Sunday, June 7, 2009
Monday, May 25, 2009
Curt Gowdy was the master story teller. His gift was that he didn’t have to make it up it, just seemed to unfold in front of his eyes and his voice would just describe what he saw. My imagination would run wild as inning after inning and pitch after pitch, I could see the seams on a one hundred mile an hour fast ball coming strait towards my bed. As each batter took a swing, I could feel the air move like a mighty jet soaring through the sky.I could see the third base coach with his hands on his knees and a mouth full of tobacco in his left cheek. I could feel the muscles in the forearms as the hitter gripped his bat and dug his feet into the ground much in the same was a gladiator drew a line in the sand and dared his opponent to cross it. Then just as the silence of the crowd deepened a loud crack cut through the air and I could see the ball just sailing over the left field green monster. Funny thing other kids had night mares of boogey men, werewolves and vampires. I had a green monster in my dreams and the only nightmare was for the opposing left handed pitchers.
No matter what was going on in the world, you could always escape with that transistor radio. It didn’t matter that there was a war in Vietnam or that the streets were full of protesters. I wasn’t old enough to carry a picket sign, nor did I have any idea what corruption was. At ten everyone just kind of patted you on the head and said someday you will understand. The older I get the more I understand and maybe I don’t want to understand, to show you how irony works. I would give anything to be ten years old again. To sit in my room past my bed time knowing my parents were on the other side of that wall. Listening to Curt Gowdy one more time and close my eyes and see all my idols again just the way I remembered them. To hear him one say signing off from Fenway Park with the Red Sox winning four to two this has been Curt Gowdy and goodnight.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Deep with in the coal mines of South Africa during the early 1800’s . The form of dance was called Welly Boot Dance. The minors would mimic the guards who patrolled the work camps and barracks. It was also called Gumboots. The dancers would stomp and sometimes use bells around their boots to create different sounds as they danced. Gumboot dancing is still a marvel for on lookers in the streets of Cape Town. Thousands of miles to the north in the Gaelic regions of Britain Ireland and Scotland the form of singing and dance was called Sean nós The term Sean nós meant old style. The dance and singing was a celebration and expression among the Gaelic's. Most songs are not gender specific, although the lyrics may suggest it is being sung from a woman's or man's point of view. However there are a few songs that men tend not to sing. Women however do not seem to have the same compunction. In Spain the word for shoe is zapato and the word zapatear. simply means strike with the shoe. zapateado was the dance that had been celebrated throughout Latin America. In the factories of England during the Industrial Revolution workers in the Lancaster cotton mills to keep their feet warm would stomp in place to the rhythm of the machines. During their breaks they would have competitions. This form of dance was called Clogging.
During the middle of the 19th century the Five Points neighborhood the fist beginning of fusion between the dance styles began. The Irish Jig dancing and the combination of the African shuffle was the 1st emergence of Tap Dancing. New York was the center of immigration and the vibrations of dance were copied from one nationality to another.
The most famous dancer of this period was Boz Juba (William Henry Lane). He gained world acclaim for his work in dance troupes and performance throughout Europe. He as also been credited with performing with the Ethiopian Serenaders world wide. 1947 an article by Marian Hannah Winter in 1947 resurrected his legacy. Marian’s article would bring his history of Tap in its rightful place.
From 1900 to 1955 Vaudeville and Broadway were the biggest entertainment attractions before the advent of Television. The big screen was the way the masses found their love affair with dance. The mention of name of Shirley Temple is synonymous with dance. Her locks and girl next door looks combined with the accomplished steps of Bill Robinson AKA Mr. Bojangles were a joy for audiences. Her films were credited with emergence of African Americans finding there way into film in positive rolls. Bill Bojangles was a fixture on the base paths of Negro League Baseball. The entire theme of those Negro league games were a source of pride and sense of belonging with there white peers of the period as well as entertainment. One of Bojangles most noted performances took place on the dugout of Yankee stadium during integrated all star games.
Many dancers over the years have made a contribution to Tap from there unique styles. Gene Kelly had made many movies most notable Singing In The Rain. He combined his steps with Tap and Ballet and created a grace to Tap unseen before. His biggest competition in film was non other than Fred Astaire who combined Tap with Ballroom Dancing. He always managed to swoon the main character in his movies with his debonair moves. Both of them throughout their lives paid homage to the two men that they were influenced by the most. The Nicholas Brothers were more than dancers the were acrobats there highflying moves were the awe of anyone who saw them. During the Harlem Renaissance they stood head and shoulders above all others. Faynard and Harold Nicholas grew up in Philadelphia during the early 1900’s. They were a fixture at Philadelphia’s Standard Theatre. In New York they became the staple of the Cotton Club. The Nicholas Brothers were the biggest headliners and their audiences were never disappointed. They were the only known act to frequently mingle with the white audiences. In 1932 one of the most notable dance competitions in history took place at the Cotton Club. The Berry Brothers of New York danced against the famous Nicholas Brothers in what was described as masterful. The Berry brothers were more acrobatic but the Nicholas brothers simply outperformed them.
Sammy Davis carried the torch of dance from the 1950's and was best know as a card carrying member of the Rat Pack. He would dance in his movies and on stage with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. He also would be a influence on a young dancer, singer and actor Gregory Hines. He combined with Mikhail Baryshnikov the accomplished Russian ballet dancer. The movie White Nights was never the box office hit he had hoped but was credited with cold war stereotypes of the people of the Soviet Union. He was a dancer at heart and the son of a hoofer and partnered with his brother to for the dance team the Hines Brothers.The list of famous tap dancers is endless but include names such asJohn W. Bubbles, Charles "Honi" Coles, Vera-Ellen, Ruby Keeler, Jeni LeGon, Ann Miller,, Donald O'Connor, Eleanor Powell, Prince Spencer,, Ginger Rogers, and Jimmy Slyde. The beauty here is that they are all from different backgrounds and when cultures colide we can enjoy the results Art in its truest form.
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Diane was born into your average family and although she was born with the name Jimmy deep inside from a very early age she was different. There was always a part of her she had to keep concealed but as each passing year she knew what her destiny would be. By age 14 Diane was wearing her sisters clothes and the two of them loved to try on new things. The schools repeatedly tried to request she dress as a boy and after many attempts her parents relented. In High School Diane graduated and as the Police action on Vietnam progressed she thought of joining the Navy . In someway she attempted to contradict her inner self and be what the world thought she be. She left the Navy after being unable to pass the Naval swim tests and married a lesbian woman but the piece of the puzzle didn’t fit After her wife gave birth she soon fled as being a mother was to much for her. Diane was alone and with a child in tow the instincts that are inside every woman took over. She was a single mother providing for her child like any mother would do. She met a man whom she claims was gay and again she tried to find the right pieces to put together. Her biggest dilemma wasn’t that she was gay but the spirit of a woman always guided her and that possibility was just to much for her husband.
In 1965 Diane and another person named Stephanie a black transgendered person that was very similar in circumstances to her own. They had meetings at the Harvard Medical School with a young surgeon named Doctor Francis Woldort. There had been many that applied for this opportunity but Stephanie and Diane were the final 2 selected. The work was ground breaking and the Harvard Gender Identity Clinic was one of the first In the United States. Diane expressed a freedom she had been looking for all her life. She was working at a local dinner in back of the old Filenes department store in downtown Boston.In 1960’s Boston the theatre district was booming along Boylston and Washington Streets. The area would be divided the off Broadway plays and musicals would inhabit Boylston St and Dance Clubs, Gay bars and strip clubs would form along Washington St and would become known as the Combat Zone. Single motherhood was still not the norm even in a metropolis like Boston working nights Diane would be a headliner at the Piccadilly a local strip club. Diane refused to allow them to reveal her identity and after a few years went on tour. She was never much interested in prostitution or escorting. The one thing that was paramount in her life was her daughter Deborah and providing her with a home and a education.
After Deborah was finished with college Diane decided to have a talk with her. Diane yielded to her history and in a state of shock she stormed out the door. Several hours had passed and when she returned the only demand was that this conversation never took place again. Diane tried to rekindle her daughters relationship with her natural mother but there was very little interest on either side. The one constant in Diane’s life was being a mother and grandmother.
In the Late 70s Dianne finally found love with a local roofer in Boston. Her daughter was settled and married and soon would give birth to her grandchildren. After much consideration Diane gave her husband her story and with out a flinch they were able to move on with what she called a whirlwind romance.
Diane enjoyed life as a grandmother her love for them was always provided her comfort. Diane had never been political or was much of a activist. She was more or less led to be a power of example to other transgendered woman . She would be quick to point out to other woman of the perils of street life and prostitution. She voiced her concern but deep down she never felt she was making any kind of statement. Her inner self always prevailed and she knew her path from of a very early age. Diane embraced the woman inside of her and her journey she felt was chosen for her. Many woman that have followed Diane’s path in life have felt many oppositions and obstacles in their way. She fondly embraces her childhood and is so grateful to her family. She feels that things were so much more simpler in the 50s when she began her transition and people just didn’t come out or if they did it was so rare that it was easily dismissed. Her journey has been met with some heartache and pain but through it all her life was worth living. Diane became divorced in the mid 90s and had remarried again but soon after her husband had passed away. She moved to Florida as many widows do to live out her life. Retirement lifestyle didn’t quit suit her and after being diagnosed with cancer she settle in to a small town in central Pennsylvania. It was such a privilege to have interviewed Diane it is so rare in life to meet someone so at peace with them selves and their life. She has no regrets and when she was sending her her photos I could feel her smile. Five decades behind her and a retiree in her 60s she only is looking forward to the next gift awaiting her around the next corner.
Wednesday, February 6, 2008
When you measure a mans worth it should be beyond his accomplishments. When you look back on a mans life when you see all the obstacles he over came to get there that’s what is important. When I first met James I had been broken to the point of hopelessness. Doing drugs and living a nightmare of the lifestyle that addiction carries. with it. Everything that has happened to me the last 17 plus years is a direct result of the nurturing and unconditional love he gave me. I learned to be a father to my children. Under his mentoring all my fractured family relationships had been mended. He was the biggest force behind my writing. He encouraged me to write and go deep inside and be the inspiration to others that he was to me. We had spent countless hours traveling the country to speak to convicts and addicts. The greatest compliment I ever received was recently when I was in Chicago a man walked up to me and said he was at a treatment center James and I spoke at several years ago.. He said he was a single father raising his children and he been clean for 2 years. He said the message James delivered changed his life and he wanted to thank him. I was just like him in the last 8 years I was able to be a single parent and be responsible for my children. When I think of all the things that I have accomplished being a father to my kids is what means the most. He led me to my personal relationship with god. His encouraging and mentoring put me on a path I never dreamed of. There is no way I could ever thank him for the life I have. I just pray that I can keep his message alive and inspire others the way he inspired me
01:00 AM EST on Monday, February 4, 2008
Friends of James K. Imonti Jr. — shot in the back, allegedly by his father-in-law, outside a Food Lion store in Carrboro, N.C. — said the former Rhode Islander had pulled himself from the depths of substance abuse and become a powerful, nationally known motivational speaker and counselor who helped many thousands deal with their substance abuse problems.
News accounts late last week noted only Imonti’s drug problems.
“He did countless, endless amounts of service to the community, service to the incarcerated, the homeless, those afflicted with addiction and alcoholism, people in general. He was the epitome of compassion and kindness,” said his friend Sean Garedo, who was so inspired by Imonti he asked him to be the godfather of his daughter. “He spoke with so much enthusiasm, passion and commitment, his message was heard by the deafest of ears.”
A Rhode Island School of Design graduate and Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War, Imonte had a jewelry business, Imonti Designs, and served as his own distributor. He spent most of his life in Rhode Island, residing in Cranston, and moved to Carrboro, just west of Chapel Hill, in 2002. He died at the age of 59.
Friends say Imonti’s transformation came in 1989, after years of living on the edge, occasional trouble with the law, and, most important, the death of his 4-year-old daughter.
Once the change came, “he immediately made an impact on all the addicts in the Greater Providence area,” said Jerry Urso, who has traveled the conference circuit with Imonti. “He would go to detoxes and treatment centers and carry the message of hope to people in prison.”
“He was particularly proud that he was able to take the worst of the worst and change their lives forever. He would take homeless people into his [jewelry] business shop and help them get on their feet. There are so many people who are alive today because of him,” said Urso.
Garedo said Imonti became a familiar face in Rhode Island courtrooms, but this time giving judges advice about men and women in trouble with the law who had turned their lives around.
“James taught us to be fathers and husbands,” he said. “Getting people off drugs is the easy part, restoring them back into society is the hard part. Some of us have become basketball coaches, some have become other types of volunteers, we give back to society. One guy I know who James inspired has just become a radiologist.”
Known as “James I.” because people in 12-step programs don’t go by their full names, the Cranston resident chaired the state’s first major convention, in Warwick, for recovering addicts. He inspired convention groups, some as large as 10,000 people, around the country, said Urso, who spoke at Imonti’s memorial service Saturday at Holy Cross Church of God in Christ United, on Broad Street in Providence.
“I’ve been in Chicago and people would come to him and say, ‘You gave me such a hope, and I’ve been clean for two years,’ ” he recalled.
Garedo said he has traveled all over the United States and Canada. “No matter where I go, they ask if I know a guy named James I,” he said, explaining that recordings of Imonti’s talks have been repeatedly copied and passed around. “People tell me they heard him and he changed their lives forever.”
“He was the most passionate speaker I’ve ever heard,” said Urso. When he was before an audience, you could hear a pin drop “because you hung on every word. He’d take people on a roller-coaster ride that was his life. They would laugh with him, cry with him, and then he would wrap that all up in a bow and give people the gift of hope. And he did that for the last 19 years.”
Former Cranston man fatally shot in North Carolina
01:00 AM EST on Friday, February 1, 2008
By Timothy C. BarmannJournal Staff Writer
A former Cranston resident was shot and killed in a North Carolina grocery store parking lot on Monday, and the police arrested the man’s father-in-law for the crime.
James K. Imonti Jr., 59, was found face down, unconscious and unresponsive outside a Food Lion store in Carrboro, N.C., early Monday evening, according to the Carrboro police.
Imonti, a Carrboro resident, appeared to have been shot once in the upper back at close range, the police said. He was pronounced dead at the University of North Carolina Hospital. The police allege that Imonti’s father-in-law, Garland McRay King, 65, shot Imonti after the two argued in the parking lot near the Food Lion. The two had had a dispute for some time, the police said in a statement.
The police said King, a Chapel Hill resident, was found with a handgun at the scene and was arrested. King was charged with first-degree murder, according to a police report.
Jihan Ali, a graduate student at the University of North Carolina, walked out of the grocery store and saw a man yelling at a man lying on the ground, the Daily Tarheel reported. Ali said the assailant tugged at the victim’s pants, as if to drag him, partially pulling off the pants.
Jihan said another man told the assailant to move away from the victim, and the assailant went to a nearby car, a sedan parked in a handicapped space, and waited until the police arrived, according to the newspaper account.
Imonti, a Providence native and a former resident of Edgewood, moved to North Carolina in 2002, according to an obituary in The Providence Journal.
He worked as a jewelry distributor for his own company, Imonti Designs, the obituary said. He studied jewelry design at the Rhode Island School of Design and graduated in 1978 from the Jewelry Institute in Providence. He worked as a model maker for Trifari, Marvella, Monet, Swarovski and other jewelry manufacturers before starting his own business. He was an Air Force veteran of the Vietnam War and a member of Holy Cross Church of God in Christ United.
He is survived by his wife, Lovey King-Imonti, and five children. Emily L. Imonti, his daughter by a previous marriage, died in 1989 at age 4.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
although it would be another 20 years latter before I would see the exhibit. I looked with amazement as I turned each pay. The photography was like you were looking through the camera’s lens.
A social consciousness was the breeding ground within the pages of NatGeo. During Vietnam all the news was what was written in the papers or local TV. National Geographic showed the images of the people and the devastation to the country. It never took a written stance on the war just the pictures stood for them selves.
Conservation was at the forefront of their premise. I could never forget the wild life covered in oil after the Valdez oil spill. The pictures were able to capture the effects of pollution like I have never seen. The haunting cruelty as you could see just how damaging was its effects were.
The castles of Ireland, the Taj Mahl, Pyramids of South America, to the Coliseum of Rome the architecture contained in NatGeo showed the beauty in what man could achieve. The research and grants provide by National Geo has added to the conservation and preservation of the world around us. Thank you National Geographic for giving me my dreams.
Monday, January 21, 2008
Henry Loeb was sworn into office neither he or the rest of the world would come to understand the legacy that would follow. Loeb was from a wealthy Jewish family who would latter convert to the Episcopal Church. His conservatism and stubbornness would be part of 104 days that changed the world and silenced one of the most promising voices of humanity. On January 31st torrential rain had sent the sanitation workers of Memphis Tennessee. Home. The next day two workers were killed (Echol Cole and Robert Walker) causing a outcry of unsafe working conditions. Over the next 11 days the sanitation workers had in earnest tried to make simple demands of the City of Memphis that were never met. On February 12th 1,100 of the cities sanitation workers unable to resolve their grievances with the city walk off the job. Jerry Wurf President of AFSCME after many attempts to unionize the ministers and other civic leaders relented and the members of the sanitation workers were then organized and the local branch of AFSCME was formed.
Lawson would keep constant vigil and prayer over the phone with Martin Luther King who was kept in constant updates to the progress of the strike. Loeb would then declare martial law and bring in over 4000 national guard troops to Memphis. A movement of a black youth group called black power would walk the streets and further complicate the boiling pot that had now been steaming over the city. King perplexed about joining the movement at this point The workers had been caring signs that read I AM A MAN walked up and down in front of city hall.
On April 3rd Martin Luther King would visit Memphis and give his most haunting speech. The crowd was tired as they had battled yet another storm and the closing of his last speech would still the world in manor that had not been felt since the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. His last words from the pulpit “We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."“ These words would echo from every corner of the globe as a Nobel Prize winner who had galvanized the masses from Stockholm to Memphis walked off the alter and would never grace us with his eloquence again.
The very next day upon returning to Lorain Hotel Martin Luther King was shot a nation was in turmoil. In major cities across American the billowing smoke could be seen as cities burned in protest. Bobby Kennedy would alert the nation at a campaign stop in Indiana against the advice of the local police officials unable to provide protection addressed a weary nation. In Boston James Brown was set to perform a concert when Mayor Kevin White pleaded with him to cancel the concert. James brown refused and latter that night the Mayor would broadcast the event live on local television. As the concert began many had rushed the stage and the police were moving in to restore order when James brown addressed the crowd and persuaded the audience to return to its seats. Having been in Boston Children’s Hospital that day my father had out of fear spent the night. James Brown performed and Boston was one of the few cities did not succumb to rioting and order was restored. A teary eyed James Brown had with a heavy heart entertained the crowd.
President Lyndon Johnson had charged Undersecretary of Labor James Reynolds with negotiating a solution and ending the strike. On April 8th lead by a grieving Coretta Scott King would lead a march of 42,000 through Memephis in Honor of MLK. Reynolds would continue to meet with the Loeb and through much deliberation between the union, COME and the workers on April 16th the strike had finally ended.
The 1st 104 days of 1968 will be remember for the final chapter in the life of Martin Luther King. What was amazing was that he was a threat to the highest order in that any time he would appear his influence would follow. He no longer was a voice of only Civil rights he had become a citizen of the world. Had he lived what influence would he have had over strikes all over the United States? Unions saw the power in him. Presidents could not ignore him and his enemies would come to fear him as they could not contain the force of righteousness that trembled from his lips. No longer would they be able to do business as usual he exposed oppression and advocated for the rights of all men.
On April 3rd 1968 Martin Luther King sat in the Pantheon and was carried by the Gods to Mount Olympus and meet with Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, Euripides and Aristophanes assembled around and as they discussed the great and eternal issues of reality. He would visit Rome consult with the Emperors. He would open the doors of the church of Wittenberg He would guide the pen of Abraham Lincoln. He would whisper in the ears of Franklin Roosevelt that we have nothing to fear but fear itself. His spirit was felt in Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya: Accra, Ghana; New York City; Atlanta, Georgia; Jackson, Mississippi; and Memphis, Tennessee--the cry is always the same--"We want to be free." He would stand in front of Bull Conner and Henry Loeb no longer can you call your dogs mace my children. For his eyes have seen the glory.