Category: Entertainment Written by Terri Schlichenmeyer
Long and slow. That’s how you’d describe every line you’ve ever stepped into.
Don’t you hate that? You’re waiting in line and you see a chance to go to a shorter queue so you change lanes. Suddenly, the line you just left looks like the Indianapolis speedway. And you know what happens if you switch again…
There are definite advantages to being first. In the new book “Black Firsts” by Jessie Carney Smith, you’ll find information on tens of thousands of folks who’ve gone before you—in a good way.
In your lifetime, you’ve seen a lot of big milestones: the first Olympic gold-winning African-American gymnast; the first Black head of National Security and, of course, Barack Obama as the first Black U.S. President.
But Mr. Obama wasn’t the first African American to make White House news.
Read this book and you’ll see that pianist Thomas Greene Bethune was the first Black artist to perform there in 1858. A baby named Thomas was the first Black child born at the White House in 1806. Booker T. Washington was the first Black American to be entertained at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., and Sammy Davis Jr. was the first known Black entertainer to sleep there.
Speaking of entertainment, Ray Charles was the first person of any race to perform at the Georgia Assembly. This book will also tell you who was the first Black singer to appear on TV and when the first recording of Black music happened.
You’ll learn that your grandma’s favorite cartoon was drawn by America’s first Black cartoonist. Both Dave Chapelle and Chris Rock broke comedy records in this century. America’s first Black insurance company opened its doors in 1810 and the first Black-owned car dealership opened 160 years later. The first known Black bookseller started his business in 1834.
The world’s first Black professional model walked the catwalk in the 1950s and the first Black Playboy bunny hopped on the scene in 1965. A Black chef was reportedly the creator of potato chips. America’s first Black Mormon elder gained the priesthood in 1836.
And America’s first Black Millionaire lived in New Orleans in 1890.
It’s hard to imagine anything missing from “Black Firsts.” It’s so hard, in fact, that author Jessie Carney Smith challenges readers to find and notify her of other milestones in Black history—but not just in North American Black history. You’ll find entries here of things that happened to African-Americans, as well as Black firsts in other countries around the world, too.
But don’t think for a minute that “Black Firsts” is dry and boring. There are lots of entries that will surprise you and others that will stop an argument in a hot minute. Everything’s well-indexed, informative, thorough enough, and as addictive as buttered popcorn.
(“Black Firsts: 4,000 Ground-Breaking and Pioneering Historical Events (Third Edition)” by Jessie Carney Smith, c.2013, Visible Ink Press, $24.95/$27.95 Canada, 833 pages, includes index. )
Last Updated on Friday, 29 March 2013 10:05
Category: Entertainment Written by Gwendolyn Baines
(NNPA)—Dear Gwendolyn: The past six months have been nothing but sadness in our home. Two years ago my son was awarded an athletic scholarship to a prestigious high school. The school is costly because mostly children of celebrities attend there. Poor parents and the working class do not attend unless they, like my son, receive scholarship. Even with the scholarship we had to pay $3,000.
This is the problem: When school was out in December for winter/holiday break, we were informed that my son would not be able to continue on his football award. My wife had bragged to all her social club affiliates. The reason the coach gave was that my son was too small body frame. He was constantly getting hurt. My grandmother would not allow me to play football—that’s why I wanted so much for my son to play the game.
Gwendolyn, how can we let our son know that what happened to him is just a normal part of living?—Aaron
Dear Aaron: Before going into the issue of your son losing his award, I want to caution you about this entire ordeal. Just because your grandmother would not allow you to play the game is no reason you should want your son to play.
Aaron, you and your wife seem to be sad for the wrong reasons. Think about it. Football is dangerous and no boy or man of a certain thin body structure should play. There are more ex-football players who are partially paralyzed (or fully paralyzed) that are never mentioned.
Let me tell you this: Your son should attempt playing baseball or some other sport where size doesn’t matter. Get him more into the academics. After all when players do not make the pros, they seldom find a good paying job. They can only run the ball, but their book learning doesn’t go beyond—the field goal.
Last Updated on Friday, 29 March 2013 10:06
Category: Entertainment Written by Timothy Cox
(Pittsburgh’s funky R & B legacy Part 2 )
Regional private social clubs vital to live
The Beaver Falls Elks, like other regional private social clubs, were hotspots for Black party life in the late sixties and early 1970s—a trend that would continue well into the mid-1980s.
Long before the advent and rise of Disco music and its pulsating, high-tech Disco Clubs, small private clubs provided the dance track for Black Pittsburgh—way before Disco havens like Monroeville’s Backstage Lounge, Holiday House, East Liberty’s Fantastic Plastic and Yellow Banana set the standard with elaborate lighting systems and booming sound systems that eclipsed any live band’s self-contained sound system.
Other hotspot Disco clubs of that period were the VIP 2001 on the North Side and in Baden, and the renovated movie theater known as Infinity Disco in Rochester. The positive aspects of these new Disco clubs were that they were the first party spots to become fully racially-integrated—as opposed to the previous defacto segregated nightclubs and bars that were typically located in individual neighborhoods that were “expectedly” racially segregated, generally with more Whites versus Black patrons.
Joining the Beaver Falls Elks as venues where Black folks “did their own thing,” were soulful party spots like Clairton’s Hollywood Club, the Rankin Elks and Homestead’s Workingmen’s Club, The MPI and Quippian Clubs in Aliquippa, the Sewickley Legion and the Paramount Club in Coraopolis.
The ambiance at those clubs during the early ‘70s were the same—kind of like watching the party scene in the classic 1972 motion picture “Superfly,” when Ron O’Neil’s character, Preach, stopped to have a few drinks at a bar while Curtis Mayfield’s hot and funky live band played groovy sounds.
Cool cats wearing colorful satin suits, Stetson shoes and Apple caps to match, found themselves in a room full of fine sisters wearing Afro hair-doos, tight mini skirts, hot pants and platform shoes.
“Ah yea, those were the days,” reflects Phillip Billingslea, a former Pittsburgh regional radio industry executive at Sheridan Broadcasting.
Back in the day, Billingslea, an Aliquippa native, spent lots of time surveying the city’s social scene and was one to travel throughout the Tri-State area during his younger years.
When it comes to the importance of the band era of the ‘70s, Billingslea puts it all in perspective.
“Really, it was a great time. A great era. It was hot while it lasted, but then it was gone in a flash,” he said.
“The bands were strong then, we had El Pooks and they had a record called “Psychadelic Soul.”
El Pooks were a family unit later renamed The Stringfield Family Band.
Billingslea also reflects on the importance of nearby Ohio bands like TNT Flashers and East Coast, both hailing from Steubenville.
He counts the Rainbow Room in Beaver Falls and the Midland Elks as other hot spots that should be noted in this historical account.
Other notable clubs according to Billingslea were Club 25 in East Liverpool, Ohio, The Inferno on the main street and the Paramount Club in Coraopolis where he saw The Dramatics perform.
Billingslea also credits his hometown for producing several of the premier funk musicians of Western Pa., namely the Rare Experience group. “They featured an all-star lineup, even way back then,” he said. He includes the following musicians: George Tyson, Gary Washington, brothers Maurice and Michael Jones, Allen Smith, Lateef, Rodney “Bogey” Burrow and Reggie “The Wizard” Jones.
“Wizard” Jones is currently a major force in Atlanta, where he’s contracted to conduct and arrange for many major music industry shows. He has served as music director for various TV specials. Jones also serves as Musical Director for many of the hottest performing acts from Atlanta, New York, Los Angeles and the world over. He spent most of 2012 as Musical Director for Justin Bieber, one of the world's hottest young entertainers.
Billingslea also reminds readers that the impact of having a commercial Black radio station in Pittsburgh should not be understated.
“Back then, we had WAMO (FM-106)—a strong Black radio station in our market. That made a world of difference in cultivating our Black pride and uniting all the individual regions and neighborhoods throughout the city, suburbs and outlying areas. And they also played Gospel music on Sundays. Black radio has always been a vital faction for our community development,” said Billingslea. "It's a major void in Pittsburgh right now.”
Although they were younger musicians in the early 1970s, drummer Cecil Brooks III and bassist Dwayne Dolphin were well aware of the happenings in their industry.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 10:13
Category: Entertainment Written by Ashley G. Woodson
Davon and Fife representin’ at “A Tribute to James Owens” at CJ’s in the Strip District.
This week I visited Mélange Bistro Bar in Downtown Pittsburgh, CJ’s in the Strip District, Tim’s Bar in the Hill District and the Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum in Homewood.
My first stop was at Mélange Bistro Bar in Downtown Pittsburgh where everyone came out to Martini Mondays to pay tribute to the late James Owens through partying and having a great time in his memory.
My next stop was at CJ’s in the Strip District where John Cheatwood presented “A Tribute to James Owens” with family and friends in attendance.
My next stop was at Tim’s Bar in the Hill District where everyone came out to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.
My final destination was at the Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum in Homewood where Lemington Community Services presented their 1st Ever Line Dance Blue Jean cabaret featuring Mighty Man, Roland Ford and Brotha Ash.
You know Brotha Ash has a REAL CONNECTION to the community. Send all of your party and event information to info@BrothaAshProductions.com and I’ll see you next week OUT AND ABOUT!
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 10:12
Category: Entertainment Written by Associated Press
WANTED-- In this Oct. 2, 2010 file photo, rapper Gucci Mane arrives on the red carpet for the BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)
ATLANTA (AP) — An arrest warrant was issued for Gucci Mane after a fan told police the rapper hit him in the head with a champagne bottle at a downtown Atlanta nightclub.
Last Updated on Sunday, 24 March 2013 14:07
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