A Day at the Opera

Until Saturday, I’d never been to an opera. It was something I always thought I should do eventually, but made no real effort to go. So when I learned that the Metropolitan Opera Summer Series was happening in Williambridge Oval Park as part of SummerStage, I knew I had to check it out. Plus, it was the first time that they’ve ever performed in this park, which is pretty cool.

We’ve all seen some kind of opera on tv at some point in our lives (I am specifically thinking of this episode of Hey Arnold) but let me tell you that seeing it in person is something totally different.

Performing a variety of songs from Verdi, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner (among others!)  Gabriella Reyes de Ramirez (soprano), Gerard Schneider (tenor), and Adrian Timpau (baritone)  did such an amazing job conveying the passion and conviction of each song that it didn’t matter that I didn’t actually understand what they were saying. It’s really moving and captivating, not to mention that their vocal abilities are insane.

While this was their only show in the Bronx, they have two more shows coming up in Jackie Robinson Park in Manhattan and Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens. I highly recommend checking it out if you can.

 

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The Spotlight: Melissa C. Potter

So excited to bring back The Spotlight and share this interview with Bronxite Melissa C. Potter, a social justice activist and the Head of Social Impact and Communications leading strategy and campaign management for Odyssey Impact/Transform Films. Keep reading for more!

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Which Bronx neighborhood are you from?

I call Riverdale my adopted home as I resided there for 12 years following my graduation from Northeastern University in Boston. I love the community feel of Riverdale as all that I needed was in walking distance but there were also wonderful opportunities to fellowship with neighbors at La Caja Crossfit, Tin Marin, or in Starbucks.

Where do you currently reside?

I’ve recently moved to the High Bridge section of The Bronx. I am getting to know my neighborhood but appreciate the close proximity to Manhattan for work, and restaurants such as Giovanni’s, Feeding Tree, and Crown Diner.

What are your favorite places in the Bronx?

I am a member of the Bronx Botanical Gardens and make it a point to visit during the annual Orchid and Train Shows. I also really love an evening walk at Van Cortlandt Park. A fun and surprising fact is that you can actually fish in the park. It provides an oasis just blocks away from bustling Broadway. I recommend that anyone visiting The Bronx stops by City Island for an amazing meal at Sammy’s! I am a huge fan of the fried seafood platter and totally indulge in the complimentary bread, cheese and pickled vegetable tray.

How did you get started in social justice advocacy?

I first began my career in the music industry working with some of today’s biggest hip hop artists. I realized that many of these acts felt passionately about issues of social justice and the communities in which they were born and raised. Often, it is difficult to know where to best channel your efforts as it relates to championing causes that are near and dear to the heart. This became my mission, to expose talent to opportunities to give back and to elevate causes that related to our communities such as criminal justice, racial justice and voting rights.

Why do you think film is such a powerful tool in promoting change and creating awareness?

At Odyssey Impact we use film to build a more just and compassionate society and make faith relevant by bringing it into the conversation on social issues. We take the emotions that our films generate and channel them into secular and faith collaborations that inspire changemakers to action – locally and nationally. We give a voice to individuals that often go unheard. We utilize storytelling to spark social change around complex issues. Our audiences gain awareness, have a change of attitude and are driven to action based on their viewing experience – thus going beyond the simple act of being entertained.

Do you have any advice for people who want to get involved in making changes in their communities?

Start small but think big. Work with Odyssey Impact to host a screening, partner with us to educate and take action by finding us on on Twitter @OdysseyImpactNY or by visiting our website.
Look within your day-to-day activities and find small spaces where you may make a difference. It could be utilizing your social media channels to fundraise or raise awareness around an issue, working with a group of friends to clean up a local park or becoming aware of your local lawmakers and starting a petition to take to their office about an issue that you hold dear.
Any upcoming projects you’re working on that we should look out for? 

We are excited for our upcoming impact campaign for an extraordinary film, “The Rape of Recy Taylor”.  Recy Taylor, a 24-year-old black mother and sharecropper, was gang raped by six young white men in 1944 Alabama. Common in Jim Crow South, few women spoke up in fear for their lives. Not Recy Taylor, who bravely identified her rapists. The NAACP sent its chief rape investigator Rosa Parks, who rallied support and triggered an unprecedented outcry for justice. You can check your local listings to catch The Rape of Recy Taylor airing on July 2nd on Starz.

Georgia O’Keeffe: Visions of Hawai’i Comes to NYBG

Renowned painter, Georgia O’Keeffe, famous for her intricate, close up paintings of flowers, went on a little known trip to Hawaii, creating a series of 20 painting based on her time there. Commissioned by what is now known as the Dole Pineapple Company, O’Keeffe was to paint pictures of pineapples for an ad campaign. Though skeptical at first, the artist became in awe of Hawai’i natural beauty. These paintings are now on display at the New York Botanical Garden, right here in Bronx. This marks the first time the paintings have been on display in New York since their debut in 1940.

Over in the Conservatory, visitors get a chance to experience a bit of what O’Keeffe did on her trip, taking in vibrant hibiscus flowers, birds of paradise, and fragrant frangipani among many others brought over for the exhibition.

In addition, contemporary Hawaiian-Chinese sculptor, Mark Chai, has a series of outdoor  sculptures inspired by the same plants O’Keeffe encountered on her trip, that are on display along Garden Way.

There’s also a new Poke Truck, which features four different types of poke. (I’m usually skeptical of food trends, but ever since trying poke for the first time last year, I’ve been hooked. So excited there’s a place to get it in the Bronx now, at the NYBG no less!) I tried to classic poke bowl which was a pretty good portion and the perfect lunch for a hot day!

If all of this isn’t enough, the New York Botanical Garden has partnered with Hyatt Resorts in Hawai’i and Hawaiian Airlines to offer a chance to win a trip for two to Hawai’i and experience its beauty in real life.

The exhibition opens this Saturday, May 19 and runs until October 28.

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Photo Courtesy of New York Botanical Garden

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Photo Courtesy of New York Botanical Garden

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Photo Courtesy of New York Botanical Garden

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Photo Courtesy of New York Botanical Garden

 

Sixth Annual Bronx Book Fair – May 5, 11 am-7 pm

Mark your calendars – the sixth annual Bronx Book Fair is this Saturday, May 5 from 11AM- 7PM. Keep reading for more info:

This year’s fair will be keynoted by Noelle Santos, founder of The Lit Bar, the only bookstore in the Bronx.

The Bronx Book Fair is the borough’s premiere literary event and features a variety of diverse literary voices. This year the fair will welcome special guests poets Willie Perdomo and Sokunthary Svay, children’s book author Tiffany Papageorge, Dawn Aldrich, MD, author Annette Libeskind Berkovits, romance novelists Rebecca Brooks and Eartha Hicks Watts, storyteller, Thelma Ruffin Thomas, poet Carmen D. Lucca, author and poet Edward Currelley, readings, workshops, and panels. There will be special programs for children and families. National Writers Union and Book vendors will also be available.

All Bronx Book Fair activities are free of charge and open to the public. The full fair schedule can be found at bronxbookfair.com.

“We are excited to once again bring the Bronx Book Fair to our literary community,” said Michael Alvarez, Associate Director for the Central Bronx Neighborhood Libraries at The New York Public Library. “And this year, having Noelle Santos keynote, highlights the importance of turning a passion for literature into entrepreneurial opportunities to serve your community. Noelle is the perfect speaker to inspire participants in this year’s fair.”

“This year Bronx Book Fair activities will not only address the cultural and educational interests of the Bronx, but health issues as well,”  said Lorraine Currelley, Bronx Book Fair Executive Director. “We have a panel of health professionals, who will address issues such as mental health, obesity, hypertension, diabetes and asthma. We must avail ourselves of all opportunities to share information that can potentially save lives. The Bronx Book Fair will continue to work to create and implement programming, to enhance the literary and artistic experiences for community residents, toprovide opportunities for the Bronx literary community of poets and writers and advocate for reading and literacy.”

The Bronx Book Fair is sponsored by the New York Public Library, the Bronx Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Citizens Committee of New York City, the Poets Network & Exchange, Inc., Lehman College, Bronx Community College, Literary Freedom Project and Malcolm Entertainment, and through public funds from the New York State Department of Cultural Affairs.

AUDITORIUM

11:15 – 11:25 AM
Welcome – Jean Harripersaud, Bronx Library Center & Lorraine Currelley,
Bronx Book Fair

11:25 – 12:10 PM
Bilingual Reading & Book Launch
of My Yellow Balloon by Tiffany Papageorge.

12:20 – 1:00 PM
How to Get  Your Work Published
Carolyn Butts, Editor/Publisher, African Voices Magazine, Steve Bloom, writer. and Jennifer Bakercreator/host of the Minorities in Publishing podcast, and contributing editor for Electric Literature. Moderator: Gary Johnston, Publisher, Blind Beggar Press and poet

1:10 – 1:50 PM
Our Health: A Community Forum
Medical professionals and writers discuss health and self-care issues in underserved communities of color, the causes and how can we save our lives?
Dawn Aldrich, MD (Authority on cancer, obesity, diabetes & sickle cell anemia) Radhiyah Ayobami, MFA writes and workshops with pregnant teens and
Lorraine Currelley, MS MHC, Executive Director, Mental Health & Healthy Aging.

2:00 – 2:30 PM
Keynote Speaker –  Noëlle Santos, owner The Lit Bar: the only bookstore (and wine bar) in her native Bronx, New York. Member of the American Booksellers Association Advisory Council.
Introduction: Lorraine Currelley, Executive Director Bronx Book Fair.

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2:40 – 3:10 PM
Librarian Panel – What to Read Next
Bronx Library Center Librarians: Elvira Ramos Paralles – Adult Librarian,
Elisa Garcia – Teen Librarian, Deborah Allman – Children’s Librarian
Moderator: Jean Harripersaud, Managing Librarian

3:20 PM
Featured Poet: Sokunthary Svay
author of Apsara in New York and the Cambodian American Literary Arts Association, Board President

3:45 – 4:25 PM
Silver: The Next Chapter-Sustaining a Career
Author/Poet/Multimedia Artist, Edward D. Currelley, Poet Carmen D. Lucca
and Thelma R. Thomas, Storyteller and Artistic Director Pearls of Wisdom Storytellers. Moderator: Poet Americo Casiano

4:35 – 5:15 PM
Women in Leadership: Arts, Activism & Social Responsibility
This panel will discuss stereotypical narratives of women in leadership & our responsibility as women to redefine and create empowering new paradigms.
Yolanda Rodriguez, Co-founder and Executive Director, BxArts Factory; Dairanys Grullon-Virgil, Co-founder, Mi Gente Latinx and Sister Circle Collective; and Poet
and Author Mercy Tullis-Bukhari. Moderator: Lorraine Currelley, Executive Director Poets Network & Exchange and Bronx Book Fair

5:15 – 5:45 PM
Protecting Your Literary Work
National Writers’ Union members Zigi Lowenberg, Stephanie Rogers, and Raymond Nat Turner.

5:45 PM
Featured Poet Willie Perdomo,
author of The Essential History of Shorty Bon BonSmoking Lovely, and Where
a Nickel Costs a Dime.

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6:15 – 6:45 PM
Project X Performers (Youth Slam Poets)
Noel Quinones, Rebecca Rivera, Danyeli Rodriguez Del Orbe, and Gabriele Guajardo (Gigi Bella) & Alejandro Heredia. Facilitator: Peggy Robles-Alvarado

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CONFERENCE ROOM

1:10 – 1:50 PM
From Start to Finish: Picking and Finishing the Writing Project You Want to Submit this Year
An interactive writing workshop meant to help writers decide how to narrow down their choices so they can finish and submit something in 2018! Will include in class writing prompts, planning guides, samples of projects and their path to publication, and handouts on viable new markets for starting writers.
Facilitator: Melissa Coss Aquino

2:30 – 3:10 PM
The Use of Photography in Writing
Facilitator:  John Maney

3:15 – 3:45 PM
Talking Romance: A Conversation with Rebecca Brooks and Eartha Watts Hicks
Romance writers Rebecca Brooks and Eartha Watts Hicks explore and discuss the multi-layered genre of romance writing.

4:00 – 4:40 PM
Thousand Worlds: Multidisciplinary Approach to Creative Writing
It’s been said that a picture is worth a thousand words but when you want to effectively create a multidimensional world with words in print, you need to develop a multidisciplinary skill set to challenge the notion of literature as a two-dimensional medium because art should always aspire to be larger than life. Facilitator: Orlando Ferrand

4:50 -5:30 PM
Fiction Presentation
Alcy Leya, author of “And Then There Were Crows” (published by Black Spot books) will be released on July 3rd and is the first in the Shades of Hell series.

Children’s Story Hour Room
Children’s Storytelling/Craft
Led by Bronx Library Center librarians


MAIN FLOOR CONFERENCE ROOM

12:40 – 2:00 PM
Literary Speed Coaching
Poets and writers: need assistance with writing or performance? Perhaps you have some ideas you need assistance with? Consult with one of our literary speed coaches: Radhiyah Ayobami, Mercy Tullis-Bukhari, Edward Currelley, and Aisha Sidibe.  Time Manager: Oscar Sanders

REGISTRATION OPEN NOW & ENDS MAY 4th, 2018!Click on link for details.
https://bronxbookfair.com/speed-coaching-sessions/

 

Photos courtesy of the Bronx Book Fair 🙂

Perfect Spring Saturday

This past Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend the Daffodil Celebration and Wine Weekend at my backyard the New York Botanical Garden. After a long week of back to back rain, I was glad that it was not only sunny, but hot enough to break out my new maxi skirt. Win-win.

Last time I attended the Wine Weekend, I sampled so many delicious wines and even took one home with me! My favorites Brotherhood Winery and Winemakers New York,  were there among so many others. I got to sample a rose honey wine from Mysto Mead and a sweet blush wine from Hudson-Chatham Winery. I wanted to buy some pear cider from Brotherhood, but I waited until the end and they were sold out of everything!

It was also great to see the new CHIHULY exhibit. Dale Chihuly’s colorful and intricate glass sculptures enhance the beauty of the garden and are simply beautiful. To think of how much effort went into these sculptures is really breathtaking. See for yourself below and be sure to visit the New York Botanical Garden to check out the daffodils!

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Daffodil Celebration and Wine Weekend 4/29 & 4/30

This weekend the New York Botanical Garden will be celebrating the bloom of 300,000 newly planted daffodil bulbs along with a wine tasting from local vinters and live music. As if that weren’t enough, visitors will get a chance to check out the new CHIHULY exhibit. Check out the schedule and ticket information below:

  • Wine Tasting & Refreshments: Enjoy a flight of local wines from New York and New Jersey from 12–5 p.m.

    Participating wineries include: Baldwin Vineyards, Pine Bush, NY; Brimstone Hill Vineyard & Winery, Pine Bush, NY; Brotherhood Winery, Washingtonville, NY; City Winery, New York, NY; Hudson-Chatham Winery, Ghent, NY; Millbrook Vineyards & Winery, Millbrook, NY; Mysto Mead, Carmel, NY; Palaia Vineyards, Highland Mills, NY; Tousey Winery, Germantown, NY; Villari Vineyards, Sewell, NJ; Warwick Valley Winery, Warwick, NY; Whitecliff Vineyard, Gardiner, NY; and Winemakers New York, Massapequa, NY.

  • Live Music by Milton: Milton will perform acoustic bluegrass and folk tunes at 12, 1, 2, 3, & 4 p.m. each day.
  • Botany of Wine: Beyond the Grape: NYBG botanists talk about the botanicals that go into making wine and how the nuances of flavor come about at 1 & 3 p.m. in the Perennial Garden.
  • Daffodil Hill Tours: Meet at the Native Plant Garden entrance to take a walk with an NYBG guide and learn more about NYBG’s plans to dramatically expand its historic Narcissus collection.
    Tours at 1:30, 2:30, & 3:30 each day.

    Non-Members: Adult (21+): $38, includes souvenir wine glass ($10) and All-Garden Pass ($28) Members: $10 souvenir wine glass

    Click here for more information and to purchase tickets.

Date Night: Bar Car Night at the New York Botanical Garden

Having been married now for all of two months and change, I’ve found that I’d much rather sit inside and binge watch a show on Netflix than make a bunch of plans with my husband where we end up spending money and trying to figure out how we’re going to get home at the end of the night. However, as noted in wedding websites and blogs across the inter web, it’s important to actually go out and do something you’ll both enjoy.

We’ve spent the past few weeks embroiled in a web of property buying responsibilities, and it ended up not working out, so we’ve been drained. So, when I saw a Groupon for NYBG’s Bar Car Nights at the Holiday Train Show, I knew we had to go.

Aside from being ridiculously close to our place, the Husband used to collect trains when he was a kid and I’m pretty certain they’re still at his parents’ house. One of the highlights for me was that it would be adults only and I didn’t have to worry about tripping over someone’s kid and obviously the bar. 🙂

Confession: This was my first time ever going to the Holiday Train Show.

I know, it’s an institution, but somehow I was always busy with holiday preparations and parties and by the time I knew it, it was over. Now I can say I’ve been and it was absolutely amazing. The snow definitely added a romantic setting while we waited our turn to enter the conservatory.

It’s amazing how intricate all of the models are and how the designers use plants in so many innovative ways. One of the coolest features for me was seeing how transformed the conservatory was  – trains whizzed around large leaves and hovered right above small ponds, it was beautiful.

Move quickly though, the Holiday Train Show runs until January 16 and the last Bar Car Night is January 14.

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