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Lester Tomé

also known as Carlos Junior Acosta Quesada, was born on 2 June 1973 in Havana, Cuba. Acclaimed as one of the most brilliant ballet performers of his generation, Carlos Acosta has been a principal dancer of London’s Royal Ballet, the English National Ballet, and the Houston Ballet, as well as a guest star of the American Ballet Theatre, the Paris Opera Ballet, and the Bolshoi Ballet, among other ensembles. He has also performed with his own country’s premier troupe, the Ballet Nacional de Cuba.

No other black ballet dancer has enjoyed a career marked by so many first-rate engagements and prestigious awards. His status as a glittering ballet celebrity, vastly popular with audiences, critics, and the media, is rare for an Afro-descendant, as blacks are underrepresented in this dance form. Through his success and public declarations, Acosta has contributed to eliminating prejudices about blacks’ abilities and suitability for ballet.

Acosta ...

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Wendi Berman

playwright, actor, director, singer, and dancer, was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, the third child of Gloria Diaz Bagneris and Lawrence Bagneris Sr. Bagneris's mother was a housewife and deeply religious woman who “quietly outclassed most people,” and his father was a playful, creative man, a World War II veteran, and lifelong postal clerk. Bagneris grew up in the tightly knit, predominantly Creole Seventh Ward to a family of free people of color that had been in New Orleans since 1750 From the age of six he had a knack for winning popular dance contests and during christenings and jazz funerals he learned more traditional music and dance By the mid 1960s the once beautiful tree lined neighborhood in which he was raised fell victim to the U S government s program of urban renewal known colloquially as Negro removal A freeway overpass was ...

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Adam R. Hornbuckle

was born in East Orange, New Jersey, the eldest of the two children of Jetta Clark and Dr. Joe Louis Clark. The Clarks lived in Newark, a short distance from her birthplace, until moving to South Orange after the 1967 riots. Her father, who served as the principal of Eastside High School, in Paterson, New Jersey, gained national attention for enforcing discipline and improving academic achievement at Eastside, one of the state’s toughest inner-city schools, and became the subject of the 1989 film Lean on Me, in which the award-winning actor Morgan Freeman portrayed him.

Clark performed with the Alvin Ailey Junior Dance Company until the age of fourteen, when she began to participate in track, concentrating on the half-mile (880 yards), the distance at which her father excelled at William Patterson University (then known as the Paterson State Teachers College) in Wayne, New Jersey. Interviewed for the Best ...

Article

Felicia A. Chenier

black theater organizer, writer, director, folklorist, chorographer, and educator, was born in Houston, Texas, the only daughter of Gerthyl Rae and Harvey G. Dickerson, an army officer. As a military child Dickerson traveled extensively with her parents and brother, Harvey. After graduating high school in Syracuse, New York, Dickerson studied at Howard University in Washington, D.C. While there she studied theater and was mentored by noted educator and writer Owen Dodson, who was then the Drama Department chair. Noteworthy of her experiences at Howard is her discovery of writings by Zora Neale Hurston. After receiving a bachelor of fine arts (BFA) from Howard in 1966, Dickerson received a master of fine arts (MFA) from Adelphi University in Long Island, New York, in 1968 During the same year she returned to Howard as an assistant professor of drama and staged her directorial ...

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Marva Griffin Carter

entertainer, was born in Portsmouth, Ohio, the son of Luther Fletcher, a steamboat fireman, and Mary Eliza Cox, a cook. A stage performance sometime before 1888 of Harriet Beecher Stowe'sUncle Tom's Cabin that featured a cadre of African American actors and in which he played a small part initially inspired Tom Fletcher to pursue a career in entertainment. Later Fletcher became the first black actor to play the role of Uncle Tom.

Fletcher spent more than sixty years on the stage or performing in various venues As a boy soprano he sang in local talent shows and played in the Portsmouth fife corps His professional theatrical career began at age fifteen when he appeared with such groups as Howard s Novelty Colored Minstrels the Old Kentucky show Ed Winn s minstrel company and Richard and Pringle s Georgia Minstrels At the turn of the twentieth century ...

Article

Eduardo R. Palermo

was born on 17 June 1919 in Paso de los Novillos, in the department of Tacuarembó, a territory bordering Brazil. She was the daughter of a Brazilian, Benigno Gularte, a descendant of slaves, and Custodia Bautista, a white Creole woman who washed clothing for rural establishments in the area. Her father, whom she never knew because he died just two months after her birth, drove a horse-drawn carriage, transporting people, mail, and parcels from the village to the city of Tacuarembó, a distance of 50 kilometers. Her mother also died young, when Fermina was just 2 years old, leaving her and her six siblings, four girls and two boys, orphans. The entire remaining family was left to live in a rancho a typical rural construction of Río de la Plata made of clay with a thatched roof in miserable conditions At one point Fermina became separated from her family ...

Article

Elena Bertoncini Zúbková

Swahili poet, scribe, calligrapher, woodcarver, performer, tailor, musician, and dance master, was born in Lamu on the northern coast of Kenya. Nicknamed Kijum(w)a, “little slave,” by his mother at his birth (hoping this nickname would be auspicious), his full name was Muhammad bin Abubekr bin Omar Kijumwa (also Muhamadi bin Abu Bakari, Mohamed Abubakar Kijumwa, and other possible transliterations from the Arabic script). He studied at the qurʾanic school, made the pilgrimage to Mecca three times, and became a renowned and versatile artist, who handed to his son Helewa the craft of carving the beautifully ornamented doors in Lamu. Among other skills, he made musical instruments and was a famous player of the kibangala a seven stringed lute He passed most of his life in Lamu but in the 1890s he worked as a scribe in the small protectorate of Witu inland from the Kenyan coast which was part ...

Article

Elaine E. Thompson

choreographer, dance studio owner, and journalist, was born William Joseph Pierce in Purcellville, Virginia, the only child of Dennis Pierce and Nellie Shorter, who spent their childhoods enslaved and later became truck farmers. After attending the public schools in Loudoun County, Virginia, Pierce attended two colleges, Storer College in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and Howard University in Washington, D.C. During World War I he served with the Eighth Illinois Regiment in the United States Army.

Pierce was a journalist, an often overlooked aspect of his life and work. He was a reporter and editor for the Chicago Defender, the (Washington, D.C.) Dispatcher, and the Washington Eagle adding to the stature of these newspapers in the area of arts coverage But Pierce s heart belonged to show business He made his dancing debut in the early 1920s at the Pekin Theater in Chicago During ...

Article

Kaavonia Hinton

author, dancer, and activist, was born Carlene Hatcher in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of Lillian Cook and John Hatcher, international representatives of the United Automobile Workers-Congress of Industrial Organizations (UAW-CIO). By age twelve she was already exhibiting an interest in creative writing, completing several poems while attending public schools in Detroit. After her high school graduation, she attended Sarah Lawrence College, a coeducational liberal arts school outside New York City.

While attending Sarah Lawrence she decided to pursue dance at the prestigious Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance, one of the nation's oldest dance schools. From 1955 to 1963 Polite enjoyed a career as a professional dancer, appearing on stage with the Concert Dance Theatre of New York City from 1955 to 1959, the Vanguard Playhouse in Detroit from 1960 to 1962 and as a dancer and organizer at the Equity Theater in Detroit ...

Article

Ronna C. Johnson

Carlene Hatcher Polite is among the important artists to emerge from the “second renaissance” of African American culture in the 1960s and 1970s. The author of two experimental novels, The Flagellants (1966) and Sister X and the Victims of Foul Play (1975), Polite forged a unique prose style that helped establish innovative modes popularized by later writers. In addition to writing, her widespread career included professional dance training, performance, and instruction; political organizing; civil rights activism; and academic appointments. Born in Detroit to John and Lillian (Cook) Hatcher, international representatives of UAW-CIO, Polite attended Sarah Lawrence College and the Martha Graham School of Contemporary Dance. From 1955 to 1963, she pursued a career as a professional dancer. Polite performed with the Concert Dance Theater of New York City (1955–1959) and the Detroit Equity Theatre and Vanguard Playhouse (1960–1962 and taught ...

Article

Sterling Recker

Rwandan poet, scholar, and composer, was born Sipiriyani Rugamba in Rwamiko in southern Rwanda. He was a member of the Hutu ethnic group but was considered by many to be a Rwandan who created art for all people due to the general impression that his works, which included actors from all ethnic groups, embodied a concentrated focus on writing about Rwandan history and culture, regardless of ethnicity. Due to his affinity for Rwanda culture, he wrote music that spoke to Rwandans by approaching his craft from an African perspective as opposed to other writers and composers of his era who incorporated European aspects of art into their own. Rugamba was known to incorporate Rwanda’s past into his works in order to create an art form that was distinctly Rwandan.

Rugamba studied philosophy and literature and received a doctorate in history at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium Soon after ...

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Angela R. Sidman

painter, dancer, playwright, and set designer, was born in White City, Kentucky, to parents whose names and occupations are unknown. John Robinson, a coal miner uncle with an interest in drawing and painting, encouraged young Sebree's artistic talents. “Robinson tutored Charles in drawing by having him sketch pictures with a stick in the soil and taught him how to make little figures of men out of mud and twigs” (Marshall, 3). In 1924, when Sebree was ten years old, he and his mother joined the flood of African Americans moving north in the Great Migration. They settled in Chicago, where the preadolescent Sebree soon launched himself into the city's thriving cultural scene.

An elementary school teacher jumpstarted Sebree s career when she showed his artwork to members of the University of Chicago s Renaissance Society The group was impressed enough with the fourteen year ...