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April 14, 2008
of note

  Brooklyn Bridge  2007 © julien de bock. 

of  note

 celebrates the arts, culture, and history of our distinct yet intersecting diasporas. It is a space where art meets activism, empowerment, and social  responsibility.

Editorial Director
Grace Aneiza Ali

Executive Editor
Sandrine Colard

Photo Editor
Julien de Bock

Book Editor
Clarence Haynes

Featured in this Issue
Ethnographies of the Future
Harlem in the Himalayas
Barnard @ Ailey
Akram Khan Company
Tribeca Film Festival
Linton Kwesi Johnson
A Young Lady From Rwanda
CubaCaribe Festival
Digital Diasporas

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Last week,  of note  critically questioned the place given to the diasporic arts within New York City's cultural institutions.  We highlighted the absence of people of color both behind the scenes and in the spotlight.

notable this week is not absence, but presence. With African-American, Algerian, Brazilian, Cuban, Egyptian, Indian, Ethiopian, Iranian, Iraqi, Liberian, Malawian, Mexican, Sudanese, Tibetan, and Ugandan productions, this year's  Tribeca Film Festival celebrates diversity and promotes international filmmakers who honor their unique cultures and histories.

of note salutes the independent and intelligent spirit of the Tribeca Film Festival. In the Film section below, we've combed through the festival's screenings and selected the films that promote global citizenship and treat our diasporas with integrity.

Sandrine Colard


The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
A Novel
By Junot Diaz

of note  applauds Junot Diaz, who was just awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for his first novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

The Oscar of the title is a brilliant, literary, and hefty Dominican boy living in Paterson, New Jersey. He is routinely swept up into the worlds of sci-fi/fantasy and the myriad girls he'd like to lock lips with. However, he is often thwarted by a reality of not living up to the ideals of Latino Machismo. The novel is as much concerned about Oscar as it is about the women in his life: his mother Belicia, who fawns over her hijo, is locked in a battle with cancer and with her daughter, Lola, a free-spirited thinker attempting to escape the torment of her surroundings.

Readers get detailed takes on fukú (an old curse said to have originated when Europeans stepped foot on Hispaniola), Dominican history, and the funky permutations of Blackness within the Latin and African Diasporas. Full of cultural references from the world of comic books, anime, and fantasy novels,
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is fun, heady, grounded, thrilling, touching, wacky, inventive, and, as Diaz has acknowledged on National Public Radio, a testament to ghetto nerds everywhere.

 Clarence Haynes


Ethnographies of the Future: Video Screening

Wednesday,  April 16 @ 7 pm

Ethnographies of the Future takes into account the vast geographies impacted by colonial rule by bringing together artists whose works present a critical relationship to post-colonial identity politics.

Sara Reisman curates a screening of related film and video works by Elia Alba, Pedro Barateiro, Lene Berg, Nao Bustamante, Katia Kameli, Grace Ndiritu, Sriwhana Spong, and other artists.

BRIC Rotunda Gallery
647 Fulton Street
Brooklyn, NY 11217

Harlem in the Himalayas: Jazz Pictures at an Exhibition of Himalayan Art
Friday, April 18 @ 7 pm

A Jazz concert inspired by the Rubin Museum's collection of Himalayan Art.  A new terrain for many people, this exhibition is intended to serve as a guide through this exhilarating landscape. It is organized into four sections, and contributes a partial answer to the question "What is Himalayan art?" ,The installation will change periodically to refocus the questions and to pose others.

Rubin Museum of Art
150 West 17th Street
New York, NY 10011

Jazz Score @ The Museum of Modern Art
April 17 - September 15

Comprising a film retrospective, a gallery installation, live concerts, and a panel discussion, Jazz Score  celebrates some of the best original jazz composed for the cinema from the 1950s to the present.

The words, Jazz Score "encompass the exhibition's breadth and depth as well as its provocative omissions...They allude to jazz's complex, somewhat wary interaction with cinema - one that's fundamentally different from the alliance between film and its longtime go-to music source, classical."

The Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
btw Fifth and Sixth avenues
New York, NY 10019                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Barnard @ Ailey
Friday, April 18 and Saturday, April 19

Barnard/Columbia dancers perform recent Tony Award winner and MacArthur "Genius" Award recipient Bill T. Jones' Mercy 10X8 on a Circle to a Beethoven score.

The concert also features premieres by Robert LaFosse and SUGAR SALON artists Luciana Achugar, Renee Archibald, and Heather McArdle.

Ailey Citigroup Theater
405 W. 55th St.
@ 9th Avenue
New York, NY 10019

Akram Khan Company
Wednesday, April  23 -  Sunday, April  27

London-born Akram Khan, winner of a Critics' Circle National Dance Award and a Time Out Live Award, is renowned for developing his own 'contemporary Kathak' style.

Khan and Company will perform two evening-length U.S. premieres:

In bahok, Akram Khan works with nine dancers, as five performers from his own company go head-to-head with four classically-trained dancers from the National Ballet of China.
Zero degrees is a remarkable collaboration between four of today's most respected artists whose styles, when brought together, result in a spellbinding piece of dance.

New York City Center
130 West 56th Street
New York, NY 10019


April 23 - May 4

The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2001 following the attacks on the World Trade Center to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan through an annual celebration of film, music, and culture. The Festival's mission enables  the international film community and general public to experience the power of cinema.


Algeria, Unspoken Stories

"Every country has its dark histories. Algeria as well."  Thus begins Jean-Pierre Lledo's Algeria, Unspoken Stories, which interrogates boldly and critically the story of Algeria's  independence, memory, and identity. Structured  like a road movie, Algeria, Unspoken Stories travels with four characters to four cities, releasing repressed memories of the "years of embers," spoken for the first time in film.


Elite Squad

One of Brazil's most controversial films, Elite Squad is a searing look at the corruption of the special police force in the volatile slums of Rio.  As one cop desperately tries to get out, two naive recruits see if they have what it takes to get in. 


One of Brazil's most respected documentary filmmakers invited two dozen women to be filmed as they told their life stories. Months later, he filmed a group of actresses as they reenacted the same stories. The result couldn't be simpler-or more inexplicably magical!



The iconic image of Ernesto "Che" Guevara is everywhere, from T-shirts to coffee mugs and bikinis. How was the hero of Cuba's Communist Revolution transformed into a capitalist selling machine? With mordant wit and bitter irony, Chevolution traces the separation of  the moment from history  to an icon whose meaning was increasingly in the eye of the beholder.

Celia the Queen

This touching documentary pays tribute to the work of Celia Cruz, a stellar performer who brought the sound of salsa to the whole world. She fled Castro's Cuba in 1960 for the United States and became known as the voice of Cuba around the world, while, ironically, her  beloved music was banned in her home country.

Old Man Bebo

Nearly 90, Bebo Valdés is one of the greatest living Cuban musicians. This joyful documentary celebrates the man who was a key figure in the development of mambo and whose life reflects the experiences of many Cubans since 1959.



Marina Of The Zabbaleen

In the sandy villages outside Cairo, the Zabbaleen eke out a living recycling the flood of waste pouring out of the most populous area on the African continent. But one girl--six-year-old free spirit Marina--dreams of a better life. This poetic documentary tells her story.

The great Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima came to UCLA to study filmmaking in the early '70s, and it was then that he conceived Harvest 3000 Years. He shot it on black-and-white 16mm, with non-actors speaking Amharic, during two weeks of his summer vacation, on the run and in the midst of a civil war. It was after the overthrow of Haile Selassie and right before a military dictatorship was installed. Difficult conditions, you might say.



Before the Rains

This lush period piece, set in the South Indian state Kerala in 1937, at the twilight of the Raj and a heightened Indian nationalism movement, tracks the fraying friendship of a British spice baron, his loyal Indian aide, and his Indian servant--and lover.

Ramchand Pakistani

Gorgeous colors enhance this tense tale, based on actual events, about a young Pakistani boy who, with his father, inadvertently crosses the border into India. Both wind up in jail for years, while mother (Nandita Das) is left bewildered and alone.


Head Wind

The government of the Islamic Republic of Iran does its best to restrict its citizens' access to information and media from the rest of the world. The award-winning director of Iron Island shows how Iranians demonstrate what we'd call "Yankee resourcefulness" to stymie their censors.


War, Love, God & Madness

After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Baghdad-born Mohamed Al-Daradji returned home in 2004 with the dream of making a film about his agonized homeland. Under increasingly difficult conditions, he succeeded in making a feature film, Ahlaam.  The extraordinary story of how that film was made is the subject of War, Love, God & Madness.


Pray the Devil Back to Hell

After more than a decade of civil wars leading to more than 250,000 deaths and one million refugees, a group of courageous women rose up to force peace on their shattered Liberia and propel to victory the first female head of state on the African continent.

The film exposes the tragic stories of the millions of Malawi children orphaned by AIDS, offering both a call to action and a revelatory personal journey. Featuring interviews with Bill Clinton and Desmond Tutu, the film is a testament to survival, change, and hope.



A Portrait of Diego: The Revolutionary Gaze

Fifty years ago, Diego Rivera, Gabriel Figueroa, and Manuel Alvarez Bravo collaborated on a documentary film about Rivera, but it was never finished until now, after Figueroa's son and Rivera's grandson decided to show how these three great artists shared a vision.

My Life Inside

At 17, mild-mannered Rosa Jiménez came to the United States to provide a better life for her family back in Mexico. This riveting, heartbreaking film examines how she comes to stand accused of murder in a Texas courtroom.


War Child

Emmanuel Jal spent his childhood as a soldier in the Sudanese People's Liberation Army. Now this rising hip-hop star is using his music to raise awareness about his homeland's ongoing humanitarian crisis.



The Dalai Lama: Peace and Prosperity

For three days in October 2007, His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave public talks at a sold-out Radio City Music Hall. Now, in the first of his talks to be released internationally, audiences will have the opportunity to see the Dalai Lama on film. Peace and Prosperity allows those who were not able to attend his live talks a chance to experience the spiritual leader's charismatic talk in a fresh manner.

Fire Under the Snow

Tibetan monk Palden Gyatso spent 33 years being tortured and starved in Chinese prisons. He watched his nation ruined and his countrymen jailed or killed. Despite this, Gyatso remains unbroken, keeping the flame of his spirit ablaze.


Kassim the Dream

Kassim "The Dream" Ouma went from Ugandan child soldier to world champion boxer. In this gripping tale of survival and determination, Kassim proves that even against all odds, a man can achieve his dreams and turn tragedy into inspiration.


Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans

Faubourg Tremé is a first-person documentary by New Orleans natives Dawn Logsdon and Lolis Eric Elie. Drawing on several years of pre-Hurricane Katrina footage, the film brings alive the history of Black New Orleans through an in-depth look at one historic neighborhood, the Faubourg Tremé.

Zoned In

Filmed over the course of nine years, this documentary traces the remarkable journey of 16-year-old Daniel from a Bronx high school to an Ivy League university while simultaneously exploring the role of race and class in the American education system.

World Documentary

A Powerful Noise

Bookended by call-to-action quotes from Margaret Mead and Mahatma Gandhi, this inspiring documentary follows three extraordinary women--in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mali, and Vietnam--as they lead day-to-day battles against ignorance, poverty, oppression, and ethnic strife.


Monday, April 14 @ 8 pm

Audiences around the globe  have fallen in love with AYO's special blend of Soul, Folk, Reggae and Afro-Beats.

Ayo is a German born artist, the offspring of a Nigerian father and a mother who is a gypsy. AYO's rather unusual name means joy in Yoruba. Her rich cultural background is also reflected in her musical influences, Fela Kuti, the Soul Children, Bob Marley, and many others.

Highline Ballroom
431 W 16th St
btw 9th & 10th Aves
New York, NY 10011


Linton Kwesi Johnson & Gil Scott Heron "Poetry Jam"
Tuesday, April 15 @ 8 pm

S.O.B.'s presents a night of spoken word with legendary artists, Linton Kwesi Johnson and Gil Scott-Heron.  The two poetic powerhouses unite in New York for a poetry jam, the likes of which New York hasn't seen this decade.

Most famous for his era-defining poem, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," Gil Scott-Heron's politically charged material made him a stalwart figure in the 1970's civil rights movement.

Linton Kwesi Johnson has been hailed as the world's first reggae poet.  A former Black Panther, Johnson's landmark collection, Dread Beat An' Blood was recorded, and a film of the same name was made by the BBC as a documentary of a young poet in the making.

204 Varick Street
@ West Houston
New York, NY 10014


On stage through May 1

Satyagraha, set to text from the ancient Sanskrit scripture the Bhagavad Gita, is a moving account of Mahatma Gandhi's formative experiences in South Africa, which transformed him into a great leader.

The Metropolitan Opera
Lincoln Center
70 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY 10023


Emancipation @ The Classical Theatre of Harlem
On stage through May 3

On August 21, 1831, Nat Turner led a slave rebellion that became a watershed event in America's long and troubled history of slavery and racial conflict. EMANCIPATION is a thoughtful, powerful, and visceral examination of this pivotal moment in American society. The performance will be held in the historic Audubon Ballroom, where Malcolm X was assassinated on February 21, 1965.

The Audubon "seems a perfect match. In his speeches, Malcolm X sometimes invoked Nat Turner, an educated slave and preacher whose rebellion killed more than 50 white men, women and children before he was captured and put to death. The play does not try to sort out Turner's complicated legacy, but to present the man in all his aspects."                        

The Audubon Ballroom
Shabazz Center
btw 165th and 166th Streets
3940 Broadway
New York City, NY 10032

Opening night  April 30
On stage through July 20

The one-man show is based on the life and momentous times of Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American to serve on the Supreme Court.

Thurgood Marshall rose from the backstreets of Baltimore to the Supreme Court of the United States, overcoming whatever obstacle society placed in his way. Thurgood is his remarkable story, a triumph of courage - not just for the man, but for the nation he bravely challenged and proudly served.

Booth Theater
222 West 45th Street
New York, NY 10036

I Have Before Me A Remarkable Document Given To Me By A Young Lady From Rwanda
On stage through May 4

The play is a touching and heartfelt journey shared by a young survivor of the Rwanda massacre and the burned-out English poet who befriends her. Juliette is a young asylum seeker, determined to write a book about what happened to her family during the Rwandan Genocide; Simon is a middle-aged failing novelist, whose job is to help her write her story.

Theatre at St. Peter's
619 Lexington Avenue
btw 53rd and 54th Streets
New York, NY 10022


EnGendered: A South Asian Multidisciplinary Arts Festival
Friday, April 18 - Sunday, April 20

EnGendered is an unprecedented festival bringing together performance, dance, music, film, and the visual arts to explore the complex realities of modern South Asia. The festival is designed not only to raise awareness, but also to break silences and impact perceptions around issues of gendered identities, women's rights and human rights. 

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts
70 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY 10023


CubaCaribe Festival of Dance & Music

April 18 -  May 4
San Franciso, CA

The Fourth Annual CubaCaribe Festival presents three consecutive weekends of thought provoking performances, workshops, and lectures featuring the work of accomplished Afro-Cuban, Afro-Brazilian, African-American, and African choreographers.

Digital Diasporas:
Digital Humanities & African American/African Diaspora Studies

April 30 - May 3
University of Maryland, College Park

The Digital Diasporas conference, the first of its kind, will bring together approximately 150 national and international scholars to discuss the fields of Digital Humanities and African American/African Diaspora Studies. The conference will address the increasing centrality of digitization to the archiving of materials, as well as the growth of digital technology in the teaching, scholarship and artistic production in the field of African American/African Diaspora Studies.


For many of us, the arts are central and inspirational to our life, work, and activism. As people of color, we are making great strides in terms of our representation on the stage, yet we are not equally represented in the audience. Even when it is work celebrating our histories, experiences, and cultures - we are often scantily present in the theaters, auditoriums, galleries, etc. Out of that absence, of note was created. It is a publication whose mission is to inform the community about noteworthy events, with the larger goal of increasing our access to and participation in the arts celebrating people of color.   

Grace Aneiza ali

Sandrine Colard

Julien DeBock

Clarence Haynes

For general questions, comments, and submissions contact us at