It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, everywhere you go. The sidewalk Christmas trees are plentiful and beautiful, which is one of the many things I love about this time of year. A little bit of the woods brought to the concrete jungle.
Needless to say the year-end celebrations have begun, such as the intimate gathering hosted by Allison and David Nayor at their East Side apartment. An array of finger foods, music, dim lights and wine were all that was needed to rock into the night.
Also rocking was the Greater New York Chapter of the Links, Inc., which celebrated the season with a holiday brunch. Held at the scenic and festively decorated X2O Xaviars on the Hudson, it was an affair not to be missed. Seen rocking the afternoon away were Michelle Stent, Lisa Dowling, Nicole Stent, Elizabeth Slaughter, Gabrielle Speakes, Debbie Jackson and others too full of good cheer to mention.
The open rehearsal and artist talk presented by the Urban Bush Women theatrical troupe was held most recently at Aaron Davis Hall on the campus of City College, and what an afternoon delight that was. The audience was privy to an extraordinary performance as the actors/dancers worked on their latest piece, “Hair and Other Stories.” Watching in rapture as the ensemble transformed themselves into a mesmerizing beautiful body of work that explores the impact one’s hair texture has on society culturally and, on a deeper level, one’s own perception of self. Hair is more than a natural fiber that grows out of one’s scalp. The theatrical presentation clearly depicts how subliminally (or not) it is the texture of one’s hair that dictates and defines who they are. One’s character, beliefs and values are secondary.
Urban Bush Women, which includes male actor/dancers, are amazing. Each bit of artistry, the dancing, the acting and the singing, is strong and compelling. Each of these vehicles could be used individually to tell the story. To combine the arts into a powerful storyline is as thought provoking as it is exhilarating. Although this performance is still a work in progress, there are only a few wrinkles to be ironed out. The scene that asked audience members to stand and received a blessing divided between those with kinky hair and those with naturally straight hair sparked a vigorous discussion with UBW founder Jawole Willa Jo Zollar at the end of the show. Concerns ranged from “My skin is light and my hair is kinky but I have straightened it but still I stood up because I am Black” to “I am a Latina so my hair is naturally straight, but I don’t identify with being white, so I didn’t stand up. Do I still get the blessing?”
Another scene depicted the actress shuffling, dealing and contemplating her hand as she used a deck of cards to surreptitiously talk about the race card. Throughout the scene the actress vented rage, hurt and compassion, stating, “This is a space where we can talk about critical issues. It’s an uncomfortable space but it’s safe.”
Urban Bush Women does an excellent job of achieving its goal to “explore the subjects of self-image, race, and gender inequality through the lens of hair,” primarily that of African-American women, using as its backdrop encounters that are culturally reminiscent of the Black Diaspora experience.
The open rehearsal was made possible through the CUNY Dance Initiative, which makes CUNY space available to dance companies and artistic community in an effort to engage and forge relations between the arts and the public. To learn more, explore and feel the vibration, check out the website at www.urbanbushwomen.org.
Still being remembered is the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands, for the fabulous work they did in response to the needs of those who suffered terribly in the aftermath of hurricanes Irma and Maria. Helping to spearhead the efforts was Kyndell Reid, Esq., who greeted guests at the R&B Dance to You Drop Fundraiser, held at Whispers Bar and Restaurant.
CleanMusicMatters.com will host the symposium, “Achieving Music Balance on a Local, Regional and National Scale,” co-chaired by Voza Rivers, chairman of Harlem Arts Alliance and executive producer of New Heritage Theatre Group, and Adrian Council, publisher and CEO of The Positive Community Magazine. Featured keynote speakers will be Paul Porter and Don Fryson. Porter, the author of “Blackout: My 40 Years in the Music Business,” owner of The Wire 98.5 FM and previous program director for BET, who has worked with WBLS FM and KISS FM, will speak on “Black Music and the Industry.” Fryson, president and CEO of 360 Entertainment International and originator of Clean Money Music, is based in Orlando, Fla., and will speak on “Hip Hop and You.” The event will be held Dec. 16, 2 p.m., at Our Children’s Foundation, 527 W. 125th St. and is sponsored in part by 100 Black Men, NAACP Mid-Manhattan Branch and Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce. There will be special performances by Afrikan Karterl, Impact Repertory Theatre and Clean Money Music artists Bobby Booshay, GB Breezy and Pete Colon. All are welcome.
The Inner-City Scholarship Fund raised $1.9 million at the 41st annual Inner-City Scholarship Fund Awards Dinner as the capacity crowd of nearly 400 guests at the Mandarin Oriental showed their love and support. The funds will benefit Inner-City in its mission to provide tuition assistance for underprivileged students attending Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of New York. The Kids Are Our Capital Scholarship Endowment Campaign kicked off in September 2015. During the course of its run, a record-setting gift of $40 million was received from Christine and Stephen A. Schwarzman, along with a $40 million commitment from the Archdiocese and a generous donation from the Morris and Alma Schapiro Fund in the amount of $3 million. His Eminence, Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York, who was in attendance to celebrate the successful completion of the campaign, presented the 2017 James B. Lee, Jr. LifeLink Award to David M. Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group. “CBS Sunday Morning” correspondent Mo Rocca served as the master of ceremonies and joined Inner-City Scholarship Fund trustees in serenading Cardinal Dolan with “Stand by Me.”
The Inner-City Scholarship Fund was founded by the late Terence Cardinal Cooke and a group of prominent executives of many religious beliefs in 1971. The fund provides tuition assistance to nearly 8,000 students (93 percent minority and 33 percent non-Catholic). Ninety-eight percent of seniors attending inner-city Catholic high schools graduate, and 95 percent pursue college at some of the finest universities in the nation.
My daughter Julia attended one year of Catholic school when she attended St. Benedict’s kindergarten class. At that level, there was homework every night. They learned addition, subtraction (with double digits), multiplication, how to read and prayers. The school, which is run by the Handmaids of Mary, has to be more than 100 years old by now. It was 90 years old when she attended. Today, Julia is in the sixth grade, an avid reader and has an amazing ability to grasp math concepts. (Thank goodness, because I am of no help when it comes to the “new math.” I still borrow one and carry over). When she graduated into first grade, she was the only one in her class who could read and would often be called upon by the teacher to read to the class. Our own St. Charles Borromeo has an excellent curriculum and, yes, thanks to the Inner-City fund as well as its own scholarship program, has afforded many children the opportunity to receive a first-class education. Amen.
Until next week … kisses.