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Sharon Ahcar

for the preservation of Afro-Colombian culture, was born Walter Nilson Aterhotúa Castillo on 9 June 1966 in Tumaco, in the department Nariño in the Southwest of Colombia’s Pacific Region. He is the son of Justo Atehortúa and Carolina Castillo. His parents separated when he was 4 years old, so he grew up between two cultures on the Pacific coast, the paisa culture of the department of Antioquia and the tumaqueña of Tumaco, which allowed him to have a unique perspective on life.

As an adolescent he moved to the city of Pasto (capital of Nariño), where he studied dance and theater at the Universidad de Nariño. He graduated from the Universidad Central in the late 1980s with a degree in social communications and journalism, where his thesis “El movimiento social afrocolombiano” (The Social Afro-Colombian Movement) highlighted his early thinking about issues of race.

Atehortúa then returned to Tumaco to work ...

Article

Mary Krane Derr

Roman Catholic religious leader, sacred music performer, and social justice activist, was born Bertha J. Bowman in Yazoo City, Mississippi, the granddaughter of slaves and only child of physician Theon Edward Bowman and high school music teacher Mary Esther Coleman. Baptized an Episcopalian, Bertha attended Methodist services. Growing up in segregated, impoverished Canton, Mississippi, she absorbed the spirituality and music of black community elders and her parents' own deep commitments to lives of service. At age ten, she chose to be baptized as a Roman Catholic because she admired the work of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration (FSPA) in Canton. In the face of public uproar, white nuns from this order taught black students at Holy Child Jesus Catholic School. Unable to read after five years of poor quality education in segregated public schools, Bertha finally became literate after transferring to this school in 1949 ...

Article

Pamela Lee Gray

television personality and disc jockey, was born in Covington, Tennessee, into a family of twelve children. His mother died during his birth and his father passed away when Holmes was five, so his older brother Clinton and his wife raised Holmes on the South Side of Chicago. Daylie attended John D. Shoop Elementary School. He was an excellent athlete at Morgan Park High School, and after graduation he played basketball in the professional Negro League for the Harlem Yankees and the Globetrotters. After a few years of touring with the teams, Daylie wanted to settle in one place. He joined the Beige Room staff tending bar at the Pershing Hotel in Chicago in the 1940s and quickly developed a loyal clientele that enjoyed the verbal patter he used while he worked.

Daylie became known as Daddy O while tending bar at various bars in Chicago He was well known for ...

Article

Larvester Gaither

musician widely known for his socially and politically conscious lyrics, antiwar activism, and promotion of yoga, was born in Oakland, California, to an interracial couple. His father, Tom Hopkins, was African American and his mother, Mary Rodrick, was of Irish, German, and French ancestry. Fearing a negative response from her family, Roderick gave up her son for adoption. After seven months in foster care, he was adopted by the Finnish American couple Charles Franti, a biostatistics professor at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine, and his wife, Carol Wisti, a school teacher. The devoutly Lutheran couple raised Franti and his four siblings in Davis, California, a college town located seventy-five miles north of San Francisco.

At an early age Franti took an interest in literature and was exposed to the writings of Malcolm X, Mohandas K. Gandhi, Frederick Douglass , and Martin Luther King Jr. ...

Article

Suzanne Cloud

pianist, arranger, and composer, was born Clifton Edward Green Jr. in Abington, Pennsylvania, the son of Clifton Edward Green Sr., a paper hanger and carpenter, and Carrie Townes, who worked as a domestic. Self taught, Eddie Green began playing piano at five years of age and became active in music in public school. His formal secondary education ended at Abington High School when he was in the tenth grade. At age sixteen he came under the tutelage of the hard bop pianist Richie Powell and his brother, the bebop legend Bud Powell. During this time, Green learned the essentials of jazz by listening to and absorbing the lessons of his mentors. Green also formed a band and regularly played a local African American venue in Willow Grove called the Three C s Like many African American communities that supported young musicians and vocalists the ...

Article

was born in Monrovia, Liberia on 2 October 1967 to Lucy and Joseph Kamara, the latter of whom was a doctor. Kamara-Umunna’s parents separated before she was two years old. Her mother then remarried and took Kamara-Umunna to Sierra Leone to live with her stepfather, Reginald. They family lived in a small, poor, rural town in southeastern Sierra Leone called Kenema. While there, Kamara-Umunna befriended some United States Peace Corps volunteers stationed in the town. Her life was relatively stable until 1978, when Sierra Leone president Siaka Stevens’s rule grew more oppressive and government troops bombed the opponents of his ruling party located in Kenema.

She was then sent to Queen of the Rosary secondary school as a boarding student in 1980. It was during this time that Kamara-Umunna met her biological father for the first time since her early childhood. In 1984 she had her first ...

Article

Born in New York City and encouraged by her godfather, the dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, Rosetta LeNoire began to sing and dance at an early age. Robinson gave her the nickname “Bubbling Brown Sugar in a Crystal Ball,” which she carried with her throughout her life. LeNoire began her career playing the First Witch in a Haitian Macbeth, a production directed by Orson Welles in 1936. During much of her career she played the roles of housemaids with a self-confident grace that inspired pride and respect. For more than fifty years, she performed on and off-Broadway. In her eighties, LeNoire performed on Television in such roles as Nell Carter's mother on Gimme a Break and the grandmother on Family Matters.

LeNoire was active in the creation of the Negro Actors Guild NAG and the Coordinating Council for Negro Performers CCNP both of which strove to ...

Article

Ari Nave

Thomas Mapfumo created Chimurenga Music, a new style that drew on Shona traditions of music as a form of resistance to confront colonial oppression in Rhodesia (present-day Zimbabwe), then under white-minority rule. Raised in the rural household of his grandparents, themselves traditional musicians, Mapfumo learned traditional Shona music from an early age. The young Mapfumo played the mbira (thumb piano) and drums during his grandmother’s performances at beer parties.

To obtain a better education, Mapfumo moved to Salisbury (present-day Harare). His musical repertoire expanded as he discovered other African, European, and American musical styles—including the music of Nat “King” Cole, Otis Redding, and Elvis Presley. In Salisbury, he sang in a number of local bands, covering popular tunes by Sam Cooke and the Beatles, whose lyrics he sang in Shona. In 1973 Mapfumo formed the Hallelujah Chicken Run Band most of the band members worked in ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

musician, was born in Marondera, Zimbabwe, on 2 July 1945 to a family belonging to the Shona ethnic community. His hometown was located close to Harare (then Salisbury), the capital of the British colony of Southern Rhodesia. Mapfumo lived a fairly traditional rural lifestyle as a child. His grandparents raised him for his first ten years. As a young child on a rural farm, he watched over his family’s cattle herds and became familiar with older Shona musical styles. He became interested in songs particularly accompanied by ngoma drums and the mbira thumb-piano, which became his signature instrument later in his career.

When he was ten his father brought him to live at the family home in the Mbare township in Harare to attend school In the early 1960s the adolescent Mapfumo was exposed to the growing political crises over Southern Rhodesia s future While African political groups wanted the ...

Article

Oluwakemi Adesina

The profound ramifications of the roots reggae music and Rastafarianism as philosophical and ideological tools for the understanding of Africa and the African diaspora reached its highest point with the eclectic musical career of Robert Nesta Marley (hereinafter Bob Marley). At home and abroad, Bob Marley was regarded as a poet, a prophet, and a mystic. He was a “revolutionary artist,” “Rasta Prophet,” and a host of other significant epithets all derived from Marley’s vintage messages of strength, defiance, and rebellion in the face of racial and all forms of oppression. A powerful writer of revolutionary and visionary songs, the extremely charismatic and iconic Bob Marley was the twentieth-century Jamaican music legend born of mixed parentage in St. Ann’s Parish, Jamaica, on 6 February 1945 When he was ten years old his father died of a heart attack and Marley then left home at the age of fourteen to ...

Article

Eric Bennett

The first global pop star to emerge from a developing nation, Bob Marley has won fans from nations around the world who share his vision of redemption and freedom and love his innovative blend of American and Caribbean music.

Marley was born Robert Nesta Marley in rural Rhoden Hall in St. Ann Parish, Jamaica. His mother was a Jamaican teenager and his father a middle-aged captain in the West Indian regiment of the British Army. Marley's parents separated when he was six years old, and he moved with his mother to Kingston, joining the wave of rural emigrants that flooded the capital during the 1950s and 1960s. Marley and his mother settled in Trench Town, a west Kingston slum named for the sewer that ran through it.

There, Marley shared quarters with a boy his age named “Bunny” Neville O'Riley Livingston The two made music together fashioning ...

Article

Ruby V. Rodney

The son of Hudson and Annie Mae Prince Mayfield, Julian Mayfield was born on 6 June 1928 in Greer, South Carolina, but grew up in Washington, D.C., where his parents relocated when he was five. After graduation from high school in 1946 and army service in the Pacific, he attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. His choice of political science as a major was a logical outgrowth of his acknowledged fascination with words and the power of words, both written and spoken.

This fascination with words led him into another role, on the stage. Before graduating, he participated in several Off-Broadway productions, including his own one-act play 417; he later made his Broadway debut playing the lead role in Lost in the Stars, a musical about apartheid.

In 1954, he married a physician, Ana Livia Cordero Relocating to Mexico his new role was that of cofounder ...

Article

Teishan Latner

novelist, journalist, playwright, actor, civil rights activist, was born in Greer, South Carolina, the first child of Hudson and Annie Mae Mayfield. While he was still a boy, the family moved to Washington, D.C., where he attended the city's segregated public schools. Mayfield evinced an early interest in drama and literature, avidly reading Ernest Hemingway and Richard Wright, and won awards in his high school drama club. Ironically, given his later distinguished journalism career, Mayfield was denied an entry-level job at the Washington Post shortly after his sixteenth birthday because, a receptionist told him, “we don’t hire any colored copy boys” (Mayfield 1984). Graduating from the city's Dunbar High School in 1946, Mayfield enlisted in the U.S. Army but received a medical discharge a year later. Mayfield instead devoted himself to theater, traveling to New York in 1947 to attend classes including ...

Article

Katherine Bonil Gómez

free black, captain comandante of the free colored militias, merchant and man of great political and social influence in Mexico City, was born in the “kingdom of Castile” (present-day Spain) in the late seventeenth century. Little is known of his early life and, in fact, it is unknown whether he was born as a slave or freeman. In either case, he moved to Mexico City at a very young age and lived there as a freeman. As a peculiar feature of Spanish (and Portuguese) America, a population of free people of African descent, categorized mainly as negros (blacks) and mulatos (a Spanish term used to refer to a racially mixed person of both African and European ancestries), appeared soon after the Conquest, and by the seventeenth century became considerably larger than the enslaved population. In New Spain (present-day Mexico) in 1646 the free colored population numbered 116 529 while ...

Article

Karen Beasley Young

television and radio personality, political commentator, author, and social advocate, was born in Gulfport, Mississippi, the eldest of ten children, four of whom were adopted, to Emory G. Smiley, a noncommissioned officer in the United States Air Force, and Joyce M. Smiley, a missionary and apostolic Pentecostal minister. Smiley grew up in the Kokomo, Indiana, area and attended Indiana University in Bloomington. He was a member of the Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and graduated in 1986 with a degree in law and public policy. While he was at Indiana University, a close friend of Smiley's was killed by local police, who claimed to have done so in self-defense. This act of violence changed the course of Smiley's life, and he began to lead protests against the police in defense of his friend, which set Smiley on a path of social advocacy.

During Smiley s ...

Article

Todd Steven Burroughs

public television and public radio host, author, commercial radio commentator, book publisher, entrepreneur, and political and social activist. Tavis Smiley is one of the most prominent African American broadcasters of the early twenty-first century. Smiley made history when his book The Covenant with Black America, outlining the problems of and solutions for black social and economic ills, jumped to number one on the New York Times best-seller list in 2006.

Smiley came to national prominence in the 1990s through his role as host of BET Tonight, a weeknight talk show on the cable channel Black Entertainment Television, and through his commentaries on the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner Morning Show, a morning drive-time entertainment program syndicated by ABC Radio and tailored to an African American audience. Smiley owns his own company, the Smiley Group, which produces both the half-hour weeknight television talk program the Tavis Smiley Show ...