Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The HOS Harlem Gift Guide 2015

In Harlem, every personalized gift can be found right in time for Christmas. With the days counting down, we’ve selected 12 exquisite gifts from an array of local Harlem shops and artists.


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Press Preview: Two weeks until Soul Nativity 2015

The birth of a Savior, reimagined in Harlem. Mary and Joseph find their way along the traffic of 125th Street. Though not as old as the ancient story, this timeless production has been alive since 1995.

Starring the bright faces of the Harlem School of the Arts, the holiday spectacular features dance, live music and a soulful story that has changed with the times. 

“The way that we do the show - we do it in a modern setting, not 2,000 years ago in the Middle East, we set it in New York City,” said Alfred Preisser, Artistic Director of HSA.

Preisser has directed and produced of over 50 shows in New York and Europe but still remains committed and connected to the story that’s evolved over the years.

“I’ve done the show with AndrĂ© De Shields who’s a Broadway star, I’ve done the show on 141st Street with students,” he said. “So it’s over 20 years I have a relationship to this show and Tracy, who’s giving notes to the cast right now, was actually a 12 year-old girl in the first version of Soul Nativity that I ever saw.” 

Soul Nativity 2015 joins an ensemble of performers including the Dorothy Maynor Singers, the HSA Young Theatre Alliance, the Harlem Japanese Choir and the Voices of Flame Choir.

“We are heavily influenced R&B, the sound of Motown,” he added. “We’re referencing Gladys Night and the Pips and contemporary acts, and there’s enough room and humor in the story for people to really express themselves and be themselves.”

With a mix of traditional and new this year’s production include a ballet interlude choreographed by Aubrey Lynch. The creative team includes Tracy Jack, director, and Jeffrey Bolding from the Abyssinian Baptist Church.

“There’s actually a lot of heart and some serious messages at the bottom of all this song and dance,” said Preisser. “It’s like celebrate life, and if you are religious celebrate the life of everybody.”

The show will also debut for the first time British Virgin Islands on Dec. 4, while partnering with a youth empowerment program in Tortola, before opening at home in Harlem on Dec. 11.

For over 50 years, the premier arts institute has a history of devoting its programs to enriching and developing talented professionals across all disciplines in the arts.

HSA is located on 645 St. Nicholas Avenue, at 141st Street, Hamilton Heights. For information on Soul Nativity 2015 visit: www.hsanyc.org. Tickets are $20 in advance; $25 at the door; $15 for students.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The 2015 Justice Ball: Harry Belafonte, the Central Park Five, Alida Garcia Honored

Harry Belafonte pictured with Dr. Martin Luther King
Champions of justice, human rights and equality were at the forefront of the 2015 Justice Ball, organized by The Gathering at the Apollo Theater on Monday evening.

The gala took place in Harlem to commemorate the life and work Harry Belafonte, the vindicated Central Park Five and activist Alida Garcia. 

“This past year has been the most fulfilling part of my life being apart of this,” said Garcia.

With the Justice League NYC, the Stanford graduate spends her time - night and day - working to develop cultural outlet programs in penitentiaries and improve the issues within detention centers and child incarceration.

The Central Park Five were honored by the Jersey Four and tributed with a performance by Immortal Technique.

It was in 1989, that media and public opinion shifted against young teens Raymond Santana Jr., Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Anton McCray and Kharey Wise, after a 28-year-old woman was brutally slain in Central Park. Stories described the young men as a  “wolf pack,” “the roving gang” and “crazed misfits.” 

They were vilified by the press and local politicians, with Donald Trump even placing an ad in the New York Times reading “Bring Back the Death Penalty” for the group of men declared innocent after years in prison for a crime they never committed.

“Ken Burns, in the film, said that we became the worst human beings on the earth and everyone turned their backs to us,” said Richardson. “We are what happens when the system fails, and all we had was each other.”

The Gathering also celebrated its 10-year anniversary with performances by Trinidad’s Machel Montana, Jon Batiste and V Bozeman, of “Empire.”

“Artists are the gatekeepers of truth,” said Henry Belafonte quoting Paul Robeson in his remarks expressing gratitude and humility. 

Jon Batiste serenading Harry Belafonte during the Justice Ball. 
For over eight decades Belafonte has dedicated his life to securing freedom for men, women and children  to establish a standard for equal human rights.

Robeson was listed among Eleanor Roosevelt, W.E.B. DuBois and Dr. Martin Luther King as influentials figures that live on through the ideals they embedded into his life and within society.

“Mr. Belafonte, because you are a strong man, you have made us all strong men,” said actor Wendell Pierce, after reading “Strong Men” by poet Sterling A. Brown.

He called upon the spirit of doing for others, what is no ordinary task and one that often comes with great risk, as work that must continue on until there is a liberation for each individual in society. 


“Mr.B’s life has reminded us that human rights are truly universal and indivisible. That if we cared about a Syrian Refugee being shot, then we have to be equally be concerned with the Black child walking in Chicago being shot. Mr. B has reminded us that if we are concerned with women working in sweatshops in Bangladesh, we have to worry about women working in catfish farms in Mississippi. If we are concerned with lives individuals around the world, whether they be in Russia or China languishing in jail, we have to be concerned with Black lives here and think that Mr. B in his life, in his work, has reminded us that human rights are everywhere.”
  • Steven W. Hawkins, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, on Harry Belafonte, Ambassador of Consciousness

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Breakin' Convention Redefines Power Moves

Photo Courtesy Apollo Theater
What is remembered as a New York-centric dance from a certain decade, reemerged as an art form that’s evolved internationally through the years.

Held at the Apollo Theater Thursday Oct. 13 - Sunday Oct. 18, Breakin’ Convention was a present-day response to the worldwide hip-hop phenomenon. Master classes and MainStage performances displayed the heart, raw motion, and story that defined true hip-hop.

“There’s no top best, or any of that - they are all phenomenal,” said Grandmaster Caz, co-curator of the international dance festival.

Attracting talented dance crews from all reaches of the globe, Breakin’ Convention brought the audience to their feet as iconic legends and legends-to-be-made filled the stage.

The MainStage event on Saturday was co-curated and co-hosted by Jonzi D and Grandmaster Caz, as they took the audience on a historical walk down hip-hop’s memory lane.

“Legendary… you’re not ready, because this is hip hop, this is hip hop,
The four elements are all relevant
from the residents of an enforced settlement
a sociopolitical movement for self improvement
the funky music, spiritual wealth included
as the Bronx was burning, up rose a phoenix
the charismatic Black leader, needed a remix
resurrected lead kids from savage crews
connected on Sedgewick Avenue
Cindy Campbell the first lady
In 1973 she saved the babies from the Hades
It was a state of emergency
but the Koolest Herc[ules] balanced the speakers perfectly.”
live freestyle from Jonzi D.

The Legendary Twins, the pioneers of breakin’, came before well known legends such as the NYC Rocksteady Crew and other crews known during it’s peak.

This Saturday, they were asked if they were interested in being international ambassadors for breaking convention to which they humbly accepted it as an honor.

“When we danced we pretty much set up various moves until we got into the break part of the record, the B part, we would do our best moves during that time of the record, so we just started calling us the B-boys for the break,” said Keith Smith, brother of Kevin.

Hip-hop lore and global styles of breaking were combined with modern dance, classical to reflect the world takeover that is hip-hop. It focused on it’s original purpose of spirited expression and cultural effects it’s had in areas far reaching from Harlem and the Bronx.

Les Twins, a newer set of twins from France known for their work with Beyonce and extensive career in dance, performed throughout the festival and spoke on the perseverance required to keep on dancing when they themselves experienced rejection earlier in their career.

“I may cry with my French accent,” said dancer Antoinette Gomis. “You make my dreams come true, because I dance where James Brown sang and I just have to say “I’ve got to feel it!”

Born and raised in France, Gomis performed to Nina Simone’s "Images." She articulated with motion the complexities of race relations, issues facing identity and notions of self-worth. She danced for the day, for her family and for all those who came before her.

The styles of music were rooted in hip-hop, but touched upon salsa - from the Tito Lockers from Soulsations! - and a combination sounds that reflected the cultures of a bustling and diverse city.

The BirdGang Dance Company from the UK brought the audience to their feet with a theatrical performance, The Rugged’s choreographed scenes developed in Holland and the Street Justice Crew represented goings-on of the city where it all began.

Breakin’ Convention has been produced annually at the Wells Theatre in London since 2004.