Posts Tagged With: education in NYC

Ivan Velez, Jr. Teaches Harlem Kids How to Draw Comic Book Characters

Ivan Velez Jr. teaches his students how to draw Manga at Harlem library. (Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)


At the Countee Cullen Library on W. 136th St. in Harlem, Ivan Velez Jr., 49, steps away from his easel and addresses his class, a group of seven kids with and markers in hand.

The topic of today’s workshop is monsters — why we fear them and why we need them.

“Why do people make stories about monsters?” he asks.

Monster stories, he says, use fear to control behavior. The bogeyman gets kids to stay in bed at night. La Llorona keeps kids away from the river.

The stories, he says, also help people cope with adversity by raising a crisis to the status of myth.

“In Tokyo, they have these natural disasters, like earthquakes and tsunamis,” he says. “They have these monsters as a way of dealing with it.”

It’s a concept to which Velez can relate.

As a closeted teen growing up in the South Bronx of the 1960s, the world of monsters and heroes was Velez’s best defense.

“It wasn’t safe to talk about certain things. In that culture, you didn’t mention your sexual or ientation. The shame was very strong,” he says.

He sought refuge in his imagination, in the characters he read in comic books — Archie, Superman and the X-Men — and the action stars he watched in kung fu movies.

“It was a way to escape the real world,” he says.

For Velez, teaching at libraries and other education centers is his way of giving back to another generation of artists discovering a new comic culture, providing the guidance they need to create their voices.

Read more from the New York Daily News.

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Beyonce Surprises Fans At Harlem Target

Beyonce surprises fans at Target in Harlem on June 30th (Photo courtesy of Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images)

Retail giant, meanwhile, promises that video exclusive for deluxe edition of 4 will be ready soon

By Jocelyn Vena

While traipsing the globe to promote 4, Beyoncé stopped by New York City’s Harlem Target on Thursday to say hello to some of her young fans.

As the store celebrated its one-year anniversary, kids from the local Boys and Girls Club danced their hearts out onstage to Beyoncé’s new track “Countdown.” In the middle of the song, B took the stage and gave them a big group hug before letting them continue their routine.

“I’d like to thank the Boys and Girls Club for coming out. I hope y’all had fun learning the choreography to ‘Countdown’ today,” she told the crowd, in footage posted on “I hope you guys enjoy the new album 4.”

See more from

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Fighting To Save A Harlem High School

Rice High School, a private, Catholic, all-boys school in Harlem, could be closing its doors for good this year due to financial difficulties, much to the dismay of students, alumni, and members of the surrounding community. However, that doesn’t mean that they are without hope.

“When I think about Rice closing, I think about all of the underclassmen who won’t be able to graduate,” said Cole Francis, valedictorian of this year’s graduating class. “Now they have to go to different schools and adapt to different atmospheres, and the worst part is that they won’t be graduating with their original Rice brothers. The people they’ve been with all four years.”

Undergraduate students from Rice have applied to various high schools around the city, such as Xavier, Regis, and Iona Prep. From there, they will continue their high schools careers as students of their new schools.

“Making the change to my second choice of high school will be hard for me,” said Isaac Aduagyei, a sophomore who will now be attending Cardinal Hayes, “I was used to the Rice life; getting dressed in my Rice vest, going to school close to home in Harlem, and walking into the school felt good because I knew entering that school that something good was going to happen that day. When they told me that Rice was closing, my heart dropped.”

News of Rice’s imminent closure has also been poorly received in its community.

“I can’t believe it’s actually closing,” said Harlem resident Eileen Johnson. “That school has been there for as long as I can remember. I believe that the black community in particular needs schools like Rice to give our youth a chance to rise up and be successful, and seeing this institution close is a damn shame.”

Johnson’s sentiments are not without background evidence. Since its founding in 1938, Rice has a particularly impressive record, both academically and athletically. In addition to producing a plethora of athletes such as basketball players Felipe López, Durand Scott, and Kemba Walker (among several others), it also boasts a 100 percent college acceptance rate for graduating seniors, and over $4,600,000 in college scholarships over its life. Kawone Williams, Director of Development at Rice, thinks that this is the most tragic aspect of the school’s closure.

“It’s not like the school is a failure,” he said. “If we were closing because kids were dropping out or we had a low graduate rate, I could understand. But we’re a success and an excellent model of what a high school should be.”

“High school is a pivotal moment on everyone’s life,” he continued. “It helps build who you are. In college, you get to shine and perfect yourself, but high school molds you. When I was in Rice, we had a principal who really stressed the idea that you can be born a male, but you must earn the right to become a man. And that’s what Rice High School provides for its students.”

Declining enrollment is a factor in the school’s closure. According to their website, enrollment has gone “from 385 students in 2003 to 232 in 2010 – a loss of 40 percent. The school has the capacity for 400 students. This decline in enrollment and tuition revenue has exacerbated the school’s financial challenges, in addition to a decline in donations and the increasing and frequent costs required to maintain the deteriorating building at 74 West 124th Street.”

However, despite all of these setbacks, the Board of Directors is attempting to find a way to not only keep the school open, but keep its current location in Harlem as well.

School administrators aren’t the only ones doing what they can to keep Rice open. A small number of grassroots movements have cropped up on Facebook to raise money for Rice, one of which is Team Save Rice.

Team Save Rice is a small group founded by Rice 2011 graduates Shaquille Barr and Ari Brown, who believe that Rice is a part of history and should be kept open for future generations.

“Destroying Rice would be like destroying history,” Barr said. “The reasons for it closing don’t make any sense when compared with its profile as a school, and future generations of not only black and Hispanic young men, but all young men, will be denied the opportunity to benefit from a quality education. Also, the tuition is very low compared to other schools, so people are getting the best of both worlds.”

“The school helps black men in particular,” said Brown. “It has done a lot for me personally. When I entered Rice, I had the mentality of a little boy, and thought everything was all fun and games. Now that I’ve come out of Rice, I’m prepared to take on life as a man.”

Team Save Rice currently consists of 104 members, and they are planning a demonstration in front of the school sometime in the near future, as well as setting up fund raisers.

See more from City Limits Wire.

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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’ Celebrates the Harlem Rens

It was a who’s who of basketball — former Laker Jerry West, former Celtics center Bill Russell, Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, former Harlem Globetrotter Marques Haynes among them — and amid their laughter, arguments and playful ribbing, it became apparent that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s question about what basketball team was the best in history was not going to be met with an easy consensus.

This scene didn’t come from a sports talk show, although it would’ve made for riveting television. It was from Abdul-Jabbar’s documentary, “On the Shoulders of Giants,” a 75-minute movie narrated by Jamie Foxx that focuses on the Harlem Rens (also known as the New York Renaissance) and the effect of that basketball team both on the sport and society.

Watch the videos and read the full article from the Los Angeles Times Lakers Blog.

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Harlem’s Rice High School for Boys Will Be Missed by New Yorkers Who Care About Quality Education

Rice High School on the corner of 124th Street and Lenox will close its doors next month (Warga/News).After nearly three-quarters of a century as a beacon of education, Rice High School next month closes its doors at 124th St. and Lenox Ave. in Harlem for good. New York will be the poorer for it.

Never rich or big or well-connected, Rice concentrated on teaching boys that advantages mattered less than doing the most with what you did have. As a result, the scrappy Catholic school run by no-nonsense Christian Brothers fought way above its weight, educationally and morally.

Among more than 10,000 graduates, the best known are undoubtedly its athletes, who, over the years, made the school a force in several sports and a power in basketball. That despite a diminutive enrollment, never much more than 400, and this year down to 218.

The problem was expenses of $10,000 per student and an official tuition rate of $5,750, which almost no one actually paid. From the day it opened in 1938, Rice shied from turning a boy away because his family couldn’t pay. Basic arithmetic always made that a dubious business plan, but basic faith and commitment made it work.

Over the last decade, though, the school’s deficit ran into the millions. The cost of maintaining its aging building rose, and a tanking economy dried up once-generous donations, even as families found it harder to commit to any level of tuition and the student body shrank.

The little school on 124th St. did not go quietly. Every one of next month’s graduates has been accepted to college.

Rice will live on then only in the spirit of its graduates. One of them, Kemba Walker, led the University of Connecticut men’s basketball team to the NCAA championship this year. At the same time, this Bronx kid was finishing his degree in three years so that he could go to the NBA as a college graduate.

“A lot of us are successful now because of Rice,” Walker said when he heard the bad news. “It changed me.”

And so many others.

See the article from the Daily News.

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Beyonce Joins Harlem School for Surprise “Let’s Move!” Dance

(Photo courtesy of Kevin Mazur, Getty Images)

NEW YORK (AP) — Students at a New York City public school working out to a Beyonce song got a big surprise when the superstar walked in and joined them.

About 85 students at P.S. 161 in Harlem were in the middle of a choreographed routine Tuesday to a song adapted from Beyonce’s hit “Get Me Bodied” when the singer arrived.

The children were participating in a national simulcast of “Let’s Move Flash Workout.” It’s part of first lady Michelle Obama’s fitness campaign.

The singer joined in wearing stiletto heels and a T-shirt emblazoned with “Let’s Move.”

Thirteen-year-old Aisha Collier gushed “she’s so beautiful.” She told the New York Post she messed up a little when Beyonce first arrived but then got back into it and continued to dance and have fun.


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Abdul-Jabbar Wants to Make Sure the Harlem Renaissance Big Five Aren’t Forgotten

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar took on a documentary on the Harlem Rens because they’d “fallen through the cracks of history.” PAUL SAKUMA/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FILE

by Associated Press

HOUSTON — Most people have never heard of Harlem Renaissance Big Five. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is intent on changing that.

The 63-year-old Hall of Famer has co-written and is the executive producer of a documentary called “On the Shoulders of Giants.” It tells the story of the Harlem Rens, an all black professional basketball team that defeated the Original Celtics for the world basketball championship in the 1930s.

“The primary reason that I did it was because the early days of professional basketball are almost totally unknown now to the public because it happened so long ago,” Abdul-Jabbar, in town for the Final Four, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “There’s no footage. It’s just fallen through the cracks of history.”

The Rens, who competed from the 1920s until 1949, were named after Harlem’s Renaissance Casino and played in its second-story ballroom. Jazz greats including Count Basie and Cab Calloway played at halftime of the Rens’ games, and they’d come on again after the game for a dance that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.

They won more than 2,000 games, including 88 straight in 86 days in 1932-33.

Abdul-Jabbar, who was born and grew up in Harlem, said he didn’t learn of the Rens until the summer before his senior year in high school.

“When I was still in high school I knew that they were a very good team,” he said. “But I didn’t know their relationship to professional basketball until much later, after having played professional basketball.”

The movie is currently available on Comcast on demand but is set to be released on Netflix in May. It features music by artists including Chuck D of Public Enemy, of the Black Eyed Peas and Herbie Hancock. Jamie Foxx narrates the film, and a star-studded list of people, including Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Carmelo Anthony, Charles Barkley and Bill Russell, appear in it.

He said it was easy to get so many people to lend a hand with the film.

“There are a lot of people who like the sport who I know and who have something relevant to say with regard to where the sport is today and where it’s come from,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “So I was able to get people to say a few things about what they knew about the Rens and give them a little bit of the recognition that they deserve.”

The documentary also features an interview with John “Wonder Boy” Isaacs, a Ren who died in 2009.

The impact of the Rens, who were enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1963, is far reaching, and Abdul-Jabbar said even the late John Wooden, his coach at UCLA, was influenced by the team.

“Coaches would bring their staffs to watch them play so they could figure out a way teach the game,” Abdul-Jabbar said. “That’s how well they played the game. My own coach John Wooden, he played against them in the 1930s. He played for a professional team in Indianapolis. He remembered how they played and tried to incorporate some of their expertise in his coaching philosophy.”

Abdul-Jabbar was most struck by the obstacles the Rens had to overcome in playing in a time when America was segregated.

“They couldn’t travel like everyone else,” he said. “They couldn’t stay in hotels. There was no guarantee that would be able to eat at a restaurant, and sometimes people wouldn’t sell them gas because they were black. It was a very different time in this country and very difficult to be a person of color and try to function in America. Yet they dealt with all of that just for the opportunity to play basketball.”

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East Harlem Kids Brainstorm Solutions to Gang Violence

Students Brainstorm Solutions (Photo courtesy of DNAinfo)

Jeff Mays

Anthony Holiday moved from Brooklyn to East Harlem because he feared for his safety after a confrontation with a street gang.

But when the 18-year-old arrived in Harlem, he found a similar problem with gangs waiting for him.

“I’m seeing teen violence and gangs all over my community,” said Holiday, who was one of more than 200 East Harlem young people who sounded off on gang violence Thursday night at a meeting organized by Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito and the El Barrio/East Harlem Youth Violence Task Force.

“I want to work for a collective solution to end the violence in my community and rebuild the community,” Holiday added.

The goal of the meeting was to hear from kids — the group most affected by gang violence — about ways to halt the problem in their community.

Read the full article at

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Headed Uptown for a Harlem Renaissance

Interior view of the museum - (Photo courtesy of Mustafah Abdulaziz for The Wall Street Journal)

Culture City
March 7th, 2011
By Pia Catton
Wall Street Journal

Sometimes the weather just gets in the way. In January, this column was devoted to experiencing the arts in unfamiliar ways as an effort to curtail procrastination: trying out new (to me) venues, neighborhoods and formats. After visits to the Queens Museum of Art and the Central Park Marionette Theater, followed by watching opera in HD and ballet on iTunes, I scheduled a visit to the Studio Museum of Harlem.

When the appointed day arrived, however, so did a major snowfall, forcing the museum to close for the day. But just like the Carnegie Hall concerts that were postponed last year because of that pesky Icelandic volcano, it’s only a matter of rescheduling.

So on a considerably less snowy day, I took the subway uptown for a whirlwind tour of arts and healthful food. My guide for the afternoon was actor Daniel Beaty, the 35-year-old writer and performer of the one-man show “Through the Night,” in which he plays multiple characters to dramatize the stories of black men in America.

A longtime Harlem resident, Mr. Beaty is closely connected to the neighborhood’s arts institutions. He’s also a supporter of its small businesses that cater to the health-conscious, one of which loosely inspired a story line in “Through the Night,” which is currently playing at Times Square’s Westside Theater.

One of the characters in Mr. Beaty’s show is a middle-aged father on a mission to keep his health-food shop open. So for our first stop, we met at Watkins Health Foods (66 W. 116th St.), a juice bar that also sells all manner of food and vitamins. Though the real-life store does brisk business (and Mr. Beaty’s character bears no real connection to the owner), Mr. Beaty was inspired by the setting after stopping in each day for a power drink of green vegetables, ginger and lemon.

Daniel Beaty and Lauren Haynes on a recent tour of the Studio Museum of Harlem, where Ms. Haynes serves as assistant curator.
.”I used to get one of these every day after working out,” he said as he ordered one for me. “I’m going to have a large, but you might want small.” (I finished it—and the energy boost was no joke.)

Our next stop was for lunch at another of Mr. Beaty’s regular healthy haunts: Food for Life Supreme (108 W. 116th St.), where they craft everything from the delicious Cuban-style salmon sandwiches to the colorful tables.

After lunch it was on to the Studio Museum of Harlem, where our visit took on a six-degrees-of-separation element. Mr. Beaty’s production boasts a high-profile group of “artistic ambassadors” whom he and producer Daryl Roth brought onboard to ensure the play attracted a broad and diverse audience. Among them: Thelma Golden, the director and chief curator of the Studio Museum of Harlem.

Ms. Golden has been at the helm of this 43-year-old museum since 2005, and she has balanced the institution’s longstanding mission—presenting and preserving artists of African descent—with new approaches to building the audience.

Last summer, Ms. Golden extended the museum’s evening hours to 8 p.m. from Thursday to Sunday—and turned Wednesday into a day for school tours and private events rather than the public. They may sound like small administrative changes, but they’ve had a major impact. “We used to not have a late-evening opening time, and that really cut us off from our audience,” she said. “There were lots of people in the neighborhood, and the museum would be closed.”

With the later time, the museum can catch people before they head to performing arts or dinner. “It was an acknowledgment of all the different reasons people come uptown,” Ms. Golden said.

Mr. Beaty in his one-man show 'Through the Night,' at the Westside Theater. (Photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal)

Assistant Curator Lauren Haynes led us on a tour through exhibits of work by Mark Bradford, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye and Dawoud Bey. And before we left, Mr. Beaty and I both availed ourselves of a great freebie: Harlem Postcards. “We ask artists to take a picture, and we print it as a postcard,” said Ms. Golden. “Our hope is that visitors from near and far leave with something that represents not only the museum but the neighborhood.”

From the museum, it was a short walk to the Dwyer Cultural Center (258 Saint Nicholas Ave.), a performance, exhibition and rehearsal space where Mr. Beaty has performed and pops in to catch other artists. He also has a deeper artistic connection to the facility: Dwyer’s co-director, Voza Rivers, is also the executive director of the Lenox Avenue-based New Heritage Theatre Group, which originally produced Mr. Beaty’s “Through the Night” with the Riverside Theatre and Wall Tall Girl productions.

In the gleaming multi-purpose rooms, one group was rehearsing a play and another was just arriving for a hip-hop show. A text and photography exhibition celebrating gospel and churches in Harlem lined one of the walls.

The Dwyer Center is mere steps from the Aloft Harlem Hotel, the Nectar Wine Bar and the restaurant Chocolate, where Mr. Beatty and I reflected on our day over a glass of bubbly. In a short few blocks, we had connected with visual and performing-arts venues, but there was too much to pack into one day. Next time: the Apollo.

Write to Pia Catton at

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Kids Learn About Art and Business at Harlem Textile Works

Chadai Knight Gets Some Help from Friends to Make Her Silk Screen (Photo courtesy of DNA Info)

By Jeff Mays
DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

The kids from the Friends of the Children of New York mentoring program thought they were going to Harlem Textile Works to learn how to make silk screen T-shirts.

But that’s half the mission of Harlem Textiles. The other is to show young people how their creativity can transfer into a career as an entrepreneur, artist, or business owner in the fields of graphic and fashion design.

“The fashion industry is sometimes inspired by black and Latino youth,” said Kevin McGruder, chairman of the board of directors for Harlem Textile Works. “People are looking at what they do and copying but they are not involved, they are not making the money. We try to connect them more directly with the industry.”

The kids picked screens with graphic designs like “Sugar Hill” written in Gothic letters and then paired it with an image of Michael Jackson dancing on his toes. They learned how to apply the ink through the silk screen onto a T-shirt using firm strokes while a friend held the screen in place.

Read more from DNA Info.

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