The Very Thought of You

Today we say goodbye to the one and only Nancy Wilson. Formidable jazz singer, R&B artist, blues musician, actress and entertainer, Nancy hailed from Chillicothe, Ohio. Her career spanned more than five decades with Nancy retiring in 2010. Wilson recorded more than seventy albums and won three Grammy Awards for her work. She was 81 years old.

“The Girl With the Honey-Coated Voice”, was the first of six children, and was influenced by the music of Nat King Cole, Billy Eckstine, and Dinah Washington, at an early age. By the age of 15, while a student at West High School, Nancy won a talent contest sponsored by a local television station. The prize was an appearance on a twice-a-week television show, Skyline Melodies, of which, she became the host. She also worked at clubs on the east and north sides of Columbus, Ohio, until she graduated from high school. Unsure of her future as an entertainer, Nancy began college to pursue a degree in teaching. She spent one year at Ohio’s Central State College (now Central State University), before dropping out and following her original ambitions. Miss Wilson auditioned and won a spot with Rusty Bryant’s Carolyn Club Big Band in 1956, and toured with them throughout Canada and the Midwest from 1956 to 1958. While in this group, Wilson made her first recording under Dot Records.

In 1959 Nancy moved to New York City where her career bloomed. Within four weeks of her arrival in The Big Apple she got her first major break, a call to fill in at “The Blue Morocco”. The club booked Wilson on a permanent basis–she was singing four nights a week while simultaneously working as a secretary. When her manager, John Levy, sent two demos to Capitol Records, they signed her in 1960.

Wilson’s debut single, “Guess Who I Saw Today”, was so successful that between April 1960 and July 1962 Capitol Records released five Nancy Wilson albums. Her first album, Like in Love, displayed her talent in Rhythm and Blues. When her friend and fellow musician Julian “Cannonball” Adderley suggested she focus on jazz music and ballads, they collaborated and produced the album Nancy Wilson and Cannonball Adderley in 1962, which propelled her to national prominence.

In 1963 “Tell Me The Truth” became her first truly major hit, leading up to her performance at the Coconut Grove in 1964 – the turning point of her career, garnering critical acclaim from coast to coast. 1964 was a golden year as Wilson won her first Grammy Award for the best rhythm and blues recording for her album How Glad I Am. Nancy was also dubbed a “consummate actress” and “complete entertainer” as her talents weren’t reserved just for the recording booth. In 1967, after making numerous television guest appearances, Nancy got her own series on NBC, The Nancy Wilson Show, which ran until 1968 and won an Emmy. From the late 1960s through 2005, Wilson appeared in hundreds of films and television shows including The Red Skelton Hour, Hawaii Five-O, The Cosby Show and The Parkers. 

In addition to her musical accolades and achievements Nancy was recognized for her humanitarian and human rights work garnering awards from the NAACP, the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, Oprah Winfrey’s Legends Award, and the UNCF. A member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Wilson also has a street named after her in her hometown of Chillicothe, Ohio. She co-founded the Nancy Wilson Foundation, which exposed inner-city children to the country, and until she fell ill in 2008, continued her work in civil rights.

As with many others, I can say with all certainty and ease that Nancy Wilson has always been one of my favorite songstresses. And I’m not just biased because I too am an Ohio girl. That silky voice and amazing style made her the Queen of entertainment. And yes but oh yes, she was indeed royalty. Personally, my favorite Wilson tune which I never tire of hearing is The Very Thought of You, but you can’t go wrong with any Wilson melody. If you’re not familiar with her cannon, listen to How Glad I Am, My One and Only Love, Never Let Me Go, or Here’s That Rainy Day.

Fancy Miss Nancy–singer and storyteller, legend and legacy, thank you for blessing our souls with your voice. We will always smile at the very thought of you.

Love,

BCM

To London & Back: Women and War

IMG_3595 2To know me is to know just how much I love the So & So Arts Club and its founder Sarah Jane Berger.  So & So is a professional development organization by actors for actors, and I cannot even begin to explain how my life has changed for the better because of this club.

Now, as I have absolutely no trouble in admitting I’m a snob (but in a good way!;) and wish So & So was still a very well kept secret; one that only the best sorts of people would be privy to (ahem).  But I commend Miss Berger for creating a global artists club, and I’m still advocating to be American Representatives and/or head a chapter here (Please oh please!).  If there’s one thing Sarah knows how to do (and let’s just be honest, the woman is a wonder as an Actor, Director, Producer), it’s put on a festival. From Women in Arts and Hopefull Rep, to Kick up the Arts and Women and War, So and So offers numerous opportunities for artists to connect, engage, learn and work.

This year, I was lucky to be in London during Women and War, which was held at the So & So space IMG_8166 2at 6 Fredrick’s Place.  While I did not have time to see everything I wanted, I was able to see my extremely talented friend Zelina Rebeiro and the lovely Isaura Barbé-Brown (who even fooled this Midwestern gal with her American Accent!) in Veils.

Written by Tom Coash, the play focuses on American University in Egypt roommates Intisar and Samar.  “Intisar, a veiled, African-American Muslim student, thinks she might finally fit in when she enrolls for a year abroad at the American Egyptian University in Cairo. However, the Arab Spring is about to explode across the Middle East, threatening to overwhelm the young American woman and her liberal Egyptian roommate, Samar.  In the struggle to find their footing in this political storm, the young women instead find themselves on opposite sides of a bitter and dangerous cultural divide. Will the violent events leading up to the revolution salvage their friendship or shatter it?” 

VeilIMG_0736 2s is a great two hander focusing not only on religious differences (and similarities), but also the bonds between women, the Arab Spring (and what that meant for Muslim Youth), displacement and cultural hybridity. Zelina Rebeiro is superb as Samar, the party loving, freedom fighting non-hijab wearing Egyptian Muslim; and Isaura Barbé-Brown dazzles as Intisar, the American born conservative Muslim student who hopes to finally be understood and respected in Cairo. The exuberant Samar enlists her new African-American roommate in helping her create a blog debating the practice of wearing veils, but when the revolution interrupts, it threatens to ruin their friendship.

After Veils, it was on to see The Marvellous Adventures of Mary Seacole, a one woman show starring actress andFullSizeRender 2 songstress Cleo Sylvestre. The title is a play on Mrs. Seacole’s autobiography, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands (1857), which is considered to be one of the first autobiographies by and about a mixed-race woman.

Who is Mary Seacole you ask?  I was wondering the very same; and was amazed to discover she was a Jamaican/Scottish/African entrepreneur, world traveler, hotelier, healer and self taught nurse who successfully tended to battlefield soldiers during the Crimean War.  It is widely believed that Florence Nightingale was the first woman to develop what we now know as modern nursing, but to hear Mary Seacole’s story puts all of that into question.  The viewer even learns Mary applied to the War Office to assist (and even spoke to Florence Nightingale herself), but was refused (no great surprise there…).

The play takes you on a journey from her early days learning about herbal healing from her mother, to her travels through Jamaica, London, Panama, her marriage, the Great Fire of Kingston, the Cholera Epidemic, and the war.  Throughout her life and career, Mary was held in the highest regard, and associated with such dignitaries as he Prince of Wales, the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of Cambridge, and many other senior military officers.  Late in life, when she faced economic downturn, Mary was able to survive and live somewhat comfortably due to the fund and care of her illustrious patrons.

In 1991 she was posthumously awarded the Jamaican Order of Merit, and in 2004 was voted the greatest Black Briton.  More recently, a statue of her describing her as a Pioneer Nurse was erected at St Thomas’ Hospital in London on 30 June 2016.  The only known portrait of Mary Seacole resides in the National Portrait Gallery in London, England.

The final play on my agenda was Shrapnel, “A Collection of poetry, monologues and a play excerpt from the writers Chris Fogg, DHW Mildon and Rose Solari, ranging from a mother grieving the death of her son in the final minutes of WW1 to a mortician at Camp Bastian preparing for a date. Voices of women across class, generations and history [are heard].”  The featured shows and interwoven poems were Posting to Iraq by Chris Fogg, Coda, Go Firm, Shades and Prize Giving by DHW Mildon, and two Poems by Rose Solari.  I mostly had to see this show because, as long as I’ve known Sarah, I’ve never seen her act.  But now, I’m so happy I have! (secretly thinking of a show to in which to have her star…)

All in all, Women and War was an amazing festival, and I wish I had time to see more shows.  But, knowing Sarah and the So and So Arts Club, another festival isn’t far behind.

Love

BCM

 

Forever is a mighty long time…

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We’re back!  And we hope you’re as excited as we are.  Yes, we realize we’ve been away for what seems like forever, but we swear it’s for a good reason!  Despite our absence, thank you for remaining loyal and checking in with our team.  Nothing makes us happier than knowing we are part of an amazing, loyal and engaging community.

 

Our absence has not been in vain; we’ve been traveling, networking and making art magic with creatives all over the world. Theatres, movie sets, board meetings. New York, Paris, New Orleans–we’ve been busy little chicks.

2468C9291-ABBE-5B42-9191127EB0A6FC25Speaking of travel and (international) relationships, we’ve just returned from London, England, and had more than a fabulous time. From seeing the marvelous play Fabric written by the delightful Abi Zakarian (and we’re not just saying that because she’s our friend), to spending a majority of the trip at Women and War presented by the So and So Arts Club, Black Chick Media was all about empowerment, education and advocating for the arts.

Fabric, directed by Tom O’Brien and starring Nancy Sullivan, is a one woman play about Leah, “…who lost her friends, family, career, and dignity. Forced to move for a third time following a harrowing court case, she relives painful events in her past as she sorts through all the stuff that has accumulated in her spare room: clothes she doesn’t wear, books she doesn’t read, things she doesn’t need anymore. Leah desperately tries to unpick just where it all went wrong and who or what is really to blame.

FABRIC deals with the aftermath of a rape that isn’t believed and confronts the traditional roles still expected of women; questioning how much has changed since the sexual revolution of the 1960s.”

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L-R: Actress Nancy Sullivan, Writer Abi Zakarian, Director Tom O’Brien

It’s fierce, raw, powerful…a tour de force and just what is needed. Is it a feminist manifesto? Sure (is that even a bad thing?). But only in so much as it’s a story that highlights the patriarchal laws that oppress, regulate and condemn women’s bodies and rights… the standards set up by some omnipresent societal leaders who say how we should behave, who we should love, how we should look.

We’ve all been Leah at one time or another.  If it’s the cute plucky Leah who falls in love with a stranger in a bespoked suit, or if it’s the Leah depressed and trapped inside herself after a traumatic experience. This is a story that resonates and is more than familiar even if you’ve never personally experienced what Leah has; we all know someone. We’ve seen the news, read the papers, heard the conversations.  It’s a story that’s all too familiar and painful.  What we love most about Fabric is that the entire story is told from Leah’s perspective.  All characters, all action, all fear anger happiness and rage–seldom do we hear from women by women about women.  We love that the play is unpretentious; it meets you where you are, accepts who you are, and trusts you enough to take you on the journey.  If you learn nothing, if you leave this play unchanged, you should consider questioning your morals and basically your entire existence.

Thank you Abi for writing such a brilliant character and story that transcends all cultures, space and time. Leah is all women everywhere, and we can’t wait to see this piece stateside!

If you happen to be one of the lucky people heading to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival I highly recommend you see this unforgettable show (and also Mary Seacole but more about that tomorrow!).

We can’t wait to make magic with this fabulous creative.

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Keya Crenshaw & Abi Zakarian

Love

BCM

 

Get ready for #WADFF2016!

Time for the 15th annual Women of African Descent Film Festival!  Saturday, May 7th 10am-6pm at LIU Brooklyn Campus.  Check our site for details.

Here is a great video from the presenting sponsor, the Brooklyn Chapter of the Links. See you there!