Friday, March 23, 2012

At Age 81, Artist Faith Ringgold Says She Has Many More Stories To Tell

I was thoroughly moved by hearing Faith Ringgold discuss about her path to becoming an artist at Spelman College Museum of Fine Art yesterday. 

She was crafty - majoring in education and minoring in art in the 1950s at the City College of New York when women weren't allowed to get liberal arts degrees from CCNY. 

She was witty - acknowledging her mindset around keeping a job when she was married to her first husband, a musician. 

She was clever - writing her story in her art when she couldn't get her autobiography published. She knew her art would be photographed, and so her story would be told "without anyone's permission," she said pointedly. 

And with plans to release a slew of new art through an online gallery, she is still prolific and committed to telling important stories through her work.

Opportunities to get up close and personal with such incredible creatives and intellectuals are some of the primary reasons I enjoy working at Spelman College. Below are the tweets I sent out on Twitter during the event. Follow me on Twitter if you like at Enjoyceinglife. I'd love to connect with in that space. I hope that you are Enjoyceinglife! 

My Twitter Posts about Faith Ringgold's Visit to Spelman College, March 22, 2012

@FaithRinggold @SpelmanCollege discussing how her great grandfather went 2 college & she came from a family of teachers

@FaithRinggold said she became art teacher bc she had 2 major n edu & minor n art @CCNY-didn't allow wmn librl arts degrees @SpelmanCollege

It's a lifetime thing being an #artist. The only one who can really stand in your way is you. -  @FaithRinggold @SpelmanCollege

@FaithRinggold is 81 years old and says there is no reason for her to stop working.  @SpelmanCollege  #artist

It was going to Africa that made me realize how important it is to be free. I was in the majority everywhere.- @FaithRinggold  @SpelmanCollege

One of the biggest problems that African American people have is lacking the freedom to tell their story- @FaithRinggold  @SpelmanCollege  #art

It was going to Africa that made me realize how important it is to be free. I was in the majority everywhere.- @FaithRinggold  @SpelmanCollege

When @FaithRinggold couldnt get her autobio published, she started writing on her art-she knew her work would b photographed @SpelmanCollege

"As the pictures would be taken of my art, my story would be told without anyone's permission." -  @FaithRinggold  @SpelmanCollege  #art

@FaithRinggold says she has an enormous amount of work that she plans to put in an online museum. YEA!  @SpelmanCollege #art

My 1st husband was a musician. When you're married to a musician you don't quit anything. You may quit him.-@FaithRinggold  @SpelmanCollege

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

VIDEO: Tough Love Parenting - Shaming in a Viral Media World?

Check out this video where a mother makes her daughter wear an "I'm a Thief" t-shirt after she gets caught shop-lifting.

So The Grio is asking if this punishment fits the crime. And would we do the same thing. I'm not sure for several reasons.

In this day of social media, this 7th grader is not just being taught a lesson in her neighborhood or even her city. She's being "shamed" worldwide. Anyone could have taken a photo of this girl in her "punishment" gear and put it on any number of social media sites. And we all know how cruel kids can be in middle and high school - and how merciless teasing can shape a personality and scar a young person for life.

Even more concerning to me is that this was an NBC news video gone viral. There are more than 1,350 likes of this Grio post. Millions of people will know about this young girl's mistake. I wonder if the mother thought of the possible long lasting effects of this level of coverage when she granted the interview and allowed her child's full name and face to be shown. Her name and likeness will forever be able to be Googled about stealing by any potential recruiter for schools or employment opportunities. 

I'm for tough love, but I'd probably choose something more along the lines of long-term exposure to where a life of crime leads you: tours of a juvenile incarceration facility, volunteering stints at group homes of children of imprisoned parents, and definitely lots of reading, researching and writing about the real price of crime. And long hard conversations with anyone that has ever loved or shown interest in her. 

But this is just my perspective. What do y'all think?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Missing Talent: FAMU Drum Major & Whitney Houston

Getting the scoop from high school and college classmates of FAMU drummer Robert Champion
Thirty minutes after my mom told me that Whitney Houston had passed, I got a call from my editor at Jet Magazine. Late that night I began working on my assignment to chronicle the major moments in the life of the singer, who's vocal talent seemed boundless. From her spine-tingling rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" to her cringe-worthy interview with Diane Sawyer, gathering together those highlights was surreal.

I didn't think I'd get emotional over her death because after an initial wow moment, her demise didn't shock me based on what I'd witnessed about her life mostly from afar. Maybe I interviewed her or we crossed paths during my stint at BET in the late nineties. Honestly, I don't remember.

What I do recall is tearing up sometimes as I belted out "The Greatest Love of All," while washing dishes, folding clothes, or doing other weekly teen chores. Surprisingly, those tears reappeared during some parts of Whitney's home going services. I was genuinely touched by the remembrances of Tyler Perry and Kevin Costner. I gained a lot of insight about the non-tabloid Whitney from the testimonies of her loved ones - and I appreciated their perspective. Even though I've interviewed tons of notables in the last 20 years, it's still hard sometimes to remember that celebrities are just people.

Through Whitney passing I learned something about myself - from my mother, who told me that in the early eighties she'd been wondering whether my brother or I would inherit my father's singing talent. Turns out that she realized it was me when she heard me singing "Saving All My Love For You" in the backseat of her car. While I sang solos in church and school choirs, singing went the way of dance and softball by the time I reached the 11th grade. Boys and college - specifically Howard University - took over.

While I was at Howard, my mother had an impact on my decision not to pledge a sorority. The thought of hazing frightened her and her threat to shut down the offending line and the chapter scared me - because I knew she. was. serious. College hazing became a thread in another article I recently wrote for Jet Magazine, as well as a video interview [filmed by fabulous Spelman College student Raynette Palmer] that I did with two Florida A&M University alumni, who were classmates of Robert Champion, the FAMU drum major who is alleged to have died from a hazing incident.

I was moved by the commitment of Cassius D. Kalb and B. Rossi to honor their friend through their stance against hazing and a song that they'll use to raise funds for a scholarship in his name. Having won a Grammy award and worked with all types of high profile artists, I am glad to see these brothers use their powers for good.

Superfantastic producer Raynette Palmer, Cassius D. Kalb, Me & B. Rossi. It was nice to connect with some brothers literally from my side of town - the Dec!
Connections matter. I didn't attend the suburban Atlanta Southwest Dekalb High School, like Cassius, Rossi and Champion - but I grew up nearby and hung out with a SWD crew. And my brother is a graduate of FAMU. I feel some kind of closeness to this young man with such promise who lost his life so young. While any song on Whitney's debut could drive me into an emotional frenzy as a teen, my closeness to her had waned somewhat over the years - only to be rejuvenated by a celebration of her life through sincere remembrances of those who truly knew her.

As I'm getting older and watching my daughter grow, I guess I'm getting wiser - and appreciating just how much life means. I'm determined to keep on Enjoyceinglife. I hope you are, too.

For more information visit, please visit Drum Major for Change! Robert Champion.

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