Tag Archives: Harlem

Event + Podcast Spotlight: The Soul Glo Project

The-Soul-Glo-Project

By Emily Schorr Lesnick

Walk into a comedy club or watch a Comedy Central  special and you might drown in a sea of Whiteness; a sea of White maleness. With Larry Wilmore and Trevor Noah hosting late night shows, the tide is turning, but those two shows stick out as anomalies because of the overwhelming presence of White faces. While there is certainly diversity within White men, there can also be a lot of similarity.

Six years ago, Keisha Zollar, a New York comedian and actor, set out to create other pools of comedy. She created The Soul Glo Project, a diversity variety show whose title is a nod to the jeri curl product in Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America. “Soul Glo was a show built on diversity that started in the East Village of New York,” says Zollar. “It was often a complaint of many performers who didn’t fit the strict, improv or sketch aesthetic that they wouldn’t get stage time.  The Soul Glo Project was born out of myself, Rob King and Horse Trade Theater wanting to make a more diverse performing community.”

Soul Glo is an inclusive comedy variety show, featuring diversity in the type of acts and the background of performers. “As an immigrant whose first culture is not American, I found some comedy shows and their themes to be alienating,” said NYC-based comedy performer and Soul Glo co-host, Anna Suzuki. “But when I joined the Soul Glo team as a producer, I was immediately embraced as a vital part of the mission; my voice mattered. It’s been a very gratifying experience.”

Soul Glo started in the East Village at Under St. Marks in 2009, moved to the Upright Citizens Brigade in 2011, and is now moving to Silvana in Harlem for a renaissance. “We hope to create an positive, low cost comedy experience to build a sense of community in Harlem,” shares Zollar.

Soul Glo prides itself on its range of performers, from folks getting on stage for the first time to more well-known performers, like Roc Nation’s Cipha Sounds, SNL’s Natasha Rothwell, Mulaney’s Seaton Smith and performers you don’t know (yet) who got on our stage and said “this is my first time doing stand up.” Audience member Johnnie Jackow reflected on the show: “Each performer shared his/her comedic talents that was not only incredibly funny but also so relatable. Its truly amazing to see how a packed house can roar with laughter from each performance. Yes the show highlights diversity in comedy but how our experiences cross color lines I think shows how more alike we are than different.”

The Soul Glo Project also launched a podcast as a forum for longer conversations about diversity and identity in comedy. The podcast, available on iTunes and Soundcloud, has featured comic Hari Kondabolu, Racialicious’ Kendra James, reality TV star Sabrina Vance, creator and actor Jen Bartels from TruTV’s Friends of the People, and The Experiment Comedy’s Mo Fathelbab.

The Soul Glo Project has a free live show coming up on Monday, April 20 at 7PM at Silvana in Harlem, NY. The show, celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, will feature stand-up comic Sheng Wang, spoken word artist Kelly Tsai, J-pop group Azn Pop and have improv led by Catherine Wing and Nicole Lee.

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Harlem Residents: We Asked City for Help, We Got a Raid Instead

By Guest Contributor Daryl Khan, cross-posted from Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

Members of the NYPD raid the Manhattanville Houses and the Grant Houses in West Harlem early on the morning of June 4, 2014. A total of 40 suspects were arrested as part of a massive 145-count indictment of 103 people in a range of crimes, including murder, 19 shootings, gang assaults, beatings and conspiracy. Police apprehend a suspect outside the Grant Houses. All images by Robert Stolarik.

NEW YORK — Whenever LaQuint Singleton found himself about to get into a fight out in the courtyards or in the small playground in front of his building at the General Ulysses S. Grant Houses, he would run and find his mom, Venus. He’d scamper up the stairs and go up to her looking for protection. Back then, Singleton was a good student who regularly attended school and attended church service every Sunday. One day, in an attempt to impress the older teenagers and men, he carried a gun to give to another resident. He was arrested, and spent six months in Rikers Island waiting for his case to wend its way through the criminal justice system — and then another year after he was sentenced.

“They sent him to the Island, and he came back a monster,” Venus Singleton said, sobbing on the steps of an apartment building on Old Broadway, referred to as the DMZ by people on both sides of the blood feud between the Grant and Manhattanville Houses. “That boy they sent back is not the same boy I sent them. The department of corrections turned my son into a monster. I love my monster, but that’s what he is. That’s what the Island did for me.”

Now, Singleton said, more monsters are about to be made.
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Racialicious Crush Of The Week: Maysles Documentary Center’s Teen Producers Academy And Triggering Wounds

By Andrea Plaid

Members of Maysles Documentary Center's Teen Producers Academy. Image via nydailynews.com

Members of Maysles Documentary Center’s Teen Producers Academy. Image via nydailynews.com

While I’ve been working here at the R–among other places–I’ve also been working as the Social Media Fellow at Maysles Documentary Center (MDC), home of Maysles Cinema in Harlem, NY. Started by legendary documentarian Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens) as a community-based movie house run by a mostly multiracial staff, MDC is also home to several educational programs to teach folks in the community to do the same thing he does–get the true-life stories that fascinate them on the screen. And not just adults: Maysles Documentary Center teaches them early, from the Film in Action film club for the 7-to-11 set to the Teen Producers Academy.

And the Academy has been producing some great short docs, ranging from the lessons of superheroes to racial identity to their take on “the Black Hair Wars.” Some of their flicks have been accepted at film festivals around the country this year and one–Triggering Wounds–just won (and what I mean by “just” is the director of the MDC’s educational programs, Christine Peng, sent me an email with the good news from her dying cell phone at 11PM last night) the Best Documentary Film Award from Tribeca Film Festival’s “Our City, My Story” program!

The film–a result of a collaboration with MDC, Harlem Hospital Center, the New York County District Attorney’s Office, Operation Harlem SNUG, and Harlem Mothers SAVE, called the Circle of Safety Initiative–main goal is to be shown to gun-shot victims before they leave the hospital.

I interviewed one of the film’s co-producers, the ever-thoughtful Alejandro Rosario, earlier this week about the film and the impact he hopes the film will have.

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Racialicious Interview with Co-Producer of Triggering Wounds Alejandro Rosario from Kim Parker on Vimeo.

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‘It Did Not Start With Stonewall’ Resurfaces After Five Years

By Arturo R. García

Over the past month, this video, “It Did Not Start With Stonewall,” has been picking up steam online – we first saw it on Elixher – which is curious, given that it was originally uploaded in 2007. In the clip, a group of black women offers perspectives on life in the LGBT community in New York City in the era surrounding the seminal Stonewall Rebellion of 1969.

But it cuts off just after the three-minute mark, leaving people wondering where it came from – and whether there are more interviews like these out there. Racialicious contacted the person who uploaded the video Wednesday night, so we hope to have an update soon. In the meantime, the transcript to the video is under the cut.

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A Sin And A Shame: Soul Voyeurism* And Harlem “Gospel Tours” [Racialigious]

By Guest Contributor Fiqah, originally published at Possum Stew

Some background:  for most of my adult life, I have been a fugitive from religion, the monotheistic “Big Three”, anyway. (Sorry, any faith doctrine that includes an interventionist, anthropomorphic, masculine god/godhead is prolly gonna earn some side-eye from me.)  Because my sociopolitical views and general life philosophy are widely regarded as “radical,” the decision to not participate in often conservative organized religion was a sensible and organic one.  The Bébé Fiqah trauma that led to my adult decision to be an unrepentant heathen/sinner/whateverthehell is all a very loooooong story that nobody wants to hear, so I’ll sum up by saying that until recently outside of weddings, baptisms, mitzvahs, and funerals, Grown-Up Fiqah rarely darkened the doorstep of any house of worship.

However, when one of my elderly neighbors, a  very dapper Georgia born-and-bred gentleman, invited me to come to his Southern Baptist church here in Harlem last fall, I accepted.  I was going through a particularly difficult time emotionally, and while the choir was sorta weak (sorry, I’m Southern, and we have standards for this kinda thing), I found the service overall to be very spiritually uplifting and healing. I was delighted by the sermon, as well as the inclusive spirit of the congregation. (”All are welcome”  is the credo of just about every Southern Baptist church, but in many places, certain”children of God” – non-Christians, LGBTIQ people – are most emphatically NOT welcomed.)  I decided that maybe dropping in to Church every now and again wouldn’t be so terrible.

This morning, I attended services at another Southern Baptist church here in Harlem with my buddy J. who never misses a Sunday.  In spite of the late summer swelter, I happily donned my Sunday best, pearls and good heels and headed  on over to Church.  In retrospect, I should have said some kinda prayer asking for patience and composure before I stepped out of the door. Because what awaited me at church would have tested even the most forgiving soul.

You see, J. and I were seated in one of the balcony pews, along with several Italian tourists. European and Asian tour groups and buses are a common sight on Sundays in Harlem.  As annoying and ubiquitous as they are, for the most part, church tourists are ignorable.  Well, this group must have been especially rude, because several members of the group spent much of the service talking. Talking. In spite of being shot admonishing looks by several parishioners and being approached by one of the ushers, the conversation, though lowered to murmuring, continued.  The only time it seemed to stop was when the choir led the church in a song, when the tourists watched the choir and the other attendees with that peculiar mixture of fascination, fear and envy that White people in spaces of color often seem to have. As they watched us, my friend and I watched them, swaying all wrong, clapping off beat and basically turning what was a joyful but sacred experience into a spectacle for their entertainment.

I did my very best to remain silent and non-responsive. And I was good. I really was.

Until devotional.

I had just bowed my head, closed my eyes, and was just about to connect one-on-One with the Lord…when the cell phone of the woman sitting behind me went off.

And she answered.

“Oh, I don’t even believe THIS shit!” I said. J.’s eyes flew open, and she covered her startled gasp with her hand.

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