Category Archives: Dramatic Arts

Telling Her-story

Kelly Rowland as Rosie the Riveter as shot by Derek Blanks.

Rounding out Women’s History Month has been an incredible week for the black female in television and film. Hidden beneath the updates on the Trayvon Martin tragedy and the record-high Mega Millions, you may have missed some the exciting achievements of those faces that represent us everyday on screen. What excited me most was the realization of the diversity of black women being represented. While some news highlights were more on the controversial side, it did please me to realize that the anger of some may mean sisters are making some progress out here!

We can finally transcend this....

First to note was the record high number of black representation on the Season 5 premier of Mad Men. The show has been long criticized for the absence of black characters, but if the first scene is foreshadowing things to come, this may be the season for some radical change. Was I the only person hoping that Lane’s collection of resumes may result in a new secretary at Sterling Cooper Draper Price (because clearly Pete’s assistant, Clara, is not gonna cut it)! I am excited to have a representation of color in the office to challenge resident vixen Joan and her curves this season. **Crosses fingers that Matthew Weiner shares this vision**

Foreshadowing?

The last two weeks in tv land brought in a lot of new brown faces to the little screen, with the premiere of Mary Mary on WE, chronicling the lives of Grammy winning gospel duo Mary Mary. The show looks to bring cameras behind the scenes of their family and show the reality of a Christian household. Judging by their late night talk show visits this week, this series promises some true black woman moments, bringing some realness to reality tv. Vh1 continues to battle with TBS for greatest representation of brown women on a network, with the season premiere of La La’s Full Court Life and the series premiere of Styled by June. The former is a peak behind the curtain of the life of mother, media figure, and actual basketball wife La La Anthony. The show covers La La balancing her family, friends, famous husband, and adorable son. Last week’s premiere reached a ratings high record for the show. It was followed by newbie, Styled by June, featuring celebrity fashion stylist, June Ambrose. As the black equivalent to Rachel Zoe, I really enjoyed watching her remake Mischa Barton. Extra points for the first episode not featuring some stereotypically black rap artist, but instead a beloved Caucasian teen starlet and socialite. I am even more excited for upcoming episodes featuring the sassy black girl as the new intern. Reason #529282 why I’m happy for DVR.

Check out her fashion forward looks on Vh1.

If those three shows didn’t pique your interest, hopefully the mid season premiere of Shonda Rhime’s Scandal will. Starring perennial favorite, Kerry Washington as the head of a crisis management firm. The show is based on the career of former Bush Administration press aide, Judy Smith. This is Washington’s first starring role on a major network’s tv show and Rhimes’ first show centered around a black female lead. Rhimes is no stranger to strong women with her other hit shows, Grey’s Anatomy and Private Practice featuring prominent female leads and cast members. Look for it April 5, 2012 on ABC. No seriously, I for one need you to watch it so it stays on tv and I can continue my hopes of seeing Columbus Short shirtless weekly without having to watch Stomp the Yard (not that I own this movie).

Coming up this spring with an extended guest staring role on Glee will be Whoopie Goldberg. Of course after Sister Act we know full well that she is capable of leading high school kids in song, but as a resident gleek I am still looking forward to her arc as a college professor who judges the auditions two major characters. Check her first episode currently scheduled to air May 1. And start the speculation of Whoopies sing along selection now….  Looking forward to shows that were recently greenlit, new shows featuring Megan Goode, Regina Hall, Ne Ne Leakes, the reboot of In Living Color, and a new A&E show based on Rosario Dawson’s graphic novel O.C.T. are coming soon to prime time.

Disney Channels stars: China McSwain, Skai Jackson, Zendeya, & Coco Jones (l-r).

Never one to ignore the achievements of our youngest starlets, this week was a great one for the stars of the Disney Channel. For the first time since 1995, Nickelodeon was knocked from its top spots in youth programming by the mouse-eared channel. Why do I attribute this to the success of black women you ask? Partially due to the amazing talent in actresses China McClain, Zendaya, Coco Jones, and Skai Jackson and the black girl representation on the channel. McClain stars on A.N.T. Farm and Zendaya is one half of the headliners on Shake it Up!, two of the stations most popular shows. New talent Coco Jones is part of the ensemble cast on SoRandom, a sketch comedy show starring the remaining cast members from Demi Lovato’s old show, Sonny With A Chance. My new favorite is Skai Jackson, playing one of the children on Jesse, and always managing to steal scenes away from her costars. If you don’t know them yet, no worries, I know this is not the last of these girls acting days.

Doesn't she make you want to be a kid again?

Also premiering this month was Disney Junior show, Doc McStuffins, an animated show for the youngest set centered on a little girl who plays doctor to her broken toys. Seeing an animated brown girl in her pink lab coat with aspirations to be a doctor almost made my biological clock skip a beat. Looks like Disney is finally trying to make a better showing than Princess Tiana for our young ladies!

The #1 reason I will be seeing this movie.

Another young actress faced a lot of attention this week on a bigger screen. Amendla Stenberg showed true poise and strength after outrage this week about the race of her character Rue, from blockbuster film, The Hunger Games. Many racist morally questionable moviegoers took the web to protest the race of three of the movies characters. Many quotes pulled from twitter were horribly shocking (especially from the mouths of some youngsters) criticizing the film for using black actors. Even more foolish were explanations of the original book text describing characters as having dark brown skin and people saying they were surprised they were black. Stenberg spoke out praising her cast mates and film creators and saying how much she enjoyed the experience. I haven’t had time to finish the book yet, but her movie poster alone is enough to entice me to ignore mixed reviews and support Ms. Amendla. For my fellow movie buffs, she also played young Cataleya in Columbiana alongside Zoe Saldana and for those who saw this movie know she is a future action star in the making for sure. Moving from one ebony action star to the next, I was extra hype for the first footage of Naomie Harris in the next installment of the James Bond saga. This British star underwent lots of training before filming began to play Eve, a field agent. As a big fan of the Daniel Craig Bond movie’s intense action, Skyfall is sure to be a great addition to round out the trilogy.

Major film projects that got some legs this week celebrate lots of black women. The first was the announcement that Kasi Lemmons, director of Eve’s Bayou and Talk to Me, was named director of the film adaptation of Zadie Smith’s award winning novel, On Beauty. This book was my personal favorite of Smith’s work, and is about British/American mixed race family, the patriarch’s academic rival and his Trinidadian family, and the racial/social/familial politics when all collide in a New England college town. More excited are my visualizations of the characters in my head (With the kids being played by Zoe Kravitz, Evan Ross, Chris Brown, and KeKe Palmer in my daydreams… but I’m no casting director). Also in the works is a Queen Latifah produced and starred remake of Steel Magnolias. The Lifetime film will also star Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard, Jill Scott, Condala Rashad, and Pariah star Adepuro Oduyere. The movie is being described as a contemporary re-visioning with a projected premiere for 2012. Originally, Steel Magnolias starred Sally Field, Julia Roberts, Dolly Pardon, Olympia Dukakis, and Darryl Hannah.

What will a black reboot be like?

For young and mature black women, there are sure to be lots of interesting representations and portrayals of our varied experience in the next few seasons. How timely for the announcements to fall on the heels of Black History month and during Women’s History Month, giving us plenty to look forward to in the coming months.

But when are we gonna see another one of these?

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U is for…

URBAN BUSH WOMEN
 
“somebody/ anybody sing a black girl’s song… sing her song of life she’s been dead so long closed in silence so long she doesn’t know the sound of her own voice her infinite beauty” – Ntozake Shange

When I think of Urban Bush Women, this quote immediately comes to my mind. So much more than a dance troupe, the non-profit organization was founded in 1984 by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, and offers a female centric perspective to the untold stories and histories of the disenfranchised members of the African Diaspora. Using dance as a medium of self expression, the group uses the art form to express and expose issues of social justice and encourage engagement. Based in New York City, the award winning ensemble is internationally known and is heavy on the festival circuit.

Urban Bush Women performing Praise House.

Their core values really embrace community and confidence in oneself. They strive to uphold validating the individual, being a catalyst for social change, entering the community and co-creating stories, building trust through process, celebrating the movement and culture of the African Diaspora, and the importance of place. As a response to the needs of black culture and their surrounding community, Urban Bush Women have hit all the right notes.

Volunteers at a community service project sponsored by Urban Bush Women.

In addition to their unique choreography and multi-talented troop that sing, act, and dance in their amazing stage performances, the group is dedicated to outreach. Urban Bush Women has and monthly culture and community series in BK called Being Bushified, that offers community dance workshops. Their Summer Leadership Institute, is a ten day intensive allows the troop to connect with their fans and examine a pressing issue in the community. Through workshops offering dance, civic engagement, and dialogues and asset mapping, interested minds 18 and older can contribute to their movement and have a taste of performance. The Institute will be in New Orleans in 2012, more information available here. They take people of all levels, so even the most inexperienced dancer should feel inspire to participate!

Participants in the Summer Leaders Institute in New Orleans!

The real magic takes place when you experience their performance live. I first saw them perform when I was a little girl and was taken by the beauty in strength in the black women moving gracefully before my eyes. The choreography always draws you into their story, expressing the varied experiences and emotions of black womanhood. Some of their most famous performances Shelter, Soul Deep, Walking With Pearl, and the more recent piece, Body Talk are masterpieces in their own right. The newest generation of performers are impressive, with most current company members having joined in the past 5 years. In 2010, they were honored during their 25th anniversary when the U.S. Department of State asked them to inaugurate their cultural dance exchange program. They were one of three companies asked to participate. This is a testimony to the power of their art and ability to speak to people of all walks of life. These young women under the direction of the supportive and impressive staff are definitely a positive representation of the artistry of dance and a testimony to the strength and creative power of black women.

Performace of Zollar: Uncensored Dance Theater Workshop in 2010.


M is for…

TARRELL ALVIN McCRANEY


For those who are connoisseurs of the stage, Tarrell Alvin McCraney was someone you were hearing about in 2011. His hit trilogy, The Brother/Sister Plays have been encapsulating audiences across the United States. Not too bad for a young brother from Miami.

Promotional Image for The Brother/Sister Plays at the Steppenwolf Theater.

After attending DePaul University for drama and Yale University for playwriting, his theatrical career started strong. His resume is beyond impressive, from his 2007 honor of the Whiting Writing Award and Paula Vogel Playwriting Award. In 2008 he received a 2 year honor as the International Writer in residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company iin London. Then, in 2009 he was chosen as a Hodder fellow at Princeton University. In 2010 he became the 43rd ensemble member at the prestigious Steppenwolf Theater. McCraney’s acclaimed shows include: Without/Sin; Run Mourner, Run; and Wig Out!; and The Breach.  His shows have recieved many praises from audiences and critics alike and been performed internationally as well, showing that he spins stories that appeal to a diverse selection of people.

Scene from In the Red and Brown Water.

To date McCraney has seven shows under his belt, with more than one exploring themes of blackness and homosexual identity, drawing from his own life experience. He has been recognized as one of premiere out media leaders and even made Out 100, the list of major influences by the LGBT magazine. The young drama phenom has done a lot to represent the youthful generation and give them a reason to become theater patrons. This is something we at ABE whole heartily applaud and support. In this age of summer blockbusters, reality television, and YouTube video success, there is something special and authentic about stage performance.

Scene from Wig Out!

Early on in his career, McCraney has already been compared to some extremely influential playwrights, proving that that he has some big footsteps to follow. One being August Wilson, who was known for his many shows that depicted and chronicled aspects of the African-American experience in the 20th Century. The other is Tony Kushner, who was best known for the epic play turned mini-series Angels in America, telling the story of a group of gay men during the AIDS epidemic in NYC. Both of these well respected playwrights are most celebrated for their ability to capture the spirt and realism of a cultural group, something McCraney has thus far proven to be a natural at as well. Hopefully this bodes well for his future success! We look forward to more enticing scripts from his introspective brain.


A Day to Celebrate like a KING

People nationwide joined in collective celebration of one of our world’s great heroes yesterday, commemorating the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr.  As I am sure there is no need for a history lesson right now and if you need to be informed about who this great man was… you need more help than this post will ever provide.  As we at All Black Everything spent our days of service reaching out in our communities, it was hard not to ponder the influence Dr. King’s actions and words have had on the fields of art and design.

For our supporters in and around the New York City area who want to tap into the spirit of the day, be sure to check out the acclaimed Broadway play, The Mountaintop. The story is a fictional retelling of the the night before Martin’s tragic assassination, with the entire play set in the Room 306 at the Lorraine Hotel. Written by playwright Katori Hall,  the UK production won the prestigious Olivier Award for Best New Play.  This was monumental as Hall was the first black woman to win in history.  Add to all this that the Broadway production stars Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Basset, who could resist?  There are discounts for ticket purchases this week, so don’t miss out… the show closes on January 22!

MLK has also been the inspiration for many other influential design moments. Its only been a year, but Spike Lee’s moving commercial for Chevrolet from last years King Day Celebration still moves me.   With their whole Table of Brotherhood campaign ad, Chevrolet was one of the major advertising accounts that helped solidify Spike DDB, the firm that resulted when Spike Lee opened a joint venture with DDB Needham Worldwide.  They are one of the more noted black advertising firms to land some major accounts like FinishLine.


Turning our head to the built environment, there were many other memorials and buildings that came long before the newest addition to the Washington Mall.  One of the lesser known design gems to feature the words and evoke the spirit of Dr. King’s work was the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, ALby architect, Maya Lin.  The fountain includes a timeline that ends with Martin’s untimely death.

Another King inspired fountain can be found in San Francisco at Yerba Buena Gardens.  The site was designed by architect, Joseph de Pace and sculpted by artist Houston Conwill.  The fountain is the largest fountain on the Western Coast of America.

Moving further up the Western Coast is the Martin Luther King Memorial Park in Seattle.  Inspired by the “I’ve Been To the Mountaintop” speech, the site is set into the landscape of the park surrounding a reflection pool and statue honoring the event.

Another site that uses the inspiration of Martin’s words to commemorate a site is the former Martin Luther King, Jr. Educational Campus in New York City.  After the original high school was closed in 2005, sculptor William Tarr created a steel sculpture matching the new campus’  facade on the site in homage to the school.

Moving to Atlanta, most people have done the historic  tours to Ebenezer Baptist Church and the King Vistor’s Center to see his tomb, but there may be a new stop on the MLK tour soon.  Designed by the Freelon Group and HOK, the National Center for Civil and Human Rights will create a space for the study, celebration, and education of the struggle for equality for all.  The building’s shape is based on the idea of interlocking arms.

You may remember early last year when we covered the announcement of the final design of the now completed MLK Memorial in Washington DC. Recently, a lot of controversy was sparked regarding one of the quotes chosen for the Stone of Hope, the cornerstone of the memorial’s design.   Many visitors have spoken out regarding the paraphrasing of a quote from Dr. King’s and have asked the designers and people managing the memorial to change the inscription on the stone.  The controversial quote is “I Was a Drum Major for Justice, Peace, and Righteousness” which has been adapted from Martin’s original words, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

Looking at the way Dr. King’s life, vision, and legacy have inspired other artists and designers in their creation of unique works is inspiring. We at All Black Everything challenge you to look to his words and message and find a way to champion it into your own creativity. And because there is no better way for it to be said….

“And we all know everything that he stood for time will bring for in peace our hearts will sing thanks to Martin Luther King…”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qwscb3QIVSg


All Black Everything: Holiday Gift Guide

With the holiday season quickly approaching, we here at All Black Everything thought we’d offer up some fun suggestions for the artist or designer in your life, with our very own Africana twist.  2011 was a great year for the black creative mind and created some wonderful books, exhibits, shows, albums, and products. Sure to bring a smile to all!

Books:

African Metropolitan Architecture by  David Adjaye| $100   ISBN # 978-0847837168

This is the latest book from the world renown architect.  It documents contemporary African architecture and cityscape in vibrant photographs.  The book was personal project for the author/designer, who spent the last decade visiting and documenting all the major cities in Africa, fifty-three in total.  The collection comes in 7 volumes and is sure to be hit with the photographer, urban planner, or designer in your life.

available here

  One Day It’ll All Make Sense by Common and Adam Bradley| $25  ISBN # 978-1451625875

This is the memoir of the actor and emcee Common aka Rashid Lynn.  It chronicles his life from his childhood on the Southside of Chicago to  his current life of premieres, movie sets, and performance.  Known for his conscious hip hop style, the book provides a great introspective into the mind of the artist.  This is Common’s first book for adults.  Perfect gift for anyone who is a lover of music or film.

available here

   The Legends of Hip Hop by Justin Bua| $34.99   ISBN #978-0061854972

Justin Bua is better known for his vibrant art pieces utilizing his unique urban look.  This book takes his genius and goes one step further, cataloging the great masters of this musical art. It profile fifty hip hop icons, each with a biography and a portrait completed in Bua’s iconic style.  If you know any true fan of hip hop, graffiti, or street art, this book will be a great addition to their coffee table.

available here

New African Fashion by Helen Jennings| $35    ISBN # 978-3791345796

From the editor of ARISE Magazine, the premiere publication in the world of African fashion come New African Fashion.  The book serves as a guide to honor the new wave of high fashion designers coming out of the country.  It covers the history of African fashion and how it has influenced the modern designer, highlighting the current artists ripping the runways and pages of the fashion world.  The book includes lines and products that are African inspired and African made.

available here

  200 Something by Tiffany Millner| $10    ISBN # 978-0615448947

Tiffany Millner is a registered architect currently practicing in Philadelphia.  The book is a collage of memoir, journal, and inspiration; chronicling the authors thoughts and emotions on her career path.  The title references the number of African American female architects practicing in the United States.  This is a great gift for the architect, artist, or feminist who is finding her voice. This is Millner’s first book.

available here

Music:

   Undun– The Roots| $12

This is the latest release from perennial favorites the Roots.  As the first conceptual album from the alternative rap band, undun is the fictional narrative of Redford Stephens, a hustler.  The story chronicles Stephens’ life in reverse from his ultimate demise to his birth navigating themes of morality and vitality.  True to form, it is a sonic vacation, highlighting the many musical talents in the group.  This is the Roots 11th studio album.

available here

   The Dreamer, The Believer– Common| $12

Set for a December 20, 2011 release, Common’s ninth album arrives just in time for the holidays.  Produced and c0-written by hailed producer No I.D. The first single from the album, Ghetto Dreams, featued Nas and was released during the summer of 2011.  In interviews Common has said this album was inspired by his life.  Fans can look forward to appearance by Maya Angelou and crooner John Legend.  Dates for the album’s tour have recently been released.

available here

  Chamber Music Society– Esperanza Spalding|$14

For those who haven’t heard of Esperenza Spalding, your time has come.  The  27 year old musician made headlines in 2011 when she won for Best New Artist at the 53rd Grammy Awards, becoming the first Jazz artist to win the prestigious honor.  Her impressive musicianship is expertly performed across an array of instruments, her music a modern myriad of jazz and neo- soul with influences from classical and Latin music.

available here

   Break of Dawn– Goapele| $9.99

R&B songstress Goapele’s latest album has been two years in the making.  The fourth release from the singer marks her return to the music scene after a 5 year hiatus.  Look to expect a more grown up sound, with the content of this record conveying a much more seductive and suggestive vibe.  Reflected by the cover art, Goapele is not holding anything back this time around and its sure to move all who listen.

available here

  The Dreamer– Etta James| $10.99

The latest studio production from the icon will also be her last.  In the twilight of her over 50 year career, the blues singer delivers more of her moody, soulful sounds.  The collection of covers represents a ride array of genres and eras of music, showing that at 73, James is still up on the times.  One highlight on the album, is James’ rendition of Otis Reading’s “Ciggarettes and Coffee” guaranteed to make you sink into the depths of your own emotions along with her.

available here

DVD:

  The Black Power Mixtape; MPI Home Video| $25

This documentary was a hit at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival.  The film is and in depth look at the evolution of the black revolutionary movement within the black community.  The footage was by Swedish filmmakers and had been lost for year, beautiful edited by Swedish director, Goran Olsson.  Look forward to video featuring Martin Luther King, Angela Davis, Huey P. Newton, Stokely Carmichael, and Eldrige Cleaver.  The movie also features commentary from many black icons.

available here

   Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest; Sony Pictures Classic| $30.99

This film is a portrait of one of the most famous rap groups in history.  Directed by Michael Rapaport, the documentary features interviews with all of the members of Tribe Called Quest.  Following the group during their 2008 reunion tour, giving a behind the scenes look at the group dynamics and journey during the year.   The documentary is an in your face and realistic portrait of the group members showing their progression as artists and ultimate differences.

available here

  Hidden Colors: The Untold History of People of Aboriginal, Moor, and African Descent; King Flex Entertainment| $30

This informative documentary looks at the history of the African Diaspora around the world.  An often overlooked and under told story of people of Africa descent in regions like Asia and Europe.  Featuring commentary and interviews by many of the premiere scholars voices in black studies, this dvd is the perfect gift for the suppressed revolutionary, history buff, or great thinker.  It is sure to foster strong sentiments of black pride and open eyes to some rarely shared information.

available here

   Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child; New Video Group| $30

An homage to the great artiste, The Radiant Child features a real look at the gone to soon Basquiat.  The documentary provides an introspective into his radical life as well as the New York art scent of 1980s. Its authenticity comes from the lost footage of Basquiat covering all aspects of his life.  The film moves chronologically, so you see his evolution as both a creator and a man, commemorating his short life.  Its has this raw, pure energy, allowing viewers to really see the legend’s human side.  This dvd is sure to  inspire the inner artist in us all.

available here

   Mooz-Lum; Vivendi| $20

This indie fan favorite got a lot of press when its marketing went viral in the past year.  Written by new director, Qasim Basir and produced by Danny Glover, the story follows a college bound young man, Tariq, who has been raised as a strict muslim in the time around 9-11.  Starring Evan Ross, in a critically applauded role as the title character.  It provides an interesting perspective on the often misunderstood religion.  The film was the winner at the 2010 Urbanworld Film Festival.

available here

Events:

   FELA! The Musical National Tour| dates and prices vary

After an exciting year on Broadway, the acclaimed musical is now headed to a city near you!  The show’s success led to a London production and Tony wins for Best Choreography, Best Costume Design for a Musical, and Best Sound Design for a Musical.  The show follows the life of activist and performer Fela Kuti  in 1977 when the Nigerian government was trying to cease his performances.

available here

  Alvin Ailey Contemporary Dance Theater National Tour| dates and prices vary

The modern dance company, known for its groundbreaking choreography, is currently in its 53rd season.   The 2011-12 season marks the first year for new Artistic Director, Robert Battle.  Features include 6 new pieces, as well as fan favorites like Revelations and Night Creatures.  Sparking a new era for the company, it is sure to provide something new for seasoned Ailey supporters and impress those new to the amazing talents

available here

  Pariah, Focus Film Features| dates and prices vary

This contemporary drama premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011 and is slated for its US release on December 28, 2011.  It was awarded for its Excellence in Cinematography at the festival.  The film is an extension of a 2007 short film by the writer/director Dee Rees and was executive produced by Spike Lee.  The plot follows Alike, a 17 year old Brooklyn teen as she embraces her sexual identity as a lesbian.  The lead actress, Adepero Oyure was nominated for the Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead.  The film also Best Independent Film and Best Breakthrough Performance for Oyure at the African-American Film Critics Association

available here

   Kinyarwanda| dates and prices vary

Also premiering this year at Sundance was Kinyarwanda, the first film from Alrick Brown.  The film one the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award.  Based on the true accounts of muslims in Rwanda during 1994 genocide, the films tells the story of hope and human compassion during that time.  Weaving six stories together, the movie gives a more comprehensive and real narrative of the lives of many Rwandan’s during that tragic time in their history.

available here

Essence Festival 2012 Weekend Passes; July 6th- 8th, New Orleans, LA| $120- 750

Every summer, music fans flock to the Big Easy for one of the largest black musical festivals in the United States.  With sessions, events, and parties for all, it is well worth the vacation days to check it out.  This year Weekend passes went on sale before the Christmas Rush, making them the perfect gift for a romantic getaway, reunion with old friends, or fun loving girls weekend trip.

available here

Items:

   Beats Colors by Dr. Dre| $350

The ever popular headphones are now available in an array of colors, so you can have a pair of Beats to match every outfit.  The SOLO model features high-definition and noise canceling audio clarity.  Its super deep bass make it perfect for catching every nuance of a great hip- hop meat, the trance inducing baselines of a complex jazz composition, or the electronic hype of a dance beat.

available here

  Scratch Art Artists Trading Cards by Scratch- Art| $7

Keep up with the latest trends by giving the gift of these artist trading cards.  Traded like baseball cards, they came out of the mail art movement.  Today they are wallet sized pieces of extraordinary art.  Combined with the elementary fun of scratch art, this activity provides an opportune moment for revisiting your inner child.

available here

    Lami Li Traveler’s Journals| $28- 43

These colorful journals are ideal for the writer, sketcher, poet, traveler in us all.  Handmade in Nepal from the bark of the Lokta tree, these eco-friendly journals help support rural economic development in the country.  Great for those who strive to live more sustainably or have an altruistic streak focused on social justice.  They include 150 bound pages of handmade paper that are acid free  and perfect for archival ink.

available here

   Obama 2012 Holiday Ornament|$40

Show that you are in for the long haul with your support of the 44th President in his re-election campaign with this festive Holiday ornament.   The rhodium features the names of the President and Vice Pres in an intricate design.   Find this and more at the Obama 2012 store to display your political stance in style.

available here

Charter Membership to the National Museum of African American History and Culture| $25- 1000

Slated for it 2015 opening, the much anticipated addition to the Smithsonian campus and National Mall is being designed by some of the world’s premiere black architects.  Help it become a reality by contributing to the campaign to raise the $250 million needed to build by becoming a Charter Member.  For your efforts, you get your name listed on the electronic wall at the museum and to say you contributed to a piece of history.

available here

Hope this extensive list has you rethinking some of your last minute gift ideas for that creative presence in your life!  From the ABE Staff, we would like to wish all of our readers and their families a Happy Holidays… we look forward to bringing you exciting new content and features next year!


Sankofa Throwback: Geoffrey Holder

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to go and watch the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform live on stage in Los Angeles. It was the 50th anniversary of “Revelations” and my very first ballet of any kind, so I was super excited to watch what was most certainly an unforgettable performance.

Brief History: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater grew from a now-fabled performance in March 1958, at the 92nd Street Young Men’s Hebrew Association in New York. Led by Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers, that performance changed forever the perception of American dance.

After experiencing the show firsthand I fully understand why. The dancing was more than impressive and the narrative therein was beautiful; but what stole the show for me were the costumes! As soon as the curtain opened, I was taken by the elegant simplicity of each garment. They moved as the dancer moved; intensifying each movement and pulling me deeper into the unspoken story. For this week’s ‘Designer Spotlight’ I would like to pay homage to costume designer Geoffrey Holder. Watch this & guess which of his designs is my favorite from “The Prodigal Prince”.

Standing at 6 feet 6 inches tall, Geoffrey Holder is legendary in The Arts. Born in the Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, Holder is also an esteemed director, choreographer, dancer, singer, painter, author and costume designer. Most of us remember him best as the ever-so-enchanting Punjab in the 1982 movie version of the musical “Annie”. Some of his television fans likely remember him most from the classic 7-Up advertising campaign in which he was the spokesman for many years.

A true jack of all trades, Geoffrey Holder has paved a way for generations of African-American artists in every spectrum of art & design. He has received numerous awards for his contributions to The Arts “including two Tony Awards for his groundbreaking work as a director and costume designer for the hit Broadway musical, The Wiz, in 1974.” (source)

Today, Mr. Holder lives in New York City with his wife, fellow dancer Carmen De Lavallade. Although you cannot follow him on Twitter or Facebook, you can always continue to watch and support the work that he has done through the years. He dedicated his lifetime to inspiring the masses and by doing so proven to be a role model to us all. Click the links. Google him. Take some time out of your day to honor the one and only Mr. Geoffrey Holder.Build your own custom video playl

…And please leave a comment below.