I don’t know which made me holler the loudest, the Giants beating the 49ers and heading on their way to the Super Bowl on Feb. 5 or hearing the president of these here United States of America, Barack Obama, sing at his benefit-should I say, performance?-at the Apollo Theater. Not only is our leader of the free world intelligent, diplomatic, fierce and handsome, he can sing. Who out here right now isn’t humming, “I-I-I-I, I’m so in love with you”?
So now I’ve seen former President George W. Bush do his little dance number with a group of African drummers (on TV, of course, and it made me holler, too, to see he’s got rhythm), former President Bill Clinton play the saxophone and now President Obama sing. Where would we be without music and dance?
And where would we be without a little poetry in our lives? The rappers would surely be lost or perhaps nonexistent. Appreciating the art form is the city of Philadelphia, which crowned Sonia Sanchez the first poet laureate of the city.
Sanchez was honored during the Artivist Film Festival held at Columbia University at the screening of her biographical documentary, “Shake Loose Memories.” The film’s director, Jamal Joseph, former chair of the Graduate Film School at Columbia University and founder of the Jamal Joseph Dance Troupe, led a group of invited community leaders in a panel discussion following the screening, as Sanchez has been a well-recognized activist as well as a poet for many, many years.
The film was made by Joseph with executive producers Voza Rivers and Afeni Shakur (Tupak’s mother), producer Rachel Watanabe-Batton and director of photography Robert Shepard. It features Amiri Baraka, Toshi Regan, T.C. Carson and Oscar Brown Jr., who is famous for his song, “Baby Won’t You Shake My Tree,” among other things.
Sanchez, who has been the recipient of numerous awards, is most often associated with the Black Arts Movement and was the first presidential fellow at Temple University. Sanchez has been praised by the queen of poetry, Maya Angelou, who stated, “Sonia Sanchez is a lion in literature’s forest…This world is a better place because of Sonia Sanchez: more livable, more laughable, more manageable. I wish millions of people knew that some of the joy in their lives comes from the fact that Sonia Sanchez is writing poetry.”
There are those from the school of thought who ponder: Which came first, the poem or the folk song as a means of passing on stories and telling tales within, amongst and about different cultures, long before television, radio, Internet and iPhones?
History tells us that the oldest surviving epic poem is the “Epic of Gilgamesh,” from the third millennium BCE in Sumer, Mesopotamia, which is now Iraq! It was written in cuneiform script on clay tablets and, later, papyrus, which today we know as paper. Other ancient epic poetry includes the Greek epics “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey”; the Iranian books “The Gathic Avesta” and “Yasna”; the Roman national epic, Virgil’s “Aeneid”; and the Indian epics “Ramayana” and “Mahabharata.” That is your history lesson for today.
It is with great sadness that I mention the passing of Joe North, husband of Emmalina. Joe’s funeral was held a week ago to a standing-room-only crowd of family and friends. He was known for making all of the desserts at Emmalina’s social functions, and the program featured one of his recipes. How kind to leave all of us a little something.
Also passing was Wali Ali, one of Muhammad Ali’s many trainers. At his funeral were two of Joe Frazier’s sons and Muhammad’s first wife.
Did I mention that the East Side House Settlement collected a nice little donation as a beneficiary from the opening night of the Winter Antique Show? Did I mention that among the thousands in attendance were Bob Phillips, Edith Matthews, Reine, Bunny Ledford, Jude, Micheal Henry Adams, a historian and writer working with Bill Perkins who wrote “Solemn Grace: African Americans at Home,” model Jamie Foster and Winnie Walker, without sister Max?
The Parents’ Association of Teachers College Community School (TCCS), a public neighborhood school currently housed in P.S. 133, is hosting a wine tasting fundraiser at Harlem Vintage, 120th Street and Eighth Avenue, on Wednesday, Feb. 8It’s an adults-only affair (which you often have to post conspicuously on your invite for people like me who takes Julia everywhere, especially in these days when babysitters are scarce-if you do find one, you’d better have a second job to pay for it) benefiting the children of TCCS.
The school, established by Teachers College of Columbia University, is newly formed and promises to carry on in the Columbia University tradition. Show your love, show your support and show your interest in great wine, as Harlem Vintage carries a great selection.
The Arts & Entertainment Alliance presents the Harlem Theater Arts Festival in association with Jackie Jefferies and Voza Rivers, running Thursday, Jan. 26 through Monday, Jan. 30. This promises to be exciting, as in the five-day lineup will be performances of “Portrait of Earl” on Jan. 26, followed by “The Fannie Lou Hamer Story” on Jan 27, both at the Dwyer Cultural Center, 123rd Street between Eighth and St. Nicholas avenues; “Poof” on Jan. 28 at the George Faison Firehouse Theatre, 124th Street between St. Nicholas and Morningside avenues, presented by the Negro Ensemble Company; and “Accept ‘Except’” on Jan. 29 and “The General,” a story about Gen. Colin Powell on Jan. 30, both at the National Black Theatre, 126th Street, Fifth Avenue, presented by Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre. Call (212) 222-3060 for scheduling and ticket prices. They’re really affordable.
Happy birthday, Elinor Tatum Simmons.
Until next week, “I-I-I-I, I’m so in love with you”…kisses.