Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl: The Life of Vertamae Smart

Photo credit via blogs.indiewire.com

Photo credit via blogs.indiewire.com

Julie Dash, the amazing director behind Daughters of the Dust, Illusions and The Rosa Parks Story has created a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo to support her latest film, Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl.  To continue production, the team needs to raise $55,000, which is no small feat with only three days left.  This documentary tells the overlooked and often forgotten life story of culinary anthropologist, actress, writer and poet Vertamae Smart Grosvenor.

We had the pleasure of meeting Ms. Dash in 2007 at a film festival in Columbus, Ohio, and to say we’re excited she is releasing another film would be an understatement.  As we so often mention here at Black Chick Media, the lives of African-American women are hardly ever told…And don’t even get us started on the lack of recognition and support for women filmmakers (African-American or otherwise).

Please join us in supporting this fabulous project and legendary director.  Follow the film on Twitter at @SocialGeechee and Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vertamae?fref=ts

Continue reading

Press Release: State of the Arts Productions Presents: Caroline, or Change

January 20, 2015

For Immediate Release

State of the Arts Productions Presents: Caroline, or Change

Columbus-Based Production Company Tackles Civil Rights-Era Story

 

State of the Arts Productions presents the groundbreaking musical Caroline, or Change. A provocative story of political change, social change and pocket change. Set in one of the most dramatic times in America’s history the TONY-nominated Caroline, Or Change tackles tough social issues that still resonate today.

COLUMBUS, OH — State of the Arts Productions (SoArtsPro) kicks off the 2015 creative season with the musical Caroline, or Change by Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and Jeanine Tesori (Shrek the Musical).  Performance dates will run from February 27 – March 1.
Taking on the complexities of race; embraces the climate of the time; and telling a story of redemption, the musical is set in Louisiana during the fall of 1963 when the nation, already dealing with the civil rights movement, was rocked by the death of a president. Amid such turbulent times, Caroline provides stability for both her own restless daughter and the Jewish family that employees her.

“This story is timeless and relevant, with regards to the present climate in the United States,” said Gwen Edwards, SoArtsPro Executive Director.  “Caroline is a character who, in her own way, was able to conquer giant social issues of her day.  To many, she is relatable.  To most, she is a heroine.”

Caroline, or Change has collected nearly every award attainable for a theatrical production: the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress (along with six nominations including Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, and Best Director), Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Music and Lucille Lortel Awards for Outstanding Musical, Outstanding Lead and Featured Actress, and Outstanding Choreography. The show captured two Obie Awards for Outstanding Performance and Special Citations for Kushner and Tesori, and in 2007 it won the prestigious Olivier Award for Best New Musical.

Caroline, or Change is directed by Jack Peterson with musical direction by Kimberly English Cole and features the debut of Talmarita Kenner as Caroline. Caroline, or Change is a dynamic work which has the power to change the way audiences think about musical theatre.

For more information about show dates, tickets and location, please visit: www.soartspro.com, or call: (614) 266-4562.
PERFORMANCE INFORMATION

Dates: February 27 – March 1, 2015
Time: Friday & Saturday 8:00pm  Sunday 2:00 pm

Location: Columbus Performing Arts Center’s Shedd Theatre, 549 Franklin Ave. Columbus, OH 43215

TICKETS

Tickets are available now for $18.

Purchase three ways:
Online:  www.soartspro.com
By phone: 614-266-4562
Mail-in order form: Available online  www.soartspro.com

About SoArtsPro

State of The Arts Productions (SoArtsPro), started as a dream in the mind of the Artistic Director Quentin Edwards. With the help of a select board of directors including current Broadway performers and community members SoArtsPro will bring a different breed of theater to the Columbus area.  Our seasons will be diverse and different; including the classics and contemporary Broadway musical fare.  SoArtsPro believes that theatre can and should be for everyone.

Legendary: Ruby Dee

Photo Credit Via thunderbird37.com

Photo Credit Via thunderbird37.com

Please forgive the lateness of this post, but it has taken me a bit of time to comprehend this tragic loss.  Having met Miss Ruby Dee back in 2007, I can say first hand what a formidable, warm and spirited woman she was.  The way she looked at me and called me sister was one of the greatest moments of my life; and during our conversation, her advice to me to follow my dreams and persevere no matter what, has become my guiding truth.  One does not easily forget a woman like this, nor does one not grieve her loss.  Having just said good-bye to Maya Angelou, we are reminded once again that our legends, our great ones, are passing on and leaving us to pick up the baton; to carry on what they worked so incredibly hard for their entire lives.  Were it not for Ruby Dee, Maya Angelou, Lena Horne, Dorothy Dandridge, Louise Beavers, Hattie McDaniel, Butterfly McQueen, Juanita Moore, Diahann Carroll and hundreds of others that paved the way, I would not be the woman I am today with my position and success.  So forgive me if I feel this loss perhaps slightly deeper than others.

Ruby Dee, born Ruby Ann Wallace on October 27, 1922 in Cleveland, OH, and raised in Harlem, NY where she graduated from Hunter College, was a civil rights activist, actress, poet, playwright, humanitarian, journalist and breast cancer survivor of more than three decades.  While she had well over 100 film and television (and 34 theatre, including the debut performance of A Raisin in the Sun costarring Sidney Poitier, and that was nominated for four Tony awards) credits to her name, spanning back to 1946, she is probably most well known for The Jackie Robinson Story (1950), her groundbreaking role in A Raisin in the Sun (1961), Roots: The Next Generations (1979),  Do The Right Thing (1989) and American Gangster (2007) for which she was nominated (and  should have won) an Academy Award.  Her many accolades and awards include a Primetime Emmy, AAFC Award, Jury Award, ACE Award, a Grammy, four Image Awards, a Screen Actors Guild Award and several lifetime achievement awards, as well as the National Medal of Arts and the Kennedy Center Honors.

Her acting career, like many Black artists of the time, began at the American Negro Theatre where her peers were Harry Belafonte, Hilda Sims and Sidney Poitier.  After her time at ANT, which closed in 1949, Ms. Dee made several appearances on Broadway and at numerous theatre festivals including becoming the first Black Actress to play Kate in The Taming of the Shrew and Cordelia in King Lear at the American Shakespeare Festival.

Bp8_pSqCcAAoDsD.jpg large

Ruby Dee, who took the middle name of her first husband, blues singer Frankie Dee Brown (whom she divorced in 1945), as her stage name, married Ossie Davis in 1948 having met while costarring in the 1946 Broadway play Jeb.  They soon became one of, if not the, most respected and fiercest acting couples not just in the African American community, but in Hollywood (Their infamous saying of “In This Thing Together” still rings true as Ruby Dee will be cremated, and her ashes placed in the same urn as her husbands and sealed forever).

While most knew Miss Dee as the magnificent actress she was, some fail to realize that, besides her outstanding contribution to the arts, she was also a civil rights activist. A member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the NAACP, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Delta Sigma Theta sorority and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Ruby made it her life’s work to champion for equal rights. Dee, who with her husband Davis, associated with such influential and significant figures like Malcolm X, Black Panther Party co-founder Huey P Newton, and numerous others, emceed the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 1963 March on Washington, organized a boycott of Christmas shopping, urging Americans to support civil rights groups instead in the wake of the 1963 Birmingham, Ala., church bombing that killed four young black girls; in 1965

Photo Credit Via newsnyork.com

Photo Credit Via newsnyork.com

she and Davis marched for civil rights in Selma, Ala, and in 1999 they were both arrested as they protested the fatal shooting of unarmed African immigrant Amadou Diallo by New York City police officers.  During this time Dee also appeared in such politically charged films as Gone Are the Days and The Incident, which is recognized as helping pave the way for young African-American actors and filmmakers.

Sadly, in 2005, Dee lost her life partner of 56 years, Ossie Davis, but despite her grief, she passionately continued her work in both civil rights and the arts. She developed a one woman show, authored two children’s books and, like many Hollywood personalities, stood firmly against the war in Iraq.

No stranger to recognition and awards, in 2007 Ruby was inducted into the Weschester County Women’s Hall of Fame joining such other honorees as Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nita Lowey, and in 2009, she received an Honorary Degree from Princeton University.  Her powerful 2007 appearance in the film American Gangster, alongside Denzel Washington, saw her receive her first and only Oscar nomination, even though she was only on screen for a total of ten minutes; a testament to her great talent.

Photo Credit Via madamenoire.com

Photo Credit Via madamenoire.com

Ruby Dee has clearly left her legacy, not only through her family (three children: son, blues musician Guy Davis, two daughters, Nora Day and Hasna Muhammad, and seven grandchildren), but through all of the lives she has touched with her work as an artist and humanitarian.  Her humor, wit, beautiful mind, glorious talent and fierce sense of fashion (!!!) will be greatly missed.  They don’t make them like this anymore; she was in a class reserved for a very select few.  And we should consider ourselves lucky we had the opportunity to learn from such a prodigious and marvelously fascinating woman.

 

 

Love

BCM

 

“I Am A Woman Phenomenally…Phenomenal Woman, That’s Me.”

While I would like nothing more than to write a lengthy, most deserved and heartfelt post dedicated to this magnificent woman, I am afraid I cannot find words powerful enough, exceptional enough, vast enough…To hold or express all that she meant to me, and indeed to the Black (and world) community.

I am reminded of the time I had the pleasure of hearing her speak at my alma mater. It was in her later years, when she no longer commanded the stage by both voice and body (she was resigned to sitting in an armchair the entire time), but that did not stop her from subtly (yet, not so subtly…) demanding attention and changing the lives of every single person in that room.  From reciting Shakespearean Sonnets after a discussion on diversity in life, the arts, and being yourself no matter what, to speaking on the notion of inner & universal peace, the constant struggle for civil rights and liberties, the political state of the world, the power of the individual and the joy of learning and education, that evening, Dr. Maya Angelou taught us all what it meant to be human.

And it was then, hearing her in person for the first time that I truly understood who she was, and who I could be; that I had the power to change my life, be who I needed and wanted to be, and create a better world for and with the people around me.  Despite the fact I had read I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings at least five times, can recite Phenomenal Woman at the drop of a hat and am always electrified by the weight of the words in Still I Rise, over the years, Maya Angelou has taught me, and indeed, all of us, what it is to face adversity head-on with a machete in one hand and a rose in the other;  how to overcome my (our) fears and come out the other side a better person.  That no matter what trauma and violence and hatred we have witnessed against ourselves or any other human being, we must never be silent; we must rise.

We are losing our giants, and who will be honorable enough to rise and stand in their place? Today, on this great day of sorrow, we take a moment of silence to honor and salute you Maya Angelou.  Your legacy will inspire generations to come; you changed our lives in ways that simple words cannot express, and we are forever in your debt.

“The true definition of a  Warrior Queen. A very sad loss for all of Humanity.” -Anna Harwich

Yes, Anna, we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Love

BCM

 

 

 

Phenomenal Woman

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman

Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
‘Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.

Maya Angelou

 

Continue reading