Friday, August 29, 2008

It's Back to School Time! Get Involved!

It’s that time of year again – back to school! As our precious students start the new school year, it’s my hope that all of you reading this will get involved in your community this year, making sure that our youth do well in school and graduate. You can join your local PTA, become a mentor, or provide a student with school supplies and clothing. In the photo above are Honey Bugs Felicia, Jah-Dai and Khyaura from the Honey Shine Mentoring Program on a back to school shopping spree at Target.

Seventy young girls each received a $75 gift card to shop for back to school items. Not only was this activity fun for the girls, but educational as well. The girls were taught how to spend their money wisely and were even given calculators to double-check their math and make sure they didn’t overspend. Honey Shine volunteers paired up with the young girls to help them find the best deals. This is just one way you can support our children as they head back to school. Read below for additional ways that you can give back this school year:

Allow me to introduce you to 18-year old Chelsea Doub, a freshman at Penn State whose ultimate goal is to become a doctor. Like many students entering college this fall, Chelsea has received a few monetary scholarships, but she still is in need of additional assistance to cut the costs of tuition and housing. As African American youth only have a 50% chance of graduating from high school, what about those who do graduate and go on to college? Although the number of African Americans attending college has risen in the last two decades, they are less likely to graduate.

I was inspired to adopt two college students this year from an article I read in a Detroit newspaper. The article shares how an eight-year old set up a lemonade stand to raise money for his church’s scholarship fund. But what stood out to me was how the scholarship fund worked:


“The scholarship is for college students who are members of the church and enrolled in school full-time. After graduation from high school, church members receive a one-time gift of $50 from the scholarship fund. Once they enroll in college or a post-high school program, they are eligible to receive $75 a month for up to five years. Currently, 14 students receive scholarships.

"I noticed that young men -- not just at our church, but young men everywhere -- were not graduating from high school like the young ladies. I heard a voice from God and talked to my husband about it, and we decided to create the scholarship," said Amy Jackson, 71, who lives in Detroit.”
One student shared in the article, “It was very special to me because I wasn't sure I was going to school," said Frye, 22, an interior design student from Detroit. "It has helped me pay for books, my cell phone bill and, as an interior design student, I have a lot of extra fees, so it has helped pay for fabric, sewing equipment and art supplies.”
I picked Chelsea to 'adopt' because in addition to her academic and athletic achievements, she makes giving back to her community a priority. She was named as a spokesperson and Youth Volunteer of the Year for the American Red Cross, has mentored inner city youth in the game of soccer for the past 11 years, and has filmed a 30 second public service announcement to promote volunteerism that is airing throughout the state of Pennsylvania this year. Way to go Chelsea! As you can see from this article, every little bit of money counts. So consider adopting a student in your community this year.

Help a teacher in your community by donating funds to purchase supplies that will enhance student’s learning experiences in the classroom. Many teachers would like to supplement their instruction with field trips and other activities to make learning fun, but schools in low income areas just don't have the money. One of my favorite charities is Donors Choose. By visiting the website, you can select your state/city, and browse projects that are submitted by teachers to help fund.

In related news, New Leaders for New Schools, a national non profit, is targeting the Houston, Dallas and Atlanta areas to seek talented, diverse, and passionate individuals to serve as exceptional school leaders in New Orleans' public schools. Over the next 3 years, New Leaders will recruit and train as many as 40 highly motivated new principals to lead the majority of public and public charter schools in New Orleans.

Since Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans has been presented with a historic opportunity to transform its school system in a thoughtful way. Great schools need great leaders, but they are in desperately short supply in New Orleans. The current shortage is poised to become an even bigger problem as more families return to the city. Dedicated individuals can help solve that problem by joining the drive to provide the quality leadership needed to transform New Orleans' public schools. New Leaders is currently recruiting its next class of leaders to train during the 2009-2010 school year.

For more information, visit their website at

You can volunteer at your local school to serve as a chaperone on field trips, become a tutor, or mentor a group of youth by taking them on fun, educational trips that are free. Are you a business leader or professional in your field? Invite a group of youth to your business or office for a career day activity.

Let's make this a great school year!

Photos of the Day: DNC 2008

A painting of Barack Obama on display at the Manifest Hope Gallery Opening at the Democratic National Convention on August 24, 2008 in Denver, Colorado.

I'm sure many of you watched Obama's historic speech last night as the first African American presidential nominee of a major political party. As various news stations interviewed African Americans in the audience during the four day convention, many of them said they thought they would never see this day.  Let's take a look at photos from the 2008 Democratic National Convention:

Matt Gerson, Arianna Huffington and attend the Huffington Post's hosts "Game Change: How The New Media Are Impacting The '08 Race" on August 26, 2008.

Capitol File, Viacom, and Jennifer Lopez honor Marian Wright Edelman and the Children's Defense Fund at the Denver Art Museum on August 27, 2008. Jennifer Lopez shared during the event, "The world is a different place for me now that I've had children. I want to set an example for my children on how to live their lives. You have to instill that charitable, philanthropic spirit. Be loud. Vote for your children. Vote for your nation. I realized I could be a lightning rod. I can bring attention to issues people aren't listening to. People sometimes have to be held under a fire to make a change."
Actor Forest Whitaker, wife Keisha Whitaker, and actor Hill Harper attend the Impact Film Festival and MySpace Impact SAG dinner at 5 Degrees on August 27, 2008.

TV personality Star Jones at the MySpace Cafe DNC Corner Office Restaurant on August 27, 2008.

Spike Lee, Tonya Lewis Lee, Lynn Whitfield and her daughter Grace Gibson attend the party hosted by Google and Vanity Fair to celebrate the Democratic National Convention at the Exdo Event Center on August 28, 2008.

Actor Jamie Foxx, actress Ashley Judd and actor Alan Cumming attend the party hosted by Google and Vanity Fair at the Exdo Event Center on August 28, 2008.

Rosario Dawson, Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Alba attend the Voto Latino Party on August 27, 2008.
Photos: Wireimage

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Virginia Icon: Annual Music Competition Honors Virginia Native and R&B Star Trey Songz

The 2008 Virginia Icon Semi-finalists

Move over American Idol! Students from Virginia have their own version of showcasing their exceptional musical talent: The Virginia Icon.

The Virginia Icon is an annual statewide vocal music competition for middle and high school students sponsored by the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center (PEATC). The organization assists families of children with and without disabilities through education, information, support and training. PEATC builds parent-professional partnerships to promote success in school and community life.

Auditions for the competition occurred in the Alleghany Highlands, Fredericksburg, Northern Virginia, and Richmond. The final competition is October 12, 2008 at Richmond’s 3,600-seat Landmark Theater. Judges will represent each area of the state where auditions occurred. Mrs. Alma Powell, wife of Retired General Colin Powell, and co-founder of America's Promise Alliance, is the event’s honorary chair.

Now entering its third year, this year marks the first time the Virginia Icon recognizes a famous young talent in the music industry with Virginia roots. This year's honoree is Petersburg native and R&B recording artist and songwriter, Trey Songz.

Trey is not just a phenomenal vocal talent. He also commits to make a social difference in his hometown where children and their families benefit from his philanthropy, as well as nationwide through his Songz 4 Peace campaign - a response to the rise in youth violence, particularly in urban areas. Launched in Chicago, Songz 4 Peace is creating a buzz owed to its real world focus that moves beyond lip service to change strategies fueled by individuals who turned their lives around.

“We are thrilled to have such strong support for the Virginia Icon,” shares Cherie Takemoto, executive director, PEATC. “For thirty years, we have been a statewide resource for children with disabilities, their families and the schools they attend. We also offer services, through our Parent Information Resource Center for all Virginia families,” she adds. “The Virginia Icon showcases Virginia’s young people at their best; they are our partners who help raise critical program dollars in support of the more than 175,000 children, statewide, with disabilities. Honoring Trey Songz for his talent and commitment to give back bonds with the Virginia Icon’s purpose,” she concludes.

For tickets and additional information on the Virginia Icon, contact Patricia Green, at I C Linkages, LLC, 301.526.1089, or

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

R&B Star Chilli Hosts A Day of Pampering for Atlanta Girls

Six young girls received a treat before the start of school – a day of pampering by Chilli of the R&B group TLC. Chilli chose Immix Hair Gallery & Day Spa to support her non-profit, 'Chilli's Crew'. Chilli shares, “The whole idea of Chilli's Crew is to teach young women to celebrate their unique beauty from the inside out. I can't thank Immix enough for embracing my girls and giving each of them the star treatment. To see the girls faces after their mini-makeovers warmed my heart; it was great.”

Chilli's Crew caters to young women ages 10-18 years old. Immix is one of a few organizations that has come on board and adopted Chilli's Crew over the last year. During the day of pampering, Chilli shared information about self esteem, keeping up good hygiene, and positive alternatives to peer pressure. After a light brunch and some good old fashioned “girl talk,” the girls received hair styling, manicure, pedicure and facial services by the staff at Immix.

Simone Edouard, owner of Immix Hair Gallery shared, Immix believes in supporting the community and especially young ladies, it was vital to support such a cause. The staff enjoyed hosting Chilli and the girls for a day of pampering. We look forward to welcoming them again.”

ABOUT IMMIX HAIR GALLERY & DAY SPA:Just 20 minutes east of Atlanta in Conyers, Georgia is Immix Hair Gallery & Day Spa, a bustling business that thrives on laughter, teamwork, quality and professionalism. With a full staff of culturally diverse stylists and spa technicians; any person of any race, hair of any texture and color can walk through Immix's door and leave more than satisfied! Each client experiences hands on education and instruction, a requirement personalized with each technician; catering to the client's specific needs.

Immix is located at: 1540 Hwy 138 in the Bank of America Professional Building in Conyers, GA, 30013. For more info, please visit:

{Thanks Dee Dee}

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Mya Arts and Technology Foundation: Enriching the Lives of D.C. Youth

“My ultimate goal is to open a community center that is open 24 hours - ‘Magic Johnson style’- with family programs and mentoring, the whole nine. Sort of like a community center that offers the kind of things you necessarily can’t get at a dance school or performing arts school – a very well rounded program.”

--- Grammy-award winning R&B singer Mya, shares the ultimate goal for her foundation, The Mya Arts and Technology Foundation

Kids love summer. School’s out, pools are open and the days are longer. For some youth, particularly those living in low-income communities, summer isn’t fun. It’s a time when they don’t have adequate supervision, nutritious meals or quality summer activities. As a result, they experience learning loss, which can result in lower levels of reading achievement that can persist throughout high school.

Fun, educational activities help to keep learning alive through the summer months and that’s exactly what Grammy-award winning R&B singer Mya provided for youth from the Southeast neighborhood of Washington, D.C. through her foundation, The Mya Arts and Technology Foundation (TMATF). She shared with BlackGivesBack, “I definitely want to make sure kids are inundated with as much knowledge as possible, and that’s really the basis of this program, of any program, to give knowledge.”

TMATF is a non profit organization that provides education in the arts and technology for inner city and suburban youth (ages 5 - 13) throughout the metropolitan Washington D.C. area. The foundation has grown since its beginnings from three courses to a variety of classes that include dance (ballet, hip hop, African), life skills, money management, fashion and modeling, computer skills, art, photography, sound engineering, and music.

On Saturday, August 23, 2008, TMATF in partnership with the 21st Century Program of the Howard Road Academy Charter School held its Finale Fun Day in Washington, D.C., where the youth showed their parents and the community what they learned during the summer camp. Performances featured step demonstrations, praise dance, African dance, hip hop dance and a fashion show with young girls wearing designs they created themselves. During the performances, Mya beamed proudly from the side of the stage – she was so proud!

This is 6-year old Shaniya, master hula hooper and a participant in the TMATF summer program. Her mother, Michelle, shared with me that she has seen a positive change in her daughter since she began the program, “She used to be shy, and the program has helped her to open up alot more.”

Now in its fourth year, the foundation would like to acquire their own building and expand to a year-round program, serving youth in nearby Maryland and Virginia. Mya acknowledged that this labor of love would not be possible without the help and support of her team, which includes Program Director Crystal Bozeman, and Aaron Jackson, the Director of the 21st Century Program at Howard Road Academy. He shared that he and Mya have partnered together on this program since its inception. (L to R: Mya, Aaron Jackson)

In addition to her passion for children and youth, Mya is also passionate about animal welfare. She currently serves as a national spokesperson for the North Shore Animal League, a NY based organization that rescues 20,000 animals every year. Mya has three dogs and a cat, sharing that her goal is to promote animal adoption.

Souls Revealed Book Giveaway Winners!

Thank you to all who entered our book giveaway for Souls Revealed: A Souls of My Sisters Book of Revelations and Tools for Healing Your Life, Soul and Spirit by authors Dawn Marie Daniels and Candace Sandy. The five winners who will receive an autographed copy of the book are:

Alice Z., Oak Brook, IL

Jon M., Marysville, WA

Tia C., Frederick, MD

Cassandra P., Florence, MA

Reeva M., Fort Washington, MD

Congratulations to the winners! For more information on this book, where to purchase and other Souls of My Sisters Book titles, visit the website here.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Community Events: Atlanta and Dallas


Embodying the concept of beauty from the inside out, O - Aesthetics Med Spa is launching "Pamper for a Purpose". This philanthropic beauty campaign is designed to benefit the orphans in Zimbabwe through the assistance of Morning Star Camp Inc.

As seen in Lucky Magazine, Daily Candy, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and loved by the likes of Vivica Fox, Chilli (TLC) and more, O -Aesthetics Medical Spa has quickly become one of the most coveted spas in Atlanta. With its immense success, the spa's principals have joined together with Morning Star Camp to create a way to give back. In the spirit of giving O-Aesthetics pledges to donate twenty-five dollars from every Hyperbaric Oxygen Infusion Facial, and Botox Cosmetic Treatment booked at O Aesthetics to an organization committed to helping the orphans of Zimbabwe children obtain life's basic necessities.Donations will be hand delivered directly to the Morning Star Camp that houses many of those in need.

Join O-Aesthetics in helping to preserve the natural beauty of life with "Pamper for a Purpose". For more information visit


2008 National Black MBA Association - Dallas/Fort Worth Chapter (NBMBAA-DFW)presents the Inaugural Scholarship Golf Tournament & Event, October 6, 2008 at the Golf Club at Castle Hills in Lewisville, TX.

This one-day fun event offers participants an opportunity to gain valuable industry exposure, network with other business professionals and share in camaraderie while enjoying a first class golf experience. This event and dinner will bring together corporations, entrepreneurs and individuals to help raise funds for scholarships for deserving Dallas/Fort Worth area students.

All proceeds will be allocated to the NBMBAA DFW Chapter Scholarship Fund.

CONTACTS: Michael Bowen, NBMBAA Golf Chairperson, or Kathy Valentine, NBMBAA President,

Dallas Fundraising Conference: September 23 and 24, 2008

OEG CONFERENCES is pleased to invite you to the Dallas Fundraising Conference taking place at the historic Southfork Ranches in Dallas on September 23rd & 24th, 2008. Join approximately 250 other nonprofit professionals (From Texas, Oklahoma & Louisiana) including 47 registered speakers.

If your organization is seeking new ways to raise money from grants, sponsorships, individual gifts, or other funding sources, this conference is not to be missed.

To learn more, visit

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. presents "A Taste of Blue", their 3rd Annual Wine Tasting at the African American Museum on September 6, 2008, 6 pm. Price: $20.00. Proceeds benefit the Storks Nest Charity Fund of Dallas. Visit the website at

Dallas Metroplex Council of Black Alumni Associations presents a College Fair and Forum. Saturday, September 6, 2008 from 10 AM to 1 PM at the South Dallas Cultural Center, 3400 South Fitzhugh Avenue, Dallas. Learn HBCU facts, obtain scholarship and financial aid information and more. Contact

Hamilton Park Youth Development Corporation presents "Cool Jazz @ the Park" featuring North Texan jazz drummer Gino Iglehart (former music director for Dallas neo-soul luminary Erykah Badu). When: Friday, September 12, 2008 at 6 pm. Location: Christian Life Center of Hamilton Park United Methodist Church, 11811 Schroeder Road, Dallas. $5 contribution. All proceeds go to the Hamilton Park Youth Development Corporation.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Damond Gordon: From ‘The Wire’ to ‘The Rothstein Diamond’

In 1989, Black Entertainment Television (BET) premiered the talk show Teen Summit, which featured a group of teens called the ‘teen posse’, discussing issues they faced at home, in school and their communities. The successful show was spearheaded by Rodney Wooten and BET co-founder and philanthropist Sheila Johnson, who shared last year, “….I wanted to make sure that our young people were really receiving the right message. That’s when I decided to do Teen Summit because, you know, there was the birth of music videos that were going on.” The show ended in 2003.

Washington, D.C. native Damond Gordon was one of those young people that received the right message. As a teen, Damond participated on the show as a posse member - and he watched what went on behind the scenes, learning writing, television production and technical aspects. Upon graduation from D.C.’s Wilson High School (my alma mater!) in 1993, Damond enrolled in college at Bowie State University in Maryland. He then enrolled at Towson University, earning a master's degree in film making. For a short time after college, Damond worked in education as a teacher. In the photo above with Damond is 17-year old Kyle (pictured at right), aka Lil' Temy, a former student of his.

Although Damond took his teaching job seriously serving as a mentor to his students, writing short stories and film making was his passion. This led him to HBO’s critically acclaimed show ‘The Wire’ working set production, as well as other projects including the films Step Up 2, Chris Rock's Head of State and the television show The District. Fast forward to today, Damond is filming his first and biggest production, ‘The Rothstein Diamond’. He saved for a year to bring his vision to life, a story about two of the most notorious female thieves Washington, D.C. has ever seen. About the film:

The film is set against the backdrop of the district’s tony Georgetown neighborhood, where Sydney Spriggs and Bianca Graham are two women that are forced into a life of crime. Strategically hitting up small area stores, the women seem unstoppable, until a heist goes wrong leaving someone dead with a dirty cop on their trail. Sydney and Bianca are offered two choices, jail, or steal one of the most sought after diamonds in the world, the Rothstein Diamond.

The film stars Byata (Vh1’s Miss Rap Supreme) as Sydney and Candace Sholz as Bianca, Roger G. Smith (American Gangster) and Erik Todd Dellums (Dr. Doolittle).

BlackGivesBack was on the scene as Damond wrapped up filming in Baltimore this past weekend and spoke to a few of the film’s cast members. Roger G. Smith, a veteran of films who has appeared in many Spike Lee productions and in the film American Gangster, says that Damond is “the next big thing”. The film also features Lil’ B. Sure of MTV's Rock the Cradle (the son of singer Al B. Sure) who is starring in his first acting role, and rapper/actress Lin Que, formerly known as Isis from the 90’s rap group X-Clan.

As for Lil’ Temy pictured with Damond above - he has a role in the film also. Damond kept in touch with Lil’ Temy throughout the years and still serves as a mentor to him. Lil' Temy told me he dropped out of high school but he’s returning this fall to get his diploma – in fact he shared he wouldn’t leave school without it. With Damond as his mentor, I’m sure he’ll succeed.

{Special thanks to Tamiko and Neeta of Ideal PR and Barbara J.}

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Harlem Back To School Bookbag Campaign

Harlem Residents!! This year, many families are struggling to send their children off to school with school supplies. In an effort to help, many organizations and celebrities are sponsoring back to school events to ensure our youth have a successful school year. One of those organizations is Young Faces Smiling, Inc., a New York based non profit that utilizes "Reality Teaching" to incorporate practical applications into educational lessons for all students. Rather than focus on traditional teaching methods and the standard textbooks that are unable to catch and motivate the interest of students, Young Faces Smiling's curriculum uses a pop culture element to attract students.

Ardella McClarty, the organization's co-founder, has partnered with multi-platinum producer Dame Grease to provide book bags with supplies to Harlem Youth ages 6-18. Help make this campaign a success by donating school supplies or funds to cover the cost of the supplies.

There are a couple of ways you can support:

Donate school supplies! Some suggested items are spiral notebooks and folders, book covers, pencil cases, rulers, 3-hole punchers, composition notebooks, Crayola crayons, pocket dictionary and construction paper.

Donate gift cards to Staples, Office Mart or Walmart or make a financial contribution. Donations should be sent to: Soul Pitch Media, 355 E. 10th Street suite 4C, New York, NY 10009.

The deadline for contributions is Friday August 22, 2008. The distribution of book bags will be Wednesday, August 27, 2008. Location to be announced. For more information, contact:

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Marvelyn Brown: The Naked Truth

African American women are contracting HIV at alarming rates. Statistics show that of all new AIDS cases among women, 66% are African American. And among youth? Sixty nine percent (69%) of all new AIDS cases among teens are African American.

At the age of 19, Marvelyn Brown, a young African American woman, contracted HIV from a man she called her prince charming. Refusing to let the diagnosis take a hold of her life, she serves as an advocate and inspiration for youth living with HIV/AIDS by traveling the world, sharing her story and message of prevention: Get educated and get tested.

If you watched CNN's Black in America series, you may recognize Marvelyn as she was interviewed by Soledad O'Brien for the black families segment. She has had many other television appearances, among them the Oprah Winfrey Show, MTV, BET and The Tavis Smiley Show.

Marvelyn will surely reach an even wider audience with her story in her new memoir, The Naked Truth that is being released today.

About the book: "At nineteen years of age, Marvelyn Brown was lying in a stark white hospital bed at Tennessee Christian Medical Center, feeling hopeless. A former top track and basketball athlete, she was in the best shape of her life, but she was battling a sudden illness in the intensive care unit. Doctors had no idea what was going on. It never occurred to Brown that she might be HIV positive.

Having unprotected sex with her Prince Charming had set into swift motion a set of circumstances that not only landed her in the fight of her life, but also alienated her from her community. Rather than give up, however, Brown found a reason to fight and a reason to live.

The Naked Truth is an inspirational memoir that shares how an everyday teen refused to give up on herself, even as others would forsake her. More, it's a cautionary tale that every parent, guidance counselor, and young adult should read."

In a recent interview with the Kaiser Family Foundation, Marvelyn shares that she faces constant stigma and is accused of glamorizing AIDS. A recent entry on her blog is titled 'HIV Sucks, I Swear!'

"I am constantly being accused of glamorizing AIDS. Really??? Because as glamorous as I am (I prefer the word Marvelous by the way, but whatever) there is nothing glamorous about HIV. Including the thoughts and fears that race through my head DAILY.

You want to know what my worst fear is besides that one day the medicines that I take could stop working, or that there will never be a cure for AIDS, or that I will always be judged for something I have and not who I am. And let me not forget about the day that I can't afford health insurance. My worst fear is catching a disease that I have no control over getting, like a form of cancer. HIV is bad enough on its own, oh trust it don't need no side kick.

Also, There is also nothing glamorous about taking 7 HORSE pills that still make me gage after 4 1/2 years taking them. I take them until the point that my eyes water. I actually use my pill taking as a make-up remover. You see every night before I go to bed or around 11:00 pm Eastern Time it is Marvelyn's Medicine Time. So after a long day of long lasting mascara, I simply take my pills and my mascara begins to loosen up and then starts to run. What is GLAMOROUS about running mascara people? I contracted a 100% PREVENTABLE disease people, which that is my message, not how glamorous I look doing it! That's what wrong with people now. Shame on you! Lol. Bottom line, HIV sucks, I swear!"

Visit Marvelyn's blog here for upcoming book signing locations.

The Naked Truth is available at Amazon and other national book retail outlets.

Monday, August 18, 2008

D.C. Youth Create Anti-Violence Commercial

Those of you who live in the Washington, D.C. area know that this summer has been violent, particularly among youth. The D.C. Police Department launched 'All Hands on Deck' in an effort to curb the violence in the Northeast neighborhood of Trinidad, where several homicides occurred. Anyone who couldn't show proof that they lived in that neighborhood weren't allowed in. Although some residents and community members opposed the initiative, calling it a violation of their constitutional rights, something had to be done.


"After a violent summer that claimed the lives of too many of their peers, some DC kids are speaking out with a creative new video.The local organization Neighbors of Seaton Place, Inc. produced the 30-second commercial, entitled "My Plea, Our Plea," and plan to run it on CNN, MSNBC, and BET networks through Comcast cable.

The ad features local teens reading original poetry about the violence they've witnessed and pleading for peace.

Organizers hope that DC youth will respond to their peers speaking to them in their own language, something adults admit they can't do."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

'A Change Is Coming' Gospel Stage Play Highlights Faith and Family Unity

Remember the days when families sat and ate at the dinner table together? When Grandma got the switch from the tree to give youngins a good whuppin'? How about parents and their children going to church together? Coming home when the streetlights came on? In today's times, you don't see these too often. Michael McCorkle, writer and director of the gospel stage play 'A Change Is Coming' has the remedy to today's societal ills facing the African American community. Putting faith and family first.

While in Atlanta last month I attended the play which was held at the 14th Street Playhouse of the Woodruff Arts Center. Although the play highlights serious issues, it's actually very humorous and thoroughly entertaining. Just take a look at the photo above of castmembers Mike Fields, Setranique Clawson, Tara Yates-Reeves and Marcus Canty. All of the cast are amazing in their roles, and Setranique's performance of Pearl, the grandmother, is superb!

This stage play tells the story of a family drifting apart and a matriarch whose faith and belief in the power of prayer brings everyone together. Michael says, "With a society of career-driven and goal oriented individuals, it has become increasingly difficult to multi-task between family and work. Many parents and their children find it challenging to incorporate 'family time' into their busy lives, and have thus forgotten the importance of 'togetherness' and the strength that comes from family unity. Faith and spirituality are among the many critical components of strong family relationships and this production raises an awareness to their importance."

As a producer, Michael is the Founder and Producing Director of OneStage Productions, Inc., an arts and entertainment production company for teens and young adults based in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. He also serves as the Theatre Studio Leader for DC's Higher Achievement Program, a program providing middle school students from under-served areas an educational and high school preparatory program.

While watching the play, it definitely made me think about my days as a teenager growing up in D.C. When my mother was working, my grandmother watched me and my twin sister like a hawk (RIP Betty Lou). She would ask where we were going, who we were going with and what time we were coming home. One one particular day, my sister and I were hanging out in an undesirable part of town - we just knew no one would see us. As it turned out, a church member saw us from her windowsill and called our grandmother. You can probably guess the rest of what happened.

The play is a memorable celebration of family and Christian values with an engaging cast and an original score. It wonderfully illustrates that in addition to parents, it truly takes a village to raise a child.

'A Change Is Coming' stage play is currently on tour with upcoming cities of Spindale, NC (August 29th) and Brooklyn, NY (November 1st). It's a great activity for the family, church groups and community organizations. Visit Michael's myspace page for ticket information here.

{Thanks Monique}

Friday, August 15, 2008

BlogWatch: Of Note

of is an online space where art meets activism, empowerment and social responsibility. The founder, Grace Aneiza Ali, states that although people of color continue to make great strides on the stage, screen and gallery walls, often they are not equally represented in the audience.

Their mission is to increase participation in the arts that celebrate people of color and to improve access to the arts for low-income families and under-served communities; believing that greater involvement in the arts can strengthen families and foster stronger relationships within communities.

From Uptown Flavor: The chic weekly online magazine offers a listing of socially-conscious, arts-related cultural events throughout the New York metropolitan area.

Grace shares, “For people of color living in under-served communities, access to the arts goes beyond entertainment. It is critically important that members of our community, both adults and youth, are motivated to value the arts as a tool of empowerment - professionally and educationally.” It was that belief that became the foundation of her mission.

As a result, of note has gone beyond the pages of the virtual world and has reached out to the Harlem community, developing partnerships with community-based organizations working in the areas of arts education, youth and family services, and private low-income housing development companies. Through their initiative, “Art Experiences,” they sponsor tickets to notable performances and provide transportation and dinner for low-income families living in Harlem.
Visit their website here and blog here.

Thanks to UPTOWNflavor for the hat tip!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Philip Simmons: "The Gate Keeper"

Chances are if you live in or have visited Charleston, South Carolina, you’ve seen the work of Philip Simmons. As a nationally renowned African American artisan and blacksmith, Simmons’ intricate ironwork can be found on historic properties all throughout the city – over 500 creations of gates, windows, fences, doors and more. You could say that Philip Simmons created Charleston by hand.

Born in 1912, Simmons dropped out of school at the age of 12 to learn the craft of ironwork. For thirty years, he apprenticed under a former slave, Peter Simmons (no relation) becoming skilled in ornamental ironwork. Simmons uses designs such as animals and trees to create award winning creations which have earned him many accolades, most notably, being named as a National Heritage Fellow from the Smithsonian Institution, the highest honor that the United States can bestow on a traditional artist.

In the photo above, Simmons stands in his home workshop that has been named as one of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. It is the same workshop used by his mentor, who died in 1952.

Simmons has created so many designs in Charleston, that he can’t remember them all. So in 1992, a group of dedicated citizens established the Philip Simmons Foundation to help Simmons locate all of his creations and to develop and maintain a garden in his honor to preserve his legacy and craft. He is considered the last of his breed of African American blacksmiths.

At the age of 96 (he just celebrated his birthday this past June!) Simmons is happy to welcome students and visitors to his workshop although it needs to be preserved. The workshop has no interior walls or insulation and is not anchored, making severe weather and hurricanes a constant threat. The Foundation has as its goal to raise funds to preserve his workplace so that Simmons can continue to live at the home he’s known for nearly 50 years.

For more information on Philip Simmons and the Foundation, visit the website here.

Photos:; flickr

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

::Photos of the Day::

President of the Center for the Advancement of Women Faye Wattleton, Reverend Al Sharpton and Photographer/Director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders attend a screening of "The Blacklist" at the Time Warner Center on August 12, 2008 in New York City. The Blacklist features candid interviews with 20 influential African Americans that include artists, CEOs, politicians and activists who share views on society, family and personal identity.

Emmy award winning talk show host Tyra Banks celebrates the first all black model issue of Vogue Italia with past and present black supermodels on August 12th in New York.

Singer Tiffany Evans with girls participating in 'Swimming with the Stars' swim meet hosted by Sporty Girls, Inc., August 9th in Atlanta.

American Idol winner Jordin Sparks and teen volunteers help fill 5,000 bags with school supplies at the ''Do Something 101'' volunteer event on August 7, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.

Actress Lauren London, the Target Dog and actress Holly Robinson Peete attend 'A Conversation with Young Hollywood' of the 12th Annual American Black Film Festival on August 9, 2008 in Los Angeles, California.

Actress Tracee Ellis Ross with music executive Sylvia Rhone at Vibe Magazine's 15th anniversary party, August 12th in New York City.

Camille and Bill Cosby with daughter Evin at the opening of her new boutique, PB & Caviar in New York City on August 7th. Check out the Fashion Bomb for more on Evin's store.

Photos: Wireimage, Garner Circle PR

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Ben Lee Foster: A Teen Filmmaker on the Rise

Ben Lee Foster is a young filmmaker, author and motivational speaker who has been producing, directing and casting his own films since the tender age of 9. Now sixteen, Ben recently premiered his latest project, 'Casting Call' at the 12th Annual American Black Film Festival in Los Angeles last week, making him the youngest to debut his film during the festival.

I wanted to meet this up and coming filmmaker, so I attended the 'Casting Call' premiere, which was held at the Beverly Center's Mann Theatres in West Hollywood. Casting Call is a comedic short film about auditions and 'casting calls' in the entertainment industry and what goes on behind the scenes. When asked what inspired him to create the film, he shared that he along with his mother attended a casting call and saw the things people do to become famous - so he decided to create a film about it. He wrote the screenplay, selected the cast and directed the film under his company, Ben Foster Films.

In addition to creating films, Ben makes it a priority to serve as a role model for his peers, by showing his films in schools and organizations nationwide, speaking with youth after the screenings to encourage and motivate them. One of Ben's films is titled 'Kid Patrol', that shows real life situations that our youth face daily. The film encourages youth to use good decisions for better outcomes in life.

During the Q&A session following the 'Casting Call' premiere, Ben shared that many told him he was too young to make films. He said "don't let people tell you that you can't do something," stating that it motivated him even more to pursue his dreams. With twelve films under his belt, Ben has proved the naysayers wrong by appearing in publications such as Black Enterprise, appearances on the Montel Williams Show and CNN - and has won numerous awards, among them the Philadelphia NAACP ACTSO competition for the film making category.

What's next for Ben? This week, he begins an internship with BET Films, mentored under the guidance of filmmaker Reginald Hudlin and Robert Otey with the ultimate goal of making his first full length feature film.

To learn more about Ben Foster and to schedule a visit to your school or organization, visit his website here.

{Thanks to Neeta @ Ideal PR}

Monday, August 11, 2008

Black Society to Gather in the Hamptons to Support Community Outreach for Performing Arts

Evidence, a Brooklyn, New York based dance company, will hold its 5th Annual "On Our Toes" summer benefit in Bridgehampton, NY, on August 23rd. This premier African American cultural event in the Hamptons will include a cocktail reception, dance performance and a "Dancing with the Dancers" post event party. Writer, producer and activist Crystal McCrary Anthony (in photo) is honorary chair and TV personality René Syler is mistress of ceremonies.

Evidence was founded in 1985 under the artistic leadership of choreographer Ronald K. Brown. In addition to touring across the U.S. and overseas, the company supports community outreach activities and educational programs for dance enthusiasts of all ages. Evidence's mission is to help promote understanding about the human experience by providing sensory connections to history and tradition, and incorporates music and the spoken word to delve deeply into issues of spirituality, community responsibility and liberation.

The company hosts two major fundraising activities each year: The Winter Gala held at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in Manhattan and "On Our Toes" in the Hamptons, the company's annual benefit performance. The Hamptons benefit was initiated by Evidence Board Chair Reginald Van Lee of Booz Allen Hamilton and Susan Taylor, former editorial director of Essence Magazine.

This summer benefit has had a history of attracting prestigious audiences and is comprised of philanthropists and corporate America's most influential senior executives, as well as celebrities. Past attendees have included actor Danny Glover, Robin Roberts, TV personalities Andrea and Maurice DuBois and Loida Nicholas Lewis. Individual tickets are $500.

On the web:

For more information, contact Andrea Hoffman at

::Event: San Francisco 49ers Vernon Davis Holds First Annual Charity Weekend::

On July 18-20, San Francisco 49ers and Washington, D.C. native Vernon Davis held his first annual weekend extravaganza for charity that benefited the ANC Umbrella Foundation and the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Washington.

The weekend kicked off on Friday with a free football clinic for youth at his alma mater, Dunbar High School that featured a flag football game between Dunbar's alumni and the D.C. Police Department. On Saturday, celebrities came out to bowl for charity at Lucky Strikes and the weekend concluded on Sunday with a brunch and silent auction at the Park at 14th Street.

During the brunch, D.C. Council member Vincent Gray presented Vernon Davis' grandmother, Adelaine Davis with a plaque, as she raised Vernon and his siblings and is a major contributor to Vernon's success. Vernon is committed to continuing his contributions to his community, whether in Washington, D.C. or San Francisco. He is especially passionate about programs for children, whose parents are or were addicted to drugs.

Adelaine Davis, actors Jackie Long and Niecy Nash, Vernon Davis
Other celebrities and athletes that participated in the charity weekend included Vernon's teammates Moran Morris and Delaine Walker, Arizona Cardinals Darnell Dockett and actors Omar Benson Miller and Jade Yorker.
Photography by Digital Depictions

Monday, August 4, 2008

Sporty Girls

Last month, I featured a post on the swimming gap, that highlighted the swimming disparity in the African American community, specifically noting recent research that 60% of black children can't swim.

Since my post, I've read stories of everyday heroes and programs in communities that are teaching inner-city youth to learn how to swim, such as John Mason in Prince George's County Maryland, who teaches 130 youth, of which 104 are black.

In Atlanta, there's Rashan Ali.

As the founder of Sporty Girls, Inc., Ali's goal is to expose young African American girls to non traditional sports such as swimming - and golf, soccer, volleyball and tennis, while developing and fostering lifestyle skills.

Participating in sports is not new for Ali. In fact, she was born into a sports family, learned how to swim at the age of three, began swimming competitively at the age of five, and received a full college scholarship for swimming.

Despite her busy schedule as a mother and as an on-air personality for Radio One's Hot 107.9 A-Team's morning show, Ali makes it a priority to give back to her community.

Last week, Sporty Girls completed its first 6-week summer camp. In the photo above with Ali is rapper Young Joc, who surprised the girls with a visit, along with Rita Smith, a professional soccer player from Bermuda.

Up next for Sporty Girls: Join Ali and her celebrity friends as they host the first annual Sporty Girls "Swimming with the Stars" celebrity swim meet on August 9th at Adams Park.

Swimming with the Stars is an event where Sporty Girls is challenging local celebrities of Atlanta to develop a swimming team that will compete against each other while raising funds for the organization.

The goal is to solidify ten (10) teams to participate in the event. Each team will have a minimum of at least four participants to make up a relay. Teams will be asked to participate in swim related events such as the 100-meter Freestyle Relay, 100-meter Backstroke Relay, the 10-minute relay race, freestyle kick race and four individual races. Sporty Girls will also have their young ladies participate by being a part of the celebrity teams, taking part in the relays and swimming individually.

For more information on the organization and upcoming events, visit the website at

{Source and photos: Thanks to Rashan and the Garner Circle PR}

Friday, August 1, 2008

The Luther Henderson Scholarship Fund

The prestigious Juilliard School in New York is probably one of the most well known performing arts institutions in the world. Founded in 1905, the school offers undergraduate and graduate study in music, dance and drama. But getting accepted into Juilliard is not easy. According to U.S. via Wikipedia, Juilliard has the lowest acceptance rate in the U.S., followed by Yale and Harvard universities. Among its notable African American alumni include Miles Davis and Wynton Marsalis, two famous jazz trumpeters – and Luther Henderson.

Luther Henderson was one of the first students of color to attend Juilliard. He was an acclaimed composer, arranger, musical director, orchestrator and performer. Born in born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1919, his parents who were both teachers, believed education was of the utmost importance. His family moved to New York when Luther was four years old after his older sister was accepted into Hunter High School. They took up residence in the Sugar Hill neighborhood of Harlem near Duke Ellington's family, whom Luther would later become great friends with and collaborate with for many years.

Luther began playing piano from an early age and though he went on to major in mathematics at City College of New York, his passion for music remained constant. He auditioned at Juilliard and was accepted into the music division. He graduated in 1942 and was drafted into the US Navy. There he became an arranger with the Navy jazz band until the end of World War II.

Henderson’s work graced the bandstand, the Broadway stage, the big screen, television and the recording studio. Henderson’s historic Broadway credits include: Ain’t Misbehavin’, Jelly’s Last Jam, Lena Horne: The Lady and Her Music, Purlie, and Funny Girl. In those early years, Broadway composers and producers specifically sought Henderson’s influence because they wanted to spice up the ‘great white way’ with the complex rhythms of jazz. Luther Henderson’s innovations paved the way for many illustrious careers.

Luther Henderson passed away in 2003, but his legacy lives on through the Luther Henderson Scholarship Fund (LHSF), established by his widow, actress/director Billie Allen-Henderson (in photo at right).

With the support of Honorary Chairs Governor and Mrs. David Paterson and the guidance of an outstanding advisory committee including Phylicia Rashad, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Regina Carter and Lilias White, the fund’s goal is to endow five music scholarships for students of color at the Juilliard School. The fund aims to encourage music participation by minority students by showcasing a real-life success story that they can identify with – the life and music of Luther Henderson – and by providing much-needed financial and mentoring support.

Billie Henderson wants to not only provide the opportunity for young students of color who want to study orchestration, arranging, conducting and composition, but also to support higher education in music to ensure that future generations of musical artists will continue this tradition.

This fall, the LHSF will host a series of events to raise funds, including an all-star benefit in October.

‘The Celebration of the Life and Music of Luther Henderson’ will begin on October 5, 2008, with a “Sunday Supper at George’s.” Billie Allen-Henderson, along with acclaimed writer/director George C. Wolfe will host an intimate dinner at Mr. Wolfe’s Manhattan home.

On October 6, 2008, there will be an all-star benefit concert titled “Spreadin’ Rhythm Around” at Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater. The gala concert will be directed by Tony Award winner George C. Wolfe, and will showcase a sequence of Luther Henderson’s music, with performances by many great artists who worked with Luther during his illustrious career, such as Nancy Wilson, the Canadian Brass Quintet, Savion Glover, Hank Jones and others to be announced.

Following the gala concert, there will be a VIP reception hosted by Governor and Mrs. David Paterson, Billie Allen-Henderson and George C. Wolfe, along with special guests from Juilliard, Broadway and the music community.

Tickets for the gala concert at Juilliard will be available beginning September 3rd through the Juilliard Box Office and on (Note: Website will be up soon). For more information on the LHSF and the fall gala events, contact

Photos: The HistoryMakers and
{Thanks Nicola}