Exploring the history of soul food, understanding the complexity of Black identity and watching an established musician flee a record label to become an independent artist are some of the topics tackled at the BlackStar Film Festival, Aug. 2–5 at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Art Sanctuary and International House.
During this four-day festival, 40 films, including narratives, documentaries, music videos and experimental films will screen. In addition, the directors, writers and producers of color represent several countries, including Canada, Haiti, Germany, Jamaica, South Africa, Brazil, Zimbabwe, Mexico, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, the United States and United Kingdom.
“I feel there is a strong tradition of art produced by Black people in Philadelphia,” said Maori Karmael Holmes, festival founder and artistic director. “And I felt like there needed to be a film festival that connected to what I think we’re recognized for — music and dance and similar art forms.”
Undergoing a 10-month planning process, the festival team searched for films that would bring social conversation to the Philadelphia community and a renaissance to the entertainment industry.
“[We’re] just purely sharing the work of people,” Holmes said. “I think we’re all trying to make work and that’s how we’re contributing. We’re taking advantage of the lower costs to make work and hopefully make stuff that people are interested in.”
During the festival, filmmaker Ava DuVernay — the first African-American woman to win the award for Best Directing at Sundance — will discuss her latest work and strategies for the continued effort to give African-American filmmakers a voice in the movie industry. Her recent film, “Middle of Nowhere,” scheduled for an October 2012 release, will screen an exclusive excerpt at the festival.
International filmmaker, Oliver Hardt (Germany) will premiere his film, “The United States of Hoodoo,” for the first time in the United States. This film follows a writer who returns to America to reveal the myths and legends of Voodoo.
Representing the United Kingdom, Canada and Haiti is filmmaker, Sonia Godding Togobo. Her film, “Adopted ID,” follows the journey of a woman who returns to Haiti after the 2010 earthquake to locate her birth parents. This will also be the film’s premiere showing in the United States.
In Steven Zegans’ film, “The Res Documentary,” Res—a soul rock singer whose single, “They Say Vision” was a Top 40 hit, shows her life as a musician. Having singles like “Golden Boys” and “Ice King,” which all received radio time, Res makes a decision to leave her label when a project is delayed and ultimately dropped. Moving back to Philadelphia and creating music, Res finds a renewing outlook on her career. There will be a question and answer panel with Zegans and Res after the film.
Another element to the festival will be the screenplay readings. There will be two readings, one screenplay and one television pilot. Holmes said that readings don’t often happen at film festivals.
“We’re excited to allow people into the process of making a film by letting them see a screenplay from where it begins,” Holmes said.
Throughout the festival, there will also be free workshops, parties and receptions.
“My goal is to share [the films] on the big screen which is how I feel most filmmakers intend for their films to be seen,” Holmes said. “And that’s not often how they get a chance to be viewed. Here’s your opportunity to see them on the large screen.”
The School District of Philadelphia’s Office of Multilingual Curriculum and Programs announced that from Aug. 1 to 31, families with children new to this country can complete the new student registration process with the support of translation and interpretation services at district headquarters, 400 North Broad St.
“I think it’s extremely important,” said Deborah Wei, director of Multilingual Curriculum and Programs. “We have a large number of kids coming from different areas of the world. And navigating any bureaucratic system like the school district is very complex for anybody. But if you don’t speak English, you’re new to the country and you don’t understand different options, it can be very confusing.”
At least four teachers and four support staff members will be at the center to assist parents through registration, provide resources and information about the district and the community, screen children for English for Speakers of Other Language (ESOL) or bilingual programs, and inform parents about workshops and sessions throughout the school year.
With a curriculum to improve English language skills and cultural understanding, ESOL helps students develop their listening, speaking, reading and writing abilities.
The Transitional Bilingual Program teaches content area instruction in two languages. Students in kindergarten through second-grade receive literacy and math in their native language and science and social studies in English. It is the reverse for third- through fifth-grade students who are taught literacy and math in English and science and social studies in their native language.
Additionally, the Dual Language Program provides literacy content in both English and Spanish, and the Newcomer Learning Academies has an accelerated course, six months to one year, for students transitioning into an ESOL program at their school.
The languages spoken by district students include Spanish, Chinese, French, Vietnamese, Albanian, Arabic, Khmer or Cambodian, Russian and at least 50 other languages.
Last year, the Enrollment Center registered and assessed more then 623 students -including students from more than 70 countries, speaking more than 40 different languages. According to Wei, she said there might not be an increase of students this year, but the office is expecting for similar student numbers.
The press release stated that any student that speaks a language other than English is welcome to seek assistance with enrollment and assessment at the Enrollment Center. For more information call (215) 400-4240, and select the number one for the Enrollment Center. Registration will be available Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m to 6 p.m.
“We’re trying to do this one stop shop where you just come to one place, get all your questions answered, get all your assessment done and get properly placed,” Wei said.
Marc Gregory Brady was a dedicated Philadelphia police officer and committed father, son, brother and friend. He died July 16. He was 32.
Brady was born to Gerald S. Brady Sr. and Sharon O. Bond on August 31, 1979.
He was educated from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and later graduated from Frankford High School. After graduation, Brady worked at the post office and entered the Philadelphia Police Academy. As a Philadelphia police officer, he served on the force for eight years and worked out of the 22nd police district. The last part of his career was spent at the round house.
As a father to nine children, Brady enjoyed spending time with each of them. He provided joy and happiness to those around him. He was a compassionate and giving person who was willing to lend a helping hand when needed. Brady was a friend to all. He was known to talk and listen with people on the phone and be supportive through their tough times.
Brady loved to make music beats and share his tracks with people. He was talented in many areas and working with electronics was one of his great passions.
Brady leaves to mourn: mother, Sharon Bond; father, Gerald Brady; brothers, Stephen and Gerald Jr.; sisters, Pietra (Gamble), Betty and Rachael; brother-in-law, Anthony Gamble; sister-in-law, Tanisha Brady; children, Latavia, Naseem, Little Marc, Lamena, Justin, Brenden, Te on, Taysir and Nariah; and a host of nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Services will be held July 20 at Pentecostal Bridegroom Temple, 2310 Montgomery Ave. The viewing will be from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. The service is at 11 a.m.
Pennick Funeral Home handled the arrangements.
Luke James, the man behind the soulful love ballad, “I Want You,” will belt out his songs to crowd goers at the Sixth Annual Global Fusion Festival at Penn’s Landing, July 21. James joins Grammy award-winning R&B singer Brandy, Elle Varner and Kenny Lattimore for the free concert.
Having performed at several Philadelphia locations — at World Live Café with Robin Thicke’s “Love After War” tour and also with Estelle’s “All of Me” tour; opening for Beyoncé at her Atlantic City concert; and performing recently at WarmDaddy’s — James said he’s excited to see Philadelphia again.
“I’m going to be giving you music,” James said.
Inspired by themes of love, passion and pleasure, James’ EP, “#Luke,” explores the complexity of relationships and all of the sensual and difficult emotions it brings. “Made to Love,” the title track to his summer 2012 debut album release, simply speaks to people having the capability to experience love. The upbeat dance sound of “Powerless,” was inspired by the idea of being in a relationship and being completely vulnerable to a point that James said is not equal and leaves someone weak. On the other hand, “Soldier” expresses the feelings of having the support from someone who will battle for your complete happiness.
Influenced by the music his mother played for him such as Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson and Prince, James said music has kept him driven.
“For me, it’s spiritual,” James said. “It’s a release. It’s therapy to me. It’s a way of getting away. It’s a mental roller coaster. I do [it] because it inspires me. And because someone inspired me, I want to inspire others.”
James, originally from New Orleans, moved to Los Angeles to pursue his musical talents. Formerly in a duo called Luke & Q, he developed his songwriting craft which led him to author Chris Brown’s “Crawl” and Justin Bieber’s “That Should Be Me.”
“I was a sponge,” James said. “I just hung around and learned the technique, the formula, and started to find my way and develop my own style of writing and what it is I want to say.”
He also found his way to work with Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams and Keri Hilson.
Even with his hands-on experience in the industry and extensive résumé, James credited social media with having an impact on his career. Following a tweet out to Estelle one night, James asked to do a song or be in a music video with the singer. Estelle tweeted him back and the two went in the studio shortly after.
“That was an amazing opportunity that happened,” James said. “She admired the song ‘I Want You’ and she tweeted about me. We exchanged contact information through direct messaging. Social media is great. I’m just super grateful.”
Along with his musical talent, James said he has an interest in acting, the next craft he wants to master.
“I want to take it serious just as I take music,” James said. “I want to be respected in all avenues I decide to go down.”
In an effort to increase youth participation in the 2012 re-election campaign of President Barack Obama, the Women Vote 2012 Summit traveled to Philadelphia and hosted campaign events at the Obama Campaign headquarters, 209 South 52nd Street, and the Philadelphia Convention Center.
Among those events was a luncheon held for 60 young women leaders at the Temple University Diamond Club on Monday. Through this event, African-American women between the ages of 18 and 21-years-old discussed empowerment, mentorship and civic engagement — and how they can help the re-election campaign.
The keynote speakers were Senior Advisor to the president Valerie Jarrett, and R&B singer Alicia Keys. Both Jarrett and Keys talked about the important role that women play both politically and socially.
Jarrett, who also serves as the chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls, talked about knowing the president and first lady, Michelle Obama, for 21 years. She shared a few anecdotes about the president’s upbringing, working with him and Michelle in Chicago and Washington, D.C., and his goals to advance education and heath care in the country.
“We have a leader who does not put his political objectives in front of you,” Jarrett said. “He wakes up every single morning, walks into that Oval Office and says, ‘What can I do for my girls and you to grow up in a world were you can do whatever you want to do?’”
Keys, who is a Grammy Award winner, an active philanthropist and co-founder and Global Ambassador of Keep a Child Alive — a non-profit organization that provides medicine to families with HIV and AIDS in Africa — encouraged women to rethink the voting process as a positive experience that brings enlightenment and social power.
“It’s wonderful for women like us to have a forum, a place where we can get together and we can talk about what’s happening and what’s going on in our world — because we have an opportunity to change things,” Keys said. “It is absolutely the case that we have to be involved. We must. There is no choice, because if we don’t utilize our voice, nothing will happen.”
Other special guests included Desiree Peterkin-Bell, the Obama campaign’s Pennsylvania Senior Advisor for communications, Councilman Blondell Reynolds Brown, Tina “DJ Diamond Kuts” Dunham, Jeri Lynne Johnson, founder and music director of the Black Pearl Chamber Orchestra and Charisse Lillie, vice president of community investment for the Comcast Corporation and president of the Comcast Foundation.
Aisha Winfield, founder of the Junior Music Executive, a non-profit organization created to expose students to careers in the music business, was also a special guest at the luncheon. She said she appreciated talking with the attendees.
“I told our table that we get a lot of negative images of young people in the city of Philadelphia,” Winfield said. “This is an extremely inspiring event for me to be able to talk to the young ladies about some of the things they’re interested in. It’s just reassuring that we do have young people who are willing to be in leadership positions for the country.”
For Ashley Ashby, this election will be her first time voting. She will attend Montgomery College to study nursing, but Ashby admitted that after talking with Jarrett, she is considering studying law.
“I feel excited,” Ashby said. “I feel included. I feel that my vote will count and he will win.”
Brittany Love, a Philadelphia resident and student at the University of South Carolina, came to the luncheon to understand the president’s campaign, and network with the other attendees.
“I want to know what he’s doing, and how I can possibility make a change to this election,” Love said. “I want what’s best for us. We all come from families that aren’t as fortunate as they could be, so it’s kind of hard for us to pay for our education. But, I could see determination within [the women]. Each of them have a glow that’s like, ‘I’m not stopping and I’m going to get there no matter what.’ That’s what we all have in common.”