Street Roc: Exciting, versatile entertainers who thrill fans, showcase talents

The Street Roc Label has a cadre of diverse, talented musicians who bring individualism to the label.

The Street Roc Label has a cadre of diverse, talented musicians who bring individualism to the label.

By Carmen Glover

An enterprising group of youthful entertainers who cemented a strong bond of friendship while growing up in the Bronx, New York, the birthplace of hip hop, is poised to storm the music scene from their dual base of operations in Atlanta, Georgia and New York City with a plethora of musical offerings under their music umbrella, The Street Roc Label LLC.

Inspired by genres that span reggae, hip hop, R&B and Rock & Roll, the ambitious musicians are passionate about their craft and determined to make an indelible mark in the music industry. Despite having their own unique styles, they are also following in the footsteps of other memorable groups such as Ruff Ryders, which was helmed by DMX and the Fugees, which paved the way for explosive careers for its members Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel.

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With NWA’s biographical film, “Straight Outta Compton,” dominating the movie theaters this past summer and industry buzz building about upcoming releases chronicling the career of Snopp Dogg, sometimes known as Snoop Lion, the Street Roc roster mates see a viable path to carving out a competitive niche for themselves in the industry and solidifying their reputations as serious, conscious, hard-working, savvy musicians and budding entrepreneurs.

But, just like the 1985 blockbuster movie “Krush Groove” told the story of hip hop trendsetters Russell Simmons, Run-DMC and LL Cool J, and enigmatic musician Prince set the stage for independent producing when he left Warner Brothers after a public spat, the Street Roc team members are determined to have ownership of their work and shape the trajectory of their careers, a lesson many musicians fail to learn until they have lost all their earnings to extravagance and flash.

Kristoph Francis developed the name for the record label and takes great interest in the success of all the artists.

Kristoph Francis developed the name for the record label and takes great interest in the success of all the artists. His demo, “Critique Me,” was released in 2014.

Kristoph Francis, 23, one of the label’s co-founders, created the name for the company based on reactions to his childhood musical performances and because the name, Street Roc,”has a nice ring to it.”

“I came up with the name when I was in high school because everywhere we went we had the streets rocking,” he recalled. Francis, who played the Congo drums in church at age 11, describes the drums as instruments that infuse all of his musical repertoire. “When I’m making my beats, I think of the drums because they give me my music sense,” he said, explaining that his cousin plays the bass drums for reggae singer Capleton, who is known for introducing the element of fire to his extraordinarily spectacular shows.

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The Street Roc Label is poised for takeoff after releasing mixed tapes “Divine Adolescence,” in 2012 and “Too Geek’d For The Streets,” in 2013.

Francis said he was influenced to pursue a career in music by Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, his stepfather and a host of artists, including reggae crooner Sanchez, who came around the family often during Francis’ childhood. Meeting Young Jeezy and M.E.M.P.H.I.S. Bleek, who signed Francis’ book of raps, piqued his interest and fueled his drive to hone his musical skills.

As he puts the finishing touches on a mixed tape, which features singles such as “Back Home” and “It’s All Yours,” Francis reminisces about the day he showed his grandmother his homework, which posed the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? Francis wrote “a rapper,” which elicited much consternation and the response: “You can’t be a rapper,” which caused him to internalize his dreams until his adult mind was capable of developing a plan of action to aggressively respond to the tugging of his heart-strings and live his musical truth.

Kristoph Francis is focused on creating beats and taking the label to the fans.

Kristoph Francis is focused on creating beats and taking the label to the fans.

While also having an interest in music, the experience has been somewhat different for Francis’ brother, Malcolm ‘Dolo Pierre’ Jackson, 25, a co-founder of The Street Roc Label. Jackson combines his experience as an actor, songwriter, producer and musical artist to create a career path that is boundless in scope and richly textured with layers of possibilities.

“A lot of my musical and acting experiences come from the church because my mom was heavy in the church and I used to try to join her on the choir and they would let me sing,” he said, a thespian in his own right.

Malcolm "Dolo Pierre" Jackson delivers range as a multi-talented songwriter, producer, actor, musician and performer.

Malcolm “Dolo Pierre” Jackson delivers range as a multi-talented songwriter, producer, actor, musician and performer.

Citing reggae legend Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley and iconic entertainer Michael Jackson as his two greatest influences musically, Jackson strives for range in his music.

“I’ve done reggae, hip-hop, R&B,” he said, while explaining that all of the artists represented by the label “take pride in writing our own lyrics.”

Malcolm "Dolo Pierre" is looking forward to releasing a full album early in 2016.

Malcolm “Dolo Pierre” is looking forward to releasing a full album early in 2016.

Jackson, whose musical talents gained an audience when he participated in the chorus in elementary school and the band in middle school, said that being raised in a household with ‘musically inclined’ parents made a huge impact on his sensibilities.

“Music developed naturally and soon I wanted to record,” he said.  As he continues to follow his heart, Jackson said that he plans to release an EP of “all original music early in 2016,” and strives to achieve the taste of success, which, for him, is “the look on everybody’s faces telling me that nobody has any question about my talents.”

Kristine "Phresh" Walker is the lone female on the label and she cherishes her role as a deep thinker.

Kristene “Phresh” Walker is the lone female on the label and she cherishes her role as a deep thinker.

Kristene “Phresh” Walker, 26, spent the first seven years of her life in the Bronx before relocating to Atlanta, Georgia, where the other members of the label gradually transitioned.

“Once we all came down to Atlanta, it solidified what we were trying to do,” Walker said, describing herself as a thinker.  “I think a lot and I want to bring a lot of thought back into music because back in the day it was more about lyrics and I’m trying to bring it back to that and integrate the message back into music and the rhythm,” she said.

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Walker, whose musical interest was awakened at age 13, also performed in church as a child. A solid artist, who sees her role as akin to Lauryn Hill with the Fugees, is striving to awaken “a more conscious and cultured element to the current crop of music, like Erykah Badu and Missy Elliott.”  For her, being a member of the Street Roc family is comforting.

“The team plays a big part because us being together pushes me to create something that never existed before,” she said. As she continues to promote her mixed tape, “Loud Silence,” which debuted in April 2015, she is also busy working on new music. “Being able to influence others and have a say, gives me a high and pushes me forward,” she said.

Lavar "Stiff Tha Godz" Stiff, is creative and entrepreneurial, a solid combination for success.

Lavar “Stiff Tha Godz” Stiff, is creative and entrepreneurial, a solid combination for success. As he promotes his mixed tape “High Times,” he utilizes concepts he learned while completing all but one semester in undergraduate studies in Business Administration. He hopes to complete his studies soon.

Lavar “Stiff Tha Godz” Stiff, 28, another of the label’s co-founders, was enthralled when he first saw Tupac Shakur having a merry time on MTV in his classic Dr Dre-produced hit “California Love,” followed by a video by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

“When I saw Tupac in ‘California Love’ I knew I wanted to be a rapper. He inspired me and MTV opened up a new gateway for me,” said Stiff, who was 8 years old at the time. “I started acting like I was on stage, like I was performing.”

Once the music bug hit, Stiff began to formulate a plan to make his dream become a reality. But he realized that he was also interested in the business side of the music industry so he enrolled in college and completed three and a half years of a degree in business administration.

"High Time" is an ode to marijuana and its impact on society.

“High Times” is an ode to marijuana and its impact on society.

“As far as entrepreneurship, I was influenced by Master P because he came from nothing to become one of the first Black millionaires just from doing rap. I’m an artist. I write music, I rap and I helped put the label together by forming the foundation,” Stiff said, while explaining that he has a lot of different things that he would like to accomplish, including learning to play the guitar. “For the future, I’m interested in film, movies and incorporating them into the musical aspect, like Michael Jackson and his long-form videos,” he said.

For a fledgling musical entrepreneur who did not grow up around much musical influence, Stiff nonetheless developed an eclectic taste for music and an admiration for genres including reggae, hip-hop, old school R&B, Rock & Roll and Blues by the incomparable B.B. King and Muddy Waters. Yet, Stiff celebrates marijuana each chance he gets and lauds the herb on his recent EP, “High Times,” which was released on September 23 2015, at https://soundcloud.com/stiff-tha-godz/sets/high-times.

Devon "D.O.C" Riley, the youngest member of the label, is eager to make his mark in the industry.

Devon “D.O.C” Riley, the youngest member of the label, is eager to make his mark in the industry.

The youngest member of the group, Devon “D.O.C” Riley, 21, looked no further than two hip hop legends as a template for inspiration.

“Nas and Jay-Z influenced me because they are able to express themselves and the way they deliver their lyrics, they have something to say,” he explained. Riley developed an ear for music from his father, who is a DJ. “I was exposed to music at a young age. I felt the music. I used to be more on the reggae side but as I grew I dabbled into different types of music because I don’t want to be put in a box. My focus is to get people to understand both types of music—-reggae and hip hop,” he said, pondering the musical landscape.

 

Gotham City is DOC's take on the nuances and mysteries of New York City lifestyles.

“Gotham City” is D.O.C’s take on the nuances and mysteries of New York City lifestyles.

Riley, who is very interested in scary movies and hopes to find ways to integrate that interest into his music, is currently savoring success with his new song “Gotham City,” which is available on iTunes.

“People have different views looking out on the world. Music is the way people express themselves and I’m working on a project on duality, to use music to explain everything,” he said.

Alexander “Spazz’ Momon, 26, rounds out the crop of label mates, who function like family by nurturing each other’s independent projects while collectively investing in the success of the label as an entity.

Alexander "Spazz" Momon, is refining his compilations so that he can release his full album on November 1, 2015.

Alexander “Spazz” Momon, is refining his compilations so that he can release his full album on November 1, 2015. His single, “Bon Jour Mary” appears on the “High Times” EP.

“We all went to high school together and we have different styles. My musical style is more energetic and technical, like Busta Rhymes, Eminem and DMX,” he said. After careful thought, Momon, who also holds down a job so that he can pay his bills while building his musical career strategically, explained that he has “been influenced by pioneering rappers such as Kool Moe Dee and LL Cool J.”

“My dad put me on to them and Wu-Tang Clan and my mother used to work in the music industry,” he said, revealing that when he first heard Rhymes’ “Dangerous,” at age 11, he was so captivated by the animation and high-octane flow that he would sneak home early from school to listen to the song over and over. Like his label mates, Momon is hard at work compiling an EP.

“My mixed tape will be ready on November 1 but I recently released the single “Bon Jour Mary” on the “High Times” EP,” he said. As he charges full speed ahead with his musical career, Momon has one objective: “I want people to understand the struggle, the triumph and the love for music,” he said.

As the multi-talented entertainers on the Street Roc Label LLC pour their efforts into a distinctive musical repertoire, they create individual projects and bring new artists along the journey to prominence. While they contemplate organizing a Street Roc tour, the label mates expect to soon hear the sweet sounds of success reverberating from coast to coast and across the globe, as they finally get their career recognition and financial rewards.

Learn more about this prolific, dynamic group of musicians and what’s next in their careers at StreetRocMusic.comOnPointPress.net

Club Enlightenment, a beacon of hope for Jamaican students (Part I)

L-R: M Club Enlightenment members Malik Vernon, Christopher Menzies, KayAnn Harrison, Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens, Samara Brown, Social Media Marketing Coordinator of OnPointPress.net and Kimani Veron.

L-R: Club Enlightenment members Malik Vernon, Christopher Menzies, KayAnn Harrison, Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens, Samara Brown, Social Media Marketing Coordinator for OnPointPress.net and Kimani Vernon.-Charles Glover Photo.

By Carmen Glover

During the period when he attended the prestigious high school Kingston College, in Kingston, Jamaica, Hector Stevens developed the gift of gab. As he progressed to the University of Technology, known in the 1980s as the College of Arts, Science and Technology, he majored in mechanical engineering while continuing to eagerly discuss ways to improve the circumstances faced by students across the island. It is therefore unsurprising that Stevens has harnessed his diverse interests and corralled them under one broad umbrella with the establishment of Club Enlightenment, an organization designed to provide students with the opportunity to develop a plan of action for their lives.

“The idea for Club Enlightenment ‎was conceived on November 23, 2013 because of my observations at the time that that the youth didn’t know how to think,” Stevens said, musing over the club’s genesis. “The objective for the club was to discover my life purpose in terms of mind, health, body and wealth then share that with students so that they could improve their lives.”  For Stevens, the journey to self-discovery stemmed from past turmoil in his life.

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Christopher Menzies received rousing applause after singing two songs for the guests.

“After 19 years working for a company I was fired because different management took over and they wanted to micro-manage me‎. They changed the whole culture and I wasn’t in alignment ” he explained. “After my dismissal I did some soul-searching for two years.” In retrospect, Stevens ‎realized that his period of introspection centered squarely on five specific areas of his life: mind and body, which he addressed through rigorous participation at the gym; reading a lot to develop new tools; Learning to relax because, as he described it, “Over the years I was working 14-hour-days so I decided to get more rest so that I could think clearer;” developing a new way to support his family and establishing a spiritual base.

The two-year hiatus stretched into four years, while friends and family eyed Stevens with mild to intense curiosity and some measure of skepticism as they wondered: What is going on with Hector? But Stevens continued to march to the beat of his own drum, convinced that God was leading him to fulfill his intrinsic purpose in life.

Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens is committed to steering students to a path of discipline and success.

Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens is committed to steering students to a path of discipline and success.

“After four years of self-discovery and self-expression I wanted to impart a new way of thinking on teenagers that I met in a social setting, particularly playing football” said‎ the former college soccer player. But the transition to his role as executive director of Club Enlightenment was not entirely smooth and the students that Stevens wanted to mentor were shrewd. They double-checked what he said and conducted surreptitious stake-out exercises to ensure that his actions matched his words. Once be passed their investigations, a process about which he was blissfully unaware, the students, who fondly refer to Stevens as “Uncle Hector,” approached him to have a series of conversations, from which the framework for Club Enlightenment emerged.

“Most of us are seeking more than the shallowness of life,” said Christopher Menzies, 19, a versatile singer, producer and writer who treated the OnPointPress.net staff and other guests to stirring musical renditions as a prelude to this interview on Sunday, August 17 in St, Catherine, Jamaica. Kimani Vernon, 20, a chemical engineering major at the University of Technology (UTECH) in Kingston, agreed.”We were searching for something new,” he said. For Kimani’s 17-year-old brother Malik, a computer science major also at UTECH the pull of Club Enlightenment was fueled by a desire to escape a cloud of darkness that had enveloped his psyche. “I wanted a solution. I wanted to wake up and smile,” he said, “Uncle Hector told me to think positive and after a while I became happier.” Kay Ann Harrison, 24, who is interested in writing a book about her life, found Club Enlightenment and clung to it like a weary desert traveler who gets a sip of water to quench her parched lips.

Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens, KayAnn Harrison and Christopher Menzies share their thoughts about the club with OnPointPress.net staff.

Club Enlightenment Executive Director Hector Stevens, KayAnn Harrison and Christopher Menzies share their thoughts about the club with OnPointPress.net staff.

“When I left high school I was isolated. I would stay home alone, no interaction. In my family, I could not speak my mind. I was shut down,” she recalled. And then she discovered the power of the pen. “I began to write poems. With Club Enlightenment, instead of being fearful I came to assess things differently. I’ve learned that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear,” she said, explaining that her defining moment came when she got a job in sales and had to speak persuasively. “I decided to face my fear,” said the former reserved young lady. “These days I wake up and visualize the day that I want to have that day.”

Malik, who experienced clashes with his father in the past, said Club Enlightenment has changed his outlook and impulses. “I thought I was treated unfairly because I questioned everything and I wanted to be accepted.,” Club Enlightenment changed all of that, he said, “Uncle Hector told me to tell my dad that I loved him and listen to him. I have a friend who was in the exact situation but he didn’t want to listen.” Through his involvement with Club Enlightenment, Malik has developed the capacity to communicate his thoughts respectfully and listen to his parents and other adults, even when he disagrees with their perspectives. His older brother Kimani, said he was “on the other side of the spectrum,” from his sibling. “I was a perfectionist and people used to tell me I looked sad. Meeting Uncle Hector helped me smile more,” he said, an intense expression creasing his face. “I realize that my father is going to be himself and that I get most of my personality traits from my mother who is more laid back.”

Musician Christpher Menzies entertained with songs.

Musician Christopher Menzies entertained with songs.

Upon reflection, Menzies realizes that he has come into his own due to his involvement with Club Enlightenment. “My household was dysfunctional and I was trying to get out of that environment. I used to talk to Kimani, who is my neighbor and schoolmate,” he said. “I used to always hear him talk about Uncle Hector and the group. I talked to Uncle Hector and he gave me words of wisdom.” Menzies said that his involvement with Club Enlightenment came “when things took a big turn in my life. I got kicked out of my home but I was determined not to let that deter me from succeeding.” With the help of Club Enlightenment and Kimani, Menzies said things are getting better. “I’m on a journey to become a more positive person,” he said, and his music helps to keep him grounded. “I sing, write and produce,” he said. “I try to record myself to see if I’m getting better. If I get a chance to sing for people, I do it.”

Stevens said that the camaraderie provided by Club Enlightenment’s participants lead to a strong, supportive community that bolsters students’ self-esteem and highlights their innate talents. As the club approaches its first anniversary, Stevens is exploring ideas to expand the programs and services he offers so that current and future students can develop a broader range of skills and expertise. “My aim for Club Enlightenment is to expand in other venues, such as high schools,” he said. Judging from his track record of listening to his heart and depending on it to guide him, Stevens will undoubtedly achieve all his future goals for the club, and more.-OnPointPress.net.

Phenomenal woman Dr Maya Angelou leaves a towering legacy

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De. Maya Angelou poses with Samara Brown in 2002 at the opening of the Hue-Man Bookstore in Harlem, New York.

By Carmen Glover

While working as an associate editor for a Brooklyn-based newspaper in 2002, I went to Harlem, New York, to cover the opening of Hue-Man Bookstore, an African-American establishment that was the brainchild of the ex-wives of three former New York Knicks players, including Rita Ewing, the ex-wife of Patrick Ewing. I entered the store and saw rap mogul Jay-Z in a corner talking to then-Knick Charles Smith, while late actor Ossie Davis chatted to his wife Ruby Dee and actor Wesley Snipes held court with his Asian date. And then I saw her. Dr. Maya Angelou was seated regally on a stool, holding a cane, her eyes shrouded by a pair of dark glasses.

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Dr. Maya Angelou shares a light moment with her only child, son Guy Johnson

I approached her and introduced myself. Then I explained that I just left my daughter upstairs at the Magic Johnson Theatre with friends, to my chagrin. “Go and get her,” Dr. Angelou told me in her rich, firm voice. I didn’t need to be told twice and my daughter, Samara, squealed, “Really?” when I told her who was downstairs. After shaking Samara’s hand and agreeing to pose for a picture, Dr. Angelou issued instructions to my daughter: “Hold your back straight,” she said, as my daughter complied with alacrity, while the photographer who accompanied me on the assignment snapped the picture.

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Dr. Angelou and her mother, whom Angelou said told her “We’re going to have a happy baby” when the teenaged Angelou told her she was pregnant but not in love with the father.

Many people from all walks of life no doubt have personal stories of the moment when they met Dr. Angelou and how enthralled they were by her poise, wit, grace and spirit. Dr. Angelou described being a mother as a blessing and as the world mourns the passing of this literary icon it is important to remember her son and his family in our prayers. Her son, Guy B. Johnson, released a statement on Wednesday morning which read:

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“Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8 a.m., EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.”

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey last year, he said through a video that he “grew up in her light.” Angelou gave birth to her only son when she was 17. They lived in several cities including Accra in Ghana, Cairo in Egypt, New York and San Francisco.

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President Barack Obama gently kissed Dr. Angelo’s cheek after awarding her the Presidential Medal of Freedom .

Dr. Maya Angelou lived a life that was exceptional in its scope, vast in its reach and profound in its impact on her admirers and students of literature across the globe. The first volume of her autobiographical series “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” is required reading in schools across the United States, and it details her early life, her childhood trauma and her indomitable spirit that defied challenges and abuse.

She inspired a legion of ardent fans with the lyrical texture of her poetry, the rhythmic flow of her words, the compelling prose of her novels and the sage wisdom inherent in her counsel. She spoke about the joys she experienced as a mother to her only son and the determination that propelled her to achieve professional success.

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Media maven Oprah Winfrey has described Dr. Angelou as a “mother, mentor and friend,” often citing her words of wisdom and the solace they have brought her over the years.

And along the way she inspired others to follow her path, or carve their own, never losing sight of what is important. When she delivered her rousing inaugural poem, “On the Pulse of Morning,” at former President Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration, we were riveted with wonder, admiration and pride at the beauty evoked by her voice and words.

Media maven Oprah Winfrey has spoken lovingly about Dr. Angelou and shared stories about their friendship, while inviting her to share her wisdom on various episodes of her show over the years. And so as we grieve, it is important to celebrate the life and legacy of a woman who lived fearlessly, powered on by a burning passion to achieve. In a statement about her death U.S. President said:.

American poet Maya Angelou reciting her poem 'On the Pulse of Morning' at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in Washington DC, 20th January 1993. (Photo by Consolidated News Pictures/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

American poet Maya Angelou reciting her poem ‘On the Pulse of Morning’ at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in Washington DC, 20th January 1993. (Photo by Consolidated News Pictures/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

“Today, Michelle and I join millions around the world in remembering one of the brightest lights of our time-a brilliant writer, fierce friend, and a truly phenomenal woman. Over the course of her remarkable life Maya was many things-an author, poet, civil rights activist, playwright, actress, director, composer, singer and dancer, but above all, she was a storyteller and her greatest stories were true. A childhood of suffering and abuse actually drove her to stop speaking but the voice she found helped generations of Americans find their meaning amidst the clouds and inspired the rest of us to be our best selves.”

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Yes, Dr. Angelou caused us to aim higher, to reach for more. Born Marguerite Ann Johnson on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri, she went on to create literary works that resonate across the world but she was not exclusively artistic. She contributed to the civil rights movement by working for both Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. She later taught at Wake Forest University and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2011, the National Medal of Arts in 2000 and the Lincoln Medal in 2008. During her youth, she was a calypso singer and she claimed Caribbean heritage through her paternal grandfather, who hailed from Trinidad & Tobago.

Brutally raped at age 7, by her mother’s boyfriend, Dr. Angelou stopped speaking after the culprit was found murdered when she revealed his identity to her family. “I thought my voice killed him,” she explained about her self-imposed, five-year silence after the traumatic episode. But her spirit drove her to success and her thirst for knowledge refused to be quenched. As a result, people all over the world were blessed to see or hear her recite some of her powerful works including her spectacular poems: “Phenomenal Woman,” and “I Rise.” In her last Twitter post on Friday, May 23, 2014, she wrote: “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.” In expressing his grief at her death, former President Bill Clinton said:

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Former President Bill Clinton had a long friendship with Dr. Angelou.

“With Maya Angelou’s passing, America has lost a national treasure. The poems and stories she wrote and read to us in her commanding voice were gifts of wisdom and wit, courage and grace. I will always be grateful for her electrifying reading of “On the Pulse of Morning” at my first inaugural and even more for the years of friendship,” He also sent his “deepest sympathies” to her son.

Winfrey, in her statement, covered the trajectory and nuanced complexity of their relationship, which spanned years and experiences that dripped with meaning.

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“I’ve been blessed to have Maya Angelou as my mentor, mother/sister and friend since my 20s. The world knew her as a poet but at the heart of her, she was a teacher. She won three Grammys, spoke six languages. She moved through the world with unshakeable calm, confidence and a fierce grace. I loved her and I know she loved me. I will profoundly miss her. She will always be the rainbow in my clouds.”

For many of us, Dr. Angelou’s enduring legacy will be the template she left that defines resilience: the ability to get up and rebound despite struggles, obstacles and disappointment. Her attitude showed the conviction of someone who had things to do, someone whose ambitions and determination propelled continuous movement, someone who set clearly defined goals and tackled them with grit and courage.

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Dr. Angelou has been called back home to rest in the arms of her heavenly father but for us who remain, it’s important to take the time to read her works, understand her life and make an effort to emulate her ambition, drive and refusal to offer excuses instead of being completely focused on achieving our goals. Rest in peace, Maya Angelou, your life and legacy will live on through us–OnPointPress.net.

Carmen Glover is an award-wining journalist and editorial director of OnPointPress.net. Follow her and OnPointPress.net on Twitter @OnPointPress_.

How college females can stay safe, while dating and having fun

 

Samara

Samara Brown graduated from St. John’s University’s Tobin School of Business with a degree in Marketing in May 2012.

By Carmen Glover

Achieving a balance between having fun and keeping safe while in college can be an elusive goal for females, many of whom are leaving home for the first time and eager to learn about themselves, date and earn their college degrees on time. The challenge of meeting all those responsibilities can be overwhelming for some, often leading to unfortunate results, including compromised safety.

New York’s Junior Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand has been a stalwart champion for female safety, trying valiantly to garner support for bills in the U.S. Senate promoting safety in the military and on college campuses. Speaking recently at a press conference at Columbia University in New York, Gillibrand was surrounded by female college students, some of whom wept while describing being sexually assaulted on campus and getting no redress while being forced to live with the psychological scars that resulted.

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New York’s Junior Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is flanked by students from Columbia University at recent press conference announcing her initiative to fight sexual assaults on college campuses.

“The price of a college education should not include a 1 in 5 chance of being sexually assaulted and it is simply unacceptable that going to college should increase your chance of being sexually assaulted,” Gillibrand said, her eyes blazing with anger.

Reading from a prepared statement, Emma Sulkowicz, a Columbia University junior, said she was “raped on the first day” of her sophomore year at the university but despite reporting the matter to the university, the student who assaulted her was not charged with a crime. She admitted that she did not report the attack to the police only to campus officials.

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Columbia University President Lee Bollinger created a new position to oversee sexual assault reports.

Responding immediately to the press conference, Columbia University President Lee Bollinger released a statement indicating that he had created a new position, vice president of student affairs, who will report directly to him and focus on issues including sexual assaults. But for Sulkowicz, nothing was done to give her justice and the creation of the new oversight position might be too little, too late, since her sense of safety and security is already profoundly shattered.

In the meantime, Gillbrand is determined to shine a bright light on the issue of sexual assaults, partly because she fell just a few votes shy of earning passage of her measure to enact legislation that would dramatically change how the issue of sexual assaults is handled in the military. While garnering 55 votes, including support from 11 Republicans, her measure failed because she did not secure the 60 votes that she needed.

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U.S Coast Guard Kori Cioca and her husband Rob appeared in the documentary “Invisible War,” which aired in 2013 and showed the prevalence of sexual assaults on women in the military.

Gillibrand was aiming to strip the military of its power to examine sexual assault cases internally and instead have those cases dealt with outside of the military to avoid the repercussions that many enlisted females say they face when they report sexual assaults. However, Gillibrand said that during her quest to enact the military bill the reports that she got about sexual assaults on college campuses piqued her interest.

“We began to hear about the systemic problem on college campuses,’ she said.

The numbers prompted her to shift her focus to the nation’s college campuses in an effort to effect meaningful change towards ensuring females’ safety. Gillibrand is sponsoring a bipartisan bill and is trying to get $109 million air-marked to combat sexual assaults on college campuses.

While Gillibrand battles on in the Senate, St. John’s University graduate Samara Brown, who has never been assaulted but is keenly aware that some students at her alma mater were, believes that it is important for female students to embrace certain tips that kept her and her female friends safe when they were students.

air force

Members of the U.S. Air Force will still need to report sexual assaults to their military superiors, even if the superiors are the very ones who assaulted them, an injustice that Senator Gillibrand is trying diligently to change.

“There are different contributing factors to female students being unsafe on campus but from what I’ve seen a lot of girls in college are very eager and not very cautious. I’ve been there, very excited about the next party or concert and I think a lot of girls get caught up in the excitement of being out, having a good time and they neglect the safety part,” she said. “When that happens, they take many shots, post pictures on Instagram and let their guard down and they don’t think about safety.”

The key, Brown believes, is having a safety plan, and among the most successful measures she has found are going out in groups, having a designated driver if necessary, vetting guys through other guys before going on dates, always having your own cab fare, dressing appropriately and keeping friends aware of your whereabouts.

sam

St. John’s University’s Tobin School of Business graduate Samara Brown shares tips for keeping safe.

“It’s important to know where you are going and not end up somewhere else by chance. My friends and I always got ready at one dorm and we all left at the same time and left the party to return to our dorms at the same time,” she said, explaining that going out in groups which include a mix of males and females offers the best safety setting.

“Always have your own money so that if you have to leave you can call a cab and not have to wait for a bus when it’s late,” she cautioned. She also recommends being mindful about attire.

“When we leave the club and see how some of these girls dress in their raunchy outfits, they attract guys who invite them back to their apartments. With my group, when we drink we know who is intoxicated so that person will not drive or be left alone. If a female from our group had too much to drink we keep an eye on her and make sure she gets to her room safely,” she said.

kirsten

New York’s Junior Senator Kirsten Gillibrand is committed to keeping females safe in college.

Brown also recommends vetting guys through other guys prior to one-on-one dates. “if you are fortunate to be in a conversation with someone who knows the guy, don’t throw all your feelings out there in the conversation, use it as an opportunity to learn about the person, almost like a secret agent,” she advised. “Once you realize this is someone you want to investigate, invite him out as part of your group so that you can observe him.”

Brown, who keeps an even mixture of male and females friends, said that she avoided dating on campus during her early years in college and was very selective because she asked her male friends what they thought about various issues and learned a valuable lesson in the process: males and females have different agendas.

“Most guys in college are not looking for a serious relationship whereas a lot of girls are looking for boyfriends or even husbands which is a tricky scenario because they want different things,” she explained. Females will fare better, she said, if they focus more on their safety and learning to accept themselves and enjoy the college experience with both males and females as friends, rather than focusing on dating. As you grow into your own, you become more confident and that allows you to attract the right person and maintain your safety at the same time, she said.

As Gillibrand continues her uphill battle to keep females safe on campus, the role of college graduates in adding their voices to the conversation cannot be over-emphasized, since college students find it easier to talk to their peers. Recent graduates relate to their concerns, angst, and goals, thereby making the message easier to accept and the safety process easier to navigate. One of the most significant things all students can do to enhance their safety is to read the college security booklet thoroughly and follow the steps outlined, so that as the college experience begins, safety comes first.  —OnPointPress.net.

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Bronx BP, BFTA, Shawn Dove headline fatherhood conference

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr.  spoke at the BFTA Conference.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. , spoke at the BFTA Conference.

By Carmen Glover

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. joined members of his brainchild committee, Bronx Fathers Taking Action (BFTA), keynote speaker Shawn Dove and supporters in braving the non-stop rain on Saturday, March 29, for the second annual Bronx Fathers Taking Action conference.

The event was held at 2500 Halsey Street in the Bronx headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). Fathers from diverse backgrounds filled the room, some accompanied by their sons and daughters. The air was electric with anticipation and conversations buzzed as the event geared up to start. The theme of the event was “Sons of Today, Fathers of Tomorrow.”

Rev Wyatt gave the opening prayer

The Rev  Dr. Alfonso Wyatt, a former educator,  gave the opening prayer and also participated as a panelist by sharing his views and providing context and insight.

Andre Peterson, the event’s chairman, started the event and then introduced the Reverend Dr. Alfonso Wyatt, who delivered the opening prayer. Ronald Hartridge and Felix Leo Campos, co-chars of the BFTA, provided an overview of the committee by sharing its mission statement, eliciting applause and murmurs of agreement when they spoke.

“The Bronx Borough President formed this group two years ago and made this men the co-chairs,” said Peterson as he introduced the men.

“This is a movement, it’s not just something to do. I grew up in the Bronx and raised my family in Co-op City,” said Hartridge. “This committee of Bronx fathers will focus proactively on engaging, empowering, educating and encouraging fathers. Our objective is to enlighten and advocate for fathers in our borough and facilitate a path towards productive parenthood. Our goal is to provide resources and new relationships to reinforce fathers as positive role models.” Campos agreed, echoing details about the origin of the committee.

Ronald Hartridge

Ronald Hartridge, co-chair of BFTA, spoke passionately about the importance of fathers being involved in the lives of their children and the importance of the BFTA expanding and growing.

The men indicated that they have identified several areas where their efforts will be targeted: mentoring, fathers’ rights advocacy, financial literacy and education. Each conference will launch the focus on one key area. The focus identified at Saturday’s conference was mentoring.

“I was born here in the Bronx and was a teenager in the late ’80s,” the borough president said when he addressed the gathering. “I am a father myself and you all know my father, Rev. Ruben Diaz, Sr. I grew up on Watson Avenue, saw many bad things. My father wasn’t too comfortable talking to my brother and I about certain things so we both became teenaged parents.”

bp

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz met with attendees after delivering his speech.

Diaz explained how he transferred from one high school to another because “I was in love with a young lady so I transferred, chasing after her. Well, Hilda and I are still in love. At the age of 21 I was a father of two.” Several men in the room nodded in recognition as Diaz talked about his past, especially when he stated:

“My family was one of the few where both mother and father were in the household.”

Diaz explained that with the borough celebrating 100 years and seeing over “$600 billions in investment,” it is important that “we prepare young men so that they are not forced out due to gentrification,” which he described as “other people will be coming in and we will be forced out.” Issuing a challenge to the men gathered, Diaz said:” When you speak of violence and crime the one denominator is usually young men who didn’t have support so shame on us, shame on me if we don’t start to lay down that foundation so the Bronx develops these young men.”

shawn dove

Keynote Speaker Shawn Dove listens attentively as the Borough President speaks.

Keynote speaker Shawn Dove, who has worked in youth development for decades, thanked the borough president for his “honesty and transparency,” as he began his speech, saying as he looked at the men: “The iconic leadership that we are waiting for are right here in this room.” Dove then spoke about his upbringing and the role of women in his life:

“I want to acknowledge our women. I am a product of a single parent home with a Jamaican mother. I grew up in the Bronx and we are standing here fighting for our sons, our brothers, our wives and our fathers. Some people build monuments but the Bronx is building a movement,” he said as the men applauded.

He spoke about the importance of having mentors, acknowledging Wyatt as one of his. Dove disclosed how the Wyatt influenced him with words, and he shared one of the lessons that he learned from him years agi. Reflecting on that impact he said: “The right word from the right person at the right time can change your life.”

citation

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz awards citation to Shawn Dove after his speech.

Dove explained that it is important for men to realize that it is acceptable to cry and he recalled being brought to tears in the past as he considered the plight of young men. “I cried and wondered who is crying for our sons,” he said, explaining that “We have to instill into our young men that they can reach out to us and say: ‘I need help’ because every young man needs help.”

He described the BFTA as being instrumental in providing that help. “The BFTA is a fight. We have to sound the alarm in the Bronx. If the Bronx is going to lead we have to raise the awareness, train fathers because 23 million children wake up each morning without their biological fathers.”

After delivering his speech, Dove was awarded a citation by the borough president. Also, all the members of BFTA who were in attendance were awarded citations as well.

“To the Bronx Fathers Taking Action, none of them is getting paid a dime. They all have their children and grandchildren at home. With that attitude we will be the model, the paradigm by which other boroughs are judged,” Diaz said in presenting the citations to the BFTA members.

After the citations were presented, the attendees broke for a lunch break which featured singing by a female duo and a spoken word performance, by Glen Jenkins that was gripping from beginning to the end.

 

performer

Glen Jenkins, spoken work performer from the Church of God of Prophecy on East 165th Street, delivered a searing poem that riveted the audience and brought them to their feet in appreciation.

Jenkins recited his original poem, “The Truth,” which called for action and activism. His delivery was riveting and his words were strong and powerful. His performance was warmly received and from his manner and tone it was evident that he was driven by a desire to share his message as widely and often as he can.

After the lunch break, the event resumed with a panel discussion during which panelists shared their experiences as mentors to children and the impact such interactions have in the lives of the mentees. Audience members asked various questions and respectful dialogue ensued.

The conference also featured display tables where a modest group showcased their organizations. Among the entities who had representatives distributing literature and keepsakes were: Bright Futures Tutoring  Services and The Akira Center.

panelists

Panelists Rafael Fornes, III, fathers’ advocate (l) and Melvin Alston (r), Responsible Fathers Coalition, Administration for Childrens’ Services (ACS) provided insight as panelists.

The members of the BFTA who attended the event were: Hartridge, Campos, Vincent Adams, who was the master of ceremonies; Kenneth Alexander from the Real Dads Network, Jamal Bowman, John Fielder, Fornes, Dr. Patrick Gannon, Jose Gonzalez, Theodore James, Peterson, Jose Manuel Pichardo and Robert Powell from the Bronx BP’s Panel for Educational Policy. Charles H. Oruam and the Rev. Dr. Robert Smith, Jr. did not attend.

Dove left the gathering with three steps to changing the circumstances for young men: “Teach them how to transform pain into power, build strategic partnerships and develop the gold in our young people,’ he said. Diaz endorsed the sentiment and added: “When we approach young men we have to redefine how a man is and should be. We’ve been stuck in this mental box about how we should comport ourselves.”

Fornes emphasized “the importance of pairing fathers with children who need mentors,” while Alston talked about Bronx Visions, a group formed by men from ACS who go to specific schools during the men’s lunch break, to mentor children. “We talk to them about their behavior and achievement,” he explained. But the tone of warning was issued by Wyatt.

“We are in deep trouble as a community,” he said. “There are so many children in need of direction and guidance. Mentoring takes time.”

From all indications, the men who comprise the BFTA are up to the challenge and determined to fill the need as well as expand their reach, one child at a time.

For more information about the Bronx Fathers Taking Action (BFTA), contact Monica Major, director of education and youth services at Tel: 718-590-3515 or email mmajor@bronxbp.nyc.gov.–OnPointPress.net.

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Gifted musician Paul Kastick mentors, develops new singers

imageBy Carmen Glover

The picturesque beauty of the island paradise of Jamaica has nourished, soothed and nurtured many illustrious talents who have dominated on the world stage. From track stars Usain Bolt and Shelly Ann Fraser-Pryce who were named 2013 World Athletes of the Year, to intellectuals spanning many fields, and recent season five winner of “The Voice” Tessanne Chin, Jamaica can effortlessly stake its claim on the diverse talents of its sons and daughters.

Tessanne with her producer Paul Kastick of Groove Galore Muziq and Big Mountain band.

“The Voice’s” Season Five Winner Tessanne Chin with her producer Paul Kastick of Groove Galore Muziq Productions and Big Mountain Band. Kastick and fellow producer Rudy Valentino produced her hit “Hideaway.”

Paul Kastick, an extraordinarily gifted musician who, with fellow musician Rudy Valentino, produced Chin’s resurgent hit “Hideaway,” is poised to dominate 2014 with his diverse skills of producing beautiful music while developing a new crop of singing sensations. Kastick has toured or played on the same shows with some of the elite names in the reggae industry including the 809 Band, Shaggy, Maxi Priest, Diana King, Steel Pulse and Ky-Mani Marley. As CEO of Groove Galore Muziq Productions and a member of Big Mountain Band, Kastick proudly points to his Jamaican roots and his early musical influences as the reasons for his stellar successes professionally and his profound determination to develop new musicians in 2014 and beyond.

Paul Kastick enjoys a light moment backstage with Shaggy.

Paul Kastick enjoys a light moment backstage with Shaggy at New York’s Barclays Center in 2012.

“When I was ten, growing up in Montego Bay, Jamaica, we used to have two marching bands: Montego Bay Boys Club and Tyson. It used to be mesmerizing to me to hear the marching bands coming through,” Kastick said reflectively, while musing about his childhood. “You would drop everything you were doing and just stare. I had an obsession with the bands and seeing the guy throw the drum sticks up in the air.”

Kastick explained how he would walk along the path on his way home from school and peek in on the Boys Club practice sessions. “When I saw a brown-skinned guy, Carlos Gonzalez, playing the drums, I said to myself: ‘He’s good. I could do that one day,'” Kastick recalled. He took his childhood dreams to heart and quickly began to play in his high school band, although he recalled that the band only played “orchestra music” at the time, requiring him to learn to “read music.”

Paul Kastick doing what he loves most, playing the drums.

Paul Kastick doing what he loves most, playing the drums.

Honing his talent while passing time at his late mother’s store, Kastick said he would watch as various bands rehearsed nearby.

“I didn’t have a drum set at the time so I would play on my legs and in the air,” he said, laughing at the fond memories evoked by the imagery. “In 1982 my uncle went to New York for the first time and he came back with a video of MTV Top 40 Countdown. I saw Van Halen, Hall & Oates and the rock music brought out something in me. I started to get obsessed with the music,” Kastick recalled. “The defining moment for me was in 1983 when I joined with Benjy Myaz and we began to learn more about music. Shortly afterwards, Chalice’s album ‘Blasted’ with the hit single ‘Good to be There’ came out and the group’s drummer, Desi Jones, revolutionized the music,” he added.

New York based singer Faraji, is another singer whose upcoming album is being produced by Paul Kastick.

New York based singer Faraji is another intriguingly exciting singer whose upcoming album is being produced by Paul Kastick, who has a knack for producing memorable hits.

As Kastick matured, opportunities opened up to him and he landed a job as the drummer for the in-house band at Seawind Resort in Montego Bay. Throughout the tourist mecca, it was the norm to see Kastick, with his music bag slung casually over his shoulder, clicking his drum sticks in the air or randomly on cans and other surfaces, happily practicing notes only known to him, while residents and tourists simply stared and wondered: Who is that guy?. Kastick was caught up in his own musical realm, visualizing music’s vast terrain, while occasionally indulging in non-music related talk. His immense joy at being around music and being able to live out his passion daily was infectious. Music, unquestionably, was his life.

Belinda, who had a hit single in 1991, is working with Paul Kastick on her upcoming album.

Belinda Brady, who sang backup for Shaggy in the past, is working with Paul Kastick on her upcoming album.

For years, Kastick’s warm-up song was the sweet strains of Priest’s “Wild World,” though as a young man starting out in music, meeting Priest seemed like a far-fetched dream. But Kastick said he looked up one day while rehearsing with 809 Band at 2B Grove Road in Kingston, Jamaica, and saw Priest watching from the door.

“I could not believe it,” Kastick said emphatically, relishing the memory even decades later. A bond easily developed between the two musicians and Kastick has been touring with Priest since 2000.

Priest, who said he considers Kastick “a friend and co-writer,” describes him as “one of Jamaica’s all time greatest drummers both live, and in studio.” In an indication of Kastick’s life coming full circle. Priest, who Kastick admired so much as a young man, said that Kastick is “a true pioneer and I’m honored to have him as family, a member of my band, and a creative entity in my music.”

But it took Kastick many years before he got to the point of touring with mega-stars, running his own music company and producing work for fledgling singers.

Paul Kastick, (second from left) with the members of Big Mountain band.

Paul Kastick, (second from left) with the members of Big Mountain Band.

“In 1985 cabaret singer Dennis Malcolm came to me and Benjy to do a reggae cover version of Brook Benton’s “I Love You in So Many Ways,” Kastick said of the period shortly after he began to work at Seawind Resort. “Dennis was the first person who took us into the studio. I always thought that Benjy and I would be like the great Sly & Robbie team.” But their lives took different paths and in 1989 Kastick auditioned for 809 Band. “Four months later I got a message from 809 to come to Kingston on July 26, 1989 and by that time the Seawind Band was getting lots of attention,” he recalled.

Paul Kastick at Westlake Studios in Los Angeles, California, working with his Big Mountain band members.

Paul Kastick at Westlake Studios in Los Angeles, California, working with his Big Mountain band members.

Kastick’s involvement with the 809 Band led to an exhilarating journey during which he traveled regularly to Japan for the Japan Splash musical extravaganza, where he garnered attention for his talents but most importantly, cemented a loving, supportive and strong relationship with 809 saxophonist Dean Fraser.

“Dean was like a father to me,” said Kastick, who has never met his father. As a father himself, Kastick realizes the important roles fathers play in children’s lives. “When I had off days and would travel to see my girlfriend at the time, Kathy Williams, Dean was the one driving me to see her,” he said. The 809 Band is a highly respected band in reggae music and stars such as Luciano, Sizzla and a host of others have had hits produced by former members of the band.

Paul Kastick is lost in his private thoughts, as he ponders what's involved in producing new hits for his singers.

Paul Kastick is lost in his private thoughts, as he ponders what’s involved in producing new hits for his singers.

As the need for large bands waned in the mid-nineties, Kastick shifted his focus to diversify his opportunities by accepting an offer to tour with Diana King in 1995. He then joined Shaggy on tour in 1996, after first meeting him in 1993 when he played with the 809 Band at the Japan Splash and the band backed Shaggy, Gregory Isaacs and Buju Banton.

“In 1995 Shaggy came back with “Bombastic” but we were on tour in Trinidad with Beres Hammond and Shabba so we were unavailable to tour with him, but the night when Shaggy won the Grammy for “Bombastic” his manager called me and said they wanted to change their band and they wanted me, Michael Fletcher and Christopher Birch to join them,” he said.

After rehearsing for a week in Jamaica in 1996, Kastick and the rest of the band went on world tour with Shaggy, visiting South Africa, Australia, Brazil, Poland, Beirut, Lebanon; Belgium and Germany, among others. He recalled that the South African stop was the most memorable.

“The tour was two years after Nelson Mandela came to Jamaica and I played for him,” Kastick said. “When I landed in Johannesburg I felt like I was coming home to my roots. Maybe it was subliminal based on the history of apartheid.”

Paul Kastick gives his all in his performance.

Paul Kastick savors the power of the music and its impact in transforming the lives of music lovers across the globe as he renders yet another solid performance.

Kastick toured with Shaggy extensively until 1998 on the “Spirit of Unity Tour,” featuring Shaggy, Buju Banton, Steel Pulse, Beres Hammond and Lucky Dube. The tour was a summer tour in the U.S, and it ended in Hawaii. At the end of the tour, Kastick accepted an offer from Big Mountain Band.

“The manager of the band, who I knew from before, called to say the band needed a new drummer to build something solid,” he said of the transition. Joaquin “Quino” McWhinney, lead singer of Big Mountain Band, remembers observing Kastick in 1997 while on a European tour in Amsterdam during the period when Kastick was playing drums for Shaggy.

“We were sound checking at the Milky Way music club when I noticed Paul standing in the middle of the dance hall with his arms crossed, studying us intently,” McWhinney said, while adding that over the past 16 years “Paul became my close friend and partner.” Straddling a blend of reggae that incorporates a variety of styles, McWhinney explained that “Big Mountain is committed to create a sound that does not exclude any racial or cultural community and Paul brought to Big Mountain an extensive array of experiences in reggae music but he also taught us not to be afraid of our American roots.”

Kastick’s decision to accept the offer to join Big Mountain Band changed the trajectory of his career and led him to  producing, which allows him to expand his repertoire by working with new singers to help shape their careers. As Chin basks in the success of winning “The Voice” and continues to enjoy success from the Kastick/Valentino produced hit “Hideaway,’ Kastick is firmly focused on developing two singers who have enjoyed modest acclaim on their own: Belinda Brady and Faraji.

Paul Kastick shows that deep concentrating is necessary for a great show.

Paul Kastick shows that deep concentration is necessary for a great show.

“Belinda used to sing background for Shaggy in 1995 and she is Jamaican with Canadian heritage,” Kastick explained. “She sings big and powerful like Tessanne and she called me after she heard ‘Hideaway’ to discuss working together,” he said.

Although Kastick is producing an album for Brady, she is also working with Sly & Robbie and Tony Kelly as well. Faraji, on the other hand, whose style is of the soul reggae alternative genre, with songs such as “Come Again” and Sensimellia Love,” has a different connection with Kastick.

“Faraji is like a brother to me while Belinda is a friend that I linked up with,” Kastic said. However, one thing is clear: He is fiercely committed to both singers. “I am fully vested in them,” he said firmly, emphasizing his laser-like focus on solidifying the singers’ respective careers.

Kastick also works with Dorrett Wisdom (Dwisdom), who, he said, “In 1991 she had the hit single ‘First Real Love,’ which was produced by Willie Stewart of the group Third World. Dwisdom has been singing backup over the past 15 years for Beres Hammond and touring with him. She is working on her second album with Harmony House and Kastick is producing a remake of her 1991 hit “First Real Love.”

The music has captured Paul Kastick's body, mind and soul as he gives it his all.

The music has captured Paul Kastick’s body, mind and soul as he gives it his all.

King, who fondly refers to Kastick as “Styk,” said she “cannot imagine being without him.” She speaks highly of the 20 years that she has been working with the gifted musician and is rueful that he doesn’t have “a few clones” due to the intense demand for his indomitable musical skills. “Not only is he super talented as a live drummer and musical director on stage, he is just as talented and innovative in the studio when it comes to drum programming and producing,” she explained. “He’s on top of his game in every way.”

King expressed admiration for Kastick’s tendency to keep current with technology and musical trends while retaining his passion for musical excellence. “He isn’t afraid to say exactly what he thinks because he believes in the integrity of the music, which is why all the top international Jamaican artists’ first choice to work with is Paul.”

Kastick sees great things ahead for both of his singers as he works diligently to expand their musical reach and expose them to a wider audience. At the same time, Kastick is committed to continuing to tour with Priest, producing sweet music with Big Mountain Band, accepting other musical engagements and spending quality time with his family.

Gonzalez, who used to play drums with the Boys Club Band and whose late father was a saxophonist from Puerto Rico, was surprised when he learned that Kastick used to watch him play in their shared hometown of Montego Bay.

“That makes me feel good that I was like a role model to him and I’m happy that Paul went on to follow his dreams and do well,” he said. Gonzalez, who is no longer involved in music and resides in Toronto, Canada, said: “It just goes to show that you should never give up on your dreams.”

Paul Kastick and the members of Big Mountain Band rehearsing.

Paul Kastick and the members of Big Mountain Band having fun while rehearsing.

McWhinney agrees with that sentiment wholeheartedly and credits Kastick with helping him embrace the full scope of his dreams.

“Paul encouraged me to be myself and not try to copy Jamaican reggae. He encouraged me to reach deep into my experiences in life. I can’t stress enough how important it was for me to understand that,” he said. Savoring the richness of their close bond, McWhinney is pleased that as Big Mountain Band returns to the studio to record an album after a long break it will be with Kastick’s involvement.

“I’m so proud and happy to have my brother Paul by my side,” he said. “Paul Kastick is one of those rare examples of talent, professionalism and sincere heart that keeps reggae music alive and well in 2014.” Infused by the comfort of Kastick’s presence for the next phase of the band’s journey he added: “Big Mountain is back.. Big Time….” Undoubtedly, Kastick, who is described by Priest as an “amazingly versatile musician,” would agree.

The sky is the limit for Kastick as the New Year unfolds and his musical expertise expands. it seems that his work ethic will continue to be his strongest asset.

“Paul takes his work very serious: Always organized, early for work, the first in rehearsals, the last to leave, and enthusiastic when touring,” said Priest.

As Kastick continues to demonstrate his highly developed sense of professionalism while thrilling audiences with his vast skills, the world of music will continue to celebrate his tableau of musical passion, genius and excitement, mixed with a spirit of collaboration, all honed and nurtured on the breathtakingly beautiful island of Jamaica, where he grew up and still calls home.–OnPointPess.net

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Insight, inspiration and fun abound at Circle of Sisters Expo

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Motivational Speaker Iyanla Vanzant elicited the strongest reaction at Circle of Sisters Expo.

By Carmen Glover

The line to enter New York’s Jacob Javits Convention Center for the WBLS-sponsored Circle of Sisters Expo on Saturday, October 19, wrapped into a giant circle as eager attendees peered around, impatient to enter the convention hall. But once the line began to move and people started entering the coveted area, the energy, excitement and anticipation were palpable. The event did not disappoint, from vendors promoting products to celebrities and WBLS personalities mingling with fans, Circle of Sisters was off to a promising start.

On point press .net

Newark Mayor and Senator-elect Cory Booker discussed his plans.

WBLS News Director Ann Tripp gave insight into current news stories while she waited for the panelists to get settled. Then the parade to the podium began and included Norman Seabrook, president of the Corrections Officers’ Benevolent Association, Inc (COBA), Ken Thompson, Democratic nominee for Brooklyn’s District Attorney office, WBLS Vice President and General Manager Deon Livingston and Newark Mayor/Senator-elect Cory Booker. “

Journalist Ed Gordon interviews Activist Al Sharpton

Journalist Ed Gordon interviews Activist Al Sharpton

Booker was engaging as he shared lessons he learned from his father as well as his plans to “make change” when he goes to Washington as New Jersey’s Senator. “I’m looking forward to going to the Senate to talk about our issues that don’t usually get discussed there,’ he said passionately, while observing that “The power of the people is always greater than the people in power.” He left the stage to sustained applause. Afterward, Reverend Al Sharpton discussed his new book with award-winning journalist Ed Gordon while Gospel singer Yolanda Adams talked about healthy living.

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(l-R) Journalists T.J Holmes and Lenny Green share the stage with Singer Eric Benet to discuss relationships.

Among the topics tackled were “It’s your money: Learn how to spend and save it,” “Now It’s time to own your own home,” “The state of Black America,” “Black Men Revealed,” “Book signing and chat with Rev, Al. Sharpton and the Honorable David N. Dinkins. But the highlights of the day were delivered by Iyanla Vanzant, Steve Harvey, and the panelists for “The State of Black America,” and “Black Men Revealed.”

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Journalists Roland Martin and Keli Goff discuss the State of Black America with Dr Michael Eric Dyson.

The panel on “The State of Black America,” moderated by Gordon, featured Georgetown University Sociology Professor Michael Eric Dyson, TV One’s “Washington Watch” host Roland Martin, Journalist Keli Goff and Seabrook, who seemed out of touch when he bashed the relevance of social media. Dyson stressed the importance of leveraging political clout and community strength to “do for ourselves instead of asking folks to do for us.” Goff appealed to the attendees to support the movie “12 Years a Slave,” describing it as the “most accurate depiction of slavery” that she has ever seen because it “shows the psychological impact of slavery.”

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The audience cheers as Iyanla leaves the stage.

Actor Gbenga Akinnagbe, who has appeared in “The Wire” and “Taking of Pelham 123,” nearly incited a riot with his brazen thoughts about relationships while joining singer Eric Benet, journalist T. J. Holmes and radio personality Lenny Green on the “Black Men Revealed,’ panel, which was moderated in dramatic style by singer/reality star Tamar Braxton. “ A woman has to try to get my attention and she will know I’m interested if I speak to her for more than five minutes on the telephone,” Akinnagbe said boldly.

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Singer/Reality Star Tamar Braxton moderates relationship panel.

When a female from the crowd took him to task he asked her if she were single then said “I’m not surprised,” when she said yes. At that point, pandemonium erupted and women of all ages ran to the front of the room, dying to wring his neck. Braxton rolled her eyes, glared at him and made it clear she had no use for his thoughts. Holmes sat next to him to offer support, while Benet and Green kept silent. When the topic of cheating came up, Benet said he “knew something about that,” but largely kept quiet.

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WBLS VP/Gm Deon Livingston addresses the gathering.

The sponsors of the Circle of Sisters Expo addressed the audience. Norman Seabrook spoke to the crowd about the importance of COBA and the corrections department. Meanwhile, WBLS Vice President and General Manager Deon Livingston thanked the attendees for coming out in such large numbers to support the expo.

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WBLS personality Deja Vu talks to the audience.

But the excitement built to a crescendo as the crowd waited for Vanzant. She came out in style, dancing to Beyonce’s “Love on top,” while the crowd erupted in cheers. Vanzant had the audience eating out of her hands from her opening prayer, to her request that each person holds the hands of the one next to them, to her profound words of wisdom.  She urged the attendees to “Get it clean in 2014,” by cleaning up their minds, hearts, life, spirit, mouths, energy and credit. “Whatever you tell yourself about who and what you are it will happen,’ she said, warning about the power of thoughts to manifest into reality. “Clean up your minds by committing to forgiveness,” she said, “we have to stop expecting people to clean up our lives for us.” She left the stage to deafening applause and shouts.

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Comedian/Talk Show Host Steve Harvey performs a comedy routine before hosting a live edition of Family Feud.

By the time Harvey took the stage to treat the audience to a taste of his comedy routine in preparation for a live version of “Family Feud” the crowd was hyped and passionate. The Circle of Sisters was filled with fun, education and supportive interactions. Vendors, including the Network Journal magazine which had promotions maverick Julia Shaw at the helm of its booth, were creative in attracting patrons, while the panelists and presenters were entertaining. Surprise appearances were made by Cynthia Bailey and her husband, Peter of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” while Drea Kelly (ex-wife of singer R. Kelly) elicited gasps of admiration from men and women alike when she strutted by in a form-fitting dress that showcased her remarkable figure.

One area that could be improved is inadequate the number of ladies’ rooms, which created such long lines that some attendees, including this writer, commandeered one of the male bathrooms and posted other females at the door to keep the men out.—OnPointPress.net