FREEDOME BRADLEY: Director of Theatrical Programs for New York’s City Park Foundation & SummerStage (Central Park)

I spent the day in Central Park with a friend of 20 years. As Director of Theatrical Programs for New York’s City Park Foundation and SummerStage, Freedome is a passionate force behind New York’s largest free performing arts festival, bringing over 100 performances to 18 parks throughout the 5 boroughs. If he ever decides to run for NYC Parks Commisioner, he has my vote. Freedome is driven to bring “top flight art” to adults and kids via Central Park’s SummerStage, The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre and Puppet Mobile. I filmed our conversation as we tour the Swedish Cottage (the theatre where the puppet shows take place daily); learn Freedome’s story; the mission of the City Parks Foundation; meet the Puppet Mobile crew; and view the new development at Marcus Garvey Park, which opens June 2nd.

This story was filmed April 26th, 2011. I began sharing “My Small Story” April 26th; thus, I could not think of better story to begin my 2nd year of stories – a person that is committed revitalizing NYC parks and bringing art to New Yorkers in parks in all 5 Boroughs. I thoroughly enjoyed our conversation.

The Swedish Cottage, built in Sweden in 1875, was placed in Central Park in 1877 at the suggestion of Frederick Law Olmsted. Since its arrival in the US, the Cottage has served a variety of purposes, perhaps most importantly being used as the headquarters for the Civil Defense during World War II. It was also formerly a tool house, a library, and Central Park’s entomological laboratory.

In 1947, the Swedish Cottage became known, as it is today, as the home of the Marionette Theatre. In a show of patriotism, both Swedish and American flags fly from the roof of what was once a traditional schoolhouse.

The 2011 season of SummerStage, New York’s largest free performing arts festival, brings over 100 performances to eighteen parks throughout the five boroughs. With performances ranging from American pop, Latin and world music to dance, spoken word and theater, SummerStage fills a vital niche in New York City’s summer arts festival landscape. Since its inception twenty-six years ago, more than six million people from New York City and around the world have enjoyed SummerStage. The festival runs from June 7th until September 2nd.

Harlem Teens Anti-Violence Protest April 15th @ 129th & Lenox (II)

(Part II) In Harlem last Friday, teens representing high Schools across Harlem came to speak, rap and lay down on the street for 5 minutes; thus, putting themselves in the place of someone who has been shot. Here is an additional edit of the teen’s speeches, rap and words from Iesha on “why we are here” prior to their demonstration https://mysmallstory.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/harlem-teen-ant-violent-protest-april-15th-129th-lenox/

Iesha of Street Corner Resources& Harlem renaissance High School brought Harlem community leaders from the NYPD, City Council, Teachers, Pastors and Jacob Restaurant provided the backdrop and much needed electricity for the sound system.

Tunisian Poet Samia Ouederni @ Nuyorican Poets Cafe

After sharing a poem on Facebook in response to the revolution that was happening in her home of Tunisia, Samia was asked to read for Miguel Algarin, the Founder of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Samia is the 1st Tunisian poet to be published in English; and, read at the Nuyorican, one of the most important venues for the development of poetry, music and theater in New York. In 1973, Algarin’s mission was to create a multicultural venue that both nurtures artists and exhibits a variety of artistic works to both enlighten and empower the underclass, it is a mission that has remained true to this day.

“If you have the baby here tonight, the baby will be named Nuyorican” Miguel said with a laugh to Samia before her reading. I filmed my taxi conversation with Samia enroute to the venue about Tunisia, NYC, language and poetry. Ra ,a seasoned Nuyorican organizer, explains how he discovered Samia and why he “wanted her to read for Miguel”. She read 5 poems that night. I shared the poem Samia read in Arabic titled ارادة الحياة ( English translation “Will To Live”) written in 1933 by Chebbi. Part of the poem is the Tunisian anthem and now chanted during the ongoing revolution in Tunisia and Egypt.  She is also featured @ The Poetry Foundation.

Joshua Griffler: Changing Baby Diapers 101

I bumped into longtime friend J Griff , founder of The Stache Group Collective, Jets Fan and new Dad on NYC’s Spring Street for an animated conversation on being a father. “The first month of childhood be calm..keep it lax..that scream..that first scream will shake you to your core like u aint been shook in a longtime..but you see what life is all about.” And then he gives a great visual demonstration on the art of changing diapers. J Griff..Good People!

BAKER’S Gansevoort Hotel Performance

Chris Baker graduated from college last year and with his parents support he launched his Electronica music career. And with the support of the Gansevoort Hotel, he performed at the opening of their Park Avenue location. After witnessing the crowds reaction, I had to ask him his story. “To get this as my first gig is HUGE..its a huge struck of luck and I know that..its hard to find gigs in NYC.”

Brad & Simone: The Organizers Behind HarlemStage/Aaron Davis Hall, Inc.

Since 1979, Harlem Stage has been one of the nation’s leading arts organizations devoted to the creation and development of new works by performing artists of color. Brad Learmonth & Simone Eccleston are the passionate organizers behind the programming and arts education departments.  We take a tour of HarlemStage, discuss its history, E-moves, DJ Rich Medina and partnerships with NYC schools.  Harlem Stage has joined forces with the Apollo Theater and Jazzmobile to present the first Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival May 9, 2011.  Celebrating the unique legacy of jazz in the uptown community, the Festival will bring both established and emerging artists to some of the famed venues where jazz flourished in Harlem: Lenox Lounge, Showman’s Café, the Apollo Theater, Alhambra Ballroom, and Minton’s Playhouse. Other festival events will take place at Harlem Stage Gatehouse, Columbia University and a variety of locations throughout the Harlem area.

The Apollo Theater, Harlem Stage and Jazzmobile have partnered specifically to create a resurgence of jazz opportunities in Harlem with this week-long festival. Jazz will be presented in all its various forms and diverse formats including jazz dance, concert, club, cabaret and dance events. Conceived as an annual offering, Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival will enable the partners to create a dynamic range of programming, highlighting the role that local Harlem venues have played in the development of jazz.The three partners are also collaborating with Columbia University and its Center for Jazz Studies and Institute for Research in African American Studies to bring humanities programming that will further highlight the cultural significance of the Festival. 

SPUR TREE’s Sean John prepares Ackee & Cod Bruschetta @ MACY’S

Spur Tree was selected by MACY’s Culinary Council as one of NYC’s hottest restaurants and Owner/Chef Sean John was asked to prepare a dish for Black History Month @ MACY’s department store’s kitchen studio. He is preparing a Jamaican national dish with coco bread: Ackee and Cod Bruschetta. I included the recipe for us all to try at home.  Visit Sean at 76 Orchard Street (btwn Broome & Grand Streets) http://www.spurtreelounge.com/

Ingredients:

1 lb (500g) of salted cod

2 dozen fresh ackee pods or 3 cups (12 oz/350g) canned ackee

1 scotch bonnet or jalapeno chili, deseeded and sliced

2 spring onions

1 medium onion

1 medium tomato

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons vegetable oil

2 loaves of coco bread

4 cherry tomatoes (for garnish)
DIRECTIONS:

1.Soak the salted cod in cold water for 3o minutes, then drain and place in a pan with 4 cups (1 liter) of water. Bring to a boil, drain, then break the fish into flakes with a fork. Set aside.

2. If using fresh ackee, romove them from the pods. Discard the seeds and gently remove the pink membranes with a sharp knife. Parboil the pegs of ackee by covering them with salted water in a medium saucepan and bring just to a boil. Remove the saucepan from the heat, drain and set aside.

3. Set up a large skillet over medium heat and heat oil. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the chili, sring onions, and onion and sute until tender. Add the salted cod, ackee, tomato and black pepper and cover low heat for minutes.

4. Open coco bread loaves and cut into 4 triangles. Warm in the oven for 1-2 minutes and plate.

5. Spoon the ackee and cod onto bread triangles and top with a halved cherry tomato.

Serves 4. Preparation time: 45 minutes, Cooking time: 15 minutes.

Toure on Upcoming Projects , Storytelling, His Story, Multicultural America & Book Recommendations

While checking my email at the Soho Apple Store, I ran into long time friend and very talented writer, Toure. Referred to as “a one-man media conglomerate” by The Daily Beast’s editor Tina Brown, the pop culture commentator has his hands in various media works, from penning articles for Rolling Stone, where the scribe has been a long-time contributing editor, to contributing to MSNBC and hosting the Fuse’s Hip Hop Shop. His TL is not short of tell-it-like-it is commentary. Touré is expecting the release of his fourth book, Who’s Afraid of Post-Blackness? on September 13. These days Toure is Fuse’s pop culture and music insider Touré, takes on double hosting duties with two of the networks hottest shows, “Hip Hop Shop” and “On The Record with Fuse.”
In addition, Touré is the author of Never Drank the Kool-Aid, a collection of published articles, Soul City, a novel, and The Portable Promised Land, a collection of short stories. He is also a Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone, formerly a host and correspondent at BET and was CNN’s first Pop Culture Correspondent. He has appeared on the “Today Show,” “the Paula Zahn show,” “On the Record with Greta Van Susteren,” “The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch,” “Topic A with Tina Brown,” “Anderson Cooper 360°,” “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” “Dateline NBC,” “Nightline,” and many others.

Maya Contreras: Drummer, Author & Editor-In-Chief of The Dirty Durty Diary

 Born in Denver, Maya grew up in a creative family. She has done everything in the arts from writing, performance to management. We had a refreshing conversation at NYC’s Gramercy Park Hotel about her novel “The Him Book: One Woman’s Almost Religious Search to Find the One” ,   NYC , Family, longer editorial, Jeffrey Wright and the story behind her bi-annual print magazine THE DDD – Dirty Durty Diary. As an Artist Manager, Maya has worked with distinguished stage and film composers including, Marvin Hamlisch who received an Oscar, Grammy, Emmy, Tony, Golden Globe and Pulitzer Prize, as well as Bill Conti, an Oscar and three-time Emmy winner and one of Hollywood’s most sought-after composers and conductors.As a musician, Maya has worked with producer Dallas Austin, Professor Griff, composed the music for the Jomadi/Crossroads production of Six from the Rainbow, and was a student of Grammy Award winning drummer Woody Williams.

As a professional writer Maya has covered everything from New York Nightlife to the current climate of the music industry. Her interview credits include: Legendary MCs- KRS-ONE and Pharoahe Monch, Editor-in-Chief of Complex, Noah Callahan-Bever, Editor-in-Chief of the Austin Chronically and Founder of SXSW Louis Black, playwright and actor Paul Stoval-Oakley (Clear, Metamorphoses, The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci), actor Amina Robinson (Precious, Mamma Mia), Award Winning Director and Producer Jeremy Simmons (Trans-Generation, Eyes of Tammy Faye, One Punk Under God, and The Last Beekeeper) and legendary New York Graffiti crew The Tats Cru.

Iesha Sekou: She Has A Vision For Harlem’s Youth

She knows, loves and practices a vision of success for Harlem’s youth. Yesterday, I attended Harlem Renaissance High School’s “community feedback” meeting. It was an opportunity for the superintendent of schools to hear from parents, staff and activist “How do we improve Harlem Renaissance’s performance?” 100s of NYC schools are going through a similar process. Iesha’s speech (see video) and workshops at the HR high school is the kind of support that the next wave closing schools were not lucky to have.
She has an office at the school, visits the home’s of absent students with the principal, hugs the kids and more importantly, she only sees a vision of success for Harlem Youth. Support Harlem Renaissance. Iesha’s non-profit is http://www.streetcornerresources.org/…

Key Concerns: Harlem Renaissance was identified as Persistently Lowest Achieving by the New York State Education Department in Dec. 2010. Possibilities: Leadership change, Phasing the school out over time, Change in curriculum, staff changes and/or grade reconfiguration.

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