February 20, 2014

By Terri Schlichenmeyer


Special to the NNPA from The Washington Informer

 

For as long as you can remember, there’s always been someone in your corner.

A sibling watched out for you on the playground. A teacher took you aside for extra tutoring. A neighbor watched your home, so you’d be safe. Someone mentored you, someone fed you, someone put you on the right path.

For most kids, though, the first advocate was a parent. And in the new book “I’ll Take You There” by Greg Kot, you’ll see how one father’s push left a mark on his family and on music.

Born on the “cold Mississippi Delta” in 1915, Roebuck Staples knew enough to stay away from white folks. He also understood that his father’s sharecropping life wasn’t his own future. No, Roebuck was obsessed with the guitar at a time when guitarists could make good money so, at age 21, he moved to Chicago where he took a series of jobs to care for the family he’d had by then.

Before long, there were four children to feed: a boy and three girls (later, a fourth). There wasn’t much money to go around, so the children sometimes spent school years with their grandmother in Mississippi – but when the family was together, Roebuck (now called Pops) taught his children to sing.

Singing was something the Staples kids did often. Their neighborhood friends included Lou Rawls, Johnnie Taylor, and Sam Cooke; Muddy Waters, Nat “King” Cole, and Duke Ellington also performed in the area, although Pops insisted that his family stick to gospel songs. By the late 1940s, churches on Chicago’s South Side were delighted to host the Staple Singers, headed up by 8-year-old Mavis.

By 1953, Pops had recorded his family’s performance and was shopping for record labels. When Mavis graduated from high school in 1957, the family began touring. By the early 1960s, they’d performed many times in the South.

But the South wasn’t like it was when Pops left it during the Depression years, and neither was music. Folk songs “merged” with the civil rights movement by 1963. Pops Staple, impressed with Dr. King’s work, started writing and performing songs to reflect society then.

And thus, says Kot, “The Staple Singers were unabashedly freedom fighters.”

Though it focused a little too much on dates and discography, I was overall impressed here. “I’ll Take You There” is a darn good story.

Whisking readers over a span of nearly 100 years, author Greg Kot presents a roller-coaster ride of the highs and lows of one of gospel and soul’s most iconic families. What I loved the best about it was seeing other singers and another time through the eyes of Mavis Staples, who is Kot’s main interviewee. That brought me back to my parents’ living room, a scratchy LP, and things I’d almost forgotten.

This is a great look at history, both musically and culturally, and though the dates-and-discography part can overwhelm, I think it’s worth reading. If you’re particularly a fan of soul, R&B, or gospel, “I’ll Take You There” is a book you’ll want to corner.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

February 20, 2014

 

ARIES

Allow yourself to live your dream this week.  Don’t second guess your instincts or desires and you will find you are already the person who you always knew you could be.  Be courageous as you set forth to fulfill your goals. If doubt knocks, lock the doors and windows of your heart. Soul Affirmation: I make sure people understand that I am on their side this week.

 

TAURUS

Trust your special knowledge of yourself and the universe and use that knowledge as a guide this week.  Not everyone will trust in you know to be true.  Do not let their lack of faith shake your belief in yourself.  Knowledge of external processes is not nearly so important as knowledge of yourself this week. Soul Affirmation: Doing good this week is the key to feeling good.

 

GEMINI

It’s not always what you know, or even who you know that paves the road to success.  Sometimes it’s just being in the right place at the right time that counts.  Be prepared to answer when opportunity knocks this week. Accept your good fortune graciously,  and share it with others. Soul Affirmation: I go within myself to find a place of calm where I can rest.

 

CANCER

In our society looks sometimes matter more than they should, but that is not to say looks don’t matter at all.  Presentation is important, keep that in mind as you walk through life. This week take a few extra moments to make sure that your physical self is as attractive as it can be. You will see a bigger than usual change not only in the way others feel about you but in the way you feel about yourself. Soul Affirmation: When things get strange I find peace in the ordinary.

 

LEO

A family treat is in store for you if you play your cards right. Family members are ready to praise you for your accomplishments if you approach them with modesty. Give yourself time for romantic encounters. The romantic vibe is high. Soul Affirmation: I keep my true purpose ever before my eyes.

 

VIRGO

Ask the friend who comes calling to tell you about the moneymaking idea that is on his or her mind. The two of you would be good together. Have a private chat with a family member. Make keeping secrets your specialty. Events bring stress but you’re cool. Soul Affirmation: I find joy in the simple pleasures of the week.

 

LIBRA

Responsibilities at home keep you from traveling. It’s all for the best. Outside ambitions can wait. Keep your spirit light! Look for love in the right places. Possibilities for love increase at home.  The tendency to overreact at school or work is strong. Guard against it. Soul Affirmation: My creative ideas are my greatest treasures.

 

SCORPIO

Flexibility and cooperation are the words for this week. Driving a hard bargain will create an impossible barrier. It’s a great week for fun! Give in to it. Flow. Give in to the party mood but don’t forget school or work. Remembering to forgive and forget is especially important this week. Soul Affirmation: Moving slowly might be the fastest way for me to get there.

 

SAGITTARIUS

There is a lot on your plate. Be methodical about taking care of it. Get kids involved in something fun and educational. It’s a good time for it. Save time for romance. Visit a favorite restaurant. Appetites must be fed in a healthy way. Soul Affirmation: I seek the lighthearted flavor of love.

 

CAPRICORN

Make some plans regarding long-range financial security. Your present frame of mind is good for that. Someone you flirted with wants to be your companion. Give the universe a chance to bring love into your life by being a welcoming soul. Soul Affirmation: I give and the universe gives back to me.

 

AQUARIUS

A practical solution is at hand to one of your inventions. Give yourself some space to allow the answer to come to you. Any repetitive task, such as weeding the garden or washing the dishes or car, will be conducive to your receiving the solution. Soul Affirmation: Things are working together for my good.

 

PISCES

You may feel an internal pressure towards responsibility this week. Go with the flow and this week will be like a gift. Judging others will bring harsh judgments on you. Let your words assist others in becoming more self-responsible. You are a good teacher of right actions. Soul Affirmation: I slow down and find the success that has been following me.

 

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

February 13, 2014

By Maleena Lawrence

LAWT Contributing Writer

 

The natural libations of the falling rain made way for an intimate Opening Night at the 22nd Annual Pan African Film Festival (PAFF). The Red Carpet was sheltered outside Rave Cinemas as honored guests happily made their way inside for the screening of the opening night film, “Of Good Report”, a South African film directed by Jahmil X.T. Qubeka about a shy and mysterious high school teacher named Parker who arrives at his new assignment in a rural school. He falls obsessively for a gorgeous young girl who he did not know was a student at his school. This tail of forbidden fruit has anxiously made its way to the Pan African Film Festival after being banned in its native country. Following the premier, the promise of debate sparked the theater by viewers who agreed the film was either to explicit to watch or it tapped on a deep rooted taboo that tends to be kept secret cross communities worldwide. Either way, the director remained open in addressing feedback and held his own in defending his film, “Of Good Report”.

In addition to the controversial screening, PAFF’s official night included award-winning actor/ director Charles Dutton who received this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award at the festival’s annual Night of Tribute awards ceremony. Mr. Dutton stated, “This is a fantastic night and I am honored to be here at opening night since every year that I am invited I am unable to attend because of work. So, this year is very special to me and I appreciate receiving my Lifetime Achievement Award from PAFF.” Dutton received congratulations from fellow actress Loretta Devine, actor Rocky Carroll who shared the screen with Dutton in the early 1990’s television series, Roc and Isaiah Washington, who co-stars in the critically acclaimed psychological thriller BLUE CAPRICE with Tequan Richmond which is must see feature at this year’s festival. 

This year the Pan African Film Festival is debuting 172 films made in the U.S. and throughout the Diaspora. To support Black independent filmmakers and the arts movement make your way over to RAVE Cinemas Baldwin Hills 15 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza by February 16, 2014 to catch a Pan African Film and share your feedback with us on Twitter, @thelasentinel.

To check festival listings go to http://www.paff.org/filmfest/.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

February 20, 2014

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (AP) — Lupita Nyong’o is preparing herself for normalcy. After the frenzy that's followed her gripping performance in “12 Years a Slave,” she wants to be ready for life back home in New York.

“I try to keep my regimen — rest, water, eat well, workout — so that when this is all over, I don’t experience a total hangover,” she says, taking a bite of scrambled eggs in a recent interview at a Beverly Hills cafe.

She hasn’t yet accepted that her life may never be the same. “I have a very ostrich mentality,” she says. “I feel like I have my head in the sand so no one can see me.”

Before playing slave Patsey in Steve McQueen’s brutal tale of a free black man kidnapped into slavery in the 19th century South, Nyong’o was virtually unknown. Now, as a supporting actress Oscar nominee, she's become a breakout star.

When she received the call from McQueen saying she had landed the role, “I was so elated,” she recalls. “But then I immediately panicked. I was so scared.”

No wonder; this would be her first major role after attending the Yale School of Drama. Yet shooting the film gave her the confidence she needed coming out of school. “It was an amazing feeling,” she says.

Now, with all eyes on what she’ll do next, the actress refuses to stress about securing another role that’s equally as celebrated.

“The bar has been set very high externally and internally,” she says. “But I don’t want to feed into that pressure of expectation. This film was so fulfilling and artistic. I’ve tasted that and I obviously want to experience that kind of creative fulfillment again, but I also know that I can’t replicate that. I want a varied acting experience and that may include some failure and that’s healthy.”

Actually, Nyong’o’s next film is already in the can and ready for release on Feb. 28: She plays a flight attendant opposite Liam Neeson in the action-thriller “Non-Stop.” “It was what I needed to do,” she says. “It was the perfect antidote to ‘12 Years a Slave.’ It was a different genre with different demands. It was very technical and fun.”

Growing up in Kenya, Nyong’o says her parents encouraged her and her five siblings to “find out what we were called on this earth to do and then do it to excellence.”

Before former Kenya president Daniel Arap Moi allowed multi-party politics in 1991, Nyong’o’s father, Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o, was an advocate for democratic reform, opposing Kenya’s autocratic regime. Then a political science teacher, Nyong’o’s father relocated his family to Mexico City for their safety. It was there that Nyong’o was born, yet her family returned to Kenya before she was a year old.

Nyong’o says her parents have been supportive of her Hollywood success but have also taken the excitement in stride. “It’s nice to have parents like that because they’re thrilled,” she says. “But they’re not shaken by it.”

(Nyong’o’s father is now a Kisumu County senator and her mother, Dorothy Nyong’o, is the managing director of the Africa Cancer Foundation.)

With the Academy Awards less than two weeks away, the 30-year-old actress says she wants to continue to savor every moment, even the overwhelming ones.

“The Hollywood Film Awards were really stressful,” she remembers of the October ceremony, where she shared the spotlight with the likes of Julia Roberts and Matthew McConaughey. “It was the biggest press line I'd ever seen. It was difficult to orient myself, but there are familiar faces now, so it becomes less daunting.”

Not only blessed with significant acting ability, Nyong’o’s striking beauty and bold fashion choices have made her one of the most talked-about celebs on the red carpet.

From the turquoise Gucci column gown she wore to the Screen Actors Guild Awards to the emerald green Christian Dior dress she chose for the British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards last weekend, she’s what “12 Years a Slave” screenwriter John Ridley calls “undeniably poised and graceful.”

Never the girl who thumbed through Vogue (now she appears in the magazine as the face of fashion house Miu Miu), Nyong’o began buying fashion magazines in preparation for all of the formal events she expected to attend following the success of “12 Years.”

“I was like, ‘OK, I have to research,’” she recalls with a giggle. But letting herself “dress large” has been scary, she admits. Referencing the scarlet Ralph Lauren dress she wore to the Golden Globes, she adds, “It had a cape! That was exhilarating.”

Despite her tendency to make fashion statements in stunning ensembles, she doesn’t feel pressure to always deliver a talked-about look. And the same goes for her feelings about Oscar night.

“I feel privileged that people are looking up to me and perhaps a dream will be born because of my presence,” she says. “But my responsibility is to just keep on pursuing my dreams and goals and the admiration will take care of itself.”

Notes Whoopi Goldberg, who Nyong’o cites as an inspiration after watching her in “The Color Purple” as a child: “Hollywood is a very strange place. Lupita has to be really glad people want her autograph and know that she has the right to say ‘Not right now.’ But no one can limit her conversation to race because she’s better than that. She’s a great visual for why dreaming is OK.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

February 13, 2014

By Edward Rice, III

LAWT Contributing Writer

 

Men have feelings. And despite the age old adage that suggests big boys don’t cry the dirty secret is: men actually cry.  “The Things That Make Men Cry” is the stage play that explores the topics that typically move men to tears currently playing at the Barnsdall Gallery Theater in Los Angeles through Valentine’s Day weekend (February 14-16). Set in a barbershop in Los Angeles, the play centers on the lives of barbers Joe (Lou Beatty Jr.) and Mel (Gregory Niebel) and the clients who frequent the establishment. Based on the book of the same title written by the play’s executive producer Dr. Gloria Morrow, “The Things That Make Men Cry,” opens up the doors of the barbershop to allow the audience an opportunity to peer inside the souls of men.

“Back in 2008 I was counseling a couple and there was a lot of tension in the room,” says Dr. Morrow as she discusses her inspiration for the book. “When I saw them separately the man just started weeping. He could barely sit down long enough for me to do the things that I do and say the things that I say before he just started balling. He said he felt misunderstood. He said he loved his wife, he just didn’t know how to communicate with her and he was overwhelmed by her.” As the play unfolds everything from fatherhood, divorce, love, unemployment and sex are tackled in the shop. Much like a real barbershop, the centerpiece of the shop which holds everything together is the veteran barber, Joe. “I felt that I could really show my wares in this role,” says Lou Beatty speaking about his character Joe. “Every role doesn’t fit but this role was a great fit for me.” Joe provides the voice of reason and always has some sage advice for his co-workers and patrons despite his own character flaws

Conversely, if Joe is reason then Mel is insanity. Played with great insight and humor, Mel is the comedic relief in the play. He is the stereotypical, guarded, sarcastic ladies man. “Mel works on different levels. He obviously loves women,” says Niebel with a chuckle. “But he’s got his armor up when it’s around women and he doesn’t like having to show his emotions and that all rings very true. I think that’s a universal trait in being male. It has just been hammered in our DNA that you don’t show emotion, you don’t cry, you don’t talk about your feelings, you contain everything and don’t let these things bother you and these things are changing.”

Newcomer to the stage Steve Turner shoulders the responsibility of bringing to life Charles, the character facing marital woes in the play. Divorced and unemployed, Charles struggles with providing for the son he loves dearly and navigating the remains of his volatile relationship with his son’s mother. “I related to the character 100%,” says Steve emphatically. “This role has been very therapeutic for me too at the same time. The biggest learning for me was just learning how to get it out. You know there’s a part where we talk about the son being cut in half, about putting your child first and that resonates. A lot of times many of the single men and women out there arguing over a child don’t always realize the effect it has on the child. That right there made me realize we need to be willing to put our differences aside for the sole purpose of raising our children.”

“The Things That Make Men Cry” is a powerful stage play that will help initiate some of those difficult conversations that men need to have about the things they talk about when nobody’s around. “To see this thing happen and see our community blessed has been the crucible for me,” says Dr. Morrow. “I think that we will bring a wonderful opportunity for men to speak their truth and women to receive that as well.”

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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