During his heyday at Harvard University, I got the chance to go up to Cambridge and interview Dr. Cornel West for a story I was doing. I’ve run into him a time or six since that 1998 interview and he never fails to keep me intrigued, informed, and inspired. Those touches helped to salvage an AllHipHop Social Lounge (during AllHipHop.com Week) at Pace University that Anthony and I attended. Our “Queen of All Media” Wendy Williams was also a part of the panel ( www.thewendywilliamsexperience.com/ ). Rapper David Banner ( www.david-banner.com/ ) ignited the audience into lots of laughter and various sound effects for his opinionated take on the industry and the world. Master P brought a new idea and forwarding vision to the table. It wasn’t always popular, but he says he is committed to doing it differently and being more responsible in the game. ( www.hobotraveler.com/masterpwebsiteinsert.html ). Afterwards, Dr. West signed his new contribution to the hip hop landscape ( www.hiddenbeachmedia.com/index.php?option=com_artist&Itemid=35&id=43 - 39k ) – making it clear that there is more than one WEST in the mix (GO KANYE!!!). Dr. Cornel’s collection is titled Never Forget: A Journey of Revelations and he collaborates with the likes of Prince, Talib Kweli, Andre 3000, KRS-One, Jill Scott, Rhymefest, and the late Gerald Levert on the project. Lots of science was being dropped at this event.
Afterwards, Anthony and I hooked up with my Godchild Owen Angelo’s father Owen who too drives me around town a lot. His friend Joseph was visiting from the Philippines. Owen wanted Anthony and me to meet him because Anthony is taking me to the Philippines for my birthday in November. We’re going to see Beyonce perform in Manila ( www.beyonce.com/ ) and just take a few days of downtime for us. Though my birthday is November 19, this is the early birthday present. And we’re really excited to take our growing relationship international. Last Thursday night, I saw my Raymond Green (www.UneQmagazine.com) at The Ritz, the spot where the “boyz” are on Thursday night.
R&B “divo” Freddie Jackson was in the house too. Afterwards, Anthony and I met down at SPRUNG (now at “The Shelter” - www.clubshelter.com ) to support our friend Richard Pelzer, Managing Director at
MEGA Management Inc. (www.MEGAManagementInc.com
www.MySpace.com/Think_MEGA_Now). He is so loved and adored by many in the business, including “glam squad greats” Oscar James and Sam Fine. Richard was sporting a look of T-shirt and T that he says was inspired by my Anthony (from our "Bleu" PROM ensemble that Anthony created). Ant and Richard work closely on projects like "Bleu" Magazine. Anthony is quite the trendsetter.
Erica Watson was there too. She’s doing a big show here in the city. It’s called “Craigslist: Live and UNAUTHORIZED!!!” – comprised of real Craigslist (www.craigslist.org/) listings like:
*STR8 Black Top looking for a bottom to suck
*Swingers party for Lesbos! NO MEN!
*Meet me in a buddy booth in Times Square
Your ad may be featured in their play! It turns this Friday at MIDNIGHT at Mo’Pitkins (http://www.mopitkins.com). It’s conceived and directed by Roman Feeser… and I’m told you have never seen a play as funny, nasty and raw as this one.....and
it was all written by YOU!!!! Back to Richard’s party, his best friend Rodney LoveJones of Bill Jones Epicure Delights did a (6) layer Red Velvet I-Pod Birthday Cake... which was delicious. Check him out at: www.iambilljones.com
The weekend put Anthony and me in host mode – so we reached out to our usual spots. We did Cafeteria ( www.cafeteriagroup.com ) with my “amazing grace” Nichole and her sister Tori who is a DC-area-based artist and wife and mother of two. After our tasty delights, we went to THE SPOT (let’s just call it that from now on - www.karaoke17.com).
Through the night, we sipped on saki and truly enjoyed each other’s selections. Tori and I did a duet or two.
She and Nichole channeled their childhood doing songs their mother shared with them like Phoebe Snow’s “Poetry Man”, which is featured on Queen Latifah’s new CD project, “Travlin’ Light” (www.QueenLatifah.com) which dropped this week.
Anthony and Nichole collaborated on several tunes as well. Then, of course, I did most of my songs solo. Hogging the mic, some might say. But whatever.
On Saturday, we all reconvened at Chez Oskar (http://www.chezoskar.com) in Brooklyn for a brunch of good food and endlessly flowing mimosas. Nichole’s friend Dawn and Tori’s friend Latoya joined us and we had a great time. Afterwards, we hung out at Dawn’s place.
When we got hungry again, we went down to “Night of the Cookers” ( www.nightofthecookers.com ) across from Moshood ( www.afrikanspirit.com/ ) and - FINALLY! – Moshood was in the house and got to meet my Anthony. Anthony now wears a lot of Moshood – so it was nice for him to meet the man behind the wears. Additionally, Moshood was happy to see me as it had been some time. Normally, Kunle is holding it down. He spoke proudly of how I wore his Moshood to The White House for my interview with President Bill Clinton and how I have been supporting him since the beginning up until now as I was sporting MOSHOOD when I introduced Samuel L. Jackson at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention in Las Vegas and that footage made “Access Hollywood” and “TV ONE Access”. And it’s true! I LOVE MOSHOOD (as I’ve reference here before: http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/display/ShowJournal?moduleId=875700¤tPage=3). After dinner, we also got our dessert on with THE CAKE MAN (www.cakemanraven.com or check out: www.youtube.com/cakemanbklyn or www.myspace.com/cakemanraven),whose red velvet cake knocked our socks off.
Sunday, my good girlfriend Patrice came into town from Dallas. She, Ern, and I have done lots of traveling together over the years – Martha’s Vineyard, Dallas, ski slopes, etc. When we first started hanging, we were all footloose and fancy free (READ: SINGLE). Then, slowly and surely, we partnered off and she got married to a great guy Keron and they now have two beautiful kids Zach and Hunter. They are also the owners of a “Sports Clips” barber shop franchise in Dallas (www.sportclips.com/). She was here for business. So, she landed at LaGuardia and we high-tailed it to N Harlem, my favorite boutique ( www.nharlemnewyork.com/ ). I brought her here a couple of years ago when she was in town - along with Keron – the same weekend that Anthony was here celebrating his birthday and my “original Amazing Grace” Natalie and her husband Dwayne were in town. She knew “N” was a must-do… and given her couture purchases, I know why. She got some gorgeous pieces. Afterwards, we had another “liquid lunch” (of sorts) at Native Restaurant. Then, we hung out in Chelsea a bit – even shopping some more at Brooklyn Industries (www.brooklynindustries.com). We then met up with Anthony to have a caribbean/southern meal at Maroon’s – another of Patrice’s selects (http://maroonsnyc.com/). And – WHAT CAN I SAY? – Anthony recommended we go to THE SPOT…
and this would mark Patrice’s first time behind the mic. She’s good!
On Monday, Anthony landed a role in Academy Award nominee Terrence Howard’s new film. Howard will lead the new action drama FIGHTING, which begins production on location in New York City this week for Rogue Pictures. Howard stars alongside Channing Tatum, Luiz Guzman, Zulay Henao & world-renowned professional fighter Cung Le as Sean's fearsome Korean foe in the ring… and my Anthony!!!! I’m so proud of him. Plot Concept: Fighting is a rough-hewn heroic tale about realizing dreams of glory, putting audiences ringside at high-stakes underground street fights. Tatum stars as Sean Arthur, a young man who scrapes up a living hustling counterfeit merchandise in NYC. With family tragedy in his past and his father keeping him at a distance, this outsider has little to motivate him. A chance encounter with veteran street-fighting coach Harvey Boarden (Howard) leads to a whole new career for Sean. The ensuing bouts get tough, especially with the criminal element horning in, so Sean gets tougher. He will fight to win, not only the prize money but also the unexpected new relationships that are strengthening him.
After Anthony landed the role, he stumbled into a cute, Chelsea boutique “Conquete” (www.conquete.net) where he bought me the most beautiful shirt. He’s really kind like that (HEY! HE’S TAKING ME TO THE PHILIPPINES. OKAY???). The piece was an original Latino Royalty T-shirt ( www.latinoroyalty.com/ ). Moreover, Richard, the owner and a designer in his own right, offered up his services to have some of these pieces custom-designed and tailored for Anthony. That pleased us immensely. Shout out to Richard for the great gear… and another shout out to our favorite T-shirt designers these days MINORITEES (www.minoritees.com). Its owner Collin just sent Anthony and me some more of their new, “afro”-centric designs, which are turning heads again.
Afterwards we went to VOYAGE ( http://www.myspace.com/onemicnite ) for our friend Marcos’ open-mic night. “maritri” is the featured singer and host during the festivities. She was born and raised in Southern California. She graduated from Historically Black Fisk University in Nashville with a degree in Biology. While there, she was a Fisk Jubilee Singer and toured extensively. She then went to Howard University and studied composition and jazz and got a second bachelors and a Masters. She moved to New York with her band “Hue”, a trio of violin, piano and cello. They all sang and played. For years, she sang and played piano and wrote songs about love and life. But a couple of years ago, she says she picked up a guitar and fell in love and has continued to write songs about love, life and now angst as well ( http://www.myspace.com/maritrimusic or maritri,com). Also, my MOMENTUM brother Buttah performed a wonderfully impromptu "Yesterday" (a la The Beatles meet Ledisi).
On the previous Monday, Anwar Robinson (http://www.myspace.com/anwarrobinson) from “American Idol” held down the fort (as I reported). But there’s more news. Anwar and another “American Idol”-er Heinz Winckler are rehearsing now to go on the road with “RENT” ( www.siteforrent.com/ ). Anwar Robinson will be taking on the role of Tom Collins. Winckler, who was the winner of the first "South African Idol" in 2002 and the fourth place finalist in the 2003 inaugural "World Idol" competition (opposite “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson), will be playing Roger Davis. Robinson was the seventh place finalist on the fourth season of "American Idol." Robinson will make his stage debut in this non-Equity touring production of Rent. American audiences will recall Robinson as the music teacher who was rocketed to television stardom on season four of the pop-culture phenomenon "American Idol." His vocal range quickly landed him a coveted spot in the "Idol" Top 10, where Paula Abdul called him "technically the best singer of the competition." He's toured the country as part of the Idols Live show. The New Jersey native recently released his debut album, "The Truth About Love."
BUT GET THIS, my Morehouse brother/fellow Diana Ross and “Dreamgirls” fan Devon is THE SWING in this tour – meaning he is the UNDERSTUDY for these men’s roles and more. I’M SO PROUD OF HIM.
You’ll recall, Devon came to New York City on a bus in December to see “Dreamgirls” with me. (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2006/12/17/dreams-see-us-through-to-forever-part-two.html). Rent, written by composer-lyricist-librettist Jonathan Larson and directed by Michael Greif, opened at Broadway's Nederlander Theatre, on April 29, 1996, and continues to play there. It concerns the loves, losses and artistic passions of a group of bohemians living in Manhattan's East Village in the age of AIDS. The next generation of the national tour of Rent kicks off in York, PA, Oct. 15. For Winckler's official website, visit www.heinzw.co.za. Find Robinson at www.myspace.com/anwarrobinsonastomcollins.
On Tuesday, Anthony and I hooked up with Nichole at The Vig Bar ( www.vigbar.com ) on Spring and Elizabeth near Chinatown. We really enjoyed the drinks and the DJ. Great ambiance.
Afterwards, we went to see Def Jam Recording artist Chrisette Michelle ( www.chrisettemichele.com/ ).
My friend Keith Wooten is Director of Marketing for Island Def Jam and they scheduled a wonderful night of cocktails and good Chrisette singing at BLVD (http://www.blvdnyc.com/) and Crash Mansion ( www.crashmansion.com/ ), where she actually performed.
We were growing sleepy and tired as the promised 9:45 show turned to 11-ish and change. But it was worth the wait and the yawning.
She shut the kids down with her jazzy, yet powerful, vocals and stage flair. Thanks Keith! Though not an event, Anthony and I stumbled into the Waverly Restaurant in the West Village on 6th Avenue (and it was GOOD!). Great BREAKFAST late at night!
Yesterday, I had to go to Temple in Philadelphia for an assignment. While there, I stumbled into my Morehouse brother James Earl Davis, Ph.D, who I actually just met at my college reunion back in May (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/5/22/walking-in-strange-and-new-places.html). He and his partner Darrell are friends of some Morehouse friends of mine. And we ended up bonding over our reunion weekend. He teaches in the College of Education/Education Leadership and he made my day. It was so good to see him and I’m certain we will all get together soon.
I had to rush back to New York City for good girlfriend Amy Dubois Barnett’s book party (www.amyduboisbarnett.com). Her new tome “Get Yours: The Girlfriends’ Guide To Having Everything You Ever Dreamed Of And More” features interviews with Gayle King, who co-hosted the affair at the SOHO Grand in Manhattan ( www.sohogrand.com/ ); Sanaa Lathan; Mo’Nique; Venus Williams; Kelly Rowland; Gabrielle Union; India.Arie; Kelis; Hill Harper; and more. Amy, who used to be the editor-in-chief of “Teen People” and “Honey” magazines attracted a big crowd last night in the Penthouse Suite of the hotel. It was a walk down memory lane leading to a road less traveled.
I met Dr. Shirley Madhere, M.D.,P.C. for example. She’s the only African American woman plastic surgeon in New York City with two locations to boot. We hit it off in the elevator leading up to the party (and of course, I’ll keep her in my back pocket… not that black cracks like that… www.thenewaesthete.com). I also got to chat with Dominga Martin, Editor and Co-Founder of Crème Magazine, which she says want to do “… a day in the life with me…” piece for them. ( www.creme-magazine.com )
So many of my favorites – like Robin Stone and ESSENCE’s Patrik Henry Bass – were in the house. And then, industry buddies like Terry Wynn II and Adaori Adoja and Theo Perry and Shelley Wade were in the house. I met radio/TV personality Egypt.
But imagine my heart drop as I saw two of my dear friends from Savannah, Georgia who now live here and have for many years (like me), but we haven’t seen each other in a minute. First, MISS Joicelyn Dingle (and her colleague in journalistic crime Kierna Mayo – both of whom are the “founders” of HONEY Magazine before it would be sold to VIBE and the many other hands who’ve touched it since) was in the house and ever as beautiful as I recall during high school as she attended the all-girls Catholic school on the other side of town (with my – at the time (GASP!) – girlfriend. Yes! They were good friends). Additionally, one of my best friends in the whole world who I’ve written about here Maurice Marable was there (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/3/4/-weve-come-a-long-way-baby.html). We had the best time just catching up – reflecting and projecting on our respective lives and where they’ve landed us. Anthony got to meet these two “blasts from my past”, which was so cool. We all promised to get together soon for a comprehensive catch-up.
The other night, I was to be a presenter at the African American Literary Awards ( www.literaryawardshow.com/ ). Scheduling didn’t allow. But I did go by as soon as I could get there and saw the awards show’s founder Yvette Hayward HAPPY that the night was a SUCCESS. She says HILL HARPER came by. And she is holding me high to be in attendance next year as I was last year.
Meanwhile, Chaka Khan delivers her new album “Funk This” ( www.burgundyrecords.com/news.php?id=46 ), which I heard some months back. (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/6/28/something-old-something-new-something-borrowed-something-fun.html)
Well, she's multi-tasking this week as she also announced that she’s coming back to Broadway as “Sophia” in “The Color Purple”. Now you know there may be some carry over with Fantasia, who is currently shutting them down as Miss Celie in the NY version of The Color Purple . Additionally, gospel legend, BeBe Winans is poised to come aboard as ‘Mister”. And American Idol finalist, Lekisha Jones (lovingly named “Ki-Ki” by Miss Ross, after she found out that is what Lakisha’s ‘mama’ calls her) will join the cast as the church soloist and will sub for Khan as Sophia during evening performances. Casting calls are still out for the role of Miss Celie, currently played by Fantasia.
This, while from the Chicago-run of “The Color Purple” (which is wrapping), Michelle from “DC 3” (whose playing Shug Avery) and Latoya London (American Idol’s own from Fantasia and Jennifer Hudson’s season) – as Nettie – are going to open up the show in the Bay Area with the “original Broadway Sophia” Felicia P. Fields who too played the beloved character in the Chicago run. ( www.ticketmaster.com )
Meanwhile, the theater community here in New York City, is all abuzz about ”THE BROTHERS SIZE” written by Tarell Alvin McCraney and directed by Tea Alagic. My Marcia Pendelton threw an Open House that I could not attend the other night, but I hear this is a piece to see. Playing fast and loose with West African myths, The Brothers Size brings contemporary rhythms together with traditions of ceremonial presentation to tell the modern-day story of the Size brothers–Ogun, an auto mechanic, and Oshoosi, a recent parolee. This breakout hit from our 2007 Under the Radar Festival is an imaginatively fresh new drama, in which the audience is at once the community, the witness and the judge. From Tarell Alvin McCraney, one of the most thrilling wordsmiths to emerge in the American theater in the last decade. A co-production with The Foundry Theatre. ( www.publictheater.org/UTR/brotherssize.php ).
So, of course, so many of my roads lead me back to MOMENTUM (www.momentumeducation.com). Last night, one of our Leadership Team’s threw a fundraiser to support Donors Choose, a non-profit that provides NYC classrooms with resources that our public schools often lack. Donors Choose allows teachers to submit Project Proposals for materials students need to learn and then money is raised to fulfill those requests. It's actually an effective way to support our public schools and to track your donations. The event was titled The 2007 Blackboard Benefit and it took place at Penthouse 15. Anthony and I didn't make it. (What? We just decided to grab some dinner and make it an early night). But we will send our love via a donation to support NYC's teachers and students. I hear - though - the bar was open, the food was delicious, and the entertainment by acclaimed jazz artists "The Eric Lewis Trio” was spot on. For more info, please visit www.blackboardbenefit.org
The weekend ahead promises lots of love. There’s congratulations to our girl Mara for landing a gig with NBC and she too is celebrating her birthday. Anthony and I will join her and her friends for that fete-a-fete. You'll recall, I’ve written about her here several times. ( thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/ ).
And I’m excited to attend the nuptials of good girlfriend Michelle and her boy Neil who I’ve written about here before. (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/3/22/more-today-than-yesterday.html) CONGRATS!!!!! Oh! And a quote of the week I want to share from Star Jones' new COURT TV show. It actually came from one of her guests this week, Rev. Juanita Bynum who has been in the news for a now-violent break-up with her Bishop husband. Jones asked Juanita if she was sad inside of all this personal pain and controversy. Her response: "I DON'T RELY ON MY FEELINGS. I RELY ON MY STRENGTH... I DON'T ALLOW WHAT I FEEL TO SWAY ME OR DETERMINE WHO I AM BECAUSE IT'S SO FLEETING. FEELINGS ARE FLEETING. SO, I DON'T PUT A LOT OF STOCK IN THAT. I DIDN'T FEEL LIKE GETTING UP THIS MORNING. I FELT LIKE LYING IN THE BED AND CRYING ALL DAY LONG. BUT IF I DO THAT, I GIVE THE POWER OF WHO I AM TO MY FEELINGS AND NOT TO MY PURPOSE. AND THAT'S WHAT KEEPS ME GOING: MY PURPOSE.
I loved this... and wanted to share. Have a great week!
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