Emmanuel hits the screen for 2 days – June 17th & 19th


Monday, June 17th will mark the 4th year congregants were in bible study at Mother Emmanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, SC.   After inviting a stranger by the name of Dillon Ruth to join them for study, time passed before he committed an unforgettable act.  He shot and killed nine souls!

The news shocked the nation!  shocked the world!  They became known as the “Charleston Nine!”


Stephen (Step) Curry, Viola Davis and an extraordinary team has pulled together a documentary of the event.  The one and one-half film will be shown two days only, June 17th and 19th and as of this posting many theaters have reported sell-outs (check your local theater for details).

Processed With Darkroom

My review will follow as we will be at the June 19th screening in Baldwin Hills, CA.

Here is the trailer

Netherlands National Players in MLB v2019


[Oranjestad]     For the first year we will feature baseball players from the Netherlands who are playing in MLB (Major League Baseball).

The Netherlands is located in Europe; however, it has six countries in the Caribbean that are part of their governing system.  Aruba, Curacao and Bonaire are known as the ABC Islands.  Due to the climate Aruba and Curacao long ago embraced the sport of baseball.  A new dimension of Netherlands pride was created in 2013, as 21-year-old Xander Bogaerts who hailed from the Lago Heights community of Aruba staked his greatness as the starting shortstop for the Boston Red Sox.  Coincidently, the Red Sox surprised many by going all the way and winning the World Series.  Currently there are seven players from the Netherlands who are part of MLB. Four are from Curacao, one is from Aruba and one is from the Netherlands.


During my recent visit to Aruba I came across a new eatery just adjacent downtown called Parada.  There I encountered Mr. Humphrey Mohammed who is passionate and knowledgeable about the game.  He proudly stated, “there is great talent in Aruba and Curacao and we are very pleased of the way they are representing our country.  I am fortunate as I have access to the MLB channel so I can stay informed of the progress.”

 


Fred with Mrs. Sandra Brown during interview about her son and family’s success in baseball.
Xander Bogaerts field in Lago Heights

While the sport of baseball….is baseball, games in the Caribbean/Latin America are a bit different than the USA brand.  And, that is not a bad thing but it boils down to your perspective of understanding the game and the cultures who have adopted it.  There is lots of emotion and fan engagement featuring bands, horns and other devices and instruments presenting enthusiastic sounds.

The interior of the newly remodeled Joe Lavist Sports Park

 

Joe Lavist field in Sint Nicolas

Currently Netherlands is ranked 8th determined from the World Baseball Confederation.

This year’s edition has been expanded to include the 40-man roster instead of the 25-man roster.  This was done since technically they are eligible to play at a moment’s notice.

To understand the difference please read here

25 player roster – known as the Active Roster – A club’s 25-man roster is its full roster of active Major League players.

40 player roster – The 40 Man roster is the group of players who are eligible to be added to the active (25 manroster.



NETHERLANDS NATIONAL PLAYERS ON MLB 40 MAN ROSTER
Teams 2019
TOTALS>>> 7
Arizona Diamondbacks
Atlanta Braves 1
Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox 1
Chicago Cubs
Chicago White Sox
Cincinatti Reds
Cleveland Indians
Colorado Rockies
Detriot Tigers
Houston Astros
Kansas City Royals
Los Angeles Angels 1
Los Angeles Dodgers 1
Miami Marlins
Milwaukee Brewers
Minnesota Twins 1
New York Mets
New York Yankees 1
Oakland Athletics 1
Philadelphia Phillies
Pittsburgh Pirates
San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants
Seattle Mariners
St. Louis Cardinals
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Texas Rangers
Toronto Blue Jays
Washington Nationals

Cuban National Players in MLB v2019


[Havana]     For the third year we feature Cuban national baseball players who are play in MLB (Major League Baseball).

I was in Havana on my way to Estadio Latinoamericano when MLB, the MLB Players Association and the Cuban Federation reached a historic agreement allowing Cuban nationals to achieve a path to play in the MLB.  The agreement eliminated the need for players to defect or leave under negative circumstances.  Unfortunately, four months later the Donald Trump administration maintained its posture of dismantling anything viewed as positive which the Obama administration was part of, and abruptly canceled the agreement.   In the meantime, many have adopted a slogan adopted by MLB last year which simply states, “Let the kids play!!!!”

Ranked #5 in the World

Baseball is still an important part of Cuban culture.  With a population of approximately 11 million their impressive ranking is 5th as determined from the World Baseball Confederation.  While it is great that MLB fans get a first-hand opportunity to see the players perform, one can only imagine how good the national team would be had there not been defections, which have impacted the talent pool?

25 player v 40 player?

This year’s edition has been expanded to include the 40-man roster instead of the 25-man roster.  This was done since technically they are eligible to play at a moment’s notice.

To understand the difference please read here

  • 25 player roster – known as the Active Roster – A club’s 25-man roster is its full roster of active Major League players.
  • 40 player roster – The 40 Man roster is the group of players who are eligible to be added to the active (25 manroster.

Currently there are 25 players who are Cuban nationals who meet the criteria.  Of the thirty MLB teams, Houston is the leader with five players.


CUBAN NATIONAL PLAYERS ON MLB 40 MAN ROSTER
Teams 2019 2018 2017 Change 2019 v 2018
TOTALS>>> 25 20 0 5
Arizona Diamondbacks 1 0 1 1
Atlanta Braves 0 0 2 0
Baltimore Orioles 0 0 0 0
Boston Red Sox 0 0 1 0
Chicago Cubs 0 0 0 0
Chicago White Sox 3 2 2 1
Cincinatti Reds 3 1 1 2
Cleveland Indians 0 2 1 -2
Colorado Rockies 0 0 0 0
Detriot Tigers 0 1 1 -1
Houston Astros 5 2 0 3
Kansas City Royals 1 0 1 1
Los Angeles Angels 0 1 1 -1
Los Angeles Dodgers 1 2 2 -1
Miami Marlins 0 1 1 -1
Milwaukee Brewers 1 0 0 1
Minnesota Twins 0 0 0 0
New York Mets 2 1 1 1
New York Yankees 3 1 1 2
Oakland Athletics 0 0 1 0
Philadelphia Phillies 0 0 0 0
Pittsburgh Pirates 0 0 0 0
San Diego Padres 0 0 0 0
San Francisco Giants 0 0 0 0
Seattle Mariners 1 2 2 -1
St. Louis Cardinals 1 0 1 1
Tampa Bay Devil Rays 2 1 1 1
Texas Rangers 0 0 0 0
Toronto Blue Jays 1 3 0 -2
Washington Nationals 0 0 0 0

Nipsey Hussle: Murals around the Crenshaw district


On March 31, 2019 Ermias Ashgedom who was affectionately known as “Nipsey Hussle” was murdered outside of his Marathon clothing store.  Hussle was well-known in the Crenshaw community and promoted a self-help message.  He was a musician and well known in the rap genre.  It was his love for community and his entreprenurial talents that many echoed as they described his love and appreciation for developing the area.

Murals have been doting the landscape since “Nip’s” death.  We are creating a photo-essay to showcase those we are able to locate.

 

Review:  Amazing Grace the Movie


[Los Angeles, CA]   Aretha Franklin recorded her Amazing Grace album January 13th & 14th 1972 at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church located on 87th & Broadway in South Los Angeles.  It was a live recording and featured many greats, including Rev. James Cleveland.

First screened Feb. 2019

The album was produced but the live footage was shelved for decades until the estate of “The Queen of Soul” approved it to be shown.  In February of this year, the Pan-African Film Festival featured the screening as part of it’s opening night festivities.  The screening took place at the Director’s Guild in Hollywood.

 

Starting April 5th, the general public has been given an opportunity to see the screening as it debuted in over 1,000 theaters.  I was one of those viewers.

 

The film is just as iconic as the album as “The Queen” at age 29 dazzled those in attendance by her gospel renditions.  The 87-minute film is more raw footage of the two-day concert and features many camera angles which were present to document the occasion.

 

While the documentary is, what it is; it falls short on taking advantage of the storytelling which are featured in similar formats.  You are left wondered why the producers could not have woven in more anecdotal reactions from those who participated in the filming as well as more commentary which was surely would be available before and following 1972?

 

The documentary is worth seeing.  The church is still on 87th & Broadway so it will be interesting to see the reaction of those who take a stroll down memory lane.


My “Hoodie Score” on a scale of 1-10 (ten being the highest) is an 8, due to the rare footage.

Review:  Soul of a Nation Exhibit


Lorraine Motel. Site of where Dr. King was assassinated. April 4, 1968. photo courtesy of Fred Thomas, III collection

Today many across the nation and throughout the world pay respect to Rev., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  It was this day, fifty-one years ago when he was slain by an assassin’s bullet.  The result was a public outcry not seen before, as over 100 cities erupted in riots and demonstrations.

1963-1983

Several weeks ago, the Broad museum opened Soul of a Nation chronicling twenty years; 1963-1983.  It is a powerful exhibit showcasing African-American artist who used their talent to communicate the movement and the struggle during that era.  Interestingly, several of the artist used Dr. King’s death in 1968 as a backdrop for their artistic talent.


The exhibit is a “special presentation” so the cost is $18 per person, however The Broad is offering free admission to Soul of a Nation every Thursday from 5-8 p.m. (last entry at 7 p.m.) during the exhibition’s run.  A tip is to arrive early and stand in the “free general admission line” AND GET INSIDE THE MUSEUM.  Once you are inside, you are good because at 5 p.m., the exhibit opens for general admission viewing.  The exhibit runs through September and then moves to San Francisco at the De Young museum, which opens in October 2019.


From Negroes to African-Americans

I had a chance to visit the exhibit.  Some of the artwork brought back vivid memories.  There was an abundance of material I had never seen but it reflected the interpretive period.  Sometimes we live in historic times and do not realize it as it seems like life as usual.  The Harlem Renaissance was a benchmark period for African-American music and art.  Years followed and the civil rights era brought back similar expressions as artist appeared in droves to interpret that era.  It was a new time, a new level of consciousness as Negroes morphed into African-Americans and created a new dynamic.  The exhibit does a great job of showcasing that period featuring very good diversity among the art work presented.


Listed below is a small sample of some photos from the exhibit

 


 

The Broad Museum - 221 S. Grand Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90012

African-American Med students find life-raft in CUBA


About seven years ago I first heard of a program that seemed too good to be true!  Simply, the country of Cuba had a program where students could gain their medical education, training and degree at no cost to them.  Med school cost are crippling for most and range from $140,000 – $175,000 and that is just tuition.  When you factor in room & board, meals, supplies and other things the cost can easily skyrocket to nearly $500,000.

My treks started in 2014 and due to needing laser-focus energy on my two topics; Race in Cuba and the Old Negro Leagues in Cuba, I forgot about the program.

 

Fiction or Non-Fiction

Just like you I love entertainment.  The problem I have is limited time so when it comes to reading or viewing screenings, as a historian I tend to focus on non-fiction or real-life issues.  Maybe that is the reason I prefer documentaries?  The Pan-African Film Festival (PAFF) kicked off its 27th year last Thursday.

Lo and behold one of their features is “Dare to Dream.”  It is a riveting documentary that chronicles med students earning their credentials in Cuba.

(courtesy of Pomona Valley Med Center) Completing his residency at Pomona Valley Medical Center. Resident Year: 2019 Undergraduate School: The University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma Medical School: Escuela Latinoamericana de Medicina

In 2000, a delegation representing the Congressional Black Caucus had the courage to visit Cuba and meet with Fidel Castro.  Part of their discussion was the pathetic health care African-Americans and other minorities had to deal with.  Later that year members of the Cuban Health ministry visited the group in New York and announced Castro was creating a program for the population affected to complete their studies in Cuba and the cous de gras was there was absolutely no cost.

Approximately half of the initial scholarships were targeted for African-American students.  The remainder were for Latino and other ethnic minorities who came from underserved communities.

 

The Escuela Latinoamericana de Ciencias Médicas (ELAM) program initially offered 500 scholarships total for US students.  Thus far nearly 200 US students have graduated and nearly 30,000 students from over 100 countries worldwide have benefitted.  IFCO is the organization which identifies and places students in the program.

 

As for those from the United States, they are placed in hospitals all over, including Pomona Valley Medical Center.

 

The first class of 1,498 ELAM doctors graduated on August 20, 2005, with 112 from other Cuban medical schools: 28 other countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and the United States were represented by the graduates. The ceremony was led by Castro and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Reportedly attending were Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of Antigua & BarbudaPrime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit of DominicaPrime Minister Keith Mitchell of GrenadaPresident Martín Torrijos of PanamaPrime Minister Denzil Douglas of St. Kitts & Nevis and Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves of St. Vincent & the Grenadinesas well as high-ranking government representatives of The BahamasBarbadosBelize, the Dominican Republic, EcuadorGrenadaGuatemalaGuyanaJamaicaSt. LuciaSuriname and Trinidad & Tobago.

 

The documentary has two more screenings before PAFF ends.  To be informed and see for yourself this remarkable program I would encourage you to attend PAFF or purchase the video.

  • Friday – Feb. 15th 4:30pm
  • Saturday – Feb. 16th 6:30pm

 

Here is the trailer

Dare to Dream: Cuba’s Latin American Medical School from Jennifer Wager on Vimeo.

 

 

Aretha Franklin Kicks Off 27th Annual PAFF


Legendary Gospel and R&B artist Aretha Franklin will kick-off the 27th annual Pan-African Film Festival.  The never seen documentary which featured Franklin’s historic album – “Amazing Grace” will finally hit the big screens.  Through all of the years since the 1972 concert was filmed, due to various reasons it had never been shown.

The filming will be seen tonight at 7:30pm at the Director’s Guild located on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood.  The rest of PAFF’s extraordinary lineup of independent films showcasing producer’s across the diaspora will be seen at the Rave Cinemark theaters in Baldwin Hills at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza shopping complex.

A little nugget of history

Watts is a community in Los Angeles.  It was always known as a place many came to call home following the migration of African-Americans moving from parts of the South.  In 1965, due to feeling abuse, discrimination and the basic lack of upward mobility, some members of the community erupted and the riot which followed became known as the “Watts Riots.”

Through the years which followed the name Watts became synonymous with anything bad or negative.  As Los Angeles continued to grow, African-Americans moved in greater numbers to all parts of the city.  It was not uncommon to see various media reports mention any place where African-Americans lived in Los Angeles described as Watts.  More specifically some reports mentioned any place south of the Santa Monica freeway as being in Watts!

Historically, that is laughable if not insulting to the many who lived in Watts and were proud citizens.  The community of Watts is fairly small.  The north/south boundary is Firestone (Manchester) to the north and Imperial Highway to the south.  The east/west boundary is Central Avenue to the west and Alameda Street to the east.

The reason this tidbit or perspective is mentioned is many who have come to know about the famous concert Mrs. Franklin performed in debuting  Amazing Grace have listed the origin as taking place in Watts.  Unfortunately that is not correct.  New Temple Missionary Baptist Church is at 87th Street and Broadway and was erected in 1966.  That location has never been in Watts as it has always been in what is known as South Central Los Angeles.

 

For more information on PAFF and the 150+ screenings, click HERE

 

Dr. MLK Day 2019 – A reflection


[cover photo - even as the heavy rains started to fall, a few brave souls came to the inaugural opening of the MLK memorial on that historic Saturday, which is known as the unofficial unveiling]

Today millions across the globe joined the United States of America in celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.   As we look back, like many historic events that was not always the case.  In 1983 It took lots of arm-twisting and sophisticated political lobbying to get Ronald Reagan to sign the national holiday into law.   Year after year Dr. King’s prominence keeps growing.

 

The MLK Memorial

There are statues of Dr. King sprinkled across the United States.  It was 2011 when the nation anticipated the unveiling of the MLK memorial adjacent the national mall.  The ceremony was to take place August 28, 2011.  Unfortunately, a hurricane named Irene had other plans.

Once arriving in D.C. checking weather conditions from the Marriott

Despite the looming hurricane which shut down Washington, DC and the eastern seaboard, a few had already made plans to attend the event and took a huge gamble to travel to there despite ominous weather conditions and the subsequent event postponement.

 

Judith and I had followed the creation of the MLK memorial since construction had been announced.  Due to the weather it was decided Judith would remain in Los Angeles and I would venture to D.C. to see if I could get ahead of the hurricane to get a glimpse of the memorial.

 

The controversy

 

Upon arrival the weather was rough as the impending hurricane had not yet hit.  As I made it to the memorial my gamble paid off as even though visitors were scarce, I was lucky to meet the sculpture of the memorial, Master Lei Yixin.   It was great to meet the person who was selected in creating the landmark.

Sculpture master Lei Yixin

As previously mentioned, Judith and I had closely followed the construction of the memorial.  I was happy to hear how the MLK foundation was managing the progress.  Unfortunately, some issues of the construction became serious and to this day I have still not reconciled.  First, Yixin selection as the sculpture was shocking.  No doubt the likes of Ed Dwight who was experienced and had developed a successful inventory of statues of Dr. King was available, folk couldn’t figure out why he or other U.S. artisans were not selected?   It was also uncovered that as a Chinese national Yixen knew very little, if anything about Dr. King.  I was later informed the foundation had to send someone to China to educate him on the work of Dr. King.

Then, the issue with the granite raised eyebrows.  Folk were stunned to find out not only would the granite come from China but that sculpture would be made there and imported to D.C. in sections.  What???  I mean some of the best granite in the U.S. is in Georgia or Connecticut just to name a few states.  Many did not care or perhaps had forgotten that the United States economy was battling the effects of the 2008 financial meltdown.  Folk were dealing with all sorts of economic set-backs, particularly on the employment front.  Thanks to hard-hitting reporting by the Washington Post, with all of the monuments in D.C. and the many craftsman’s and artisans who create such beauty they were available and ready to work.   Sadly, many were shut-out from participating in the project that was right at their doorstep.  That is why  it was a huge surprise to find out some of the workers to finish construction of the memorial were actually imported from China and were housed in a nondescript building in D.C.

Those incidents do not take away from the contribution of China or the sculpture.  Anyway, I digress but consider myself fortunate to not only meet the sculpture but also the President of the Kappa’s who originated the plan, raised the money and developed and other resources for the project to be built.  So, my conflict with the construction was minor compared to the bigger picture of erecting a monument giving homage to a true American hero.

 

Ella Dean, Renie Hale & Justine Love

 

The rains started coming down harder so I needed to retreat to a venue where I could relax and grab a bite to eat.  I headed down to the iconic Ben’s Chili Bowl at the “U” and while sitting at the counter munching on a half-smoke I noticed three strangers who seemed to know each other and like me appeared to be in D.C. for the occasion?  That day goes down in history, especially as we celebrate Dr. King.  Judith and I are now known as close family friends to; Ella Dean, who was on assignment and on her way to serve with Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren, Renie Hale from CBS, who was also on assignment and Justine Love, from a CBS affiliate who was also on assignment.  We all returned to the memorial the next day as the hurricane had given way to glistened sunshine and it was a remarkable sight to witness the emotions of others as they came through the pillars to witness the memorial for themselves.

All of us consider ourselves students of history regarding Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Since then, celebrating his birthday and the memorial which gleans his name gives us a better appreciation in celebrating the event.