PARALLELS OF THE PAST, An Evening of Music and Poetry

17492272_10154575106743042_6469301525518906436_o
(photo credit Carol Jenkins)

Congratulations Maestro Marlon Daniel and Ensemble du Monde on PARALLELS OF THE PAST, An Evening of Music and Poetry!  It was my delight to host and  to read “I America” by poet Edward Daniels Currelley.

Featured  were the works of Pulitzer Prize winning composer George Walker (b. 1922), and William Grant Still (1895 – 1978), Mother and Child, Langston Hughes (1902-1967) Let America Be America Again, Samuel BARBER (1910 – 1981) Adagio, Ivan Fischer (b. 1951), Eine Deutsch-Jiddische Kantate, Zweistimmige Ouverture,  Wiegenlied, III. Deutsche Arie, Jiddische Arie, Grabschrift. Returning from a brief intermission the program proceeded with Tamam Tracy Moncur (b. 1945), Will the Real America Please Stand! George Walker (b. 1922) Lyric, Béla BARTÓK (1881 – 1945) Divertimento, Allegro non troppo, Molto Adagio III. Allegro assai.

American icons Carol Jenkins and Reginald Van Lee read the inspirational and powerful poems of Langston Hughes, Let America Be America Again. and Tamam Moncur, Will the Real America Please Stand!  The content was piercing and their readings eloquent and passionate. Both guest were accompanied by Ensemble du Monde, a  wonderful collaboration of music and poetry.

Why is it important to support and attend Ensemble du Monde concerts? Members of the audience leave having had a culturally and educationally enriching experience. While, Ensemble du Monde concerts are historically rich cultural and educational experiences. They’re quilted with the history and herstory of hidden colors.

HIDDEN COLORS

Do you know the names Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges and the Colour of Music Festival?

Few classical music enthusiasts are aware of the tremendous contributions of Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges, an African-French composer whose opera and classical masterpieces equaled or far exceeded those of his 18th century contemporaries. Although his compositions are highly recognized overseas, they have gathered little notice in the United States. Today there are thousands of celebrated and prodigiously talented classical principles, composers and performers of African descent throughout the world. Yet, their opportunities to grace concert stages of major American orchestras are rare to non-existent. – The Colour of Music Festival

Save the date October 18-22, 2017 for the Colour of Music Festival.
To learn more about Le Chevalier de Saint-Georges and the Colour of Music Festival
visit: http://www.colourofmusic.org/
To learn more about Ensemble du Monde visit: www.ensumbeldumonde.org

©Lorraine Currelley  2017. All Rights Reserved.

Women Who Read Are Dangerous!

(left to right: Dr. Shamika Mitchell, Natalie N. Caro, Laura Alvarez, Carli Braithwaite and Lorraine Currelley) Saturday March 4, 2017

I had the pleasure of participating as a panelist for Women Who Read Are Dangerous by Stepfan Bollmann. The book focuses on artist’s fascination and interest with women who read.  What is it about women reading that has captivated hundreds of artists over the centuries? Stefan Bollman’s Women Who Read Are Dangerous explores this popular subject in more than sixty artworks-drawings, paintings, photographs, and prints-by iconic artists such as Henri Matisse, Edward Hopper, Suzanne Valadon, and more. We expanded the framework to include sex, race, class, and gender within a historical context. I was joined on the panel by my fellow panelists Natalie N. Caro, Dr. Shamika Mitchell, Carli Braithwaite and our host and curator Laura Alvarez.

Dr. Shamika Mitchell stated during the discussion that women were allowed to read within strict social constructs, and gained access via the Bible. Historically reading women were wealthy, books were expensive and only the wealthy could afford to purchase them. Carli Braithwaite gave a Powerpoint presentation based on Stefan Bollmann’s book prior to the start of the discussion and referenced how these women showed up throughout history.

Who are these dangerous women? Dangerous women are relatives, friends, colleagues, partners, etc. They’re women who dared and dare to challenge the status quo. Women who with threat to life and limb spoke out and speak out against injustices. Women who were and are yesterday’s and today’s pioneers and warriors. Women who refused and refuse to keep silent, knowing  their silence and our silence would not and will not protect them nor us.

Powerful moments included panelists and our host Laura Alvarez sharing personal stories. Stories centered on generational struggles to realize dreams and goals. Our common thread, the similarities that shaped and grew us.  We have successfully created paths for ourselves becoming role models for women and girls. We are duty bound and stand on shoulders of those who sacrificed for us. Everyone stressed the importance of having strong support systems and being one.

My presentation was centered on bringing my female ancestors into the room. This discussion could not happen without their represented voices. Living in critical times demand our courage. We are called to take advantage of all opportunities to share information, and speak truth. This is how we heal, This is how we grow. This is how we breathe. This is how we strategize for coping in a society that threatens to crush us, when speaking truth to power. During the discussion I pointed out enslaved Africans were not given access to books, not even the Bible. Enslaved Africans were maimed or murdered if caught reading.

Here are some names of powerful and brilliant African American women artists. Women creative’s who used and use their art in protest. Names many will not recognize nor their contributions to the struggle for equality and liberation.

I speak the names of dangerous women:

Sculptor Betye Saar challenged historically negative stereotypes of African Americans. She began working in assemblage in the late 1960s. She
uses the medium to express heritage. In 1972 she created The Liberation of
Aunt Jemima. It addressed race and gender by subverting a racial stereotype and turning it into empowerment.

Printmaker & Sculptor Elizabeth Carlett, “I’m not thinking about doing things new and different. I’m thinking about creating art for my people.” She’s known for fighting racial equality in the arts and her expressionist portrayals of Black culture in the 1960s and 1970s. Her famous Sharecropper, created in Mexico shows Catlett’s activism for African-Americans and females in the South.

Sculptor Augusta Savage, began sculpting at a young age, using her red clay soil from her Florida backyard. She attended Cooper Union in the early 1920s and was commissioned to make a bust of W.E.B. Du Bois for the
Harlem Library.  A key artist in the Harlem Renaissance, Savage was important for fighting both racial and sexual prejudice throughout her career, becoming a social activist and encouraging the work of others while nurturing her own  career in the
US and Europe. One of the most famous works, Gamin (French for “street urchin”), depicts what may be her nephew Ellis Ford or a homeless boy.

Conceptual Artist Adrian Piper has studied art and taught philosophy at
renowned institutions across the globe. Piper was a trailblazer in introducing the concepts of gender and race into a feminist art movement
and has integrated drawing, street performances, and costumes into her art. Her 1981 drawing Self Portrait Exaggerating My Negroid Features has a
permanent home in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the
Brooklyn Museum.

19th Century Antislavery Women
Journalist/Anti Lynching Activist , Ida B. Wells
Charlotte Forten (1784-1884)
Margaretta Forten
Harriet Forten
Sarah Louise Forten
Angelina Grimke
Educator, Sarah M. Douglas

20th Century Dangerous Women
Fannie Lou Hamer
Poet/Author/Activist, Audre Lorde
Author/Activist/Quilter/Mother/Publisher/Editor, Cheryl Hudson Willis
Poet/Author/Nurse-Healer, Nella Larsen

I speak the name of the woman who birthed me
and gave me all.

Mother/Writer/Dancer/Activist/Community Leader, Annie Daniels Currelley

I speak the names of women who influenced me.

Godmother/Community Activist, Beulah Gardner
Nurse/Journalist/Activist/Educator, Alma John
Godmother/Community Activist, Lorrayne Younger
/Community Activist/Educator, B. Taylor
Mother/Community Activist, Helen Currelley
Historian/Author, Paula Giddings

I’m honored to be one of these dangerous women along with my fellow panelists. A
panel of women who understand we have nothing to lose but our chains!

Our audience contributions of shared experiences and questions enhanced the overall discussion. We were enriched by their added voices. Thanks, Laura Alvarez and the NYC Department of Parks and St. James Recreation Center. Thanks, to my fellow panelists
for sharing their experiences and insights.

©Lorraine Currelley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

“Jazz In Jail”A Celebration & Book Launch for Louis Reyes Rivera

img_0335-1
Congratulations Blind Beggar Press and Barbara Killens Rivera on a great book launch and celebration! January 8th brought together a standing room only audience of family, friends and colleagues, to celebrate Jazz In Jail, the visionary work of Louis Reyes Rivera. The event venue was Sistas’ Place. Sistas’ Place is a welcoming and comfortable space known for its educational and cultural events and gracious staff. A great place for artists and community residents to gather. The celebration started with opening remarks and a warm welcome by Blind Beggar Press, co-founder and publisher Gary Johnston who was the co-emcee with yours truly Lorraine Currelley, Executive Director for Poets Network & Exchange. Excerpts from Jazz In Jail  were read by prominent poets, all long time friends and colleagues of Louis Reyes Rivera. The first group of poets to read were Jose Angel Figueroa, Tongue of the Vile & Convention’s Call,  E.J. Antonio, The Womb of Night & Concerto for Sonny Carson,  Americo Casiano, When Word Got Out & A Sextet Wailing and Gha’il Rhodes Benjamin, Visiting Jail & Jazz Free Now.
img_0239img_0289img_0307
img_0266
A musical interlude proceeded the second set featuring trumpeter Ahmed Abdullah, who was joined on stage by the Jazzoets. The Jazzoets were phenomenal and jammed with some of the poet readers, throughout the event. They were met with resounding applause, shouts of approval and some attendees arose from their seats to dance.It was an honor to emcee for the second set. The second set of readers were poets Jacqueline Johnson, Witness: Mother G Flat Blues & Sultry Blue, Layding Kaliba, Musicians on the Run & Rap Swing,  Jesus Papoleto Melendez, Beneath the Maze & En Viejo San Juan, Atiba Wilson, That Haunt of Freedom & Concert for the Yard, and Baba Ngoma Hill, The Voice of Jazz & Witness: The Expert.  Barbara Killens Rivera, came to the stage to give closing remarks. She shared her gratitude, reflections, and thoughts. She was later joined on stage by her family, poet readers, the Jazzoets, Gary Johnston and yours truly.

20170108_155734
img_0200
20170108_155816
20170108_155828

What people are saying about Jazz In Jail.

Jazz in Jailis his gift, one of this century’s great works of art.  His poetry jabs and swings, cuts and caresses, moves and schools.  And he emerges the victor, liberating our music from the corporate chains and cages that have trapped our people, body and soul.  Jazz Libre!” – Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original (2009)
jazz-in-jail-cover-121215-final-3
Books are available $19.95 plus $ 3.00 shipping from:
Blind Beggar Press
P.O. Box 437
Wiiliamsbridge Station
Bronx, NY 10467

Thanks, to poet readers, Jazzoets, family, friends and all those who came out to celebrate Louis Reyes Rivera, “Jazz In Jail. Thanks to Carolyn Butts, Editor African Voices Magazine for sharing the event with your readers and subscribers. Thanks, to everyone who purchased books, books were sold out. Thanks, Edward Currelley for covering the event for The Currelley Literary Journal and Blog.

Photo Credits Edward Currelley and Lorraine Currelley.

©Lorraine Currelley 2017. All Rights Reserved.

 
 

15800672_10154897056549766_7268570094630144783_o                                                          Laurie Carlos 1949-2016

The world has loss a magnificent human being/presence. My friend and teacher Laurie Carlos has died. My friend lived and loved well.

I met a vibrant, authentic, caring, brilliant, down to earth woman, many years ago as a young woman. She wore short cropped hair and would adorn it with colorful hair wraps. I admired the long flowing colorful skirts and dresses she wore. She was everything I hoped to be. I have fond memories of our chance meetings on the streets of Harlem. Whether rushing to a meeting, event or running errands, she always stopped to talk before rushing off. We both valued these moments. After shared salutations came discussions that always left me encouraged, inspired, smiling and in deep reflection. Her presence in my life grew me. When she hugged me and said, she loved me I knew it to be true.

Laurie Carlos didn’t just walk down a city street or into a room, she appeared to float. She was beautifully confident and richly human. She filled any space she entered with her presence, bringing light and joy with her. Her smile was real and her laughter came from a deep and sincere place. She was a faithful friend. She didn’t waste words, time and actions. She exercised wisdom and did everything with purpose.

Laurie’s Gift.

It was an honor and joy to be invited to her home. Once before leaving she presented me with a very important and special gift. She said, I was to pass it on to another worthy young woman of my choosing. I have not passed it on. The person receiving it is left with a major responsibility, the keeper of a legacy. One which cannot be taken lightly.

Becoming my teacher.

A few years later she was an invited guest performance instructor for a writing workshop and performance group I belonged to. I remember Ntosake Shange stopping by. They were fabulously outrageously fierce. I believe Jessica Hagedorn stopped by as well. I’m blessed to have had this experience/opportunity. She had a gift for making us, her students better. She taught and challenged us to go deep within ourselves and encouraged and instilled in us the will to give everything to our performances. She always said, our audiences were deserving of our very best. Her accomplishments were many. Among them, an original cast member of FOR COLORED GIRLS.

How can I share a lifetime of friendship in a post? I can’t! I will end by saying, I will continue to follow your example dear friend and teacher. I will continue to live with purpose. To value each day and those I call friend and family. Death is ever present. I pray we celebrate each other, never taking each other for granted! Do not leave what’s important for another day! Love and live well now!

Laurie Carlos is survived by her daughter Amber. We uplift and love you Amber. You are not alone in your grief. You have our love, support and condolences. You are embraced by love and prayers for comfort and peace. May your beloved mother rest in peace,
love and power, all that she lived, gave and more.

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Beloved Poet Monica Hand Has Died

577729_261677040596164_87327358_n-1
It is with much sadness I share news of the untimely death of poet and friend Monica Hand. The world has lost a lovely human being and phenomenal poet, writer and artist. It’s difficult to believe Monica has made such a sudden transition. Monica Hand was a beloved mother, grandmother, friend and educator.

I’m grateful for the times we shared. She was warm and kind. I have memories of sharing the same space at poetry gatherings and conversations and laughter. Once we took a photo together and bursted into laughter, admiring ourselves.She was respected and appreciated by her peers and those who knew her. Monica Hand left an imprint on the world, one which will be shared and remembered by generations to come.

I’m reminded of my own mortality and how unexpected death is. I’m in a state of deep reflection. I’m feeling a sense of urgency, the desire to get things done. There is no time for procrastination. There is no time to waste on things which are unimportant, nor to indulge nonsense. There is only time for embracing those we love, respect and appreciate. There is only time for appreciating and celebrating life. This is the time to focus on people and things that give our lives meaning, joy and purpose. My prayers and condolences to Monica’s loved ones. May she rest in peace, power and poetry.
Give yourself permission to grieve.

What is Grief?

Grief is a strong, sometimes overwhelming emotion for people, regardless of whether their sadness stems from the loss of a loved one, or news of a terminal diagnosis they or someone they love have received.

They might find themselves feeling numb and removed from daily life, unable to carry on with regular duties while saddled with their sense of loss.

Grief is the natural reaction to loss. Grief is both a universal and a personal experience. Individual experiences of grief vary and are influenced by the nature of the loss. Some examples of loss include the death of a loved one, friend, the ending of an important relationship, job loss, loss through theft or the loss of independence through disability.

Experts advise those grieving to realize they can’t control the process and to not avoid the feelings resulting from loss. Talking to others can help. Sharing grief can be cathartic. Do not isolate yourself.

Mourning can last for months or years. Generally, pain is tempered as time passes and as the bereaved adapts to life without a loved one, to the news of a terminal diagnosis or to the notion that someone they love may  and has died. We all mourn differently.

Do not hesitate to consult with a professional trained in grief and bereavement.

Please go to her GoFundMe Page to share your love for Monica: Monica Hand

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Needed a White Women and Men March of Allies

White Women and Men allies on the front lines earnestly addressing supremacy, oppression, privilege, racism, genderism, all of the isms and poisons. Needed are White Women and Men allies speaking to their families, friends, and neighbors. Their silence equals my death! My question is, will their sons and daughters bodies  be met with growling dogs, water filled hoses, harassment, guns, brutality and murder? The known terror People Of Color meet with daily. Will they be attacked for demanding
their rights?

I was added to the  FB group (formerly) known as the Million Woman March. Once there, I protested the appropriation of a name with historical significance for the Black community. I shared the herstory/history of both the Million Man March and the Million Woman March. My comment was deleted by the Facebook Administrator said to be orchestrating the march. Only after several protests from myself and others did a name change take place. While there I found myself engaged in serious battle with some women whitesplaining, and an Asian woman who assigned herself the role of protector. Protector of what? Her tone was one of extreme anger. She said, I disgusted her. She was combative and mistakenly thought she could gather the troops to attack  me, and failed. No one engaged with her. She left after verbally attacking me. My crime? I had the audacity to share my truth. I was her embarrassment. I wasn’t the obedient WOC melting into the background. the backdrop. A backdrop placed for visibility, to give the march “inclusion legitimacy”.

Unlike her, my goal while there was not to gain anyone’s friendship and comradeship, at the expense of selling my self respect and dignity. Nor was I on board for some mythological sisterhood. A vagina and breast does not automatically make us sisters. I’ve been betrayed by women of all hues who called me sister. I do not know the organizer, her politics and agenda, nor the politics of the women in the group. The administrator and orchestrator for this facebook group, I found myself  placed in. I do know she’s a white woman lawyer living in Hawaii. Women of color in this group were determined not to allow the status quo to prevail. My post continued to be deleted and

I was blocked by the Admin. Clearly, she was not in the mood to hear about oppression, all of the isms, entitlement, and privilege.  My oppression  is not for sale, and will not be used as an opportunity to falsely be seen as inclusive.  My truth was seen as divisive. The result was more whitesplaining and others speaking about voting for HRC and the wonderful things they were doing for POC. Some members owned their entitlement and privilege. Eager to learn, listen and desiring a dialog in earnest. Needed are people on the frontlines doing whatever is within their means. I urge POC to continue speaking our truth and stand firm, even at the risk of being misunderstood and vilified.

66% of White women, 29% Latina women and 4% Black women voted for the newly elected president. 94% of Black women voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton, Black women did the work and Hillary’s so-called White women constituency failed her. It was this statement that angered the administrator and others. I’m not blindly participating in any activities, because someone says I should. I’ve been down this road before. I have every right to have my questions answered in detail. At 65, I’m not new  to protest, far from it.  It appears this group’s banner women rights and opposition to the newly elected president.  Racism, sexism, genderism, entitlement, privilege, LGBTQ rights etc. were not being addressed in this group.True allies must come center stage and give voice to the oppression of POC, and the privilege and entitlement they live safely in.

Freedom comes with a price. POC when participating in demonstrations in DC or elsewheres. We must make certain our voices are placed center stage, speaking our truth. We must come with our banners and voices,and address our concerns. We do not have to beg inclusion. If need be, organize a separate march or become a part of a coalition, with true allies.

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Why I Can’t F**king Breathe: The Murder of Deborah Danner

Deborah Danner suffered from mental illness, and lived alone. Reports state, police had been called to her apartment in the past and she was taken to the hospital without incident. What made this time different? On the night of her death, Danner’s sister called for help to take her to the hospital as she had in the past. Sadly, she will have to live with this memory for the rest of her life. The very act of calling for help for her sister, resulted in her death, at the hands of an officer sworn to protect.

She was murdered in Castle Hill. NYPD said, officers responded to a 911 call. Deborah Danner age 66 was said to be behaving irrationally. Allegedly she was armed with scissors,  a responding officer convinced her to put them down before allegedly picking up a baseball bat, and attempting to hit NYPD Sgt. Hugh Barry, who fired two shots into her torso. She was taken to Jacobi Medical Center, where she was later pronounced dead. Sgt. Barry had a taser, he chose not to use it. He was trained to physically subdue an individual without drawing his weapon. Instead, he ignored his training on how to de-escalate situations, Deborah Danner paid the price. This fact alone is reason enough to bring him up on charges.

Bronx resident Deborah Danner was murdered by Sgt. Hugh Barry, let us not skirt around the facts. Fact, had Bronx resident Deborah Danner been white and lived in a white neighborhood her life would have been spared. She would have been treated with the utmost care, gently subdued and escorted to the hospital. Sgt. Barry did not see a human being standing before him. He saw an upset Black woman and that was enough to end her life. He did not see his mother, aunt, or neighbor in her Black face. He did not see humanity in need of help and compassion.

When I read of her death I was overcome with feelings of sadness, anger and horror. Deborah Danner was one year my senior, I could have been her. I thought of my death. The  words mental illness and the circumstances of her murder exacerbated my horror. The 1984 murder of Eleanor Bumpers, a grandmother with mental illness came rushing back to memory. Here is one more case of murder added to an already existing list of traumatic experiences. I demand justice for Deborah Danner! I’m sick and tired of
the usual investigations, the modified desk duty, blaming of the deceased and the NYPD sanctioning of murder.  NYPD is drowning in the blood of innocent murdered civilians. Every time a murder is justified and the murderer set free, we are all at risk. The prevailing mindset by those who murder is we can kill without impunity. Daily Blacks and people of color are assaulted with traumatic event after traumatic event. Brutality, murder and assaults to our humanity and bodies are America’s norm for those of dark hue.

We hear a lot about PTSD. What is  Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)? Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is the result of being traumatized. An individual (s) has/have witnessed or experienced a traumatic event. Police brutality and murders of civilians, the death of a loved one, pet and experiences as a veteran contribute to PTSD criteria.

Are you finding it difficult to cope? Sometimes, a good talk with a friend, family member or clergy is enough. Other times it is not enough and you may have to contact a professional.  Here are some available resources. Please visit the links below.

Mental Health & Advocacy for information, resources, data etc. on mental health disorders.
http://lcinformationandresourcecenter.wordpress.com

Protective Service for Adults Program in NYC
http://ocfs.ny.gov/main/psa/

#JusticeforDeborahDanner #BlackLivesMatter #StopMurderingBlackPeople

©Lorraine Currelley 2016. All Rights Reserved.