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August 2015

Sphinx Orchestra: Changing The Face of Classical Music

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sphinx

Sphinx is a national non-profit organization, headquartered in Detroit, MI. It was founded by Dr. Aaron Dworkin and Carrie Chester. The organization was founded when both were students at U of M.  Dr. Dworkin, who started playing the violin as a child often noticed that few performers or audience members were people of color.

Dr. Aaron Dworkin
Dr. Aaron Dworkin

Seeking to create more diversity in the field of classical music, Sphinx was founded. Sphinx held its inaugural “Sphinx Competition” in 1998. The competition gives opportunities for young musicians of color to compete, receive mentorship and education from nationally acclaimed musicians.  Sphinx also provides the Sphinx Overture Program which offers free violin lessons to students in underserved communities. Also offered is the Sphinx Performance Academy a summer chamber music program for Black and Latino musicians ages 12-17. Sphinx is committed to transforming lives through increasing diversity in the arts. The organization has made some impressive inroads in the field of classical music. In its first 10 years, according to the League of American Orchestras, orchestras that were part of their membership that reported an increase in diversity of people of color had some relationship with the Sphinx Organization. Sphinx also reports that their graduates are represented at all of the top 10 music schools in the U.S. Sphinx is constantly working toward fulfilling its mission of transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts.

Click on the link below to see a short video about Sphinx:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SybcjBxmkFk

Dr. James West: Co-Inventor Of The Electric Microphone

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Dr. James West
Dr. James West

We have African American inventor, Dr. James Edward West to thank for inventing the microphone. 90% of electric microphones used today are a result of his invention. This includes telephones, tape recorders, camcorders, baby monitors and hearing aids.

West was born in 1931 in Prince Edwards County, VA. Dr. West had an interest in science dating back to his childhood. However, his parents, concerned about racism felt it would be better for him to pursue a career as a physician rather than a scientist. Dr. West and his colleague, Gerhard Sessler, invented the mic (officially known as the Electroacoustic Transducer Electret Microphone) while with Bell Laboratories. They received a patent in 1962. By 1968, the microphone was being mass produced. Dr.West began his career at Bell Labs as an intern and joined the company full time in 1957. He has received many awards and honors for his invention. During his career, Dr. West was an advocate and supported programs that encourage students of color to pursue science related careers. James Edward West now works with Johns Hopkins University as a research professor

Wake Robin: One of The First Golf Clubs For African American Women

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Wake Robin Golf Club Members Circa 1940
Wake Robin Golf Club Members Circa 1940

On August 6, 1936, the Wake Robin Golf Club of Washington, D. C., was formed. It would be one of the first all-Black Women Golf Clubs in America. Thirteen women were present for the first meeting at the home of Helen Webb Harris. Each of the women who were founding members was married to an associate of Washington’s all-Black, all-male Royal Golf Club.   During this time, all but one of the public courses did not allow blacks to play on their courses. Most country clubs across America were not accessible to most people of color. The all black women’s club, named itself after the “wake robin” wild flower.

Wake Robin Flower
Wake Robin Flower

The golf club experienced quick success but was not without problems.  In 1938, the Wake Robin Club became an active in supporting desegregation of public golf courses. Due in part to their advocacy, in 1939, Langston Golf Course for black golfers was built on an abandoned trash dump. Langston is now an 18-hole public facility.

Wake Robin was also part of the movement to force the PGA to eliminate the “White-only” rule for eligibility to play in the PGA; which it did in 1961.

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Georgia Infirmary: First Hospital For African Americans

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Georgia Infirmary
Georgia Infirmary

The Georgia Infirmary, chartered on December 24, 1832, was the first hospital for African Americans built in the United States. It purpose was, “for the relief and protection of aged and afflicted Africans”.

It was started with a $10,000 grant from the estate of Thomas F. Williams a local businessman and minister. Poor health care and their strenuous life often meant that slaves and ex-slaves had significant health issues. Many were abandoned by their owners when they were no longer able to work. The original idea was that the slave owners would pay for the care of the slaves. When the infirmary opened, the state provided $20 per patient per year as additional funding.

The hospital’s operation was interrupted by the Civil War. However, it re-opened in 1871. The infirmary was one of the first hospitals in the nation to train black nurses. During the 1940’s the hospital was expanded to meet a growing demand for services that resulted from an increase in the number of black workers due to World War II. In 1974 it was renamed the “Adult Day Center.” It now provides rehabilitation for stroke patients.

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Hazel Johnson-Brown: 1st African American Woman Brigadier General

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Hazel Johnson-Brown
Hazel Johnson-Brown

Born in 1927, Hazel Johnson-Brown was the first African-American woman to be a Brigadier General in the United States Military in 1979. She joined the army in 1955 shortly after President Truman banned segregation in the armed services.

Hazel Johnson-Brown was one of 7 children. She was raised on her father’s farm in West Chester, PA. Inspired by a public health nurse at the age of 12, she decided that she too wanted to become a nurse one day. Her application to the West Chester School of Nursing in Pennsylvania was rejected because she was black. Undeterred, she moved to New York in 1947 and enrolled in Harlem Hospital School of Nursing. She graduated and took a job at Philadelphia Veteran’s Hospital in 1953. It was there that her co-workers encouraged her to join the Army. She initially enlisted for what she thought would be a two year tour. She excelled and quickly began to rise through the ranks.

Hazel Johnson-Brown - Receiving Rank of Brigadier General
Hazel Johnson-Brown – Receiving Rank of Brigadier General

She continued her education while in the army, eventually earning a masters degree in nursing education from Columbia University and a Ph.D in education administration from Catholic University. She retired from military service in 1983 and then pursued a second career in academia teaching at George Mason University and Georgetown University. She retired from academia in 1997. She currently lives in Washington D.C. area.

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White Shoes Photo Series

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image

Over My Dead Body From the “White Shoes” Photo Series, 2013 By Nona Faustine

Learn more about the “White Shoes” Photography series by Nona Faustine. The imagery is POWERFUL!!

Nona has chosen to display herself in naked at various locations associated with slavery in New York.  She chose to pose nude to highlight the vulnerability and inhumane treatment of slaves.  In the photos, she is nude with the exception of wearing white shoes. Nona indicates that “white shoes” represent the “white patriarchy” from which she says we have been unable to escape.  This is a courageous work!

Click on the link below to read the full need article:

http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/jonathanjonesblog/2015/aug/05/the-scars-of-america-nude-artist-slavery-sites-nona-faustine

Sandra Bland’s Mother Speaks!

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Sandra Bland’s mother shared these powerful word at today’s press conference.

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To see the full video of press conference click link below:

http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/local/Family-of-Sandra-Bland-to-File-Lawsuit-320605972.html

Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History! -Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

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You Know About Venus & Serena: But What About Margaret & Matilda?

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Margaret and Matilda Peters
Margaret and Matilda Peters

Long before Venus and Serena Williams came to dominate in the sport of tennis, Margaret and Matilda Peters were pioneers!   The two sisters were affectionately known as “Pete” and “Repeat”. Their record as doubles partners was unprecedented from the 1930’s to the 1950’s. They achieved success during a time when whites and blacks were not allowed to compete together. The sisters played in the American Tennis Association (ATA) as teenagers. ATA was created specifically to give blacks a forum to play competitively. It was comprised of a network of Negro Tennis Clubs across the country.

The sisters were born 2 years apart in Washington D.C. They both attended college at Tuskegee University, graduating in 1940 with degrees in physical education. Both would continue their education at New York University, obtaining Masters degrees in physical education. They continued to play tennis both during and after college. Between 1938-1941, they won 14 ATA doubles championships. Matilda Peters also won two singles ATA titles in 1944 and 1946. In the 1946 title match, she defeated the legendary Althea Gibson. Gibson would later go on to become the first African American woman to play competitive tennis against whites in 1950.

During their time as ATA champions, the Peters sisters were well known. However, compared to other successful African American tennis players they have not received much recognition. Matilda died on May 16, 2003. Margaret passed away on November 3, 2004.

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