All posts by LaRita Shelby

LaRita "Jazzy Rita" Shelby is a broadcast media & marketing professional. She serves as V.P. of Marketing and Special Programming at Additionally she is an actress, singer/songwriter who has appeared on TV and in film.
kecia Lewis

Tony Award Winning ‘Cinderella’ Opens at the Ahmanson in LA

Fran Drescher

Fran Drescher joins Los Angeles run of Cinderella at The Ahmanson through April 26th 2015

*Paige Faure, Fran Drescher, Andy Huntington Jones and Kecia Lewis  are among the spirited, multi-talented and multi-cultural cast of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella now playing at the Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles through April 26.

From the creators of “South Pacific” and “The Sound of Music,” this Tony Award Winning musical and romantic classic has been revived by Douglass Carter Beane’s new book.  The slight adjustments in the characters add a whimsical and socially conscious spin on the love story between the forlorn Cinderella and her handsome (yet insecure) prince. Of course it’s a familiar happily ever after ending, but director Mark Brokaw and choreographer Josh Rhodes have outdone themselves as the actors sing, dance, leap and lunge their way through one magical moment after another.  As if the Rogers and Hammerstein fairy tale were not dazzling enough, it is made even more enchanting by every stitch and seam of William Ivey Long’s costumes and Anna Louizos’ fanciful scene designs that transform before your very eyes!

This musical wonder stars Paige Faure as the darling Ella, who desires to be the object of Prince Topher’s (Andy Huntington Jones) attention. Two time Tony Award winner and Golden Globe nominee Fran Drescher (of CBS’ The Nanny) brings on the salt, the style and the sass of the evil step-mother, and Kecia Lewis stuns the crowd as Marie, who morphs into the godmother that inspires Cinderella to take a leap of faith and realize everything that she has ever dared to dream.

Kecia Lewis and Paige Faure in Cinderella

Kecia Lewis (Marie) plays fairy godmother of Paige Faure (Ella) in Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella now at The Ahmanson Theatre (in Los Angeles) thru April 26

EURweb spoke with Miss Lewis about her role in Cinderella and Douglass Carter Beane’s contemporary spin.

Kecia Lewis: “It’s a beautiful classic fairy tale, but this version has a bit of an updated story line where Cinderella is more socially conscious  about what is going on in the world around her.  The prince falls for her, not just because she got a makeover from the fairy godmother, but he falls for her because she exhibits three special qualities; charity, generosity & kindness, and those are the themes of the show.”

Kecia Lewis also told EURweb more about her vital role: “When I got the role, I knew that I had to do it.  I knew that it was extremely important for our nation that audiences across America are able to see a woman of color portraying this role and it has been unbelievably fulfilling.”

Kecia Lewis has also appeared on Broadway in Leap of Faith, Chicago, Shrek, The Drowsy Chaperone, Dreamgirls, The Gospel at Colonus, Ain’t Misbehavin’ and more.  As for the current version of  Cinderella, Jay Alger, David Chase and Danny Troob are also to be commended on the music that scores this spectacular stage presentation from the overture to the curtain call.  And of course The Center Theatre Group is always certain to host a five star event.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” plays now through  April 26, 2015, at the Center Theatre Group/Ahmanson Theatre. For an exclusive family four pack use code: Midnight at Ahmanson (Offer ends March 27th 2015).  For general tickets and other info go to:

This tour is produced by Robyn Goodman, Jill Furman, Stephen Kocis, Edward Walson, Venetian Glass Productions, The Araca Group, Caiola Productions, Roy Furman, Peter May, Sanford Robertson, Eric Schmidt, James Spry and Blanket Fort Productions, as well as generous support from Olivia and Anthony Neece. The Ahmanson Theatre is located at 135 N. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

antonio fargas

Antonio Fargas Turns it Up with The New Jump Blues Band (Watch)

Antonio Fargas with New Jump Blues Band

Antonio Fargas is the new singing, swinging front man with the New Jump Blues Band on Ahi-Nama Records.

*Antonio Fargas is known around the world for his role as Huggy Bear in the 1970’s television series “Starsky and Hutch.”

Other credits include his iconic portrayals in cinema classics such as “Foxy Brown,” “Across 110th Street,” “Starsky and Hutch,” “I’m Gonna Get You Sucka” and many more.

Lately Antonio has emerged as the charismatic front man for The New Jump Blues Band, featuring Adrian Battle and Bay area, singer/songwriter, dancer and choreographer Airreal Watkins.

The exciting performance troupe blends the ultimate throw back experience that is sassy like the 70’s, nostalgic like the 40’s, classic like the 60’s, energetic like the 50’s and steeped in the timeless wonder of swinging dance songs and clever love songs, backed by a live musicians worthy of the days of Count Basie, Louie Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey and more.  Best of all, The New Jump Blues Band belongs to the here and now, reviving the hope that real music is here to stay!

The New Jump Blues Band is celebrating their debut album on the Ahi-Nama label.  The LA based band is starting to tour the country spreading a jumping, jiving and toe tapping good time everywhere they go.  Get their new album or find out more at

roma benjamin

Dr. Roma Benjamin, On A Mission To Teach Our Kids

Dr. Roma Benjamin

Dr. Roma Benjamin Founder of New Sound Literacy and Technology Center, powered by

*Dr. Roma Benjamin says enough is enough! Benjamin is a former principal of Rowland School in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and she is a youth literacy advocate who was compelled to quit her job to start fresh and teach children the basic skills that they were lacking from the public school system. The New Sound  Literacy and Technology Center is designed to better educate Black children for the future by first teaching them how to read. Her experience as both an educator and community leader has opened her eyes to what is considered an injustice happening in America today. She is speaking across the country with other community leaders empowering them to open their own reading centers to help children lead a better life, one that does not end prematurely due to imprisonment or death.

Dr. Benjamin’s reading center is powered by When asked about the cycle that produced these massive cases of illiteracy, Dr. Benjamin stated that children are continually being passed through the school system but still they cannot read. Lacking such skills would make it impossible for them to navigate through today’s world, or through the business world.

She told that the greatest impact of illiteracy is in urban schools among our Blacks and Latinos, especially our males.

Dr. Roma Benjamin: “Everybody is responsible for this- parents, teachers, pastors and communities. We’re all responsible for this. We have to look at the fact that it has happened.  It has taken place. Now what can we do to stop it from spreading and destroying our children? Sitting in the system watching this on a regular basis and watching this, I was fighting to keep children in school and to get them what they needed, but at the same time the system was fighting against me.”

Instead of merely focusing on who is to blame, ultimately Dr. Benjamin’s methods are based in anecdotes that will inform and empower the community as well as parents who are also affected by these educational challenges.

Dr. Benjamin outlines one of the very first steps that a parent can take: “If you don’t know what level your child reads on, if you don’t understand the assessments that they are being given on a daily basis and you just receive a report card that gives a grade, then you are losing the battle right there. You have to know more of what is going on.”

Another key strategy that Dr. Benjamin offers parents in her purview, is that she walks them through the language of the report and tells them the things to say to help them get their kids what they need to succeed.

Dr. Benjamin clearly states her belief: “Most of the time parents don’t know. It’s not that they don’t care.”

It is the hope that more churches will come on board and start more reading centers across the country to get our children back and usher them into proficiency in reading and technology.

Dr. Benjamin tells’s LaRita Shelby what can be done with the children who are in our immediate proximity.

Roma Benjamin is a native of New York with a Master of Arts in Public School Administration from Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Currently Ms. Benjamin is matriculating through her Doctorate degree in Education Leadership at Nova University. She is also the senior pastor of Greater Faith Ministries in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. For more information go to or call (717)545-4594. Special thanks to Dr. Steve Perry, Founder and Principal of Capital Preparatory Magnet in Hartford, Connecticut and Yusuf Salaam, Education Advocate, Publicist and Manager at Bright Minds Speakers.

book of negroes - aunjanue ellis1

BET Premieres Book of Negroes

Aunjanue Ellis stars as Aminata Diallo in the BET mini-series The Book of Negroes. (Photo: Joe Alblas, Conquering Lion Pictures, Out of Africa Pictures)

*BET kicked off the mini-series “The Book of Negroes Monday night with a stunning debut by Shailyn Pierre-Dixon as the young Aminata, whose riveting performance set the tone for the gracious and fiercely potent Aunjanue Ellis as the adult Aminata Diallo.

Ms. Ellis added beauty, fluidity and seething bravery to every realistic and detailed account of the woman’s life that began as a girl in the village of Bayo (in Segou, Mali) and who suffered the turmoils of the middle passages, onto the slave trading block, then to the plantation and subsequently navigated every gritty and disgusting episode of her existence in the post Atlantic slave trade in America.

Shailyn Pierre-Dixon

In the midst of it all Diallo maintains her faith, fights for love, clinches her dignity and intertwines with fellow servants, slaves, masters and cohorts.  This is the story according to actual historical documents about former slaves in British America who were granted their freedom by the British as a reward for their loyalty. Those former slaves reportedly migrated to Nova Scotia, Canada. The BET mini-series brilliantly directed by Clement Virgo blends facts as well as fiction and is based on the book by Lawrence Hill.

After much critical acclaim as a novel and as a cinematic production, “The Book of Negros” has trekked around the globe to Washington, D.C., to Cannes, France and to other forums and screenings inspiring and educating audiences about these unsung heroines and heroes who hail from the pages of history.   Actor Lyriq Bent takes on a whole new understanding of black love now that he has played the role of Chekura Tiano.

Actress Aunjanue Ellis demystifies the quintessence of the strong black woman in her portrayal of Aminata Diallo.

For a full cast list and to view “The Book of Negroes” timeline and production profile click here.  “The Book of Negroes” continues on BET tonight, Tuesday, February 17 and concludes tomorrow, Wednesday, February 18 at 8:00 PM/7:00 PM Central.  “The Book of Negroes” is Executive Produced by Damon D’Oliveira.

scott goldman & danny sears (grammy foundation)

GRAMMY Foundation Execs Chime in on Music and Education (Listen)

Scott Goldman and David Sears Grammy Foundation 2015

Scott Goldman, Vice President of The GRAMMY Foundation & MusiCares and David Sears, Executive Education Director of The GRAMMY Foundation at Club Nokia Grammy Week in L.A. 2015 Photo credit: EURweb

*Scott Goldman, Vice President of The GRAMMY Foundation & MusiCares and David Sears, Executive Education Director of The GRAMMY Foundation shared a brief chat with EURweb’s Jazzy Rita at Club Nokia on the occasion of the GRAMMY Foundation’s second annual Music Educator Award™.

On February 4, 2015 more than 400 students from the greater Los Angeles area joined the celebration.  Selected youth also participated in the GRAMMY Foundation’s GRAMMY Camp® Basic Training program at their school with the support of Los Angeles Unified School District’s Beyond The Bell Branch.  Mr. Goldman and Mr. Sears chimed in on the values of acquiring a well rounded experience that will help young artists to cultivate their passion as well as sustain long term careers in music and the performing arts.

Jazzy Rita also solicited shout outs to local Los Angeles music educators Mr. Robin Sharp of North Hollywood High School and Mr. Tony White, acclaimed director of the LAUSD’s Beyond The Bell music program.  The GRAMMY Foundation echoed excitement and respect for all musicians, however they did not waiver from their message of music and education.

Jared Cassedy is the recipient of the 2015 Music Educator Award™ presented by The Recording Academy® and the GRAMMY Foundation®.   He also receives a new Ford car or truck as part of his prize.  The  Ford Motor Company expands commitment to GRAMMY Foundation’s music education outreach by hosting signature Drive 4 UR School events at finalists’ schools.  Ford Motor Company Fund continues GRAMMY Foundation support with honorariums and school grants.

For more information about the Music Educator Award, please visit For more information about the Foundation, please visit For breaking news and exclusive content, please like “GRAMMY in the Schools®” on Facebook, follow the GRAMMY Foundation on Twitter (@GRAMMYFdn) and join us on Instagram (@GRAMMYFdn).white water teaser

grammy foundation & ford

FORD Hands the Car Keys Over to GRAMMY Music Educator of the Year Recipient Jared Cassedy!

grammy foundation & ford

FORD Hands the Car Keys Over to GRAMMY Music Educator of the Year Recipient Jared Cassedy! (l-r) Kristen Madsen; Sr. VP, GRAMMY Foundation, Pamela Alexander; Director of Community Development, Ford Motor Company Fund, GRAMMY Music Educator Awardee Jared Cassedy of Windham High School in New Hampshire, Neil Portnow, President/CEO; GRAMMY Foundation and David Sears, Executive Education Director; GRAMMY Foundation.(Photographer: Valerie Goodloe)

*Los Angeles – Ford Motor Company is expanding its long-time support of the GRAMMY Foundation®’s GRAMMY in the Schools®initiative by donating additional money through Ford’s innovative Drive 4 UR School program – as well as a new 2015 Ford vehicle to the 2015 Music Educator of the Year.

The Music Educator Award™ was established by the GRAMMY Foundation and The Recording Academy® to recognize current educators (K through college, public and private schools) who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education, and who demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in their schools. The Music Educator Award and honorariums are supported by a grant from Ford Motor Company Fund. In 2015, Ford Motor Company will also award a new 2015 car or truck to the Music Educator Awardee Jared Cassedy.

In addition, 25 semifinalists for the GRAMMY Foundation’s Music Educator Award had the chance to earn up to $6,000 for their school’s music program through Drive 4 UR School, a unique Ford vehicle test drive program at local dealerships. In November, Diamond Bar High School high school got a surprise visit from Ryan Seacrest, the radio and television host who is the GRAMMY Foundation’s Honorary Board Chair. Seacrest participated in the program with local students. The Drive 4 UR School program helps schools all over the country go further by raising money to support extracurricular activities, including music. Since it was launched in 2007, the program has raised nearly $25 million for schools throughout the U.S.

“Education is the cornerstone of a brighter future, and we are proud to work with the GRAMMY Foundation because of our shared commitment to providing educational opportunities for all,” said Pamela Alexander, director of community development, Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services. “Expanding our association to include another innovative Ford community program and a brand new Ford vehicle for the Music Educator of the Year is a great way to award the hard work of teachers and schools throughout our country.”

“Words cannot describe how thrilled I am to receive this honor. I want to thank Ford not just for awarding me an awesome car but also for their support of the GRAMMY Foundation and music programs in schools.” Said Jared Cassedy. “Their investment in teachers and students throughout the nation is to be commended.”

Ford Motor Company also is presenting sponsor of the Sixth annual GRAMMY In The Schools Live! — A Celebration of Music & Education, presented by Ford Motor Company. The event took  place Wednesday, February 4th at Club Nokia and featured performances from GRAMMY® nominee Hunter Hayes and high school singers and instrumentalists from around the U.S. who participated in the GRAMMY Week GRAMMY Camp — Jazz Session.

Since 2009, Ford has worked with the GRAMMY Foundation to provide GRAMMY Signature Schools grants and GRAMMY Camp® – Basic Training sessions in almost 20 cities around the U.S. The grants provide funding for music programs in schools with financial need. The Basic Training sessions allow students to learn about career opportunities in the music industry.

Ford Motor Company Fund has a long history of innovative educational programs and partnerships and invests more than $8 million a year, about one-third of its annual financial support, in scholarships and other education initiatives.

For more information on the Ford Motor Company Fund and the GRAMMY Foundation visit and

About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 189,000 employees and 65 plants worldwide, the company’s automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit


About Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services

Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services works with community partners to advance driving safety, education and community life. The Ford Motor Company Fund has operated for more than 60 years with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Company. Ford Driving Skills for Life teaches new drivers through a variety of hands-on and interactive methods. Innovation in education is encouraged through programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants. Through the Ford Volunteer Corps, more than 25,000 Ford employees and retirees each year work on projects that better their communities in 30 countries. For more information, visit

About the GRAMMY Foundation

The GRAMMY Foundation was established in 1988 to cultivate the understanding, appreciation and advancement of the contribution of recorded music to American culture. The Foundation accomplishes this mission through programs and activities that engage the music industry and cultural community as well as the general public. The Foundation works in partnership year-round with its founder, The Recording Academy, to bring national attention to important issues such as the value and impact of music and arts education and the urgency of preserving our rich cultural heritage. In recognition of the significant role of teachers in shaping their students’ musical experiences, The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation partnered to present their first Music Educator Award. Open to current U.S. music teachers in kindergarten through college, the Music Educator Award will be presented at the Special Merit Awards ceremony during GRAMMY Week 2015. For more information about the Music Educator Award, please visit For more information about the Foundation, please visit For breaking news and exclusive content, please like “GRAMMY in the Schools®” on Facebook, follow the GRAMMY Foundation on Twitter (@GRAMMYFdn) and join us on Instagram (@GRAMMYFdn). 




Edna Sims
ESP Public Relations
[email protected]