Sissieretta Jones aka Black Patti (1869-1933) was a pioneer of Black operatic singing, and she paved the way for a long list of black opera singers to follow, including Marian Anderson, Roland Hayes, Leontyne Price, and Grace Bumbry, among others.
Eartha Kitt established herself in film, theater, cabaret, music and on television. By the time she was 20, Eartha was a featured dancer and vocalist in the Katherine Dunham Dance Company Troupe and was touring Europe where she was seen by Orson Wells who was quoted as calling her “the most exciting woman in the world”.
Rosalind Cash was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on December 31, 1938. As a young woman, she took off with only $20 in her pocket to seek her fame and fortune in New York City. At first things were difficult: “I had a cold-water one-room apartment in Harlem sharing a kitchen I didn’t dare use because of the rats,” she told The Guardian. But Cash attended the City College of New York, and managed to ferret out the first stirrings of independent black theater in the city. She made her stage debut in 1958 in a production at the Harlem YMCA, performing in a play by Langston Hughes called Soul Gone Home.
Marpessa Dawn was directed by Marcel Camus and based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice, “Orfeu Negro,” as it is called in Portuguese, brings together an innocent country girl, played by Ms. Dawn, and a trolley car motorman and gifted guitarist, portrayed by Mr. Mello. They meet amid the frenzy of Rio’s carnival and are soon swaying to a provocative samba among the crowds. But Eurydice is stalked by a man in a skeleton costume. Eventually, Orpheus finds her in the morgue. In the end, bearing her body in his arms, he falls to his death from a cliff.
Dorothy Height marched alongside Martin Luther King and led the National Council of Negro Women for 40 years, was known for her determination and grace as well as her wry humor. She remained active and outspoken well into her 90s and often received rousing ovations at events around Washington, where she was easily recognizable in the bright, colorful hats she almost always wore.
Without question, one of the most breathtaking beauties to emerge out of the 70’s “Blaxploitation” era was actress Vonetta McGee. This lovely sister, born in San Francisco on January 14, 1945, possessed the complete package; looks, talent and determination which should have made her a marquee name in Hollywood. Instead, this tantalizing, tan, and talented lady found herself in in the land of Blaxploitation, where her some would considerable her talents were laid to waste.
Some would argue that if there was one actress that threatened Pam Grier’s reign as America’s Black glamour queen of the 70’s, it was the bewitching bronze beauty Judy Pace. A former Ebony Magazine model, Judy was a modern day Queen Neferteri, with sexy bedroom eyes, pouting full lips, all gloriously displayed on a petite chestnut brown frame. In color-conscious Hollywood, Judy became one of the first dark-skinned dramatic actresses to be recognized as a sex-symbol. The Daily Variety once referred to her as The most beautiful woman in Hollywood.
“She’s the Godmother of them all…The Baddest One-Chick Hit Squad that ever hit town!” So promised the 1973 promotional poster for the American International Pictures release of Coffy; whose star was a luscious afro-sporting, gun toting, buxom Nubian princess named Pam Grier.
Many Black actors have been faced with difficult choices and obstacles. The Bahamas-born Calvin Lockhart, who has died in 2007 was no exception. The handsome, charismatic Lockhart, who had classical acting training and who spoke French, German, Italian and Spanish, was mainly forced to take roles that he disliked.
Mr. Hooks told Ebony magazine soon after he became the association’s executive director in 1977. “The civil rights movement is not dead. “If anyone thinks that we are going to stop agitating, they had better think again. If anyone thinks that we are going to stop litigating, they had better close the courts. If anyone thinks that we are not going to demonstrate and protest, they had better roll up the sidewalks.”
Sista ToFunky met Alex Hafner in January of this year and to my delight Alex is one of the Koolest Cats I ever met. We spent some time getting to know each other and we shared our love for FUNK and all things FUNKY. Alex, who is from Germany, is a DJ and has a wealth of knowledge of R&B, Funk, Soul, Techno and more.