Obama, Harlem, Makeba, Oyee!

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The Makeba phenom began in the 60s. Exiled by South Africa for more than 30 years, Ms. Makeba also became the voice and face of African culture the world over. She performed with Harry Belafonte, Nina Simone, Dizzy Gillespie and Paul Simon. An international treasure and cultural icon, she often said. "I will sing until the last day of my life."

[POLITICS, CULTURE, PEOPLE] 

PRESIDENT ELECT BARACK OBAMA

CONGRATULATIONS, President-elect Barack Hussein Obama! How sweet the sound. How sweet it is! On January 20, it becomes official that an African American will become the 44th President of the United States. How sweet it is! How sweet the sound! Headlines the world over announced the election victor Barack Hussein Obama. An average 8.5 million visitors per minute clicked onto new websites worldwide, from 11 pm to midnight EST, on election night

The Lower 48s were agog on Election Night 2008! Harlem was no exception. Thousands of people descended on the State Office Building Plaza on West 125 Street to view election results on a where a giant movie screen. The environment was electric, drumbeats pulsated, Harlem’s diverse population of African Americans, Africans, and whites joyously co-mingled as the election returns raced north of 200 electoral votes. When the electoral count exceeded 270, jubilant noises filled Harlem streets. Happiness spread like a contagion. Harlem folk embraced, kissed, and danced with each other while the streets were alive with the sounds of elation, which attended the historic Obama victory. The Kenyan ambassador to the UN joined the election watch party at Harlem eatery Londel’s. Oh, what a night!

The Obama victory had special resonance for African Americans. I have not heard that type of joyful Harlem street music since the Joe Louis boxing victories in the 40s, when Harlem was an all Black village. I suspect that enslaved Africans in the 1860s expressed the same type of joyful, street music during the first night of Emancipation and during Juneteenth celebrations. Some writers compared the 11/4 Election night euphoria with Nelson Mandela’s visit to Harlem. I say not so. Moreover, Mandela’s Harlem welcome was an afternoon celebration. The Obama victory was an all-American victory, an example for the world to emulate. It represented a triumph of hope and change, key residents in the human brain, which have been dormant for almost eight years.

The Obama triumph was not lost on the new Harlemites, who filled Harlem eateries and watering spots and that night. A rare American fraternity was evidenced on 11/4. After the Obama speech, a group of young white women, danced and chanted "OBAMA, OBAMA, OBAMA" on Lenox Avenue and 120 Street. Harlem streets teemed with people who were heavily intoxicated by the historic YES, WE CAN moment.

The Obama election day victory speaks to the wisdom of the majority of the U.S. electorate. We are once again en route to that more perfect union. More than 120 million Americans voted on 11/4. Obama got 95% of the African American vote and 67% of the Latino vote. He will deal with a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives - 254 Democrats to 173 Republicans in the House of Representatives - and in the Senate with 56 Democrat leaning senators, ( 54 Democrats and 2 independents), 4 shy a 60-seat filibuster-proof majority. The jury is still out re: victories in 4 Senate races; and runoffs will be held. America is no longer blue states and red states. Barack Obama’s election results are consistent with his speech. "There is only the United States of America.

President-elect Barack Obama has named his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and his campaign strategist David Axelrod, will be an adviser. He has a 17 member economic advisory board which will help him name the new Treasury secretary of should I say czar. Media speculation about Team Barack Obama runs rampant. Senators Hillary Clinton and John Kerry and New Mexico’s Governor Bill Richardson are among Obama’s top picks for the coveted top Diplomat job, the Secretary of State. Then you read an Associated Press piece denying that Hillary’s in the running. General Colin Powell is mentioned as Education secretary. Harvard Law Professor Charles Ogiltree and Attorney Eric Holder, former Deputy US Attorney General and DC Superior Court Judge, are rumored to be on Attorney General’s short list.

Obama fever is a worldwide. The world press descended on Kenya, Obama’s dad’s homeland, on November 4, just in case. Africa is hot again and the world is intellectually curious about the continent. Since November 4, most Kenyan newborns have been named Barack and Michelle. In Sierra Leone, seven out of 10 boys are names Barack Obama. In post-election U.S., girl and boy newborns, have Barack or Obama as the first or one of many middle names.

Highly sought-after Barack Obama collectibles include the November 5 issues of the NY Times (still available at $14.95) and NY Daily News with special supplements, and the 11/9 Sunday Daily News Obama supplement; the November 6 Amsterdam News had an initial press run of 50,000 and sold out that day and went into a second printing. Scalpers were selling AmNews last week for $20. AmNews second and third editions have sold out. The 11/6 NY Beacon issues with the Obama family cover sold out. The Amistad book, OBAMA: THE HISTORIC CAMPAIGN IN PHOTOGRAPHS, by photo historian Dr. Deborah Willis and Washington Post editor Kevin Merida, is available at local bookstores. Harlem and Brooklyn street vendors have countless Obama items; and business is brisk. Read 11/17 New Yorker Magazine James Wood essay CLOSE READING; Victory Speech, where he credits Lincoln and Dr. King as the speech’s founders and inspiration, and labels its language..plain but musical. Time, Newsweek, People Magazine available on 11/10 boasted Obama/Obama Family covers. And most betting people say that Obama will don Time Magazine’s Man of the Year cover.

Records crowds, surpassing one million or more, are expected for the January 20 inauguration of Barck Obama, the 44th President of the United States.Tickets are free and available at your congressman’s and senators offices. Contact Senator Hillary Clinton at inauguration@clinton.senate.gov or Senator Chuck Schumer at 202.228.3027. Communicate with them immediately.

MIRIAM MAKEBA TRIBUTE:
One of the continent’s most renowned citizens, South Africa-born Miriam Makeba,76, died in a town near Naples, Italy on last Sunday, after collapsing onstage, where she was performing in solidarity with six Ghanaians who were killed there, last September, it is alleged, by organized crime. Known to some as Mama Africa or the Empress of South Africa, Miriam Makeba musical enchantress, she was an articulate spokesperson enumerating the ills of South Africa’s apartheid. The Makeba phenom began in the 60s. Exiled by South Africa for more than 30 years, Ms. Makeba also became the voice and face of African culture the world over. She performed with Harry Belafonte, Nina Simone, Dizzy Gillespie and Paul Simon. An international treasure and cultural icon, she often said. "I will sing until the last day of my life."

On Sunday, November 16, MAMA AFRIKA: A TRIBUTE CONCERT FOR MIRIAM MAKEBA, featuring Harry Belafonte, Randy Weston, Les Nubians, Somi, Wumni, Bakithi & Robbi Kumalo, Francis Mbappe, Jojo Kuo, Leopoldo Fleming, Dominic Kanza, Loide Jorge, Tony Cedras and others, will be held at Le Poisson Rouge (www.lepoissonrouge.com) at 158 Bleecker Street, Manhattan, at 7:30 pm. A $20 donation is suggested. Proceeds will be donated to Sauti Yetu: Center for African Women (www.sautiyetu.org) in Miriam Makeba’s honor.

TRANSITIONS
Terence Tolbert, 44, one of the Democratic Party’s rising stars, died on November 2 after suffering a massive heart attack in Nevada, where he was the state director of Barack Obama’s campaign. A household name in local and national Democratic Party power elite circles Tolbert was a Harlem born public servant who was once Assemblymen Keith Wright’s chief of staff and who worked many campaigns, including John Edwards presidential bid and Mayor Bloomberg’s 2005 re-election effort. A top aide to and Albany/Washington DC lobbyist for NYC Department of Education Chancellor Joel Klein, Tolbert took a leave of absence in August to work with Obama. His is survived by his wife Frieda and his mother Carolyn. He was funeralized at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine where he was eulogized by prominent local and national politicos.

Victor Gobern, 57, died on November 2. A native New Yorker, a devoted family man and civil servant, who retired two years ago from his lifelong job with NYC Transit where he worked as a bus driver. He is survived by his wife Marilyn, his children Crystal and Trevor and his mother Lorraine and brother Leslie.

Elaine Thompson, 85, died on November 12 at Mt. Sinai. A native New Yorker, devoted mother and grandmother, she worked for the NYC Department of the Aging. She is survived by her daughter Patricia, her son Kenneth and her granddaughter Karen and great grandchildren. Funeral arrangements include a Tuesday, November 18 viewing at the Unity Funeral Home on Eighth Avenue and 126 Street; and the funeral service on Wednesday, November 19 at St. Aloysius Roman Catholic Church.

THE BUSINESS PAGES
The NY and NJ Minority Suppliers Development Council hosted its 35th Anniversary Partnership Awards Gala at the NY Marriott Marquis on November 14. The Three 2008 Supplier of the Year Awardees are Stephen Jackson of RoaDDoggZ Productions, a film/video production company; Lisa Price, creator/founder of Carol’s Daughter, a manufacturer, retailer, wholesaler, retailer of fragrances and beauty and grooming products; and Warren Thompson, president/chairman of Thompson Hospitality Services, a food services, restaurant and retail facilities management.

NOVEMBER EVENTS CALENDAR
The AUDELCO (Audience Development Committee Inc.) Awards Show is arguably the best theatre experience during this or any other season in New York. The 36th Annucal Vivian Robinson/Audelco Recogntion Awards, which honors excellence in theatre showcasing the talents of Black artists, will be held at the Harlem Stage/Aaron Davis Hall on Convent and 133 Street, the CCNY campus, on Monday, November 17 at 6 pm. Attended by world-renown African-American theatre and film denizens, the 2008 Audelco Awards honorary chairs are choreographer extraordinaire Maurice Hines and musical theatre vocalist Melba Moore. Equal parts Black Tonys, production numbers from nominated plays and opening night electricity, the Audelco Awards are not to be missed by lovers of theatre culture. The show deserves more mainstream media coverage as well. Some 2008 Audelco Award Nominees are NEC’s The First Breeze of Summer; FELA!; Classic Theatre of Harlem’s "Black Nativity"; "Ain’t Misbehavin"; "Oroonoka;" "New Federal Theatre’s "On

Sweet Mama Stringbean" and "In Search of My Father." Tickets are from $50-$125. For reservations or more information, call 212.368.6906

The world premiere of the much ballyhooed SOUL MEN, the film comedy, starring Samuel Jackson and Bernie Mac, was held at Harlem’s pre-eminent

Entertainment venue the Apollo Theatre, itself a part of the storyline. SOUL MEN lives up to expectations, giving new meaning to the buddy/road movie genre, taking it to new destinations, laced with good 70s music, the African American version of blue humor, multiple Black verbal expletives, sight jokes and ironic plot twists and turns. Isaac Hayes does a cameo turn in the film. SOUL MEN is a bittersweet experience where laughter mixes with the sadness that attends the loss of two American legends Bernic Mac and Isaac Hayes. The film is an unadulterated laugh confection and last rites

South Africa’s world music and reggae group, the SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR, makes back-to-back free appearances at the Harlem Stage/Aaron Davis Hall, the City College of NY, Convent/135 Street, on November 18-19. Join the COMMUNITY SING on 11/18 at 6:30. Attend the rousing concert by the SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR and its band on November 19. Space is limited and reservations required. Call 212.281-9240

The New York based BLACK STAR NEWS will host its ANNUAL EXCELLENCE AWARDS DINNER on Friday, November 21 at Harlem’s Nubian Heritage space at 2037 Fifth Avenue, between 125/126 Streets at 6 pm. The 2008 BSN honoree roster boasts many local business, media and arts leaders, including David Giscomb, Sovereign Bank; Desiree Dancy, New York Times; Bob Herbert, New York Times; Jared McAllister, New York Daily News, Marcia Sells, Columbia University; Voza Rivers, Harlem Arts Alliance; Leslie Pinckney, Essence Magazine; Robin Verges, Rubenstein Associates; Kenneth Theobalds, Entergy Co.; the family of the late Andrew and Jocelyn Cooper, founder of the City Sun newspaper; and Shirley Jenkins, Municipal Credit Union. Newark, New Jersey Mayor Corey Booker is the Award Dinner guest of honor.

The brainchild of Uganda-born, Milton Allimadi, a Columbia Graduate School of Journalism alum, who is the founding publisher/editor of the Black Star News Publishing Company (www.blackstarnews.com), in 1997, and the Harlem Business News, the BSN ANNUAL EXCELLENCE DINNER identifies people who have demonstrated excellence in their respective professions and who inspire young people. Allimadi enthuses. "It is important for young people to see achievers who look like them." He adds that the 2008 BSN DINNER is also a Barack Obama victory celebration. The BSN is a 24/7 print and internet news service. Corporate dinner tables, which seat 10, are available at $3000. A limited number of individual tickets are available at $100. For reservations, call 212.481.7745.

 

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