the souls that keep the flame ablaze, is still shaping dreams. I was reminded of that fact by the newest member of the myNewYorkeye team, Yuko Shimozto, relocated from Japan for love—the love of Black culture and the music.

So powerful was that passion that the gifted graphic artist now calls Harlem home and is embarking on the creation of a new digital music magazine for the Japanese market that’s all about Black music and the culture.

“I’m going to meet Mr. Berry Gordy?” Shimozto asked. “We love Motown in Japan. Oh my god. Can I take pictures?”

The room was thick with luminaries, and snippets of conversation were like pearls dropping into my reporters’ ears. “I’m too excited to be tired. Is that normal?” asked Kristal Joy Brown, who has just taken over the role of Diana Ross.

I chimed in, completely uninvited: “You were wonderful as Miss Ross.”

Brown beamed then frowned. Her hand on her slender hip, she grilled, “Well, when did you see the show?” Her left eyebrow rose in a mock dramatic gesture.

“Last week, and you tore it up.”

In a single motion, her slender arms went around my neck. “Thank you,” she said, beaming. “Motown touched me and now I’m given the opportunity to do that. It’s wonderful, isn’t it?”

Presented by Northern Trust in partnership with the Motown Museum, the exhibit is open now at the Schomburg Center until July 26.