Tag: Alvin Ailey

New “Mr. Soul!” Documentary Explores How Ellis Haizlip’s PBS Show “Soul!” Brought Black Culture to Talk Show TV

by Sameer Rao via colorlines.com

Ellis Haizlip (photo via colorlines.com)

Ellis Haizlip broke the talk show and public television color barrier when he introduced SOUL!,” the weekly program he hosted during the late ’60s and early ’70s, to PBS. Now, a half decade after the show debuted, his niece Melissa Haizlip (“Crossing Jordan”) revisits his legacy with the documentary “Mr. SOUL!Deadline anticipated the world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival by unveiling the trailer (above) on April 4.

“There exists, as far as I know, no TV program that deals with my culture so completely, so freely, so beautifully,” the senior Haizlip remarked in archival footage from the trailer. To drive that point home, the trailer incorporates clips of performances from now-renowned Black artists as varied as Maya Angelou, Donny Hathaway and Alvin Ailey. Haizlip also conducted interviews on the show with Stokely Carmichael, James Baldwin and other activists and thought leaders.

Interviewees like Kathleen Cleaver, Sonia Sanchez and Harry Belafonte spoke to the importance of this show, which centered Black culture at a time when the U.S. was waging full-scale war on Black activism. “This is serious business, our lives were at stake!” Cleaver emphasized in the trailer.

PBS/Thirteen noted that Ellis Haizlip fought both on and off camera. He intentionally staffed his production team with Black crew members and publicly criticized the government-created Corporation for Public Broadcasting for pulling funding. “Worse than racism, I see this as the beginning of a systematic plan to remove Black programs from public television,” he told Jet magazine after the show’s cancellation in 1973.

“Mr. SOUL!” debuts at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 22.

Source: https://www.colorlines.com/articles/new-doc-explores-how-mr-soul-brought-black-culture-talk-show-tv

Oprah Winfrey and Former Alvin Ailey Dancer Dwana Smallwood Open Performing Arts Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant

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Dwana Smallwood (back) teaches dance at Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center in Bed-Stuy (photo via 7online.com)

The “Oprah Effect”: we’ve all heard about it, but to experience it is quite a different story.  Your life can change on a dime.  And it did for Dwana Smallwood, one of the premier dancers for Alvin Ailey.

What started as invite from Oprah turned into more than a $500,000 donation to a dancer’s dream.  “Oh my goodness, what a journey from Green Avenue down the street to right now. It’s been an extraordinary journey,” said Smallwood.

It’s a journey that took Smallwood from the streets of Bedford-Stuyvesant to performing around the world as one of the premiere dancers for Alvin Ailey’s elite dance company for 12 years. She is considered one of the best modern dancers since Judith Jamison and Mikhail Baryshnikov. Her power and her grace are electrifying.  “Even though Alvin Ailey is one of the biggest companies in the world, and that was the only place I wanted to dance, and I kept thinking is that my life’s purpose to perform,” Smallwood said.

And that could be enough for some but not for Dwana. So when life came knocking at her door once again, she did as she always did. She danced her way to the next opportunity this time appearing on “The Oprah Winfrey Show”.  But that performance morphed into so much more.  “I said please, please, please would you go to my school in South Africa and teach my girls what you know,” Oprah Winfrey said.

And she did. Her passion took on a new form as a teacher.  But what was supposed to be a one week stay at the school, turned into a four-year odyssey.  “First I was begging for a week. Then I was begging for a year,” Winfrey said.

The lessons extended far beyond dance, even for Dwana.  “It unleashed this person that knew that I could reach young people. I could figure out what’s going on with a young woman and I could help her figure out the brilliance within her,” Smallwood said.

“What she did at my school, she came in to teach dance but she taught them about life, she taught them all of the social emotional skills that we know it takes to really be successful, and not only survive but to thrive in the world,” Winfrey said.

With her mission accomplished in South Africa, home was calling her back.  “I truly love Brooklyn and I love Bed-Stuy,” Smallwood said.

Continue reading “Oprah Winfrey and Former Alvin Ailey Dancer Dwana Smallwood Open Performing Arts Center in Bedford-Stuyvesant”

Stevie Wonder, Alvin Ailey to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

Stevie Wonder

Each year, the White House grants the Presidential Medal of Freedom to individuals who have made major social, political, and cultural contributions to the country. It’s recognized as the highest civilian honor. Later this month, President Obama will bestow the medal on nineteen distinguished recipients including musician Stevie Wonder, murdered civil rights activists James ChaneyAndrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, and notable choreographer Alvin Ailey.

“I look forward to presenting these nineteen bold, inspiring Americans with our nation’s highest civilian honor,” said the President in a statement. “From activists who fought for change to artists who explored the furthest reaches of our imagination; from scientists who kept America on the cutting edge to public servants who help write new chapters in our American story, these citizens have made extraordinary contributions to our country and the world.”

Last year’s Presidential Medal of Freedom recipients included Bill Clinton and Oprah Winfrey.

article via newsone.com