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"MASTERS & MENTORS"

Well, summer is coming to an end – the first indicator of which is my nephew wrapping up his internship at HBO ( www.hbo.com/ ) and heading back to Georgia to get ready for his junior year at my alma mater Morehouse (www.morehouse.edu ). We have lots of blessings on which to reflect. (Doesn't it seem like just yesterday when he arrived? http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/6/3/take-a-little-time-to-enjoy-your-view.html). Though I couldn't provide him as flossy a summer as I'm used to providing (in seasons gone by), I did what I could to keep it exciting for him. (Still, no amount of Broadway, off-Broadway shows, A-list parties, and free cultural events can sufficiently impress an aspirational A-lister who is simply searching for JAY Z and Beyonce - or the like - as this popular couple (and their contemporaries) always seem to be right there by way of the seemingly accessible pages of the NYC celebrity/paparazzi blogs that would occupy much of his time and energy… and still). And my ‘juice’ (nor ‘liquid’ money) could come up with the access to their private dinners and parties nor the tickets for him to – at least - see Jay Z/Mary J. Blige in concert not to mention summer blockbusters Alicia Keys, Kanye West, and – what of my own idols? – George Michael. He was cool about it (if disappointed), but I would have LOVED to have it all pop off as he envisioned.

Still, I was able to secure access for him to accompany Ant and me to the VIBE 15th Anniversary party ( www.vibe.com/ ). Actually, it inspired a memory of Herman (Noot… I call him) from 1995. Noot (my brother’s kid), my sister (his aunt), and my dad came to visit me in New York City . I then secured an invite for my sister and me to attend VIBE's Anniversary party. Much like now, Noot was a minor (though the 19-year-old version of him was much more malleable to this function). Well, clearly we couldn't justify getting 8-year-old mini-Noot into a set. With that, the little boy (who has always been what our folks down south call "grown") told his grandfather (our father) to tell my sister Janice and me that we could NOT go to this party without him. He was kicking and screaming (literally) for us not to go without him.

Fast forward 13 years, I had to go through hoops, but anything (within my reach and sometimes beyond my reach) for my nephew to not call my father - kicking and screaming - for me to not go to another party without him. And get this: HE HAD THE TIME OF HIS LIFE!!! For most of us in the know, it didn’t carry the excitement of other industry parties we’d attended in the past. But it was enjoyable just the same. And it was absolutely the best… for Noot. It all happened because of a dear friend of mine Olivia Scott-Perkins. I met her some years ago in Chicago (through my Morehouse brother Eddie) as he launched our annual Listening Experience (which has been on hiatus for a minute, but excerpted inside this entry:http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2007/1/15/-but-i-need-a-friend.html . A handful of us get together and appreciate new music in a laid-back, social setting. The last one was at Olivia's Harlem pad). She too has been a #1 supporter of my personality pursuits - hiring me to host one of her LIVE NATION events with Motorola Boost Mobile ("Music Biz 101") during her days at Clear Channel and LIVE NATION. She has just joined Vibe Media Group as the Associate Publisher of Marketing. Her responsibility is to lead the marketing team in all marketing communications efforts including brand, PR and sponsorship functions for Vibe Magazine, Vibe.com, VSessions, VCommunity, Vibe Awards and more Vibe properties. And according to Noot, she is on her way. It was great to see her and our mutual friend Anise who is a Listening Experience member and singer/songwriter her own (www.iamanise.com). The sightings that made the impression for him include: Cassie (www.badboyonline.com/); Teyana Taylor (www.rockstarteyana.com/); fellow Morehouse man Fonzworth Bentley, host of MTV’s “From Gs to Gents” (www.mtv.com/music/artist/fonzworth_bentley/artist.jhtml); and one of Ant’s and my social buddies of late Nic of “America’s Next Top Model” fame (www.2RsEntandMedia.com). But of course, there were the sightings that stimulated us both equally, like Miss Diana Ross’ 2nd born Tracee Ellis Ross, who I adore. And she was ever the Diana doppelganger – sporting a fiercely supreme liquid eyeliner and vintage pair of stilettos (Mama IS Proud, I’m sure!). Then, there was Pep, who is promoting her new book project “Let’s Talk About Pep” (www.simonsays.com/content/book.cfm?tab=1&pid=629373). And dear friend from back in the day (VIBE’s beginnings) Kevin Powell who is doing his thing – from writer (of new book “THE BLACK MALE HANDBOOK: A Blueprint for Life” (www.simonsays.com/content/destination.cfm?tab=1&pid=427719) to his activism to his 2008 Democratic candidacy for Congress in Brooklyn , New York . To learn more about what he’s doing, click on www.kevinpowellforcongress.org. He was thrilled to meet Noot and Ant - even sending me an encouraging note the next day saying so. And then, of course, like Kevin, I loved seeing my friends (and introducing Noot to them). There’s Q, who is the stylist and hairstylist with the most (clients including Miss Iman). There’s new friend Kwame Smalls (of VH1’s “I LOVE NEW YORK ” fame. He was "IT" on the show - www.vh1.com/shows/dyn/i_love_new_york/series.jhtml). Ant and I had met him the night before through our hip hop dance instructor Tweetie. He was in class and is friend's with Tweetie's substitute teacher Akira ( www.alvinailey.org ) who will be taking over the class while Tweetie is in Poland this month. And my friend Antoine who now coordinates public relations for the men’s lines at Giorgio Armani (www.giorgioarmani.com) was in the house. Also, the face behind the brand of 'Parish' (www.ManOfFashion.com/Parish) and my friend Tony Shellman. Morehouse brother and fellow journalist/co-producer for special events Michael K. Watts. And of course, there was an array of old school hip hop (“Naughty By Nature” and “Doug E. Fresh”) and new school (“T.I.” and “Ryan Leslie”), etc. CONGRATS to Editor-in-Chief – another old industry friend – Danyel Smith on returning to the helm to take VIBE into its next level. And BIGGEST of THANKS to OLIVIA for making Noot’s night - an awesome finish that punctuated his time here just lovely. This was a lesson-learning summer for us both as we’ve never lived under the same roof for such a long amount of time. And generally, we are both pretty easy. But it was a tough summer inside of circumstances. It required I humble myself to simply operate in the WHAT IS. Not as many car services and 5-star-meals to bestow on my arguably-spoiled nephew (in part because Uncle Patrick gives him anything I can but didn't have those disposable funds to pull out all the stops this go around). Still, for three months, it was probably smart to let him experience something closer to what it would be like once and if he moves here i.e. public transportation, fast food, limited access to the A-list sets, etc. I LOVE YOU, NOOT! 

Ironically, before the VIBE party, I attended a private screening of HBO’s “The Blacklist” ( www.hbo.com/docs/docuseries/theblacklist/index.html ) at the Time Warner building. I got photo ops with documentary subjects Time Warner Chairman Richard Parsons ( www.timewarner.com/ ) – also host of this event, and Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Also, ran into lots of old friends including Randy Fling from Rolling Out (out of Atlanta - www.rollingout.com) and Miss Jacque Reid - also from A-T-L. and so many of the usual suspects, as I call them sometimes. Elvis Mitchell produced and conducted all of these interviews beneath the aesthetic provided by photographer and filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders to brilliant effect. Atria Books ( www.blacklistproject.com/Events ) even published a companion project for the film which will premiere on HBO August 25th. Ant and I LOVED it, though we felt it could have been cut lovingly 15 minutes shorter. But we were so inspired and moved by much in this project. Not sure how life-changing it will be as evidenced by one white woman with whom we shared an elevator after the screening was over. We walked on the 10th floor elevator; pushed GROUND LEVEL; and the doors closed. She began to speak of how “buoyant” and “intriguing” the film was. I began to feel suffocated because I just knew she was going to offer an adjective for this project and the people in it that I would find insensitive. The elevator just couldn’t descend quickly enough nor could the door open fast enough as – by the time we hit the ground – she continued her soliloquy: “The people in it were just SO…. <can you guess what she’s gonna say?>… ARTICULATE!!!!!!” Fortunately, the door opened to the ground level and I could breathe again but not before rolling my eyes at yet another myopic turn from a white person who doesn’t realize the degree to which that awe-struck observation can offend so many of us African Americans who don’t need our articulation underscored – simply because “they” deem it so. Articulation – to me – shows up in a number of ways and with a slew of accents, dialects, and expressions. Just because it’s malleable for their ear doesn’t make it – unabashedly – ARTICULATE! 99% percent of the time, my people are ARTICULATE… and we don’t need that point validated so righteously by anyone else. (JUST MY PET PEEVE. SORRY!). But given some of the sharings in the project, I don’t think I stand alone in that observation:
* Loved Serena's analysis on how she's never been credited for her mind (just physical) in all her underrated-8-time-world-class-splendor.
* I appreciated Faye Wattleton sharing how her mom wanted her to missionary in the dark continent of Africa when she felt the calling to do her work in the ‘dark continent of North America ’.
* Loved Diddy's ego-play to possibilities. And why not, black man?
* And Chris Rock's white neighbors bit. GENIUS!
* Loved Suzan-Lori Parks too.
(The film with companion book inspired me with my "BIG WILLIES & AMAZING GRACES: gay men and their best girlfriends"
project-in-progress. I'm thinking I found my perfect template). ANY TAKERS?????

Next week, I'm hosting an event in my other hometown of Atlanta at the High Museum which will include a preview screening (for an exclusive ATLANTA audience) of "BLACKLIST", the current CIVIL RIGHTS MUSEUM exhibit, and the backdrop of extended hours. My dear friend Kelly Welborn (marketing exec at The High Museum) booked me for this special occasion, which promises to attract many of my old friends from back in the day (I started my career in Atlanta 16 years ago).

With that, let me breakdown what it will be: HBO invites you to experience PASS THE MIC/OPEN MIC NIGHT during Art in the City at the High Museum of Art , Thursday, August 21, 5 to 11pm. Hosted by DJ Tabone and Journalist Patrick Riley, all poets, spoken word artists, musicians and listeners are welcome.

Walk through the galleries with Road to Freedom exhibition curator Julian Cox and HBO Filmmaker Elvis Mitchell.

First 500 visitors to Art in the City receive an HBO giveaway! Reserve tickets today at H.I.G.H. dot org, or call 404-733-HIGH.

Airing on HBO, August 25 at 9p.m, THE BLACK LIST: VOLUME ONE presents dramatic portraits of fascinating African-Americans, who share their stories into the struggles and triumphs of black life in the U.S.

HIGH MUSEUM OF ART WEB LINKS:

Links to the Civil Rights Road to Freedom video can be found on these pages http://www.atlanta.net/visitors/artsculture.html

and

http://www.atlanta.net/visitors/packages/louvreAtlanta.aspx .

Road to Freedom longer format video on High Museum webpage: http://www.high.org/main.taf?p=3,1,1,5,1

HBO WEB LINKS:

Link to HBO Documentary Film THE BLACK LIST trailer: http://www.hbo.com/docs/docuseries/theblacklist/index.html

Another HBO property is worth mentioning here. Upon my return from UNITY '08 in Chicago , my Morehouse brother and friend Michael K. Watts took me to a private screening of SUGAR (HBO). Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden's Sugar, the follow-up to their critically acclaimed Half Nelson, has finally been picked up for distribution. HBO Films, which financed the film, retains television rights (www.hbo.com ). Sugar, which premiered at Sundance earlier this year, felt at the time like a tough sell after Half Nelson; it still does. The film, which is subtitled, tells the tale of a young baseball star from the Dominican Republic who crashes after getting moved up to the big leagues. It's really very much a coming-of-age kind of tale about this young boy who grew up poor but talented, always believing baseball to be his one ticket out. At the baseball training school, he was the big fish in a little pond; once he's in the real world of minor and then major league baseball, he starts to realize that, not only are there many other players as talented as he is (or more), but that he's put all his eggs into one basket. He begins to see how limited his knowledge is, both academically and of the world in general. When he realizes that if he doesn't make it in baseball, he has little to fall back on, he spirals downward -- though not in the way you might expect. I loved it! Check it out!

My HIGH MUSEUM booking, by the way, comes on the heels of my being booked to host "Dance Theatre of Harlem's" 35th annual Street Festival (www.dancetheatreofharlem.org ). I've admired the company for many years. My college classmate ( Clark Atlanta University alum Matt Morgan) coordinated this whole effort. Matt says he wanted to book me on the heels of experiencing my hosting duties at Carl Nelson's "Drums Along The Hudson" (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/5/11/the-third-eye-is-the-nexus-of-diverse-energy.html). It was a blast! Many of my friends came out to play, including Morehouse brother Michael Bryant, etc. Also, shoe designer Ron Donovan and one of Tyra's glam squad experts (also my Savannah homegirl Paula Dean, who recently shot another TV pilot) Earl Nicholson was there with his niece Brittany, a dancer. And Noot graciously joined me – agreeing to be my assistant and photographer for the day. (As the photography piece goes, Ant couldn't come as he had to work. A freelance field producing call from Dr. Phil-spinoff "The Doctors" (www.drphil.com/) came to me and due to this paid Harlem booking, I couldn't do the gig. Bummed, the execs asked if I knew of someone else. I thought that Ant would be perfect as he too field produces -- including the night we met at the Broadway opening "The Color Purple" back in 2005. Though Ant has been working some grueling hours on "The Wendy Williams Show" (13 – 16 hour days… Monday through Friday), he agreed to stretch his exhaust and take one for the team (that is us). Imagine our excitement when we found out the crew attached is a dear old friend and colleague of mine - also one of my AUC little brothers Will Miller (He's a CAU grad too), W. Miller & Co (willmillerjr@productionartists.net). The shoot went very well. And I got to hang out a little bit with Will after they (and I) wrapped from our day's work. We foresee more collaboration in the near future.

But back to the festival, I hosted a " Harlem 's Got Talent" competition which was won by Lotus Music & Dance’s Bollywood Dancers (www.lotusarts.com/ ). We too received a performance from Vickilyn Reynolds who performed excerpts from a one-woman show she wrote and in which she stars based on the life of Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to win the Oscar in 1940. The musical production is called “Hattie… What I Need You To Know” (www.theatermania.com or call 212/352-3101). For more information: www.HattieWhatINeedYouToKnow.com. On the heels of that afternoon (and the subsequent check), Noot, Tata, and I enjoyed dinner at “Cheesecake Factory” (www.thecheesecakefactory.com/) – a suburban, franchise staple for which my nephew was craving as his our long, hot summer felt like it was getting even longer in the tooth. Fortunately, before his departure, some of the stresses subsided and we made it through – our relationship and strong bond firmly in tact.

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