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Levar Burton Interview: Orlando Arts Magazine

Levar Burton OAM Cover

As a graduate student at Lesley University, I penned a poem that ventured the impact the mini-series “Roots” had on both my family and formative years. I wanted Alex Haley to be my daddy and all the girls in eighth-grade were teased and called, “Kizzie.” The more haunting truth was it was the last time I could remember that my family convened together in the same room, at the same time, for anything. It was the last “Kodak moment my mind conjured of us merged like one huge afro” to watch television together.

“Roots” was a unifier, a television-viewing change agent, and a history lesson that created “tension” for how we viewed ourselves, our pasts, and the contributions of ancestry. Fifteen-years ago seems quite like 2015. But, I’d never thought I’d ever personally meet and converse with “Kunte Kinte,” the lead “wild gazelle” who is now giving my three-year-old granddaughter “Journey” the opportunity to digitally enjoy “Reading Rainbow.”

Click link below to read Orlando Arts Magazine feature:                               LeVar Burton OAM PDF

Levar Burton High Res Head Shot

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Click link below to read Florida Courier long-feature: http://flcourier.com/2015/10/roots-digital-rainbows/

Penny Dickerson 2015

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FLOTUS Speech calls for Party Unity

 

Miami Times Front Fold

Speech by FLOTUS calls for party unity to beat Trump

 By Penny Dickerson Special to The Miami Times | 7/27/2016, 2 p.m.

A timely balm to heal and unify the Democratic Party came following rifts that challenged the organization’s integrity. Dynamic speeches ...

Michelle Obama at the DNC Monday said passion is needed to elect Hillary Clinton as president.
 A timely balm to heal and unify the Democratic Party came following rifts that challenged the organization’s integrity. Dynamic speeches delivered by said Sen. Cory Booker, D-NJ, and First Lady Michelle Obama both won the hearts and ignited delegates during the kick-off of the Democratic National Convention (DNC), which convened in Philadelphia July 25-28.

“We can’t devolve into a nation where our highest aspiration is that we tolerate each other. We are not called to be a nation of tolerance. We are called to be a nation of love,” Booker said.Image result for corey booker at the democratic national convention

Booker’s thunderous oratory and prevailing words served as a motivational springboard to help unite a party that remains divided following a contested primary between the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who continues to court a legion of passionate supporters.

Delegates representing the 50 United States, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands and Guam convened July 25-28 in the nation’s birthplace to participate in four days of caucus gatherings, momentous speeches and the pivotal task of Tuesday’s roll call. Clinton is expected to accept the party’s nomination, which, if elected, will make the former New York Senator and Secretary of State the first woman to be president of the United States of America. Democrats are hoping Clinton will gain momentum to defeat Trump following the convention.

Clinton has selected former Virginia Governor Sen. Tim Kaine as her vice-presidential running mate, and the two will face-off against Republican candidate Donald Trump and Mike Pence in the November 2016 election.

While Sanders has offered Clinton a public endorsement, his supporters continue to exhibit a relentless zeal coined “Feel the Bern.” Both delegates and Sanders’ supporters were incensed by the email scandal that overshadowed the start of the convention.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chair of the DNC, was reprimanded following a public leak of almost 20,000 DNC emails dating from January 2015 to May 2016.

Among the most egregious allegations was language that “bad mouthed” Sanders and negatively influenced the senator’s voter support. Wasserman Schultz has been forced to resign and has no prominent role on the convention stage.

A strong contingency of Sanders’ protesters posed a minimal threat outside Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Arena, incensed by the leak of the sometimes disparaging emails.

“I want to say something as your vice chair; I sincerely apologize for those of you who took offense or were offended, for those of you who feel betrayed and were betrayed for those ridiculous, insensitive, inappropriate emails that should have never been sent,” offered political analyst Donna Brazile, who serves as the DNC vice chair for civic engagement and voter protection. Brazile has been selected as the DNC interim chair.TandT Percy Johnson Florida Delegate

Florida Delegate for Hillary, Percy Johnson represents the 20th congressional district (Palm Beach County/Broward County). Johnson reverberated emotional responses shared by many delegates.

“I was very disappointed with the whole scandal regarding the emails,” said Johnson. “I feel like Debbie probably needs to go home and take care of her district. She needs to talk to the people in her district and convince them that she deserves to return to congress and save her face,” Johnson added.

Johnson further cited that Wasserman Shultz can regain respect by becoming accountable for inconsistency of the national party with regards to fundraising and supporting new candidates and those who challenge republicans.

“The over-arching theme in this convention is that we are stronger together. Together as one party we will change the nation,” said Johnson. “We will uphold the equality and fairness that this country believes in. For Florida, the most pressing need is the environment. We need clean water, we need air, but we have a governor that seems to not believe in that right now,” he added.

The 20th congressional district is represented by Congressman Alcee Hastings, whose hallmark 2014 election quote was, “I’m not afraid to stand up to anyone when it comes to defending those who need defending, or arguing for policies that are just – whether they have a chance of passing this Republican-dominated congress or not.”

Florida is a pivotal state in the 2016 election and Johnson believes jobs and funding for childcare to enable working families are national priorities. But before any Republican-challenged policies or legislation can be drafted, voting remains a priority.

“Our votes count. South Florida is needed, and to win this election we all have to be counted,” said Johnson. “The only way we are going to be able to win Florida is with Black women from Jacksonville to Miami and a no vote means you are going to deliver the election to Donald Trump. Everyone needs to get registered and participate in the primary election, which is Aug. 30,” added Johnson.

Former NAACP President and Sanders Delegate Ben Jealous offered insights critical to voter perspective.

“Right now, our party is in a cocoon called a convention,” said Jealous. “We came in with two candidates through the primary and emerge united to defeat Donald Trump this fall, so what’s happening right now is that people are working through the [Clinton-Sanders] division.

“Three weeks ago we had a milk-toast platform, but we came together and now we have the most progressive platform in history this weekend…we have a lot of really positive signs that this party is a party for all of us and it’s time for us to get together and fight like hell to beat Donald Trump,” added Jealous.

First Lady Michelle Obama struck a chord among the American viewing audience and in the convention arena where tens of thousands in attendance held high, vertical signs that simply read: “Michelle!”

Obama’s emotive speech has resonated as the evening’s show-stopping presentation. She echoed a litany of personal convictions regarding children’s views of the world including her own two daughters — Malia and Sasha —who she referred to as: “two beautiful, intelligent, Black young women.”

“I want a president with a record of public service. Someone whose life’s work shows our children that we don’t chase fame and fortune for ourselves,” said Obama. “We fight to give everyone a chance to succeed.”

Crucial elements of the speech applauded the candidacy of Clinton, who Obama referred to as “our friend.”

“… Hillary understands that the presidency is about one thing and one thing only. It is about leaving something better for our kids,” shared Obama. “That is how we have always moved the country forward— by all of us coming together on behalf of our children. Volunteering to coach the team, teach the Sunday school class, because they know it takes a village,” she added.

The first lady ended on a poignant note and charge for American voters:

“Between now and November, we need to do what we did eight years ago and four years ago. We need to knock on every door; we need to get out every vote; we need to pour every last ounce of passion into electing Hillary Clinton as president of the United States of America. Let’s get to work …”

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“Seen and Heard” FLOTUS at the Democratic Convention

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As Democrats start the 2016 presidential campaign in earnest, Black women play key roles in the convention and in making the case for Hillary Clinton.

BY PENNY DICKERSON
SPECIAL TO THE
FLORIDA COURIER 

 

First Lady Michelle Obama clapped toward delegates during the Democratic National Convention on Monday in Philadelphia, Pa.

(CLEM MURRAY/PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER/TNS)

PHILADELPHIA, PA. – ‘The City of Brotherly Love” welcomed delegates and a host of high-profile political leaders and celebrities for the 2016 Democratic National Convention that convened July 25-28 in the Pennsylvania Convention Center and Wells Fargo Arena.

The muted news is that Black women have been in the leadership trenches to organize the assembly.

Hacked and leaked
Democratic officials and cybersecurity company CrowdStrike Inc. said last month that hackers tied to the Russian government gained access to servers at the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

ThrDebbie Wassermanee days before the start of the party’s national convention, about 20,000 emails and other internal documents from the DNC were posted online by WikiLeaks.

Some of them showed the party favored Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. Consequently, South Florida congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Shultz was unceremoniously dumped from her DNC chair
manship.

Political analyst Donna Brazile is now interim chair of the party. Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Ohio, is permanent chair of the convention. The Reverend Leah Daughtry has twice served as the convention CEO. Continue Reading »

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Re-Discovering America: The Kinsey Collection

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Click link to read: “Re-Discovering America: The Kinsey Collection

http://issuu.com/cfcgllc/docs/floridacourier_03202015/9?e=4739009/11932914

Kinsey Tear SheetOne of my favorite subjects and three of my favorite people are Bernard, Shirley, and Khalil Kinsey: The Kinsey Family.

Not only is their commitment to family and each other admirable, but what a story! A genuine American fairytale of how perseverance, patience, commitment, and keeping your heart in the right place will  lead to bringing your dreams into fruition and making a difference in the world.

The Kinsey Collection is one our “jewels.” Continue Reading »

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Angela Robinson “Jacksonville’s OWN Star!”

Arbus NovDec 2013 FKudos to Angela Robinson for serving as a master-example of how a girl with a dream can become a woman boasting stardom.  She is a Jacksonville-native and graduate of William M. Raines High School who has journeyed a route to be admired and an apt lesson for all who dare to dream and are confronted with the “fear of failure.” Angela looking beautiful

What knows Angela Robinson of failure? Nothing. Disappointments? Yes, but she has persevered and shares with readers how they, too, can do the same.

Click the Link below to read: Angela Robinson, “Jacksonville’s OWN Star!”

http://www.mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?i=186755&p=52

Beyond her natural beauty is an admirable narrative that takes readers from the halls of her high school years to the Broadway stage.  Now, she’s a leading television actress on Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Network in Tyler Perry’s first scripted drama, “The Haves and The Have Nots.”

Angela Robinson over Jacksonville

Click the Link below to read: Angela Robinson, “Jacksonville’s OWN Star!”

http://www.mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?i=186755&p=52

 

 

 

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Frankie Beverly’s Amazing Career

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March 25, 2014

Frankie Beverly Talks 38 Years of Maze [INTERVIEW]

The voice behind every Black picnic, BBQ and wedding of the past four decades discusses the longevity of Maze

By Penny Dickerson 

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The one, the only Mr. Frankie Beverly

Every funk band has a front man. It’s an old-school law obeyed by Maurice White, whose vocals reigned supreme as Earth, Wind and Fire’s fourth element, and Sugarfoot, who kept the Ohio Players roller-coastin’. Frankie Beverly is every bit as iconic—a raw soul master.

He’s the sing-and-sweat powerhouse who personified all-white sexy before Diddy anointed the Hamptons. He’s the stylin’ lady magnet who catapulted the baseball cap as much as the hip-hop movement. And he’s amazing—world-renowned and still selling out world venues with the Maze sextet right behind him.

RELATED: [VINTAGE VISION] MARVIN GAYE GETS IT ON

An inside glimpse reveals a man whose conversation feels familiar without flirtation, save for an occasional “honey” or “sweetie” to segue thoughts. But Frankie Beverly is California cool, a tempered spirit; just an ordinary guy from Philadelphia who turned a “doo-wop” dream into a mind-blowing career.

Beverly’s Beginnings

Born Howard Beverly, the future Frankie Beverly harbored so much love for heartthrob Frankie Lymon that he jacked his name. “I was Frankie Lymon crazy when he came on the scene,” he admits. “People would call me ‘Little Frankie.’ I used to sing Frankie Lymon songs on street corners and people use to throw me money.”

The labyrinth to stardom is a story told over and over, and shared by many in Beverly’s era. In Frankie’s case, church singing transitioned to a teen group called The Butlers, which musically morphed into Frankie Beverly’s Raw Soul. The big break came when the one and only Marvin Gaye made the band his opening act with a single stipulation:  change the name. That nudge originated the moniker that stuck: Maze.

Now Beverly is 67, and the Maze’s “raw soul” identity is more frequently marketed as urban contemporary soul. Their loyal fan base is trained to expect timeless music, as Frankie leads “Joy and Pain” and “The Morning After” jam sessions. Both tunes are legendary for making grown women (and some men) straight scream.

Gratitude, God, but no Grammy

Gratitude and humility seem to precede any and all Frankie Beverly motives, and no one is more surprised by his career than the man who made “Happy Feelings” an anthem long before Bobby McFerrin or Pharrell Williams whistled hits.

“I am most amazed by the success of our longevity,” says Beverly. “I never, ever, ever thought it would be like this. I’m laid back, and I know music is a gift given to me to initiate, and I take that serious. I thank God I have people around me I can trust, they’ve been with me for 30 to 40 years. It’s a real blessing.”

Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, ‘Joy and Pain’

Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, ‘Joy and Pain’

Despite an amassed catalogue of classics, the Maze featuring Frankie Beverly Grammy Award remains elusive, but it’s an industry snub Beverly takes in stride. “The love the people give us is most amazing,” he offers. “I don’t care about no Grammys. It’s about the reward, not the award. I walk around on my knees I’m so thankful.”

Sam Cooke—Still His Main Man

Does Frankie Beverly meditate? Yes. Does he work out to stay in shape? Negative. He claims no special fitness regime and cites the stage as his ultimate workout. Beverly also hasn’t eaten red meat in 35 years—occasionally chicken, and fish “for protein.”

A high-octane schedule defines Beverly’s existence, so what (if anything) does he listen to for slowing down his internal metronome?

“I don’t really play a lot of music, believe it or not. And when I do, I prefer jazz,” said Beverly, who reiterated a preference for the standards. “I like smooth jazz too, but Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, those guys really still do it for me. At this time in my life, jazz does it. I tell you who I really like is Chris Botti. His music is very nice. But I still like listening to Sam Cooke.”

The late Cooke remains Beverly’s lifelong inspiration. “We were at Philly’s Uptown Theatre trying to get his autograph. [I] said, ‘Mr. Cooke, Mr. Cooke, can you sign mine?’ He said, ‘Have you guys ever been backstage? Well, come on!’ ” The story is credited for Beverly’s own generosity. “I don’t turn people down. I always think of Sam Cooke and how kind and patient he was. He didn’t have to do that for us.”

Beverly on Beyoncé

Frankie Beverly has a simple message for today’s musicians: get back to basics.

“You have to still go back. It’s hard for today’s industry. Studios can’t get business; people are using machines. No matter how much money is at stake, people still want the ‘real deal.’ I want today’s music acts to return to the real deal. No mixing, no machines.”

Black women nationwide owe Beverly a bevy of thanks for time-honored respect. But for the music industry’s hardest working and wealthiest woman, he offers a profitable prediction: “I think Beyoncé is ready to take her next step, and I tell you what I mean by that. She can really sing, but I would like to see her show her skills. I mean, she’s a mom and a wife now. So I’d love to hear her record Christmas carols or perform live with an orchestra… just sing.”

New Music from Maze

A wisdom grin and goatee with gray sprouts are a welcome presence for Beverly, who resides in California’s Bay Area and is “grandpa swaggadocious” to three precocious grand fans he insists “use and abuse him.” Mention retirement and he balks.

“I hope not,” he says. “Something would have to be wrong [with me]. I just want to keep on doing this until I can’t do it anymore.” And he doesn’t plan to stop. But will the eternal performer’s career be complemented by new music?

“I’ve been thinking about it, but ya know, we are a working act,” he says. “It’s not like I can tour and come home. I can’t make great music that way. Back when it was the Kool Jazz and Budweiser Festivals, we could work three months and then take time off to go into the studio. But we aren’t going to piecemeal making music.”

Beverly vows the new music will still be love music—life music— and that he and Maze aren’t going to stray from what they’ve been doing.

“I’m tickled about a new piece on the album titled ‘The Jam of My Life’,” Beverly shared with a sinister snicker. “You meet someone, but you’re already with someone. I know about that all too well, and athletes and these young musicians—or the average person who just has a lot to do—they know these situations all well too.”

We Are One

Maze featuring Frankie Beverly has unified the masses with a legion of hits, but the single closest to Beverly’s heart is 1983’s “We Are One.” No explanation is needed. Still, he offers this: “It’s true. If you are lucky enough to travel around the world, you’ll find we’re all the same and want the same thing: love! People for the most part are good. If not, we would have torn the world apart by now. I’ve learned to not be racist in my life. Our White brothers are our brothers too, and I’m not trying to be some kind of love guru or anything. We are the same.”

Penny Dickerson is a Florida-based journalist whose work can be viewed at pennydickersonwrites.com.

Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/entertainment-culture/frankie-beverly-talks-38-year-of-maze-388#ixzz2xVpCryi5

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Interview with Sonia Sanchez: Truth to Power

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Click link to read full interview on EBONY.com

http://www.ebony.com/entertainment-culture/sonia-sanchez-speaks-truth-to-power-999#axzz303gQy0U3

Sonia Sanchez Speaks Truth to Power, Poetically [INTERVIEW]

The legendary poetic icon speaks on the Black Arts Movement and the ancestor voices of African-American letters

By Penny Dickerson

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Sonia Sanchez, great voice of the Black Arts Movement and beyond

Consider it a creative insult to limit poetry’s national recognition to the month of April. Nonetheless, I thank the establishment (a.k.a. the Academy of American Poets) for establishing National Poetry Month, as readers politely dust the dirt off poetry titles too often neglected. For sure, every day African-American poets amass work worthy to be read, studied, praised and adored worldwide.

What better authority than the legendary poet Sonia Sanchez to magnify the art form that pre-dates David’s psalms and continues to emerge through brilliant poetic voices—many of whom owe Sanchez praise for her tutelage?

RELATED: AMIRI AMOUR: BARAKA IN MEMORIUM

A formalist with wide poetic range, Sanchez’s vast body of work includes poems that delve into themes that resonate with those who’ve known isolation’s dance. She is liberation and libations; she is Home Coming and Home Girls & Hand Grenades; she is A Blue Book for a Blue Black Magic Woman and We a BaddDDD People.

The poetic spirit born as Wilsonia Bonita Driver has yet to rest.

She’s still writing and taking West Philadelphian three-mile strolls on a good day. Her open discourse is insatiable and leaves readers savoring her own recall of the 1960s Black Arts Movement, and inclusion in the Broadside Quartet collective (alongside poets and writers Haki R. Madhubuti, Etheridge Knight, Gwendolyn Brooks and, later, Nikki Giovanni).

She is exudes humility to the hilt, yet passionately embodies her indomitable role as activist, womanist, optimist and humanist. The consummate conversationalist talks to EBONY about her creative lifeline: poetry.

If the nuances of poetry render you lost beyond the random hip-hop couplet, Sanchez offers an apt definition of the art form in plain speak:

“To me, poetry is many things,” she begins. “Poetry is life, it is water, it is earth, it is sound, it is music, it is language that allows us to stay alive. Poetry is ancient, it is new, it is old, it is current. Poetry is a baby’s smile when he or she is smiling at you. Poetry is a burp from a child who is well fed. Poetry is a kiss from your lover. Poetry is a handshake from comrades. Poetry is a hug. But most of all, poetry is a language that says, ‘stay alive, do not die on me, do not move away from life.’ Because poetry is life, and it keeps people alive.” Eloquent.

Icons and influential legends of the Black poetic experience are now gone (most recently Amiri Baraka and Gil Scott-Heron). They served as pillars of artistic strength and have transitioned from earthly assignment, but their artistic contributions are eternal. Sanchez expounds on what it means to be a legacy beyond a poem published on a page.

“There are so many who are legends and gone,” she recounts. “Jane Cortez, Amiri Baraka, sculptor Elizabeth Catlett—who was a dear friend—Lucille Clifton, Audre Lorde, June Jordan. We’ve lost so many and have been speaking at so many funerals. But they are not dead, because they helped us change towards changing the world. And there is really no such thing as dead, as long as we do the work we are put on this earth to do and as long as we leave behind a legacy of work.

“It is a legacy that says simply, ‘I am a human being,’ ” she continues, “I must walk upright as a human being, I must make sure that other people learn to walk upright as a human being too. These are all great writers who maintained a certain amount of consciousness about the world, about themselves, and about what it meant to be a woman, what it meant to be a man, what it meant to be Black, what it meant to be a lesbian, what it meant to be gay, what it meant to walk upright on this earth. And what it meant to change the world, what it meant to say, ‘I am’.”

Says Sanchez, “The late, great Amiri Baraka came out of the village, that Beat Movement, up out of Harlem to start the Black Arts Repertory Theater which we all belonged to.”

In the mid-1960s, Baraka sent letters that called upon musicians, actors, poets, playwrights and teachers to come and do the work of social uplift uptown in Harlem. He urged them to “Come help me continue Malcolm’s work.” This era became known amongst them as A.M. (After Malcolm), and influenced the poetic writing of self and soul for Sanchez and others in the Black Arts Movement.

Sanchez recalls those defining times.

“I remember in that place at [Black Arts Repertory Theater], Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m., Abbey Lincoln—that gorgeous woman, that genius of a singer with her beautiful, short natural—came and talked about, Who will revere the Black woman?

“It was an amazing moment for all of us Black women who sat there and listened to her talk. And [we] said, ‘I want to be like her, and look like her too.’ That was the joy of doing that kind of work.”

Poet-actor Saul Williams immortalized the hip-hop generation’s slam poetry in 1998’s Slam. Russell Simmons advanced spoken work via HBO’s Def Poetry. And we all love the mid-air finger snappin’ of the modern romance classic Love Jones. But poetry, spoken work or no, is not nouveau, nor has it outgrown its metaphoric roots. Sanchez balances the oral tradition’s truth with both wisdom and a charge.

“From the very beginning, poetry was to be spoken out loud,” she says. “It was very much a part of both community and tradition. At a birth, someone would write a poem; at a death someone would write a poem. There was always music too, and that part is not new.”

Since her earliest days writing about being a little girl, alone and not feeling pretty, Sanchez has since published 16 books of her own, but suggests all poets read the classics.

A lot of my undergraduate students go on to graduate school and say, ‘Langston Hughes is too simple.’ And then I say, very calmly and in as gentle a fashion as I can, ‘No, no, no, no, this not a simple poet.’ I recommend every kind of poet from Langston to Baraka, Lorde, Nikki, June Jordan and Robert Bly. But I also recommend Adrienne Rich to Pablo Naruda to the great Nicolas Guillen, whom I met when I went to Cuba.”

Sanchez says she has notebooks with “more than a million writings never published,” and continues to write in her study with a photo of Guillen, Langston and Ernest Hemingway above her head.

“A poet writes ’til their last breath,” she says with finality.

Penny Dickerson is a Florida-based journalist whose work can be viewed at pennydickersonwrites.com.

 

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