Cappuccino Soul

Cappuccino Soul

Friday, February 27, 2009

Film Festival for Kids Features Provocative Themes

The New York Times reports today about a film festival for children to be held in Manhattan. The Festival starts today and includes three weekends of screenings, filmmaker visits and a children's version of the Oscars, and reception on March 15.

Here are two movies that I wish I could take Gigi to see (I probably would enjoy them more than she would.)

The New Boy
A nine-year-old African boy begins his first day of school in Ireland in this film, directed by Steph Green and Tamara Anghie. The New Boy received an Oscar nomination this year for Best Short Film (Live Action).

Sita Sings the Blues
Nina Paley’s interweaving of the Indian epic Ramayana with the autobiographical story of a female filmmaker’s marital collapse. You're probably thinking, hmmmmm, that doesn't really sound like a film for children.

Here's what Michel Ocelot, director of Azur & Asmar, is quoted as saying in the Times article:

“I never made a film for children,” Mr. Ocelot said in an e-mail message. “That’s the reason why they like my films.” Azur & Asmar, about the fateful friendship of two boys —- Azur, blond and blue-eyed, and Asmar, dark-skinned and Arabic-speaking —- was originally destined for a straight-to-DVD American release.

Also from the Times article:

While the festival’s 100 films from 30 countries offer plenty of animation and fantasy, they also delve into real-world conflicts that affect children’s lives.

“With a great many of these films, the filmmaker would say, ‘That’s not a kids’ movie,’ ” Eric Beckman, who founded the festival in 1997 with his wife, Emily Shapiro, said in an interview.

The 2009 New York International Children's Film Festival will run from February 27 through March 15 at theaters throughout Manhattan. Click here for a schedule of festival events.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

New Orleans Public School Students: Left Behind

New Orleans Public Schools have a drop out rate of over 70%.

Nearly 70% of the state's inmates lack high school diplomas.

New Orleans has the highest incarceration rate in the industrialized world.

After reading the cold facts above, you can imagine in which direction the film Left Behind: The Story of New Orleans Public Schools will go. Left Behind is a 90-minute documentary that tells the story of three African-American high school seniors as they navigate through their final year of high school in New Orleans, one of the poorest cities in the state, Louisiana -- a state ranked as the poorest in America -- one of the most violent countries in the industrialized world.

From the film:

"In some bushes of Africa, when they greet you, they don't ask you how you're doing, they say, "How are the children?" because they know if the children are OK, then they know you must be OK also." (Speaker: Ray Nagin, New Orleans Mayor)

Here's what a few people are saying about the film:

“A powerful and important look at politics at the local level.”

-- Oliver Stone, Director (JFK, Platoon)

“You've embraced chaos . . . the true human experience . . . and come out with a terrific human story.”

-- Michael Radford, Director (Il Postino, The Merchant of Venice)

“After covering the New Orleans Parish Board for 20 years, I thought I knew everything. And this documentary showed me a whole bunch I didn’t have clue on. So I, for one, thank you . . . . Because, I guarantee, when you watch the documentary, these kids will break your heart.”

--Garland Robinette, WWL-AM radio, New Orleans

”Ya’ll got some balls, man, that’s all I'ma say. Ya’ll got balls. Much Respect.

-- New Orleans Public School student, McDonough High School

Left Behind was directed by Vincent Morelli and will be screened:

February 26, 2009: Freeman Auditorium, Woldenberg Art Center at Tulane University in New Orleans, La. at 6 p.m. Free admission.

February 27, 2009: Studio 620, 620 First Avenue, South in St. Petersburg, Fla. Doors open at 7:30pm, film starts at 8:00pm. For more information, call 727-895-6620. Free admission.

March 6, 2009: Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Time and location TBA. Free Admission

Take a peek at this profound documentary:

Visit Left Behind:The Story of New Orleans Public Schools to learn more about the film.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Reprise: Mexico's Forgotten African Roots

In celebration of Black History Month, I'm reposting (from Cappuccino Soul, January 2007) this information about the Africans who dwelled in Mexico many moons ago.

The African ancestry of many of what we know as Latinos is fairly well known. Slaves were taken from different parts of Africa and brought to the “New World,” which could mean they were taken to anywhere from Massachusetts to the Caribbean or South America. But what about Mexico? As cultural anthropologist Dr. Bobby Vaughn said, “If you are like most people, you probably have never heard of Afro-Mexicans and are completely unaware that they exist.”

Just who are the Afro-Mexicans? They are the descendents of African slaves who were brought to Mexico as early as the start of the 16th century. Some of these Africans were also slaves who had escaped from bondage in North America. Like their African-American counterparts, many of today's Afro-Mexicans also have European and indigenous people who populate their family trees.

Vaughn, who is passionate about these forgotten roots, wrote his Ph.D. dissertation, Race and Ethnicity: A Study of Blackness in Mexico, on the subject. While Vaughn was an undergraduate student at Lafayette College in Pennsylvania, he spent his junior year studying Spanish in Mexico City. Vaughn’s Mexican immersion started his curiosity about the history and culture of Mexico and its people. He’s been traveling to the country and taking down notes ever since.

On his site, AfroMexico,Vaughn covers the African presence in Mexico extensively. He especially explores the presence of African descendants in Vera Cruz and the Costa Chica region. According to Mexican anthropologist Gonzalo Aguirre Beltran, the black population in colonial Mexico was 20,569 in 1570 and 15,980 in 1742.

According to Vaughn:
The black population in the early colony was by far larger than that of the Spanish. In 1570 we see that the black population is about 3 times that of the Spanish. In 1646, it is about 2.5 times as large, and in 1742, blacks still outnumber the Spanish. It is not until 1810 that Spaniards are more numerous.

But this legacy is not talked about much—not even among historians and anthropologists. “To this day the deep cultural and economic impact that Africans had in Mexico is neither accepted nor acknowledged in the official history of Mexico,” said filmaker Rafael Rebollar Corona who directed the film The Forgotten Root. With his film, Corona meticulously documents this hidden Mexican history.

Esther Iverem, creator and editor of, says this about the virtual silence among historians regarding the Africans in Mexico:
Like in much of Latin America, a caste system based on race and color was instituted in Mexico. Those who were whiter and more visibly European received more privileges and social mobility, while darker or more visibly African peoples were typecast as servants or menial laborers. Historians have furthered this bias by emphasizing the European aspects of the culture, or by defining the country’s mestizo heritage as a mixture only of White Spaniards and native peoples.

With The Forgotten Root, Corona reminds us of the African roots in music such as son jarocho and other musical forms like marimba and Cuban son. He pays tribute to a culture that is not talked about much but is obvious from the look of those Mexicans (and their children) who have some of that African blood flowing through them.

Read more about this fascinating history here.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Song Request: Somebody's Callin' My Name

Here are more complete lyrics to this traditional African-American spiritual song, as requested by one Cappuccino Soul reader.

Dear Reader,
I hope these lyrics will help in your search for comfort for many years to come.

Hush, Hush, Somebody's Callin' My Name

Hush, hush somebody's calling my name
Hush, hush somebody's calling my name
Hush, hush somebody's calling my name
Oh my Lord, Oh my Lord what shall I do, what shall I do?

Sounds like Jesus, somebody's calling my name
Sounds like Jesus, somebody's calling my name
Sounds like Jesus, somebody's calling my name
Oh my Lord, Oh my Lord what shall I do, what shall I do?

Soon one mornin', death comes a-creepin' in my room
Soon one mornin', death comes a-creepin' in my room
Soon one mornin', death comes a-creepin' in my room
Oh my Lord, Oh my Lord what shall I do, what shall I do?

Hush, hush somebody's calling my name
Hush, hush somebody's calling my name
Hush, hush somebody's calling my name
Oh my Lord, Oh my Lord what shall I do, what shall I do?

And here's a group of men from the St. James Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in Chicago Heights, Illinois, beautifully singing the song.

African American History Questions from St. James CME.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

First Grade Valentine's Day Party

Ahhh, to be in first grade again! Here's the cookie that Gigi decorated at the cookie decorating table during her class Valentine's Day party. She made a very attractive jewelry box and took a really cute picture with classmate Angelo, whose granddad is in one of my ESL classses. Aren't they adorable?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Love, Patience, Kindess, Trust, ...

These two pieces of art say a lot about love. I'll say no more. Happy Valentine's Day!

60 by 60cm. (24' x 24')
Acrylic on Canvas
by Simon Fairless

To read more about this art and the artist, Simon Fairless, click here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Ain't I a Person?

New York Times

Tomey Smith, a gaunt, stringy-haired drifter and intermittent drug user suffering from H.I.V. he contracted while in prison, is Exhibit A in “Great Speeches From a Dying World,” Linas Phillips’s unsettling documentary portrait gallery of nine homeless people living on the streets of Seattle.

Near the end of a film that explores the connection of great oratory to people’s broken lives, Mr. Smith recites from the John Donne meditation that proclaims, “No man is an island.” As we have already seen, he has a tender, protective relationship with Josie, a transsexual crack addict, and is an avid dog lover. Although Mr. Smith doesn’t lend Donne’s prose any special conviction, the words still resonate with his situation.

Each subject recites a famous discourse that relates directly or indirectly to his or her personal biography. Half the time, the speaker (who may be reading from a teleprompter or reciting from memory; it isn’t clear which) doesn’t make a strong emotional connection to the material, which includes Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and speeches by John F. and Robert F. Kennedy. At these times the premise feels like a stunt that has backfired.

But when a connection is made, it sticks. From his hospital bed, Jose Martinez, who has attempted suicide seven times, delivers a slurred reading of Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy that makes you consider the self-destructive impulses in the lives of the unfortunate.

Even more arresting is the forceful reading of the abolitionist and women’s-rights advocate Sojourner Truth’s “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech by Deborah Payne, an African-American and crack addict who sleeps in a wheelchair in a parking garage.

When she recites the words “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back,” you sense that Ms. Payne, in different circumstances, might once have been strong enough to lead the charge. She doesn’t ask for sympathy; of her addiction she says bluntly: “I was bored. I got tired of being clean and sober.”

“Great Speeches” returns again and again to Mr. Smith, who relates a personal tale of woe that begins when he was placed in juvenile detention after pleading guilty to second-degree murder for a crime that he said he knew about but didn’t participate in. When he turned 16, he was sent to prison, where he remained for 15 years. Years later, he landed a job that paid $60,000 a year but lost it after 9/11.

Given today’s worsening economic climate, the movie carries an extra weight as newly unemployed workers face the possibility of landing on the street without a livelihood. Which of us in our worst nightmares hasn’t imagined a calamitous pile-up of personal disasters that could end in destitution and despair?

"Great Speeches" opens today in Manhattan at the Anthology Film Archives, 32 Second Avenue, at Second Street, East Village.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Gigi at the Light Rail Station in Charlotte

Miss Gigi and the Great Sherrin

Here's Gigi with our friend Sherrin, who is also the Youth Teacher at our church. What a blessing Sherrin has been to us. Not only has she served as Gigi's babysitter in the past, but she has taught Gigi some phenomenal things about God, and she introduced both of us to her martial arts class last Fall. Sherrin is a fierce martial arts warrior who earned her black belt last summer. Gigi and I saw her do her thing at the black belt ceremony. She performed all of her fighting techniques and katas with strength, deliberation and great skill. We're so proud of Sherrin.

I'm sad to say that she'll be leaving us this Spring. She's moving to Germany to continue her studies and to be closer to a certain someone. We're going to miss you Sherrin!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Senior Adult Choir Tries Hip Hop

When a family member sent the video below to me, I was very amused and entertained. Here were a group of elderly white folks singing hip hop songs like "Hot in Here" and "Hey Ya!" and they were doing it with feeling. What an example these seniors are setting for other older people who want to connect with younger people. This group of very adult singers at First Baptist in Fort Mill, S.C. are at least trying to bridge the gap between themselves and the younger people in their congregation.

Fort Mill is actually a suburb of Charlotte, so I'm very tempted to go visit this church. They've got to be doing some unique things for the Lord down there. The person who posted this clip on Youtube calls it a "great transgenerational cultural experient" and I agree.

I was struck by the commitment and dedication these folks have obviously given to this project. They do a version of Outkast's "Hey Ya!" that adds a flavor to the song I haven't heard before. Check out:

- The operatic cry of one of the women singers on "Hey Ya" (I got chills!)

- The lady scratching her chin while they're singing "Hey Ya!" as if to say, "Remind me again -- why are we doing this?"

-- The Director. He has taken this project seriously. He delivers his lines with force and commitment and in turn, expects the senior citizens to give it all they have.

-- The dancing during "Hot in Here." None of them crack a smile, which shows you how seriously they're taking this project. (The seniors aren't laughing, but you will be when you see it.)

Here it is. The First Baptist Church Senior Adult Choir doing their take on hip hop.

Pink Nail Polish and the English Language

Here's one of my students from Vietnam who gave me a manicure while I taught her words and sentences related to her profession. Lord knows I needed the manicure. She did a really nice job on my nails (I chose a deep pink color that goes very well with my shirt and jewelry today). She's quite a professional!