To Be Real

The first time I met Skot Foreman was during a Purvis Young exhibit at Gallery Bar in 2008.  I was pulled in Purvis’ world of struggle and redemption. I spoke with Skot briefly that evening and left thinking how Purvis Young had a real champion in Skot Foreman; he was someone that would fight to ensure the legacy of this artist (who was in failing health) would be properly maintained and not exploited.  But as I got to know Skot I came to the conclusion that it was not just Purvis that made him zealous.  Skot Foreman is passionate about three things: his two dogs Cassie and Reva and art.  Another thing I learned after getting to know him over the past two years is that Skot is a rebel.

Unlike the famed General Sherman, Skot made his march in reverse conquering one city at a time.  He opened Skot Foreman Fine Art in 1994 using various locations within the greater Miami area.  In 2001, he moved to Atlanta opening up a space in Castleberry Hill, the city’s gallery district.  Skot moved to Manhattan in 2004 and opened a gallery first on the upper eastside.  Currently, he is settled in Tribeca.  “I always had a connection to New York,” he states.  He admits that his journey to “the hub of the international art market” was one filled with baby steps.  Originally wanting to migrate to New York after 9/11, Skot re-thought the notion and moved three years later.   “I have always been one to swim upstream,” he states.  Skot called his initial move to the upper eastside “strategic,” and feels that living downtown is more indicative to his personality.  “It’s more creative and laid back…more on the DL,” he says, “There is a new discovery around every corner.” 

One of those discoveries happened to be situated underneath Skot’s Tribeca home and would eventually lead to an innovative union between Skot Foreman Fine Art and fashion brand Grown and Sewn.  Skot was introduced to Grown and Sewn’s founder and head designer Rob Magness through Rob’s wife Sara, an award- winning interior designer.  Over a glass of wine they discussed the space that would become Grown and Sewn’s home, 184 Duane Street.  Both had the desire to use the space for their creative endeavors and Sara suggested collaborating.  “Rob and I looked at each other and you could see the light going off in one another’s head,” he says.  Skot believes the synergy between he and Rob created magic.  “The word that keeps coming back to me is authentic because so many people that do walk in the space seem to respond to the fact that we’ve combined art and craft, which is truly a human thing but I think it’s probably been lost through the later half of the twentieth century and we wanted to rediscover that.”

Skot Foreman Fine Art amasses contemporary art of the 20th and 21st centuries and features the works of prominent artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Purvis Young, Keith Haring, M.C. Escher and many others.  “I try not to show artists that are the flavor of the day,” he asserts, “I try to show artists that have stood the test of time.  It starts with a chord that artist may have struck with me so it’s hard to remove any personal bias because if I don’t believe in it, if I don’t have conviction, then how can I share it with a friend or turn a collector on if I’m not passionately behind the work.”  Skot believes his penchant for pop art stems from his surroundings growing up in Florida and recalls being cognizant of signs, billboards and other media.  He also has a deep appreciation for artists that can take a sheet of paper and illustrate.  “I’m a little bit old fashioned in that regard,” he shares, “I like [artists] who have got some chops, knows how to draw, came up through the ranks and paid their dues.” 

Skot understands that artists are the visionaries of their times, no matter what genre one may choose t, which brings me full circle to how Skot and I met:  a showing of Purvis Young’s work.  Skot loves to “turn people on” to his work.  He describes Purvis’ art as shamanistic; indeed there is an other-worldly aesthetic to his pieces.  Skot and Purvis (who died in April) shared a friendship that spanned over 20 years.  One of Skot’s favorite stories about Purvis Young involves another shaman of sorts, the late rapper Tupac Shakur.  “I sent Tupac a portfolio of Purvis’ work to look at.  I wasn’t there; it was through a third party.  Tupac opens it up, starts looking at it, eyes start bugging, closes the portfolio up and says, this shit is fucking dope,” he recalls as we both begin to laugh.  It is no surprise to me that kismet made Skot Foreman one of the preeminent collectors of Purvis Young’s work. Besides both men being Floridians, Purvis’ work projects a naked genuineness that obviously comes from within.   It is that same frank verisimilitude that resonates from Skot’s demeanor and is the reason why they were kindred entities.

When it comes to the art that has been reflected during first decade of this millennium, Skot discloses that he has not been a fan of the new conceptual, instillation media that is meaningless but relies on the story behind it or the process of creation to hold its validity.  He is not concerned with the back-story of a work of art, and would like to see a renaissance of the fundamentals of drawing and painting develop.  “Everything is so media or marketing driven, and I think that’s probably why one day there is going to be a return back towards things that are authentic and accessible.   Things that are real.  People can see through all the smoke and mirrors.”

Photos courtesy of Skot Foreman

Warhol and Kax, an American Story

 “What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it. “  – Andy Warhol

 Andy Warhol (August 6, 1928 – February 22, 1987) was a New York icon widely regarded as “the Pope of pop art.”  His mastery of fusing commercialism and expression not only made him a trailblazer in the art world, but also an oracle of American culture.  He was as American as apple pie, baseball or Coca-Cola.  The stamp he created during his lifetime is still present in the art world today.  He is among an elite class of artists whose work has sold for $100 million.  The son of immigrants, it is no doubt that he was a true American original with a keen ability to amalgamate myriad forms of people and media to present us with the best and worst of our society.

“An artist is somebody who produces things that people don’t need to have.”  – Andy Warhol

The fashion industry as a whole could be summed up in this quote.  It is an entity that thrives on desire.  People desire to have a closet full of dresses, slacks, and shoes and dressers filled with different brands of T-shirts, jeans and intimate apparel, but it is not a requirement necessitates our survival (at least for most of us).  Clothing is used to help define who we are just as much as the art hanging on our walls communicates aspects of our personality.  If Warhol was “Pope of pop art,” then khakis and jeans are one half to the All-American uniform.  Everyone owns at least one pair.  

 “They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.”  – Andy Warhol

 For all of the innovation and creativity seen on the runways of New York City, Milan or Paris, fashion is an industry that is slow to embrace change, Grown and Sewn is label that is on the forefront of changing attitudes in fashion. Their “Kax” combines a khaki and jean into a unique, durable and stylish product. They are also an eco-friendly company that produces their clothing in the U.S.  Like Andy Warhol, they are American originals that have the potential to become a bellwether for American fashion as Warhol was for art.

“I have Social Disease. I have to go out every night. If I stay home one night I start spreading rumors to my dogs.” – Andy Warhol

 The holidays are more than just a time to indulge in sales and fattening foods, it is also a time for gathering with friends and family and creating lasting memories.  Grown and Sewn and Skot Foreman Fine Art have collaborated once again to showcase the pinnacle of vicissitude.  Grown and Sewn’s December 17 holiday party opened an exhibit of works by Andy Warhol and other prominent artists at their Tribeca showroom, located on 184 Duane Street.  Rob Magness and Skot Foreman are continuing the thread of celebrating American innovation and creation that was started with the Purvis Young exhibit a year ago.

 “Once you ‘got’ Pop, you could never see a sign again the same way again. And once you thought Pop, you could never see America the same way again.” – Andy Warhol

Collaboration played a major role in Andy Warhol’s creative process and manufacturing.  In some respects, collaboration is the American way.  After all, what is American culture but the partnering of several different ethnicities working to produce an imprint that is distinct.    Grown and Sewn’s and Skot Foreman Fine Art’s collaborations have altered the way people view art and fashion.  In this sense, they are the new millennium Factory. 

Photos and Slideshow: F.A.M.E NYC Editor 








Hit Me with Your Best Shot

If a picture is worth 1000 words, then the right shot can create a media frenzy.  Calvin Klein proved this with provocative photos of Kate Moss, Brooke Shields and Scott King.  The photographers who shot those photos created magic and now American Apothecary has provided a group of shutterbugs the opportunity to capture lightning with their lens. 

On December 14, the avant-garde T-shirt brand held the first part of the American Apothecary Photographer Challenge.  Four photographers stepped up to the plate to showcase what they could do with a little bit of heroin and cocaine.  The photographers shot their muses in various locations inside and outside the Levi’s Photo Workspace, located on 18 Wooster Street.  PR Director John Thompson II stated he chose the location “because the artistic energy in the space was contagious, and inspiring.”  The photographers certainly seemed to be affected by the creative force flowing throughout this wonderful public space producing shot after shot of the T-shirt line.  The photographers also conducted a freestyle shoot to further showcase their originality and artistic vision.

The winner will be announced and displayed at American Apothecary’s “Got Snow?” charity event on December 22.  Their work will also appear on American Apothecary’s website and January 2011 newsletter.  F.A.M.E NYC wishes each paparazzo the best of luck.

Take a look at some behind-the-scenes photos shot by F.A.M.E NYC’s Editor

The Great Bubble Burst

I’m going to say it plain, as Americans we live in a bubble of our own creation.  Before September 11, 2001, how many of us could say we knew anything about Afghanistan, much less locate it on a map.  But after the events of that tragic day, our bubble popped (like it did 60 years before on Pearl Harbor).  Afghanistan, Iraq, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Islam became the enemy.  Afghanistan was portrayed as a poppy growing, heroin producing, woman hating, tribal fighting, terrorist harboring disaster zone that needed to be cleansed and saved from itself.  But how many leaders…how many superpowers…how many extremists have tried to save Afghanistan from itself, while really serving their interest and not that of the indigenous people?  This question is powerfully and intelligently explored in The Great Game: Afghanistan, now playing at NYU’s Skirball Center until December 19.

The Great Game: Afghanistan is a series of short plays told over three productions presenting audiences with a stark account of this country’s turbulent history from 1842 to the present day.  Broken into one installment per evening or an all-day marathon, The Great Game: Afghanistan breathes new life into the term miniseries.  The first installment titled Invasions and Independence covers the time period of 1842 to 1929.  The first play, Bugles at the Gates of Jalalabad, was written by Stephen Jeffreys. Four buglers outside of Jalalabad keep watch for William Brydon, the lone survivor of the Massacre of Elphinstone’s Army in 1842, while on the other side of the stage, Lady Florentia Sale who was kidnapped in 1842 during the First Anglo-Afghan War reads from the diary she kept while in captivity.    The buglers and Lady Sale recount the British invasion of Afghanistan to impede the Russians and protect India (the crown jewel of their empire), the bribes to tribal warlords which eventually stopped, as well as the gory details of how the Afghan fighters hacked the British army and camp followers to pieces during the massacre.  But the sub-plot of the play is one of intolerance and underestimating the Afghan people.  Bugles at the Gates of Jalalabad closes with the telling of Afghan heroine Malalai, a young woman who helped to rally Afghan soldiers during the Battle of Kandahar.  The second play Durand’s Line was written by Ron Hutchinson and details a fictitious conversation between Amir Abdul Rahman and Sir Mortimer Durand before the signing of the 1893 Durand Line Agreement which refers to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan and established a line for the British that the Russians were not to cross.   The segment then speeds up to 2010 with Campaign by Amit Gupta.  While trying to create an exit strategy for the British out of Afghanistan, a politician from the UK coalition government tries to coerce a Pakistani intellectual to assist him in manufacturing propaganda that centers on Mahmud Tarzi, considered one of Afghanistan’s greatest intellectuals and modernist.  The final play of Invasions and Independence also features Mahmud Tarzi.  Now is the Time, by Joy Wilkinson, shifts back to 1929 and focuses on Mahmud Tarzi, his daughter Queen Soraya Tarzi and son-in-law King Amanullah Khan as their escape out of Kabul is threatened when their Rolls Royce gets stuck in the snow.

The second installment of plays is titled Communism, the Mujahideen and the Taliban and covers the time period of 1981 to 2001.  Communism, the Mujahideen and the Taliban begins with Black Tulips by David Edgar, which backtracks the Soviet war in Afghanistan from 1987 to 1981 from the USSR’s point of view.  While constantly reminding new soldiers that “They had been invited to Afghanistan,” various Soviet officers give newly deployed soldiers a pep-talk as to why their intervention is necessary.  Wood for the Fire by Lee Blessing zeros in on two CIA operatives as they work with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence to supply the Mujahideen with weapons and terrorist training to oppose the Soviets.  In Miniskirts of Kabul by David Greig a British journalist imagines a meeting with President Mohammed Najibullah while he is on house arrest in the UN compound in Kabul in 1992.  They discuss the Spice Girls, women being allowed to wear miniskirts, his beliefs and why he refused to go into exile once his regime had collapsed.  Communism, the Mujahideen and the Taliban ends with The Lion of Kabul by Colin Teevan showcasing the history Marjan, the one-eyed lion in the Kabul Zoo as told by a Taliban leader as a female UN director and her interpreter wait to find out news about two UN aid workers.  Upon learning the workers have been killed, the UN director reluctantly allows the Taliban to render punishment to the men responsible for the aid workers’ deaths, which happens to be feeding them to Marjan.

The third segment of The Great Game: Afghanistan is Enduring Freedom which spans from 2001 to the present day.  Enduring Freedom opens with Honey by Ben Ockrent and focuses on a CIA agent who tries to enlist the help of Ahmad Shah Massoud right before his assassination on September 9, 2001.  The title of the play refers to the “honey pot” Massoud was promised for his assistance.  After Massoud is assassinated, footage of the World Trade Center attack on 9/11 is shown.  Following the 9/11 attacks The Night is Darkest before Dawn by Abi Morgan centers on an Afghan widow that returns to her village to re-open her deceased husband’s school and recruit her niece as a student.  On the Side of the Angels by Richard Bean is the penultimate skit and features an aid worker who is forced to get involved in Afghan politics after a girl is betrothed to an older man to settle a dispute.  The play comes full circle with Canopy of Stars written by Simon Stephens.  It centers on two British soldiers guarding the Kajaki Dam; they exchange views on military intervention in Afghanistan right before a battle. 

The Great Game: Afghanistan and its myriad of carefully crafted skits reveal that the true game played in Afghanistan was an exhaustive, expensive game of chess in which the pawn became such a powerful player that it began to usurp control from the strategists setting the rules.  The realities of the effects of war and the manipulation behind it become all too real after watching The Great Game: Afghanistan.  Whether viewed in its entirety or in segments, this play gives its viewer as much as it takes away.  It represents what is great in theater; it expands your consciousness and challenges your perception of the world we live in.   Upon walking into this production your views about global terrorism, 9/11, Islam may be clear, but by the end of the play your perception may be a little muddled.  The Great Game: Afghanistan is the equivalent to walking into a snow globe that pops while shaking.  Before the shaking all your ideas are calm, resting in the annals of your mind, but afterwards the certainty of your thoughts are scattered and can never be collected back into the bubble.  It my sincere hope that The Great Game: Afghanistan will return to NYC soon so that all New Yorkers will have the opportunity to witness this stimulating work.  The actors, who play multiple roles, are intense; their dedication to the entire production exquisitely shines through in every play.  In the times we live in, The Great Game: Afghanistan is a must see –it is a mental marathon, but one well worth running.

Photos: John Haynes

American Apothecary Adds a New Voice to Fashion

Heroin hot…cocaine cool…tapeworms titillating?   When ingested, absolutely not, but when worn as a funky fashion statement, the answer is most definitely!  Just ask the creative team of American Apothecary, they are pushing eco-friendly clothing in the hopes that we will all begin to “take a closer look.”

American Apothecary is the hottest new fashion label I have seen in a long time – true NYC originals.  The company consists of a line of T-shirts that brandish nifty recreations of ads for turn of the century remedies that are now illicit. Imagine using cigarettes for asthma, almost as asinine as giving a patient Demerol for a migraine.  American Apothecary creative team consists of Co-Presidents Jeremy Sziklay and Matthew Kronenberg, Head Designer Anastasia Fokina and PR Director John Thompson II.  As I shared a glass of wine with them at their showroom on West 36th Street, it became apparent that these fashion mavericks seem more like a family instead of a company, a sort of new millennium Yours, Mines and Ours.  Each of them chose a different path to arrive at this destination, so how did this cutting-edge T-shirt company come to be? 

Oddly enough the seed for American Apothecary was planted in college.  “I was a Psychology minor in college.  These products were being used in the early 1900s and late 1800s so through psychology [I] started learning about the first things prescribed to people in the United States.  So that idea kind of permeated in my mind,” Jeremy states.   After college Jeremy attended law school and began working in the D. A. prosecutor’s office, next door was the narcotics department.  Jeremy began to learn that the majority of cases involving drug addiction were coming from prescriptions drugs such as oxycontin and vicodin.  It was then that the connection was made.  “It’s amazing,” Jeremy remarks, “we’re peddling heroin, cocaine and chloroform a hundred years ago and now we’re peddling oxycontin, hydrocodone and ritalin.”    After leaving the District Attorney’s office, Jeremy decided to use the fashion industry as the vehicle to make a statement about the way business is done today while educating the consumer.  “So much of fashion is just superficial,” he adds, “I wanted to create fashion with a purpose, to create a conversation.” 

Jeremy enlisted the talents of Anastasia Fokina to bring his vision to life.  Anastasia has a background in the arts and has owned a gallery in Provincetown, MA.   She credits her artistic roots in assisting her with manufacturing the company’s innovative aesthetic.  “I think every designer should have some kind of arts education so they can know how to express ideas.  When designing you really have to listen to what people want, you have to fulfill someone’s vision with your capability.”



Matthew Kronenberg was in real estate development before becoming a part of this new enterprise.  Like most Americans, Matthew fell victim to The Great Recession and was laid off, but as the real estate door closed, a fashion window opened.  “I wasn’t really happy with what I was doing anyway.  About a month after I was laid off Jeremy came to me with this idea and I was like it sounds amazing.  I know and have met a lot of people who’ve had problems with prescription drugs and so it did hit home.  It hit home for me personally because I had a bunch of different surgeries from sports injuries and anytime I’ve been prescribed any kind of pain killer I didn’t take it, but being that I had these bottles with all these pills my friends were coming up to me asking if they could have them and I was like they were prescribed to me so chill out,” he explains, “and the idea in general was so amazing just because it was a great way to portray what we we’re trying to get across.”

John Thompson II was well on his way to building a stellar career in fashion PR before coming to American Apothecary.   “Initially I came in to assist with the PR department, “he says.  John was initially intrigued with the young creative fashion start-up, but, “What really sold me on the company was the box the shirts come in,” he continues, “if that creative energy was placed into a box, what else could be accomplished.   And since then my hunch has paid off, everything you see [Anastasia] creates.  Being in the fashion industry I have seen a lot, and a lot what she creates I have never seen before.” 


Yes, a T-shirt featuring a bottle of heroin or cocaine tooth drops is very provocative, shocking even, but their eye-catching designs are one of the reasons  American Apothecary is a label to watch.   The other is the quality and details that goes into their product. After all, fashion is about the clothes.  American Apothecary uses 100% pima cotton.  The box the shirts are packaged in is a witty piece of art constructed from recycled paper; one could definitely find a use for it after taking it home.  The shirts are soft and well-made; the European cut is form-fitting and accentuates the frame.    The lesson behind the T-shirts is probably the most stimulating aspect of this new fashion line – inspiring Americans to educate themselves and become more cognizant about the products they consume.  Best of all, 10% of their profits are given to drug outreach programs; hence, they put their money where their mouths are.

What we wear is a visual testament of our individuality, mood and beliefs.  One look at a person when they enter a room can sometimes tell more about them than any words that fly from their lips. American Apothecary is perfect for the male/female consumer that craves quality clothing and loves to make a bold declaration.  This year, stuff your fashion addict’s stocking with opium (T-shirt that is); I’m positive they will make it a staple in their wardrobe.  Coming soon from American Apothecary…heroin on a chain, so stay tuned FAMERs.

To learn more about American Apothecary, visit

“External resource for help with Vicodin addiction:

Photos courtesy of John Thompson II

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Blazes New York City Center Stage and Passes the Torch

The first time I saw Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform I was 11-years-old, my parents had taken me to Symphony Hall in Newark, NJ.  Watching these powerful, magnificent performers’ radiate boundless energy and emotion left a distinct imprint on my brain cells that still remain.  Viewing Revelations, Ailey’s most recognized ballet, scratched my soul.  It spoke about the Black experience in a way that I had never witnessed before or after.  It spoke about my parents’ and grandparents’ experience.  It spoke about me, the legacy of triumph and struggle that I had inherited from past generations and would be responsible to pass on to the generation that followed me.  It spoke about my Sundays spent in church, the ability of a people to build a history without a full comprehension of where they came from and the sense of pride we carried throughout our journey.  After seeing Revelations, no one can walk out of the theater and not know what it feels like to be Black in America; it touches every fiber of the Black experience and can still make tears swell in my eyes.  The exquisite beauty of Alvin Ailey Dance Theater’s dancers and choreography still beckon to me.  As an adult I make sure to make a pilgrimage to what I consider to be the dancing Mecca of the world at least once a year.   

The roots Ailey planted when he first formed the company in 1958 have extended to touch the hearts and souls of citizens around the globe.  It is no wonder the company is called the “Cultural Ambassador to the World.”  There is one reason why Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater has sustained such a high level of accolades and success, they are artistry of movement set to music personified. Revelations and all of the works that Ailey and others have choreographed for the company are rich in spirit, motion, music and drama.  After Alvin Ailey’s untimely death in 1989, Judith Jamison became the Artistic Director.  For me, Judith Jamison was the epitome of a female dancer. Her long, liquescent limbs made me pray (to no avail) for longer legs.  She brought a sense of regality with her on stage, a presence that still can be seen today.  Watching footage of her performing Cry will provoke the action to fall from your eyes. “Cry is a dance for all black women everywhere, especially our mothers. Dancing Cry, I was to be a woman who did the most servile of work but was never defeated by it. I didn’t even know about the special dedication until he (Alvin) showed me the program the night of my first Cry performance,” Ms. Jamison noted.  “It took eight days for Alvin to choreograph it.  I learned Cry in sections and Alvin gave me images of powerful women to use to express his vision. When performing Cry, you have to dig down deep, be venerable, use your dignity and of course passion! Looking back, Alvin gave me this dance and it’s a priceless gift.   I’ll always have it, along with the wisdom he passed down to me and that I pass down to women who perform Cry now.” 

Judith Jamison’s tenacity for preserving Alvin Ailey’s vision is one of the reasons why Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is the most beloved modern dance companies ever – an unyielding force of nature.   When asked her feelings regarding AAADT’s 50th anniversary in 2008, Ms. Jamison stated. “We’re living in his resonance, and in his vision that dance is for the people and should be delivered back to the people. We’ve performed worldwide and brought in many spectacular choreographers. For 50 years we’ve grown and expanded his goal.  Ailey II, The Ailey School, Ailey extension, and Arts in Education program are just a few examples of how AAADT has achieved Alvin’s goal.  Alvin Ailey will always be the root of this magnificent tree and his spirit will always be living through it.”

The 2010-2011 season for AAADT is bittersweet, this is Judith Jamison’s final year as Artistic Director as well as the 50th anniversary for Revelations.  In April, Ms. Jamison announced her retirement and named Robert Battle as her successor.  Currently he serves as Artistic Director Designate with Ms. Jamison until she assumes Emerita status on July, 1 2011.  In a press release Judith Jamison stated, “Robert has his own company and is a maverick in his choreography. He’s edgy and forward‐thinking, very talented and savvy—a lovely, intelligent person who in many ways reminds me of Alvin. He also has a worldview and is capable of taking this company in new directions, while at the same time understanding our traditions. Choosing Robert Battle is the giant leap I want to take to ensure that this company stays vibrant in the future.”  One of those traditions will be performing Revelations.   Each time I see Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform I wait with bated breath until the curtain rises and “Pilgrim of Sorrow” begins.  I exhale and inhale this brilliant work, but I know that I am not the only one in the audience doing this. Although Revelations speaks to the Black experience, there is a cord running throughout the piece that everyone can connect to.  Everyone knows what it is like to feel down-trodden and experience pain, yet somehow transcend the tribulation and still project pride and exuberance.  When asked about Revelations universal appeal and longevity Ms. Jamison said, “The dancers have fully given themselves to this piece and I believe audiences can see and feel that, and that in itself touches them. We all want to leave the theater, being touched, inspired, or feeling something. Revelations always closes Ailey performances and audiences always leave the performances with more than just smile, they leave with their spirits raised.”

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will end their season with five weeks of performances at the New York City Center.   The company is pulling out all the stops with three premieres,  Anointed (choreographed by Christopher L. Huggins), The Hunt (choreographed by Robert Battle) and The Evolution of a Secured Feminine (choreographed by Camille A. Brown) as well as new productions of Cry, Three Black Kings and Mary Lou’s Mass, all originally choreographed by AileyFrom December 15 through December 19 Winton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra will join AAADT.  Grammy Award-winning vocal ensemble Sweet Honey in the Rock will join Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in a special rendition of Revelations on New Year’s Eve.  Celebrating Judith Jamison on January 2 will be their season finale. 

On December 2, Target and AAADT gave New Yorkers an early holiday gift by reducing the ticket price to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Revelations.  The vibe in the audience exuded the atmosphere of church – everyone knew someone and some came in groups.  The air of family carried on stage as the dancers performed Matthew Rushing’s Uptown – a pulsating multi-media extravaganza that celebrates the Harlem Renaissance in its entirety, Ronald K. Brown’s  Dancing Spirit – a must-see for anyone who has the soul of a dancer and Revelations.  As I sat in the audience, I did not feel as though I was looking at a group of performers, instead I felt like I was watching members of my own family cut up at a gathering.  I also felt the presence of Alvin Ailey and Judith Jamison.  While these talented disciples of Ailey’s dance style continue to entertain and inspire, his spirit is there looming like a proud father watching his child grow up to do great things.  I look forward to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s future with Robert Battle at the helm and am positive that he will continue what I believe is AAADT’s true legacy – producing art at its highest caliber.

Photos: AAADT in Alvin Ailey’s Revelations by Paul Kolnik, Judith Jamison by Max Waldman and Andrew Eccles,  Judith Jamison and Robert Battle by Andrew Eccles,  AAADT in Robert Battle’s The Hunt by Paul Kolnik, AAADT in Ronald K. Brown’s Dancing Spirit by Christopher Duggan







The Truth of Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook

“Ain’t I a woman?” the famous 1851 speech delivered by Sojourner Truth at the Ohio Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio served to be a rallying call for all women seeking to fulfill the destiny of equal citizenship for women in the U.S.  Born into bondage in New York State in 1797, Isabella Baumfree took her fate and future into her hands when on June 1, 1843 she changed her name to Sojourner Truth and told her friends, “The Spirit calls me, and I must go.”   On that day she became a woman of destiny traveling the country and preaching about abolition and women’s rights.

Over 150 years after Sojourner Truth gave her acclaimed address, another anointed woman from New York has created a beacon all women can use to harness their power and begin claiming their future.  In September, Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook published Becoming a Woman of Destiny Turning Life’s Trials into Triumphs! through Tarcher/Penguin.  Dr.  Cook, better known as Dr. Sujay, has led a life of blazing trails.  In 1996, she founded and served as the Senior Pastor of the Bronx Christian Fellowship until her retirement in 2009.  She was the first black woman to become the Senior Pastor of the American Baptist Churches of the USA and was the first female President of the Hampton University Ministers’ Conference.   But her list of firsts does not end there, Dr. Sujay was the first woman appointed Chaplain of the New York City Police Department and the first female Baptist minister to receive a White House Fellowship serving with President Clinton.  She is also empress of the lunchtime worship service, initiating the “Lunch Hour of Power” service for city, civic and court workers and the “Wonderful Wall Street Wednesday” service.

Dr. Sujay has provided mentorship and spiritual guidance to many, including Presidents Clinton and Obama, and authored nine previous books.  With her 10th book, Becoming a Woman of Destiny Turning Life’s Trials into Triumphs!, she now applies her extensive knowledge and experience to create a masterful template for women in transition.    As women we were are gifted with the task of bringing forth generations – becoming the first teachers of our children, as well as becoming life partners to our husbands.   But Dr. Sujay knows that God has placed us here to be more than wives, mothers or even professionals, and is cognizant that during the myriad seasons life holds, one might have issues moving from one season to the next.  For women facing the uncertainty of change, Becoming a Woman of Destiny holds the key to unlocking their fate.

Dr. Sujay uses the biblical figure Deborah as a model.  Deborah was a highly respected prophetess, judge, wife and warrior – accompanying the army of Israel into battle.   Deborah is also an ancient example for what women refer to today as a superwoman – a woman that finds strength, balance and harmony in performing the various roles she is allotted in her life’s journey.  Dr. Sujay applies Deborah’s life in the development of four pillars (intelligence, spirituality, action and community) which a woman can utilize as she discovers her path to a greater self.  The pillars are divided by chapters, with two chapters dedicated to each pillar.  Women learn that during a transitional period, we are sometimes beckoned to walk a path we did not know existed and can use times of adversity to generate fresh possibilities.   Women grasp the understanding of the importance of prayer, quiet moments with self and following intuiton as well as how to conduct themselves with honor.  Lastly, they ascertain the significance of relying on other women by initiating destiny circles – building a sisterhood that can support one another in achieving goals.  Each pillar begins with a prayer and a series of prayers and meditations await the reader at the end of the book.  Also each chapter ends with questions and a checklist to be used in destiny circle meetings.

With Becoming a Woman of Destiny Dr. Sujay shows you how through faith and belief in God you can bring out the best in yourself and find the true purpose of your life by employing the talents the most high has blessed each of us with.   It is the gospel for the new millennium woman.  As a woman, I find the stories Dr. Sujay shares and the advice she dispenses to be invaluable and have already started to apply the book’s principles to my life.  The holidays are always a time of transition as an old cycle ends and a new one begins.  New promises are made and I encourage everyone to purchase this book as a gift to themselves or for a cherished woman in their life.  The benefits that come from Dr. Sujay’s expertise can only be compared to a never ending well.

Humans are the Lord’s vessels – each of us has a specific path in life we must travel.  When Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in 1820, she did know her route would take her from master’s home to the Underground Railroad leading over 70 slaves to freedom.  Dr. Sujay has already been compared to Harriet, another iconic figure that symbolizes the embodiment of a destiny fulfilled, when The Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor stated that she was the Harriet Tubman for women in the ministry.  After reviewing Becoming a Woman of Destiny and discussing it with destiny circle members other readers will come to know what I know – Dr. Sujay is not just a Moses for women in the ministry, she a Harriet Tubman for all women, assisting each of us to find our own predetermined promise lands with wit, wisdom and a whole lot of grace.










Tis the Season to Give

The holiday season in New York City is a sparkly, spectacular time – the tree in Rockefeller Center and 5th Avenue window displays bring wonderment to the eye and can inject any Scrooge with the Christmas spirit.  But just as the holiday season is a time of celebration, it is also a time of giving.  Brooklyn’s O.D.X-treme PRAISE SHOW, a weekly internet radio show on Everyday Radio, is giving New Yorkers the opportunity to celebrate and show a little charity.  The O.D.X-treme PRAISE SHOW is having their annual Holiday Concert with a Purpose on December 10 at the Everyday Radio Station, located on 1467 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn.    The concert/ coat and toy drive is in its second year and will include guest performers Gary Anglin, Camille Newman, Xavier Bost and many more.  In lieu of an admission fee, the O.D.X-treme PRAISE SHOW asks for audience members to donate a toy or slightly used coat which will go to New York Cares.  Come on FAMERS show the city we love how much we care.  Support this awesome event!

The Art Of A Great Bamboozle


This season the essence of C.S. Lewis is alive and well on stage.  One incarnation of the atheist turned Christian apologist, novelist, lay theologian and academic was in the form of the man himself in Freud’s Last Session, a drama depicting a fictional meeting between Lewis and Sigmund Freud.  The other appears in an adaptation of The Screwtape Letters, one of his most popular works, by the Fellowship for the Performing Arts.  The book, published in 1942, is a series of letters authored by Screwtape (a senior demon in the dominion of hell) to his nephew Wormwood (a junior tempter just recently sent into the world).  Screwtape’s annotations offer the young demon a guide on how to lead a man down the path of damnation towards “Our Father Below” (the Devil) and away from “The Enemy” (God).

Playing at the Westside Theatre, The Screwtape Letters is a 90-minute mental gobstopper.  As the play opens, His Abysmal Sublimity Screwtape is addressing The Graduation Banquet at the Tempters College for Young Demons.   As the spirits of Hell feast on the numerous human souls they have swayed from “The Enemy,” Screwtape reminds the neophytes that although the substance of their supper does not have quite the same zing as true evil-doers like Hitler, there are plenty of humans willing to take the slow methodical road to the underworld by committing smaller sins.  His chilling speech is an eerie reminder of the phrase, “We are in the last days,” an expression my aunt would always say when adding her two cents about the news.  But it was not until I witnessed this scene that I realized the last days did not mean the 20th or 21st century, in fact, my aunt was referring to every day after the infamous apple bite.  Following the banquet scene, the rest of the production is carried out in Screwtape’s office, which is constructed of bones. 

Besides his scowling, transforming minion Toadpipe (played by Beckley Andrews), Screwtape is the only character that appears on stage.  Wormwood, “The Enemy”, “Our Father Below”, Slobgob, “The Patient” (The young man Wormwood is attempting to beguile) and “The Woman” (The Patient’s love interest) are all unseen characters that are vividly resurrected through Screwtape’s salacious soliloquy.   The Screwtape Letters is a timeless piece of work that needed to be reintroduced to the public more than ever before.  Indeed with the global economic state, constant threat of terrorism and conflict and the slow disintegration of man’s respect for nature and his fellow man, there is not one human being that can afford to miss this production.

Max McLean co-wrote and co-directed this adaptation and brings the letters to life in glorious fashion.  As Screwtape he is evil personified.  The disdain he exhibits for humans and God as well as the lusty pleasure he receives from devouring souls is completely convincing and compelling.  I was gobsmacked by the God smack that was delivered to my state of consciousness.    In fact, amusement is only one of the functions of this show, the other (and I believe chief) reason for this production is to present a thriving, thorough account of how man can be so easily led down the primrose path.  Screwtape, Wormwood and those who work for “The Enemy” are spirits, humans, as Screwtape puts it, are “amphibians—half spirit and half animal.”   It is the animal half he instructs Wormwood to target when tempting “The Patient’s” spirit.  He outlines how pride, religion, pleasure (a device created by God) can be viable tools for manipulation.  He details how prayer can cause immediate action by “The Enemy” and a demon’s best time to strike is during quiet times of reflection.  But the most significant disclosure Screwtape shares with his nephew is the law of Undulation which is, “the repeated return to a level from which they (humans) repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks.”  The satirical commentary ends with Wormwood losing “The Patient” to “The Enemy” and becoming worm bait for Screwtape and Toadpipe.

Revelations 20:20 is an idiom I say when referring to the clarity that is gained by hindsight.  Watching The Screwtape Letters brought to life on stage offered more of a revelation than I ever anticipated.  The audience learns that every transgression counts.   In the end, all of Screwtape’s devices to entice us with vices leads to one well-known (but often forgotten) conclusion, the Devil and his sycophants are liars whose misdirection is the most direct passageway to becoming tasty morsels at Hell’s buffet.  Hats off to Max McLean for reminding us that we are all soldiers in the war for our souls, The Screwtape Letters ends its New York run on January 9, FAMERS make sure this show is the only trip to Hades you ever take.