DISNEY’S DREAMERS ACADEMY WITH STEVE HARVEY AND ESSENCE MAGAZINEI'm just back from Orlando… from an inspiring, fun, and relaxing time at the Disney's Dreamers Academy WITH STEVE HARVEY AND ESSENCE MAGAZINE (www.DisneysDreamersAcademy.com) and (www.twitter.com/dreamersacademy). And it was also so SPIRITUALLY RE-NOURISHING!
JUST A BLESSING, it was. As many of you know, Disney has been a client of sorts these last few years. Disney's booked me to host its Disney's Dreamers Academy presentation at the National Association of Black Journalists' annual convention since 2007. It's always been a blast. And each year, those presentations have been well-received: http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2011/8/20/art-and-annual-therapy.html and http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/tag/nabj. Plus, what a chance to share the stage and interview some of my favorite people! But this is the first year I actually attended the event (part-gift/part-work)...and what a MAGICAL WEEK! See the many pix from the week: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150613624333737.388798.662073736&type=1&l=53ddcc286b THE BIGGEST THANKS EVER to Annette Gibbs and Carole Munroe for GETTING ME THERE! And SPECIAL SHOUT OUT to DJ HELRIGGLE for TAKING THE BEST CARE OF ME EVER WHILE THERE! I trust all the DISNEY REPS assigned were MAGICAL! But I had a GREAT GUY to keep me on task and to make sure my friends Tata, Ern, and I got everywhere we needed to get…on the fun side! We also got to hang with my NABJ sister Kelley Carter who is my successor as Chair of the NABJ A&E Task Force. And can I talk about the Savanna-view from my Animal Kingdom Lodge - Jamba House digs? Giraffe. Zebras. Wildlife. Oh, my! When all was wrapped, I cried a good cry of gratitude for participating in such a special event that allows kids from all over to explore their DREAMS… and to identify steps towards making those DREAMS come true. In the house: Yolanda Adams; Jordin Sparks; Michelle Ebanks (President, Essence Communications, Inc.); Mikki Taylor (Editor-at-Large, ESSENCE Magazine); Chef Jeff Henderson; Kimberly Locke; my friend Lamman Rucker; CNN’s Soledad O’Brien; Dr. Steve Perry; & many others inspired the DREAMERS C/O '12(and us all!). Executive Champion of the Disney’s Dreamers Academy Tracey D. Powell made sure all had a GREAT TIME! And it was great to spend time with journalist colleagues (and my cousin Brit Middleton who I just met for the first time at this event. She's the sister of my actual cousinKea's husband Roc! So, how cool that we bonded as she was covering the event for BET.com - a gig for which I recommended her on which she is ROCKING & POPPING! CONGRATS, BRIT! And YES! We will get dinner in soon! LOL!). Also in the house: a BLAST from my A-T-L past: My favorite radio personality Carol Blackmon (Haven't seen her in years... and she looks every-so the same: beautiful and youthful!); and Lorraine Sanabria Robertson, who was at LA FACE when I started out in the biz at "Good Day Atlanta". So while her label was cranking out these new artists that are now household names (TLC, Toni Braxton, etc.), she was booking them on my show. Now, she's mommy-blogger with the most (www.mybrownbaby.com). Here's a clip she did on my friend Dr. Ian Smith while down there: http://mybrownbaby.com/2012/03/dr-ian-smith-dishes-healthy-living-at-disneys-dreamers-academy/. And though there were hundreds of DREAMERS on-deck (between the first class & the current class), I must shout out one young man. In a sea of BRIGHT and AWESOME kids, TEVYN COLE took some off-line time to chat me up on his pursuits (at the pristene nudging of his 'publicist' Keisha Pickett (Pickett Public Relations Group - www.pickettpr.com). You heard right! LOL!). TEVYN is an alum of the program (Class of Disney’s Dreamers Academy 2008). And he is currently attending Eastern Michigan University – majoring in Theatre with a minor in Japanese. I was born in Tokyo, coincidentally. His T-shirt company is “School Me Clothing” (www.schoolmeclothing.com). And as handling his handle goes, he is going to be interning at Disney this summer. CONGRATS, TEVYN & ALL OF THE DISNEY’S DREAMERS ACADEMY GRADUATES! And I want to make sure a special acknowledgement goes out to NABJ's own Demorris Lee who was the official NABJ rep at Disney's Dreamers Academy - to provide a journalism mentoring component to the program. We announced that at the last presentation I hosted in Philadelphia for NABJ. So, JOB WELL DONE, DEMORRIS! What an AWESOME program, and I’m so HAPPY to be a part!
And did I say how much fun I had? And did I say how I am spoiled for all the park hopping and the NOT waiting in one line. It was a mix of nostalgic thrills from the rides I remember from childhood. And then, came the rollercoasters - all of which kept the thrills coming! I LOVE DISNEY!
STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE
Shout out to my theater-world BFF Marcia Pendelton who invited me (and my blog "A Day in the Life of Riley: pop culture & possibilities": http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/) to join other media folks for a meet-and-greet with the cast of the multi-culti revival of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire" - performances of which begin April 3, 2012 (Opening: April 22, 2012) at The Broadhurst Theatre (235 W 44th Street) - www.StreetcarOnBroadway.com. (ALSO: www.facebook.com/streetcar2012 & www.twitter.com/streetcar2012). The stellar cast includes: Blair Underwood; stellar actress and wife of her former "Soul Food" co-star Boris, first cousin of my Kodjoe, Nicole Ari Parker (She remembered me from his home-going service back in 2005); Daphne Rubin-Vega; Wood Harris; the LEGEND-ary Carmen De Lavallade (who was announced to the cast on this day); and more. Others on Team Streetcar: Producers Stephen Byrd and my Spelman sister Alia Jones (ALSO producers of Broadway's All-Black Revival of "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof" from a few years ago: http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2008/1/9/pat-on-a-hot-tin-roof.html); director Emily Mann; my dear friend Jacquie Lee (also working on some AWESOME corporate marketing synergies for the show's campaign - including an AMAZING sweepstakes of which she is the architect (in partnership with the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation). The giveaway promises free trips - including a 7-day cruise, a weekend at the ESSENCE Music Festival, a trip to NYC to see 'Streetcar', etc.); etc. Also in the house (friends - old and new): one of my SHEROEs Terrie Williams; hairstylist extra ordinaire Leo Eley (who did Jacquie's long, silky tresses); TV correspondent Shannon Antonio Lanier ("Our World with Black Enterprise"); visual artist socrates marquez; journalist and actress J'Nara Corbin; celebrity photographer Ronnie Wright (http://facebook.com/ronniewrightphotographer); etc. P.S. The legendary Terence Blanchard has signed on to provide an original soundscape for the production. P.P.S. I'm working with "Team Streetcar" on some synergies for my beloved New York Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Black Journalists. STAY TUNED
UNCF & MORE!
My friend Carl Nelson recently invited me to "A Celebration of the Independence of THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC" in Washington Heights at the BEAUTIFUL Hispanic Society of America. Wonderful space, art, and energy. I – in turn – invited him to accompany me to the UNCF gala at the Marriott Marquis. As a Morehouse Man, I was so proud to be in the room and grateful to PR friend Michelle Huff for the invitation. The festivities included MC Bill Bellamy; Tuskegee's Golden Voices Concert Choir (which also performed during the 100-Years-of-Song celebration for the Morehouse College Glee Club back in October (http://thelifeofriley.squarespace.com/rilys-blog/2011/10/5/miss-ross-called-me.html); Dr. Michael Lomax (UNCF Prez ; CEO; & Morehouse Man!); our friend Ledisi (in performance excellence. She sang “What a Wonderful World” & “Alright”!); and a host of deserving students and inspiring alums. Also in the house along with our friends Carl Nelson, Frank C. Matthews, and a Marriott Marquis ballroom full of folks! (This, while I was receiving tweets and texts that Miss Ross has just strutted out onto the stage in my former home Atlanta's Fox Theater for her sold-out one-nighter). And why did I stumble into my nephew Herman Riley III? We hadn’t compared notes on our plans, but were both in the house. Also, saw Morehouse's current and soon-outgoing President Dr. Robert Franklin; Morehouse VP of Alumni Affairs Henry Goodgame, friends Bevy Smith; Kierna Mayo; Reggie Van Lee (who - you recall - recently had Miss Ross sing at his wedding! FOR REAL!); Susan Taylor; Khephra Burns; Simone Smalls; etc. And did I mention so many of my Morehouse brothers were in the house? Mike Bryant; Harris Bostic; Stephen Barr; and so many more. GREAT NIGHT!
MARIO VAN PEEBLES
Via my friends Jackie Bazan and Evelyn Santana: http://www.bazanpr.com/about/team_data/0001, I got a personal invitation from Mario Van Peebles to a recent, tastemaker screening of WE THE PARTY. I’d had quite the busy day in a day edit and the start of a night edit, but I was able to pop over to Dolby 88 Screening Room in time to say HI and see his new film which features Snoop Dogg, YG, The New Boyz, The Rej3ctz, The Pink Dollaz, Mario Van Peebles (New Jack City), Michael Jai White (Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married Too?), Salli Richardson-Whitfield I am Legend, Mandela Van Peebles (Baadasssss!), Simone Battle ("The X Factor"), Moises Arias ("Hannah Montana"), Orlando Brown ("That's So Raven") and Quincy Brown. WE THE PARTY will be in theaters on April 6, 2012. AND IT IS A MUST-SEE! http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/independent/wetheparty/. The descriptor notes: “A revealing look at contemporary youth culture, writer-director Mario Van Peebles’ WE THE PARTY shows teenagers as they are, not as adults would like them to be. Set amidst the latest trends in music, dance and fashion, WE THE PARTY is a colorful, cutting-edge comedy set in an ethnically diverse Los Angeles high school during America’s first black president. The film focuses on five friends as they deal with romance, money, prom, college, sex, bullies, facebook, fitting in, standing out, and finding themselves. Evoking such classic teen comedies as The Breakfast Club and House Party but with an attitude and style all its own, WE THE PARTY captures the hopes, confusion, challenges and dreams of today’s teenagers as they plunge headlong into an uncertain future.” I TRULY ENJOYED IT! GREAT JOB! Oh! Filmmaker Malcolm Lee (“The Best Man”) and his lovely wife were in the house. We’re all friends of friends from New Rochelle. SO, THIS IS WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO: TWEET @MarioVanPeebles & @WETHEPARTYMOVIE and tell him @patarack sent you. Be sure to LIKE: https://www.facebook.com/wethepartymovie. And TAKE THE WHOLE FAMILY out to see WE THE PARTY – it’s truly a FUN, ENLIGHTENING, FRESH, INSPIRING, and ENTERTAINING film that has SO MUCH HEART! It’s HOT & SEXY, too, but in a family-friendly way.
Shout out to Carl Nelson for the invite to SUKEINA Premiere Show (Fall 2012 Collection Designer, Omar Salam) at Four Seasons Hotel. B. Smith, fashion writer extraordinaire Walter Greene, and a host of others from the FAB NYC socialite/tastemaker set as well as our Norwegian girlfriend Elisabeth Blix - right off of a flight from Norway. BEAUTIFUL line! Afterwards, Carl led us to The Empire Hotel Rooftop for the Fashion Presentation of A.Z. Araujo.
CHARLES REESE & JIMMY BALDWIN!
Special shout out to my multi-talented Morehouse brother Charles Reese whose outreaches to me for some blog coverage managed to hit me when “…the Life of Riley…” wasn’t due to come out and/or when the real life of Riley was too busy to accommodate. But fortunately, what he’s promoting is EVERGREEN! This year marks the 25th Anniversary of the passing of American writer and civil rights activist, James Baldwin. To commemorate his legacy, The Charles Reese Experience is proud to announce the book publishing of the critically acclaimed Off-Broadway play, James Baldwin: A Soul of Fire. The short stage play, written by late playwright and Emmy Award Nominee, Howard B. Simon (1962-2000) was published by Azaan Kamau and Glover Lane Press, who partnered with Charles Reese to edit and guide the project. Reese is an original cast member of the play and also serves as Executive Curator of the Howard B. Simon Literary Canon. In Charles’ release, he notes, “The publishing of this book version of the play that focuses on a lesser known historical moment in Baldwin’s life will ultimately serve as a powerful tool in re-igniting James Baldwin’s fiery spirit into the 21st century. Additionally, the book project will also re-visit the literary legacy of my Morehouse College classmate, the late playwright, Howard B. Simon who gave me this Baldwin play as a birthday gift.” Also included in the book is a special foreword by David Leeming (Baldwin’s Biographer and former Secretary), coupled with an afterword by original actor and Tony Award Nominee, Forrest McClendon (Scottsboro Boys). Reese’s own heartfelt encounter with Baldwin can also be found inside the book, written during his recent visit to France where Baldwin spent his last days. Kamau also designed the cover to showcase Baldwin’s lineage to the Civil Rights movement, it consists of 2000 tiny images of pinnacle moments during that era, circa 1963. To promote the book, Reese has developed the “Salon Conversation Series: Tribute to James Baldwin…25 Years Later (SCS)”, an engaging and entertaining program designed for educational institutions to get up close and personal with Reese, David Leeming and Forrest McClendon. Social/Civic groups and cultural organizations are also encouraged to experience this special art and culture program. The first book signing took place at the end of January; however, Charles says “our goal is to sell 25,000 books in 2012 across the globe -- one city, one state, and one country at a time in honor of James Baldwin…25 years later”. To learn how you can bring “The Salon Conversation Series to your city, please email inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit http://www.facebook.com/thecharlesreeseexp and http://www.JamesBaldwinASoulOnFire.com to stay connected to all things Baldwin.
ABOUT JAMES BALDWIN: A SOUL ON FIRE: A two character play which re-imagines what happens when writer/activist James Baldwin invites Lorraine Hansberry, Harry Belafonte, and Lena Horne to a round table discussion on race relations with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy on May 24, 1963 in New York City, three months before the historic March on Washington. This uniquely structured play explores Baldwin’s innermost passions. David DeWitt of the New York Times declared, “The best sort of theatrical biography: the sort that thoroughly entertains. With humor, style and raw emotion, ‘A Soul on Fire,’ embraces its chosen territory with enthusiasm.”
THE CHARLES REESE EXPERIENCE: Is an inter-generational explosion of art, culture, history and entertainment as seen through the eyes of actor, visionary and cultural architect for public engagement, Charles Reese. Our mission is to preserve and nurture the historical legacy of lesser known and forgotten literary treasures of the African/ African-American Diaspora and people of color around the globe. Utilizing existing and emerging media, our purpose is to develop, produce, and promote special programs and events to ignite the spirit to resurrect a "New Global Cultural Arts Renaissance.” Our main goal is to simply tell our stories and share our common experiences with dignity, insight, humor, tragedy and the triumph of the ancestors whose spirits have never been broken. Call the production office at (213) 245-6658 for more details.