It’s hard to imagine it now but at one point in time according to R&B legend, Freddie Jackson; he was predicted to only have fifteen minutes of fame. Jackson has since gone on to prove his detractors wrong after creating hits for almost three decades ever since his debut in 1985. During HARLEMWEEK’s “A Great Day in Harlem” at U.S. Grant Memorial National Park, Jackson exclusively shared details about his plans to celebrate 30 years in the music business including a possible return to the label where he got his start, Capitol Records.
“I'm telling you this first—I think I will go back to the record label that signed me from the beginning, Capitol Records—to the people who have my catalog,” he revealed. To celebrate his achievements, the Harlemite plans to release a double CD of greatest hits, standards and six new songs, which may include a few duets. Plus he has a cookbook in the works entitled, “Freddie Jackson’s 30 Days to Romance,” full of recipes inspired by his songs. Surpassing his naysayers’ predictions, Jackson is reveling in his success. “I'll be 55 this year living my life like it’s golden and not letting the bureaucracy of the industry taint me.”
Another R&B veteran that isn’t letting the music business get the best of her is Alyson Williams. Williams was on hand to perform a tribute to legendary radio pioneer, Hal Jackson. After reminiscing about how she got her start in Hal Jackson’s Talented Teens International program she announced her brand new concert series, “Divapalooza.” The concept includes R&B divas of the 1980’s and 1990’s touring together to raise the roof off venues with their vocal power. The tour kicks off August 25th in Flint, Michigan with Williams, Meli’sa Morgan, Miki Howard, Klymaxx and Evelyn “Champagne” King. The project along with plans for a book and reality show demonstrates Williams’ focus on entrepreneurship. “God is changing things in my life and making it possible for me to do what I gotta do. I am concentrating on what I have to do as a business woman,” she says.
Williams went on to give a great performance, which got this year's four-part, "A Great Day in Harlem" off on the right start. Other events includes the annual International Cultural Showcase; the inspirational New York Gospel Caravan with an international choral salute to Sylvia Woods; the international "Fashion Fusion" fashion showcase and local Harlem Arts Alliance vendors.
The focus was on art, love and community at the 2nd annual House of Spoof Collective Exhibition at THE POINT’s Brickhouse Gallery. This year the collective continued to pay homage to artist, community leader and my brother, Glenn “Spoof” Wright who was tragically murdered in 2009. Exhibiting artist and member of the collective, Alberto Inamgua explained the groups’ commitment to honoring Wright’s legacy. “The future vision is to keep having free shows to give people the chance they don’t normally get to be in a gallery,” he says. “Glenn didn’t judge and he was filled with love and that's what we try to keep going.”
Sometimes you can find yourself going so fast that you miss out on something. Such was almost the case for those passing by ImageNation’s new Raw Space pop-up art gallery. The building site located at 2031 Adam Clayton Powell Blvd. will soon be a cinema house but for now artists such as Tara Mhella are utilizing it to display their works. Mhella creates abstract monotypes inspired by her Southern roots and utilizing found material in the exhibition “Blown Away.” While interacting with the community in Harlem she’s identified a need to educate young viewers on how to process visual art. “It’s great to bring arts into the community but we have to talk to younger generation about what it is like to see art.” Mhella plans to do her part by conducting art classes in Harlem and East New York.
Finally, Lisa Cooper owner of Elisa Contemporary Art believes that emerging artists must also be educated, especially when it comes to creating an identity. For those that are struggling to find their artistic identity and do multiple styles, she advises them to market separate bodies of work. “Maybe tailor your artist statement for each of those bodies of work because if an artist shows 20 different styles that says you haven’t really found your true voice.”
From the voice of a visual artist to that of Freddie Jackson, longevity is about knowing who you are and owning it.
The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.