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Photo of the Week: Author and Poet, Gillian Alex

Our Photo of the Week is a photo of author and poet, Gillian Alex, at the Harlem Book Fair on July 15, 2017.

On the left, Gillian is standing beside her signage for her latest spoken word project, Put Some Respect on Our Name.

In the photo on the right, Gillian is holding a copy of her book, Tuesday at Three.

RnB Singer Freddie Jackson is Back, and He’s Sending "Love Signals"

VIDEO INTERVIEW: Freddie Jackson is gearing up for his One Night Tour, the name of the first single off of his new album, Love Signals

In this video interview recorded on April 11, 2017, award-winning RnB singer, Freddie Jackson, talks about growing up in Harlem, sneaking into the Apollo Theater, his start in the music industry, his first record deal, working with singer/actress Melba Moore, younger singers like Jennifer Hudson that are destined to have longevity, and of course, his new single, ONE NIGHT.

By way of background, Freddie Jackson mastered the art of chart domination during the mid-to-late 80s, and today continues proving his distinction as one of the Top 50 Greatest R&B Singers (Billboard 2017). Jackson’s Billboard chart resume that boasts 18 songs in the Top 10 with 10 songs rocketing to #1, a 3x Grammy Nominee, and an American Music Award winner. The Harlem native's star first appeared on the horizon in 1985, after releasing his debut album, Rock Me Tonight (Capitol Records).

While waiting his turn, Jackson worked a word processing job, did session work, and backup singing gigs throughout New York nightclubs. Then, while singing backup for Melba Moore, fellow church member and friend Paul Laurence at Hush Productions, decided enough was enough. Laurence, a talented record producer, and songwriter pulled Jackson from behind both the typewriter and other acts; penning him a hit with the title track for what would become Jackson's debut album, Rock me Tonight.

As we waited for Freddie Jackson to arrive for his interview, person after person, talked about how Jackson’s music was “music to love by” or “baby-making music,” evidenced by Keisha Wilson during the interview.

We agree with others that Jackson’s current album, Love Signals, offers longtime fans and new listeners alike, a melodic offering of love in a multitude of styles. From the orchestral openings to the instrumental driven collaborations with master musician Gerald Albright on Hold Me Tonight, each song is a pulse of passion and light. All I Wanna Do will surely become the new anniversary anthem, while his most global track to date, Save The Babies, asks this tumultuous era's most pertinent question, 'Who is going to save the child?'


March 29th was a special night! At 58 West 129th Street (at Lenox Ave), The National Jazz Museum in Harlem hosted its opening celebration. A lively, diverse crowd participated in the gala event.

National Jazz Museum in Harlem Opening Reception 02292016 600x399The opening reception for the National Jazz Museum in Harlem on March 29, 2016.

The celebration featured a star-studded list of performers: pianist Marc Cary and his band which included vocalist Terri Davis; tenor saxophonist, Bill Saxton; drummer, Russell Carter; and, bassist, Rahsaan Carter.

There were comments by the Loren Schoenberg, Grammy Award-winner and Founding Director; Harold Closter from the Smithsonian institute in which the museum is an affiliate, also addressed attendees, as did Attorney Tim Porter, the New Chairman of the NJMH's Board of Directors.

National Jazz Museum in Harlem Tim Porter-Esq Board Chair 03292016 600x399Tim Porter, Esq., Board Chair, National Jazz Museum in Harlem 

Board Chair Tim Porter noted that the vision for the new NJMH space would include, "providing more educational programming; taking advantage of performance and partnership opportunities afforded by the new location, enhancing our role in Harlem's cultural and civic life, presenting new and exciting exhibits, nurturing emerging talent in the many areas associated with jazz both on and off the band stand, building upon the programs we have successfully operated in other parts of the city, targeting some of our programming where to those who would otherwise miss out on the arts, and all the while continuing to expand, where appropriate, our national and international outreach activities."

Among other luminaries in attendance were: Kenneth Knuckles, president and CEO of the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone; Mercedes Ellington, accomplished dancer and granddaughter of Duke Ellington; and Lloyd Williams, CEO of the Harlem Chamber of Commerce.

Mercedes Ellington grannddaughter of Duke Ellington NJazzMHarlem Opening 02292016 600x766Mercedes Ellington, dancer and granddaughter of jazz legend Duke Ellington, at the opening of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem on March 29, 2016

National Jazz MH Opening Reception Tim Porter Voza Rivers Tim Wein Lloyd Williams 600x399Photo l to r: Tim Porter, Esq., Board Chair, National Jazz Museum in Harlem; Voza Rivers, Harlem Arts Alliance Board Chairman; George Wein, NEA Jazz Master/Newport Festivals; and Lloyd Williams, CEO, Harlem Chamber of Commerce

The purpose of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem is to preserve, promote and present jazz by inspiring knowledge, appreciation, and celebration of jazz locally, nationally and internationally. With the goal of keeping jazz at the forefront of musical visibility and exciting in the lives of a diverse range of audiences.

Some of the upcoming events at the museum include:

Urban Design, Jazz and Creativity, Tuesday, Apr 12, 2016, 7:00 pm

Jazz, Baroque Design and Beyond, Tuesday, April 19, 2016, 7:00 pm

Cannonball Adderley – The 1950s, Thursday, April 21, 2016, 7:00 pm

For a complete list of activities and events, check out the National Jazz Museum in Harlem's website:

I strongly recommend that you visit the National Jazz Museum in Harlem; it's a gem.


A New Discovery of Langston Hughes: Finding Rivers of Soulful Inspiration

Images of Books & Authors in Unexpected Places

Every time I visit the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, in Harlem, I make certain to walk into the center of the African cosmogram, at the entryway to the Langston Hughes Auditorium.

African-Cosmogram Honoring-LangstonHughes-and-Arturo-A-Schomburg Photo-Credit Luvon-Roberson 650x487The African Cosmogram, in honor of Langston Hughes and Arturo A. Schomburg, located at the entryway to the Langston Hughes Auditorium. Photo Credit: Luvon Roberson, Book Editor, What's The 411 Networks

Long flowing sapphire-blue lines weave their way from the rust-brown innermost circle of the cosmogram, spilling outward only to stop at the walls of the Schomburg itself. The cosmogram represents Langston Hughes's poem, The Negro Speaks of Rivers:

I've known rivers:
I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the
flow of human blood in human veins.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.
I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.
I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.
I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.
I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln
went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy
bosom turn all golden in the sunset.
I've known rivers:
Ancient, dusky rivers.
My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

While I've long loved the brilliant flow of both the poem's rhythm and the rivers depicted in the cosmogram, it is only recently that I made a new discovery about that space I've so often stood at the center of: Beneath it, Hughes's remains are interred in a stainless steel vessel.

I did not know.

I only knew that I was drawn to that center-space, which is inscribed with this verse from his poem:

"My soul has grown deep like the rivers."

Another Reflection on the Image:

"The circle is an awesome and active trail, a continuing cycle of connections, in the lives of Schomburg, Hughes, and all others who come to the Schomburg Center. To those who believe there is simply too much bad mojo in the world, this circle holds the cure."

Christopher P. Moore, Curator and Special Projects Coordinator, Schomburg Center.


LANGSTON HUGHES: Inspires Writers of Today

It seems fitting to think of Langston Hughes in this space at this time. He was born on February 1, 1902 and died on May 22, 1967, and now, nearly 50 years later, continues to inspire.

LangstonHughes Poster Created-by-Ruth 495x700

On February 19, 2015, The Center for Black Literature at Medgar Evers College directed by Dr. Brenda Greene, celebrates his life and voice in Langston Hughes, Personal and in the World, a program with readings and conversation on the influence of his work on contemporary literature and writers. Professor Gordon Thompson, director of the Langston Hughes Festival at CCNY, and Professor Robert Reid-Pharr, director of the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean, at CUNY's Graduate Center, among others, lead the program's homage to Hughes.

  • Published in Images

Books Take Center Stage in Holiday Window Displays

Images of Books & Authors in Unexpected Places

Every year in December, I head off to Fifth Avenue to tour the gorgeous holiday window displays. This year, my traditional seasonal trek had a happy addition: Harlem's 125th Street! I was like a kid in a candy store, as several stores on Harlem's 125th Street showcased gorgeous holiday windows. Expecting to see the usual festive creations of glamorous gowns and dressed-to-the-nines mannequins; snow-filled dioramas; old-fashioned toys for miniature girls and boys; and the usual Christmas scenes, what a wonder-filled surprise to find instead, books and authors inspiring the holidays this year!

Fifth Avenue

Bergdorf Goodman offered windows on Architecture, Music, Painting, Theatre, and my favorite, Arts & Literature.

Bergdorf-Goodman  Books-and-Writers-Holiday-Themed-Windows IRzehavi BG Holiday 2014 arts 600x803

Literature themed holiday window at Bergdorf Goodman - December 2014. Photo Credit: Ricky Zehavi

Can you find Frederick Douglass and Phyllis Wheatley among the many iconic writers featured in the window?


Uptown, a Harlem store's fanciful window shimmered with a quote from Zora Neale Hurston, one of my most cherished writers. The images of Hurston and Langston Hughes, standing stand-by-side in the Yoga Land window display, made me smile.

Langston-Hughes Zora-Neale-Hurston Yoga-Land Holiday-Window 2014

Photos of legendary authors Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston in a winter holiday themed window at Yoga Land in Harlem. Photo credit: DNAinfo/Gustavo Solis

Then, a happy thought came to me; all good wishes are sent forth – to everyone -- in this glorious holiday season!

Tour Bergdorf Goodman's holiday windows

Tour the Harlem stores' holiday windows.


Each month, I'll share images of books and authors that I come upon in unexpected places. It's all to inspire you to experience, as if for the first time, the wonder of books and their creators.

Hit me up on Twitter @LuvonRwriter!

  • Published in Images

Romeo and Juliet Like You’ve Never Seen it Before

Shakespeare comes back to Harlem with a special rendition of Romeo and Juliet

Director Justin Emeka is at it again!

He's at the helm of the Classical Theatre of Harlem's rendition of Romeo and Juliet.

Emeka has a way of re-imagining classical Shakespearean works into productions that contemporary audiences enjoy. If you saw Emeka's critically-acclaimed vision of A Midsummer Night's Dream last year, then you know what I'm talking about. You also know that you don't want to miss out on CTH's Romeo and Juliet.

The performance is FREE to the public. So take a ride, or walk if you are nearby, to the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park. Enter the park at 124th Street and Fifth Avenue and walk south to the venue.

Performances of Romeo and Juliet are on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Friday's curtain is at 8:15 p.m., following Jazzmobile's free concerts at 7:00p.m. Don't wait until the last minute because the last show is on Sunday, July 27.

Enjoy and I hope to see you uptown at a performance of the Classical Theatre of Harlem’s Romeo and Juliet.

For more information about Romeo and Juliet or the Classical Theatre of Harlem, visit:

  • Published in Theatre

Tren'Ness Woods-Black NV Mover and Shaker Carrying on the Sylvia Woods Tradition

Check out video interview with Tren'ness Woods-Black

NV Magazine has established its 15-year history as a "new vision" of business publication for urban professionals around the country. Whether scaling the ladder within corporate America or creating a successful venture from scratch, NV has chosen to not only acknowledge but honor, many of these ground-breakers with its annual Movers & Shakers Awards.

For the past five years, Founder, Kyle Donovan and Publisher, Christopher Chaney and their team have solicited recommendations for and researched their selections to identify honorees from the well-established, even famous, to the less celebrated but ascending innovators, executives and business "hustlers" within the multicultural community. This isn't for the sake of taking nice pictures and having a cocktail, NV's mission is to empower communities of color through the recognition of these trendsetters and inspire collective collaboration to generate wealth and long-term economic stability for the black and Latino market.

Tren'ness Woods-Black, granddaughter of soul food restaurant icon Sylvia Woods was a recipient of the NV Movers and Shakers Award.

How excited are you for this recognition?

"I'm really excited," Tren'ness said. "First of all, NV Magazine, I've been a fan and a supporter from day one."

Your grandmother was a legend, so loved and dearly missed, thank you for continuing her work, what did she impart to you?

"Everything, she was a true legacy builder in every sense of the word. She was all about the community, she often would say, 'I am Harlem', she loved her family and that's one of the reasons why our business is still going on, three generations, hard at it, making things happen."

In terms of opportunities, things you're looking forward to, please share with our fans...

"Exciting stuff," Tren'ness responded. "Just last year we acquired the last bit of real estate that was available on our avenue, so our avenue is actually going to be renamed Sylvia Woods Way. We're building a brand new, beautiful, sexy restaurant that's going to last us another 51 and a half years, we are educating our youth with our scholarship foundation and we sent over 85 kids to school in just 12 years, so we're looking to double those numbers. So that's what we're all about, our food product company is doing amazingly well, so we're looking to grow that, so a lot is to come from the Sylvia Woods brand."

Are you still looking at expanding outside of NY?

"YES, we actually have some things cooking on the stove right now, so you'll have to stay tuned for more, but you'll definitely be seeing a lot more Sylvia's in hot states near you."

To see our videos as soon as they are posted, subscribe to our YouTube channels: WhatsThe411TV and 411SportsTV

A Midsummer Night ... in Harlem

NYC's illustrious Shakespeare in the Park brings Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Harlem with influences from African and Hispanic Diasporas

It was indeed a perfect midsummer night to watch the premiere of Shakespeare's comedy classic, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH) kicked off its unprecedented 18-day production in the recently renovated Richard Roger's Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park. The production ushered in a warm welcome to bringing NYC's illustrious "Shakespeare in the Park" to Harlem.

For the past 50 years, over 5 million people have taken advantage of the free "Shakespeare in the Park" productions, historically located at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park. The reenactments of Shakespeare's pieces have grown to become a quintessential summer ritual.

Seizing the nouveau Harlem Renaissance and the multi-million dollar repair of the Amphitheater, CTH has taken this opportunity to expand the theme of "Shakespeare in the Park" uptown to the culturally diverse and affluently artistic neighborhood of Harlem.

Director Justin Emeka, professor of Theatre and Africana Studies at Oberlin College, is known for creating new approaches to classical theatre. He portrayed an unparalleled interpretation of the original play which deals with the difficulties of love, magical spells, and the realities of life versus the fantasies of dreams.

Emeka seamlessly integrated music, dance, and lifestyle traditions ranging from African to Hispanic Diasporas, signifying the various cultures and backgrounds residing in Harlem. His unique interpretations of classic themes incorporated creative surprises, reflective of modern day societal trends which kept the jam packed audience engaged, full of laughter, and on their toes.

This production lived up to CTH's commitment of presenting the "classics" to the stages of Harlem while heightening the awareness of theatre and great Harlem art. A Midsummer Night's Dream provided a fantastic opportunity for those inside and outside the community to relax and enjoy the magical nature of summer love.

You can catch A Midsummer Night's Dream every night through July 30, 2013 at 7:00 pm located at Richard Roger's Amphitheater (18 Mt. Morris Park West and 122nd Street) in Marcus Garvey Park. The production is free so arrive early! Seats are first come first serve.

Visit to learn more about The Classical Theatre of Harlem.

  • Published in Theatre
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