Sep 17 2011

“Curvy” Ballerina Speaks on Being American Ballet Theatre’s First Black Soloist

The image most of us have of mainstream classical ballet is one of stick-thin white women  who got their start in the world of dance back when they were toddlers sporting baby ballet slippers and tiny tutus.

Prepare to revamp that image now that Misty Copeland has forever changed the face (and a few other body parts) of American classical ballet.

Misty was 13 years old when she took her first ballet class wearing socks and sweats on the basketball court in the Boys and Girls Club in her home town. Four years later she was dancing with the notoriously homogenous American Ballet Theatre as their only African American troupe member. Today she is the first black soloist to perform with the company since Nora Kimball, 30 years ago.

“When I started dancing I never thought I would have such a voice,” says Copeland. “Being the only black woman in my company for 11 years I’ve found my voice…I want to introduce more people to [classical ballet].”

In addition to the attention her ABT career has brought her, Misty also found a new audience when she was asked by Prince to tour with him and perform her classical technique on stage. “Collaborating with Prince opened up so many people’s eyes…and made [ballet] cool,” she says of the experience.

Copeland told the Huffington Post that working with Prince, “helped me to see the bigger picture — to not be so focused on the political things that happen in my company and with dancers around me…Not to feel judged by other people. When you’re in a field like I am, you get more negative feedback than you do positive. I mean, we stand in front of a mirror all day because we’re supposed to look at our flaws and fix them. So it’s been nice having someone say positive things like, “You can do this” and “The sky’s the limit.”

Misty recently filmed a “Day in the Life” segment with award-winning documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock in which she visited a Boys and Girls Club to mentor a group of aspiring ballerinas. She told the girls, “It’s really exciting to see young dancers that look like me…It makes me so happy to see you.  My mom was a single parent and I’m one of six kids and we all went to the Boys and Girls Club…It seems like this fairytale but I made it.”

Misty intends to encourage more black girls to consider dancing classical ballet. “It’s important to keep black women in this field motivated and on track,” she explains, “because so many are turned away and told do other forms of dance because they’ll be more accepted and it will be easier for them. So, my goal is to try to push them in this direction. I wish I would have had someone, especially a black woman I could have looked up to.”

-by Kathleen Cross for RollingOut.com



Jul 22 2011

Abandoned at Birth Now an AIDS Activist: Hydeia Broadbent’s Life a Testament to Early Diagnosis and Treatment

Born HIV-infected to a crack-addicted mother and diagnosed with full blown AIDS at age 3, Hydeia Broadbent was not expected to live past the age of 5. More than 20 years after receiving that death sentence, this beautiful young woman blogs, tweets and travels the country to educate people about the importance of AIDS prevention, testing, early diagnosis and treatment.

“Early diagnosis can be the difference between life and death,” says Broadbent. “Too many people become aware of their status when it is too late for life-saving medications to be effective — I am in this fight because I truly do not want others to go through what I have gone through — but also keep in mind, a positive test result doesn’t have to mean a death sentence.”

Some uninformed people hear stories like Broadbent’s and believe that because HIV-positive people are now living much longer, prevention is not a big deal anymore. Broadbent warns audiences not to fall into that trap. This young lady knows firsthand that living with AIDS is no walk in the park. The drugs have serious side effects, are very costly and they must be taken every day. If you are following Broadbent on Facebook or Twitter, you know her emergency room visits are frightening and expensive.

“People think because I was born with HIV my story does not apply to them,” warns Broadbent. “Well, this same disease I am living with is the same disease you can get if you don’t practice safe sex and know your HIV status and the HIV status of your sexual partner. I ask people to use my testimony as a warning of what you don’t want to go through.”

If you have been thinking about getting tested, but still haven’t found the courage or will to get it done, let this young woman’s concern for you give you the nudge you need to be concerned about yourself.

“We are responsible for the choices we make and I challenge everyone to be accountable. Every 9 ½ minutes someone becomes infected with HIV. Knowing your HIV status is not only a representation of self-love but also states what kind of person you choose to be. Not knowing your HIV status and having unsafe sexual relationships means you could possibly be infecting others,” Broadbent says.

Visit www.HydeaiaBroadbent.com for more information on this awesome young lady.


Jun 6 2011

Tupac’s Godfather Geronimo Ji-Jaga: The Definition of Tragedy Turned Triumph

Geronimo Ji-Jaga died Thursday, June 2nd in Tanzania, Africa.

Music in the video: “The Fire” by The Roots f. John Legend

I’m the definition
of tragedy turned triumph
It’s David and Goliath,
I made it to the eye of the storm,
feeling torn like they fed me to the lions…

Geronimo Pratt spent 27 years in maximum security prisons (eight of those years in solitary confinement) for a murder he did not commit. The FBI knew he was at a Black Panther meeting in Oakland on the evening a young white woman was killed on a tennis court in Santa Monica — because they had him under 24-hour surveillance.

Former TIME bureau chief, Jack Olsen wrote a stunning and unforgettable account of Geronimo’s journey from Elmer Pratt, U. S. war hero who “killed a lot of people” on behalf of this government, to Geronimo ji-Jaga, a man whose spiritual experiences in the “black holes” of  Folsom and San Quentin stripped him of all bitterness.  The Last Man Standing is a book I highly recommend. Reading it forever changed me as a human being.

Geronimo ji-Jaga’s trial, conviction and incarceration (and eventual freedom) should remind us of the countless innocents who remain jailed or exiled for crimes they did not commit. Their hope for justice lies in the hearts, thoughts and actions of those of us who are free to fight on their behalf.

Geronimo’s conviction was overturned in 1997 and he was released. He received a financial settlement from the government, but they admitted no wrong-doing in stealing 27 years of his life.

For more about exiled former Black Panther Paul Oniel (shown in the video above) and his work serving his community in Tanzania, visit http://www.youtube.com/user/HUITZILOPOCHTLI002