During the grand finale of the third annual International Jazz Day concert held in Osaka, Japan (April 30th), more than 35 jazz musicians stretched across an elaborate stage in Osaka Castle Park and performed John Lennon's 1971 anthem, "Imagine." Most of them hailed from the U.S., but the lineup also included the South African guitarist and singer Jonathan Butler, the Malian songstress Oumou Sangaré, and Japanese virtuosos: pianists Toshiko Akiyoshi and Makoto Ozone and trumpeters Terumasa Hino and Takuya Kuroda.
With their bracing harmonies and deft musicianship underneath pianist Herbie Hancock's joyous South African-flavored arrangement, the ensemble looked like a miniature United Nations—and that comparison came as no surprise, considering that UNESCO and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz produced the two-hour concert.
Although Osaka was host city for this year, cities in 195 other countries joined in a worldwide celebration of International Jazz Day on April 30 by staging jazz concerts and educational seminars.
With the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls dominating the headlines, what has gone largely unnoticed is that some of the world's most powerful women in fields such as media, business, fashion and politics recently convened in Nigeria for a conference intended to empower global leaders.
Attendees and speakers at the third annual WIE Africa Symposium ("WIE" stands for Women, Inspiration and Enterprise), held on May 3, included movers and shakers such as CEO of Johnson Publishing Co. Desiree Rogers and CNN anchor Isha Sesay, as well as African powerhouses like business tycoon and billionaire Folorunsho Alakija and business executive Jennifer Obayuwana.
In addition to these prominent leaders, the conference could well have included women from the town where the girls' abduction took place, Chibok, given the Herculean efforts and proven leadership skills that these local women displayed in raising global awareness about the hostage crisis created by the terror group Boko Haram. These women worked tirelessly, and many did so without first world resources like the Internet.
Juxtaposed to news coverage in recent weeks about the horrifying abduction of hundreds of Nigerian schoolgirls is the sheer volume of national media attention devoted to Donald Sterling's garden-variety racist rants; a positioning that seems, frankly, absurd.
The girls' story is thankfully starting to get traction, but too often in mainstream media, coverage of critical news trails more sensationalized stories.
Despite many news programs featuring African-American women as on-air hosts – Joy Reid of MSNBC's "The Reid Report," Robin Roberts on ABC's "Good Morning America," Gwen Ifill anchoring "PBS Newshour" and Michel Martin helming NPR's "Tell Me More," to name a few – there are still far too few people of color, particularly black women, in executive, editorial and production positions who have the decision-making authority to promote stories in ways that reflect the concerns of our communities.
Four years ago a theater actress and storyteller was allowed into the women's prison, the Shelby County Detention Center. She began teaching inmates how to write the true stories of their lives up to the point they were incarcerated. The women bonded with their visitor as if she were the first person who truly had listened to them, which in many cases she was.
Viewers will journey through this outreach program, called "Prison Stories," with a special half-hour documentary airing on WKNO/Channel 10 on Thursday, May 15 at 9 p.m. "Inside Story," produced by local award-winning filmmaker Craig Leake, follows storyteller, writer, and actor Elaine Blanchard and her twelve students through the sixteen-week course. It was funded, in part, by the Department of Communication at the University of Memphis.
Although she is an ordained minister, Blanchard doesn't lecture her captive audience about Jesus. Most of her inmates/students already have been exposed to prison ministries. Some of the "Prison Stories" participants have been baptized as many as four times. Instead of praying over the women, Elaine listens to them and becomes a friend who helps them analyze their pasts and plan for their futures out of jail.
This week, during its Annual Spring Meeting, the GOP is rolling out an impressive roster of young, fresh "rising stars," who will be entrusted with moving the party forward into a creative innovative future of minority inclusion and conciliation.
Perhaps the most impressive of these is an African-American teenager, Lee Jackson. He appears pretty much like a typical 19 year old. That is, until you begin talking with him. There is then espoused a wisdom far beyond his years.
The political science student at the University of Maine wanted to change some things in Old Town, Maine, where he lives. The predominantly Democratic area is where Jackson has lived most of his life. No Republican candidate had a prayer running for public office.
PHILADELPHIA, PA. – U.S. Sen. Robert P. Casey (D-Pa.) visited Community College of Philadelphia on April 25th to accept the Judge Edward R. Becker Citizenship Award, which is named for a respected jurist noted for his humanity, humility and powerful decisions.
Casey used the occasion to discuss food insecurity, an issue that often remains hidden from public view. Just last year, U.S. Sens. Casey, Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) introduced the Good Samaritan Hunger Relief Tax Incentive Act, which would expand and create permanent tax incentives for businesses that donate to food banks.
At the award ceremony, Casey called food security, among children especially, an issue of justice. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget plan includes cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as the Food Stamp Program) of $137 billion – 18 percent – over the next ten years.
Professor Michael Watts teaches geography at UC Berkeley and is the author of many books, including "Silent Violence: Food, Famine, and Peasantry in Northern Nigeria" and "Curse of the Black Gold: 50 Years of Oil in the Niger Delta." He spoke to NAM editor Andrew Lam about the recent kidnappings of more than 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria by the radical group known as Boko Haram, and the apparent inability of the Nigerian government to either prevent or respond to their crimes. At the time of this writing, 276 of the girls that were kidnapped three weeks ago remain in captivity while 53 have escaped. On Tuesday, Nigerian officials reported that the group had struck again, abducting 11 more schoolgirls in the country's northeast region.
Who are the Boko Haram and what should we know about them?
First of all, those individuals who are identified with Boko Haram do not refer to themselves as Boko Haram. Boko Haram, in the local Hausa language, means something along the line of, "Western education is forbidden." It's a term applied to them by residents in the communities in which the movement arose in the early 2000's, in the northeast of Nigeria. They refer to themselves differently, as Jama'atu Ahlis Sunna Lidda'awati Wal-Jihad (People Committed to the Propagation of the Prophet's Teachings and Jihad). I'm raising all of this because I think it's very important that Boko Haram is not [a name] they deployed, and it's not something that describes what they're movement is about.