Unassuming, personable and warmhearted best describes Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. She, along with her entourage, took time out on a recent visit to the States to stop by the Harlem School of the Arts, where she thoroughly charmed the children, parents and staff.
Here to promote her new book, “Rosie Ballerina,” the Duchess watched and applauded with great delight as she was treated to an impromptu performance by both the lower school and middle school ballet students. Afterward, all gathered around as she properly introduced herself as Sarah, Duchess of York, whose dream came true when she married a British prince a very long time ago. Together they lived in a castle with their two daughters. The Duchess decided to write a book about her other childhood dream of being a ballerina and of her experience studying to be one.
The room quieted to a hush as she read the book aloud. “And so,” she concluded, “as the moral of the story goes, never give up on your dreams. You must have courage and the discipline to follow your dreams, and your dreams will come true.” What a wonderful message for the children.
At the end, each child appeared before her, one by one, where the girls curtsied and the boys bowed upon receiving a copy of the book, along with a goodie bag.
All is well in Soulsville these days, aka Harlem. Businesses continue to flourish as Jalissa’s, a new lounge, has opened on Lenox Avenue and 133rd Street. Besides big-screen TVs and a cozy atmosphere, there is Motown night on Fridays, football on Mondays and a host of other themes for every other day of the week.
A new bicycle shop has opened just across the street. However, my bike shop of choice is now and forever will be Lil’ Don’s Bike Shop, Sales, Rentals and Repairs, located on Fifth Avenue and 124th Street across from Marcus Garvey Park.
Just when you think we’re doomed, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. Celebrating their 35th anniversary with a big bash was Studio in a School. SIAS provides arts education to New York City public school students. Co-chairing the event was Caroline Kennedy; honored were Jeff Koons and Studio President and CEO Tom Cahill. Joel Grey–you know him, Academy and Tony Award-wining actor and photographer, star of both the movie and the play “Cabaret”–served as the evening’s master of ceremonies. You will be glad to know that much of the city’s elite was there to support the cause.
The Studio was founded by Agnes Gund, who took the bull by the horns when New York budget cuts threatened to cut arts education in the public schools. This was back in the ’70s. She, along with good friend Patricia Hewitt–dare I say, of Hewitt Museum fame–absolutely refused to sit by and do nothing. (Speaking of which, if I may digress for just a moment, don’t you dare just sit out this year’s presidential election, as I understand there are still some preaching not to vote!)
Along the way, many joined in to support their efforts. This has included those such as Koons, who has donated his original prints to support fundraising efforts. In addition, it was Koons who took the initiative to launch Visual Arts Appreciation Week, an annual event that brings high-profile artists into the classrooms of public schools across the city. Over the years, the success of the program has expanded to now include a myriad of programs such as: the long-term program, Studio’s original program establishing dedicated art studios in elementary schools; an early childhood program, which introduces the visual arts to children, pre-K through first grade; and the art and healthy living initiative, which combines art and nutrition, encouraging children to make healthier food choices.
One of my favorites is the arts intern program, which works to place college students from diverse cultural backgrounds in museum internships. Then, of course, there are the classes offered outside of the classroom on Saturdays and during summer vacations, designed to help children develop their unique artistic potential.
The event was held under a tent erected in the Seagram Building Plaza. Under the watchful eye of Bronson Van Wyck and his company of the same name, the tent was constructed of glass and canvas, with certain aspects of it hand-painted by Bronson himself. Included in the design were over 90 pieces of art, created by more than 300 Studio students.
Following the event, hundreds of students from eight public schools were brought to view the exhibit and participate in workshops led by Studio instructors. The event raised approximately $2 million, which will go directly to continue serving the close to 800 public school students SIAS supports. So take that New York budget cuts. There were entirely too many of those in attendance to mention, so I won’t start with the names. However, when I tell you they were big, they were big.
It is with heartfelt sympathy that condolences go out to the family of Denis Borden Miller and daughter Mariah. Husband, father, son and brother-in-law Ray Miller has passed away. A young man with a magnificent voice was performing his solo at the Abyssinian Baptist Church service recently, when the good Lord took him by the hand and carried him home (that is, to heaven). Ray had just sung a rousing rendition of the old hymn “I Know I Been Changed,” with lines like “The angels in heaven done signed my name,” when he collapsed. More about the life and times of Ray next week, as funeral services had not been held at the time of this writing.
A recent celebration was held for the 225th anniversary of–no, not another social group–the adoption of the United States Constitution. The Constitution, as you may recall, establishes limits regarding what both the federal and state governments can do, thereby protecting citizens’ rights. Associated with the Constitution are fundamental rights accorded to each and every citizen. A review of history will show that fundamental rights, like the right to marry whomever we please, which each and every citizen is entitled to, were not gained without some sort of sacrifice.
Just to be clear, a sacrifice means giving up time, energy and the enjoyment of doing something you either like to do or have a legal right to do. It may also mean giving up your life. Many people gave up all of these things, including their lives, so that both women and Black people could vote. Someone–a person who didn’t even know you–did this for you. Don’t let that sacrifice be in vain. Remember, you are not a freeloader.
Until next week … kisses.