Tuesday, 16 February 2010

"SOUNDTRACK FOR A REVOLUTION": New Civil Rights Film a Musical/Historical Trip!

Hot Docs' monthly screening series, Doc Soup, is screening the feature documentary, SOUNDTRACK FOR A REVOLUTION (USA, 82 MIN) by filmmakers Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman (NANKING, Hot Docs 2007 selection; TWIN TOWERS,2003 Academy Award winner). Bill will be in attendance on Wednesday.

I had a chance to speak to director, Bill Gutenttentag today about the film: the music that inspired and motivated a generation of young political activists who were part of the Civil Right's Movement in the US, the current roster of musicians who re-interpret songs from the era, and Danny Glover's role as Executive Director. My interview with Bill will air on Saturday, February 20th at 1pm on CIUT 89.5 FM or www.ciut.fm.

Check out the Doc Soup screening Wednesday for a new look at the Movement and the music.

Wednesday, February 17th
6:30 p.m. and 9:15 p.m.
Bloor Cinema, 506 Bloor Street West

Featuring new performances by:
John Legend, Joss Stone, Wyclef Jean and The Roots, to name a few.

Single tickets are $12 and can be purchased in advance at www.hotdocs.ca or at the door on the night of the screening (subject to availability). A limited number of free tickets for the 9:15 p.m. screening will be available to students with proper ID (subject to availability) at the door, on a first-come first-served basis beginning at 5:30 p.m.

Photo of Bill Guttentag by donna g

Friday, 12 February 2010

Black History Month FYI

With the Olympics starting today, I thought I would honour a Canadian athlete. In my search I came across an athlete whose name was a distant memory from past explorations in Canadian history from a Black perspective. He's not an Olympian (winter or summer), but he is an athlete of note.

GEORGE DIXON is the first Black world boxing champion AND the first ever Canadian-born boxing champion. Born in Africville, Nova Scotia in 1870, George was known as "Little Chocolate"; he stood 5 foot 3 inches tall. You can find out more about George and other Nova Scotian athletes by visiting: http://www.ourroots.ca/e/toc.aspx?id=8554

Black Past http://www.blackpast.org/?q=tree/Boxing/Boxing

Canada Sports Hall of Fame: http://www.cshof.ca/accessible/hm_profile.php?i=235

Our Roots/Nos Racine

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Director, Rhoma Spencer on I MARCUS GARVEY

Since 2004, the Theatre Archipelego has pursued it's mission to promote works from the Caribbean and its Diaspora. My last focus on the theatre was my broadcast interview last Spring with playwright/actor, Edwige Jean-Pierre about Our Lady of Spills which was directed by theatre Founder and Artistic Director, Rhoma Spencer. This time round, I had the opportunity to ask Spencer about the theatre's latest production, I Marcus Garvey, which she also directs.

The name of Marcus Garvey comes up a lot during Black History Month. Why did Theatre Archipelago choose to focus on Garvey instead of a lesser-known historical figure?

I find that a great amount of this generation do not know who he is. He is well known to our West Indian parents but their Canadian grandchildren don’t have a clue who is Marcus Garvey. Needless to say, the average white Canadian is even less aware of Garvey let alone something called the UNIA, his United Negro Improvement Association. I also wanted to do this play even more so because of its Canadian reference. We all know too well the opening bars of Bob Marley’s redemption song. “ emancipate yourself from mental slavery…” How many of us know that this is taken from a speech he made in Cape Breton in 1938?

EDGAR NKOSI WHITE has written many plays and is known in England and the United States, but could you please introduce him to us?

It is my hope that through his play we will get to know who he is. He was born on the island of Monsterrat and grew up in Spanish/English Harlem. He was educated at Yale University and New York Theological Seminary where he respectively completed his studies in Drama and Theology. At the age of eighteen his first play, The Mummer's Play (1965) was produced by Joseph Papp Public Theatre in New York. The success of this production, which revealed his talent as a playwright, convinced the producer to stage his next four plays, including The Crucificado a drama set within the Hispanic community in Harlem, New York.

After moving to England in 1981, his plays were successfully produced by the Black Theatre Co-operative, Temba, Talawa, Umoja, and Lumumba theatre companies in a number of London and national venues including the Keskidee, the Royal Court Theatre, and the Edinburgh Fringe festival. The national theatre in London is presently doing a season of his one-act plays.

What is the physical set-up of I Marcus Garvey? Can audiences expect vignettes of Garvey’s life or is the piece focused on one particular period/event in his life?

The play is what you call an epic drama and it spans his life and work in Jamaica, England, and America from 1912-1927. The play is in 3 acts but for the purpose of this showcase presentation, we are only doing two acts. My objective for this Black History Month offering by my company was to figure out if the play written with about 16 characters and musicians could be done with 6 actors and 4 musicians.

I was surprised to see OWEN BLAKKA ELLIS in the cast list. Many in the Caribbean community know him primarily as a comedian. What role does he play in this piece?

Owen Blakka Ellis is first and foremost an actor. When I first met him 22 years ago in Trinidad he was in a play on tour of the Caribbean. The play was Whiplash. After years of being an actor he branched off into comedy according to him, it is less taxing, no lines to learn, no attitudes to deal with, just he and himself. He plays multiple roles. He is West Indian Archie, a pimp and thug in Harlem, Wallace, Garvey’s brother-in-law. Needless to say, he brings comic relief to the play with these characters.

I was not surprised to see ANDREW MOODIE in a piece like this because he has such a great command of the stage. Did you hold auditions for the role of Garvey, or did you have Andrew in mind for the role?

I had Andrew in mind to play this role since 2003. I approached him since then and he was very excited to play the role. For the next seven years I kept reminding him that I wanted him to do it and that as soon as I see the money, I would call him. So said; so done. Thanks to the support of TD it became a reality. TD puts their money where their mouth is; they saw Theatre Archipelago’s vision and supported it wholeheartedly. The bigger show is carded for our 2011/12 season.

CHRISTIAN CAMPBELL will lead the post-show discussion. Could you please tell more about Campbell?

Christian is a Bahamian/Trinidadian educated at Oxford and Duke University. He is an Assistant Professor in the faculty of English at U of T, with research interest in Caribbean Literature, Black Diaspora Literatures and Cultures (including Caribbean, African-American, Black British and Black Canadian). He will talk about how Garveyism is manifested in popular music today. We will also have MICHELLE JOHNSON, a York professor in History doing one of the talk back sessions as well. Professor Johnson is a recent transplant from University of Mona, Jamaica.

What do you hope that people will take away with them when they leave a performance of I Marcus Garvey?

I want them to come away after the showcase asking themselves so where are we as a race? I want them to reflect on his ideology and see if we are at a better place now or we are still grappling with what he talked about in 1912. But more that, I want my people, black people, to take pride in being who they are without feeling sorry for what atrocities we would have gone through to get us here. It is our resilience that kept us, like the people of Haiti who so reminded us when even after 14 days they could still be finding persons alive.

I Marcus Garvey
By Edgar Nkosi White
A Showcase Presentation- Directed by Rhoma Spencer
Featuring Sarah Michelle Brown, Colin Doyle, Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis,
Quancetia Hamilton, Andrew Moodie and Anand Rajaram
Post show discussion on ‘The influence of Garvey on popular culture and African Diasporic identity’ with Christian Campbell. Feb 6 & 7 only.

Fri Feb 5 & Sat Feb 6, 2010.
Papermill Theatre, 67 Pottery Rd. Toronto. Showtime: 7.30pm

Sun Feb 7.
William Doo Auditorium, New College U of T. 45 Willcocks St. Toronto
Showtime: 2.30pm

Admission: $10. Students $5.
Reservations: 416-750-1764 Ext 1.


Click here to read Blakka Ellis' article in the Jamaica Star Online about being in I Marcus Garvey.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

BHM: For Colored Boys

Celebrating conscious rap, lyrics that can be understood, and a history lesson with a beat. How many of these artists and political figures can you name?


Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Harbourfront Centre's Kuumba Festival

Harbourfront Centre always has great festivals year-round. Here is just a taste of what they have going on during their Kuumba Black History Month Festival. All events are FREE ADMISSION.

Drum Till You Drop!
Barrington Hibbert, a founding member of Baro Dununba: Ancestral Wisdom through Drums, leads a workshop where you’ll learn one rhythm from West Africa (sofa). Sofa (which translates to “warrior”) was originally played on a stringed instrument called a "bolon." Learn the accompanying parts played on the djembe, sangban, kensedeni and dununba.

Brigantine Room, 1:30 p.m, FREE ADMISSION

Soul Power
In 1974, the most celebrated American R&B acts of the time came together with the most renowned musical groups in Africa for a 12-hour, three-night concert held in Kinshasa, Zaire to accompany Ali’s Rumble In The Jungle. Included are performances by James Brown, Manu Dibango, BB King, Miriam Makeba, Bill Withers, Celia Cruz and many others.

Studio Theatre, 6:30 p.m, FREE ADMISSION

An interactive celebration of the art and genius of traditional African
childhood games with award-winning entertainer Kobèna Aquaa-Harrison.

Miss Lou's Room, 1-5 pm, FREE ADMISSION. (Feb. 6th and 7th)

Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae

The remaining great singers and musicians of Jamaica's golden age of music come together after 40 years to record an album of their greatest hits and tell their stories. Featuring a who’s who of reggae icons including Ken Booth, The Tamlins, Stranger Cole, U Roy, Dawn Penn, Derrick Morgan, Ernest Ranglin, Judy Mowatt, Leroy Sibbles, Rita Marley and more!

Studio Theatre, 4 p.m, FREE ADMISSION


Good Hair
Director Jeff Stilson follows Chris Rock on this raucous adventure prompted by Rock's daughter approaching him and asking, "Daddy, how come I don't have good hair?" Haircare professionals, beauty shop and barber shop patrons, as well as celebrities including Ice-T, Nia Long, Paul Mooney, Raven Symoné, Dr. Maya Angelou, Salt n Pepa, Eve and Reverend Al Sharpton all candidly offer their stories and observations to Rock while he struggles with the task of figuring out how to respond to his daughter's question. www.goodhairmovie.net
Please note: A panel discussion follows the Feb. 13 screening with Ruth Smith (Strictly Roots), Buster Berkley (Amorphous Group) and Asha McLeod (Jazma).

Saturday, February 13, 2010
6:30PM - 8:30PM
Studio Theatre, FREE ADMISSION

Sunday, February 14, 2010
1:00PM - 2:30PM
Studio Theatre, FREE ADMISSION

Northbuck Krumping Performance and Workshop
Krumping is a dance form that originated in South Central Los Angeles and has quickly evolved into a global phenomenon. It's characterized by expressive movements and high energy.

Come learn in a dynamic, enlightening and inclusive place that bridges the gap between learning and contemporary culture.

Everyone: FREE
Saturday, February 13, 2010
1:00PM - 2:00PM
Lakeside Terrace

Sunday, February 14, 2010
2:30PM - 3:30PM
Lakeside Terrace

Urban X-Posure: SoWhatChuSayin'?
This events honours consciousness in rap music and spoken word, featuring an artist showcase and cash prize contest for the most talented conscious wordsmith and raptivist rhymer!

Everyone: FREE
Saturday, February 13, 2010
2:00PM - 5:00PM
Brigantine Room

Rastafari Then & Now: A Message from Jamaica
Nation Cheong, a Rastafarian community youth worker and African drummer, is concerned about youth violence and wonders if the principles and values of Rastafari has something to benefit today's youth.

In Search of Rastafari: A Soul's Journey (sneak peak clip)
Twenty-seven years later, his granddaughter, Donisha Prendergast, is embarking on an epic journey of faith and self discovery while uncovering her own sense of purpose as both a Rastafarian and a daughter of the Marley dynasty.

Everyone: FREE
Sunday, February 14, 2010
6:00PM - 8:00PM
Studio Theatre

Source: http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/kuumba/?ref=fp
Harbourfront Centre
235 Queens Quay West
416 973 4000

Caribbean Tales Youth Film Festival (Feb. 2nd - 25th)

Those of you with children in high school should check out the Caribbean Tales Youth Film Festival website and ask your child(ren)'s school to schedule some field trips. Like it or not, if our main institutions are going to do anything to promote Black/African-Canadian contributions, it's during Black History Month. The festival screens films at 9:30 am and 1:00 pm, and sometimes include a talk back session so students can speak directly to members of the filmmaking community. How often do Canadian children get a chance to do this, let alone be in the same space with a black filmmaker? The festival is a good mix of shorts, dramas, music videos, live action and animation. A particular favourite of mine is "Where Do White People Go When the Long Weekend Comes" by Powys Dewhurst.

The Festival is also open to the general public, not just school groups/students.

Caribbean Tales Youth Film Festival
February 2nd - 25th
William Doo Auditorium (south of Harbord off Spadina)
45 Willcocks Street (south of Harbord off Spadina)

Tickets available at UofTtix Box Office
(416) 978-8849
University of Toronto’s Central Box Office
Open Mon-Fri 11am-5pm in Hart House, UofT.

Miki Nembhard, Festival Coordinator

Invisible City by award-winning director, Hubert Davis, and The Incomparable Jackie Richardson by Lana Lovell

The CaribbeanTales Youth Film Festival is produced by CARIBBEANTALES

Monday, 1 February 2010

Black History Month at the Toronto Public Library

The Toronto Public Library (TPL) is a great place to start your Black History Month Celebration. TIPL's month-long "Voices" Programming will kick on February 3rd with a talk by Karolyn Smardz Frost about Ontario historian Fred Landon. Born in London, Ontario in 1880, Landon graduated from the University of Western Ontario in 1906, and went on to become the chief librarian at London Public Library in 1916. Among the other "voices" to be heard at a variety of TPL locations are Austin Clarke, Dalton Higgins, Sandra Whiting, trey anthony, Njacko Backo, and Muhtadi, just to name a few participants. Click here for TPL's Black History Month line up. 

On January 30th I had the pleasure of speaking with TPL staffer, Rachelle Gooden on TmTm. Gooden is in charge of purchasing material for the Rita Cox Black and Caribbean Heritage Collection. The extensive collection of 16, 000 items is housed at four main locations: Malvern, Parkdale, York Woods, and Gooden's home base, Maria A. Shchuka. The best way to be introduced to the collections is to see them in person. Bits and pieces of Black History are so scattered that it's nice to have tangible evidence of Black contributions. 

Calling TPL's Answerline (416-393-7131) as well as chatting on line is also a way to begin your explorations before heading out to the branches or ordering your material on-line. Click here for the various ways you can contact the TPL.

Below are the books that Rachelle and I discussed during the show. I hope you check them out and suggest them to family and friends of all cultures.


Lola at the Library
By: Anna McQuinn & Rosalind Beardshaw

Mathieu Da Costa: First to Arrive
By: Itah Sadu

A Safe place
By: Lucy Markovitch


Ontario's African-Canadian Heritage: Collected writings by Fred Landon, 1918-1967
Edited by: Karolyn Smardz Frost, Bryan Walls, Hilary Bates Neary & Frederick H. Armstrong
**TRIVIA: Landon Library in London, Ontario is named after Fred Landon.

"Go to school, you're a little black boy" : the honourable Lincoln M. Alexander : a memoir
By: Lincoln M. Alexander

The Hanging of Angelique
By Afua Cooper

In her footsteps: 101 Remarkable Black Women from the Queen of Sheba to Queen Latifah
By: Annette Madden

My Jamaica: The paintings of Judy Ann MacMillan
By Judy Ann MacMillan

Early Art and Architecture of Africa
By: Peter Garlake

Wounded Bird No More
By: Joszann St. John

Caught in Action: 20 Years of West Indies Cricket Photography
By: Gordon Brooks

1.         Photo courtesy of www.tiff.net A BUMP ALONG THE WAY (DISCOVERY) Synopsi s: With her charismatic smile and formida...