Harlem and Philadelphia have a few things in common: a sense of style, great food and an appreciation of arts and culture. The latter was on display at Philadelphia’s free Global Fusion Festival concert where Brandy, Kenny Lattimore, Luke James and Elle Varner entertained the crowd on Penn’s Landing.

Backstage, Brandy was all smiles and down-to-earth charm as she noted that her hiatus from the spotlight has made her stronger than ever. “I took a break from it all and got in touch with myself,” she says. “I read self help books and try to apply that positive energy to my life.”

Tanya Hall, executive director of the Philadelphia Multicultural Affairs Congress (MAC) is hoping that she can multiply the success of this year’s event to further demonstrate the financial value of arts and culture even in an unstable economy. “The economy is what it is but people still want to experience arts and culture,” she says. “It makes lives fuller whether they experience part of their culture or maybe somebody else’s culture”

Legendary production team Full Force enriched lives with a special event at the New York Public Library entitled, “Fame & (Mis)Fortune.” Brothers Bowlegged Lou and B-Fine discussed their experiences dealing with financial challenges and offered tips to the general public on how to overcome such odds. Afterward they confirmed several new projects in development including a sequel to the classic “House Party” film series. The film’s original screenwriter and director, Reginald Hudlin plans to center the plot on an old school vs. new school party. “The script is getting tuned up and fixed about. It will have cameo appearances and it will be crazy,” reveals Bowlegged Lou. “Kid’n Play are down and Tisha Campbell is like ‘If the script is right I will do it.’ We are excited.” In addition to the film, Full Force is currently in talks with TV One for a reality series about the musical family, as well as developing an original TV series, including an animated program.

From animation to portraiture we move onto the works of visual artist Rebecca Allan. During a private studio visit Allan, presented her collection, “Kindred: Portraits of Couples in the Arts,” which was recently on view at the 2/20 Gallery. The works focus on accomplished couples in various creative disciplines, including: Harlemites such as jazz vocalist Gregory Generet and actor Tamara Tunie; milliner Rodney Keenan and decorative arts historian Philip Hewat-Jaboor. Allan’s sensitive and lyrical work celebrates the power of the arts to unite individuals as well as impact the world. “I don’t think it’s easy to be an artist,” she notes. “It is a difficult journey. So any way to support each other is helpful. But it’s also about what they can then share with the world through that double power.”

It was all about the power of relationships and of course, erotica during a candid conversation on the Fifty Shades of Grey romance series by E.L. James at the Hue-Man Bookstore. The event’s producer Malika Lee Whitney of Pickney Productions created the event in an attempt to delve beyond the book’s sensationalism and address issues of human relationships. “There are broader issues to discuss such as societal morays and people determining how to love and who to love. This book is an opportunity to discuss things closer to our heart,” she explains.

Finally, many hearts feel sadness at the recent passing of hip-hop pioneer Ms. Melodie, actor Sherman Hemsley of “The Jeffersons,” and the Queen of Soul Food, Sylvia Woods, founder of the famed Harlem soul food restaurant that shines in her name. These individuals will be missed from Harlem to Philadelphia and beyond.


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.