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Baqi<ayn>e Bedawi Muhammad

pioneer Sudanese woman singer and activist during the struggle for Sudanese independence and the first woman to perform on the radio in Sudan. Born in 1905 in Kassala City in the eastern region of Sudan, Ahmad was the eldest among her seven siblings, including three brothers and four sisters. Among them was a sister Jidawiyya who played a crucial role with Ahmad in their journey as female musicians. Ahmad’s family was originally from Nigeria and migrated to Sudan in the late nineteenth century as pilgrims on their way to the holy places in Saudi Arabia. Her father, Musa Ahmad Yahiyya, was from the Fulani-Sokoto ethnic group, while her mother, Hujra, was from Hausa. Ahmad’s nickname is Aisha al-Falatiyyia, a reference to her father’s ethnic group, the Fulani, or Fallata, as they are known in Sudan.

The documented history indicates that Sudan served as a crossroads to the holy places in ...

Article

Lois Bellamy

voice teacher, mezzo-soprano, pianist, educator, was one of four children born to Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker and Elizabeth Baytop Baker in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Her father's parents were slaves. Dr. Thomas Nelson Baker was born a slave on 11 August 1860 and worked on the farm until he was twenty-one years old. He was one of five children and was the first African American to earn and receive a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Yale University in 1906. In 1890 he received a B.A. from Boston University and a Bachelor's in Divinity from Yale University and studied psychology and philosophy from 1896 to 1900 at Yale Graduate School. He was minister of the Dixwell Congregational Church in New Haven, Connecticut, from 1896 to 1900. He was listed in Who's Who in New England, 1908–1909 and his writings paved the way for the Harlem Renaissance era ...

Article

Joshunda Sanders

media mogul, model, and actress, was born Tyra Lynne Banks and grew up in Inglewood, California. Her father, Donald Banks, was a computer consultant, and her mother, Carolyn London, was a medical photographer and business manager. The couple divorced when Tyra was six years old, in 1980.

Banks attended Immaculate Heart Middle and High School, an all-girl's private school. She credited her mother's photography business and friends' encouragement with her ability to overcome a self-consciousness during her awkward adolescence that almost made her pursue another path.

“I grew three inches and lost 40 pounds in 90 days,” she told the Black Collegian in an interview about her teen years. “It was just this crazy growth spurt. I felt like a freak: people would stare at me in the grocery store.”

A friend encouraged her to try modeling during her senior year At the time several ...

Article

Jane Poyner

Orphan from Dahomey (now Benin) reputed to be of royal lineage, who was brought as a slave to England, where she became Queen Victoria's protégée. Sarah was named, ignominiously, after the ship Bonetta on which she was transported to England. Ironically, she was given to Captain Frederick Forbes by King Gezo of Dahomey in a conciliatory gesture following Forbes's unsuccessful attempt to persuade the King to give up trading in slaves. Forbes, in his account of his travels Dahomey and the Dahomens (1851), used Sarah as an example of the potential for progress in the intellect of the African at a time when pseudo‐scientific enlightenment theories of race were rampant: as Forbes noted, ‘it being generally and erroneously supposed that after a certain age the intellect [of the African] becomes impaired and the pursuit of knowledge impossible’.

Sarah was presented to Queen Victoria and thereafter raised under her ...

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

was possibly born in New Orleans, Louisiana. Very little is known about Brown’s life beyond her performance career, not even her birth and death dates, although she was a popular performer during her prime years.

Ida G. Brown was active as a member of the Lafayette Stock Company in Chicago starting circa 1917–1918. She appeared in the musical comedy This and That (1919) and that year also appeared in Baby Blues at New York’s Lafayette Theater, gaining her nickname (which was used as a billing) from the latter show. In 1920 she appeared regularly at the Lafayette Theater in such musical comedies as This and That, Broadway Rastus of 1920, Sultan Sam, and the Alabama Round Revue. The singer-entertainer toured the Pantages circuit with Sheftell’s Creole Fashion Revue Company during 1921 and with Joe Sheftell’s Revue (1922–1923).

Ida G Brown made ...

Article

Scott Yanow

was born Lillian Thomas in Atlanta, Georgia. She was an only child. Her mother, Ella Brooks, was African American while her father, Ben Thomas, was an Erie Iroquois.

In 1894 the nine-year old Brown began her long show business career when she left home with a traveling minstrel show. She performed as “The Indian Princess” while accompanied by an all-white female string band. Two years later, as E.L. Brown (to disguise her gender), she performed as a male impersonator and was billed as “The World’s Youngest Interlocutor.” Brown created a sensation by wearing top hat and tails, singing a few songs as a man, and then revealing her long hair and singing as an eleven-year old girl.

During 1897 to 1908 Lillyn Brown had a solo act as a singer frequently working at Baxter s Beer Garden in Florida She would later claim to have been the first professional ...

Article

Byron Motley

was born in Kingstree, South Carolina. Due to her father’s erratic and often violent outbursts, Brown was the product of a turbulent family environment. At a tender age she had already become slightly deaf in one ear due to a gunshot her father fired at close range between her and her mother. At the age of nine Maxine and her sister were forcibly kidnapped from their home and fled to New York City to live with their mother.

Maxine was seventeen years old when her mother died. Taken in by family friends, she continued her education. Upon graduating from Central High School of Needle Trades, then affiliated with the Fashion Institute of Technology, Brown began working as a medical stenographer at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn.

Hearing loss would not hold the determined youngster back from pursuing her love of music Indeed Brown was an early pioneer of soul music ...

Article

Daniel Donaghy

Mariah Angela Carey was born in Huntington, New York, the third child of Patricia Hickey, an Irish-American a mezzo-soprano opera singer, and Alfred Roy Carey, an African American–Venezuelan aeronautical engineer. Her family endured violence, abuse, and threats at the hands of racists upset with her parents’ interracial marriage. After her parents divorced when she was three, her sister Alison lived with her father while Carey and her brother Morgan lived with their mother, who struggled to support them, working several jobs and moving them to several different towns on Long Island. While rehearsing at home for her part in Verdi’s opera Rigoletto her mother was astounded to hear Carey not yet four repeating what she sang Her mother introduced her to vocal exercises to expand and improve her singing voice Soon Carey was performing at school and community events She began writing her own songs in middle school and ...

Article

Devora Fogelman

was born Alverta Elise La Pallo in New York City to Bernando La Pallo, a chef and later an author, and Ida Roberta (Small) La Pallo, who worked at Saks Fifth Avenue as a marker of prices, as well as at a small company that made diaper bags. Lee had one younger sister, Nandra.

Chamberlin attended Our Lady of Lourdes elementary school in Harlem and Cathedral High School in midtown Manhattan The year of her graduation is unknown At the age of seventeen she won a play writing contest through the New York Chapter of the American Cancer Society The year is unknown when she began her studies at Washington Square College of New York University where she was a member of the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority and participated in an exchange program at the Sorbonne in Paris France The year of her graduation is unknown After completing college with ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

was born in the town of Mujumi, Mhondoro province, Zimbabwe on 8 July 1946. She often asked to watch over her grandfather’s cattle herd so she could sing alone, and became determined to learn to play the mbira (thumb piano) as a young girl. However, Stella ran into much opposition in this youthful goal. The mbira is commonly associated with songs and rituals performed by men in the Shona ethnic community who believed they were communicating with ancestral spirits. Chiweshwe struggled for years to convince her family and others to allow her to master this instrument. Another problem was that Zimbabweans who went to her local mission church were forbidden to listen to traditional songs or perform on the mbira. When she was eight years old Stella attended a ceremony in which older people became possessed by ancestors while the mbira was played. Between 1966 and 1969 Chiweshe ...

Article

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

Scott Yanow

was born Dorothy McGriff in Birmingham, Alabama. She grew up in poverty after her minister father (Lillar McGriff) abandoned his wife and seven children when Dorothy was just six. To help the family, she quit school in the tenth grade to work as a manual laborer, scrubbing floors, working at odd jobs at laundries and dry cleaners, and as a maid and a clerk.

Music would prove to be her salvation, and the way that she spent her weekends. She started playing piano at the Evergreen Baptist Church when she was ten, and as a teenager first became a vocalist, performing with the Royal Travelers and with her siblings in the McGriff Singers (later the Royal Gospel Singers), including a weekly live radio broadcast on WJLD. She married Willie Love (1925–1991) of the Fairfield Four in 1946 when she was eighteen The marriage lasted only a few ...

Article

Donna L. Halper

was born in Memphis, Tennessee, the oldest of two daughters of Samuel Crossley, a postal worker, and Mattie (Robinson), a teacher. Her parents met at Southern University in Baton Rouge, and she was raised in a home where education was a priority. She attended all-black schools until high school, when she became one of nineteen black students who integrated Memphis’s Central High School in 1966. It was a difficult experience, but one that helped her to become more confident and taught her to stand up for herself. In high school, history was her favorite subject, but her textbooks made no mention of the accomplishments of people of color. She began to research black history and wrote reports about what she learned. She also became interested in journalism, writing a theater and entertainment column for her school newspaper.

Crossley wanted to go to school somewhere outside of the South and ...

Article

Born and raised in the Queensbridge Housing Projects in Long Island City, Julie Dash stumbled into filmmaking at age seventeen, when she enrolled with a friend in a workshop at the Studio Museum in Harlem. By the age of nineteen she had made her first film, shot with a Super 8 camera using pictures from Jet magazine attached to pipe cleaners. Dash majored in psychology at the City College of New York but graduated in film production. In 1973 she wrote and produced a documentary, Working Models of Success.

After graduation Dash moved to Los Angeles, California, gaining experience working on many film crews. In Los Angeles, she became the youngest fellow ever at the Center for Advanced Film Studies. During her two-year fellowship, Dash adapted an Alice Walker short story, Diary of an African Nun (1977 An experimental dance film that she conceived ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

was born in Isiro, a city in Orientale province in the northeast region of the Democratic Republic of Congo on 20 October 1964. She was only a week old when nationalist Simba rebels killed her white Belgian father during the great revolt against the pro-Western Congolese government in 1964. Pygmies of the Twa people hid Daulne, her Congolese mother, Bernadette, and her three sisters for a time before the family managed to make its way into territory controlled by troops loyal to Moïse Tshombe Kapenda s government Her mother fled to Belgium the homeland of her father Daulne was raised in a Catholic home and later stated that the hymns she heard in her youth influenced her later music Daulne excelled in athletics as an adolescent and at one point hoped to become an Olympic athlete before an injury cut short her career in track and field ...

Article

Scott Yanow

was born Betty Mabry in Durham, North Carolina. While growing as the daughter of a steel worker near Pittsburgh, she heard the music of B.B. King, Jimmy Reed, and Elmore James that her mother and grandmother loved, being initially influenced by the blues musicians. She began writing songs when she was twelve, with her initial effort being “I’m Going to Bake that Cake of Love.”

When she was sixteen Davis moved to New York City where she enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology, studying fashion and acting. She worked as a model, appearing in Seventeen, Ebony, Jet, and Glamour, and managed a club. She also recorded a single in 1964 (“Get Ready For Betty” and “I’m Gonna Get My Baby Back”) for DCP International, met Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone, and in 1967 wrote Uptown to Harlem for the Chambers Brothers ...

Article

Joshunda Sanders

was born in Harlem to Richard Hill, of North Carolina, and Mae De Veaux, who had immigrated from the Caribbean. De Veaux is the second-oldest of eight children and has said on her personal website that she was drawn to the world of books and words to “reimagine the world her mother understood” only as “you got three strikes against you. You poor, you black and you female.”

During the Black Arts Movement and other social movements of the 1960s and 1970s, De Veaux found herself inspired to create a different reality on the page. She worked as an assistant instructor in English for the New York Urban League between 1969 and 1971.

Under the guidance of the writer Fred Hudson, who was leading the writing workshop at the Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center in Harlem, she won first place in a 1972 national black fiction writer s ...

Article

Kelly Boyer Sagert

Born in Philadelphia, Anna Elizabeth Dickinson was the youngest of five children of the devoted Quakers John and Mary Edmondson Dickinson. When Anna was two years old, her father died shortly after giving an antislavery speech. Although it is unlikely that Dickinson remembered her father, she may have been inspired by his legacy.

After John's death the family struggled financially, but Anna still received a quality education, attending the Friends' Select School in Philadelphia and the Greenwood Institute in New Brighton, Pennsylvania; at the latter she was known as an avid reader and questioner. She showed early promise, publishing her first article at age fourteen in the Liberator, the newspaper that served as a platform for the radical reformer and abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison.

Following her 1860 address to the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society and her 1861 speech entitled Women s Rights and Wrongs Dickinson began receiving ...

Article

Jeremy Rich

Chadian business leader and journalist, was born in the town of Ati, in the eastern Chadian region of Wadai, on 14 July 1949. Her mother was an Arab woman from Batha. After her parents divorced when she was very young, she remarried a southern Chadian man named Dordji who served in the French colonial military. Fatimé’s biological father, a trader, died in 1954. Her stepfather treated Fatimé just like the rest of his children, and so she took his surname. Shortly after her mother married this soldier, they moved to Bartha and then to the southern Chadian town of Sarh. In 1954 Dordji became jealous of her friends who were attending primary school In the early 1950s children did not normally attend schools before the age of seven While her parents could not find a way to circumvent the educational policies of the French administration the story ...