United Nations Day 2016

24 Oct

Today is United Nations Day.

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In 1948, the United Nations General Assembly declared October 24, the anniversary of the ratification of the Charter of the United Nations, “shall be devoted to making known to the peoples of the world the aims and achievements of the United Nations and to gaining their support for” its work.

The worldwide commemoratory events include a concert to celebrate and reflect on the work of the UN through the universal language of music, featuring Korean Traditional Music Orchestra, UN Messenger of Peace pianist Lang Lang, the Hungarian State Opera with soprano Andrea Rost, and the Harlem Gospel Choir. The concert will be held in the United Nations General Assembly Hall.

The theme of this year’s concert is “Freedom First.” On a recent visit to UN headquarters, freedom was foremost on my mind as I walked through the Ark of Return, a memorial to honor the victims of slavery and the transatlantic slave trade.

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For more information, visit Remember Slavery.

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Columbus Day 2016

10 Oct

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#APeoplesJourney

3 Oct

The newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture was 100 years in the making. The dream of black Civil War veterans was fulfilled on September 24, 2016.

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With the ringing of the First Baptist Church Freedom Bell President Barack Obama opened the doors to a view of African American history and culture through an African American lens.

I was in DC for the grand opening ceremonies.

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I did not visit the Museum because I did not want my first visit to be rushed (I have tickets for October and November). So I spent the weekend reveling in the Freedom Sounds Festival. It was comforting to see the ancestors presiding over the community celebration.

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By the way, Ray Charles’ “Lonely Avenue” was remixed into a freedom song, “Fighting for My Rights.”

On my visit to the Museum on October 3rd, my first stop will be the Slavery gallery. If time permits, I’ll check out the Music collection. My plan is to check out one or two galleries on each visit.

Are you ready to visit? Admission is free, but you need a timed pass. You’ll have to plan ahead because Museum tickets are sold out for the rest of the year. Passes for Museum admission between January and March 2017  will be available online starting Oct. 3 at 9 a.m.

For more info, check out Top 10 Things To Know About Visiting the Museum.

Jazz 100 Celebrates Four Icons

26 Sep

This year marks the centennial birthdays of Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald, Thelonious Monk and Mongo Santamaría. The jazz visionaries will be celebrated on Friday, September 30 at 8:00 p.m. at the Merriam Theater.

Anne Ewers, President & CEO of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Art, said in a statement:

Philadelphia is a revered jazz city and this presentation gives us a one-of-a-kind opportunity to celebrate the music of four jazz icons in their centennial year. Touting artists from around the world, Jazz 100 will showcase the unifying fibers of this genre.

Over the course of their careers, the jazz legends performed in clubs and venues in Philadelphia.

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Dizzy’s Philly roots are deep. Born in South Carolina, his family was part of the Great Migration. For a time, he lived at 637 Pine Street. He was a member of the house band at the Earle Theater. After a tiff with management, Dizzy became a regular at the Downbeat Club, which was located within shouting distance of the Earle Theater.

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Dizzy was a founding member of Union Local 274, the black musicians union.

An iconic television commercial is one of my earliest memories of “The First Lady of Song.”

One of my most memorable experiences was attending Thelonious Monk’s funeral in 1982 at Saint Peter’s Church in New York City. Musicians paid loving tribute to Monk with version-after-version of “Round Midnight.”

Jazz 100 brings together an all-star ensemble of musicians, including Lizz Wright (vocals), Avishai Cohen (trumpet), Wycliffe Gordon (trombone, vocals) and Chris Potter (saxophone, woodwinds). The tribute concert “showcases the individual artistry of each icon and the powerful unifying threads between them.”

Tickets can be purchased at the Kimmel Center Box Office or online at kimmelcenter.org (save over $45 with promo code “Dizzy”).

Charter Schools Are Part of the Solution

19 Sep

Last week, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation held its 46th Annual Legislative Conference.

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I am a policy wonk and longtime “CBC Week” attendee. In DC, policy positions typically follow the money. So I was wary of CBCF ALC education sessions in light of the fact that the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association are conference sponsors.

Congressman Bobby Scott, Ranking Member on the Committee on Education and the Workforce, hosted the Education Braintrust.

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The focus of the braintrust was “evidence-based programs and best practices for increasing black children’s opportunity for success in today’s education and workforce systems.” Rep. Scott asked presenters to do more than “celebrate the problem.” He called on them to offer solutions. So surely someone would offer charter schools as a solution. No one did.

I dutifully took notes as speaker after speaker extolled the importance of parental involvement. Dr. George McKenna noted that the California Department of Education mandates family engagement.

Although parental involvement is the hallmark of charter schools, speakers dare not say their name at a conference sponsored by the AFT and NEA.

In his remarks at the CBCF 46th Annual Phoenix Awards Dinner, President Barack Obama spoke about his legacy.

Part of Obama’s legacy is his support for charter schools:

During National Charter Schools Week, we celebrate the role of high-quality public charter schools in helping to ensure students are prepared and able to seize their piece of the American dream, and we honor the dedicated professionals across America who make this calling their life’s work by serving in charter schools.

Charter schools play an important role in our country’s education system. Supporting some of our Nation’s underserved communities, they can ignite imagination and nourish the minds of America’s young people while finding new ways of educating them and equipping them with the knowledge they need to succeed. With the flexibility to develop new methods for educating our youth, and to develop remedies that could help underperforming schools, these innovative and autonomous public schools often offer lessons that can be applied in other institutions of learning across our country, including in traditional public schools.

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Charter schools have been at the forefront of innovation and have found different ways of engaging students in their high school years — including by providing personalized instruction, leveraging technology, and giving students greater access to rigorous coursework and college-level courses. Over the past 7 years, my Administration’s commitment of resources to the growth of charter schools has enabled a significant expansion of educational opportunity, enabling tens of thousands of children to attend high-quality public charter schools. I am committed to ensuring all of our Nation’s students have the tools and skills they need to get ahead, and that begins with ensuring they are able to attend an effective school and obtain an excellent education.

The failure to include charter schools among best practices to prepare black boys and girls for lifelong success does not do justice to President Obama’s legacy.

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