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    Centenary College Choir prepares for fall tour

    The Centenary College Choir takes its 2017-2018 program, “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness,” on the road in early November for six performances in south Louisiana. The group will visit and sing at both churches and high schools during the three-day tour.

    The Choir debuted the full season program at its annual “Rhapsody in View” performance at Shreveport’s Riverview Theater during Centenary’s Homecoming weekend on October 21 and 22.

    The tour opens with a concert at St. John’s United Methodist Church in Baton Rouge at 7pm on Thursday, November 2. On Friday, November 3, the Choir will visit several Baton Rouge-area high schools in the morning and afternoon, giving prospective students a chance to hear the Choir and interact with current members. That evening, the Choir travels to Hammond-Ponchatoula-Well United Methodist Church for a 7pm concert. On Saturday, November 4, the group moves to Lafayette for a 6pm. appearance at St. Anthony Catholic Church. The tour wraps up on Sunday, November 5 as the Choir sings for morning services at Asbury United Methodist Church in Lafayette and then gives a final concert at First United Methodist Church in DeRidder at 6pm.

    Established in 1941, the Choir is the oldest and largest ensemble at Centenary College and celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2016. The group sings a diverse repertoire of music from classical to casual, making an international tour every other year. Nicknamed “America’s Singing Ambassadors” by the press, the Choir has toured throughout the world, representing Centenary College to audiences in 32 countries on six continents.

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    Ignatious Carmouche is ‘The Voice’ winner

    OPELOUSAS–Ignatious Carmouche is “The Voice on Snapchat” winner of Season 12.

    Carmouche, who is from Houston and now lives in Opelousas, made it through the first round of blind auditions and secured a spot on Team Jennifer by singing “Latch.”

    In January, Carmouche submitted a video of himself singing “Pretty Wings” by Maxwell. Never in a million years did he think he’d make it, but out of 20,000 submissions he ended up winning with Team Adam. By winning, he was granted a chance to audition at the Season 13 Blind Auditions and ended up making it on Team Jennifer.

    Carmouchegrew up in a very religious household, which is why he grew up singing in church. Being a shy kid, he would sing with his back toward the congregation, but as he got older his confidence grew.

    He eventually started playing the piano, alto-saxophone and finally took singing seriously. Late last year, he got his ministry license and co-founded his own music ministry.
    Carmouche said he is ready to show the world the power of his voice outside of the church by being on “The Voice.”

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    BRCC Foundation presents: Chancellor’s Evening with Ailey II

    Baton Rouge Community College and the BRCC Foundation will host Ailey II at 6:30pm on Nov. 5 in the Magnolia Performing Arts Pavilion, located on BRCC’s Mid City campus, 201 Community College Drive. Proceeds from the event will provide financial assistance for students, including scholarships; as well as professional development opportunities and programmatic grant awards for faculty.

    “It is an absolute honor to share such an enriching arts event with the Baton Rouge community as an extension of our commitment to serve the Capital Region, and provide an opportunity for patrons to support Louisiana’s future workforce and the advancement of BRCC’s students,” said BRCC Chancellor Larissa Littleton-Steib.

    Founded in 1974 as the Alvin Ailey Repertory Ensemble, the Ailey II company embodies its namesake’s pioneering mission to establish an extended cultural community that provides dance performances, training, and community programs for all people. Under the direction of Sylvia Waters from 1974 to 2012, Ailey II flourished into one of the most popular modern dance companies, combining a rigorous touring schedule with extensive community outreach programs. Current artistic director, Troy Powell, brings a fresh dimension to the company and contributes to its legacy of unmatched critical praise, honors, awards and proclamations.

    Ailey II continues to receive numerous honors and awards in recognition of its community outreach programs, which include going to local elementary, middle and high schools in the cities in which it performs. As part of its visit to Baton Rouge, Ailey II will also visit McKinley Middle Academic Magnet School for Visual and Performing Arts.

     

    dancer
    “We are delighted to host Ailey II and provide a great experience that all can enjoy, and an experience that brings beauty, light, and hope to our community,” said BRCC Vice Chancellor for Institutional Advancement and Executive Director of the Foundation Philip L. Smith, Jr.Tickets for the Chancellor’s Evening with Ailey II and gala are available at www.brccf.org.

    The BRCC Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit corporation created for the purpose of securing philanthropic support to advance, promote, and benefit the mission of Baton Rouge Community College, its faculty and students.

    For more information, contact BRCC Director of Community Relations Gerri Hobdy at (225) 216-8401.Tickets for the Chancellor’s Evening with Ailey II and gala are available at www.brccf.org.

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    Baton Rouge to celebrate a musical, community champion during Henry Turner Jr. Day Oct 28.

    A few months ago, a middle-aged Black man with his gray beard lending a distinguished air to his casual summer attire walked into the deli section of a popular South Baton Rouge grocery store. The server recognized him and said how much she had enjoyed his music at a recent outdoor festival. She then commented that she had also seen him on TV trying to “stop folks from smoking,” adding jovially as he left the counter, “You got it going on, Mr. Henry, keep it up!”

    For Henry Turner Jr., musician, performer, producer, entrepreneur, community activist, this unaccustomed neighborhood recognition was especially gratifying. But as the Henry Turner Jr. Day Music Festival on October 28 approaches, sincere humility radiates from a face as familiar to movers and shakers in downtown Baton Rouge as to longtime fans who have followed Turner’s musical career since the ’70s when he was a founding member of the popular R&B cover group, Crystal Band.

    Henry Turner Jr. Day was initially proclaimed in 2015 by then Mayor-President Melvin “Kip” Holden and was endorsed this year by Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome. “This celebration is not just about me,” Turner said. “It’s a conscious effort by the political sector to recognize a music entrepreneur with a strong community spirit – and all the grassroots musicians who have been true ambassadors for our culture.”HTJr Day Proclamation

    Turner’s true fans and new enthusiasts generated by Turner’s social media presence, have embraced Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor– the signature Louisiana Reggae/Soul/Funk/Blues group he formed some 30 years ago– with almost cult-like fervor in anticipation of this month’s festival in Downtown Baton Rouge.

    Over the past three decades, Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor has undergone changes in personnel, genres and format, but remained true to its roots. Turner drives an audience-friendly repertoire with his guitar mastery and earthy baritone –  from blues to funky uptempo numbers; from cool jazz to soulful ballads

    With more than 16 singles and eight CDs under its belt, Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor consistently delivers a crowd-pleasing show, whether at Turner’s intimate Listening Room,  open-air venues, or at one of the Ultimate Louisiana Parties he takes across the country to popularize his state’s rich culture.

    Henry Turner reggae IIIAs a multiracial dashiki-clad band, Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor found an early home at Tabby’s Blues Box on North Blvd., the internationally known music Mecca presided over by one of Turner’s mentors, the legendary Tabby Thomas. In fact, his Listening Room on North St., opened in 2014, was modeled after Tabby’s concept of showcasing local, regional, and national talent.  On Thursday nights, diverse audiences including worldwide tourists come to enjoy the Listening Room All-Stars and home-cooked soul food.

    Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor was introduced to the road when they brought their Louisiana Reggae-Soul sound to the Annual Bob Marley Festival, but stopped touring in June 2015 when veteran drummer Ronnie Houston died. Turner returned home determined to bring a fresh new approach to the local music scene.

     

    Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor

    Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor

    “It’s been quite a journey,” Turner said during a recent interview. Growing up on North 36th Street with his parents and older sister Irene, his love of music emerged early on. “When I chose the guitar, my dad got me lessons encouraging me not to neglect the business side, since he and my mom were both business owners.”  And well respected in the community for their tradition of helping others, Turner said.

    “When people see me today as a music entrepreneur and someone who truly cares about people, that’s the legacy of Henry and Mattie Turner,” he said. “That’s what motivates me to mentor young musicians, to join the Smoke-Free initiative, and to support organizations such as Families Helping Families.”

    As the founder of Hit City Digital Records, he releases and distributes his and other artists’ music globally while operating a recording studio. He said his parents would be proud that he has combined his artistry with the art of marketing

    These days, Turner is selling his enthusiasm for the new Baton Rouge with the “Baton Rouge Theme Song” which has been released as a single. “I just wanted to give my city the gift of a theme song that would celebrate what it means to all of us.” And on Henry Turner Jr. Day, you can be sure it will do just that.
    By Hedi Butler
    Special to The Drum

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    Ponchatoula streets will rock during Art & Wine Stroll 2017

    Bigger, better and bustin’ out all over downtown best describes this year’s Art & Wine Stroll sponsored by Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce.

    Saturday, September 16, will see something new added to Art & Wine from 5-8 p.m. and that is music galore from 6-8 p.m. Eighteen sets of performers will be singing and playing in fourteen locations in an easy-walking five-block area on both sides of the railroad tracks. In a recent interview with Kim Howes Zabbia and T. J. Barends, coordinators of the musical portion of the evening, it was easy to catch the excitement this addition will bring. Barends owns Bare Sounds Studio, 276 East Pine Street, and is known for his quality recording as well as his own expertise in both playing and teaching music. He said the event will be mostly acoustic and easy-listening.

    The public can vote on its favorite musician giving the winner two hours studio time recording and being featured on next year’s poster. Attendees will be given a booklet with details of the evening and contact info will be on posters near each musician’s stand. Musicians booked by Barends are from the area although they perform across a large region and their style of music is varied and plentiful due to their versatility, greater than can be listed.

    • “Invisible Cowboy”- Classic Rock
    • “Alex & Lexie Theriot” – Classic Rock and 80s and 90s
    • “PTown Ramblers” – Folk and Country
    • “Graham Guillory” – Classical
    • “John-Mark Gray” – Rock and Roll
    • “Lacy Blackledge” – Rock and Roll
    • “Ballot’s” – Folk and Pop
    • “Lake Ragan” – Pop, Rhythm and Blues
    • “TJ Barends” – Folk/Rock
    • “Avery Meyers” – Pop
    • “Benjamin Thomas” – Rhythm and Blues
    • “Lance Younger” – Rock and Roll,
    • “Britton Newton” – Rock
    • “Lindsay Cardinale” – Pop and Country
    • “Lil’Bit Meaux Band” – Swamp Pop
    • “Britney Jenkins” – Pop and Country
    • “Cody Ellis Band” – Modern Country\
    • “Sylas Faust” – Country.

    Zabbia said thanks to the generosity of the following sponsors, each performer will be paid an honorarium directly from them: Especially for You, JaniKing Gulf Coast, Benton Thames State Farm, The Art Station, Bare Sounds Studio, LaCaretta’s Restaurant, ITL Accounting, Louisiana Purchase Brewery, Paw Paw’s Country Buffet, Legnd Internet Market, Ponchatoula Therapy, Roussel’s Specialty Shop, Margaret Bailey, Gwen and Robert Barsley, Andrew Edwards, Roux and Brew Seafood and Steak, Middendorf’s, Moss and Berry, Xpressions, Mad Maidens Bar, and Stray Cats Sports Bar.

    Art and Wine Stroll Committee Chair Jenel Secrease and Co-Chair Kathleen Elstrott report applications from Visual Artists are still coming in for that part of the evening. Watch for upcoming news about the Visual Art portion and for more info, visit the Ponchatoula Chamber of Commerce Facebook page or www.ponchatoulachamber.com which includes an Artist application form.

    The public will be able to vote for their favorite visual artist, giving the winner $100 in art supplies from The Art Station and a featured spot on next year’s poster. A wine glass will be supplied along with an arm band for a $20 fee for the entire evening and will be available for purchase from the Chamber the night of the event in front of Ole Hardhide’s alligator cage, at Ponchatoula Therapy and at A Touch of Country. (Purchasers will be carded.)

    The event is free for those not partaking in wine samples and children’s art will be on display bringing everything together for a delightful family outing.

    By Kathryn Martin
    Contributing Writer

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    Rock N Rowe concert heads to Perkins Rowe Town Square, Sept 14

    Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor, known for their upbeat dance tunes and romantic ballads with lyrical twists perform for the “Rock N Rowe” Concert Series on Thursday, September 14, 6pm – 9pm,  at Perkins Rowe Town Square, 10202 Perkins Rowe, Baton Rouge.

    The jam-packed performance also features some of Henry Turner Jr.’s Listening Room All-Stars that include blues rapper Lee Tyme, southern soul singer Uncle Chess, gospel/jazz singer Wyanda Paul and singer/songwriter Larry “LZ” Dillon.

    The band is Henry Turner Jr. on guitar, background vocalists Jenessa Nelson and Miss Molly, Patrick Joffrion on bass, Larry Bradford on percussion, Dinki Mire on keys with Joe Monk on drums and Andrew Bernard on saxophone.

    Some of the fan’s favorite songs include “Ugly Man,” I Might Just Let You Go” and an homage to his hometown, “The Baton Rouge Theme Song.” Henry Turner Jr. & Flavor are well known for developing a syncopated style of music that includes blues, soul, reggae and funk rhythms.

    ONLINE: http://www.henryturnerjr.COM

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    Baton Rouge youth dominate, claim World Championship

    Baton Rouge youth poetry slam team, the Forward Arts All Stars, are now world poetry slam champions after having won the 2017 Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival in San Francisco.

    The team of teens, ages 16-19, emerged victorious after two days of competition consisting of 60 youth teams from around the world. A poetry slam is a spoken word competition in which poets are scored by five randomly-selected judges on a scale of 0-10 based on the written and performative quality of their work. Baton Rouge edged out teams from Boston, Atlanta and Philadelphia at the BNV finals.

    This victory comes on the one year anniversary of the death of former All Star slam team member, Kaiya Smith, who competed last year when the team ranked fifth at the 2016 BNV. Smith passed away one week after the 2016 festival. The 2017 team opened their final stage performance with a tribute to Smith, followed by witty and funny poems that showed range and creativity.

    This is the 11th year Baton Rouge has sent a team to BNV, and its first final stage appearance. The winning team members are Imani Sundiata, Chazzi Hayes, Jazmyne Smith, Kalvin Morris, Olivia Williams and Imani McCullam. They were coached by Forward Arts program director, Desireé Dallagiacomo.
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    Forward Arts fosters personal and social transformation by providing arts instruction, literary education and youth development in southeastern Louisiana. This year’s 20th anniversary festival took place July 19-22 and hosted more than 600 teenage poets from around the world at events held across the Bay Area.

    The Drum asked the Forward Arts All Stars about their experience:
    “Brave New Voices was a fantastic experience. I got the opportunity to speak my mind and be supported every step of the way, not only when I was on stage but when I was in town halls and workshops also. It’s always great to be surrounded by artists and people who have similar interests, but at Brave New Voices the other poets are actually interested in your work. It’s not about the competition, it’s about sharing stories. The highlight of Brave New Voices was having other teams tell us how much our poems meant to them personally. Brave New Voices was a beautiful experience.”
    Jazmyne Smith, 19
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    “Going to Brave New Voices was the most invaluable experience of my life so far. I had always been exposed to a number of things thanks to my parents, but BNV brought so many different cultures I had only seen on television screens together. We were all so different but we were also under the same sun, the one that burns over quirky teen artists. You don’t meet many people like that in Baton Rouge simply because being an artist isn’t really encouraged here or incentivized for youth. It meant a lot to me to meet people who were so brave and willing to share their stories on a world showcase. A distinctive moment was when someone asked where I was from. I told them I was from Baton Rouge, and they asked if that was a city in New Orleans. I felt a little shame, but in the end, winning and putting our small city on the map was the greatest reward. I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world.”
    Olivia Williams, 16

    Going to Brave New Voices is an experience that I will never forget! Meeting hundreds of beautiful and inspiring poets and people who respect the art of poetry is something that I have never experienced and I thank BNV for that. Being there with my team bettered me as a poet and as a person; alongside of bringing back a bunch of inside jokes and wild, but hilarious memories. The support and love that we had from everyone at home and from poets at BNV made me forget that it was even a competition and I truly respected that. I loved knowing that my truth made someone feel good about themselves and I also loved being moved by other poets’ truth. The best part about being at BNV was connecting closer with my teammates and connecting with other poets across the world who made me see the ultimate power behind words and how words can truly bring people together.”
    Imani McCullam, 16

    “BNV was so magical. It was the one place I could be myself and not have to worry about the backlash… I didn’t have to worry if I was being weird or anything because I have found that everyone is and poets just happen to be extra weird. There was so much love and support coming from competing team. I have found that BNV is the only competition where you support the people you are competing against. There are no words in which can explain the extraordinary time I have and no words to explain how grateful I am to Forward Arts for giving me this opportunity.”

    Imani Sundiata, 18

    “By attending Brave New Voices, I stepped into a world filled with love and support I did not know existed. Being around other youth who care so much about growing as poets and performers inspired me to grow as an artist. Engaging in dialogues with other poets and hearing how my team and I have inspired them is so humbling and makes me want to continue to improve my craft to be worthy of their respect and present them with my best art and best self. The community and family I’ve found due to Brave New Voices is something I will always cherish. The support and love I experienced at the festival is something I will always value and work hard to preserve.”

    Kalvin Morris, 17

    Chazzi Hayes

    Chazzi Hayes

    “Brave New Voices was like coming home for me. Meeting so many poets from all over that had so much in common with me was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. You could feel the love and acceptance in every room you entered as well as when you went on stage to perform. A great part of Brave New Voices was knowing that our voices were being heard by both our peers and the adults there. It felt like we were all coming together to listen, learn, and make change. At final stage it didn’t even feel like we were there to compete it just felt like a gigantic open mic where everyone could share their truths. The best part was when the last poem was said on final stage and all the poets went backstage and hugged each other and told each other which poems they really liked.”
    Chazzi Hayes, 17

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    COMMUNITY CALENDAR: June 13 – June 30 events

    June 13-16: Louisiana Children’s Discovery Center Volunteer Camp. Louisiana Children’s Discovery Center, 113 N. Cypress St., Hammond. 1:30pm – 4:30pm – Carolyn Schwebel 985-340-9150 www.lcdcofhammond.org

    14: Garden Fest. LSU Ag Center Botanic Gardens  Burden Museum & Gardens 4560 Essen Lane at I-10. 7:30 am,- 1pm. $10 for adults and children 4-10 years old. Children under 4 will be admitted at no charge.  www.discoverburden.com 225-763-3990.

    14: Job Fest at Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club. noon – 3:00p.m. 722 N Broad St, New Orleans, LA 70119. http://www.neworleanswill.com/june-job-fest-zulu-club/

    15-17: Advancing Economic and Entrepreneurial Development in Disaster Recovery. Southern University A&M College 801 APACVB-0056 Juneteenth_2017 (2)_1_0

    Harding Boulevard, Baton Rouge, LA 70813. $25 to register. 225-771-5262

    15: Reimagine Greenwood Regional Park and New State of the Art Zoo Public Meeting. Womack Park Ballroom, 6201 Florida Blvd. 6:30pm. Give input, vote on design features, hear a presentation, controlled question and answer session, brief comments. www.brec.org.

    15-17 & 19: Juneteenth Cultural & Heritage Celebration. Alexandria, Louisiana

    16-17: Tangipahoa Parish Pro Rodeo. Florida Parishes Arena, 1301 NW Central Ave., Amite, Rockin S Rodeo Productions 225-719-3911 or Florida Parishes Arena 985-748-5914 www.floridaparishesarena.com

    18: SWLA Juneteenth Music Festival . Heymann Park 1500 South Orange Street Lafayette, LA 70501. 2pm–7pm.

    18: Juneteenth Freedom Festival. Galvez Plaza Downtown Baton Rouge, LA, 70801. 222 North Blvd. 3pm.

    18: Essence of New Orleans – Mardi Gras Fashion Show & After-Party.  LYCEUM Ballroom, 124 3rd Street, Baton Rouge, 3:30pm, Do-WAP Agency, LLC. http://www.socialife.us or socialife.us@gmail.com

    Juneteenth Cupid19: 12th Annual Flag Day Celebration. Baker Municipal Center. 3325 Groom Road. Baker. 3pm. Hosted by Senator Regina Barrow. 225-359-9400

    20: Together Baton Rouge Flood Matters Assembly. First United Methodist Church 6:30pm.Elected and appointed officials and citizens affected by the flood will work to galvanize the political will needed to address flood recovery and flood prevention as aggressively as circumstances demand: http://www.togetherbr.org/6-20-2017

    24: Mrs. Black West Baton Rouge Competition. The pageant provides educational opportunities to outstanding young women of color and to develop the “whole woman mind, body, and spirit.” Ages 6-25. missblackwestbr@gmail.com 225-302-1732.

    24: New Venture Theatre Silent Auction. Arts Council of Baton Rouge 427 Laurel St. Baton Rouge LA, 70801. $15 Presale. $20. www.nvtarts.org. 225-588-7576.

    24: Omega Psi Phi Linen and Lace Social.Plaquemine Bayou Waterfront Park 57845 Foundry St, Plaquemine. 7pm. Tickets are $20.

    24: Genealogy Gathering. Ascension Parish Courthouse 300 Houmas Street, Donaldsonville 9am-3pm.Gen-Gathering-6_24_17

    26: The Mayor’s Office “Meet the Beat”. United Christian Faith Ministries 9229 N Ridgewood Dr, Baton Rouge. 6pm-7:30pm.  http://ucfministries.org/. 225-927-1161

    Submit your events to our community calendar by emailing news@thedrumnewspaper.info.

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    Support turns Facebook postings into published book

    When local writer and teacher, Donney Rose, set out to pay homage to the vastness of Black identities during Black History Month, he had no idea how much his community would support his month-long social media project. Each day in Feb. 2017, Rose dedicated a Facebook post to a prose-style “shout-out” in recognition of the distinctive characteristics of present day Blackness. As the public posts gained more and more attention, Rose’s online friends began to suggest that he compile the posts to create a tangible product. Through this suggestion, the online community crowd-sourced funds to create what is now “Black Out Loud” – a 33-page, glossy cover paperback book with cover art by local visual artist Antoine Mitchell. 

    “Black Out Loud” gives recognition to many of the unsung heroes and survivors of Black culture through humor, critical analysis and depth. From cafeteria ladies to “hood scholars” to former inmates to historians, “Black Out Loud” casts a wide net in its attempt to deconstruct any monolithic view of the Black American experience.

    Donney Rose

    Donney Rose



    Rose has several scheduled upcoming book talks where he will read from “Black Out Loud,” as well as discuss its content, creation process and logic. The first two talks will be held on June 10 – the first at 1 p.m. at the inaugural IWE Festival at Southern University, followed by a talk at the Greenwell Springs Branch Library at 4 p.m. On June 17, Rose will present at the annual Juneteenth Freedom Festival held in downtown Baton Rouge, and on July 14, he will read at Love Alive Church.  

    “Black Out Loud” can be purchased online at Lulu.com, or in-person for $15.

    Rose is a poet and community activist from Baton Rouge. He works as a teaching artist and marketing director for the arts-based non-profit, Forward Arts, Inc. His work as a performance poet/writer has been featured online at Atlanta Black Star.com, Blavity.com, Button Poetry, All Def Digital, Slam Find, in 225 magazine, and the literary journals “Drunk in a Midnight Choir” and Nicholls State’s “Gris Gris.» His work as a community activist has been highlighted by BBC, New York Times, Democracy Now and The Advocate. He received the Humanitarian of the Year award at the 2016 New V Awards for promoting activism through his art.
     

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    Poetry camp offers creative outlet for teen summer enrichment

    Literary arts nonprofit, Forward Arts, is gearing up for Slam Camp – a three-week specialized summer experience for youth, ages 13-19, interested in learning elements of writing and performing poetry. The camp, which will begin on June 12 on the campus of Louisiana State University, offers participants instruction from world-class practitioners of the art form including Forward Arts’ staff members who have excelled at the highest levels of performance poetry.

     “One of the many benefits to participating in Slam Camp is the mastery of fearlessness,” said Chancelier Skidmore, Forward Arts’ Executive Director and former world poetry slam champion. “Public speaking is scary, but when given the tools to write compelling texts and to deliver those texts with ferocity and charisma, it opens up an entire realm of goals that seemed improbable before.”

    A typical day at Slam Camp includes attendees participating in community building exercises, writing workshops, eating lunch at LSU’s student union, group dialogues, reading circles and performance activities. Slam Camp also features special guest artists visiting once a week to do lecture demonstrations. Of past guest lecturers are trumpeter John Gray and former Louisiana Poet-Laureate Ava Haymon.

    Claudia Dixon, a mother of three past camp participants said she witnessed an immediate growth within her otherwise introverted sons.

    “As a returning parent to slam camp, I cannot explain how important it is to allow my children the ability to express themselves using a variety of methods, including verbal art.” Dixon said. “My sons have not only impressed me with their spoken word skills, they are now open to discussing social, political and gender issues that were never of importance to them prior to Slam Camp – my introverts have been converted.”

    More than exploring poetry and personal growth, Slam Camp offers participants a sense of community with likeminded youth.

    “I believe that young people participating in Slam Camp creates a more equitable opportunity for community storytelling,” said Desireé Dallagiacomo, Forward Arts program director and multi-time international slam finalist and viral sensation. “Because we have young folks from all walks of life, they hear stories and narratives from others that they wouldn’t encounter in their normal circles. This creates empathy and understanding, and we need that now more than ever.”

    As a staple of Slam Camp, norms of interaction are established on the first day to create a safe space for open expression. Participants are encouraged to write and dialogue in a manner that is honest and with respect to their fellow campers.

    Registration is now open. Slam Camp will take place June 12 to June 30, Monday through Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A closing showcase of work participants prepared throughout the camp will be held on Friday, June 30.

    The cost of the program is $150 for an individual camp participant. For families registering more than one youth, the cost is $100 per additional participant. Scholarships opportunities are available and determined on a case by case assessment of need. Registration and payment information available at forwardarts.org

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    50 Shades of Pink comes to Downtown Baton Rouge

    Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated, Nu Gamma Omega Chapter hosted 50 Shades of Pink: A Girls’ Night Out on Friday, April 28, 2017, at 6p.m. at the La State Capitol Visitor Center in downtown Baton Rouge. The event was facilitated by the arts committee of the chapter, and included: wine pairings, makeovers, medical spa consulting, shopping, author expos, fashion model participation, food,and music. All the proceeds of the event will directly benefit sewing camps for young girls in the Baton Rouge community.

    Submitted by Morgan E. Etienne, MPA

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    Bill Cosby finally breaks silence, talks with Black press

    It’s been more than two years since Bill Cosby has spoken out publicly.

    The legendary comedian has patiently — and quietly — awaited trial on sexual assault charges in Pennsylvania while seeing those who defend him face libel lawsuits — many of which have been tossed out of court.

    Now he’s decided: It’s time to talk.

    Cosby and spokesman Andrew Wyatt of the Purpose PR Firm in Birmingham, Alabama, said they grew comfortable that the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) would be more interested in “facts over sensationalism.”

    Persistence by the Black Press — NNPA reporters had repeatedly requested interviews — also proved a factor in Cosby’s decision to speak out in a two-part exclusive interview, Wyatt said.

    While the superstar declined to address his legal case, his youngest daughter, Evin did.

    In a statement, Evin, 40, proclaimed her father’s innocence.

    “The harsh and hurtful accusations … that supposedly happened 40 or 50 years ago, before I was born, in another lifetime, and that have been carelessly repeated as truth without allowing my dad to defend himself and without requiring proof, has punished not just my dad but every one of us,” Evin said.

    Perhaps the closest Cosby came to addressing the allegations was his response to questions about his love of the arts.

    His supporters have argued that Cosby’s the victim of propaganda and many have had their views skewed because they haven’t taken time to do research.

    “The history about African-Americans is a history of the United States — but the true histories, not the propaganda that is standard in our nation’s history books,” Cosby said. “The great writer, James Baldwin, said, ‘If you lie about me, then you lie about yourself.’ The revolution is in the home. There is something about someone saying, ‘I didn’t know that,’ that could cause a change in that person’s thinking.”

    The legend did shed insight on his life and a career that he’s eager to resume.

    Stunningly, Cosby, 79, revealed his “total lack of vision.”

    Waking one morning about two years ago, he nervously called out to Camille, his wife of more than 50 years, “I can’t see.”

    His doctors confirmed that he’s blind.

    “When he would perform, we’d draw a wide straight yellow line from backstage to the chair on the stage and he’d rehearse the walk hours before the show,” said Wyatt, whose worked for years with Cosby.

    Otherwise, Cosby insisted he’s well.

    “I’m fine,” he said.

    Few have achieved the legendary status enjoyed by Cosby. His career has spanned more than six decades and includes a host of best-selling comedy albums, gold and platinum records, five Grammy Awards and even best-selling books.

    With his role in “I Spy” in the 1960s, Cosby became the first African-American co-star in a dramatic series, breaking TV’s color barrier and winning three Emmy Awards.

    After starring opposite Academy Award winner Sidney Poitier in the 1970s trilogy “Uptown Saturday Night,” “Let’s Do It Again” and “A Piece of the Action,” Cosby’s star soared even higher in the 1980s when he single-handedly revived the family sitcom — and, some argue, saved NBC — with “The Cosby Show.”

    “Bill Cosby and crew should be allowed to have their careers intact,” said Devin T. Robinson X, an actor and renowned poet who’s been featured on MTV, NBC, CBS and BET. “He represents the finest example of guilty in the court of public opinion, yet Bill O’Reilly’s image isn’t tarnished. Punishing people before they’re convicted in court only seems accurate when it serves a media narrative that doesn’t hurt a specific demographic.”

    Cosby said he thinks about his illustrious career that, at least for now, has been placed on hold because of the court case.

    “Darn right,” he said when asked if he missed performing. “I miss it all and I hope that day will come. I have some routines and storytelling that I am working on. I think about walking out on stage somewhere in the United States of American and sitting down in a chair and giving the performance that will be the beginning of the next chapter of my career.”

    He finds laughter “in the same house where the revolution is,” he said, a nod to his mother’s home where he learned the importance of a good education.

    “My mother was a domestic employee and she fixed breakfast for us and lunch and then she went off to work,” Cosby said. “She made $8 a day, I believe. When she came home, she cooked us dinner.

    “As soon as Camille and I had a home and hired someone to help us to do the cleaning, and other things, we made sure of two things that were very important to us: We always paid a generous salary to people working in our home and whether male or female, they would be addressed by us and our children not as Annie or Barbara or whatever, but as Mr., Miss or Mrs. — all of them in that manner. That there is a respect,” Cosby said.

    It’s all part of a legacy that many said shouldn’t be destroyed by allegations.

    “If the president of the United States can go on working in the White House after he has confessed to and bragged about doing gross sexually explicit and abusive things to women without their permission, justice requires that Bill Cosby should not be punished unless he is convicted of crimes,” said Dr. E. Faye Williams, president and CEO of the National Congress of Black Women, Inc. “He has been charged, but not convicted, and the charges came only after his expressed interest in purchasing a network that somebody obviously didn’t want him to have.”

    Tanisha Jones, 28, a fashion designer who works in New York, lamented the “absolute murder” of Cosby’s legacy and accomplishments

    “That’s what’s happened over the past couple of years,” Jones said. “I’m a woman who feels for any woman who has been raped, assaulted or demeaned in any way. But, realistically, we have seen no evidence that any of this is true … yet we elect a president who campaigns on and is elected on grabbing women by their private parts.”

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    Youth culminate traumatic year through poems of resilience

    “Here Still” was the mantra of this year’s ALL CITY Teen Poetry Slam Festival, a theme imagined from a season of tragedy that both publicly and personally affected festival participants. Held over two weekends in April throughout downtown Baton Rouge, the festival’s culminating event on April 8, punctuated the youths’ tribute to the resilience of the city in the aftermath of a turbulent summer, which included the sudden passing of 2016 festival participant and McKinley High School graduate Kaiya Smith.

    “The theme of this year’s festival saw our students examining the tragedies of last summer from both a critical and cathartic lens,” said Donney Rose, marketing director and events coordinator at Forward Arts. “About half of our festival participants wrote poems that carefully examined what it was to live in a city engulfed in civil unrest and natural disaster. The other half wrote a great deal about what it was to process the loss of a friend with whom they had shared a festival stage just last year.”

    To further tribute Smith, festival coordinators, joined by Smith’s mother, Petrouchka Moise, infused her words and images throughout festival displays, even presenting the first-ever Kaiya Smith Award for WordCrew Excellence to Tyler Scott – a member of Forward Arts’ afterschool poetry writing collective and festival participant. The award gifts the recipient an all-expense paid trip to the 20th annual Brave New Voices International Youth Poetry Slam Festival (BNV) to be held in July in San Francisco, where the top ranked poets of ALL CITY grand slam finals will compete. Smith was a member of the 2016 team that ranked 5th in the world.

    Olivia Williams, Chazzi Hayes

    Olivia Williams and Chazzi Hayes perform tribute poem in honor of Kaiya Smith. Photo by Leslie D. Rose.

    “This year has been bittersweet. Every moment with our team is a painful reminder of what we’ve lost – My Kaiya. Our Kaiya,” said Chelsea Schilling, English teacher at McKinley High School and co-coach of its poetry slam team. “Although it hurts, we are still here. We will continue to write, continue to perform, continue to be heard, for us, and for her. I am truly amazed at what these students can do and I am so thankful that Forward Arts gives them a space where their voices will be heard.”

    McKinley High School placed second, following a team from Baton Rouge Magnet High School who won the title of 2017 ALL CITY Champions. Finalists also included a second BRMHS team and a team from Port Allen High School. All poets who performed individually had the chance to earn a spot on the 2017 Forward Arts All Stars slam team to compete at BNV – this year they are Jazmyne Smith, Olivia Williams, Chazzi Hayes, Kalvin Morris, Imani Sundiata, and Imani McCullam.

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    2017 ALL CITY champions Baton Rouge Magnet High School poets Donovan Thomas, Jayda Jefferson, Rikki Willis (coach), Chazzi Hayes, Kalvin Morris, and Olivia Williams. Photo by Leslie D. Rose.

    Forward Arts has sent a team to BNV since 2006. The first ALL CITY festival was held in 2007 and remains the only festival of its kind in the region, having hosted hundreds of youth poets, ages 13 to 19. It was created to provide an elevated platform to youth voices, while also appealing to Louisiana’s storied festival culture. Throughout its 12 year history, youth from Baton Rouge and surrounding rural communities have found an outlet through Forward Arts’ programming.

     

    “Students were able to express this year’s theme through acceptance, support, and encouragement for all participants,” said Michael Hilton, assistant principal at Donaldsonville High School and coach of its poetry slam team. “We all were able to connect to the theme: flood victims, rural community students who tend to be forgotten, minorities, and those with preferences different than the majority of us – we are all connected; we are all vitally important to our future; we are all Here Still.”

    Hilton was the recipient of the 2017 ALL CITY Coaches Award that honors coaches who showcase exemplary dedication to their team.

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    2017 Forward Arts All Stars slam team Imani McCullam, Kalvin Morris, Chazzi Hayes, Imani Sundiata, Jazmyne Smith and Olivia Williams. Photo by Leslie D. Rose.

    The Spirit of the Slam award was presented to the Louisiana School for the Deaf for displaying noteworthy sportsmanship throughout the festival. This year the school had so many students interested in participating for the ALL CITY that they sent two teams to compete.

    “This event affords each of our students the opportunity to share with others their life experiences as young deaf people, as well as their own heartfelt issues, and we can’t thank Forward Arts enough for providing such a venue,” said Lisa Cook, instructor of high school language and theatre at Louisiana School for the Deaf and coach of its poetry slam team. “The support of the other teams, as well as the validation of their ‘voice,’ is invaluable.”

    A poetry slam is an Olympic-style spoken word poetry competition in which poets perform original writing within a three minute time limit. Originality, physicality and vulnerability are some the hallmarks of successful slam poems.

    The youth of Forward Arts are under the tutelage of internationally-acclaimed slam poets, such as executive director Chancelier ‘xero’ Skidmore, a former world poetry slam champion, and program director Desireé Dallagiacomo, a multi-time international poetry slam finalist and viral video sensation. The staff of Forward Arts collectively has more than 15 years experience as teaching artists and administrators of youth spoken word poetry.

    Forward Arts, Inc. fosters personal and social transformation by providing arts instruction, literary education, and youth development in Southeastern Louisiana.

     

     

    By Leslie D. Rose
    Special to The Drum

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    ‘b-side for tray’ comes to Baton Rouge, April 29

    Kimber Lee’s beautiful play, Brownsville Song (b-side for tray), tells the story of a family grieving the tragic loss of 18-year-old Tray, who was shot in his neighborhood of Brownsville, New York. Moving fluidly between past and present, this dynamic new play explores a family at its weakest and strongest moments. Through its intimate portrayal, we’re challenged to resist complacency and reminded of the true value of every life.

    Brownsville song (b-side for tray) runs 7:30pm Saturday, April 29, at and 3pm Sunday, April 30, at Louisiana State University, Music and Dramatic Arts Building.The production is directed by New Venture Theatre’s The Piano Lesson director Tim Sandifer and features an all-star cast including Dwayne Butler, Denisa Joshua, Addison Jordan, Krystal Blatcher, Drelan Evans, and Dion Sideboard.

    Director Tim Sandifer is a theatre director and teacher originally from Baton Rouge who has worked in numerous capacities at Theatre Baton Rouge, Independence Park Theatre, Baker Little Theatre and many other performance venues throughout the region.
    He has trained, performed and directed in many places throughout the world. He received his undergraduate degree from Northwestern State University of Natchitoches in theatre directing/performance and technical theatre and design. From there he went on to receive his Master of Fine Arts from East 15 Acting School, a part of The University of Essex in London. Tim worked at GITIS – The Russian University for Drama in Moscow. There he worked with direct assistants of Constantin Stanislavski.
    Tim currently serves as the Theatre and Fine Arts teacher at Plaquemine Senior High School. He lives with his wife and fellow Artistic Director of Spotlight Performing Arts Academy, Amber Sandifer, and their three-year-old daughter in Port Allen.
    CAST:
    Tray – Dwayne Butler
    Lena – Denisa Joshua
    Devine – Addison Jordan
    Merrell – Krystal Blatcher
    Junior – Drelan Evans
    Brooklyn College Student – Dion SideboardDESIGN & PRODUCTION STAFF:

    Scenic Designer – Tim Sandifer
    Costume Designer – Christian Jones
    Lighting Designer – Piper Productions
    Properties Designer – Melanie Williams
    Stage Manager – Chelsea Ciconne
    Sound Designer – Bryan Jareau
    TICKET PRICES:Regular Admission | $27
    Students With Valid ID | $22
    BOX OFFICE:     225-588-7576 or www.nvtarts.org
    Group rates available and special pricing available for student groups. Call 225-588-7576 or visit www.nvtarts.org  to purchase tickets or subscriptions.
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    ‘PHAT’ girls take over Baton Rouge runway

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    Plus-sized women from across Baton Rouge were cheered on has they ripped the runway at PHAT Girl Takeover -The Next Episode Fashion Show at the EpiCenter. The ladies were 17 to 51 years of age and sported attire from local boutiques and designers from across the state.

    For eight weeks, the models attended personal and professional development workshops and were trained to walk the runway by plus-size model and runway coach Patrice Purnell. Jerris Cade was emcee, and Brandon WB Williams of Ivanhoe, North Carolina performed his hit single “The Plus-Size Diva Anthem.”

    The fashion show was organized by SheProductions, LLC, and owner Simone Higginbotham. Photos by Tarnish Jasper. Model attire provided by Big and Desirable.

    Submitted News

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    Ponchatoula native brings ‘Something Miraculous’ to Baton Rouge stage, March 26

    It was a matter of fate that Lady Toussaint Duchess ended up bringing her highly-anticipated stage play to Baton Rouge.

    She had recently returned to visit her family after an extended stay in Africa for seven months and was watching the news the night Baton Rouge elected its first black female mayor, Sharon Weston Broome. She heard Broome speak about her plans to build a new, more inclusive and prosperous city and wanted to be part of that.

    “I listened to her and believed that TDE (Toussaint Duchess Entertainment) could be a small piece of the fabric that could help build a new Baton Rouge,” said Duchess, who added that she also wanted to give back to her home state as a whole through her ministry.

    Then Duchess met her cousin Michael Toussaint Sr. shortly thereafter, and the rest was history. The two talked about their professions and passions and decided that they wanted to bring something grand to the area that residents would appreciate. Duchess told Toussaint about her company’s stage plays and how she has worked with the likes of Tyler Perry and T.D. Jakes and would like to bring her national connections to Baton Rouge. They eventually decided to debut Duchess’ theatrical soap opera “Something Miraculous” at Mt. Pilgrim Baptist Church’s Family Life Center.

    “’Something Miraculous’ is truly a life-changing theatrical experience that you do not want to miss,” Duchess said. “We’re asking everyone to come out and enjoy this Broadway-style dinner theatre that we’re bringing to Baton Rouge. It will be a night of great food, fellowship—and of course drama.” image

    Episode One of “Something Miraculous” premieres March 26 at 3pm and 7:30pm. VIP tickets have sold out for both shows, but General Admission tickets are still available for $35 on Eventbrite.com or by calling (225) 771-8527.

    Duchess will be starring as Mrs. Lucy, the no-nonsense grandmother who speaks her mind and will “shade” a person at any given moment. The show will also feature Trisha Mann-Grant, who is widely-known for her role in “The Man in 3B,” the movie based on the Carl Weber bestseller of the same title.

    “Something Miraculous” is dedicated to Michael Toussaint Sr.’s son, Michael Toussaint Jr., 32, who was killed in a car accident in 2015. The co-owner of Toussaint Customs in Port Allen, he was affectionately referred to as “Mustang Mike.”

    The elder Toussaint owns Michael T. Enterprises and serves as president of River City Records. He has produced two tailgate songs for the New Orleans Saints, which were released courtesy of Mardi Gras Records. He will also be making an appearance in the show.

    Duchess has lived and worked all over the country, collaborating with Babyface, Fantasia Barrino, Fred Hammond, and Robin Givens on various projects. After surviving a painful divorce and going on sabbatical in Africa for healing, she said that her relationship with God sustained her along the way. She said she lives by the Romans 12:6 scripture, “In His grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.”

    It has been a decade since Duchess last performed in Baton Rouge in her play “Dream With Your Eyes Open.” Eventually she plans on moving back to Florida and having dual citizenship in the U.S. and Tanzania. However, she said Baton Rouge is home for now and feels that she is right where she needs to be.

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    New Venture Theatre brings visceral drama with ‘Dot’

    Venture Theatre keeps this season’s momentum going with Colman Domingo’s “Dot” at the LSU Studio Theatre March 15-19.

    Domingo’s “Dot” is a play unafraid to delve into aspects of life that can be both side-splittingly funny and shake the audience to the core. Dotty and her three adult children come together for the holidays as they do every year, but this time, the Shealey house will be grappling with more than exchanging gifts. The aging matriarch struggles with her fading memory, and her children seek to juggle taking care of their mother and caring for themselves. New Venture Theatre will bring to life this poignant comedic drama that tackles aging parents and midlife crises-all while showing the power of familial love.

    Performances are scheduled for Wednesday, March 15, through Saturday, March 18, at 7:30pm., and then Sunday, March 19, at 3pm. All performances will be held in the LSU Studio Theatre on the Louisiana State University campus.

    INFO

    WHERE: LSU Studio Theatre Louisiana State University 105 Music and Dramatic Building Baton Rouge, LA 70803

    DATES: Wednesday, March 15 at 7:30pm Thursday, March 16 at 7:30 pm Friday, March 17 at 7:30 pm Saturday, March 18 at 7:30pm Sunday, March 19 at 3pm

    SHOW RATING: Contains: Some adult content/themes. Recommended for ages 13 and up. No one under the age of four will be allowed in the theatre and all children ages 4-13 must be accompanied by an adult.

    HOW TO GET TICKETS: Call the box office at 225-588-7576, or visit nvtarts.org

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    ‘Bloodline’ earns Kenny Neal Grammy nomination

    Louisiana’s swamp blues master and multi-instrumentalist Kenny Neal’s latest album “Bloodline” has clinched a 2017 Grammy nomination for best contemporary blues album.

    Born in 1957 in New Orleans and raised in Baton Rouge, Neal began playing music at a very young age, learning the basics from his father, singer and blues harmonica player, Raful Neal. Family friends like Lazy Lester, Buddy Guy and Slim Harpo contributed to Kenny’s early musical education. At 13, he joined his father’s band and, four years later, he was recruited and toured extensively as Buddy Guy’s bass player.

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    Kenny Neal horizontal by James Terry III.jpg

    A member of the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and a multi-award winning talent, Neal has shared the stage or worked with a who’s-who list of blues and R&B greats, including B.B. King, Bonnie Raitt, Muddy Waters, Aaron Neville, Buddy Guy and John Lee Hooker. Since signing with Alligator Records in 1988, Neal has released a series of consistently lauded albums featuring his laid-back, Baton Rouge blues, with a modern spin on the Louisiana sound he grew up with.

    “One of a mere handful of truly inventive young contemporary guitarists, Neal has something fresh to say and the chops with which to say it,” wrote The Chicago Tribune.

    Blues Revue agreed, calling Kenny “one of the brightest young stars on the blues horizon, and a gifted artist.”

    According to Cleopatra Records, Neal has never sounded better than he does on ‘Bloodline,’ offering some of the most moving songwriting and electric performances of his incredible career. Eight members of the Neal clan lend their musical talents to the album, making it a true family affair and proving beyond doubt that the blues is most definitely in Neal’s Bloodline.

    ONLINE: http://kennyneal.net

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    Elementary schools, Kids Orchestra create harmony

    15 Kids Orchestra Trumpets

    Baton Rouge’s Kids Orchestra is the largest elementary-age after school music program in the country. Last month, elementary students from Brownfields Magnet, Ryan Elementary, and J.K. Haynes Charter ensembles of wind and percussion instruments during their combined Neighborhood Concert.

    Now in its fifth year, Kids’ Orchestra provides opportunities for 800 kindergarten through fifth graders to study instrument and perform in an orchestra or sing in a choir. Students are given instruments on loan for the school year after paying a modest tuition.

    In group settings, kindergarten and first graders are introduced to musical concepts in the Foundations class. Second through fifth graders choose and study instruments in brass, percussion, strings and woodwinds. Vocal education and theory are essential in the K-6 choir program.
    15 Kids Orchestra main photo

    Kids’Orchestra offers mentorship, tutoring and homework help, and a healthy snack at each session to ensure each child is prepared for success regardless if they pursue music once graduating from our program.

    Each student has the opportunity to perform in Neighborhood Concert Series, while honors level students perform during Kids’ Orchestra three orchestras, two choirs, and special community performances.

    Kids’ Orchestra’s mission is to bring children of all cultures and backgrounds together using music education as a vehicle to foster teamwork, develop understanding and emphasize excellence.

    The program is modeled after the principles of El Sistema: fostering teamwork and understanding, crossing economic barriers, emphasizing excellence, and learning instrumental skills and brotherhood within the orchestral system.

    15 Kids Orchestra FlutesRecent research has shown that quality music instruction impacts academic achievement. Kids’ Orchestra offers high quality, standards-based music education designed to improve lifelong learning.

    Photos by Yusef Davis

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  • Film Review: I Am Not Your Negro

    James Baldwin, the intellectual, civil rights activist and renowned author, left behind some biting and enlightening words about racism and the status of the Black community that are just as relevant today in this age of the Black Lives Matter movement.

    Baldwin was born in Harlem in 1924. He moved to Paris around 1950, eventually taking up residence in the south of France. At some point in his self-imposed exile, he came to the conclusion that he had to turn his attention back to his home country. “I could no longer sit around Paris discussing America. I had to come and pay my dues,” said Baldwin.

    In 1979, Baldwin started working on his book, Remember This House. The manuscript focused on the lives, views and assassinations of his three friends and colleagues: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Unfortunately, at the time of his death he had only completed 30 pages.

    Director Raoul Peck (“Lumumba”) took those few, initial pieces of Baldwin’s non-fiction tome and developed them into a searing documentary that examines the struggles of the 1950s and 1960s in a way that makes his thoughts on race incredibly poignant given today’s sociopolitical landscape in the United States.

    Peck assembles archival footage, photographs and contentious TV clips (particularly the fledgling “The Dick Cavett Show” where discussions of the state of the “Negro” got heated). He adds in modern day camera feeds of demonstrators angry over police shootings. The results are a blistering indictment of race relations both old and new.

    Voiceovers by Samuel L. Jackson verbalize passages from Baldwin notes. You hear the author chide oppressors, confront Hollywood and challenge the American government. His words recount the intimate relationships and mutual respect he had with the iconic civil rights legends Medgar, Malcolm and Martin, effectively humanizing these political/social deities. He candidly explores their differences and similarities. He reveals the absolute despair he felt each time he heard that one of them had been killed. His ruminations glow with a truth that is timeless.

    Raoul Peck and editor Alexandra Strauss have masterfully fulfilled the arduous and artful task of pulling all the pieces of Baldwin’s contemplations together and forming a fiery narrative that makes audiences recalibrate their feelings about race in America. The musical score by Aleksey Aygi adds a piqued sense of urgency and gravitas.

    Medgar Evers was killed on June 12, 1963. Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965. Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered on April 4, 1968. James Baldwin died of stomach cancer on December 1, 1987. Together, collectively, they left behind a tremendous sociopolitical legacy that finds its due respect in this very powerful and enlightening documentary.

    In 93 thought-provoking minutes, “I Am Not Your Negro” poignantly connects the past to the present with no apologies.

    By Dwight Brown
    NNPA film critic and travel writer.

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    Diana Ross, Mary J Blige to headline Essence Fest

    Essence announced the initial lineup for the 2017 Essence Festival Concert Series in New Orleans, including headlines Diana Ross and Mary J. Blige.

    “This year’s Festival lineup puts women at the forefront of an incredible weekend of entertainment featuring more than 40 of the world’s most gifted artists and performers,” said Essence president Michelle Ebanks.

    The festival, which is the 23rd annual event, will take place June 30-July 2, 2017

    in New Orleans, Louisiana. Tickets go on sale Friday, Dec. 16. More than 40 acts will take place over the 3-day festival, with five stages booked for the many performances.

    The confirmed performers include the following: Diana Ross, Mary J Blige, Chaka Khan, Doug E Fresh, Erykah Badu, India.Arie, Jazmine Sullivan, John Legend, June’s Diary, Lalah Hathaway, Lizzo, Master P, Michel’le, Moses Sumney, Ro James, Shaggy, Sir the Baptist, Solange, Teyana Taylor, The Jones Girls Feat. Shirley Jones, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue, Tweet and Yuna.

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    The Genius of Ted Ellis

    New Orleans native deserves exhibit in national museum

    There needs to be something shared worldwide about the works of Ted Ellis, New Orleans-born visual artist. He uses the stroke of his brush on canvas to present again the scenes, emotions, and story of the lives of the most beautiful Americans. From a scene of Baptist children wading in murky waters, donning white robes, scarfs, headscarfs and struggling under the grip of an elderly man’s hand as they head to the minister whose hand is raised clutching a white handkerchief to a canvas donning the sideview of a tiny girl bowing a violin with her eyes half opened and her spirit wrapped into her own sound.

    Ellis captivates art critics who have called his work “genius.”

    “Ellis creates much more than images.  He creates a mood…an atmosphere…and an awareness that one is actually on the scene…in the scene,” write curators at The Sylvan Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina.

    He memorizes the novice who stands enthralled at his Houston studio full of emotions of connectedness to the eyes of an elderly man with African features but whose face is full of blues, greens, purples, and crimson. “He’s the Colored Man,” Ellis said. That’s understood by all the colors beaming from the 3-foot-by-6-foot canvas, but it is also understood by his eyes. So much like the great grandfather on the porch or the old man sweeping away dirt outside the Alabama country store. Ellis’ hand, his eye, his imagination grabs it all and delivers it in his work—work that he says he was born to do. His work—his life’s work is apparent: to create the artistic account of history.

    16 civilfight ted ellis feature photo“I was put here to record history—all aspects of American culture and heritage. My sole purpose has always been to educate through my art,” he said. With each piece, he makes it a point to leverage the importance of visual literacy and preservation of culture and history.

    Ellis said one goal was—and is—for him to to be a cultural, artistic historian. And he has done so for 30 years. His work has been commissioned by Walt Disney Studios, United Negro College Fund, Avon, the City of Selma, Alabama, Arts Council of New Orleans, and United Way.

    Ted Ellis

    Ted Ellis

    Although it doesn’t hang there now, a following of curators and supporters are petitioning the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture to establish a Ted Ellis collection within the museum. His work has hung in the Congress Heights Arts and Culture Center, the Russell Rotunda of the Richard Russell U.S. Senate Building, and appears in the movie “Almost Christmas.”

    “I paint subjects that are representative of the many faces of American life as I know it,” Ellis said.

    A self-taught artist, Ellis has published a limited edition collection of his work, Pride, Dignity and Courage: A Survey of Art of Ted Ellis, and a collective calendar. His blend of realism and  impressionism  captures glory of a rich American heritage. His business, T. Ellis Art, has sold more than 10 million prints and posters from his Houston, Texas studio.

    “This is a culture business and my culture is priceless.”

    Ellis, who is a former chemist, said his work is designed to “build you up consciously and subconsciously of yourself by speaking to your importance everyday.” And he has done so repeatedly and remarkably.

    Since he began in 1996, Ellis has since become, by many accounts, an artistic historian. In 2005 he captured the Deltas 100th year commemoration, the Obamas in 2008, and the Juneteenth 150th year commemoration in 2015. These are the pieces, he said, would be some of the first offered to the museum as they archive the most critical bends in Black life of this century.

    Ellis has amassed an impressive body of work, remarkably over the years. He has also established a platform and mechanism for other artist that will give them value.

    “I am giving medicine—a dose of cultural nutrition,” he said.

    By Candace J. Semien
    Jozef Syndicate reporter

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    Punch TV Studios becomes the only Black-owned media company to sell stock

    Media company Punch TV Studios, known for providing a unique selection of original and creative television programming, recently announced its qualification of its stock offering from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission under Regulation A, the Jumpstart Our Business Startup (JOBS) Act which was signed into law by President Obama. Based on this law Punch TV Studios is now authorized to sell stock in the company.

    “By signing the JOBS Act into law President Obama made it easier for startup companies such as Punch TV Studios to go public and to raise capital privately. That was no minor feat. It was a major stand for a sitting President to take and a historical change in the way America does business. Although there is always more to be done, let us not forget that Punch TV Studios is the media legacy that President Obama leaves behind,” said Punch TV Studios CEO Joseph Collins.

    “We look forward to the day that President Obama is able to do more. In fact, we welcome President Obama to begin his post White House initiatives with Punch TV Studios. We know that whether he’s in the streets of Chicago, Ferguson, Charlotte, Flint, Baltimore, Milwaukee or any town USA; whether he’s exploring the issues of police brutality, economic disparity or gang violence Punch TV Studios is the only publicly traded media company that can provide the true, real, unaltered, unedited, unfiltered voice of the people!”

    As one of the few African American CEOs of a publicly traded company, Collins has an unmatched understanding of what the urban community is looking for and a keen eye on the pulse of the people. Punch TV Studios is currently developing new, original TV content for the urban community and is the first to develop a digital broadcast & Internet streaming network specifically designed to meet their unique entertainment needs.

    Punch TV Studios launched its Initial Public Offering (IPO) on June 19, 2016. According to its business model Punch TV Studios is projected to generate more than half a billion dollars in annual revenue by year three post IPO. With an opening price of only $1 per share, Punch TV Studios’ primary focus was to make their stock available and affordable to the average American. Early investors, Punch TV Studios supporters and television aficionados are able to get in on the ground floor and purchase stock directly from the company.

    ONLINE: PunchTVStudios.com

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    Master P to host flood benefit concert

    Master P is on a mission to help the victims of the recent deadly Louisiana floods.

    During the annual NBA All Star Weekend celebration on February 18, 2017, which will take place in his hometown of New Orleans, the music mogul is hosting a benefit concert and fundraiser in the city to help displaced families in Baton Rouge get back into their homes.

    “Together we will entertain and give fans a great show but the real mission is to help get families back into their homes,” Master P wrote on the event’s website. “In Baton Rouge, there is still a lot of pollution in the air, water damages and mildew.”

    Since Aug. 12, more than 112,000 Baton Rouge residents have been affected by flooding, which also destroyed approximately 40,000 homes, and left 13 people dead ― making it America’s worst natural disaster since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, according to the Red Cross.

    “I want all the athletes to come out, we are going to have all the top celebrities there from Usher to Lil Wayne,” he told Vibe on the event’s mission.

    “When people look at the floods and a lot of victims, they are not back in their homes yet in Baton Rouge, and I feel like for All Star Weekend, even though this will be a fun event, It will be a way for everyone to do their part, so this concert will be great for our people and Baton Rouge.”

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    Michael Foster, ‘Red Beans & Rice Mondays’ return Nov. 21

     

    The Belle of Baton Rouge is pleased to announce that starting on November 21, Michael Foster Presents: Red Beans & Rice Mondays will be held in Beauregards at 6pm. Continuing its history of mixing southern tradition with entertainment, the Belle provides a perfect location for event-goers to delight in food and live music. Attendees will enjoy guest performances by The Michael Foster Project featuring Roger Lewis of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, along with free red beans and rice by the Belle of Baton Rouge’s resident Chef, Dwight Sherman.

    Michael Foster Presents: Red Beans & Rice Mondays will also be utilizing this kickoff event to celebrate its 2nd year anniversary. As a part of the celebration, Keys to Life will be on site presenting a keyboard to Howell Park Elementary School. To date, Keys to Life has presented four keyboards to various schools in the East Baton Rouge Parish area.

    This free event will take place every Monday from 6pm to 9pm, and highlight different musicians that will provide entertainment, and professional chefs who will provide the signature dish of the event’s namesake.

    Read more »
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    New Venture to present ‘Black Nativity’

    For more than five decades, “Black Nativity” performances have swept International theaters. The play is a is a powerful retelling of the Nativity story from a Black perspective. In Baton Rouge, the New Venture Theatre will present this soul-stirring rendition of the Christmas Story that fills the theatre with thrilling voices, exciting dance and glorious gospel music.

    Directed by Greg Williams Jr. of New Venture, the two-hour show will be performed at the LSU Shaver Theatre. The show runs Saturday, Dec. 17 at 7:30pm and Sunday, Dec. 18 at 3pm. The show is G-rated and appropriate for all ages. Tickets are $27 before December 1.

    The original Black Nativity was written in 1961 by poet Langston Hughes. The cultural viewpoint and gospel music make Black Nativity a unique performance piece. Often adapted, this version of the production will take the audience from a traditional black church to an Africanized Jerusalem through dance, powerful spirituals and anthems, and toe-tapping gospel numbers.

    The play tells the story of Mary and Joseph’s journey through song and dance, culminating in a rousing finale surrounding the birth of Christ. According to New Venture, the importance of the play is that, though an expression of Christian belief via the African-American perspective, the show appeals to all walks of life.

    Read more »
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    Auditions open for ‘The Piano Lesson’

    THE PIANO LESSON AUDITION NOTICE
    DIRECTED BY: TIM SANDIFER
    Set in Pittsburgh during the Great Depression, The Piano Lesson explores the troubled relationship of a brother and sister and their struggle over an extraordinary family heirloom, a piano carved with images of their African ancestors. The carvings, done by their enslaved grandfather, instill the piano with a metaphysical legacy – one the siblings avoid or even take for granted, but come to accept and embrace. The piano ultimately brings together a family long torn apart by slavery, violence and murder.Register Here
    When
    Saturday
    April 9, 2016
    1:00 pm
    (General Auditions)
    Where
    Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge
    2nd Floor
    427 Laurel Street
    Baton Rouge, LA 70801
    What
    THE PIANO LESSON
    REHEARSAL DATES
    April 11, 2016 – May 19, 2016
    Mondays – Thursdays, 6:30 – 9:30 PM
    Sundays, 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM
    Rehearsals are at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge
     PERFORMANCE DATES
    May 20, 21 and 22, 2016
    Fridays & Saturday at 7:30 PM Sunday at 3:00

    3 Performances at the LSU Shaver Theatre
    AUDITION REQUIREMENTS
    Please prepare a one-minute dramatic monologue.
    CHARACTERS
    CHARLES DOAKER: Male, 40-60, African Descent, African American The uncle and the owner of the house, spent his life working for the railroad, functions as the play’s testifier.
    BOY WILLIE: Male, 25-40, African American, Berniece’s brash, impulsive, and fast-talking brother who plans to sell the family piano and buy the land his ancestors once worked on as slaves.

     

    LYMON: Male, 25-40, African American, Boy Willie’s longtime friend, speaks with a disarming “straightforwardness”, fleeing the law, he plans to stay in the north and begin a new life.

     

    BERNIECE: Female, 30-40, African America, Boy Willie’s sister, still in mourning for her husband, Crawley, blames her brother for her husband’s death.

     

    MARETHA: Female, 10-14, African American, Berniece’s eleven-year-old daughter who is learning to play piano, the next generation of the Charles’ family.

     

    AVERY BROWN: Male, 30-45, African American, A preacher who moves north once Berniece’s husband dies in an attempt to court her, honest and ambitious.

     

    WINING BOY: Male, 45-65, African American A wandering, washed-up recording star who drifts in and out of his brother Doaker’s household whenever he finds himself broke.

     

    GRACE: Female, 25-35, African American A young, urban woman whom Boy Willie and Lymon each try to pick up.

    Email questions to info@newventuretheatre.org.
    Read more »
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    New Venture’s ‘Rasheeda Speaking’ opens March 19 at LSU

    New Venture Theatre continues its 2016 season with “Rasheeda Speaking.” This show is directed by April Louise and will be performed March 19 and 20 at the LSU Studio Theatre.

    The PG-13 performance is about a white physician attempts to oust his Black receptionist by enlisting a white female coworker as a spy. Tensions rise as relations between the two women quickly deteriorate, turning their once-cordial workplace into a battlefield of innuendo, paranoia, and passive aggression. With wit and close observation, “Rasheda Speaking” mines the subtleties of “post-racial” America to explore what we are really saying when we refuse to talk about race. Greg Williams Jr. is scenic director and Christian Jones is the costumer. The cast includes Dorrian Wilson as Jaclyn Spaulding, Lee Kelly as Dr. David Williams, Kelly Lockhart as IIeen Van Meter, and Chelsie Ciccone as Rose Saunders.

    The Saturday, March 19, performances begin at 2pm and 7:30pm. On Sunday, March 20, the performance begins at 3pm. Children under the age of four will not be allowed in the theatre and all children ages 4-13 must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets are  available through the New Venture Theatre box office at 225.588.7576, or visit nvtarts.org

    New Venture Theatre is a local non-profit organization and one of Louisiana’s premiere theatre companies. Since the theater’s founding in 2007, New Venture Theatre has produced over 40 productions throughout the Baton Rouge area and produces a full main-stage and second stage season.

    ONLINE: www.nvtarts.org

    Read more »
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    Terrance Osborne brings ‘Mardi Barq’s’ to Baton Rouge, Feb. 3

    Parades, costumes, beads, king cake and more mark Mardi Gras, the culmination of the Carnival season. Barq’s Root Beer has partnered with Terrance Osborne, an artist inspired by the culturally diverse Gulf Coast, to bring the spirit of the Brand to life
    through his “Mardi Barq’s” piece.

    The artwork is on an eight-foot wood panel and  depicts a colorful Mardi Gras celebration seen in communities across the Gulf Coast during the Carnival season, reflecting the culture and heritage of Barq’s Root Beer.
    Osborne attended the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (NOCCA) and graduated with a degree in Fine Arts from Xavier University of Louisiana.

    He taught elementary school for five years before the life-changing events of Hurricane Katrina spurred him to pursue a new career path.

    “Art is my passion and I enjoy capturing moments like Mardi Gras in action,” Osborne said. “Barq’s Root Beer Terrance Osborne brings ‘Mardi Barq’s’ was part of my childhood, so the beverage is connected with positive family memories and my community.” Leading up to Mardi Gras, Terrance will visit the Baton Rouge area to sign free posters of the original artwork for the public.

    Wednesday, February 3
    Location: Matherne’s Downtown
    440 N 3rd Street, Baton Rouge, LA 70802
    Time: 11am – 1pm

    Location: Calandro’s Seigen
    12732 Perkins Road, Baton Rouge, LA 70810
    Time: 4pm – 6pm

    Read more »
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    New Venture Theatre announces Jan. 30 auditions

    New Venture Theatre will host auditions for two performances, Jan. 30. They are:

    image

    Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds: a Children’s Musical Show Audition Notice
    Director: Dorrian Wilson
    Assistant Director: Roger Ferrier

    AUDITION
    Saturday, Jan. 30, 3:30pm (General Auditions)
    Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge 2nd Floor 427 Laurel Street Baton Rouge, LA 70801

    REHEARSAL DATES
    Feb 2 – March 3
    Monday – Thursdays, 6pm – 9pm

    PERFORMANCE DATES
    March 4 and 5
    Friday, March 4 2pm and 7:30pm
    Saturday, March 5, at 2pm and 7:30pm

    SYNOPSIS
    Three little birds sing their sweet songs to Ziggy, a very shy child who is happy to see the world from the T.V. in his room. But his tricky friend, Nansi wants him to get out and enjoy the island of Jamaica. But Ziggy is afraid of Hurricanes, Mongoose and evil spirits. Their worldly adventure is enlivened by the fantastic songs of renowned Reggae artist Bob Marley.

    AUDITION REQUIREMENTS
    Please prepare a one-minute of a song that shows your range and vocal ability (SELECTIONS FROM BOB MARLEY WILL BE ACCEPTED). ALL SONGS WILL BE PERFORMED WITHOUT MUSICAL ACCOMPANIMENT. No monologues required for this production, there will be a cold reading.

    CHARACTERS
    Ziggy- a timid boy with long dreadlocks- 11

    Nansi- a trickster girl- 11 (Also: Spanish Bird#2/ British Colonizer Bird, Sister Indian Bird)

    Duppy- an evil spirit bird with a head full of human hair taken from children, 30s ( Also: Villager #1/ Great Grandfather Spanish Bird)

    Doctor Bird- a lucky bird, Ziggy’s pet and best friend, 20s

    Cedella- Ziggy’s Mother, 40s ( Also Montego, a bird/ Spanish Bird #1/ Great Aunt African Bird)

    Tacoma- a bird ( Also plays- Villager #2/ Great Grandmother British Bird/ Cousin Chinese Bird)

    RASHEEDA SPEAKING AUDITION NOTICE
    Directed by: April Louise
    Written by: Joel Drake-Johnson

    AUDITIONS
    Saturday, January 30 at 1pm

    Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge 2nd Floor
    427 Laurel Street Baton Rouge, La 70801

    REHEARSAL DATES
    February 15 – March 18
    Rehearsals are at the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge

    PERFORMANCE DATES
    March 19 and 20 7:30pm
    LSU Studio Theatre/ School of Theater
    Louisiana State University
    105 Music and Dramatic Building/ Baton Rouge, La 70803

    SYNOPSIS
    A White physician attempts to oust his black receptionist by enlisting a white female coworker as a spy. Tensions rise as relations between the two women quickly deteriorate, turning their once-cordial workplace into a battlefield of innuendos, paranoia, and passive aggression.
    With wit and close observation, “Rasheeda Speaking” mimes the subtleties of “post-racial” America to explore what we are really saying when we refuse to talk about race.

    AUDITION REQUIREMENTS
    Please prepare two contrasting monologues. Each piece should be no longer than one minute.

    CHARACTERS
    Jaclyn Spaulding (African American) early 40s Dr.’s newer assistant – seemingly unpredictable at face value

    Ilene Van Meter (Caucasian) late 40s Dr.’s long-term assistant – initially mild-mannered/
    optimistic; becomes untrusting

    Dr. David Williams (Caucasian) late 30s successful, young manipulative Surgeon

    Rose Saunders (Caucasian) 60s elderly patient

    Email questions to info@newventuretheatre.org or call (225) 588-7576

    Read more »
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    AT&T settles Byron Allen’s racial discrimination claim

    Media mogul Byron Allen filed a 10 billion dollar discrimination lawsuit against AT&T and DirecTV when the companies refused to provide distribution for his channels. That lawsuit, filed in 2014, has now been settled, with DirecTV and U-Verse picking up seven channels from Allen’s Entertainment Studios.

    As reported by Variety, DirecTV began carriage of Entertainment Studios’ Comedy.TV and Justice Central.TV early this week. U-verse has added Comedy.TV, Recipe.TV, ES.TV, MyDestination.TV, Cars TV and Pets TV; U-verse was already carrying Justice Central.TV.

    Spokespeople for all parties involved only commented that, “The matter has been resolved.”

    This stands as a major victory for Allen, a comedian turned businessman who is the sole owner of Entertainment Studios.

    Allen claimed in his lawsuit that Black-owned media was being shut out of distribution opportunities.

    Allen has filed a similar discrimination lawsuit against Comcast and Time Warner Cable.

    ONLINE: YourBlackWorld.com

     

    Read more »
  • Lionsgate apologizes for all-white cast

    Australian director Alex Proyas and Lionsgate have apologized for whitewashing African history in the upcoming film “Gods of Egypt.”

    The studio ignited controversy last month when it released character posters and a first-look trailer for the film, a period fantasy based in Egypt that features mostly white actors, including Scottish star Gerard Butler and Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, who is Danish.

    Lionsgate and Proyas issued statements addressing the backlash. “We recognize that it is our responsibility to help ensure that casting decisions reflect the diversity and culture of the time periods portrayed,” Lionsgate said, as reported by Forbes.

    “In this instance we failed to live up to our own standards of sensitivity and diversity, for which we sincerely apologize. Lionsgate is deeply committed to making films that reflect the diversity of our audiences. We have, can and will continue to do better.” Proyas said, “The process of casting a movie has many complicated variables, but it is clear that our casting choices should have been more diverse. I sincerely apologize to those who are offended by the decisions we made.”

    The cast also includes Chadwick Boseman, who is Black, as well as French-Cambodian actress Elodie Yung. Gods of Egypt is scheduled to be released on Feb. 26, 2016.

    Read more »
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    LaPlace Elementary School wins grant for its first music program in a decade

    Toyota and VH1 Save The Music have completed their national music festival activation and social media campaign to benefit music education. The campaign came to a close last weekend as Toyota presented LaPlace Elementary with a grant that will fund an entire instrumental music program for the school. This will be the first time in over a decade that the New Orleans area elementary has been able to provide music education to its students.

    The grant was achieved through an interactive festival activation and social media campaign implemented at music festivals nationwide including Lollapalooza, Outside Lands, Nocturnal Wonderland, Life is Beautiful and Voodoo Music + Arts Experience. The activation engaged with festivalgoers through a life sized Whispering Willow tree on the festival grounds. Participants were asked to write what music means to them on a leaf, hang the leaf on the tree, take a photo, and post to social media with the hashtag #ToyotaGiving. For each social media post, Toyota donated $1 to VH1 Save The Music.

    With the five festival run complete, Toyota was able to fulfill a $30,000 donation to VH1 Save The Music, a grant substantial enough to restore a musical instrument program for the entire school. LaPlace Elementary School was selected as the grant recipient for a multitude of factors. Not only is it the largest elementary school in the Parish, servicing more than 1,000 students, but the school had no music education program in place. With this grant, LaPlace was able to hire a music teacher to implement an instrumental music program that will now thrive with the instruments and equipment purchased and donated by the Foundation.

    At a school wide assembly on Friday, Oct 30, executives from Toyota and VH1 Save The Music met with the Principal and new music teacher and previewed the new music curriculum. Genre-defying artist Santigold treated the students to a live performance.

    CS_uPrNWsAA9UTt“Music has given me the opportunity to explore the world and connect with people internationally,” said Santigold. “My music studies helped me turn my passion into my living and gave me the confidence to pursue my dreams and nurture my creativity. I am proud to support the VH1 Save the Music campaign and the students of LaPlace Elementary in New Orleans. All of our children deserve and need music education.”

    “Toyota is honored to help further music advocacy with a grant to support the creation of an instrumental music program at LaPlace Elementary School,” says Steve Appelbaum, National Manager of Engagement Marketing, Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. “A curriculum that includes music is invaluable in igniting the passion and curiosity that encourages thinking outside of the box. Music invites innovation – and innovation changes the world.”

    “We are so grateful for the Toyota’s commitment as well as the participation of Santigold and all of the outstanding artists who lent their support and efforts in the music festivals and social media campaign,” says Paul Cothran, Executive Director of the VH1 Save The Music Foundation. “Toyota’s leadership and generosity in this highly successful campaign made it possible for the Foundation to provide a full package of instruments, restoring for the students of LaPlace Elementary School access to the exceptional benefits of music study, creative expression and opportunities for brighter futures.”

    “We are grateful that so many people would come together to help a school most probably haven’t even heard of,” says Superintendent Kevin George. “We would like them to know that our students are making music again and we are laying a foundation that we hope will follow them throughout their lives.”

    Read more »
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    N.O. native T. Geronimo Johnson wins Ernest Gaines Award

    Welcome to Braggsville by T. Geronimo Johnson has been selected as winner of the 2015 Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence.

    Ernest Gaines, a native of Louisiana’s Pointe Coupee Parish and a literary legend, is a 2013 recipient of the National Medal of Arts, a recipient of the MacArthur Foundation’s Genius Grant, a recipient of the National Humanities Medal and a member of the French Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. Last year marked the 40th anniversary of publication of his critically acclaimed novel “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” which was adapted into a made-for-TV movie that won nine Emmy awards. His novel “A Lesson Before Dying” published in 1993 won the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction.

    Now in its ninth year, the Gaines Award is a nationally acclaimed $10,000 prize created by donors of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. The award recognizes outstanding work from rising African-American fiction writers while honoring Gaines’ extraordinary contribution to the literary world.

    Welcome to Braggsville by New Orleans native T. Geronimo Johnson

    Welcome to Braggsville by New Orleans native T. Geronimo Johnson

    Johnson is a New Orleans native who lives in Berkeley, California, and serves as visiting professor at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He earned a master’s degree in fine arts from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and a master’s in language, literacy and culture from the University of California, Berkeley. He previously held the Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University and the Iowa Arts Fellowship at the University of Iowa. His fiction and poetry has appeared in Best New American VoicesIndiana ReviewLA Review, and Illuminations, among others.

    In addition, Johnson has taught writing at Arizona State University, the University of Iowa, UC Berkeley, Western Michigan University and Stanford. His first novel, Hold it ’til it Hurts, was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for fiction.

    Welcome to Braggsville offers a socially provocative and dark comedy about four UC Berkeley students who stage a protest during a Civil War reenactment in rural Georgia. In his review, Los Angeles Times book critic David L. Ulin said Johnson is “a terrific storyteller, and he moves fluidly from past to present, place to place. In the end, no one is right and everyone is – or perhaps it’s the other way around.” The book has been called a social satire that follows the Berkeley students into disaster. “It’s an ambitious book about race that wants to say something big about America,” writes NPR.

     

    Angela Flournoy, author of The Turner House

    Angela Flournoy, author of The Turner House

    Due to the exceptional quality of this year’s entries, Gaines Award judges short-listed two books – The Sellout by Paul Beatty and The Turner House by Angela Flournoy.

    The national panel of judges for the 2015 Gaines Award are: Thomas Beller, award-winning author and journalist; Anthony Grooms, a critically acclaimed author and creative writing professor at Kennesaw State University; renowned author Elizabeth Nunez, professor of English at Hunter College-City University of New York; Francine Prose, author of more than 20 books, including “Blue Angel,” a nominee for the 2000 National Book Award; and Patricia Towers, former features editor for O, The Oprah Magazine and a founding editor of Vanity Fair magazine.

     

     

     

    Paul Beatty, author of The Sellout.

    Paul Beatty, author of The Sellout.

    Award ceremonies take place at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 21 at the Manship Theatre in downtown Baton Rouge. Johnson will read excerpts from his winning novel. The ceremony is free and open to the public, although reservations are requested at rsvp@braf.org.

    About BRAF

    The Baton Rouge Area Foundation is one of the Gulf Coast region’s largest community foundations. Winner of the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ 2011 Award for Outstanding Foundation, BRAF connects donors to projects and nonprofit groups, along with investing in and managing community projects. For more information, visit BRAF.org.

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    Community Event: Ribbon Cutting and Movie in the Park, Nov. 6

    BAKER–BREC will dedicate the new Pilot Senior Playground on Friday, Nov. 6 at 5 p.m. at Greenwood Community Park! Exercise and physical activity are very important to our senior community and it is BREC’s mission to contribute to a healthier, more vibrant community by providing exceptional parks, open spaces and recreation experiences for all of East Baton Rouge Parish.

    Submitted by Monica Dugas

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    Car Review: Lexus GS 350 F Sport

    HOUSTON – After more than a week, it felt like we drove the Lexus GS 350 F Sport sedan through every one of the 600 square miles that comprise this city. And we only found a few irks to complain about.

    Actually, we drove the Lexus GS 350 F Sport to New Orleans and back here. After 10 days and almost 1,000 miles, we came away with a healthy respect for the road worthiness of the midsize luxury sedan.

    Except for going over some rather spacious expansion joints on the causeways that slice through southern Louisiana, not once did any road noise make its way into the cabin.

    Although the Lexus GS F Sport has an available rear-wheel-biased all-wheel-drive system, how often are you going to get inclement weather beyond heavy rain in this region? Anyway, that is a long-winded way of saying that we had a rear-wheel-drive model of the F Sport and it was just fine.

    Still, the car had what Lexus called an adaptable variable suspension that came with its sport package. Settings were normal, sport, sport +, eco and snow. Even though regional gas prices ranged from $2.47 to $2.62, they were cheaper with cash, we set the car in Eco mode because of the distances involved on the trip.

    That mode set throttle mapping and seat heating and climate control systems for optimal fuel economy. In ECO mode, the instrument meter lighting changed to blue. But the sport package is more than an extra setting, sport +, in the drive mode selector. We had a full tank of fuel when we left, we filled the tank again once we arrived and we filled it once more for the return trip.

    The visit to New Orleans included a side trip to Hammond, just North of Lake Pontchartrain, and the place we gassed up the second time.

    Our test car had an EPA rating of 19 mpg in the city and 20 mpg on the highway. Considering the 1,000 miles we drove, it was relatively easy on fuel.

    The sport package was comprised of chassis enhancements, a sport tuned suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels with summer tires, larger front brakes that were appreciated with all the sudden slowdowns from Interstate speeds because of traffic congestion and high friction brake pads. Our test car also had lane keep assist and a rearview camera.

    Of course there were firmer springs, thicker stabilizer bars and special bushings.
    Although our test car was not equipped with it, the Lexus GS 350 F Sport has available dynamic rear steer that can add up to two degrees of rear wheel turn that enhances cornering and lane changes.

    No matter whether we were traveling at 80 mph or 8 mph, our 3.5-liter engine performed flawlessly. It generated 308 horsepower, 277 pound-feet of torque and it was mated to an eight-speed transmission. There was no herking or jerking, no searching for the correct gear and the car accelerated swiftly when needed.

    We thought the side view mirrors could have been shaped differently; they didn’t provide a wide enough view of what was on the side of the car. But the blind spot alert system made up for that lack. And in an age of portable electronic gadgets, we thought the car could have used more than one USB jack.

    However, these gripes were mere inconveniences that were more than offset by the driver experience of the Lexus GS 350 F Sport. Our test car was swathed with a black perforated leather interior. The front seats were heated as well as cooled and the driver’s seat was 18-way power. Aluminum pedals and brushed aluminum trim completed the interior’s sport motif.
    The car featured Lexus’ 12.3 inch dual information screen. We spent a lot of time in navigation mode and that gets us to our third quibble. The navigation system will not mute the audio system when giving directions to the driver. A moderate decibel level when playing the radio will drown out the directions being giving by the voice of the navigation system. Yes, there is a map with a designated route but you can miss those directions as well, if your eyes are on the road where they are supposed to be.

    Still, the system had predictive traffic information that included detour preview, ETA calculation and low-fuel coordination with available fuel stations. We didn’t avail ourselves of the traffic information in the navigation system and ended up getting it off the traffic app in the Enform App Suite.
    Either or, this trips marks the last time will travel back to Houston from the Big Easy on the Sunday after Turkey Day. The traffic was as thick as molasses in some places.
    The information system had the usual compliment of stuff: Bluetooth, satellite radio, media capability, meaning it would and did play stations off the Pandora app on our smartphone and there were voice controls.

    Other equipment on the Lexus GS 350 F Sport included adaptive cruise control, land departure warning, pre-collision warning, a 17-speaker 835-watt premium audio system, a rearview camera and folding side mirrors.
    Our Lexus GS 350 F Sport was a quality midsize sedan in one of the most competitive segments of the luxury market. The car had a base price of $47,700. Add options that included the sport package and a $910 freight charge and the final tab was $60,784.


    By Frank S. Washington
    AboutThatCar.com.

    Read more »
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    New twists on Easter baskets kids will treasure

    This year tell the Easter Bunny to hop to it and avoid those same old Easter basket ideas kids have been getting for decades. By filling your children’s baskets with personalized surprises, you can make the day extra special.

    Don’t just fill baskets with boring seasonal sweets and a stuffed bunny. Baskets are more fun when they are personalized to the interests of each recipient. (Read this story about Lee Hardy of Florida who is preparing 700 baskets to give away).

    Barbara Jeha Arnondin, co-founder of MetroMom Events, has the insider scoop on what kids want this season.  “Your children will be delighted to unwrap baskets that they feel were made specifically for them,” said Arnondin. “Kids love anything that is geared toward their own interests but also has some surprises. And these days, unexpected twists can even be found in the sweet treats you choose.”

    One new Easter item that will help surprise kids of all ages are premium Swiss milk chocolate eggs with a toy surprise inside from Choco Treasure.  These chocolate eggs have themes that you can match to a child’s interests, including Hello Kitty, Penguins of Madagascar, and Sports Balls.  All of the Choco Treasure themed collections are comprised of 15 to 18 different toy surprises, such as 3-D puzzles, water squirters, figurines, and even a deck of mini playing cards.

    Here are a few ideas from Arnondin to get started on personalizing kids’ Easter baskets:

    Easter baskets take over the home of Lee Hardy as she prepares hundreds of the holiday giveaways. (Photo: WTSP)

    Easter baskets take over the home of Lee Hardy as she prepares hundreds of the holiday giveaways. (Photo: WTSP)

    Music Fans

    For kids who love to listen to the latest hits, fill their baskets with a new pair of headphones, a gift card for downloading their favorite tunes, a portable speaker, a blow-up guitar, or any type of small instrument to make their own music.

    Sports Fans

    For kids who love sports, Easter baskets filled with sports surprises could include team trading cards, league sticker books, team branded mobile device cases, tickets to a game and Choco Treasure Sports Balls which come in the shape of baseballs, footballs, and soccer balls.

    Movie-Goers

    There were many big box office hits for kids over the past year. And whether your child’s favorite was “The Lego Movie,” “Big Hero 6,” or “Penguins of Madagascar,” an Easter basket filled with movie favorites like popcorn, posters, soundtracks, their own 3-D glasses, licensed toys or newly released DVDs will help you get two thumbs up.

    Girly Girl

    Hello Kitty is consistently popular among girls of all ages. Consider a basket filled with themed craft activities, dress-up accessories and Hello Kitty Choco Treasure toy-filled eggs, which include a variety of Hello Kitty figurines, 3-D puzzles, mini playing cards and more. This basket will have little ladies playing for hours.

    Dino-riffic

    Digging for treasure is easy when you create a themed basket for your mini-paleontologist. Include a fossil excavation kit, a magnifying glass, and a coupon for a trip to see the dinosaurs at a local museum. By thinking outside of the basket this Easter you can create egg-stra special experiences kids will remember for years.

    By StatePoint

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  • Mason named University of the District of Columbia finalist

    The Board of Trustees of the University of the District of Columbia has announced the selection of three finalists for the position of President of the University–including Southern University System President Ronald Mason.

    Each of these candidates will visit the campus and participate in two open forums that will provide University stakeholders the opportunity to meet the finalists, ask questions and provide written feedback to the Board of Trustees.

    Open forums for Mason will be Friday, April 3, from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room at the Community College, 801 North Capitol Street; and Friday, April 3, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in Building 44, Room A03 on the Van Ness Campus. http://www.udc.edu/

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    Black film fest issues challenge to rising filmmakers

    OAK BROOK, Ill.–McDonald’s USA and the American Black Film Festival are joining forces to launch the McDonald’s Lovin’ Video Competition. To complement the new “Lovin” campaign, up-and-coming filmmakers are challenged to create one 90-second film that brings to life McDonald’s philosophy that, “A little more lovin’ can change a lot.”

    Aspiring filmmakers nationwide are encouraged to enter their best, original submissions by 11:59 p.m. Eastern March 24, 2015, for their chance to win the grand prize and earn accolades from film industry leaders. Three finalists will be selected to attend the 19th annual American Black Film Festival in New York City, June 11 -14 and have an exclusive opportunity to be mentored by critically-acclaimed film director Malcolm D. Lee (Best Man; Best Man Holiday), who will provide the finalists with invaluable film industry tips and advice.

    The top three short films will premiere at the highly-anticipated festival and will be judged by a panel of industry experts. Each submission will be critiqued on creativity, implementation of concept and quality. In the end, only one finalist will take home the grand prize — a film equipment package valued at $2,500 and an opportunity to have their film featured on prominent websites, including McDonald’s 365Black.com and other media entities. More information about the competition can be found at www.abff.com.

    “We are excited to partner with McDonald’s USA on this most unique digital video contest,” said Jeff Friday, American Black Film Festival founder and chief executive officer. “The ABFF is committed to supporting emerging artists and providing trailblazing opportunities for them to gain exposure and visibility in the film and television industry.”

    “I’m honored to mentor our next generation of aspiring filmmakers through ‘Lovin’ Video Competition’,” said Malcolm D. Lee. “Many have mentored and guided me along my journey to make an impact in film, and it’s important for all of us to do our part to bring the next generation up.”

    McDonald’s newest campaign reignites the spirit of “i’m lovin’ it” and will inspire everything the brand does moving forward. By focusing on the lovin’ people show each other every day, the campaign provides an opportunity to celebrate and bring more lovin’ to customers.

    “McDonald’s is excited to embark on this initiative with ABFF and the filmmakers of the future from the communities we serve,” said Kristen Wells, External Communications Manager, McDonald’s USA. “We hope that the idea of sharing love throughout our communities will motivate and inspire the filmmakers as they work tirelessly to make their dreams a reality.”

    The Lovin’ Video Competition and ABFF’s vision to promote diversity in the film and television industry align with McDonald’s 365Black platform — an initiative that celebrates the pride, heritage and achievements of African-Americans year round.

    To learn more about the American Black Film Festival and the Lovin’ Video Competition, visit www.abff.com. Follow @ABFF on Twitter and @AmericanBlackFilmFestival on Instagram.

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  • Briggs, Packer to lead Opera Louisiane’s ‘Madama Butterfly’

    Opera Louisiane will the world’s most beloved opera, “Madama Butterfly,” where soprano Hope Briggs and tenor Chauncey Packer will perform lead roles, 3pm, March 8, at the Baton Rouge River Center Theater.

    Soprano Hope Briggs performs the title role of a young Japanese woman whose uncompromising love results in her greatest joy and greatest sacrifice. Tenor Chauncey Packer stars as Lt. B.F. Pinkerton, an American naval officer who woos Madama Butterfly and ultimately deserts her.

    Hope Briggs is a New Jersey native who has sung leading soprano roles through the US and in Europe with such companies as San Francisco Opera, New Orleans Opera, El Paso Opera, Sacramento Opera, Opera San Jose, Nevada Opera, Opera Company of Brooklyn, Frankfurt Opera and Staatstheater Stuttgart. Briggs is also an ABC KGO-TV 2012 African American Salutes Honoree, Marian Anderson Historical Society Scholar and a 2013 Heritage Keeper Award Recipient from Friends of Negro Spirituals.

    Hope Briggs

    Hope Briggs

    Tenor Chauncey Packer is a New Orleans native who is known internationally for his portrayal of Sportin’ Life in “Porgy and Bess.” He has performed the role with San Francisco Opera, New Orleans Opera, Atlanta Opera, Opera Birmingham, Mobile Opera, Opera Grand Rapids, Pensacola Opera, Tulsa Opera and in many major European cities with the Munich-based New York Harlem Productions tour. He has also performed leading tenor roles with Utah Festival Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, Shreveport Opera and Nashville Opera, to name a few. Packer’s future engagements include concerts with Boston Symphony Orchestra and the premiere of an opera commissioned about the historic 1960s civil rights bus rides to New Orleans entitled FREEDOM RIDES in New Orleans.

    Tickets are available at www.operalouisiane.com, by phone at 800-745-3000 and at the Baton Rouge River Center Box Office at 275 S. River Road, Baton Rouge.

    Read more »
  • ,,

    Poised to be the next big thing in music industry

    An interview with gospel artist Anita Jarrell-Robertson

    About 17 years ago, music executive Vivian Scott Chew told me in a telephone interview to be on the lookout for a gifted singer who very few people had heard of but one who was about to take the world by storm with her music. The songstress Chew was referring to was R&B sensation and acclaimed actress Jill Scott.

    It was around 1998 when Chew predicted how big Scott would get. And in 2000, Scott’s debut album — Who is Jill Scott?: Words and Sounds, Vol. 1 — was released. That album made it to the Top 20 of the Billboard albums chart. Scott, also a songwriter, had earned three Grammy nominations for the project, which included the hit “Gettin’ in the Way.”

    Now, nearly 20 years after Chew — who has long provided direction and musical support for new and emerging artists — spoke of Scott’s imminent rise from obscurity to stardom, there is another gifted singer who is on the verge of an accomplishment that’s reminiscent of Scott’s dynamic ascension to prominence in the entertainment industry.

    Her name? Anita Jarrell-Robertson. And she has a voice and a stage presence that command attention. Jarrell-Robertson in July of 2014 released her contemporary gospel album “God is There,” a CD filled with tracks that minister to the core of people’s hearts. The title track — “God is There” — speaks directly to the listener whose life has been thrown into a tailspin by one personal calamity after another.

    On that track, Jarrell-Robertson shares that the Lord is always present, especially in times when He seems most distant.

    “The song, ‘God is There,’ was written during a very tumultuous time in our lives (my husband and my children). At that time we were fighting cancer with my daughter, Jessica. She was only about a year old and she had relapsed with leukemia for the second time, and her doctor had informed us that she probably would not make it,” Jarrell-Robertson said.

    “So, we were facing a lot, we were facing her (conceivably) passing. She was our first child, we already had a second child with a third one on the way. And we were going through tough times in our marriage because of all the stress,” Jarrell-Robertson said. “We had issues with outside family members and friends with their opinions and their judgments, and we just felt alone.

    “We actually had a pastor at that time to tell us that our daughter was going to die, and that we needed to let her go because she was going to die and that’s what (he said) God had told him,” recalls Jarrell-Robertson, whose family moved to Carrollton, Texas, from Baton Rouge, La. “We were told a lot of things during that season but when all that stuff was happening, it was like we were in a whirlwind and I was like, ‘Where are You? What’s going on?’ I remember being in the hospital room by myself one day with my daughter, and I looked around and I looked up and asked, ‘Where are You?’ And He answered me and He said, ‘I am there.’ ”

    God’s response, Jarrell-Robertson admits, didn’t exactly soothe the pain she was feeling as her child faced such a life-threatening disease.

    Jarrell-Robertson couldn’t understand how she could be serving God as passionately as she was at that time and, yet, sill be faced with such a harsh reality.

    “I just didn’t understand,” states Jarrell-Robertson, who said her experience caused her to feel somewhat like Job, whose family was hit with disaster that claimed the lives of his 10 children. “And so the song actually came about because God gave me the song. The whole song was written like a conversation.”

    From her dialogue with the Lord, Jarrell-Robertson said she learned that trusting God and walking by faith don’t come without trials from time to time. She learned that sometimes people go through difficult times as preparation for the places God is sending them in some cases and so that they could have testimonies to help edify other people in other cases. Jarrell-Robertson and her husband, Jesse, now share the profound testimony of their daughter being cancer-free.

    The 12-track album has so many songs on it that are more than capable of capturing and suspending the attention of listeners. One such track is “Even Me,” which is perhaps Jarrell-Robertson’s most widely recognized song.

    “Even Me” sends the message that regardless of how unworthy of God’s grace and mercy a person may feel he is, the Lord’s love is strong enough to cover him.

    “I came to this realization that I can come to the cross even with this, in whatever mess that I’m in, I can still come to the cross with it,” said Jarrell-Robertson, who, with her husband, started Harvest Music, a record label for independent Gospel artists. “Basically, God was not surprised about the condition of my heart. I was, but He wasn’t. His blood was powerful enough to save and deliver ‘even me.’ ”

    The song “God is There” earned Jarrell-Robertson the top 2014 Chosen Voice Awards honor for “Best Contemporary Song.”

    Jarrell-Robertson’s music, which has crossover appeal, can be purchased on her official website, http://www.anitaworships.com. Other places it can be found include: Pandora, iTunes, Amazon, Spotify, and iHeart Radio.

    By Donald Lee
    Guest Columnist

    Donald Lee is founder-pastor of Kingdom Living Christian Center of Dallas. E-mail him at pastordonjlee@yahoo.com.

    Read more »
  • ,

    Jewel J. Newman Center hosts benefit ball, Jan 17

    SCOTLANDVILLE–The Jewel J. Newman Community Center has partnered with the Culinary Arts Department of Career Academy to cater the center’s first Masquerade Ball and Silent Auction! This semi-formal/formal event will be held Saturday, January 17, in the recreation center with a Silent Auction beginning at 7:30pm. Musical Entertainment will be provided by One More Time “OMT” band.

    The proceeds of this event will benefit the Jewel J. Newman Community Center Playground Capital Campaign. Tickets are $50 for individuals, $80 for couples, and $350 for tables of 10.
    Call, (225) 775-3938 or email at jjncc@brgov.com.

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  • ,

    DuVernay, cast excel with ‘Selma’

    Rest in peace, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Your story has been told. Your legacy passed on. Your strategies for non-violent demonstrations shared. Your ability to change hearts, minds, and laws has been well-documented.

    Released Christmas Day, director Ava DuVernay’s “Selma,” in the most inspiring way, relays MLK’s state of grace. It is a worthy homage befitting of America’s most iconic civil rights leader. A monumental achievement. In 1965, Black Americans, though guaranteed the right to vote in the 1870s under 15th Amendment, were routinely denied the privilege and given literacy and civic tests filled with trivia few would know.

    image

    Ava DuVernay

    In Selma, Ala., Annie Lee Cooper (Oprah Winfrey) prepared herself for the de-humanizing poll tax experience, but even she couldn’t answer all the questions and was denied her right to vote. She wasn’t alone. In Alabama, there were whole counties where no Black person had ever been allowed to vote.  Something had to be done. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee had been organizing peaceful demonstrations for voting rights for years, to no avail. Rev. Frederick Reese (E. Roger Mitchell, from the film “Flight”), head of the Selma Teachers Association, invites Christian Leadership Conference President Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo, from the film “Middle of Nowhere”) and one of SCLC’s chief strategists, Hosea Williams (Wendell Pierce, from HBO’s “The Wire”) to Selma. A change is gonna come.

    King and his inner circle plan a 50-mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. to bring attention to the plight of Blacks who are denied the right to vote. Meanwhile, he has been in talks with President Lyndon B. Johnson (Tom Wilkinson, from the film “Michael Clayton”), pressuring him to push Congress to pass a Voting Rights Act. Johnson doesn’t take kindly to the pressure, and is waiting for the “right time.” King looks for ways to force Johnson’s hand. The two engage in a war of wills as Selma is about to explode on the 6 o’clock news.

    Providence brought DuVernay on board this ambitious project. Her family hails from Hayneville, Ala., a small town between Selma and Montgomery. She directed David Oyelowo in the intimate romantic indie drama Middle of Nowhere. She knew how to help him inhabit MLK’s persona. She knew how to tell a personal, humane story.  She took those strengths and masterfully added them to one of the most landmark moments in American history. DuVernay excels at directing the marches across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma and restaging the inhumane beatings of demonstrators by White police, directed by an evil Sheriff Jim Clark (Stan Houston) and condoned by the segregationist governor George C. Wallace (Tim Roth). The behind-the-scenes, devious manipulation by J. Edgar Hoover (Dylan Baker) seems duly vile and sinister under her guidance. The brotherhood and sisterhood of King’s inner circle has the majesty, dignity and reverence fitting for heroic characters, under her eye. Even with all those big events on her plate, DuVernay, uses her skills directing relationships to pay special attention to King’s personal life.

    image

    There’s a scene in the movie when Hoover has sent incriminating tape recordings of two people having sex to King’s stalwart wife Coretta (Carmen Egojo). That moment when she confronts her husband is one of the most dramatic, intimate and upsetting moments in the movie.  It shows the depths to which the FBI was willing to go to destroy King.  It demonstrates that a strong love between a husband and wife can even endure sabotage. It also reveals that the man who led this country out from the shadows of segregation and influenced civil rights movements for decades to come, was simply human. He had foibles.  He had regrets. Yet, his irrepressible spirit endured. It helps that the producers and screenwriter Paul Webb, with re-writes by DuVernay, chose to show just one major achievement in MLK’s life.

    The March on Washington, Nobel Peace Prize, and assassination, are not in this film. Most location shots are in Selma or the White House. You focus on the stops, starts, setbacks and triumphs of an historic march from Selma to Montgomery and the hopeful passage of the Voting Rights Act.  The dialogue between MLK and his disciples, his wife and the president are often electric.  Especially the sparring between LBJ and MLK over Johnson’s snail-pace movement towards justice: “I came here prepared to talk to you about people. People are dying in the street for this. Punished for wanting, for needing, to participate in the American political process. It cannot wait, sir.”

    David Oyelowo was born for the role.  He looks like Martin, especially after adding a few pounds, a pencil mustache and razor haircut. The voice. The movements. The oratory skills. It’s as if MLK entered his soul. Carmen Egojo is the essence of Coretta in appearance and nuance. When she talks, you feel like she is telling secrets from the past. The casting of King’s inner circle is excellent: Cuba Gooding, Jr. as civil rights attorney Fred Gray; Common as social activist James Bevel; André Holland (from the film “42″) as Andrew Young; Stephan James as John Lewis, one of the last surviving Freedom Riders.

    Two strong supporting female performances are at the heart of the film too: Oprah Winfrey as the courageous Annie Lee Cooper, who smacked a police officer. Lorraine Toussaint ( from the film “Middle of Nowhere”) as Amelia Platts Boynton Robinson, a legendary activist who was beaten unconscious during the massacre known as “Bloody Sunday.” Both give sterling performances. Bradford Young’s ( from the film “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”) cinematography is rich, graphic  and mood-setting. Ruth Carter (from Lee Daniel’s “The Butler”) recreates the clothes of the era perfectly and her designs peak in the scene when MLK and Coretta are walking arm-in-arm during a march. Editor Spencer Hart’s ( from the film “Middle of Nowhere”) timing is precision as 122 minutes roll by and you can’t remember when you weren’t at the edge of your seat. John Legend and Common team up for the song “Glory,” and Legend’s old school voice is the perfect conduit for the era.

    These days, as demonstrators fill the streets for various causes, sometimes it’s important to put events into perspective. To gauge what will happen next, you have to look back in time. Unrest brings progress. Protest brings awareness. Unity brings hope. The sacrifices we make today may not be felt for years to come.  But “Selma” teaches us that when we strive, things change. MLK knew that better then anyone.

    By Dwight Brown
    NNPA Film Critic
    DwightBrownInk.com

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  • Nominations accepted for the 2015 Humanities Award

    Dec 18 deadline; Honorees recognized at April 23, 2015 dinner in Baton Rouge

    The Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities,  is now accepting nominations for the 2015 Humanities Awards for outstanding achievement in and contributions to the humanities. Awardees will be honored at the 2015 Bright Lights Awards Dinner on April 23, 2015, at the Capitol Park Museum in Baton Rouge.

    Individuals, institutions or organizations may submit nominations. Individuals, however, may not nominate themselves. Letters of nomination should not exceed two pages, and should detail specific accomplishments that qualify the nominee for the award. A curriculum vita for the nominee and other letters of support should accompany the letter of nomination.

    Nominations must be received in the LEH office no later than 5 p.m. December 15, and should be addressed to: Chair, Humanities Awards Committee, Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 938 Lafayette St., Suite 300, New Orleans, LA  70113. Nominations also may be faxed to LEH (attention to Chair, Humanities Awards Committee) at 504-529-2358 or emailed to restovic@leh.org.

    Award categories include:

    • Lifetime Contribution to the Humanities
    • Humanities Documentary Film of the Year
    • Michael P. Smith Documentary Photography
    • Humanities Book of the Year
    • “Light Up for Literacy”

    The “humanities,” as defined by Congress, include the study of literature, history, philosophy, modern and classical languages, linguistics, archaeology, jurisprudence, art history and criticism, ethics, comparative religion, and those disciplines of the social sciences employing historical or philosophical approaches such as cultural anthropology or social theory.

    The LEH Board of Directors will select nominees who best exemplify one or more of the above categories. No single humanities area will receive primary consideration, but the nominees’ activities must reflect one or more disciplines in the humanities.

    Awards criteria include:

    • Lifetime Contributions: Honors citizens who have supported and been involved in public appreciation of issues central to the humanities. The 2014 winner of this award was journalist and documentary filmmaker Peggy Scott Laborde, whose contributions to the cultural life of Louisiana provide an ever-growing audience with intimate portraits of subjects ranging from the history of Mardi Gras to the evolution of jazz.
    • Michael P. Smith Documentary Photography: Honors documentary photographers whose subject matter exemplifies Louisiana topics and aesthetics. Nominations may be for a complete body of work or for a single project. The 2014 winner was photographer Richard Sexton of New Orleans.
    • Humanities Documentary Film of the Year: Awarded to the documentary film that best exemplifies scholarship on Louisiana topics or by Louisiana documentary filmmakers. Last year, this award went to Bayou Maharajah, by Lily Keber of New Orleans.
    • Humanities Book of the Year: Awarded to the book that best exemplifies scholarship on Louisiana topics or by Louisiana writers. Receiving awards in 2014 award were A Company Man: The Remarkable French-Atlantic Voyage of a Clerk for the Company of the Indies, by Marc-Antoine Caillot, edited by Erin M. Greenwald and Livestock Brands & Marks: An Unexpected Bayou Country History, by Christopher Everette Cenac, Sr., M.D., F.A.C.S.
    • Light Up for Literacy (Inaugural award):  Honors individuals who have made significant and lasting contributions to literacy efforts in the state. The award is presented in partnership with the State Library of Louisiana and the Library of Congress.

    For additional information about the annual humanities awards, contact LEH Interim President Miranda Restovic at restovic@leh.org or visit the LEH website www.leh.org.

    Read more »
  • ,

    Silhouette of a Southern Cook

    New Orleans native, Tonya Jacob-Haggerty, shares her 30 years experience as a cook and her observations on relationships in her new 136-pg full color cookbook, “Silhouette of a Southern Cook: How Cooking Relates to Relationships.” This book is full mouthwatering southern dishes like, delightful Shrimp Cakes with creamy Remoulade sauce, New Orleans Authentic Dirty Rice, Jambalaya, delicious Crawfish Bisque, delectable Crab Corn Chowder,  and Award Winning Bread Pudding with Pecan Rum sauce and other lip-smacking southern recipes. Find out why it’s so important to prep your food before cooking and prep yourself before entering in a relationship.

    Read more »
  • ,

    Comedian Howard Hall reacts to Obama’s Between Two Ferns interview

    OUR PRESIDENT BARACK Obama is by far in my opinion one of the smoothest, confident and smartest presidents we have had in this great country. (May I add he married Michelle Obama… Smart Move) He has a way of placing himself in certain situations where he can get the most impact for his agenda. Case in point… Funny or Die’s Exclusive “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis.

    watch it here

    In this interview Zach is known for his offend questions and his straight face insults to his guest but the President handled it in style. I know President Obama can only say certain things due to being the leader of the Free World but I, comedian Howard

    Hall, can be the voice of what he really wanted to say. This is how the interview would have went:

    Howard: Hi my name is Howard Hall and welcome to “Between Two

    Ferns” and my guest today is Bara.. President Barack Obama.

    President Obama: Mess my name up one more time and you will come up missing.HOWARD-HALL

    Howard: Ok… Did you send Ambassador Rodman to North Korea? I heard you were sending Hulk Hogan to Syria.

    President Obama: No but I will be sending

    AmbassadorJoe Biden in here to choke slam you back to your high school weight. Which is 7 pounds less than what you are now by the way.

    Howard: How does it feel to be the last African

    American President? President Obama: How

    does it feel to talk to the last black person you’re going to see on this earth?

    Howard: Ok…That is all I have before I end up on the wrong end of Government Conspiracy.

    Then President Obama kicks over the two ferns and salutes the camera.

    End of Interview

    Read more »
  • Lil ‘Boosie shares plans for new releases

    NEW ORLEANS–ONE THING can be certain about when Baton Rouge rapper Tor- rence “Lil Boosie” Hatch was incarcerated: he never got complacent.

    In fact, Hatch wrote 1,018 songs, a movie script and a book during his four and a half years incarcerat- ed for drug charges. Hatch put all rumors to rest at his “Boosie Speaks” press conference held Monday, March 10, at the W Hotel inNew Orleans.

    “They said I had more release dates than Jordans,” he joked with the crowd. Hatch told media about how the first thing he did upon his release was go pick up his seven children to spend some time with them. He’s also been sur- rounding himself by other family and friends—and making headlines for doing some major shopping.

    “It improved me,” Hatch said about  his time incarcerated. “I went through some stuff while I was in prison.”

    Hatch, whose larger physical stature hinted that he’s in better shape, said the time in prison also made him stronger and wiser.

    A lot of things have changed since Hatch went to prison, including the appearance of social site Instagram. He said part of how it works still surprises him, and he plans to go on it soon “straight flexin,’” as rapper Trinidad James rhymes.

    The hip-hop indus- try was there in full effect to support Hatch. Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy called Monday “a big day for hip- hop.”

    Jeezy has been a big supporter of Hatch for a while now. He talked about being inspired by what all he overcame.

    Baton Rouge artist Jacob Zumo created portrait of the rapper during the conference

    Baton Rouge artist Jacob Zumo creates portrait of the rapper during the press conference.

    “I never heard him sound like the system broke him,” Jeezy said.

    Legendary Texas rap- per and Hatch’s mentor Bun B echoed those senti- ments and said that a lot of people did not want to see a young black man make it.

    “Boosie is home,” he said to an excited crowd.

    With Hatch’s growing fan base and buzz surrounding his release from prison, Bun B said it won’t take long for his career to reach the next level.

    “All Boosie has to do right now is be Boosie. We don’t want him to come home and sound like this person,” Bun B said after the press conference.

    “He doesn’t need to do a song featuring that person. He doesn’t need beats by so and so. He doesn’t need a video directed by anybody,” he added. “All Boosie has to do is be Boosie.”

    Hatch’s friend and musical partner Lil Webbie had the crowd laughing as he went up and sat on stage with moderator Angela Yee of The Breakfast Club and told people how God told him Hatch would be get- ting out of prison soon.

    “I said, ‘I talked to God, bruh. You coming home, bruh,” he said.

    Hatch’s attorneys said he’s in complete compliance with his release stipulations and might be on probation for four more years.

    And don’t worry Lil Boosie fans, he should be cleared to travel and per- form by the end of March. He already has shows ap- pearing on Ticketmaster, including an April 13 date in Birmingham. He is also scheduled to perform in Lafayette April 19 at the Cajundome, according to the arena’s website.

    Read more »
  • ,

    Lil Boosie is back: Rap industry, fans, media convene for rapper’s first public appearance

    image

    NEW ORLEANS– One thing can be certain about when Baton Rouge rapper Torrence “Lil Boosie” Hatch was incarcerated: he never got complacent.

    In fact Hatch -released from prison Wednesday- wrote 1,018 songs, a movie script and a book during his four and a half years incarcerated for drug charges. Hatch put all rumors to rest at his “Boosie Speaks” press conference held Monday, March 10, at the W Hotel in New Orleans.

    “They said I had more release dates than Jordans,” he joked with the crowd. Hatch told media about how the first thing he did upon his release was go pick up his seven children to spend some time with them. He’s also been surrounding himself by other family and friends- and making headlines for doing some major shopping.

    “It improved me,” Hatch said about his time incarcerated. “I went through some stuff while I was in prison.”

    Hatch, whose larger physical stature hinted that he’s in better shape, said the time in prison also made him stronger and wiser.

    A lot of things have changed since Hatch went to prison, including the appearance of social site Instagram. He said part of how it works still surprises him, and he plans to go on it soon “straight flexin,’” as rapper Trinidad James rhymes.

    The hip-hop industry was there in full effect to support Hatch. Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy called Monday “a big day for hip-hop.”

    Jeezy has been a big supporter of Hatch for a while now. He talked about being inspired by what all he overcame.

    “I never heard him sound like the system broke him,” Jeezy said.

    Legendary Texas rapper and Hatch’s mentor Bun B echoed those sentiments and said that a lot of people did not want to see a young black man make it.

    “Boosie is home,” he said to an excited crowd.

    With Hatch’s growing fan base and buzz surrounding his release from prison, Bun B said it won’t take long for his career to reach the next level.

    “All Boosie has to do right now is be Boosie. We don’t want him to come home and sound like this person,” Bun B said after the press conference.

    “He doesn’t need to do a song featuring that person. He doesn’t need beats by so and so. He doesn’t need a video directed by anybody,” he added. “All Boosie has to do is be Boosie.”

    Hatch’s friend and musical partner Lil Webbie had the crowd laughing as he went up and sat on stage with moderator Angela Yee of The Breakfast Club and told people how God told him Hatch would be getting out of prison soon.

    “I said, ‘I talked to God bruh. You coming home bruh,” he said.

    Hatch’s attorneys said he’s in complete compliance with his release stipulations and might be on probation for four more years.

    And don’t worry Lil Boosie fans, he should be cleared to travel and perform by the end of March. He already has shows appearing on Ticketmaster, including an April 13 date in Birmingham. He is also scheduled to perform in Lafayette April 19 at the Cajundome, according to the arena’s website.

    By Anastasia Semien
    The Drum Newspaper Contributing Reporter
    @AnastasiaSemien

    Read more »
  • Author brings literary work to stage

    Danielle Alysse Martin is  already an author ,entrepreneur and musician who can now add playwright to the impressive list of titles she has amassed.

    Martin’s first literary work was  The Soles of My Shoes was released late  last year.

    The collection of inspirational poems , which is divided into four sections: Learning To Walk, Running For My Life, If The Shoe Fits, and Struttin’ My Stuff, inspired Martin to create a series of monologues based her book.

    Martin said her passion and  desire to assist women  in their walk with Christ led her to found the Press Play Theatre Company and blog, Pretty Girls Praise.

    The Soles of My Shoes was written by Martin to inspire women from all “walks” of life and she hopes that bringing her words to the stage will to the same.

    I am Not my Shoes will be performed  Sunday ,February 21st at 7p.m at The Red Shoes Theater located at 2303 Government st.

    To purchase or a copy of The Soles of my Shoes  tickets click here

    Read more »
  • ,

    Lt. Gov. Dardenne brings party to the Grammys

    The Life & Times Of…The Hot 8 Brass Band is up for a Grammy in the best regional root music album category, competing with Richard’s Le Fou and Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience’s Dockside Sessions. Simien also was scheduled to perform but his Los Angeles arrival was delayed by weather. Other Louisiana artists nominated this year are Allen Toussaint, Hunter Hayes, Terence Blanchard, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Bobby Rush and PJ Morton. Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne gave an audio-visual presentation tracing Louisiana’s history of musical luminaries and in uences. Louisiana has sent a nominee to the Grammy Awards every year since 1960 and at least nine annually since 2000, he said afterward.

    Read more »
  • 2014 Baton Rouge Blues Festival Performers Announced

    The Baton Rouge Blues Foundation has announced the performers for the the 20th annual Baton Rouge Blues Festival .

    “We believe this year’s diverse group of performers will give all music lovers and festival goers a unique experience unmatched by any free/open to the public festival in the United States. We invite everyone to join us  downtown to  celebrate our original sound of the Swamp Blues.”

    The free to the public, family-friendly festival will feature an impressive lineup of blues legends and newcomers alike, including Dr. John & The Nite Trippers, Kenny Neal with Henry Gray, Black Joe Lewis, Naomi Shelton & The Gospel Queens, Lil Freddie King, Johnny Sansone, Black Pistol Fire, Chris LeBlanc, Jeffery Broussard & the Creole Cowboys, Brother Dege, and Baton Rouge Music Studios

    The festival will be held to downtown Baton Rouge Saturday, April 12th at  Repentance Park and Galvez Plaza.

    During the past three years, the festival has become one of the nation’s fastest growing blues festivals of its kind, consistently growing in attendance to more than 10,000 people ranging from ages 18 to 65.

     

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  • EBR Library Offers Free Downloads

    This year East Baton Rouge Parish Library patrons have downloaded more than 43,000 songs for free using Freegal music service. The library system recently upgraded to Freegal 2.0 and it will give patrons access to more than 6 million songs.  To take advantage of the service patrons an visit Freegal’s digital library online at www.ebprl.com  and must have a library card.

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  • New Venture Theater Company Hosting Auditions for Shout! the Musical

    New Venture Theater Company is casting for it’s production of Shout! the musical. Auditions will be held saturday December 21st at The Manship Theater  located at  100 LAFAYETTE ST, BATON ROUGE, LA 7080. (Inside the Shaw Center). Performances will take place February 6th-9th. Those coming to audition are asked to prepare a 90 second package consisting of a “soulful”gospel song and a comedic monologue. There will also be a short dancing/moving audition that all singers or dancers must participate in. Call backs will be held the same day at 7p.m. Contact New Venture Theater Company at 225-588-7576.

     

    click here  for more information and to fill out an audition form

     

     

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