Present an Event continues the mission to “Make a Community” drawing from a rich history of activities and experiences brought about through projects including the then Manhattan Kids Guide blog. This blog documented the continuation of activities and events for kids of all ages including grownups.
Lights Camera Read, the umbrella nonprofit sponsored organization focuses mainly on creating and documenting fun stuff in Upper Manhattan. Activities included working closely with the YM&YWHA Center (for Inwood and Washington Heights), artists such as Mercedes Ellington (granddaughter of Jazz legend Duke Ellington) and Bronx libraries.
Below are two interviews that we include for historical purposes. They are included as representations of the myriad activities Manhattan Kids Guide has either created or participated in since 2009.
The first interview features Mercedes Ellington (grandaughter of jazz legend Duke Ellington) who is being interviewed by Alina Bloomgarden known for being the founding producer of Jazz at Lincoln Center as well as is a Manhattan Kids Guide correpsondent.
Also below is an interview done by Alison Stamas of Colbert Nembhard, the Manager of the Morrisania Library Branch in the Bronx where Manhattan Kids Guide’s Magic Neighbors Theater Troupe performs.
AN INTERVIEW WITH MERCEDES ELLINGTON BY ALINA BLOOMGARDEN
AB: When did you start the tradition of celebrating your grandfather’s birthday each year with a free concert for families and children?
ME: We started 3 years ago on his 110 birthday at the Duke Ellington Statue on 110th Street. It’s the 1st monument in NYC for an African-American.
AB: When did you realize your grandfather was a famous musician?
ME: I saw my name on a newspaper when I was a little girl just learning to read and write and one day my grandmother dropped me off at the Apollo Theater. I sat with the wives of the musicians and saw my grandfather at the piano leading the orchestra and my father, Mercer Ellington, playing trumpet in the band.
AB: When did Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington start playing music?
ME: He started learning the piano at 7 but was more interested in baseball until he heard ragtime piano and then he couldn’t stop. Music became his life: He wrote over 3000 pieces of music- some are classics to this day, kept his band together for over 50 years and raised the hopes of the African-American community during a time of debilitating segregation and prejudice.
AB: When did you start to dance and how did you realize the arts was also your path?
ME:I started at 3 but it wasn’t a clear path because there were no black people in ballet at the time. When I was in Catholic high school, a ballet teacher came once a week. We didn’t change our uniforms, just our shoes, but I was in heaven. I auditioned for her downtown school, but couldn’t get in because I was black.
AB: Did that discourage you from pursuing your dream?
ME: People tried to dissuade me because they knew it would be frustrating but I couldn’t give up. I auditioned for the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School and got in with a scholarship.
I wanted to start auditioning for work right away but my father insisted I get a college education. I got into Juilliard with a dance I made up and then commuted more than an hour each way to get to class.
AB: What was your first professional job as a dancer?
ME: I was cast in the Australian company of “West Side Story.” We danced the original Jerome Robbins choreography and it was really great.
AB:What are some other highlights of your career?
ME: I was a June Taylor Dancer on the Jackie Gleason show for eight years and I was on Broadway in “No No Nanette.” I was featured in “Sophisticated Ladies” celebrating my grandfather’s music under the musical direction of my father. As part of Duke Ellington Week, on Monday, April 25, we will celebrate the 30thanniversary “Sophisticated Ladies” Original Cast Reunion at Birdland.
AB:What is the mission of the Duke Ellington Center for the Arts?
ME: The Duke Ellington Center for the Arts hopes to inspire peace and harmony through the Arts in the spirit of Duke Ellington. We look forward to welcoming the youngest New Yorkers to enjoy Ellington’s music on his birthday this April 29th.
ALISON STAMAS INTERVIEW OF COLBERT NEMHARD, BRONX LIBRARIAN
MKG Editor Alison Stamas caught up with Colbert Nembhard, the Manager of the Morrisania Library Branch where the Magic Neighbors Troupe performs for kids of shelters.
Colbert Nembhard was recently featured in an article in the New York Times. Alison Stamas’ interview with Nembhard was in relation to the library’s Summer Reading program as well as the fact that the Magic Neighbors Troupe was soon to be performing.
The Summer Reading Program is a collaborative effort between the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library, the Queens Public Library and schools of the Board of Education. This year’s theme is, One World, Many Stories.
AS: What is the origin and purpose of the NYPL’s Summer Reading List?
CN: The Summer Reading List was initiated by the New York Public Library. The Summer Reading List and programs challenge students to continue their education through reading, writing, and special programs in a fun and relaxed environment. The Summer Reading List also allows students to maintain their reading levels over the summer.
AS: Do the lists vary from year to year? Who decides what books make it onto the list?
CN: The lists vary from year to year. The NYPL, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library decide what books make it onto the list.
AS: Are there any books on this year’s list that you are particularly excited about or impressed with?
CN: I can truly say that I am impressed with all of the books on this year’s list. In the Pre K-K section, I do like From Head to Toe by Eric Carle.
AS: Tell me about yourself. How long have you been a librarian? Why did you decide to become a librarian? What is considered good library etiquette?
CN: I was born in Jamaica, West Indies. I migrated to the United States in 1975. I have a B.A. in Sociology and a MLS in Library Science. I became a librarian in 1988. I became a librarian because I am fascinated with books and I love to read everything. I also love to work with different age levels. I believe good library etiquette is to be polite to all the patrons that walk through the door and be ready to serve everyone regardless of their age, sex, religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
AS: Tell me about the Morrisania branch of the NYPL. Is there anything that makes it unique to other branches?
CN: The Morrisania Library holds a commanding position on McKinley Square in the South Bronx, an area that was originally farmland owned by Jonas Bronck, for whom the borough was named. The Morrisania Library was built in 1908 the 28th of the 39 Carnegie libraries constructed in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, and was designed by architects Babb, Cook, and Willard. The Branch is distinguished by huge arched windows and grand “imperial” staircase. We are fully accessible to wheelchairs. We are also a landmark status building. We are a two-floor branch with the Children’s room occupying the second floor and the Adult and Teens on the first floor. We have a rich collection of books and DVD’s and we do a host of afterschool programs.
AS: Do you have any suggestions for getting a child or adult interested in books if they aren’t already?
CN: Doing book talks is one way to get a child or adult interested in books if they aren’t already.
AS: What are the benefits to reading as opposed to playing video games or watching tv?
CN: Reading is knowledge and knowledge is power. When one reads he or she is able to gain a wealth of knowledge that tv and video games will not able to supply. Reading also let one become articulate and also improves one’s vocabulary. Constant reading also helps a child in school to do well on their reading tests.