ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
We wrote the script ourselves, did the choreography ourselves. We selected the music.
Sonni’s been cutting music at home. We’re looking at nineteen dancers, extras, drummers
and we’re bring in a choir for one scene. We’re looking at a cast of over thirty people
Using Art To Empower
By Junious Ricardo Stanton
In 2002 four friends got together to form a group to empower, uplift and encourage young people to actualize their God-given potential. The young ladies knew each other from college and shared a passion for the arts as trained dancers, choreographers, singers and actors. Sonni Giddiens, Bianca Harris, Jamie Smith and Khalilah Ali-El formed Cayenne Entertainment as a vehicle to share their skills, promote art, grace, self-assurance and life skills for young women of color.
Currently the company is engrossed in an ambitious project Weekend, a two-act dansical (a theatric dance and music production) set to premier May 23-25 at the Painted Bride Theater. Weekend is a semi autobiographical piece about four friends and their activities during one weekend of their lives. “We all went to school together and we performed together so we decided since we’re running around performing together we’d start out own music entertainment company,” stated Khalilah Ali-El.
“We did the Dawn Staley Foundation Day In the Park, The Black Women’s Sports Foundations, The d’Zert Club graduation. Bianca’s church had a street fair and we did that and we’ve done shows and weddings and a lot of church events. Some of the things we do we do for free just to get our name out there,” added Jamie Smith.
Talking about their upcoming show they say, “The show is called Weekend. It’s about us during the course of a weekend but it spans a lifetime. It has truth in there but a lot of it is fiction.” This quartet has totally immersed themselves in the production project. “We have to do everything,” stated Ali-El.
“We wrote the script ourselves, did the choreography ourselves. We selected the music. Sonni’s been cutting music at home. We’re looking at nineteen dancers, extras, drummers and we’re bring in a choir for one scene. We’re looking at a cast of over thirty people,” shared Jamie Smith. “We’re still working on it, we’re designing the costumes. We don’t do the sewing but we do have a seamstress. The things we can buy we buy the things that have to be made we get the seamstress to make them. The Painted Bride is working with us on the sets, lighting and things like that.”
When asked if there were any males in the production they fell out laughing. “It’s because its about four women but there is a club scene in it in the middle and there will be guys in that and there will be some guy extras but basically this is about four women. The story shows who they are how they grew up and what they want to be in life.”
The young ladies are learning as they go, applying the skills they learned at Freedom Theater, as dancers with the New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers and dealing with a variety of personalities in their cast of dancers and actors.
“We’ve learned a whole lot, how to juggle our time, the public relations aspect of this, the financial piece and working with the cast. Actually it’s not that bad, some of them aren’t that young and we’re not old and we’re here for them for other reasons. We are mentors and big sisters for a lot of them and a lot of them have gone through Freedom Theater so they’re disciplined and they share our vision about dance and the arts,” shared Bianca Harris.
Putting the show together takes much of their time and it is progressing on target, however once this project is completed they have other goals. Long term, they plan to start a foundation and a performing arts school. “Our goal is to start a dance school, find a spot for a dance studio and continue to do shows, start a non-profit company working with young women of color,” stated Sonni Giddiens.
The ladies already work with many of the younger children in the production on Saturdays in their dance program and working with girls of various ages. They see themselves as role models and mentors who can help encourage them to pursue their dreams beyond dance or performing because they know what it is to strive to actualize a goal.
Jamie is studying to be an ophthalmologist; Khalilah is studying for the LSAT to get into law school; Bianca wants to be a choreographer (she recently earned a Master’s Degree in Dance Education); and Sonni aspires to be a professional singer. They hope to pass on to the young ladies they teach the importance of discipline, perseverance and being focused on ones personal goals. So they mentor and work within their program and this production.
“Cayenne is for young people. We’re trying to reach them through the arts but we’re not just out there teaching the performing arts, we’re trying to positively impact the lives of young people,” stated Bianca.
They promise Weekend will be an enjoyable show that has something for everyone. “We have a little bit of everything: we have acting; we have monologues; singing but the majority of it is dance. I would say it is for people who are into performing arts,” stated Sonni Giddiens. They plan to market the show to the whole community, church groups, colleges the performing arts community and schools.
For more information about Cayenne Entertainment call (215) 843-8488
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#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
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By Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock market. True wealth has more to do with what’s in your heart than what’s in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America’s shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, “Happy can make you money, but money can’t make you happy.”
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By Noam Chomsky
In this urgent new book, Noam Chomsky surveys the dangers and prospects of our early twenty-first century. Exploring challenges such as the growing gap between North and South, American exceptionalism (including under President Barack Obama), the fiascos of Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Israeli assault on Gaza, and the recent financial bailouts, he also sees hope for the future and a way to move forwardin the democratic wave in Latin America and in the global solidarity movements that suggest “real progress toward freedom and justice.” Hopes and Prospects is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the primary challenges still facing the human race. “This is a classic Chomsky work: a bonfire of myths and lies, sophistries and delusions. Noam Chomsky is an enduring inspiration all over the worldto millions, I suspectfor the simple reason that he is a truth-teller on an epic scale. I salute him.” John Pilger In dissecting the rhetoric and logic of American empire and class domination, at home and abroad, Chomsky continues a longstanding and crucial work of elucidation and activism . . .the writing remains unswervingly rational and principled throughout, and lends bracing impetus to the real alternatives before us.Publisher’s Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 6 January 2012