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Obamas Choose Kehinde Wiley for Portraits, Read Review of Wiley Exhibit at BAM

Kehinde Wiley Portrait

The top floor of the Brooklyn Museum is filled with iconic images from art as far back at the fifteenth century.  There are images from the Byzantine Empire, stain glass iconic images like Saint Ursula and the Virgin Martyrs, the sculpture Morpheus from Jean Antonie Houdon.  Images that have inspired individuals and cultures for centuries. 

Only now, they have been reinvented by artist Kehinde Wiley who has transformed these iconic images to include African American men in an exhibit titled ‘A New Republic’.

“Painting is about the world we live in.  Black people live in the world.  My choice is to include them.  This is my way of saying yes to us,” Kehinde Wiley.

Recreating the original work by posing these men in the same positions as the iconic portraits, the artist has transformed not only the classic images but reconstructed a story of a new world of inclusion. 

Busts which have been used to depict nobility, kings and presidents, are featured in the exhibit represented by Black men.  These men, with their heads high and prideful, sport a hoodie, an afro pick, a thick chain with a cross. 

Stained glass windows have been recreated with images of men in the poses of saints and angels with brown faces.  Oil canvases dominate the walls with images of heroes, warriors and innovators. 

Touches of humor can also be found in the work.  In the recreation of the painting of Napoleon Bonaparte Crossing the Alps at Great St. Bernard Pass by Jacques-Louis David, Wiley re-images a Timberland clad man as the Black warrior.  The warrior is complete with bandana tied urban style instead of the traditional bicorne hat the emperor wears.  The rock in the Wiley painting has written on it ‘Bonaparte’, just as in the original painting, but is accompanied by the name ‘Williams’ to indicate the presence of a Black man. 

The detail in the paintings is elaborate and exquisite from the soles of the converse sneakers, the sagging pants and the individual braids and locks.  The use of traditional urban attire in the works seems to say that, even in everyday wear, there is nobility. 

The artist also includes women in the exhibit.  They are similarly featured in iconic works.   The trio of female busts is a must see. 

The title of the exhibition is also a connection to an iconic classic, Plato’s ‘The Republic’.  In that classic work, thinkers define the world around them.  Here Wiley imagines ‘A New Republic’ where today’s man is part of that dialog.

The exhibit is a necessity for those who want to visualize themselves higher, loftier and greater, for those who envision a world of inclusion and for those who conceive and contemplate themselves as part of the new Republic.§

This exhibit was on display at the Brooklyn Museum during March and May 2015.

Photos: From the Wiley Exhibit (k.clements)

 

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Hip Hop Pioneers at St. Albans Library

DJ Divine

MC Davy Jay, DJ Divine, DJ Casino, Livio G…

These names may not be household names, but they represents artists one who paved the way for the likes of Jay Z, Kayne West and Kendrick Lamar.  They are just a few of the Queens Hip Hop Pioneers featured in a photo exhibit curated by Queens Library’s Hip Hop Coordinator, VJ Ralph McDaniels.  On Thursday, June 15 the St. Albans branch of the Queens Library hosted an opening day reception to welcome the exhibit to its new temporary home. 

McDaniels, Video Music Box’s VJ is a legend in his own right and was inducted into the Smithsonian African American Museum of History and Culture for his work.  McDaniels’ has been documenting the story of Queens Hip Hop for the Library.  That has included past conversations with FUBU Founder Damon John and Darryl McDaniels from Run DMC. 

The pre-Father’s Day reception assembled many of the legends depicted in portraits from the exhibit.  As they gathered for the event, talk turned to dollar vans and block parties as friends celebrated the portraits new location. 

“Some of us didn’t talk to each other back then, but we battled,” said MC Davy Jay.  “When we started the blocks had a crew and that crew battled against another crew.  It wasn’t about all this gang stuff”.

At the time, these pioneers, some who are now grandfathers, didn’t know they were playing a significant role in the creation of what is now a billion dollar industry.  These men were merely on their grind.  Some juggled work and school while passionately displaying their craft at area parties and on the stage.  While many now have new careers and pursued very different life paths, some still work in the recording industry and encourage others to investigate careers outside of being an entertainer.  However far they may have strayed from their musical beginnings, they quickly returned as the reception turned into an indoor jam!  With vinyl scratching and old school callout and shout backs, the crowd was on its feet waving their hands in the air like they just didn’t care. 

“Like Beef Fried Rice with Extra Duck Sauce/I’m running things and I’m called the boss” chanted MC Davy Jay to a familiar back in the day beat.

Pioneers took their turn on the mic while others, like Livio G, took time to spin. 

The exhibit will continue its tour through Queens stopping at various branches throughout the system.  McDaniels will continue documenting Queens’ hip hop history which will be accessible in Library archives. 

Originally published on Jun 22, 2017 and printed in July 2017 Issue of Communities of Color News.

 

 

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Mayor de Blasio’s Town Hall at August Martin HS

Mayor Bill de Blasio

On Monday, October 16 residents converged on August Martin High School for a Town Hall featuring Mayor de Blasio who referred to Southeast Queens as a “legendary civic minded area”.  The forum was cosponsored by Borough President Melinda Katz, who opened the event with reflections on the Queens, Senator James Sanders, Jr. who served as the moderator and several local civic organizations. 

The Town Hall began with a report from the Mayor on key area initiatives and then the floor was opened to questions.  As per typical de Blasio Town Halls, city agency heads were on hand to address any questions in their specific area.

The opening report was a mix of feel good initiatives with the caveat that “a lot of challenges” remain.  Among the items were a decrease in crime, area anti-violence work which reported “not a single murder” in its catchment area for the past three and half years.  There will be upcoming legislation to address illegal dumping with raises in fines for both first and repeat offenders.  Sanitation enforcement efforts will be doubled in the area. 

The Mayor reminded attendees afterschool programs are free for sixth, seventh and eighth graders.  District 27 will take the lead on full day pre-kindergarten for three year olds prior to its citywide rollout.  He announced a $1.7 million dollar investment in a library at August Martin HS. 

The Mayor was at ease in the setting and addressed every question head on.   No question went unanswered or was out of bounds in the long town hall that, at the end, squeezed in as many questions as possible.  de Blasio was straightforward with his responses and reached out to agency heads when needed.  However, most often all that was needed was assurance that an issue would receive follow up.  There was no election time promises or pleas for support.  This Democratic stronghold seemed supportive of its Mayor, but was not bashful about asking challenging questions.

Subjects which were the focus of the most questions included affordable housing, oversaturation of shelters, quality of life and protections for the vulnerable.

Affordable housing will increase in the area for seniors including 150 units through the Northeast Towers annex.  Seniors, the disabled and most vulnerable have priority for affordable housing.  Units will be allocated at a ratio of 50% from the local Community Board area and 50% overall. 

Small Business Services Commissioner Gregory Bishop

In terms of the oversaturation of shelters, the Mayor offered his plans to reorient the approach to shelters.  Individuals will be sheltered in their own borough, the same Community Board they originate from, in an effort to keep individuals connected to their social networks.  The Mayor pledged to “get out of the hotels,” an effort that will take several years.  There will also be job training and education housed within the shelter. 

The Mayor was most forceful in his response to the privatization of NYCHA (New York City Housing Authority).  “We will not allow for privatization,” he said.

On the subject of the effect closing Riker’s Island will mean to Southeast Queens, those leaving will be given transitional jobs in an effort to redirect their path.  “The goal is never to see the inside of a jail cell again,” he said.  New facilities to house inmates will be opened in four of the five boroughs.  The former Queens house of detention, which is adjacent to the court houses on Queens Boulevard, has been tentatively named as the Queens location.  It is the only site in Queens under consideration and the best fit as it formerly functioned as a detention house. 

On education, the Mayor said the city is not looking to create additional specialized schools and it will take state legislation to make changes to the current testing and makeup of those schools.  There is a goal to align graduation rates to college readiness.  “It will take a long time,” said the Mayor concerning those efforts.   The Mayor supports charter schools which meet public school standards.

There will be a $2.6 million upgrade to Bryne Park and a $4.6 million dollar upgrade to the Jamaica Park playground.  Cameras will be added to Baisley Houses and $2 billion dollars have been allocated to address and end the flooding in Southeast Queens. 

What can be done to improve Access-a-Ride?  “There needs to be more convenient and more flexible vehicles,” the Mayor said after educating residents that MTA holds the responsibility for Access-a-Ride.

The Mayor said body cameras will go a long way to holding police accountable to violence in communities, he connected the proper city agencies with those who asked about jobs for veterans and the formerly incarcerated and for those seeking support for civics works.  Attendees were reminded that the certification process for Minority and Women Owned Businesses (M/WBE) has been revamped to a more streamlined format.  The city has set the goal that 30% of government contracts will be allocated to M/WBE.

“It will be a community center again,” said the Mayor regarding the Baisley houses community center which has been shuttered for years. 

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Police, Community and Clergy Gather for Healing

Members of Beacon of Peace participate in Interfaith Service

“What can we do in the face of senseless acts of violence…in times of unrest and natural disasters,” asked Father Francis Colamaria from Saint Helen’s Church.

This question was put in the form of a prayer at NYPD’s Patrol Borough Queens South’s Interfaith Prayer Service.  The service, held on Tuesday October 10 at the Sikh Cultural Society, brought together faith leaders, community and law enforcement to share prayers and invite community wide fellowship. 

“The relationship between NYPD and the community is growing stronger,” said Bhai Gurdev Kang of the Sikh Cultural Society.  His prayer was for stronger partnerships and future peace.  “Working together [we can] stand and face any challenge,” he said.

The interfaith service welcomed faith leaders from houses of worships representing various religions across South Queens to lead those present in prayer.  At a time when current events are filled with tragedies from natural disasters and domestic terrorism, it was a means of coming together.  Love and togetherness were the central themes of all the prayers that evening. 

Reverend Greta Gainer Anderson from Greater Allen A.M.E prayed for the strength of togetherness.  “Bind the people of the city of New York to each other and to law enforcement,” she prayed.

Pandit Vishal Maraj from the Hindu Learning Foundation prayed a blessing for police officers.  “May they be the guiding force behind governance,” he said.  Maraj also prayed “that no one suffer.  Peace. Peace. Peace.”

Reverend Ehjaz Nabie from the Faith Assembly Church prayed for “peace, love and unity”.

Rabbi Shlomo Nisanou from the Kehilat Sephardim of Ahavat Achim prayed that those gathered know “how fragile the world is…Nothing is forever.”  He prayed that those present “love yourself as you love your friend.  This included the community,” he prayed. 

Bishop Erskine Williams from New Seasons Family Worship Center who also serves as the President of the 103rd Precinct Community Council Board prayed for love and unity.  “[Let us have] love, peace and unity between police and community for the common good of both of us,” he prayed.

“With all the political, social and religious events happening in the US and the city, it is so wonderful that we all come together, sharing faith, and unified as a community,” said Assistant Chief David Barrere.  He invited attendees to fellowship after the service.

Commissioner Marco Carrion from Mayor DeBlasio’s Community Affairs Unit reiterated the Mayor’s commitment to “build police/community relationships”.

After the service, law enforcement, clergy and community gathered for fellowship in the Temple’s hall.  With plenty of food and laughter, individuals of various communities, religions and ages came together to meet and greet.  There were photo opportunities with NYPD leadership, selfies and conversation.

“We join together to keep our neighborhood safe,” said Carrion.

 

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Cops and Kids have Convo

Where do cops go to eat food?

Why do cops need bullet proof vests?

These were the questions fielded by Officers Rivera and Whilchez during their visit to the  Scholars Learning Academy & Afterschool located at 111-10 Merrick Boulevard.  They were invited to speak and participate by Director Craig Whitaker on Thursday, September 28, 2017.

The purpose was to have a conversation with  the children who were elementary school aged.  The young scholars got a chance to see that officers were no different than they were.

The question and answer session, which was only supposed to last for 15-20 minutes,  went well beyond 30 minutes.  The kids wanting to know more! Officers Rivera and Whilchez had to agree to return next month and possibly make this event a monthly happening.

Students gifted officers pottery gifts from the class and gladly took pictures. A great time was had by all.

Officers Rivera and Whilchez are part of the Neighborhood Coordinating Unit of the 113th Precinct.  They patrol NCO Sector ‘Charlie’.

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Senior Appreciation Month 2017_Event Listing

Its time to celebrate seniors. Check out this very extensive list of great programs for seniors.  Events include concerts, luncheons, movies, bowling and more.  There is something for everyone!

 

 Senior Appreciation Month 2017

 Elected Official Event / Date Arrival Time Location Contact Name Contact Phone
Mayor Office of Community Affair Sept. 7, 2017

“Oldies But Goodies”

1pm – 4pm Jamaica Performance Arts Center

153-10 Jamaica Avenue

Jessica Douglas 212-442-0508 (phone)
Senator

James Sanders

Sept. 8, 2017

Movie “Fences”

10am – 12pm Jamaica Multiplex

159-02 Jamaica Avenue

Hayden Horsham 718-327-7017 (phone)
Council Member I. Daneek Miller

Co-Sponsors: Public Advocate James & Assembly Member Vivian Cook

Sept. 9, 2017

Gospel Concert

2pm-6pm York College Performance Center

153-10 Jamaica Avenue

Margaret Denson 718-776-3700 (phone)

718-587-3580 (fax)

646-300-1913 (cell)

Congress Member Gregory Meeks Sept. 11, 2017

Movie “Detroit”

10am – 12pm Jamaica Multiplex

159-02 Jamaica Avenue, Jamaica NY 11432

Patsy Simmons 718-883-9800 (phone)
Council Member I. Daneek Miller

Co-Sponsor: Public Advocate James

Sept. 12, 2017

Senior Breakfast

9am-12p Thomasina Catering Hall

205-35 Linden Boulevard

Margaret Denson 718-776-3700 (phone)

718-587-3580 (fax)

646-300-1913 (cell)

Council Member Donovan Richards Sept. 12, 2017

Doo Wop

3pm-5pm Springfield Park Jessica L. Luina 718-471-7014 (phone)

718-327-4794 (fax)

Senator

Leroy Comrie

Sept. 18, 2017

Senior Breakfast

10am – 1pm Thomasina Catering Hall

205-35 Linden Boulevard

Lois Menyweather 718-765-6359(phone)

718-454-0186(fax

Assembly

Member

Clyde Vanel

Sept. 21, 2017

Variety of Entertainment

12pm – 2pm Majority Multi-Purpose Room

115-21 Farmers Blvd

Aaron 718-926-5960 (cell)
Assembly Member Alicia Hyndman Sept. 22, 2017

Senior Bowling

10am-12pm JIBS Lane

67-19 Parsons Blvd

Cherise Parson 718-723-5412 (phone)

718-810-3019 (cell)

Assembly Member Michele Titus Sept. 23, 2017

Senior Fitness

Springfield Park

147th Avenue & 184th Street

Norman Jones 718-327-1845 (phone)

718-327-1878(fax)

Councilman Barry S. Grodenchik Sept. 25, 2017

Senior Information session

10:30am 11:30am SNAP Senior Center

80-45 Winchester Blvd

Irene Cheung 718-468-0137 (phone)

718-468-0178 (fax)

Council Member

Rory I. Lancman

Sept. 27, 2017

Senior Musical Performance

11am Highland Church

160-20 Jamaica Avenue

Ronnie Sylvain 718-217-4969 (phone)

347-561-6116 (Fax)

Assembly Member

David I. Weprin

Sept. 28, 2017

Senior Comedy

11am – 12pm Holliswood Jewish Senior Center at Young Israel of Holliswood

86-25 Francis Lewis Boulevard

Rianna Young 718-454-3027 (phone)

718-454-3178 (fax)

All Elected Officials

 

Sept. 29,2017

Senior Luncheon

12pm Robert Ross Johnson Family Life Center

172-17 Linden Blvd

Margaret Denson 718-776-3700 (phone)

718-206-2748 (fax)

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So You Want to Open A Food Business

So you make a killer oxtail stew and you want to be in the food business.  Then the Jamaica Food Entrepreneurship and Services Training Space is for you.  Jamaica FEASTS is a free incubator program for aspiring food entrepreneurs.  It entails 12 weekly classes on how to open your own food business.  Topics include, but are not limited to, licensing, fees, menu planning, banking, human resources and real estate.  Expert guest speakers from the food business community including lawyers and QuickBooks professionals will help guide participants.

Halfway through the program, participants are assessed by their presentation of a business plan, elevator pitch, operational plan along with planned next steps to ensure they are advancing successful through the program.  At the end of the program, participants are given a final evaluation and recommendations for future success. 

FEAST is part of a two year grant from the New York Economic Development Corporation.  The program is administered by the Queens Library and classes are held at the Central Branch.  The grant covers 3 sessions a year.  The upcoming session, which begins in October, is its final cohort for 2017.  The next session will open in January of 2018.  On Tuesday, July 25, Jamaica FEASTS Manager Morgan Earle held an information session for interested entrepreneurs at which she outlined the details of the program and the selection process.

Participants selected for the program must begin by submitting an application.  After that, individuals will be interviewed to assess their level of program readiness.  The program is looking to seat individuals that have a clear vision of what they want to do in the food industry including tested recipes.  Just wanting to open a bakery and sell muffins and scones are not sufficient objectives warranting entry.  Interested parties must know the types of scones or have proven muffin recipes.

Resources for starting and running a food business as well as the food truck industry are also covered in the program.  Future iterations of the program will include access to a commercial kitchen space.  (The kitchen space is currently under construction.)

The application deadline for the upcoming session is Friday, August 4th at 5PM.  To apply online visit this link.  For questions and more information call 718-990-8699.

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Young Democrats Protest Incident in Charlottesville

On Tuesday, August 15 the Queens County Young Democrats’ (QCYD) Caucus of Color hosted a rally against hate and bigotry.   The rally was in response to the recent events in Charlottesville VA at which one person was killed.  The Charlottesville rally was organized by White Nationalist. 

The rally was the brainchild of one of QCYD’s newest members, Kemar Newman.  A member of QCYD for just two months, the young immigrant and veteran was affected by the events in Charlottesville.  With two young daughters, Kemar was fearful of the country they would inherit.  It motivated him to take the initiative to gather individuals together in a show of unity.

“You are the change,” he said.

The rally was held at Rufus King Park under an overcast sky.  It set a somber tone and reflected the sadness of the fatal conclusion to the rally.

Protestors unwittingly gathered in a circle while listening to elected officials in attendance at the event speak out against the violence.  At the end of the event, protestors held hands forming a circle for an ending prayer. 

It was a multicultural gathering of mostly young individuals.  The low turnout was in sharp contrast to the widespread opposition to the events in Charlottesville. 

While elected officials gathered for the event condemned the actions in Charlottesville there was more of a focused on the positive.

“The war has just begun,” said Senator James Sanders, Jr. during his turn at the podium.  “The worst is yet to come…We all need to get in shape.  Take these folks seriously.”  The Senator was speaking about how heavily outfitted the White Nationalists group was in Charlottesville highlighting its intent and preparedness.

“We know how to live together…We’ve demonstrated how to love each other,” said Council Member I Daneek Miller referring to Queens’ diversity.  “We are going to stand for all our citizens.”

The rally ended on a fiery note with remarks from Amir Abbady, QCYD VP of diversity and outreach.  Amir believed that the Democratic Party had “another year” to get it right. 

“We should create a government that represents us all.  We are diverse Americans and we all deserve a seat at the table,” he passionately exclaimed. 

The city of Charlottesville became a scene of violence as white nationalists, many with confederate flags and in Nazi gear and apparel, clashed with counter protesters.  The rally included racial taunting, violent physical exchanges and brawls.  The Governor declared a state of emergency and the National Guard had to clear the protest area. 

As the rally was dispersing, a car plowed into the crowd killing a woman and injuring more than 30 individuals.  Footage showed the driver accelerating into the crowd and quickly retreating. 

President Donald Trump refused to denounce the white nationalist hate groups at the center of the protest, choosing instead to blame the violence in Charlottesville on “both sides”.  Police were viewed as acting minimally toward protest participants.  This is in sharp contrast to their aggressive stance at Black Lives Matter demonstrations. 

Two days after the clash, the President gave a carefully delivered condemnation of the Ku Klux Klan and neo Nazi groups.   He reverted back to blaming both sides a day later.  He criticized “alt-left” groups that he claimed were very violent when confronting the white nationalists groups that gathered in Charlottesville. 

“You had a group on one side that was bad.  You had a group on the other side that was also very violent.  Nobody wants to say that.  I’ll say it right now,” said President Trump in a Press Conference several days after the event.

 

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Residents Celebrate Summer 2017 with a Host of Events and Giveaways

Backpack and school supplies giveaways, health fairs, Caribbean Festivals, Outdoor concerts and Friends and Family events had residents enjoying the outdoors these final weeks of summer.  Music can be heard filtering through the streets while bouncy houses frame the landscape with the sounds of children’s laughter.  Residents will not let summer go without a good fight.  With the weather complying with warm days and unusually cooler nights, it has been easier to enjoy neighborhood parks.

Rochdale Village’s Friends & Family Day

Saturday, August 20 was Rochdale Village’s annual Friends and Family Day.  Residents took to its vast manicured lawns of the Village for food, fun and fellowship.  The DJ was spinning the tunes, a bouncy house and rock wall for the kids, a special section for seniors and a good time for all.  Rochdale Village Board of Directors cut the ribbon on its newest water park in Circle Three’s playground.  The water park made its debut during Friends and Family Day was Rochdale’s second of two new parks installed in the Village, the other in Circle One’s playground.  The water park comes equipped with sprinklers, rain walls and water shooters.  It runs on a timed cycle once engaged by participants by stepping on an in-ground button.  Look forward to the addition of aquatic items and images to adorn the grounds of the water park soon.  Photo Water Park (k.clements)

 

Ready, Set, Engage

The 103rd Precinct’s Community Affairs Unit used the park adjacent to P.S. 40 to celebrate community in their Ready, Set, Engage event.  The event was a culmination of work precinct personnel had been doing to clean up the park and bridge the gap between PS 40 students and the precinct.  The event included giveaways, music, photo opportunities with police vehicles and food fresh off the grill.  Cops and Kids and Community engaged in a high paced game of basketball.  Team Cops were a surprising strong force on the courts against the young male athletes.  The event included a backpack giveaway with items collected from Boys Scout Troupe 485 Nassau County.  Boy Scouts put out the word via social media that they would be collecting items.  They then gathered all the donations from those who responded. 

 

New Jerusalem Worship Center’s Back-To-School Giveaway

New Jerusalem Worship Center held a back-to-school giveaway on Saturday, August 12.  The church opened up the space typically reserved for its charter school and transformed it into a meet, greet and fun area.  Children had the opportunity to climb and slide in the playground, there was food off the grill and a catered meal as well.  Backpacks were fully loaded and in a variety of colors.  The whole neighborhood received a Caribbean treat as music from its live concert filtered through the streets courtesy of the Higher Levin Inc. Steel Band Group.  The musicians were all under 18 and they performed a sweet serenade of music from classic tunes to Bruno Mars that punctuated the day.  Photo Baptiste Sisters (k.clements)