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In Living Color’s Tommy Davidson to Perform in CT


By Candice Dodd, Staff Writer

An actor, singer and stand-up comedian, Tommy Davidson is a force to be reckon with in the entertainment industry.
Known for his role in the hit series comedy show, In Living Color and the voice of “Oscar Proud” for the Disney cartoon series, The Proud Family, Davidson was made into a household name overnight. The international star will make his way to Manchester for his upcoming show at the Funny Bone Comedy Club on Feb. 5.
This is not Davidson’s first time at the club when he visited a year ago.

“I have a unique experience with the club because I was locked in during a snow storm,” says Davidson with a laugh during a telephone interview with The Hartford Guardian.
With plunging temperatures in the upcoming week, fans will get a hot performance from the star as he does his famous impersonations of Sylvester Stallone and myriad of other actors. “I will do some by request,” he says.
When asked about the start of his career before comedy, Davidson admits that singing was truly his passion.
“Singing was something I always wanted to do,” he says firmly over the phone.
Diving into comedy, Davidson explains that he was at a gentleman’s club with a friend during his early years and was told to go on stage and crack some jokes.
“My friend always thought I was funny,” he says. His guest appearance that night did lead his way to further his career.
As a standup comedian in the late 1980s, he performed in various comedy clubs throughout the Washington Metropolitan region and was recognized by local talent promoters who booked him as the opening act for big stars such as Patti Labelle, Kenny G, and Luther Vandross.
Davidson’s career was taking off big time and it didn’t stop there when he landed a role in the hit show In Living Color that aired in the early 90’s and also won a Primetime Emmy award in 1990.
When asked if the show led him to Hollywood, “Absolutely,” says Davidson. “It was the breakthrough of my life.” He spent his days working alongside other stars such as, Jamie Foxx, Jim Carrey and Damon Wayans performing a variety of humorous skits, music, and dancing.
He is currently working on a biopic called, Deconstructing Sammy, based off the book by author Matt Birkbeck about the life and death of Sammy Davis, Jr. He is also working on television shows, comedy specials and his musical career.
While the talented father is working on “raising his kids” and traveling across the globe, he will win the hearts of many on Thursday night for his fascinating talent and down-to-earth character when he hits the stage on Feb. 5.

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‘Selma’ Is Powerful, Relevant and Moving


By Julie Walker, The Root

As one watches Selma—which opens in limited release Christmas Day and nationwide Jan. 9—it’s hard not to reflect on the protests going on around the country over the shooting deaths of unarmed black men by white police officers. It’s a topic that comes up often when Selma director Ava DuVernay discusses her film. She and some of her cast even posted a picture on social media in which they wore “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts at the movie’s New York City premiere to show solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter protesters.

At 42, DuVernay is too young to have lived through the events depicted in Selma. But her film reminds those in her generation, and mine, what our parents and grandparents fought and, in some cases, died for.

She tells the story of three months in Selma, Ala., in 1965 when Martin Luther King Jr. was mobilizing his movement in the fight for voting rights. As history shows, the effort paved the way for the passage of the Voting Rights Act through Congress later that year. And while the film is not a history lesson, it offers an intimate portrait of a man and a time in history that should never be underestimated, overlooked or forgotten. In the end, the film is bigger than King—it’s about the bloody civil rights campaign in Selma and the outcome it yielded. It’s about the politics and the personal battles that shaped part of King’s life and the movement at that time.

Selma is an emotionally wrought film, told vividly through the eyes of not just King but also many of the other African-American icons who shaped the movement. The protest scenes in which police officers beat peaceful demonstrators with billy clubs push all the buttons that DuVernay hopes to—we feel the pain, injustice and moral outrage. At one point we even see Annie Lee Cooper, played by Oprah Winfrey, knocked to the ground and set upon by police with batons.

Winfrey is extremely impactful as Cooper, the proud and courageous Selma resident who tried several times to register to vote, only to be turned away. Cooper is most famously known for punching Selma Sheriff James Clark (Stan Houston). Upon first seeing Winfrey on-screen, I had to blink to make sure it was her, costumed in cat-eye glasses and a frumpy outfit. Winfrey and Brad Pitt (who does not appear in the film) are part of the producing team that helped make the picture happen after years of delays. Lee Daniels was slated to direct Selma before the film’s original deal fell apart, and it’s clear that if he had, we would have seen a very different film.

DuVernay told The Root in September that she wanted to portray King the man, and not the myth. She achieves this admirably by mixing his private moments of doubt with widely known public speeches that illustrate why he succeeded as a leader. Even his infidelities are shown through the eyes of his wife, played by Scottish-Nigerian actress Carmen Ejogo, who reprises her role as Coretta Scott King in HBO’s Boycott.

Ejogo’s performance is nuanced and moving as the wife who seems to want just a little more love and respect. In the film, Mrs. King is shown listening to recordings of her husband making love to other women—part of FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover’s (Dylan Baker) campaign to tear down King. We see how King’s private battles spilled over to his very public battles.

David Oyelowo’s pitch-perfect performance as MLK deserves an Oscar nomination, as does the film itself. The British actor, who was also in Lee Daniels’ The Butler and DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere, embodies King. He transforms himself into the leader, from his shaved hairline to his deliberate speech patterns. The actor has said that the role took an emotional toll on him, and it’s clear why: When you see and hear Oyelowo speak with his native British accent and contrast that with him speaking on-screen as King, it’s breathtaking.

DuVernay uses music from the B sides of several popular records from 1965 on the soundtrack. Although several of the songs aren’t well-known, they work well for a film that wants to feel—and succeeds at feeling—fresh, even as it examines a moment in history that feels familiar.

Julie Walker is a New York-based freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter.

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CPTV to Air Bala Brothers Live


HARTFORD – Connecticut Public Television will host the U.S. broadcast premiere of Bala Brothers Jan. 12, live at 9 p.m.

Bala Brothers, who will be live in the CPTV studios, grew up poor in a South African township and rose to become national singing stars while breaking through apartheid barriers.

During the concert special, viewers will hear a mix of South African traditional music and contemporary songs from Elton John, Paul Simon and Billy Joel. During the live breaks, Bala Brothers will be interviewed in the studio.

This program features the amazing musicianship of the three gifted brothers, who are already stars in their own country; they grew up in a home with dirt floors and no electricity, but were able to lift themselves out of poverty through their sheer talent.

Brothers Zwai, Loyiso and Phelo come from a musical family, and all three possess remarkable innate musical abilities and singing voices. They remain influenced by their membership in South Africa’s famous Drakensberg Boys’ Choir. In fact, older brother Zwai broke barriers by becoming the choir’s first black member.

They are drawn to a number of musical genres, from pop to gospel to opera. Their talents will be displayed in full-force in their first-ever PBS concert special, which was recorded live at the Lyric Theatre in Gold Reef City in Johannesburg, South Africa, with the participation of a 24-piece orchestra and the Drakensberg Boys’ Choir – the very choir that played such an important role in the brothers’ lives, and for which Phelo went on to hold the positions of head chorister and music leader.

“CPTV is proud to be the station selected by PBS to premiere Bala Brothers. This group represents a triumph in human nature. The Connecticut audience is sure to be touched by the music and their story,” said Laura Savini, CPTV National Productions executive.

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CONCORA to Present its First Finalist for Director Position


NEW BRITAIN —  Connecticut’s The acclaimed professional choir will present its first finalist for the Artistic Director position to succeed Richard Coffey, who stepped down after 40 years at the end of the 2013-14 season.

CONCORA selected David Hodgkins, who is scheduled to conduct on Oct. 26 at 4:00 PM at First Church of Christ, 830 Corbin Ave., New Britain. in New Britain, in a program titled “Tradition Re-Imagined.” The program will include works by Vivaldi, Pärt, Poulenc, and others, plus the Bach motet Komm, Jesu, Komm.

Hodgkins’ concept of the program is one of taking the old and re-forming it, or re-imagining it, into the contemporary. Thus he presents four versions of Ave Maria, from the original plainsong chant, through a Renaissance version, to Bruckner, to 21stcentury Kevin Memley.

Similarly, he offers the Magnificat, a beautiful text taken from Luke’s Gospel, in arrangements from Vivaldi, with a chamber orchestra of Hartford Symphony musicians, and Arvo Pärt, an a cappella arrangement that is perhaps best described as ‘ethereal.’

The second half offers Francis Poulenc’s Huit Chansons Françaises (Eight French Songs), which. Poulenc wrote in a burst of nationalistic pride. They are all settings of old French folk rhymes, and while most of the melodies are Poulenc’s, a few of the movements are also loosely based on traditional folk songs.

The concert closes with a selection of spirituals and gospel songs, to glorify an American tradition that was passed down aurally from generation to generation.

Tickets are $50 for preferred seating, $30 for general seating, $25 for seniors, and $10 for students. 2-for-1 general seating tickets are available with Let*s Go! Arts card.  Order online at www.concora.org, or by phone at 860-293-0567.

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Get Ready for Gyllenhall’s Night Crawlers to Hit Movie Theaters


By Fran Wilson, Staff Writer

You don’t have to be a journalist or a Jake Gyllenhall fan to anticipate this upcoming film to the big screen in October.
The film, NIGHTCRAWLER, is in the selected pool for the 2014 Toronto International Film Festival and will be released nationwide on Oct. 31.
Critics say it is a“pulse-pounding thriller set in the nocturnal underbelly of contemporary Los Angeles.”

Yikes.

Open Road Films produce the much-talked about film, and it’s written and directed by Dan Gilroy.

NIGHTCRAWLER stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Lou Bloom, a driven young man desperate for work. He then discovers the high-speed world of L.A. crime journalism. Finding a group of freelance camera crews who film crashes, fires, murder and other mayhem, Lou muscles into the cut-throat, dangerous realm of nightcrawling — where each police siren wail equals a possible windfall and victims are converted into dollars and cents.

Other fan faves might also draw you to this film. Gyllenhall character is aided by Rene Russo as Nina, a veteran of the blood-sport that is local TV news, Lou blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.

Also starring in NIGHTCRAWLER are Bill Paxton and Riz Ahmed.

 

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Hartford Library ArtWalk Seeks Submissions


HARTFORD — Hartford Public Library is now accepting submissions for its 2015 ArtWalk program that features artists and their art work.

Library officials say that ArtWalk at the downtown branch on Main Street offers “the largest and most stunning exhibition spaces in the city.

Local artists can have their art work displayed on the third floor of the impressively renovated library with it’s spacious gallery with glass windows that gives the art pieces unique visibility and exposure.

The program is to add to the “increasing vibrancy of Downtown Hartford.

Artists from the Greater Hartford area and beyond are invited to apply through Oct. 1. For more information, visit, www.hplct.org.

 

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Hartford Puerto Rican ParadeSet for June 1


HARTFORD — Get ready for the 2014 Greater Hartford Puerto Rican Day Parade.

The annual event will begin at noon on June 1, starting on Warwarme Avenue in Hartford and continues with a festival that is scheduled to end at 8 p.m. at the Bushnell Pavilion.

Festival attendees will have  a wide variety of food, music and entertainment, including performers such as Frankie Negron. Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra is expected to attend.

For more information, please call 860-978-7412 andwww.hartfordprparade.com.

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Finch: City’s Festivities Free and Open to All


BRIDGEPORT — Mayor Bill Finch and Bridgeport’s Downtown Special Services District on Wednesday announced the musical lineup for the fifth installment of the city’s Free Concert Series on Thursdays.

This announcement comes with a new format for the concert series, which includes at least two musical performances that will extend each event from 5:30-9:00 p.m.

 “Bridgeport is becoming an arts and culture powerhouse in the Northeastern U.S.,” Finch said. “And, that’s happening because of events like Downtown Thursdays. I’m looking forward to seeing large crowds gathering for live music in our revitalized downtown, which is home to many great restaurants and bars for concert goers to enjoy.”

 The first event will take place on June 19 at 5:30 p.m. at McLevy Green, which is just a few short blocks away from the Bridgeport Metro Rail Station and Greater Bridgeport Transit Authority.

These events are open to people of all, and the festivities are free to the public.

Downtown Thursdays Schedule:

Ø  Thursday, June 19Vinny and Ray Afro-Cuban Latin JazzOrquesta Afinke

Ø  Thursday, June 26Funky Dawgz Brass BandJen Durkin and the Business

Ø  Thursday, July 3: N/A – Break for Independence Day weekend

Ø  Thursday, July 10: The Elements of Hip Hop with DJ Billy Busch, DJ Grand Wizard Stevie, DJ Kool Keith, DJ White Flash

Ø  Thursday, July 17Alpaca GnomesBeach AvenueLiza Colby Sound

Ø  Thursday, July 24Mikata, Son 7

Ø  Thursday, July 31SoulshotMystic Bowie

Ø  Thursday, August 7Girls on Bikes (opening for CT Free Shakespeare, 8pm performances August 6-10)

Ø  Thursday, August 14Pocket Hotties, karaoke talent night

Ø  Thursday, August 21The ZambonisMates of States

Ø  Thursday, August 28SuperheroThat ‘80s Band, Soul Synergy

“We’re thrilled about this year’s line-up and new format,” said Kim Morque, Chairman of the Bridgeport DSSD. “With genres spanning from Latin to indie, rock to reggae, and funk & soul to old school hip-hop, our Downtown Thursdays have you covered, regardless of your musical preference.”

Sponsors for Downtown Thursdays include: City of Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch; Bridgeport Downtown Special Services District; Bridgeport Bluefish; Webster Bank Arena; Harbor Yard Sports and Entertainment; Spinnaker Real Estate Partners, LLC; Forstone Capital Holdings; Main State Ventures; Bridgeport Regional Business Council; The United Illuminating Company; Aquarion Water Company; Barnum Publick House; Bistro B; Carlson Corporation; Fairfield University; Ginsburg Development Corporation; POKO Partners LLC; ServPro; Cohen and Wolf; Narragansett Brewing Company; Greater Bridgeport Transit; Connoisseur Media, Star 99.9, 99.1 PLR, 95.9 FOX and CTBoom.com; BOMBA 97.1 FM; Radio Cumbre 1450 AM; and WPKN 89.5 FM.

For more information, and to follow the Downtown Thursdays summer line-up, please visit: www.downtownthursdays.com.

 

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Greater Hartford Chabad to Host Sassy Reuven


HARTFORD — This May Chabad of Greater Hartford will be hosting Sassy Reuvena veteran of the Israel Defense Special Operation Forces.

During the terror-filled years of 1973-1976 Sassy served in the IDF’s elite “Red Beret” paratrooper unit. He participated in several covert operations in Israel’s mighty struggle against Arab terrorism.

In July of 1976, Sassy participated in the famed Entebbe counter-terrorist hostage-rescue mission code named “Operation Thunderbolt”, flying thousands of miles over enemy territory to rescue Jewish hostages being held by terrorists in Uganda.

A week earlier, on 27 June, an Air France plane was hijacked, by members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the German Revolutionary Cells, and flown to Entebbe, the main airport of Uganda. More than 100 Israeli and Jewish passengers remained as hostages and were threatened with death.

Sassy will share his personal experience, step-by-step from the moment he was called to duty, including the preparation for the mission, landing in Uganda & completing the mission behind enemy lines.

His story is Israel’s story: of courage, endurance, defiance and a willingness to sacrifice it all for the right to live in your homeland in freedom.

The event will be on Wednesday, May 21, 7:00pm at the Chabad House, 2352 Albany Avenue in West Hartford. To register log on to www.ChabadHartford.com, call 860-232-1116 or email: info@ChabadHartford.com

 

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What Americans Can Learn From Gabriel García Márquez About Immigration


 Raymond L. Williams, New America Media News Analysis

With Congress stalled on immigration reform and the Obama administration reconsidering its priorities, Americans might be surprised to learn that recently deceased global citizen Gabriel García Márquez (1927-2014) offers some well-informed insights into immigration issues.

The 1982 Nobel Laureate in Literature lived most of his adult life as an immigrant, and was once an undocumented worker — in Venezuela, from late 1957 to early 1959. His first immigration experience was in France, where he lived in the mid-1950s with full documentation, working as a journalist for the liberal Colombian newspaper, El Espectador. Soon after arriving, however, he was left unemployed when Colombian dictator Gustavo Rojas Pinilla ordered the closing of all liberal media. During the remainder of his stay in France, García Márquez dedicated his time to writing the foundational Macondo stories that would eventually lead him to the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, and literary fame. The remainder of his time in Paris, however, involved basic survival—sometimes even collecting bottles on the streets to earn money for food, and negotiating his residency at a small Parisian hotel, on credit, with promises to pay later.

The next stage of his life took him to Venezuela, where he was employed as a journalist writing articles, mostly on political topics. In the 1950s, Colombia’s relationship with Venezuela was in some ways comparable to the relationship today between Mexico and the United States: many Colombians were fleeing to Venezuela to escape violence and seek employment in a nation enjoying a petroleum boom. The Venezuelan government was systematically inviting gallegos(Spaniards from Galicia) and Italian guest workers in order to avoid the potential unionization of workers from Venezuela and Colombia.  In a magazine article published in 1959 under the title,Adiós, Venezuela, García Márquez questioned the government’s manipulation of the workforce. He argued, among other things, for better wages—the equivalent of a “living wage”—for the visiting workers from Galicia and Italy.

In France, García Márquez lived the experience of the impoverished immigrant, and in Venezuela he lived the life of the undocumented worker whom he attempted to defend with his writing. The presence of gallegos in the latter contributed to his identification with the workers, for some of his own relatives had originally come from Galicia. In Venezuela, then, García Márquez was acutely aware that the story of immigrant workers was indeed his own story. No doubt drawing on his own experience, he proclaimed Latina America to be “a land of second generations” in his 1959 article, later republished in 1971 as a book titled, Cuando era feliz e indocumentado (When I was happy and undocumented).

After Venezuela, García Márquez became a global citizen, spending most of his adult life in Mexico as well as being a frequent visitor to his own personal residences in Spain and France.

As the immigration debate becomes increasingly intense and perhaps excessively polarized in the United States, the lessons we can learn from the most widely read public intellectual in Latin America are twofold: On the one hand, he reminds us that human movement across borders has historically been a regular and healthy occurrence in the Americas, for those nations that have embraced and not rejected their immigrants. In this sense, the current situation in the U.S. might not be as exceptional (or complex) as it may seem. On the other hand, the supposed dichotomy between documented citizens and undocumented residents is not as black-and-white as some political sectors attempt to portray it — the undocumented not only provide a labor force, but they are also the parents of future graduate students, future scientists and future Nobel Laureates in literature, as was the case for that grandchild of gallegos, the once undocumented writer, Gabriel García Márquez.

Raymond L. Williams teaches Latin American literature at the University of California, Riverside. He is the author of several books, including two on García Márquez, and holds the titled of Distinguished Professor.

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