Bootsy Collins takes stage at Children’s Museum of Manhattan

bootsy collins at childrens museum in nyc

Parliament Funkadelic legend Bootsy Collins attends and performs at UMIGO event at Children’s Museum where he’s pictured with Andy Ackerman, executive director, Children’s Museum of Manhattan, YoU Make It Go (UMIGO) creator Michael Polis, executive producer of Yo Gabba Gabba!, and UMIGO characters. (Photo Credit: Ronnie Wright)

*Parliament Funkadelic legend Bootsy Collins thrilled attendees at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan (CMOM), 212 West 83rd Street, New York City, when he made an appearance there on Thursday, October 4, 2012 at 9:30 a.m.  Collins was on hand for the launch of YoU Make It GO (UMIGO), the first of its kind transmedia math property created by Michael Polis, executive producer of Yo Gabba Gabba!  Andy Ackerman, executive director, Children’s Museum of Manhattan, Parke Richeson, executive in charge of National Programming, WTTW, David McLees, UMIGO music supervisor, and Collins’ manager Ron Brumby were also in attendance.

Working in cooperation with UMIGO outreach partners CMOM and WTTW, and W!LDBRAIN Entertainment, the event featured original UMIGO music performed by Collins and his funky band and UMIGO workshops with elementary school-age children, their educators and their caregivers, followed by the first-ever UMIGO meet & greet with UMIGO characters Bit, Dizzy and Bean..

UMIGO is the first-of-its-kind transmedia math property that is designed to engage today’s generation of children ages 6-8 in the exploration of science, technology and mathematical ideas.  UMIGO inspires kids to invent, build and create through collaborative, interactive play.

UMIGO features animated music videos containing original songs from popular artists such as Bootsy Collins and Biz Markie, an online, interactive environment, mobile apps, books, board games and more.  The world of UMIGO is populated by geometric building blocks known as UMIs.  The cast of characters include Bit, the magic box, who gives learners the tools they need to navigate the world; Dizzy, the big, blue bundle of energy, who provides inspiration; and Bean, who will help learners execute tasks through her incredible know how.

UMIGO was created by Polis and developed by W!LDBRAIN Entertainment, in partnership with WTTW Chicago and the Michael Cohen Group, LLC.  UMIGO is funded in part by a Ready to Learn Award from the U.S. Department of Education.  Visit: www.UMIGO.com.  Follow: Facebook: facebook.com/umigo;Twitter: @umigo; YouTube: youtube.com/umigo.

UMIGO outreach programs seek to foster greater student academic achievement for elementary school-aged children by working with organizations that target low-income children to promote school readiness. By offering learning tools that use interactive digital platforms as well as multiple innovative technologies, UMIGO and its outreach partners will engage children in fun new ways to learn math skills.

The UMIGO outreach program that are free of charge will begin this Fall in 10 markets across the U.S., including New York City (Children’s Museum of Manhattan); Bangor, ME (Maine Discovery Museum); Bozeman, MT (Bozeman Children’s Museum); Oak Ridge, TN (Children’s Museum of Oak Ridge); New Orleans, LA (Louisiana Children’s Museum); San Jose, CA (Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose); Chicago, Illinois (WTTW); Tacoma, WA (KBTC Public Television); Johnston, IA (Iowa Public Television); Carbondale, IL (WSIU).

The “world’s kitchen” Sylvia’s celebrates golden jubilee
*Rejoice Harlem, rejoice!  Those were the jubilant feelings of over 500 invite-only revelers who attended the 50th golden jubilee gala celebrating the life and legacy of their beloved Sylvia Woods, founder of “the world’s kitchen,” Sylvia’s, at a tented fundraising event held at the famous eatery at 328 Lenox Avenue, Harlem, NYC on Tuesday, September 18, 2012.

The star-studded golden jubilee gala celebration was also attended by the family of the late “Queen of Soul Food” who welcomed local luminaries, politicians, community activists and scholarship recipients who communally acknowledged the world renowned culinary icon and the restaurant’s contributions to the American culinary world.

Rev. Al Sharpton who delivered special tribute remarks served as honorary chair along with Chris Rock and Roberta Flack.  During a commemorative tribute showcase, guests were treated to touching performances by Flack along with Freddie Jackson, Doug E. Fresh, Ron Grant & Friends, and two of Sylvia’s grandchildren, Marcus Woods and Michaella Phillips.

The special evening was sponsored by Target and in addition to proclamation, salutes and entertainment, attendees were treated to a scrumptious cocktail hour with soul-nouveau passed hors d’oeuvres, a dinner buffet of Sylvia’s savory soul-food classics and decadent desserts by celebrated baker, Cake-Man Raven.  For more information please visit: www.sylviasrestaurant.com(Photos by Ronnie Wright)

Women’s Association of NJPAC presents A Night in Motown

motown in new jersey

American Idol Music Director Ray Chew conducts his all-star band at A Night in Motown concert at NJPAC featuring The Four Tops, Valerie Simpson, Darlene Love, EnVogue and MJ Rodriguez (Photo Credit: Ronnie Wright)

*One of music’s most successful girl groups, two bona fide Motown legends, and a celebrated Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame Inductee – under the direction of American Idol Music Director Ray Chew – soulfully connected together for an exclusive, red-hot “A Night in Motown” in New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Prudential Hall on Saturday, October 6, 2012 at 7 pm.

That’s when En Vogue, The Four Tops, Valerie Simpson and Darlene Love came together under the tutelage of Chew to bring Motown to New Jersey for a wonderful cause – the Women’s Association of New Jersey Performing Arts Center.  “We’ll be bringing the music of Motown to one of the best-sounding halls in America,” said Chew.  “More importantly, we’ll be supporting programs for young people who deserve the arts in their lives.”

Proceeds from the event support the New Jersey Performing Arts Center and its arts education programs.  Since its inception in 1994, the Women’s Association of New Jersey Performing Arts Center has raised over $36.6 million in support of general operations and Arts Education programs at NJPAC and serves as the arts center’s largest annual funding source.

Chew has helmed award-winning musical events, both live and televised, with artists spanning every genre, from Aretha Franklin to Justin Bieber, James Taylor Pastor, Shirley Caesar, Ne-Yo and T.I.  Currently the musical director of American Idol, he has also served as musical director on network television series including It’s Showtime at the Apollo, The Singing Bee and BET’s Sunday Best.  Chew curates landmark events at Carnegie Hall, from “A Night of Inspiration” – featuring artists from the gospel and secular communities with a 53-piece orchestra and a 125-voice mass choir – to the wildly successful “Tribute to the Music of Motown,” featuring legendary Motown artists and some of today’s biggest stars.

The evening of Motown at NJPAC was a never-before-seen event that paid tribute not only to the Motown label, but also to the importance of arts education.  The evening’s all-star lineup will be rounded out by MJ Rodriguez, a Newark native and NJPAC Arts Education alumni who will join the evening’s performers.  Rodriguez is a rising star of television and theater having recently finished a starring turn as Angel in the New World Stages revival of Rent and appeared on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie.  He gave the audience a firsthand look at the caliber of NJPAC’s Arts Education program.

En Vogue – appearing at NJPAC with original members Terry Ellis and Cindy Herron-Braggs, and Rhona Bennett, who has been appearing with the group since 2003 – shot to stardom in the 1990s with R&B and pop hits including “Hold On,” “My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It),” “Giving Him Something He can Feel,” and “Free Your Mind.”  The trio continues to fuse the style, sophistication, sass and sex appeal that have sold over eight million albums.  Since the beginning, their success has drawn comparisons to the glory days of Motown girl groups.  The trio will be performing the music of Motown as well as a selection of their own unforgettable hits.

One of America’s most popular and enduring quartets, The Four Tops helped shape and define the legendary “Motown Sound.”  They released hit after hit with Motown, from “Baby I Need Your Loving” to “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch) to “It’s the Same Old Song,” and “Standing in the Shadows of Love.”  Their success followed them in later decades as they moved on to other record labels, and by 1990, they had 24 Top 40 hits to their credit.  They continued to be hits in concert, touring constantly.

After original member Lawrence Payton died in 1997, the group briefly worked as a trio until former Temptation Theo Peoples joined them in 1998.  Today, The Four Tops are recent addition Harold Bonhart, former Motown artist-producer Ronnie McNeir, original member Lawrence Payton’s son Lawrence Payton Jr., and original member Abdul “Duke” Fakir.

Singer, actress and all-round beloved Rock n Roll Hall of Fame inductee Darlene Love was only a high school sophomore when she was asked to join girl group The Blossoms and work with legendary producer Phil Spector.  Her powerful voice attracted the interest of countless stars who sought her out to sing backup on their tracks, from Same Cooke, Elvis Presley, Dionne Warwick, Cher, Luther Vandross and Aretha Franklin.  Her solo career garnered equal success, and she enjoyed appearances on several national television programs, including the Today Show and Oprah.  Her yearly stint on the David Letterman show has been going for 20 years strong.

She has also proven herself a talented actress on stage and screen, starring as Danny Glover’s wife in all of the Lethal Weapon films and lighting-up Broadway in musicals like Grease and the Tony-award nominated Leader of the Pack.  Love also starred for three years on Broadway as ‘Motormouth Maybelle’ in the Tony Award winning musical Hairspray.

Valerie Simpson, half of the legendary songwriting, producing and performing duo Ashford & Simpson, met her future husband and collaborator Nicholas Ashford while playing piano and singing in the legendary choir of Harlem’s White Rock in 1963.

In their years with Motown Records, they penned numerous hits, including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Your Precious Love,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” “You’re All I Need to Get By” and “Good Lovin’ Ain’t Easy to Come By.”  They also had a lengthy career releasing their own records, including their biggest hit “Solid,” which topped the R&B chart in 1984 and crossed over to No. 12 on the pop singles chart.

One of the most celebrated songwriting teams of all time, they have remained a constant on the charts as new and emerging artists have recorded covers and sampled their classic songs.  This year, Simpson returned to the music scene with Dinosaurs are Coming Back Again, her first solo album in several decades following Ashford’s death last year.

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.

audrey bernard

Audrey J. Bernard