With their socially conscious message songs, Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff created the timeless Philadelphia sound of soul and now the former is bringing those messages to life with a host of philanthropic endeavors. In 1993, Gamble along with his wife, Faatimah Gamble, founded Universal Companies, a leading Philadelphia based community development and education management corporation. Since its opening the company has created great strides building over 1,500 units of housing and currently managing six charter schools in Philadelphia educating over 3,700 children. For Gamble the project is part of what he feels is his responsibility as a music icon.
“Music played a tremendous role in the civil rights struggle and it is a audiovisual world now,” he says. “African-American music has become pornographic. There is no dignity and that has an effect on our community when you see the murders and disrespect in our communities. How the society has tried to destroy the African-American has been through the media. So it will take the media and entertainment to break us out of this situation.”
For now Gamble is content to give back through direct community outreach and allow his musical legacy to inspire others. Yet if there is one voice that could bring him out of hiatus and back into the recording studio it is, Fantasia. “I’d like to work with Fantasia. I think she has one of the better voices out there now. She needs some great producers and somebody that really cares about her.”
It was all about music, dance and fashion at the Museum of the City of New York’s opening for Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced. As the first African-American designer to attain international stature, Burrows helped define the look of the disco era replete with bold color, his signature “lettuce” edge, red zigzag stitching, body-defining silhouettes and more. The enthusiastic attendees created a dazzling scene with their splendid looks, many of which paid homage to Burrows’ style. Guests included Debra Lee, chairman and CEO of the event’s media sponsor, BET, models Iman, Pat Cleveland, Bethann Hardison and iconic fashion designer Catherine Malandrino. The latter expressed her love for the legendary Burrows and how he influenced her outlook on fashion. “He loves life and celebrating it,” she says. “He shows that fashion is all about having fun with color and not taking it too seriously but using it more as an expression.”
For the time being nationally syndicated radio personality, Michael Baisden won’t be able to express his views on-air as his show has been cancelled following failed negotiations with his syndicator, Cumulus Media. The announcement came as a surprise to many of his over 7 million listeners. For Baisden the experience is a learning lesson and a motivation to change the inner workings of the radio industry, which he believes leave on-air talent powerless to syndicators. “The affiliates understand that the contract is with syndicator and not with the talent,” he says. “I want to change that because the talent should have a relationship with the affiliates. Never again will I allow somebody to take me off radio stations. It’s a lesson learned.”
Being that Baisden was one of the media voices willing to tackle relevant issues and had a message, likely means that Gamble hopes that he makes an on-air return soon.
Honorable Mentions: There will be plenty to learn about the remarkable life of Bessie Coleman at La Maison d’Art as the venue presents, A Dream to Fly. As part of Women’s History Month the play tells the story of Coleman, the first African-American female pilot.
On April 6 is the premiere of Celeste Bedford-Walker’s play, Camp Logan, which tells the story of the African-American decorated veterans from the 24th United States Infantry Regiment who were executed after clashing with the white townspeople, leading to the revolts of 1917 that took place in Houston, TX.
Finally, Barbara Russell curates, Under the Radar a monthly art exhibition series in conjunction with the Harlem Arts Alliance for The Physical Therapy of Harlem office. The debut, Flesh features the experiential photography work of Luis Flores with an opening reception and artist talk on April 5 from 5-7 pm at 1400 Fifth Avenue. The exhibition will run from April 5-April 30.
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.