What I Learned In Paris
The city of Atlanta, Georgia has always been at the forefront of one of the most progressive cities in the last 4 years. When Maynard Jackson was elected mayor in 1973, it would turn the city of Atlanta into a place where African-Americans would flock to for a new start. Young politicians saw Atlanta as an opportunity to make a difference in their community, college students saw it as a place to attend well-known institutions like Spelman and Morehouse College, and lastly it was a place where African-Americans were leading the way for change.
Nationally recognized author and playwright Pearl Cleage, served as Maynard Jackson’s speechwriter and press secretary during his campaign. It was during her experience that she was inspired to write her play What I Learned in Paris, which is now playing at the Indiana Repertory Theatre until April 12th.
The year 1973 was the setting of the play, which followed 5 friends who assisted during the campaign that would make Jackson the first African-American mayor of the city of Atlanta. During the campaign, somehow the 5 friends seemed to find fulfillment in their roles while working on the campaign, yet they somehow could not deny their calling placed on their hearts for love and new beginnings.
There are a number of issues that were discussed during the play. The year 1973 brought about a new beginning of topics such as racial equality, women’s rights, and new roles for African-Americans who wanted to explore leadership opportunities. Audiences will cry, laugh, sing, and reminisce during the 2 hour 30 minute play.
What I Learned in Paris is a comedy that plants the seed of possibility into all those who attend. Like the characters, it causes the attendee not to be afraid to dream about what could be and what could become.
The Rise of ATL
Hip Hop music has always been a part of my life since I can remember. Growing up with an older brother I had the opportunity of being exposed to music from the likes of KRS-One, Run DMC, Das EFX, and the Pharcyde. Yet it was my experience as a college student at Morris Brown College during the mid 90s that allowed me to see up and close what was being birthed out of the South. One of my reasons for attending college in Atlanta was that I wanted to have a different experience aside from growing up in the Midwest. I wanted to experience some of the things that I saw on A Different World and the movie School Daze. Attending school in Atlanta Georgia also gave me the opportunity to witness some of the best rap music that was being created at the time. Being an intern at LaFace Records in the fall of 1996 allowed me to understand why the world could no longer ignore the city of Atlanta, Georgia. In the words of Andre 3000 during the 1995 Source Awards, “The South has something to say.” No longer could the world of Hip Hop ignore Atlanta, Georgia.
Although Atlanta natives Kris Kross made a name for themselves coming from Atlanta, no other group would solidify the city’s place in Hip Hop more than the group Outkast. In the documentary ATL: The Untold Story of Atlanta’s Rise in the Rap Game, it showed how the Civil Rights movement was directly linked to those that were birthed out of the Hip Hop movement that came out of Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta was home of Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose childhood home was located on Auburn Ave. and was in walking distance of downtown Atlanta. It was also in Atlanta where you would find Morehouse College, Spelman College, Morris Brown, and Clark Atlanta University, which produced some of the greatest musicians, civil rights leaders, and politicians of our time. I can remember as a student at Morris Brown walking n the Atlanta University Center, riding the Marta, and attending some of the music festivals that educated students on the history of the city. It was during this time that I understood why Atlanta was set apart from cities like Los Angeles and New York. Atlanta had a vibe that the world was becoming in tune with around 1983.
Prior to 1983 the city had a sense of unrest as a number of children were coming up missing. It was during that time that children were being found dead and many families were being torn after learning their children had been victims at the hands of a predator. 1983 brought closure to a painful experience in Atlanta. Rappers like Mojo, Mc Shy, and Kilo would bring a sense of happiness to a city through music and celebration. From 1984-1989 Atlanta’s music scene would continue to go through a process of growth with young producers like Dallas Austin and Jermaine Dupri producing well known R&B acts. It wasn’t until 1989 that a major label came to Atlanta to set up shop and create an avenue for some of the best talent in Atlanta to be heard. Babyface & LaReid would launch Laface Records, which was home to artists such as Toni Braxton, TLC, Usher, and Outkast. Yet it was with the release of Outkast’s first album in 1994 that Atlanta would be known to the world as the “New Motown of the South.” With the arrival of the Summer Olympic Games in 1996, Atlanta could no longer be ignored by the world of music. It has become a city that is home to the busiest airport, prestigious colleges & universities, and lastly some of the best music ever created!
Hip Hop’s Best Headline Funk Fest
Klassic Hip Hop music made its way to Charlotte, North Carolina for the Funk Fest Concert, which was held during the weekend of September 12th-13th. There were a number of acts on hand for the event that began with rain pouring down on the two-night celebration that was well attended despite the weather. During the first night B.O.B, Dougie Fresh, and Salt n Peppa would take the crowd down memory lane as they performed their hits that made them loved by everyone in attendance. The night ended with Outkast performing almost a two hour set. Outkast has been performing at festivals all over the world since the start of April 2014. Andre 3000 teamed up with his rap partner Big Boi to celebrate their 20th anniversary since the release of their first album. The last night of Funk Fest concluded with The Roots, 112, Fantasia, and LL Cool J. The crowd seemed to gain momentum with the arrival of Fantasia as she interacted with the crowd. Ice Cube kept it straight “West Coast” as he reminisced with classic hits like “Today Was a Good Day” and “What Can I Do.” Ice Cube set the stage for the good reception that LL Cool J would receive when he hit the stage. LL wasted no time letting the audience know that he’s still making good music after over 25 years in the game. His signature song at the conclusion of the festival put it best, “He’s Bad!”
NCORE Conference Brings Hip Hop to Indy
Since the 1970s Hip Hop music has been able to transcend cultural, socioeconomic, and language barriers since its birth in the Bronx, New York. Hip Hop music has influenced radio, television, and the way we view certain things that take place in our society such as crime and poverty. Yet in the past 30 years, Hip Hop music looks nothing like it did in the early days. The music today is more about material possessions, partying, and sexual content. Yet there are those who dedicate their lives to educating others about the importance of Hip Hop music. This year at the 2014 NCORE Diversity conference, a session entitled Hip Hop as Evolution: From Urban Shadows to the Global Mainstream and Academy was held to highlight the history and significance of Hip Hop music. Hip Hop pioneer Africa Bambaataa, Hip Hop artist Jasiri X, Yo Yo, Aisha Fukushima, and Hip Hop photographer Joe Conzo served as panelists for the two-hour discussion, which was held at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. Martha Diaz, who served as the moderator, facilitated the conversation where the panelists talked about the experiences, contributions, and influence that they’ve had on the Hip Hop culture. Africa Bambaataa took attendees down memory lane as he spoke of the origins of Hip Hop music. Bambaataa was very influential with using Hip Hop music as a way to draw young people from gangs and crimes to doing something positive by creating music. During the discussion Bambaataa talked about the importance of learning history about the past, and how as a people we can’t be caught up in believing the hype!“We have to learn our real history in order to have a sense of direction,” stated Bambaataa.The females also represented during the discussion. Aisha Fukushima currently serves as a Youth Coordinator at BAVC in San Francisco, California. Fukushima calls herself a ‘RAPtivist’, in which she educates others around the world about social justice & Hip Hop. Fukushima speaks of unity in her music, an appreciation of life, and her experiences living in other countries. Yolanda Whitaker, or better known to the world as Yo Yo, talked about her passion for other artists who had an impact on Hip Hop music. Yo Yo was a protégé of rap artist, producer, and director Ice Cube. When Yo Yo was asked about the death of Tupac Shukar, she was not afraid to express her feelings not only as an artist, but as a friend of the slain rapper.“I remember seeing Tupac right before he died. I was upset, because his life did not have to end that way,” said Yo Yo.Hip Hop’s fallen soldiers will never be forgotten. One person who has committed the last 30 plus years of capturing images of Hip Hop is photographer Joe Conzo Jr. Conzo’s work is now being featured at Cornell University’s Library Division of Rare Manuscript Collections. NCORE Conference attendees had the pleasure of witnessing various photographs from the collection during the panel discussion. The session concluded with each panelist giving last thoughts that reflected their passion, dedication, and love for Hip Hop Music. For more information on the panelists and the NCORE conference please visit http://aishafukushima.com, https://ncore.ou.edu/en/2015/, http://www.hiphopeducation.org, and http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/hiphop/index.html.
Ryan White: A Gift That Touched The World
On December 6, 1971 a gift would be given to the world. That gift was Ryan Wayne White, who at the age of 13 would go on to be a poster child for HIV/AIDS across the nation and world. Ryan White did not just live to be a voice for HIV & AIDS. His life was about teaching the world that no matter what race, social economic status, or what disease you had, all people are created equal. Ryan White would spend the next 5 years of his life educating people across the nation and world about the AIDS virus after being diagnosed with the virus in December of 1984. Jeanne White-Ginder, who is Ryan White’s mother, stated that “people were amazed by Ryan’s spirit and his determination to educate and help people to understand what AIDS was all about.”
This April marks 24 years after the passing of Ryan White. Ryan’s mom was on hand at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum on April 3rd to speak about his life and legacy. There is an exhibit at the Children’s museum called “The Power of Children: Making a Difference” with a display of Ryan’s room the way it was while he was living. His mom wanted to make sure that people knew who he was by donating his items to the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.
“I had left Ryan’s room the way it was after he died. We were in the process of moving to Florida from Cicero, Indiana, and I didn’t want to leave all of Ryan’s things in a box. Officials from the Children’s Museum came to Cicero to see the room and loved it. They wanted to make sure that children got a chance to see who Ryan White was as a person while he was living,” stated White-Gardner.
Even though Ryan has been gone for almost 25 years, his mother has continued to keep his legacy alive by speaking about his life across the world. In 2013 President Obama reauthorized the Ryan White Care Act, which is geared toward helping people who are living with AIDS that don’t have health insurance. People across the world have learned about HIV/AIDS through Ryan’s story. Students are learning about his life through book reports that they’ve done for class, the exhibit at the Children’s Museum, and concerned parents who want to educate their children about issues that matter in the world. Kiesha Clark of Indianapolis brought her daughter who is 8 to the exhibit to hear Ryan’s mother speak. Clark, who wants to raise her daughter to be aware that all children are equal, was glad she came to the event that lasted for 45 minutes.
“I want to teach my daughter that everyone is the same, and that everybody deserves to be treated with respect because they are a human being just like her,” stated Clark.
Ryan White’s life has been an encouragement to others who have had to live with the disease. In a recent ESPN special Magic Johnson shared how Ryan’s story touched his life when he discovered he had contracted HIV. Ryan’s life has continued to touch people who are just now learning about HIV/AIDS. His life will continue to be a gift to those who knew him and to those who are just discovering who he is. To learn more about Ryan White please visit http://www.ryanwhite.com.
She Is Our Future
There comes a time in a young girls life,
When she begins to start growing up.
It’s a time when you need to let her go,
And trust that she’ll take the right path.
Now is when she needs you most.
She needs your trust,
And she needs your love.
The closer you try to pull her in,
The further away she’ll go.
She’s growing up..
So let her go.