Category Archives: Entertainment

THE OVAL+ Launches Summer Season With Expansion

This week Philadelphia Parks and Recreation and its nonproprofit partner Fairmount Park Conservancy unveiled the latest version of summer at The Oval:  now called the Oval + (plus) because it includes installations and activities at two other parks along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.  Public events began on July 20 and will run through August 20.  This year, the schedule of events at The Oval+ will include programming by The Free Library of  Philadelphia at the newly renovated Shakespeare Park and the Franklin Institute and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University at Aviator Park.

The Oval+ will have food, fun, and entertainment for a month between July 20-August 20, Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 am -11 pm. Highlights at the main Eakins Oval site include:

Eakins Tavern, a beer garden serving Meltkraft sandwiches, local wine from Blair Vineyards, craft brews by Yards, and “Adult Water Ice,” a vodka-spiked slushy.

A rotating line-up of food trucks including these that were ranked in the top 101 in the country in April: Chewy’s, The Cow and the Curd, Surf and Turf Truck, Foolish Waffles, and Cupcake Carnivale.

A brand new drinking fountain with water bottle refill station, a wheelchair accessible nozzle, and dog bowl station; free water bottles will be provided by sponsor PNC.

Wellness Wednesdays with CKO Kickboxing, Philly Dance Fitness, Power Yoga with Yoga Habit, CoreFitness, and Dance Boot Camp.

Arts & Culture Thursdays featuring Hip Hop Fundamentals and dancing with DJs lil’ dave, Skipmode, Mike Nyce, Rich Medina, and Matthew Law from 7pm -11pm.

Food & Flicks Fridays with free screening of the movies Clueless, Hidden Figures, Up, Spaceballs, and Invincible at 9pm.

Game Day Saturday featuring live kids’ music jams and the trivia game Quizzo by Johnny Goodtimes in Eakins Tavern.

Family Fun Sundays with an afternoon-long kid-friendly dance party called “Let’s Rock Recess.”

At Aviator Park, the Free Library will host a jazz series on Thursday evenings, storytelling on Saturday mornings, and improvisational theatre (involving kids from the audience) on Sunday mornings.

Also at Aviator Park, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University will present “Wild Wednesdays” at 1pm, a learning session about birds, butterflies, small mammals, and other creatures in our neighborhoods.

For an interactive calendar of events go to http://theovalphl.org

 

 

REMEMBERING A LEGEND – 2017 Jackie Robinson Day Celebration in Memorial Park

by Nikia Brown

“He could hit and bunt and steal and run. He had intimidating skills, and he burned with a dark fire.” -Roger Kahn, The Boys of Summer

On April 15, 2017, Parkside community residents and civic leaders gathered around the Philadelphia Stars Negro League Memorial Park to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s debut as the first African American to enter Major League Baseball (MLB). Robinson broke the color barrier in MLB when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers on April 15, 1947. Nevertheless, his legacy far surpasses that of a typical athlete. He is an iconic legend, Civil Rights ambassador, record breaker, and a man he lived by his own ethos: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”

The Memorial Park Celebration attracted a diverse audience including Gwen Gould, the last surviving wife of one of the Philadelphia Stars players, Harold Gould; Kenny Johnson, Coordinator of Community Engagement for the Philadelphia Phillies; Ron Whittington, a Jackie Robinson storyteller and impersonator; and, of course, the eagerly anticipated and wildly unpredictable, Phillie Phanatic.

Gould, who is now in her late 80s, expressed feelings of deep satisfaction and pride after the day’s event. “It was wonderful. I saw a lot of little kids out here which is encouraging. It’s a wonderful thing, and at my age you appreciate just getting out and being among friends.” Philadelphia Phillies Community Engagement Coordinator, Kenny Johnson, grew up in West Philadelphia right around the corner from the Philadelphia Stars Memorial Park. He feels a connection to the community and is grateful for the positive impact of Negro League baseball on urban neighborhoods.

“This event is important because baseball is an intergenerational sport. It’s grandmothers and grandfathers passing it down to their kids,” says Johnson. “Stories of Jackie Robinson and his exemplary legacy are very important (and must) stay within the consciousness of families and the community. It shows that when you persevere, when you work hard and bring folks together, you can do some amazing things.”

Two Phillies Ball Girls accompanied Johnson to the Celebration, Courtney Williams and Trisha Lang. This was Williams’ second year coming to the event and she expressed that it is important “to look back at our history to see the movers and shakers and how we got to be where we are today.” Williams, who is African American, feels her race provides a greater impetus to survey the events of Black history and how much the African American community has progressed since oppressive times. “It’s sometimes hard to see how far we’ve come, but we really have come very far,” says Williams.

While this was Lang’s first time attending the event, she was equally grateful to be a part of the experience. She stated, “I am thankful to be able to be in this position where I can come out and be involved in such a great event that involves the entire community and brings everyone together to look back at how far we’ve come and where we started.”

The event was also well-represented by key members of the Business Association of West Parkside such as Marjorie Ogilvie, Miller Parker, Lucinda Hudson, Cassandra Hayes, and Dennis Lee.

Parker, who has been the treasurer of the Business Association of West Parkside for about 15 years, remembers with fondness the early beginnings of the Philadelphia Stars Negro League Memorial Park. He shares, “One of the things we want to do is draw attention to this neighborhood and community and get the community involved in the park. We came up with this idea that baseball might be the way to go because there was a baseball field here a number of years ago where the Negro League played.” Parker believes this annual celebration is one way of keeping the legacy of extraordinary African Americans alive in the community.

Hayes, an animated and dedicated community advocate, continued, “This is something that we have been doing for the past eleven years. I’ve been a part of it every year. I come, I eat, I play, I meet folks. It’s a great way to just enjoy the community and recognize one of the historical figures in Black and American history.” Lee, who emceed the event, felt this year’s festivities was special because it marked their 11th year of hosting the Memorial Celebration and Jackie Robinson’s 70th year of remembrance. “The future is promising if we remember our legacy,” offered Lee before jetting off to his next event. The team is already expectant of next year’s activities and look forward to sharing the rich history of the Philadelphia Stars with a broader and more diversified audience.

 

WEST PARK ARTS FEST – CELEBRATING 10 YEARS on Saturday, June 3, 2017

Philadelphia, PA – Founded by West Park Cultural Center in 2008, the West Park Arts Fest is celebrating 10 years and moving to the Avenue of the Republic near the Please Touch Museum. This site is adjacent to the Centennial Commons – an exciting public space project under construction by Fairmount Park Conservancy as part of Philadelphia’s Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative.

Fairmount Park Conservancy and Global Philadelphia have joined West Park Cultural Center as organizers for this free public event advancing the festival’s mission to bring communities together in the park, promote greater awareness of the area’s history and heritage while celebrating the arts and cultural diversity of Philadelphia. The festival embraces partnership and has over the years been made possible in great part to the participation of many arts, cultural and community partners from West Philadelphia and across Philadelphia.

On Saturday June 3rd from 12pm to 5pm attendees of all ages will enjoy two stages of exciting culturally diverse performances by some of the area’s best dancers, musicians, vocalists, and spoken word artists. Some of the talent will include the popular West Philadelphia Orchestra, Badd Kitti, Gretchen Elise Music, Pasión Y Arte Flamenco, Megan Flynn Dance Company, Academy of Classical Indian Dance, Jasmin Yahne Dance Company, and much more. The event will invite participation in dance, collaborative painting with WEPAINT, free guided historical trolley tours through the Centennial District, heritage storytelling with Global Philadelphia, children’s activities with the Franklin Institute PACS Program, Tree House Books and more to be announced. As part of the celebration, Fairmount Park Conservancy’s Arts & Culture Program, with the support of ArtPlace America, has commissioned artists to create special installations and interactive elements that draw their inspiration from the neighborhood, the park and the history of the 1876 Centennial. Festival goers will see a standing timeline created by Global Philadelphia that documents Parkside’s history and heritage with pictures and text.

Attendees can buy unique items in the Handmade Market, browse other vendors and enjoy refreshments from food vendors and the popular Parks on Tap – the traveling beer garden developed by Fairmount Park Conservancy with Philadelphia Parks & Recreation and FCM Hospitality. An estimated 1,500 are expected to attend. Participating partners this year include Mann Center, Philadelphia Zoo, The Franklin Institute, Tree House Books, Keepers of the Culture,

Sponsors as of this writing include ArtPlace, UPS, ShopRite, Rockland Capital, Zakian, and Zerflin. The event is also supported in part by the Philadelphia Cultural Fund.

To learn more about the festival visit http://www.westparkcultural.org/westparkartsfest and http://www.facebook.com/westparkartsfestival  For more information call 215-473-7810 or email info@westparkcultural.org.

Niesha Kennedy, PR Manager

West Park Cultural Center

215-278-3450

nkennedy@westparkcultural.org

 

The Philadelphia Science Festival Returns with more than 80 Events over Nine days April 21 -29

Philadelphia Science Festival returns April 21 – 29

The Philadelphia Science Festival returns this spring to spotlight the very vital role science and technology play in today’s world, April 21 – 29.

Organized by the Franklin Institute, in collaboration with Philadelphia’s premier science, cultural, and educational institutions, and presented by the Dow Chemical Company for the seventh consecutive year, the 2017 Philadelphia Science Festival offers more than 80 events over nine days in communities all across the region.

The Festival debuts innovative new programs for 2017 including Life on Mars, Fake Out: The Science of Deception, Dance Engineered, Geek Out Gameshow, Sensory Overload, and Be a Scientist—and adds new elements to popular favorites like citywide star parties, Murder at the Mutter, Science On Tap, Fishtown Science Crawl, Cookie Lab, Cocktail Lab, and Tinker Lab. This year, the Philadelphia Science Festival aims to illuminate the essential work of scientists on Sunday, April 23 when the region’s finest institutions open their lab doors inviting attendees to Be a Scientist (Conservator, Food Psychologist, K’Nex Architect, Farm Scientist, H2O-ologist, Ecologist, Surgical Nurse, Engineer, Paleontologist, Architect, Engineer, Audiologist, and Marine Biologist) for a day.

Returning this year to the vibrant Great Plaza at Penn’s Landing is the Festival’s signature program, the Science Carnival at Penn’s Landing, which last year attracted more than 50,000 attendees. The massive outdoor science carnival is one of the most highly anticipated festival events, providing a packed day of non-stop family-friendly activities, hands-on experiments, live performances, educator opportunities, and explosive visuals from more than 150 partnering exhibitors to close the 2017 Philadelphia Science Festival, Saturday, April 29.

Throughout the Festival, Philadelphians can engage with the curiosities of science and technology through these and dozens more uniquely themed innovative events, self-guided tours, creative workshops, and stargazing parties. Events take place across the region in parks, cafés, breweries, libraries, museums and other neighborhood places—with many of them free of charge. For more information visit www.PhilaScienceFestival.org to learn more.

Celebrating 10 Years of Community Heritage by Nikia Brown

Summer is quickly approaching and with it comes the annual call for spring celebrations. Deep green leaves will visit again the tall trees that line Parkside Avenue. The rush of children running from one summer program to the next will once again fill the streets. Neighborhood businesses will soon ready their shelves with refreshing items, while cultural organizations prepare new experiences for frequent visitors and tourists alike. As the season changes, the air is filled with expectations of warm weather and residents look forward to the plethora of community offerings that await them. On June 3, Parkside will welcome the summer with two community-wide festivals that draw hundreds of residents to their corridors on an annual basis: The West Park Arts Fest and Festival @ ParkWest Town Center.

This year, the West Park Arts Fest and Festival @ ParkWest Town Center share the same 10-year anniversary, and will be joining efforts to maximize the experience for festival-goers. Guided historic trolleys beginning and ending at the West Park Arts Fest will connect both festivals to ensure that visitors have the opportunity to experience both events. Festival goers will also benefit from a scenic tour through Fairmount Park’s Centennial District.

The West Park Arts Fest was created by the West Park Cultural Center in 2008 as a vehicle to promote cultural diversity, celebrate the arts, and bring people together across neighborhoods. “Many of our festival goers have expressed how much they like the family atmosphere and cultural diversity,” says Betty Lindley, Executive Director of the West Park Cultural Center. Lindley champions the efforts of the diverse partners that contribute to the success of the program each year. “The festival embraced partnership and has over the years been made possible in great part to the participation of many arts, cultural, and community partners.”

Lindley is excited about the Center’s new collaboration with the Fairmount Park Conservancy and Global Philadelphia Association. “This represents a major milestone for the West Park Arts Fest and builds on the original mission,” prides Lindley. “Through this joint effort we are taking the West Park Arts Fest to the next level with increased participation and greater awareness of West Fairmount Park and surrounding communities,” she adds.

The Fairmount Park Conservancy is equally grateful for the partnership as they feel this opportunity is directly aligned with their mission “to bring positive, family friendly activities to park spaces.” Jennifer Mahar, Senior Director of Civic Initiatives, feels the collaboration is timely with the festival moving from its usual venue, School of the Future, to West Fairmount Park. “The shift requires a whole new set of logistics,” says Mahar. “Our Special Events Coordinator has years of experience in organizing large-scale outdoor events and we were more than happy to help!”

The Global Philadelphia Association was born shortly after the West Park Arts Fest and has since grown tremendously in size and form. Since November 2015, the Association, in partnership with the City of Philadelphia, has been executing a World Heritage City initiative that capitalizes on the city’s diverse historical and cultural assets. John Smith, Board Chair of the Association, often says, “Our World Heritage City should be a city of the world’s heritages.” “We see the opportunity to work with the various organizations in the Parkside community as a way to explore how we can bring that concept to life, and have enjoyed our many interactions with the community,” Smith shared.

The Executive Director of the Association, Zabeth Teelucksingh, has a fondness for the Parkside community and enjoys driving pass the Victorian-style homes during her weekly trips to the international market. Regarding the Association’s affiliation with the Arts Fest, Teelucksingh remarks, “Parkside through its numerous constituents epitomizes much of what is global in Philadelphia. We look forward to helping relay that story to the international community in the region and beyond.”

The Festival @ ParkWest Town Center has several partnerships of its own and each member is eager to make this year’s festival the town square of all town squares. On March 1, Executive Director of West Philadelphia Financial Services, Jim Burnett, convened the first planning meeting with attendees from various organizations in the community. Some attendees included representatives from The Goldenberg Group, Parkside Association, Global Leadership Academy, Discovery Charter School, and West Philadelphia Neighborhood Libraries.

The Festival @ ParkWest Town Center is the annual celebration of the joint venture between West Philadelphia Financial Services and The Goldenberg Group. This June marks the 10th anniversary of ParkWest Town Center’s grand opening and commemorates the active involvement of community members since its establishment. “We created this festival to thank our shoppers,” says Burnett. Before the installation of the Town Center, West Parkside was a food desert with little to no access to fresh foods.

When asked about the significance of the annual festival, Burnett points to, “resident ownership of their community.” Timothy Smith of The Goldenberg Group adds, “the festival is about generating greater community pride and is a celebration of the asset that this Center is to the community. This is the ethos of Goldengberg.” Smith says he enjoys working for a company that uses its assets to do meaningful work.

The two also discussed the social and educational impact of the festival. “It’s like a family reunion,” said Burnett with a childlike grin on his face. The festival provides an opportunity for community residents to reconnect and build new alliances. The diligent efforts of students are also recognized as carefully selected seniors from neighboring high schools receive scholarship awards on an annual basis. The festival is in short, “a groundswell of community pride,” offered Smith.

Burnett, Lindley, and their respective partners are highly anticipant of both festivals 10-year anniversary celebration. With the two festivals occurring the same day, they expect the events to draw a new and larger audience, promote Parkside’s historic and cultural heritage, and generate a deeper level of civic pride and engagement.

 

 

 

THE MANN CENTER FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS LAUNCHES NEW FRONTIERS FESTIVAL INSPIRED

 

The Mann will mount its fourth consecutive festival this Spring titled New Frontiers: Launch, Explore, Discover. The festival, which was announced today during a Black History Month celebration, will feature an inspiring collection of original, artistic programming linking the arts and sciences. New Frontiers is a six-month festival inspired by the 75th birthday of Colonel Guion Stewart Bluford, Jr., pioneering NASA astronaut, Philadelphia native and the first African American in space. “Presenting curatorial festivals has become central to the Mann’s strategic vision as we work to reflect our commitment to artistic excellence, collaboration and community focus through unprecedented programming,” said Catherine M. Cahill, president and CEO of the Mann. “This year’s festival presents an opportunity to not only join with many of our longstanding partners, but also to join with new partners of art and science to present exciting new programming that takes the Mann beyond our walls and into the community.”

Through a series of arts initiatives, signature performances and educational projects, audiences of all ages will be encouraged to learn about Bluford’s legacy, to take a greater interest in space exploration and its core subjects of math and science, and to embody in their everyday lives the daring ambition to launch, explore and discover. New Frontiers is presented by the Mann in partnership with NEWorks Productions. “Colonel Bluford is an American hero and NEWorks Productions is thrilled to extend our partnership with the Mann to develop this festival in his honor. His life embodies the true spirit of daring achievement. We have curated this festival with a range of programming that will undoubtedly inspire audiences of all ages to launch, explore and discover,” said Nolan Williams, Jr., the Mann’s festival artistic director.

Bluford, whose career serves as an important backdrop for the festival, is an American aerospace engineer, retired U.S. Air Force officer and former NASA astronaut. He launched his career as a NASA astronaut in 1979 and, just four years later, became the first African American in space, participating in four Space Shuttle flights between 1983 and 1992. Bluford was inducted into the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997 and the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2010. On Nov. 22, he will celebrate his 75th birthday.

The festival events, which aim to inspire others through Bluford’s pioneering spirit, include in-school participatory workshops and performances, a stargazing event in collaboration with the Philadelphia Science Festival presented by The Franklin Institute, newly commissioned works and a Mann main stage concert with The Philadelphia Orchestra.

During the main stage concert entitled The Heavens are Telling (July 25), Bluford will be in attendance and will be honored for his spirit of discovery and his important contributions to history. The festival will culminate with Super Solar Saturday (Aug. 19), a free community day at the Mann featuring family fun and entertainment and a free movie screening of Hidden Figures. Several of the events will be free and open to the public. The Mann’s 2017 community festival is under the direction of the Mann’s festival artistic director, Nolan Williams, Jr., one of the country’s foremost producers of inspirational arts programming, and Rhoda Blount, vice president of education and community engagement for the Mann. Williams’ work has been performed at the White House, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and by the National Symphony Orchestra.

Unique Partnerships

The festival is presented by the Mann Center for the Performing in partnership with The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Franklin Institute, the Free Library of Philadelphia and NEWorks Productions. Festival program partners include the African American Museum of Philadelphia and Clef Club of Philadelphia. In addition, KIPP DuBois Collegiate Academy, Global Leadership Academy, Gesu School and Our Mother of Sorrows/Saint Ignatius of Loyola will serve as festival partner schools. The festival is supported by Bank of America, Cigna, Independence Blue Cross, Merck, Pitcairn, The Presser Foundation, PWC, Republic Bank, TD Bank, USLI, Universal Health Services and Wells Fargo. Festival support was also provided by the Lenfest Foundation.

For a full schedule of events and programs go to http://www.MannCenter.org

 

 

BADD KITTI: Best Kept Secret in Philadelphia

by Nikia Brown

Dianne Thompson, otherwise known as ‘Brieze,’ describes her band, Badd Kitti, as “one of the best kept secrets on the Philadelphia music scene.” As we sipped Saxby’s coffee in her car on a rainy Tuesday evening, she unveiled how young passions evolved into a thriving career. With her mother’s strong background in music, six- year-old piano playing Thompson was privy to the latest and greatest jazz music of that time. At an early age, she frequented jazz performances and sat behind the scenes with greats such as Duke Ellington. The glamour of that lifestyle immediately allured her and sparked a flame for jazz and funk that consumes her even to this day.

Dianne "Brieze" Thompson in concert with her group Bad Kitti.
Dianne “Brieze” Thompson in concert with her group Bad Kitti.

When asked about her stage name, the keyboardist/singer-writer says Brieze refers to “cool breeze.” “My friends use to call me that in high school because of my laid-back personality.” Similarly, her band name, Badd Kitti, also has its roots in the past. “After performances, people use to come up to me and say, ‘You are one bad cat!’ I guess the name just stuck with me.”

Three years ago, music was not a profession for Thompson, but a hobby. With a degree in Information Systems from Drexel University, she built a strong foundation as a computer programmer. Her experience and talent afforded her opportunities to provide services to Fortune 500 companies and consulting firms throughout the city. During this time, Thompson’s two interests—technology and music—merged and the idea of pursuing music as a career increasingly became more feasible. Nevertheless, it was not until she was laid off from work in June 2012 that she mustered the courage to step out on faith and live her dream as a full-time musician. One week after being laid off, Thompson received a phone call from a friend requesting that she organize an all female band for an upcoming show. That call not only marked the beginning of Badd Kitti, but also strengthened Thompson’s resolve to “live by faith.” Faith means, “You’ll get what you need when you need it,” she says.

Inspired by legends such as James Brown, Sly Stone, and Nina Simone, Thompson desires for their audience to see the “cultural relevance of funk and jazz.” “Funk music is a political and social movement that took Black people into a place of consciousness,” she says. “We hope to trace the evolution of funk while making it more palatable for younger audiences.” Thompson is deeply concerned with their audience knowing the history of funk music, its purpose, and relevance to conversations presently circulating Black communities. “Miles Davis created music that affirmed Black beauty. It made me feel proud and want to do positive things.”

Thompson believes that their music can also be used as a medium to express “social ills, anger, and love of self.”

As an artist who straddles “a nine-year old dream with the practicality of expressing something creative and intelligent,” Badd Kitti endeavors to create music that generates a new Black cultural movement, empower women, and form a cultural identity. Fans are eagerly awaiting the four-song EP that will be released this September. When asked, “What do you want people to feel when they listen to your music?” Thompson responds, “ I want them to feel locked in the groove; I want our music to lock people into a mental state of funkiness.” She continued, “Funk is freedom, improvisation, self-expression, feeling good about who you are and what you’re doing in the moment.” Thompson is very hopeful about the future of Badd Kitti. In regards to her vision for the band, she hopes to join a festival circuit, organically grow a broader audience, and tour Europe, West and South Africa. Stay tuned for more from this eclectic band that desires to engage diverse audiences with musicality and empowerment.