As my summer break clock counts down to "get back to work", we are still having to make choices around invitations that come our way. This week was a busy one. Anthony and I revisited Tweety's Hip Hop Dance class at Alvin Ailey where "... .a little sweat..." ALMOST "... hurt...." somebody as we double-timed our way through a routine to Beyonce's "Get Me Bodied" (www.alvinailey.org). Great workout and we plan to go back!!!!
On Tuesday, industry friend Tonya Miller, who is the founder of "Hangtags for Humanity", invited Anthony and me to a lovely event in a beautiful space, chockful of original art and elegant detailings. Before I tell you about it, I should shout out Tonya, whose not-for-profit (www.hangtagsforhumanity.com) is young and burgeoning as it creates innovative fundraising programs to further assist corporate companies, other non-profits, and social investors to reach their philanthropic goals. They make "giving" easy by utilizing all areas of consumer product brands and create new categories in the field of fashion, design, art, beauty, packaged goods and automotive. "Hangtags for Humanity" has developed successful cause-related programs for LIFEbeat, DIFFA, and MTV Staying Alive Foundation, raising well over $200,000 thus far.
There's more money to raise as she oversees the Fourth Annual "On Our Toes" in the Hamptons event, an annual summer benefit performance in which Black culture is brought to The Hamptons in impressive order. It's scheduled for Saturday, August 25 at Nova's Ark sculputure park. And the beneficiary is EVIDENCE, A DANCE COMPANY (www.evidencedance.com), which is celebrating its 21st anniversary this season. The New York City-based, nonprofit organization was founded by Choreographer and Artistic Director Ronald K. Brown, who Anthony and I had the chance to meet along with Chairman of the company's Board of Directors Reginald Van Lee, also the host of the night as enjoyed his East Side Manhattan apartment's colossal terrace which blessed us with a gorgeous, panoramic view of New York's neighboring boroughs. (I felt like George and Weezy, I tell 'ya!!!). EVIDENCE - by the way - tours annually, bringing its unique blend of African, Caribbean, modern, and social dance styles to audiences around the world. THE MISSION? Tor promote understanding of the human experience in the African Diaspora through dance and storytelling. GREAT ENTERTAINMENT! GREAT CAUSE!!!
Also in attendance was my homeboy from Savannah/Morehouse brother Jeh Williams, who during a lull in my career (about a decade ago), was so kind to me as he supported me in getting some materials I needed to further my career (copies of resumes, clips, etc.). I hadn't seen him in a year or so, but was happy to see him again. We reflected on Savannah and Morehouse, but most importantly spoke humbly of our blessings and how far we've come. It's good to run into folks who have been on the ride as long as I have sometimes as it gives me a great gauge of what ways of being really do work. LOVE, SUPPORT, ENCOURAGEMENT, and VULNERABILITY are four traits that Jeh exudes (and that I am to live by) that push that energy forward.
Another industry friend who exudes such GENEROSITY as he navigates up to the figurative EAST SIDE of his career: Clarence A. Haynes (REMEMBER HIS NAME!!!). I met Clarence some years ago via the New York Association of Black Journalists (www.nyabj.org) as he began his career in a training program at Newsday. Since that time, however, he's reinvented himself a few times over. We came together again via his most recent gig as Associate Editor at Doubleday/Harlem Moon Publishing (via Random House). He worked alongside the very supportive Janet Hill, a Senior Editor (in that mix) who considered my book project (still not sold): "Big Willies & Amazing Graces: gay men and their best girlfriends". Though Clarence has segued to another tier of his career as model, actor, singer, dancer (EXHIBIT A, B, C..... ), he is still showing up supportive to me in my efforts to get this book off the ground - donating his "tough love" to give the project some feedback that may truly be its difference to get the greenlight. This, alongside booking runway show for menswear designer B. Oyama; music videos; and singing lead as Ken in a cabaret of "Ain't Misbehavin'" August 12th and August 31st in the city. STAY TUNED FOR MORE ON MY FRIEND, CLARENCE! KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK, CLARENCE! And THANKS FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
I met some other great folks this past week. Through my Jason (of Jason & Marqise fame. SMILE!), I spent last Wednesday evening at VOYAGE, our friend Marcos' networking event on Wednesdays. Sans our men (Marqise couldn't get to the city... and Anthony had to leave town for Denver on a family emergency), we fellowshipped and shared time with some lovely people. First, I met Robert Penn, who is an old friend of Jason. He is a great guy, who will be exhibiting at the Javits Convention Center for an "accessories" show, selling the 2007 collection of Pilgrim North America Inc.'s inventory (www.pilgrim.dk). The Danish Designer Jewelry and sunglasses are for women and men. Also that night, we met Georgianna Robertson (www.georgianna-robertson.com), Jamaican-born model/actress, perhaps most noted for her role (as the wife of Rupert Everett) in "Pret-a-Porter", the 1994 film classic that inspired the stateside "Ready to Wear". She was such a joy! (We also met her brother). We spoke of life's possibilities and what our dreams were as children. Coming from the rural parts of Port Maria, Jamaica, I asked if Georgianna and her family thought ahead to the life that she has now. She always knew she was "somebody", but says she didn't see it necessarily like this. She - of course - had the work ethic from her mother, but that she could make a living off of her looks and talent (as she studied at University)? No. As we sat and ate (off of each other's plates often), she proved sweet, smart, and open. According to the god of Fashion, Andre Leon Talley, Editor-at-Large of "Vogue", “Georgianna is one of the few with good manners and education in the business of modeling. She has a natural elegance that goes beyond the superficial cliché catwalk attitude. I was impressed when Director Robert Altman told me that he felt from Georgianna an impact on the Dior runway, a transcendental, three dimensional expression that comes from an inner confidence, strength of character and a mystery of a noble spirit.” She became the first woman of color to grace the cover of French Madame Figaro and was the third ever to have a cover shot for French Vogue. She also appeared in the international YSL Jazz cologne campaign and has been a worldwide spokesperson for Lancôme. And for that movie role, she jointly nabbed a National Board of Review Award. Other credits include Un Nero per Casa (1998, TV) and Double Zero (2004). Outside modeling and acting, 5' 11” tall Georgianna is a humanitarian and has dedicated time to charitable activities. She tutored young children while still in school and now lectures South-African kids in Manhattan on education, Aids and dignity, among other subjects. She also visited Croatian war orphans on Christmas in 1996. And a THANKS to Jason for pointing Georgianna out and creating such a wonderful evening.
Another strong, Black woman I want you to know is: my friend Marcia Pendelton. Though I couldn't be with her to see her in action, she was on stage at the Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts (LIU Brooklyn Campus, Dekalb and Flatbush Avenues) in We Are The Ones We've Been Waiting For. The performances are the culminating events of Urban Bush Women Dance Company's Summer Institute. Normally, Marcia --- theater and arts marketing/audience development guru --- is working behind-the-scenes on programs, events, and performances. "Not this time..." as she writes in her invitation. She participated in a 10-day journey about arts and activism. During that time, she danced, laughed, cried and engaged in the creative process with over 50 people from across the United States and the United Kingdom. Their ages ranged from late teens to mid-fifties. What shows up at the end of this moment in time is an amazing original production. It is great edu-tainment and lots of fun for all. For more details on the Urban Bush Women, the Institute and We Are The Ones We've Been Waiting For, visit www.urbanbushwomen.org. or call 718.398.4537. CONGRATS MARCIA! SO PROUD OF YOU!
This weekend, too, is a time for PRIDE in many beautiful, same-gender-loving African American men and women -- all of whom are right now gathered at Riis Beach in Brooklyn for one of the final activities on the four-day PRIDE IN THE CITY NYC 2007 agenda (www.prideinthecity.com). I was able to participate with the People of Color in Crisis, Inc.'s opening on Thursday (www.pocc.org). There, I saw many of my friends and associates honored for their good deeds as MEN, but incidentally GAY BLACK MEN. After a trip to MOSHOOD [www.afrikanspirit.com/] (for my summer fashion pick-up) and a light bite of Cuban fare and margaritas at the Habana Outpost across the street (www.ecoeatery.com), I dragged my good, STRAIGHT girlfriends to this event to school them on the POWER of my community. Of course, these gals, CAMILLE and JAIME, know "the kids" all too well, but I thought this would be something good for us all to share. We basked in the inspirational testimonials of Emil Wilbekin who received the "National Vanguard Aard through Journalism"; Patrik Ian-Polk who received the "Outstanding Achievement in Film & Television" for his work with "Punks" and "Noah's Arc", which we now know is coming back to the big screen. A full-length feature based on the hit series is going to be shot this year and out next year. Meanwhile, the DVDs - Season 1 and Season 2 - are doing very well. (www.noahsarc.net/). Maurice Jamal, director of "Dirty Laundry", presented this award to Patrik in addition to hosting (with comic brilliance) the entire evening. He too will begin work on his next film "B Boy Blues" (www.bboybluesthemovie.com/) and reminds me there's a cameo awaiting me when shooting begins.
My friend Sean Johnson who virtually runs BET-J received the "Arts and Entertainment Award" for his contributions to the business. And known as the party planner with the MOST, David Watkins --- known for his Icon Media company --- received the "Lifetime Achievement Award". So many others were honored, but I didn't want this entry to go by without acknowledging a few of them - my friends and people I admire who are like me and MOVIN' ON UP...