culture

Inside the Cool with Afropolitan Insights 2017 Ankara Bazaar

Afropolitan Insights celebrated the fusion of African fashion, art, and culture at their annual Ankara Bazaar. Presented in Dumbo Brooklyn during NYFW 2017 the eclectic bazaar highlighted the diverse beauty and culture of independent artisans, entrepreneurs, and creatives of the African Diaspora.

So, who is Afropolitan Insights and what do they do? They are a collective of young Africans, Black Americans, and Caribbeans from the continent and in the Diaspora, that curate various events and create safe spaces for cultural exchange and social dialogue, celebrate diversity, innovation, and ideas.

This year's Ankara Bazaar was a little slice of heaven, to say the least as we indulged in the endless Afrocentric creativity beaming the entire afternoon. Filled with independent and local vendors, 2 pop-up fashion presentations, live performances as well as a DJ the Ankara Bazaar was an experience of pure celebration of the African Diaspora.  

                                Shea Zephir talking to founder of  www.whatisyouraccent.com

                                Shea Zephir talking to founder of www.whatisyouraccent.com

Everywhere you looked there seemed to be more and more exquisite fashion and accessories that any true fashionista would literally melt and die over. The happiness in the atmosphere was contagious as onlookers walked past trying to see what the excitement was all about, while the African music blared from the speakers. Guests' came by the droves in groups, many with their girlfriends, family and loved ones making it a memorable family outing like no other trying on garments and accessories. Customers were snapping away on social media gadgets in awe of the expert craftsmanship and vibrant creativity of so many of the designers accessible to them in one place. 

Now, although we were there for work, I made sure we got in on all the fashion and accessory action too. Talking to the vendor owners, trying on accessories, and feeling on the material of the garments was the best part of the entire event, besides going home with a few special pieces to add to the wardrobe.

 

Check out the gallery highlights of the incredible afternoon below

All photos were captured by www.lostartbk.com

 

See the "Inside the Cool" highlights of this year's Ankara Bazaar here!

Inside the Cool with African Health Now's 2nd Annual "Gift of Life" Benefit

Since 2006, African Health Now has impacted 20,000 men, women, and children across Ghana. For the last several years they have honored the leaders and champions of the African Diaspora who command, inspire, and demonstrate through their individual talents the quintessential best within the African community. Each year the proceeds from the "Gift of Life" benefit support AHN's "on the ground" health programming in Ghana, West Africa.

Dana Johnson of www.essence.com

Dana Johnson of www.essence.com

On October 20, 2016, African Health Now hosted its star-studded "Gift of Life" benefit with Dana Johnson  as the mistress of ceremonies and Lola Ogunnaike formerly of Arise TV and CNN as the VIP Reception host. It was a celebration of the 2016 honorees that included some of the biggest newsmakers of the year in community arts, healthcare, and entrepreneurship. NY State Senator, Kevin Parker, Producer to Jidenna, Nan Kwabena, and actor Gbenga Akinnagebe were among the esteemed professionals and tastemakers gathered to praise the honorees of the night. The night culminated with a special guest performance by artist  Brother Kamau who wowed the audience with his latest single from The Birth of A Nation soundtrack titled "The Icarus"  

Each year the annual gala never disappoints and is always a swanky mix of high-powered networking for the new professionals, a family reunion for regularly committed supporters and a revival for all as DJ D-Nice always cranks out the best jams all night long.  Founder of African Health Now, Nana Eyeson Akiwowo manages to highlight the most eloquent and impassioned movers and shakers for equality, social justice, healthcare, art, and culture. Honorees Child Liberty recipient of the Humanitarian Award, (BAM) of the Grassroots Community Foundation SUPERGIRLS recipients of the Youth Leadership Award and Dr. Theodore Hanley recipient of the Health Advocate Award were among the highlights of the evening as they each accepted their well-deserved accolades.  Celebrating the prominent minds of the African Diaspora for their success and offerings to the community that honors their values, and aptitude for reciprocity, optimism, image and cultural pride is really what makes the evening so epic. African Health Now's successful healthcare campaign has reached thousands with so many examples of education and giving back by being deeply rooted in the community of Ghana. The organization has undoubtedly laid the foundation for a long-term strategy to enhance healthcare and its relevance within Ghana and beyond.

Click through the gallery for a brief glimpse into the magical evening.

All photos were captured by Olu Waz  and Hannah Saleh

Watch our exclusive coverage of the honorees and familiar faces of music and movies as we experienced the momentous night.

“The Crown Futures” Installation by Shani Peters at Sugar Hill Children's Museum

In the workshops we talked about the history of crowns and that led us to talk about slavery, racial inequality, and the concept of power. I am regularly pleasantly surprised with the ability of young people to talk about different subjects. These kids know what's going on. I hope we planted seeds in the minds of students so they continue these thoughts as they grown into adults.

-Shani Peters

What do Miss America, Jean-Michele Basquiat, Stevie Wonder, and Nefertiti all have in common? Ok, try adding Kwanzaa to the list and see if you can get a little closer to a common answer. Naturally, a host of good music, high crowns, and Black pride should begin to flood your memory bank, but for the artist, Shani Peters these familiar names proved more than just childhood memories.

Peters, a multidisciplinary New York-based artist decided to expand on her series The Crown which is an exhibit and series of projects that have evolved over the last several years. Her latest installation "The Crown Futures" at Sugar Hill Children's Museum celebrates the concepts of self-determination through the young eyes of youth ages 5-13 years old. Peters artistic content revolves around media culture, social justice, cultural record keeping and community building so this installation was near and dear to her heart as she reflected on her own childhood for inspiration and healing. Going back to those childhood memories resonates deeply with Peters thanks to her father who was a Black History professor who managed to keep her interest in Black history with the teachings of music, literature, and theater. Her inspirations began with the memories of family Kwanzaa celebrations and its 7 principles, particularly, self- determination. Peters reveals that it was the principle Kujichagulia aka Self-Determination that she struggled the most with to maintain and experience. Like her father who wanted to do so much more than teach Black History but instead create narratives around the lives of those affected most within history, Peters included the everyday children around her to examine, celebrate, and stimulate personal growth for viewers of all ages.

Her interactive workshops didn't just include the creating of the crowns, but also led to productive discussions about race, power, and civil rights. 500 feet of gold paper and 400 crowns later Peters would combine her childhood memories of Kwanzaa, Stevie Wonder's song "The Crown" her sightings of famous crowns like Nefertiti, Miss America, and Basquiat , and her student's creations into a breathtaking installation. An installation that transcends tradition, time, culture, politics, and social existence that we all can relate to. As Peters uses her work to facilitate healing, freedom, self-reflection for Black Americans in particular, you can not ignore the universal message of love, opportunity, and respect for all.

Check out Peters artist statement from earlier works of the Crown Project

The African’s experience in the Americas has been grounded in brutality and trauma. Through eras of forced enslavement, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, both clearly stated and veiled every-day racism, and now the most commonly perceived police abuse of power, Black people have exercised unimaginable degrees of determination to simply survive and persevere. The work in this exhibition is the most recent exploration in the theme of imagining crowns as symbols for Self-Determination and the complexity of the experience of the African people following the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade that my series The Crown has reflected on for the past few years. These new works begin to explore what Self-Determination means specifically for Black Americans situating both historical and contemporary images of Black Americans engaged in focused political protest within the visual narrative of The Crown project. James Baldwin famously stated, “Our crown has already been bought and paid for, all we have to do is wear it.”  These works illustrate the price that was and continues to be paid.

All Photos were capture by Michael Palma

Harlem School of the Arts Havana Nights Dance Gala

For more than 5 decades, the Harlem School of the Arts has provided quality arts training to children of color into the world of the arts that too often seemed out of their reach.  Students of the institution were taught all art forms under one roof from violins and other orchestral instruments to ballet and tap as well as Shakespeare to quench all their artistic desires. But it all began with the dream of a concert soprano, Dorothy Maynor, in the basement of the St. James Presbyterian Church in Harlem. The prestigious Harlem School of the Arts is one of New York City’s most pioneering and eminent institutions of quality arts education.  HSA’s notable alumni base of Tony-award winning actors, celebrated operatic voices, jazz musicians, visual artists and dancers has proven decade after decade that it is so much more than an art school that has become a neighborhood gem, but instead, a vital program that has reached thousands of youth across the country, providing direction, discipline, and hope to children who are most in need of knowing there can be a bright and successful future in the world of the arts. The historic establishment provides arts education in four core artistic disciplines: dance, theatre, music, and visual arts where nearly 4,000 children are served on site as well as in various schools throughout NYC.

On May 12, 2016, Harlem School of the Arts hosted a Havana Nights themed Dance Party Benefit sponsored by The Williams Capital Group and Sweet Hospitality. The evening featured live performances by HSA students, The Afro Latin Jazz Cats and the Afro-Cuban Dance Ensemble Oyu Oro.  There were over 200 attendees and others in attendance included HSA staff and supporters as well as community leaders, activists and  host of A-list actors and actresses. Despite almost closing its doors permanently in 2010 due to a financial crisis, the community and arts activist have been working tirelessly to spread the word about Harlem School of the Arts’ legacy, its current student body of amazing emerging artists, and raise continuous funds for the expanding institution. That labor love would finally prove worth it in 2012 when they received a $5 million grant from the Herb Alpert Foundation and raised over $1 million in 2015 at its 50th Anniversary Gala just last year.  This past spring President Eric Pryor in an interview with MetroFocus on PBS Thirteen revealed how HSA, facing difficult financial circumstances over the last decade and the receiving of a major donation from the Herb Alpert Foundation, has allowed the organization to restore its endowment. Pryor confidently expressed that, with the restructuring of a new board and executive leadership, HSA will continue to grow and expand its programming here in Harlem. They have held true to their mission of lifelong learning through the arts with the belief that all children deserve access to a quality arts education, empowering them to become the creative thinkers and innovative leaders of tomorrow.

I had the opportunity to not only come back and cover my arts alma mater but I was able to chat with President Eric Pryor about the importance of HSA’s art fundraising and what new programming we can expect this upcoming fall.

The Rebirth of an American Classic with Their Eyes Were Watching God

" I tried . . . not to pander to the folks who expect a clown and a villain in every Negro. Neither did I want to pander to those 'race' people among us who see nothing but perfection in all of us. I do not attempt to solve any problems [in my novels]. I know I cannot straighten out with a few pen-strokes what God and men took centuries to mess up. So I tried to deal with life as we actually live it-not as the sociologists imagine it."
—Zora Neale Hurston, from a letter to Fannie Hurst

 

This past Spring the WOW Cafè Theatre presented the premiere of the Laurence Holder’s adaptation of the Zora Neale Hurston’s legendary literary classic, “Their Eyes Were Watch God”. Hurston’s iconic novel was initially published in New York City on September 18, 1937, but it did not garner the success it deserved with harsh critics like Richard Wright essentially saying that Hurston’s fiction work undermined her Black male counterparts’ attempts to combat racism. Out of print for almost three decades post its original publication date in 1937, the novel was rediscovered in the 1970’s by Black scholars, programs, and academic institutions across the US. Alice Walker was one of those scholars directly responsible for the Hurston revival that still exists today with companies like create, Inc.

The dramatic saga of Hurston’s most successful work of literature was directed by Marishka S. Phillips featuring a powerful cast that included: Kimberly Monroe (Nanny), Lauren Marissa Smith (Janie), Michael Oloyede (Logan), DeMarcus Woods (Jody), Sawandi Wilson (Teacake), Antwain Lewis (Amos), Dontalle Sylvester (Lee), Nicolette Ellis (Pheoby), Kellee Fuller (Daisy), Jennifer Russie Burks (Soul of Janie). Presented at New York City’s oldest run theatre WOW Cafè the audience was taken on the emotional life journey of Janie Mae Crawford, a mulatto woman born by the violence of rape from Florida. Free-spirited, in search of life and her authentic self, we watch Janie’s progression towards womanhood from a teen bride who, at sixteen, married a grubbing farmer at the anxious instigation of her slave-born grandmother, as she undertakes an unpredictable journey that includes three marriages, navigating complex cultural morals and surviving within the social expectations of a small Southern town. Director Marishka S. Phillips doesn’t hold back on the highlighting the complexities of each character throughout the play as the actors leave their souls on the stage for the audience to interpret. More importantly, Phillips introduces the audience to another layer of Janie with the charismatic and vulnerable, yet eerily memorable actor and musician Jennifer Russie Burks as the Soul of Janie. Burks carries the audience through Janie’s innermost thoughts and fears with her beloved violin and narration.  There is a great juxtaposition between Burks as the Soul of Janie and Laren Marissa Smith as Janie Mae Crawford throughout the play as Smith brilliantly captures the unapologetically independent and quick temper of Janie.  For the first time, the audience is able to experience the direct effects of the suffocating of Janie’s spirit as she obliges the endless rules and norms of being a Black woman in the 1920’s. Smith is witty, funny, passionate, and conveys the defiance in Janie’s character with the utmost sensitivity reminding the audience of  Hurston’s beautiful manipulation of  language within those memorable lines from the classic. You find yourself lost in the literature as all the actors deal with the social, cultural, and economic constraints of their characters lives.  Hurston’s literary works are undoubtedly pivotal within American and Black history because her work was an  effective political weapon, that promoted racial pride and unsilenced the voices of Black woman way ahead of her time.

It is no coincidence that the revival of this play took place at the WOW Cafe Theatre women’s theater collective in NYC’s East Village, which promotes the empowerment of women through the performing arts. You can support this project and other create, inc. endeavors through our ongoing fundraising efforts at https://www.gofundme.com/astageplay. All donations over $5 US are tax

Checkout out the highlights below!

The Artist Healing: Womanhood or Woman's HURT? Documentary Screening & Fundraiser

What I offer is a visual representation of my narrative. It was meant for me to be here, and you all were meant to witness this.

-Frances Bradley

Sexual violence against girls in the African Diaspora is an epidemic of unspeakable proportions. According to the study conducted by Black Women’s Blueprint 60% of Black, girls will experience sexual abuse before the age of 18. Black Women’s Health Imperative reports states of that 60% being abused 40% of those Black girls are likely to survive the assault. Visual and Performing Artist Frances Nielah Bradley is one of those Black girls who has lived through the traumatic life-altering effects of rape. Despite the unimaginable pain of being a victim of such heinous violence, she managed to transform her nightmare into a 12-piece visual art series that is masterful.  The powerful documentary begins when Frances is at the tender age of 18 in college studying art when she is sexually attacked by a mentor and chronicles her experiences as a rape survivor.  The audience is taken on an insightful journey into Bradley’s personal healing process and manifestation to womanhood with her art as her new lifeline to navigate through life.

Staying true to her theme of art and interactive community healing, Frances also kicked off an interactive panel moderated by Quentin Walcott, Co-Executive Director, CONNECT and featured an in-depth discussion alongside fellow visionaries, activists, and dynamic leaders Marc Lamont Hill, Executive Producer; Stacey Muhammad, Executive; Producer; Tanya Jackson, Filmmaker; Vanessa M. Bing, Ph.D., Trauma Psychologist; and Shantrelle Patrice Lewis, Independent Curator. Fellow supporters and performing artists Imani Uzuri, Lady Moon, and Brinae Ali graced the audience with their mesmerizing performances throughout the event transcending the connections of safe space conversations and art healing for all. The purpose of this film is to encourage women to reflect without fear and relate to one another through experience while healing. While never dismissing that this level of trauma is difficult, through personal interviews, Bradley explores her ups and downs with acceptance, forgiveness, pain, shame and her process to heal from the inside out. Now, 13 years later through words from her daily journaling and visual reflections she shares her deepest, and most intimate secrets of that night using this documentary as her new voice of empowerment. We celebrate and explore the resilience Bradley has developed navigating her everyday life while staying committed to her life’s purpose; activism, healing herself and others with her story through artistry.

WHAT WOMANHOOD OR WOMAN’S HURT? HAS DONE SO FAR

  • Bradley lectured on The Art of Healing visual aspect of the project at LaGuardia Community College’s Women’s Center
  • Solo exhibition of The Art of Healing at YWCA Brooklyn’s Ruby Nottage Gallery
  • Presented a piece from The Art of Healing during the Conference of Elimination of Racial Discrimination at the United Nations of Geneva Switzerland.
  • Exhibited selected works of art in Anguilla during Women’s Week on behalf of the Gender Affairs Unit.
  • Screened the trailer for the “WHWH A Documentary” in St. Maarten, Corridor Gallery- BK, and will screen it the complete short documentary at Rush Arts Gallery in June 2016.

Just For Him: The Gentleman's Lounge with Harlem Skin & Laser Clinic

There is a huge male grooming boom going on thanks to the boost of the beloved beard trend, but acclaimed esthetician, skin care expert, and entrepreneur Seven Brown is making sure the Kings of Harlem do not miss out on the luxurious experience as well. Contrary to popular belief, spas are no longer dominated by women; in fact, more men are heading to luxury facilities that cater to their grooming needs while managing their stress and getting the scoop on how to properly preserve their sexy.

Sharing all types of grooming and fashion do’s and don’ts, it was a night of well-dressed conversation and laughs as the men we love so much got REAL about proper grooming. The evening kicked off with a cocktail reception and beard facial demos. The night concluded with the stellar panel of dapper industry insiders @iammusajackson @datstyledawglou @danniswinston and @bleumagazine founder #DeVonChristopherJohnson @scotchporter came through filling the gentleman goodie bags with their HEAVENLY smelling beard balm and conditioners for @harlemskinclinic Gentleman’s Grooming Lounge Spa Week 2016