Smithsonian Folk Life Festival features Garifuna music

The 2013 Smithsonian Folklife Festival begins Wednesday, June 26 and unlike previous years where themes have varied, this year’s cultural gathering will focus on several programs including “The One World, Many Voices: Endangered Languages and Cultural Heritage Program.”

One of the highlight performers promises to be James Lovell, a Garifuna Punta Rock musician from Dangriga Town, Belize who was inspired by the legendary Pen Cayetano.

Lovell has been on a mission to preserve Garifuna, an Arawakan language spoken in Honduras, Belize, Guatemala, and Nicaragua by the Garifuna people. Their language is primarily derived from Arawak and Carib, with English, French, and Spanish to a lesser degree. Organizers of the event said of the nearly 7,000 languages spoken in the world today— many of them unrecorded— up to half may disappear in this century.

As languages vanish, communities lose a wealth of knowledge about history, culture, the natural environment and the human mind. Festival organizers are seeking to help change that.

“Because of the work I’ve been doing to preserve my language, which is a dying language, I use my music as a vehicle to teach the children, the younger generation, through music,” Lovell said. “There are a lot of Garifuna children here in the United States who have no knowledge of their heritage or how to speak the language. I’m trying to help avoid our culture and language from becoming extinct.”

Lovell said that he is also been busy writing a children’s book and creating music that he hopes today’s youth will be able to benefit from.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is an international exposition of living cultural heritage annually produced outdoors on the National Mall of the United States in Washington, D.C., by the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

The Festival takes place for two weeks every summer overlapping the Fourth of July holiday. It is an educational presentation that features community-based cultural exemplars. Free to the public, like other Smithsonian museums, each Festival typically draws more than one million visitors, according to organizers.

Initiated in 1967, the Festival has become a national and international model of a research-based presentation of contemporary living cultural traditions.

Over the years, it has brought more than 23,000 musicians, artists, performers, craftspeople, workers, cooks, storytellers and others to the National Mall to demonstrate the skills, knowledge, and aesthetics that embody the creative vitality of community-based traditions.

For Lovell, the selection to participate in the festival was a welcome surprise. “I think the organizers were able to see what I could do by watching links on YouTube and other places,” he said. “I plan to be there until the end of the festival because it’s important that our children and the adults who are children at heart, understand the importance of the Garifuna heritage. The language is something that they need to know about and it is something I’m working hard to try and prevent from dying like others have.”

The festival will include performances, craft demonstrations, interactive discussion sessions, community celebrations, and hands-on educational activities, highly skilled musicians, storytellers, singers, dancers, craftspeople, language educators and other cultural practitioners.

Many will share their artistry, knowledge and traditions while also discussing the meaning and value of their languages to their cultural heritage and ways of life.

Organizers hope that the challenges faced in maintaining the vitality of many languages will also be addressed.

“When a language disappears, unique ways of knowing, understanding, and experiencing the world are lost forever,” Lovell said.

Quantum Program helping Baltimore students

Ranisha Coppage was on a road to nowhere. School was a drag for the 17-year-old junior, who had a habit of cutting classes missing as much as 100 days in a year.

Ranisha often butted heads with her mother and her interests mostly included going against the grain, hanging out and not doing any school work.

I was in the cafeteria one day and I heard someone talk about the Quantum program and they also mentioned getting paid, so it interested me,’94 Ranisha said. Once in the program, everything changed. The program has helped my life a lot. I did a total change, Ranisha said.

Her grades gradually climbed and the relationship with her mother greatly improved, said Ranisha, whose goals now include becoming a lawyer.

Funded by the Eisenhower Foundation in Washington, D.C., the Quantum

Opportunities Program is an intensive, year-round, multi-component best practice model that invests in cohorts of disadvantaged teens through all four years of high school.

The program’s goals include grade improvement, high school graduation and advancement to postsecondary education or training. The model facilitates the many functional skills that are needed by young people for success in the home, workplace and community. It also seeks to reduce delinquency, crime, drugs and truancy.

We definitely want to instill a sense of responsibility and accountability into students and we want to make their matriculation through high school a successful one,’94 said Tsanonda Edwards, the executive director of the program in Baltimore.

We are making sure that students have the correct mentoring and that we are pushing them. We try to do things progressively and we are now gearing up for the summer portion,Edwards said. This is not only an after school program, but a summer program. We are always available to the students.

The program currently serves 25 students as a part of two schools in Baltimore, the Augusta Fells Savage Institute of Visual Arts and the Baltimore Talent Development High School.

Quantum Opportunity emphasizes long-term commitment and case management follow-up over several years to lower dropout rates and track success. It combines mentoring, tutoring, recreational programs, and financial incentives to attract and retain at-risk youth.

Quantum also helps students develop communication skills, healthy relationships, problem-solving and decision making skills, critical thinking, assertiveness, peer resistance and selection, stress reduction, leadership and appreciation for diversity.

There is still work to be done, Edwards said. When you’re dealing with the high school population you have your share of obstacles.

When the program started almost four years ago, the goal was to include 30 students, Edwards said. The program started with just three students and quickly grew to 15, and now there are 25 students taking advantage of the opportunity.

Our young people are definitely making strides. Continuous progress, Edwards said. ’93Being there and being consistent, and making sure we’re there to listen has been important. We make sure to tell the students to call us or [to] text us anytime. We may not answer every single time, but we make sure and get back to them and they know they can count on us!

Globetrotter talks bullying before games in Towson

Bull Bullard knows first hand the effects of bullying. Growing up, the Harlem Globetrotter basketball great spent a great deal of time in foster care programs and became a target of bullies.

“When I was younger, I was in foster care and I used to get picked on and some of my friends also were bullied,” said Bullard, who will lead the world famous basketball team into Tiger Arena in Towson for three appearances from June 19 to June 21, 2013. Each game is begins at 7 p.m.

Bullard arrived in Charm City on Monday, June 10 visiting a number of local schools to discuss the ABCs for bullying prevention, stressing Action, Bravery and Compassion. Timonium Elementary, Hampden Elementary-Middle and Padonia International Elementary were among the schools to host the Globetrotter.

“I had one student who said he didn’t want to tell on those who were doing the bullying,” Bullard said. “I told him he has to tell, that’s how it will stop. I went to another school and within a half an hour after I left, a teacher emailed me and said one of the students wrote an apology letter on his own to all the kids he was bullying. It goes to show that our program is working.”

More than a year ago, the Globetrotters announced the debut of a community outreach program, dubbed “The ABCs of Bullying Prevention.” The team said the program was developed to discourage bullying, increase empathy among youth, and give students, teachers, and youth administrators the means to tackle the issue which has been a growing problem throughout the country.

“Sometimes, I was bullied just because of the clothes I wore,” Bullard said.

The Globetrotters plan to bring their campaign to more than 300 schools and youth centers this year as part of their “You Write the Rules” tour.

“I had my share of bullying incidents in school when I was younger,” said Flight Time Lang, another longtime Globetrotter. “It’s more serious now, especially since it happens in many forms in today’s society like online and in text messaging.”

Students frequently cite bullying as a cause of violence that they experience, and the rate at which kids are reporting this cause is increasing, according to the Globetrotters. Reaching children early in their lives can teach valuable lessons in character and empathy from positive role models.

The Globetrotters’ program involves players discussing the three key words in the ABCs and provides tools that children can use on a daily basis to reduce bullying.

“You never know what someone is going through at home or at school. It could be on social sites or wherever,” Bullard said. “We tell them they have to tell someone. If it’s happening at home, they have to tell a teacher. If it’s happening in school, they have to tell their parents. There is always a way to do it.”

Baltimore Ravens honored at White House

Lewis, the now retired spiritual leader of the Ravens, didn’t even dance at the event. He didn’t have to. President Barack Obama provided enough of a reminder of why the team deserved to be celebrated on Pennsylvania Avenue.

“You see the resilience in players like Torrey Smith who lost his younger brother in a motorcycle accident the night before the game against the Patriots, but Torrey wanted to play, and he responded with 127 yards and two scores, so we’re so proud of Torrey,” Obama said.

“And then, of course, you can’t think about Baltimore without thinking of Ray Lewis and Ed Reed the two greatest defenders who ever played the game,” the President said as he spoke at length about the team’s ability to overcome adversity.

On the South Lawn at the White House, President Obama praised the team not only for the goal line stand that sealed its second Super Bowl trophy but its charitable work in Baltimore.

“That’s the spirit of the entire team. Last year, this team donated more than $1 million to charitable causes. They helped young people get active through the Play 60 campaign. Over Thanksgiving, they Skyped with a Maryland National Guard unit stationed in Afghanistan,” Obama said. “And today, I’m proud to announce that the Ravens will be donating brand new uniforms for varsity football and girls’ basketball teams at public schools all across Baltimore— that’s a total of 42 teams. We’re glad to have some high school athletes from Baltimore here to celebrate with us here today.”

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Courtesy Photo/Baltimore Ravens Instagram

Ravens General Manager, Ozzie Newsome gave President Barack Obama, the 44th president of the United States, the traditional team jersey emblazoned “MR PRESIDENT” with the number 44 when Super Bowl XLVII Champion Baltimore Ravens were honored at the White House on Wednesday, June 5, 2013. President Obama wished the team luck but warned them that they will face a tough game against his beloved Bears when the team visits Chicago next November.

The president singled out Lewis, the legendary linebacker, for returning from injury to lead the defense in the playoffs— but only after kidding Lewis that he thought his arm injury came from the motivational dance he performed at every home game.

Ravens General Manager, Ozzie Newsome gave President Obama, the 44th president, the traditional team jersey emblazoned “MR PRESIDENT” with the number 44.

President Obama wished the team luck but warned them that they will face a tough game against his beloved Bears when the team visits Chicago next November.

Ravens head coach John Harbaugh had a final message for the president forecasting next year’s season, “I want you to know that we have plans to come back [to the White House] next year,” he said.

Bill Cosby still advocating for stronger families

The people in Virginia can vote,” Cosby said, lowering his voice as if it were a well-kept secret. “They can’t do that in Washington, D.C. That place is strange. You don’t have a vote.”

Cosby’s thoughts about the small Fairfax County town are just a precursor to what audiences can expect when he arrives for his 8 p.m. show.

The 75-year-old who has starred in many hit movies and television shows, including the groundbreaking and long running NBC sitcom, “The Cosby Show,” is insightful, hilarious and, just as important to those paying between $25-$42 to see him, he is entertaining. In fact, after a recent show in Hawaii, journalist John Berger said young comedians and wannabe-comics should take note.

Cosby did a show that clocked in at twice the length of many comics’ sets, and had the crowd roaring with laughter throughout the evening.

Instead of using the four-letter and six-letter and 12-letter words that so many comics rely on, Cosby used his skill as a character actor to create a cavalcade of characters that percolated through his storytelling— love sick men, a cunning resident in Maui, angry parents, two seven-year-old boys aghast and sickened by the thought of touching tongues with a girl and, of course, his wife of 49 years, Camille Cosby.

The award-winning comedian who created the “Fat Albert” character, reiterated his concern for America’s youth and parents, saying everyone has to do a better job.

“We cannot be afraid to address our children,” he said. “Your children are walking the streets loudly and using profanity and this is anger stuff. They get on buses and disrespect the elderly and it used to be a saying from parents that they didn’t raise anyone like that. That’s because children knew that their mother and father didn’t allow them to go around disrespecting [their] elders.”

Cosby lost his only son in a carjacking more than 15 years ago and he often preaches about the importance of the family circle.

It is not unlike his Heathcliff Huxtable character on “The Cosby Show.” And, like they did with Dr. Huxtable, many people listen when Cosby speaks.

Over the past century, few entertainers have achieved Cosby’s legendary status. A Philadelphia native, Cosby’s successes span five decades.

He has had several best-selling comedy albums, eight Gold records, five platinum records and five Grammy Awards. His role on television’s “I Spy” made him the first African American to co-star in a dramatic series, breaking TV’s racial barrier and winning three Emmy Awards.

And, no one can be more impromptu than Cosby. “So what,” he said, attempting to sound tough and ready to rumble when he was introduced to a reporter. “Nobody’s scared of you, I’ve been up early and ready for you,” he said, laughing.

Local boxer packs punch, carries tune

— Not only does Franchon Crews pack a powerful punch but the 25-year-old Baltimore resident can also carry a tune. However, the most important battle she fights daily does not directly involve her.

“My mother suffers from chronic kidney disease and we have been battling this since 2005, which is around the time I started my boxing career,” said Crews, who has accumulated more than 13 national titles and became the first American woman boxer to win gold at the Pan American games.

Known as the “Heavy Hitting Diva,” Crews said her mother’s condition has helped to educate and inspire her during her amateur boxing career.

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Courtesy photo

Franchon Crews packs a punch

Franchon Crews also known as the “Heavy Hitting Diva,” is first American woman to win gold at the Pan American Games.

“I have a motto that I live by and which became more prominent as my mother’s battle continued,” Crews said. “That motto is, while she fights to live, I fight to win.”

Crews’ successful career, which also includes a silver medal at the Women’s World Championships in Quinhuangdao, China, has allowed her to shine a brighter light on her mother’s condition and the plight of others with the illness.”

Crews, now uses her notoriety to help bring attention to the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland.

The foundation is scheduled to hold its fourth annual Rappel for Kidney Health signature event on June 8, 2013 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel. Crews will be among those to scale 28 of the hotel’s 33 stories, from the roof to a fifth-floor pool.

“I am proud to support the foundation, which is committed to helping the more than 13,000 Marylanders with end stage renal disease through direct services, research, funding and advocacy,” said the event’s chairperson, Brigitte Sullivan, an administrative director at the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Transplant Center.

Ten of the rappel participants, who were asked to raise $1,000 each before the event, will fund a research mini-grant at a local hospital while two will fund a kidney health risk assessment in a local community officials said.

The fundraiser will also help to fund the cost for 50 people to have their blood drawn at a kidney screening and to fund five emergency assistance grants for patients. The fundraiser will also help fund part of a rent or mortgage payment for at least four patients who are on dialysis.

Mostly, Crews said, it will benefit those in urban communities where there isn’t always enough exposure and a lack of focus and health and fitness.

“I want to change that,” she said. “My mother is my inspiration. I look at it like, if she can fight every day, I can fight for 8 minutes in a boxing match to help bring attention to this illness.”

Crews started boxing at the age of 16 and won her first national title at 17. She is an aspiring singer, but was once told that she was too heavy. “So, I hit the gym and started boxing to lose weight,” she said. “But, I liked it. I have three older brothers and they rough me up, even though I get a couple of punches in.”

Crews, who will fight in Washington, D.C. in December, remains serious about her singing career, which got a boost when she appeared as a contestant on American Idol in 2005. “That’s why they call me the Heavy Hitting Diva,” she said, noting that she does have three new songs available on her website, www.theheavyhittingdiva.com.

She even got to sing the Star Spangled Banner on ESPN before a nationally televised fight card. “That’s where I showed off my ‘diva’ skills and not my ‘heavy hitting’ abilities,” she said with a laugh.

Negro Leagues Museum thrives in Baltimore

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— Some of the greatest players to play baseball are mostly unknown. Most of the names evoke few memories among the masses.

Grant “Homerun” Johnson, William “Dizzy” Dismukes, Cool Papa Bell, Buck O’Neill, Fleet Walker, Spot Poles, and even Mamie “Peanut” Johnson, one of the first women to ever hurl professionally are names that most people don’t know.

However, the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum of Maryland has been educating Baltimore residents and others about these unsung stars and the hundreds of others who roamed the diamond and became legends to baseball historians and fans.

“It’s just a great honor that there is a place like the museum where a person can go and learn about the Negro Leagues and the players, like myself, who were so honored to play,” said Johnson, who earned the nickname, “Peanut,” because of her petite frame while pitching for the Indianapolis Clowns in the 1950s.

The museum was founded five years ago by the family of Bert Simmons, who played for the Baltimore Elite Giants of the Negro Leagues and whose dream was a museum to honor the league’s players and its history.

“Bert’s dream came true with the opening of the museum,” Audrey Simmons, Bert’s widow, said in a recent interview. “I know he would be very proud of the progress we’ve made over the years and he’d also be proud of where we are going in the future,” Simmons said.

The museum is located at 3800 Patterson Avenue, and each year officials hold several special events, including “Back to the Old Ball Game,” in which it invites Negro League alumni and others to participate in autograph sessions, silent auctions and other functions.

The museum features life-sized displays of prominent Negro League players, uniforms, photos and other memorabilia. Also, the museum functions as a unique educational resource in Baltimore. Officials have collected, preserved and display photos, books, artifacts and other items that vividly tell the story of African Americans in baseball from the early 1800s to the present.

“We are full of history,” Simmons said. “Everybody, adults and children alike, can learn the history of the United States through a focus on the Negro Leagues. There’s knowledge of the discrimination blacks experienced, the segregation. There was Jim Crow. All of that was really a part of the history of the Negro Leagues,” she said.

The popular museum also functions as an educational facility with a goal of developing, maintaining and exhibiting materials and artifacts focused on the history of blacks in baseball.

“Our activities are aimed at every level from school age children to adults and including educators, businesses, and community resource persons,” Simmons said, adding that the mission is to provide opportunities for research, exploration and advocacy and to encourage the efforts of children and adults to work together to create a community resource center in honor of the Negro Leagues.

“What people have to realize is that it was an honor for all of us to have played in the Negro Leagues,” said Johnson, who resides in Washington, D.C. “The history is important for so many reasons including the fact that it shows that our young people can do anything they want if they just put forth the effort.”