October 10, 2013
By Maleena Lawrence
LAWT Contributing Writer
Bakewell Media has created an opportunity for local people in the community as well as viral supporters to showcase their vocal range at the largest street festival in Los Angeles, the Taste Of Soul on October 19, 2013. This year the Baldwin Hills Mall was the place to be for rising stars who desired a shot to showcase their talent in the second annual StarQuest Singing Competition. Where crowds stand shoulder-to-shoulder hovering the stage with amplified cheers too support their loved ones during the final competition. However, what people do not fully witness are the days and weeks leading up to the actual competition. Starting at the front of the line with artist to behind-the-scenes with the judges and production crew on Day 1 of the auditions, every one possessed a level of motivation to accomplish whatever they were set out to deliver.
Gliding up the escalators of the Mall, the first thing I saw was a growing line of contestants outside of Macy’s. Then the animated voice of DJ Paradise shouts, “Yall know the rules and in case you missed something, I’ll say it again, you have one minute and 30 seconds to perform and impress the celebrity judges right away.” Shortly after the rules, my attention was strictly diverted to the talent. I wanted to know their intentions, feel their nerves and the expectations that they had for themselves on and off the stage. The opening performance was a gospel artist named Always Carey who wanted to bring the energy, be an Ambassador to set it off and get people off their nerves and bring only their talent. He was followed by the female gospel group, D.B. Milton and Company singing, It’s Not All In Vain. This year’s competition started off with a praising Sunday’s Best vibe until performances from artist like Evrywhr accompanied with Robert Amerson on guitar sang “40 Nights.” Angie a soulful soloist connected with “Positivity,” the crooning vocals of On Poynte and even the return of the inaugural StarQuest winner, Beau Williams taking a bow after receiving a standing ovation for his performance, A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke all of which helped to bring more of a mixed musical genre to engage the judges.
Judging a competition like StarQuest takes a diverse accumulation of the very best in the entertainment industry. On Day 1, the panel of celebrity judges included: Celebrity Vocal Coach, Willie Norwood; Actress, Tanjareen; Entertainment Executive, Dexter Story; StarQuest Producer, Yvette Bailey; Sentinel Managing Editor, Brandon Brooks; Producer, Rayva Harrell; Comedian and 2013 Taste of Soul Host, Jonathan Slocumb; Industry Executive and Manager, Marcus Grant; SoulTrain Producer, Tony Cornelius; Singer and Finalist on Season 2 of the Voice, Jesse Campbell; Music Executive, Bobby Wilkerson and Music Giant, Ken Wilson. Collectively, you have a mogul league of judges with over 200 years of professional experience in the entertainment industry meaning—bring your A-Game. They all were looking for originality. Tony Cornelius and Ken Wilson both agreed that everybody can’t make it and it takes courage, originality, a good performance, stage presence and the need for real talent is what they are looking for during the auditions. Rayva expressed Day 1 as being her second time around with this year’s talent taking it to the next level. She and Tanjareen are looking for a connection that gives you chills and demonstrates a love for what you are doing. Either way it goes, Jonathan Slocumb said it best, “Great talent and no talent, we hope to pick the greatest.”
In the meantime, there was a well organized team of individuals checking in talent and keeping track of the performance schedules. Nick, the Production Manager smiled graciously saying, “My job is to make sure each and every element is working smoothly as possible and we cover everything from crew, volunteers, food, talent, everything.” In the flow of the day, I bumped into the production coordinator, Damon Oliver who provides Nick with what he needs to keep the show rolling for the producers. Kayl supports Talent and IT as Bishop Moore, the central camera man captured the day of make it or break it performances. Towards intermission, the man who makes it all possible, Mr. Danny Bakewell spoke to the hearts and minds of the entire room as he reinforced his love and our responsibility to the Black community, “This is our Family and we got to come together.” And this is what Taste of Soul and StarQuest Singing Competition is all about, selecting amazing talent to share their gift of song with the world.
October 10, 2013
LAWT News Service
Songstress Martha Taylor LaCroix will perform at The Gardenia on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013. She will be accompanied in her classy vocal style by legendary pianist Karen Hernandez and highly respected multi-talented Dave Hopkins on percussions. Entitled, “A Joyful Noise in Song,” the performance will include a tribute to breast cancer survivors, family and friends. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. October 11 has significant meaning to survivor Ms. LaCroix, as well. It is the day she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990. Dinner will be served from 7 to 9 p.m. and the show will begin promptly at 9 p.m. The performance will be presented by social networking jazz diva, Dolores Peterson.
“Consistently interesting” is how Ms. LaCroix was described by one reviewer. Her vocal stylings encompass a range of musical influences from spiritual classics to traditional jazz compositions. Ms. LaCroix earned her professional chops as a singer with the chorus of the New Orleans Opera Company several years ago. She later joined the Dick Stabile (musical director for Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis) Orchestra in New Orleans as a vocalist. Like so many spirited musicians, Ms. LaCroix began singing as a child in the church of her legendary father, the Rev. Gardner C. Taylor at Concord Baptist Church in New York City. Her father inspired her first CD “Seasoned for Fathers and Sons.” Her sophomoric recording "The Reason - Seasoned for Christmas" is a collection of spiritual Christmas selections most notably her popular rendition of “I Give You Jesus.”
Ms. LaCroix has released three recordings that reflect her varied musical interest. The most recent is collection of jazz classics recorded and produced with legendary pianist and arranger Howlett Smith. This recording features some popular originals by Mr. Smith including, “Let’s Go Where the Grass is Greener” originally recorded by vocalist extraordinaire Nancy Wilson. Titled “Jazzily Seasoned with Martha Taylor LaCroix,” this latest recording echoes the words of another reviewer who said; “Marti comes across with a cool, elegant, diamond-and-pearl restraint.”
The Gardenia is located at 7066 Santa Monica Blvd. (one block east of LaBrea Blvd.) in West Hollywood. Tickets are $10 plus dinner or a two drink minimum. Reservations are encouraged and are available by calling: (323) 467-7444.
October 03, 2013
Think hard about the nontraditional ideas that you have been percolating. Speak up. There are others that may be thinking the same thing but don’t have the same courage to say. You have more in common with the people you work with than you think. There is strength in numbers. Soul Affirmation: I let my friendships guide my way. Lucky Numbers: 6, 40, 41
Others need you. Be a great listener this week. Teach but don’t preach. Family members need a vision of the big picture. That’s easy for you to give but use charm to give it. Be a cheer-giver. Expect nothing in return. Soul Affirmation: When I give thanks for what I have, I lose all sense of what is missing Lucky Numbers: 4, 32, 35
It is amazing how a big hearted person like you can button down to the detailed work when you’ve got the big picture still projecting over and over in your mind. Both the big picture and the details are important to you this week. Concentrate on both at the same time. Soul Affirmation: Cooperation with others is the key to success for me this week. Lucky Numbers: 8, 10, 48
Love is always a learning experience but this week think back over past love affairs and be sensitive to the fact that there is a special truth you can discern. What you know about love can be used on someone rich and powerful this week. Matters of the heart and matters of the mind harmonize. Soul Affirmation: I exercise to lower tension this week. Lucky Numbers: 12, 46, 47
Thinking about what to do about your irritable lover? Make appointments that will create distance between you and those you are close to especially your sweetheart. Let anyone who wishes to fret be by his or herself. Spend time with yourself and find pleasant things to occupy your mind until this week passes. Soul Affirmation: I love pressure as a test of how much I can master. Lucky Numbers: 3, 26, 28
It's a good time for you to turn off the phone, but you may still have too much to do! Fortunately, your great energy midweek should help you make up for lost time, and you may end up even more organized than before (if that's possible)! A casual conversation this weekend turns into something much deeper and more meaningful than you would have expected, so draw it out and see where it goes. Soul Affirmation: You are feeling energized and organized! Lucky Numbers 13, 45, 57
Take some time off for family matters. Work has occupied too much of your attention. Family matters are not most in need of your attention. Your attention is most in need of a focus on the emotional attachments that family relationships involve. Soul Affirmation: The enjoyment of good food is high on my agenda this week. Lucky Numbers: 3, 8, 9
Use a more diplomatic approach when you when make constructive comments to others. Your candid attitude is appreciated but diplomacy will be the key to ironing out the wrinkles in a delicate situation. Your financial woes that have been preoccupying your mind will soon be over. Feel good about the progress you’ve already made. Soul Affirmation: True friendship is a mirror into which I look to see the beauty of my inner self. Lucky Numbers: 25, 39, 46
Self-pity is not your style. It saps your energy and makes it hard for you to rise above whatever it is that has been bothering you. Do the usual: consider the unfortunate situation that arises this week as a learning opportunity? Learn well and move out into a brighter psychological space. Soul Affirmation: With a positive spirit I co-create my week. Lucky Numbers: 18, 26, 31
It’s time to let co-workers and bosses see your astounding ability to organize tasks and get a lot of things done with style and grace. You can dazzle colleagues this week because things will fall into place easily for you. Use your ease to do something important. Soul Affirmation: I become transparent. I let others see into my thoughts. Lucky Numbers: 7, 23, 48
Voice your desires to the universe this week! Articulate your thoughts through a song a poem a sonnet! You will cause a stir of stimulation and hope for those around you. Find a place of solace where you can meditate and be in harmony with your true self. Soul Affirmation: I remain adaptable so I can deal with changing circumstances. Lucky Numbers: 5, 13, 30
It’s a great week to tell somebody you are close to that you love them. Saying it aloud gives you energy and of course your designated adoree will be delighted! Keep the big picture in mind this week and you’ll feel completely buoyant! Soul Affirmation: Charm is my middle name this week. Lucky Numbers: 17, 24, 27
October 03, 2013
By Ed Rice, III
LAWT Contributing Writer
The Taste of Soul StarQuest Singing Competition returns for another round of rousing performances from the best local talent in Los Angeles on October 4th and October 5th. In-person one-day auditions will be held at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza (Macy's Bridge) at 3560 Martin Luther King Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90008. This year, the competition has been expanded to include the StarQuest for Kids competition for kids ages 5-17. For singers ages 18 and up, auditions will be held Friday, October 4, 2013 from 10am-2pm; for kids ages 5 – 17, auditions will take place Saturday, October 5, 2013 from 1pm-5pm. This year, StarQuest Singing Competition hopefuls also have the option of submitting auditions online at www.tasteofsoulla.org.
“StarQuest was Danny Bakewell’s vision,” said Yvette Bailey, StarQuest Singing Competition producer. “Danny Bakewell wanted to create a platform for artists in our community, for talented individuals in our area who wanted to be performers. So he approached me and Tony Cornelius (Soul Train Executive Producer and StarQuest Co-Producer) last year to come aboard and execute his vision.”
This year, ten finalists will be selected from all eligible submissions, based on a combination of their performances and creativity. Those individuals selected as finalists will be given the opportunity to perform a 3-5 minute set on the StarQuest stage at the 8th Annual Taste of Soul Family Festival. Additionally, two StarQuest winners will be selected by the combined vote of the StarQuest producers and the live audience to perform a 3-5 minute set on the Radio Free 102.3 KJLH Stage or on the 94.7 The WAVE stage during the Taste of Soul.
For Houston native and one of 2012’s grand prize winners, Beau Williams, the StarQuest competition was just the right competition at the right time. “It was a great feeling to win. This was a quality contest because they had a lot of good talent,” said Williams. “I really appreciate what Mr. Bakewell is doing for the community. I was able to perform on the main stage and it was an ocean of people—that was an electrifying experience and I love to perform.” According to Bailey, all of the StarQuest contestants are continuing their “quest” for stardom. “StarQuest is a great platform and launching pad. For many of the contestants, it actually reinvigorated their passion for singing because they have experienced a lull in their career and StarQuest reignited that passion for what they do,” explained Bailey. “It made more people aware of who I was,” added Williams. “It was great for me and now I’m working on a film that I wrote and I will be shopping it soon. I think it’s a wonderful thing for the community with Taste of Soul being such a high profile event; the notoriety from winning amongst a strong roster of singers gets you the recognition and people really appreciate your gift and talent and several things have opened as a result.”
While the Bakewell Company is known for community outreach, they’re also known for business and economic empowerment in the African American community and this is a combination of both. “You’re reaching out to the community, you’re helping people and empowering them to achieve their dreams. It’s one of the things that make this different from any other talent competition,” stated Bailey. “This competition is right in our neighbourhood. You don’t have a lot of talent competitions that come down to South LA looking for talent and a lot of talented people can’t take days off work to stand in line and audition, so they’re never able to realize their dream. Just having something that you can go to around the corner and have a chance to get on the stage in front of thousands of people is invaluable.”
“I think that Danny Bakewell has opened up many opportunities for the community over the years and StarQuest gives local artists a chance to perform in front of our audience,” said Cornelius. “The community really appreciates the artists hard work and effort and its something they’d never get in any other competition. The concept makes for an excellent presentation.”
October 03, 2013
By Kam Williams
LAWT Contributing Writer
Artist and filmmaker Steven Rodney McQueen was born in London on October 9, 1969. His critically-acclaimed directorial debut, Hunger, won the Camera d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival. He followed that up with the incendiary offering Shame, a well-received, thought-provoking drama about addiction and secrecy in the modern world.
In 1996, McQueen was the recipient of an ICA Futures Award. A couple of years later, he won a DAAD artist’s scholarship to Berlin. Besides exhibiting at the ICA and at the Kunsthalle in Zürich, he also won the coveted Turner Prize. He has exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Documenta, and at the 53rd Venice Biennale as a representative of Great Britain.
His artwork can be found in museum collections around the world like the Tate, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Centre Pompidou. In 2003, he was appointed Official War Artist for the Iraq War by the Imperial War Museum and he subsequently produced the poignant and controversial project Queen and Country commemorating the deaths of British soldiers who perished in the conflict by presenting their portraits as a sheet of stamps.
Steve and his wife, cultural critic Bianca Stigter, live and work in Amsterdam, which is where they are raising their son, Dexter, and daughter, Alex. Here, he talks about his latest film, “12 Years a Slave,” which recently won the People’s Choice Awards for Best Film and Best Director at the Toronto Film Festival.
LAWT: I’ve loved all three of your feature films, this new one, and Hunger and Shame as well. They are so different from each other and yet quite remarkable and memorable, each in their own way.
SM: Thank you. Well, I do my best. I’m just happy that people are responding to the films as positively as they are. To be honest with you, it’s one of those things where we’re just happy to get them made. When you get to make something, you always hope people will go and see it. And we’re very, very pleased by the response to “12 Years a Slave.” It’s kind of humbling and remarkable.
LAWT: Your work reminds me of Ang Lee’s in terms of its quality and versatility in the way that his movies are each phenomenal yet so very different from each other.
SM: Wow! That’s a huge compliment. What can I say? He’s a master. Ang Lee is a person I really admire and look up to. I love so many of his films, especially Ride with the Devil, Sense and Sensibility, and The Ice Storm.
LAWT: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: What does it mean to you to be in charge of adapting Solomon Northup’s memoir? How do you explain that his autobiography was buried for around a hundred years contrary to those of some of his contemporaries like Frederick Douglass?
SM: I feel tremendously honored but I also feel a tremendous responsibility because through this film, we can bring Solomon Northrup’s memory to the surface. His story was buried for so long. When the book first came out in 1853, it was a phenomenal best seller for its time, and sold 27,000 copies in 18 months. But what happened was Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published the following year, and that was it for “12 Years a Slave.” It fell into obscurity. Academics knew about the memoir but it otherwise became lost. To me, it was always like the American equivalent of The Diary of Anne Frank. That’s why it became my passion to get this film made.
LAWT: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: In a film described as a historical drama, how do you establish a healthy balance between history and drama?
SM: By relying on the book. As a filmmaker I was interested in illustrating the history of what slavery was about, which was slave labor. In the background of one frame, for example, you see sugar cane. In the second plantation, you see logging. And on the third location, we see corn. So, at the same time you’re following Solomon’s adventure of trying to get home, in the background you simultaneously see the horrors and pains of what slavery was about.
LAWT: Fellow director Rel Dowdell asks: Do you feel that the great success of Django Unchained improves your very visceral film’s chances for a warm reception?
SM: I think that film was very helpful, of course, in making people aware by getting the subject-matter on film. So, I couldn’t say it didn’t help.
LAWT: What interested you as a Brit in an African-American story?
SM: The story’s not just an African-American story. It’s a universal story. It’s a world story. My parents are from the West Indies. My father’s from Grenada, which is where Malcolm X’s mother was born. My mother was born in Trinidad, which is where Stokely Carmichael, the man who coined the phrase “Black Power!” was born. Sidney Poitier was born in the Bahamas. I’m part of that diaspora of people displaced by the slave trades. I’m part of that family. It’s our story. It’s a global story.
LAWT: My grandparents were born in St. Croix, St. Kitts and Barbados. Do you eat any West Indian food like curried goat, callaloo or roti?
SM: Yeah, all of that. And then, when you go to New Orleans, you find similar dishes. We’re all family!
LAWT: How did you settle on Chiwetel as Solomon Northrup?
SM: Chiwetel was always the one I wanted to make the movie with because there’s a certain humanity and gentility about him that I needed for the lead role. Solomon was a person who maintained his humanity whatever his circumstances, and I needed someone of that same caliber, because he would be tested to the breaking point. I needed an actor who could hold up during those moments of extreme stress.
LAWT: Why did you use the great Michael Fassbender in each of your films?
SM: I think Michael is the most influential actor of his generation. He’s like a Mickey Rourke or a Gary Oldman. People want to be him. Actors want to act with him. Students choose to pursue acting because of him. I was very fortunate to land him for Hunger. We’ve been close friends ever since. He’s an amazing actor and I will always want to work with.
LAWT: How did you assemble such a top-flight cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Paul Giamatti, Brad Pitt, Quvenzhane Wallis, Paaul Dano, and newcomer Lupita Nyong’o.
SM: I had huge help from the casting director, Francine Maisler. She did an incredible job. We auditioned over a thousand girls for the role of Patsey. And we ended up with Lupita who hadn’t even graduated from acting school yet. But she auditioned for us, and that was it. A star was born!
LAWT: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
SM: The last one I actually read was a children’s book I read to my son last night called something like “Teacher Goes to School.”
LAWT: What is your favorite dish to cook?
SM: Pasta, because it’s easy.
LAWT: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
SM: I see all the lines in my face from tiredness.
LAWT: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
SM: Borrowing roller skates from a next-door neighbor when I was about 3 or 4 years-old.
LAWT: The Mike Pittman question: What was your best career decision?
SM: Meeting my wife.
LAWT: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
SM: World peace. It might sound corny, but that’s the truth.
LAWT: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours left to live, how would you spend the time?
SM: With the people I love.
LAWT: The Kerry Washington question: If you could be another animal, which one would you choose?
SM: A dolphin.
LAWT: The Melissa Harris-Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?
SM: I learned that life is a long and difficult road, but you have to keep going, or you’ll fall by the wayside.
LAWT: The Anthony Mackie question: Is there something that you promised to do if you became famous, that you still haven’t done yet?
SM: Am I famous?
LAWT: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?
SM: As a person who tried.
LAWT: Thanks again for the time, Steve, and best of luck with the film.
SM: Thank you. Take care, Kam.
To see a trailer for 12 Years a Slave, visit: www.foxsearchlight. com/post/3764/12-years-a-slave-official-hd-trailer/