05-24-2018  4:02 pm      •     
The Skanner Report
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NEWS BRIEFS

Attorney General Forms Hate Crime Task Force

The task force will study hate-motivated crimes and review existing legal protections for victims ...

Portland Art Museum Celebrates Art Museum Day with Free Admission on May 25

Portland Art Museum joins art museums across North America, with great works of art and public programs ...

June Key Delta Community Center Hosts May Week ’18 Health Fair May 26

Event includes vision, glucose screenings, medication disposal and car seat installation ...

Mississippi Avenue Giving Tuesday

On Tuesday, May 22, 10 percent of proceeds from participating Mississippi Ave. businesses will go to SEI ...

Amazon: Echo device sent conversation to family's contact

SEATTLE (AP) — An "unlikely" string of events prompted Amazon's Echo personal assistant device to record a Portland, Oregon, family's private conversation and then send the recording to an acquaintance in Seattle, the company said Thursday.The woman told KIRO-TV that two weeks ago an...

Portland streetcar derails in crash; 1 injury

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Portland streetcar derailed during an accident involving several vehicles.No major injuries have been reported, but police say one person was taken to a hospital.The crash happened early Thursday afternoon in the Central Eastside Industrial District.The streetcar's "B...

Suspect in 1986 Washington murder case pleads not guilty

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) — A man arrested in the killing of a 13-year-old Tacoma, Washington girl over three decades ago has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder.The News Tribune reports 60-year-old Robert Washburn pleaded not guilty Thursday in Tacoma, Washington, to murder with aggravated...

Amazon: Echo device sent conversation to family's contact

SEATTLE (AP) — An "unlikely" string of events prompted Amazon's Echo personal assistant device to record a Portland, Oregon, family's private conversation and then send the recording to an acquaintance in Seattle, the company said Thursday.The woman told KIRO-TV that two weeks ago an...

OPINION

Racism After Graduation May Just Be What's on the Menu

Dr. Julianne Malveaux says that for our young millennials, racism is inevitable ...

Prime Minister Netanyahu Shows Limits of Israel’s Democracy

Bill Fletcher, Jr. on racial politics in Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s uneven treatment of African immigrants ...

Golfing While Black Is Not a Crime

Grandview Golf Club asks five Black women to leave for golfing too slow ...

Discovering the Best of Black America in 2018

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis discusses the DTU Journalism Fellowship & Scholarship Program ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Staley settles lawsuit against Missouri athletic director

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — South Carolina coach Dawn Staley has reached a ,000 settlement in her lawsuit against Missouri athletic director Jim Sterk.Missouri is paying the ,000. One half of the settlement will go to INNERSOLE, a nonprofit foundation co-founded by Staley. The other half will...

San Francisco police not charged in black man's 2015 killing

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — San Francisco prosecutors said Thursday that they will not charge officers in two shooting deaths, including the killing of a black man that led to citywide protests three years ago and federally recommended police reforms.District Attorney George Gascon declined to...

Body camera video is latest setback for Milwaukee police

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Body camera video showing police using a stun gun on an NBA player over a parking violation is just the latest setback for efforts to improve relations between Milwaukee officers and the city's black population.The confrontation involving Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee...

ENTERTAINMENT

Scenes cut from 'Show Dogs' over resemblance to sexual abuse

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Two scenes are being cut from the family movie "Show Dogs" after complaints that they resemble real-life sexual abuse, the movie's distributor has announced.In the movie, a police dog goes undercover at a dog show to catch animal smugglers.In one scene, the dog is told to...

Tommy Chong reflects on pot's evolution as he turns 80

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Yeah man, Tommy Chong says he always knew he'd live to see the day marijuana legalization would be sweeping America.He knew when he and partner Cheech Marin pioneered stoner comedy 50 years ago, a time when taunting the establishment with constant reminders that they...

Paltrow: Brad Pitt threatened Harvey Weinstein

NEW YORK (AP) — Gwyneth Paltrow says ex-boyfriend Brad Pitt threatened producer Harvey Weinstein after an alleged incident of sexual misconduct.The 45-year-old actress told "The Howard Stern Show" on Wednesday she was "blindsided." Paltrow claimed she was 22 when Weinstein placed his hands...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

MLB panel says baseballs getting extra lift, cause unknown

NEW YORK (AP) — Baseballs really have been getting extra lift since 2015, and it's not from the exaggerated...

Tommy Chong reflects on pot's evolution as he turns 80

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Yeah man, Tommy Chong says he always knew he'd live to see the day marijuana...

Bus driver charged in crash that killed student, teacher

A school bus driver with a history of driver's license suspensions caused a fatal crash on a New Jersey highway...

Israel defense chief plans 2,500 new West Bank settler homes

JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel's defense minister said Thursday he will seek approval next week to fast-track...

Cyclone Mekunu pounds Yemen island on its path to Oman

SALALAH, Oman (AP) — Cyclone Mekunu roared over the Yemeni island of Socotra in the Arabian Sea on its way...

Saudi Arabia releases 3 women as other activists still held

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Saudi authorities have released three prominent women's rights...

CNN

(CNN) -- "Heal those people with your music, your movements within your souls." It's a powerful piece of advice that Todd Twala, co-founder of "Africa Umoja: Spirit of Togetherness," gives to her cast backstage before their opening show in Atlanta, the second city on their first tour in the United States.

Africa Umoja is a celebration of the evolution of South African culture through its history of music and dance. Sharing the joy that comes with overcoming obstacles of poverty in their own lives, the cast, which includes former street children, moves its audiences with explosive energy, earth-shaking beats and endless fun.

The show celebrates lives of freedom, and encourages people to move past their differences with love. Joe Theron, one of its producers, describes the show as one that "intertwines all of the hardships South Africa faced, like apartheid, in a manner where you will never feel oppressed. It's uplifting. Even in hard times there is always laughter."

Africa Umoja was originally conceived in 1983 as an outreach program that took displaced and impoverished South African children off the streets. Twala and co-founder Thembi Nyandeni retired from dancing professionally in order to create the project. It began as a course teaching children (who later became the show's original cast) how to sing and dance in traditional ways.

Through her training, Twala reminds them to persevere through hardship and "never, ever give up on life."

Thabo Legae, the show's lead drummer, is just one example of Twala's encouragement. He says that his career with Umoja "saved" him from the potential danger that comes with street life, making him a role model for children to make something of themselves, and be grateful for their rich African history.

"Music is life to us," says Legae. He says playing the drums is a skill he inherited. "I feel like my ancestors are talking to me when I play them."

With the beat of his drum, he and the cast take audiences through the evolution of their culture, highlighting multiple milestones in South African history. The show begins with the early days of the drum, with tribal dancers wearing traditional skins, leathers and furs.

It continues through the oppressive chaos of apartheid in Johannesburg, as adults retreat to dancing in crowded speakeasies, filled with jazz. As times change, the cast reveals the evolution through the post-apartheid era with remnants of the rhythmic tribal sounds in the beats of contemporary urban "Kwaito" music.

Twala says music kept people in South Africa motivated during difficult times. "It was through music that we kept sane during the apartheid so that we could express ourselves through our bodies and our voices."

She says the beat of the drum is vital part of their culture's unity: "The drum is our heartbeat in Africa. I can't imagine African people without a drum, its beat reminds us that our hearts beat as one."

Having toured close to 50 countries since 2001, Africa Umoja has jumped into new territory after being sponsored by the International Arts Foundation to embark on its tour of the United States.

The crowd-pleasing authenticity of each song at the Atlanta show was indicative of how almost anyone can relate to the emotions that come with their sounds. Every song was representative of the diverse ethnicities in South Africa, and featured about nine different languages.

Ancestral legacy is a prominent theme in the show. Theron reflects on how the history of many cultures is often neglected and should not be forgotten. "As the saying goes: 'If you don't know where you come from, how do you know where you're going?'" he says.

By paying homage to those who have struggled before them, Twala has shaped the theme of the show around keeping their stories alive, helping younger generations to learn about their roots and how their lives have been shaped today.

She reminds her cast that their success could not be achieved without struggle. "They should never forget that somebody sacrificed so that you can get where you are today ... Mandela went through hell and back for us. I wouldn't have this show if Mandela didn't sacrifice himself for our freedom."

There is a scene dedicated to Nelson Mandela and his work during the apartheid era. "Long Road to Freedom" is a song written specifically for the show, in his honor.

Umoja opened its show in Atlanta on July 18 -- Nelson Mandela's 95th birthday. Even though the cast have performed for the former South African president in the past, they agree it was a "special day" they will never forget.

The standing ovations were evidence that any experience with Umoja will be unforgettable as they continue to lift spirits and share their joy with one city at a time.

 

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