3 bold predictions for the 2013-14 NBA Season

Dwight Howard (l) and James Harden (r) will lead the Houston Rockets to the championship this season.

Dwight Howard (l) and James Harden (r) will lead the Houston Rockets to the championship this season.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) opened the new season on October 29, 2013 and the prevailing question for this new season is: Will the Miami Heat win a third straight title? Many are predicting a third successful title run for the Heat. That is a natural conclusion considering how well the team has played the past few seasons.

These bold predictions for this NBA season are sure to create a stir. Feel free to comment on which of these predictions (if any) you feel may end up coming true.

Kobe Bryant will have the most challenging individual season of his career this year.

Kobe Bryant will have the most challenging individual season of his career this year.

Bold Prediction No.1: Kobe Bryant will not average more than 20 points per game this season. The Achilles tear that Bryant suffered is a devastating injury that would immediately lower expectations of almost every other athlete for at least one year after  sustaining that type of  injury. Bryant’s reputation for playing through pain has fooled many analysts into believing that he will not only resemble his former self, but that he will do so soon. It is hard to envision Bryant playing before December. Additionally, the rigors of the NBA season will make it difficult for Bryant to create the space for his shot or get past defenders. These factors will lead to a sub par season for the Black Mamba.

John Wall will lead the Wizards to a first round upset in the Eastern Conference this season.

John Wall will lead the Wizards to a first round upset in the Eastern Conference this season.

Bolder Prediction No.2: The Washington Wizards will advance to the second round of the NBA playoffs this season. Four teams in the Eastern Conference are heavily favored to advance in this season’s upcoming playoffs: The Miami Heat, Chicago Bulls, Indiana Pacers, and Brooklyn Nets. These four teams have players that have had recent postseason success together. The Wizards, on the other hand, have not made the playoffs since the 2007-2008 season and only a couple of the teams’ players have ever been to the playoffs before. It may seem unreasonable to expect a team with such playoff inexperience to advance but just last season we saw a Warriors team in a similar circumstance unexpectedly advance to the second round.

(L-R) Chandler Parsons, Dwight Howard, James Harden, and Jeremy Lin are the players that will lead the Rockets through the playoffs this season.

(L-R) Chandler Parsons, Dwight Howard, James Harden, and Jeremy Lin are the players that will lead the Rockets through the playoffs this season.

Boldest Prediction No.3: The 2013-14 NBA Champions will be the Houston Rockets.(In full disclosure this article is not being written by a Rockets fan. I root for favorite player Russell Westbrook) so this is not wishful thinking because my desire is for the Thunder to win it all. The reasoning for this prediction is about the Miami Heat’s challenge to win a third straight title and the team in the West that seems best equipped to stop the Heat from reaching that goal. The interior presence of Dwight Howard and Omer Asik can present problems for most teams in the league and the Rockets have excellent perimeter players, led by James Harden, who can not only shoot well but get to the basket and finish. This combination of talent and playoff experience of the Rockets’ two best players (Howard and Harden) seems like a familiar mixture (Celtics in 2008 and Mavericks in 2011) that has led to the accomplishment of ultimate postseason goal: The NBA Championship.–OnPointPress.net

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant.

Chicago to host international financial summit


(Washington D.C., October 30, 2013): The Urban Financial Services Coalition (UFSC) will hold its 40th Annual International Summit on June 5-7, 2014 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The summit will continue to give members and constituents an opportunity to convene and discuss the ongoing changes in the financial services industry that affect their personal and professional lives.

The summit will include information sessions such as “Career Planning in Financial Services,” “Financial Services Regulatory Updates,” “Information Technology in Financial Services,” “Small Business and Business Professionals,” a “CEO Symposium” led by leaders of major businesses, and the “Intercollegiate Oratorical and Youth Business Plan Competitions.” These summit components will be held at the head office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago. The summit will culminate with a Community Empowerment Day event that is free to the public.

UFSC, formerly the National Association of Urban Bankers, is a nonprofit organization of diverse professionals in the financial services industry and related fields. Affiliation with UFSC offers a unique opportunity to influence the shape of the banking and financial services industry. UFSC promotes the personal and professional growth of its members and collectively articulates concerns and marshals resources to improve the economic development of under-served communities.

UFSC supports programs that offer practical benefits for diverse financial services professionals, banks and financial institutions. UFSC’s underlying goals and objectives are to foster the interest and increase the number of minorities in the financial services industry; strengthen the financial fitness of low-income communities; and provide scholarship programs for minority youth pursuing financial services careers.

The summit will culminate with an awards reception at which outstanding members, chapters and community leaders will be recognized for their dedication to UFSC and its mission.

For more information, please email ufsc@ufscnet.org-OnPointPress.net

Spectacular delivery in “Mama I Want to Sing: The Next Generation”

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Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson, the lead character in the Mama revival.

By Carmen Glover

Harlem’s Dempsey Theater was packed on Saturday, October 26 as Mama I Want to Sing:The Next Generation made its debut to an appreciative and supportive audience.  A revival of the memorable 1983 gospel musical Mama I want to Sing, the play is co-written by the Vy Higginsen and her husband Ken Wydro. It describes the journey of Doris Troy, Higginsen’s older sister, who overcame her mother’s objections to her decision to leave her gospel roots, follow her heart and seek musical fulfillment as a contemporary singer.

Troy excelled and recorded the 1963 hit “Just One Look” which catapulted her to a successful career that allowed her to work with a staple of mega-stars such as the Beatles, James Brown and The Rolling Stones. Mama is currently celebrating 30 years of performances and 25 years of shows in Japan. The play will travel to Japan for December and January, 2014. “On December 1 we will be leaving for Japan and we will play there for six weeks, celebrating 25 years in Japan and 30 years in New York City,” Higginsen said as she acknowledged Japanese audience members, some of whom were filming the performance.

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Elijah Ahmad Lewis renders an enjoyable delivery as the choir’s director of music.

The revival leaps out the gate with the choir’s high octane singing and musical direction by the irrepressible minister of music, hilariously played by Elijah Ahmad Lewis, whose physical contortions and telling expressions generated their own fan base. The play is narrated by Higginsen, who infuses the right mixture of excitement and solemnity depending on what is being described. Tyrone Flowers and Bettina Dowtin render credible performances as the Reverend and Mama Winter while Sandra Huff is entertaining as Sister Carrie. But the show belonged unquestionably to the lead, played in outstanding form by Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson, Troy’s niece.

Higginson is expressive, vulnerable, charming, witty, defiant and extraordinary as she embodies the different emotions demanded by the role. She delivers, every time, with aplomb. Higginson uses her voice as an instrument capable of a myriad of ranges, peaks and valleys, carrying the audience along an exquisite and rapturous thrill ride that envelopes patrons in a cocoon of sheer joy. She sings with such unadulterated ease, communicating her emotions so eloquently that she instantly becomes the focus of immense good will; the person that everyone roots for; the heroine everyone wants to not just succeed, but shine.

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(L-r) Sandra Huff (Sister Carrie), Ahmaya Knoelle Higginson (Doris) and Elijah Ahmad Lewis (Minister of Music) join fellow cast members in the closing scene.

Mama I Want to Sing: The Next Generation describes ambition, heartache, rebellion, faith and the fierce determination that is only seen in individuals who ignore potential pitfalls while focusing firmly on their passion and life purpose. 

For tickets and other information please contact the Mama Foundation for the Arts’ Box Office at (212)-280-1045 or visit mamafoundation.org – OnPointPress.net

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.

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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


British-Caribbean director brings “12 Years a Slave” to the big screen, Oscar buzz swirls for the film’s actors

Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor renders a solid performance in "12 Years a Slave."

Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor renders a solid Oscar-worthy performance in “12 Years a Slave.”

By  Carmen Glover

Solomon Northup (depicted by actor Chiwetel Ejiofor) strides briskly across the well-manicured lawn and is approached by two sharply-dressed men. They greet him pleasantly and offer him a gig, playing the violin, if he agrees to meet up with them later that evening for dinner. Northup agrees and by the time he realizes the earth-shattering mistake he made in judgment, it is too late and his freedom is stolen in an instant. He is robbed of his identify and ends up in slavery for 12 years while trying desperately to win his freedom so that he can rejoin his family and enjoy the comfortable life he used to lead as an outstanding musician.

Scene from the movie

Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) walks with his family before horrendous turn of events disrupt their lives.

“12 Years a Slave,” based on Northup’s harrowing experiences in slavery,  was told in his 1853 memoir, only to be brought to life by a black director with Caribbean and British roots.  “I realized that the story needed to be told,” Director Steve McQueen said at a screening of the movie this past summer in Orlando for the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ). At the screening, McQueen shared the stage with actresses Alfre Woodard and  Lupita Nyong’o, who both star in the movie. “Brad Pitt became involved in the project,” McQueen explained, resulting in necessary support for the film to make it to the big screen.

Scenes from the plantation

Scene from the plantation

It is unimaginable for some people to consider any scenario which could trap them into slavery in today’s society. However, in “12 Years a Slave,” Northup’s vulnerability and trusting nature are exploited violently, eviscerating his dignity, lifestyle and sense of security. Ejiofior envelopes the character, possessing it completely, resulting in a poignant, raw and powerful depiction of a reality that is painful to witness but too mesmerizing to ignore.

Actresses Lupita Nyong'o  Alfre Woodard and director Steve McQueen discuss the movie at NABJ Convention in Orlando, Florida.

Actresses Lupita Nyong’o , Alfre Woodard and director Steve McQueen discuss the movie at NABJ Convention in Orlando, Florida.

“12 Years a Slave” opens in limited release today, expanded release on October 25, and in wide release November 1. Don’t miss an insightful, compelling story that is bound to ignite a myriad of emotions while at the same time, awaken a desire to learn more about other tales that are yearning to be told.  OnPointPress.Net.



President Obama stands firm, Tea Party rebels finally end impasse, re-opens govt.

For two weeks, starting on October 1, Tea Party rebels in the Republican Party insisted that President Obama should cave to their irrational demands and agree to defund the Affordable Care Act, his signature legislative accomplishment. The President refused, as he should. In retaliation, the Republicans shut the government down, determined to teach the President and the American people a lesson. Blinded by anger that this country is being led by an African-American male, many in the Republican Party have made it their sole mission to discredit, disrespect and demean President Obama while ignoring the will of the people who elected him to office twice.

The backlash that followed the irresponsible actions of the misguided Republications was swift and vocal. Veterans stormed the Veterans Memorial. Protesters amassed to show their disgust. Blame was ascribed sweepingly to the entire Congress, and to the President, who held his ground and refused to appease the spoilt Tea Partiers. The Tea Party rebels, blinded by irrational feelings of resentment, felt that bringing the country to the brink of financial ruin would be worth it to teach the President a lesson. In the meantime, House Speaker John Boehner, terrified of the Tea Party rebels, refused to act and allowed the country to be bullied into a shutdown.

More than 800,000 federal workers were furloughed, national parks were closed, medical research and testing halted. But the Tea Partiers remained unmoved and in a callous show of hypocrisy, Representative Ted Cruz (R- Texas) who called for the government shutdown in the first place, joined with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin this past weekend in a public rally to accuse the President of shutting the government down and depriving people of the use of the national parks. No doubt Cruz and Palin felt they were scoring political points as they appealed to their base while trying to re-write history. But while there theatrics continued, the economy lost $24 billion, according to the Standard and Poor’s.

By voting to pass the bill last night to reopen the government and spare the country further financial harm, Congress finally did what they are being paid to do. But, in typical dysfunctional fashion, the measure that passed last night only funds the government for three months, leaving the real possibility for this debacle to re-surface again in a few months. Let’s hope that the Tea Party rebels and the rest of Congress will heed the voice of the public and the polls that show the anger felt by the nation’s citizens and make sure that they never act in such an irresponsible way again. It behooves all members of Congress to realize and accept the fact President Obama was elected to office in 2008 and re-elected in 2012. His term ends in 2016, punishing the people of this country and threatening to wreck the economy will not change that. It’s time for this unruly faction to cease its misguided quest to destroy the country due to their anger that an African-American male, who belongs to the group that is most demonized in this country, is the legitimate leader of the free world. It’s time for Congress to govern, act like grownups and invest in the country’s future and strength. Anything less is unacceptable.—OnPointPress.net

WWE, perfecting the art of cross-branding

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson graces the cover of the latest WWE 2K14 video game to be released  Oct. 29, 2013.

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson graces the cover of the latest WWE 2K14 video game to be released Oct. 29, 2013.

By Charles Glover, Jr.

The WWE has become a leader in the concept of cross-branding, a tactic that has helped them become a billion dollar industry. The idea of promoting two or more brands at one time was not invented by the WWE but the company has perfected the approach.

Through different generations, the WWE has had superstars like Hulk Hogan (l) and John Cena (r) crossover to the big screen.

Through different generations, the WWE has had superstars like Hulk Hogan (l) and John Cena (r) crossover to the big screen.


In sports, cross-branding is second nature as commercials offer networks the opportunity to advertise other network shows during sporting events. The challenge for sports trying to increase viewership is to be interesting enough to attract brands that can help grow both industries.


Most sports market their biggest attractions in commercials and cameo appearances on television and in movies. Many sports also have their athletes featured in video games and fantasy sports leagues. The WWE became a promotion partner with other stars by inviting them to be guest hosts on WWE’s flagship show “Monday Night Raw”. Donald Trump, former NBA player Shaquille O’Neal, actor and “Wolverine” star Hugh Jackman, and former “Price Is Right” host Bob Barker led a long line of superstars from various areas to guest host in the WWE over the years.

Stone Cold Steve Austin has transitioned from being the face of the WWE to a star in movies and television.

Stone Cold Steve Austin has transitioned from being the face of the WWE to a star in movies and television.

The WWE has been exceptional at cross-branding because it has had a long list of superstars appear in movies that have earned hundreds of millions of dollars across the globe. Hulk Hogan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, and John Cena are among the long list of WWE superstars to headline major motion pictures. The WWE has taken the next step in cross-branding with the growth of the WWE movie production company. WWE Studios has collaborated with other major movie production companies to produce films in 2013 that featured stars like Colin Farrell, Terrence Howard, and Halle Berry.

Halle Berry stars in The Call, a WWE Studios movie released in theaters in March, 2013 and on DVD in July, 2013.

Halle Berry stars in The Call, a WWE Studios movie released in theaters in March, 2013 and on DVD in July, 2013.

The WWE model is not easy to replicate but there are a few methods that sports struggling to increase their popularity can learn from. The number one skill a major WWE superstar learns is how to sell themselves. That connection between the stars and the fans is necessary to grow interest in those stars outside of their perspective sports. The WWE shows that cross-branding their industry with other major genres like video games, television, and movies, ensures that their superstars attract more fans to the WWE brand.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover Jr. is a sports aficionado and management training consultant.

New Martinique cluster program unveiled at Panama shipping conference

Martinique's port, a hub of activity in the Caribbean

Martinique’s port, a hub of activity in the Caribbean

Fort-De-France, Martinique (October 10, 2013) – “Clustergates,” a newly formed public-private initiative, targeted to the Caribbean, was showcased by Martinique at a major shipping conference held in Panama City, Panama October 7-9, 2013.. The Cluster GAT Caraïbes Logistique et Transports or GAT Caribbean, a group of transportation companies and public sector organizations based in Martinique, participated for the first time at the 43rd Annual General Meeting of the Caribbean Shipping Association’s (CSA) Conference and Exhibition event.

GAT Caribbean, whose mission focuses not just on Martinique, but also on the greater Caribbean and the Americas, is encouraging public and private sector members to join the cluster to create, design and share future solutions that benefit the sustainable development of the transport and logistics industry. This regional network hopes to boost growth by capitalizing on the increased passenger and freight traffic anticipated from the major expansion of the Panama Canal in 2015.

In conjunction with the modernized Port of Martinique, one of the biggest natural harbors in the region, and with the support of Martinique’s Regional Council, GAT Caribbean is preparing the French Overseas Department to become a major Caribbean hub and “Gateway to Europe in the Americas” in the new post-Panamax era. With support of the Regional Council, which has a keen interest in integrating Martinique with the wider Caribbean, GAT Caribbean is hoping to become a major player in global transport and logistics negotiations that directly affect the globalization of the regional economy.

One of the tools to be developed by GAT Caribbean is “Clustergates” a marketplace grouping of both freight and passengers that will match demand and supply and optimize the flux of increased traffic into the greater Caribbean and the Americas. The cluster’s regional network will further create a dynamic exchange between bigger clusters across the greater Caribbean, the Americas, France and Europe. More than 300 shipping executives from across the Americas participated in the CSA meeting in Panama City, leading to a successful event.

The Cluster Groupement Antillais de Transport Caraïbes Logistique & Transport or GAT Caribbean was created in December 2012 at the initiative of private sector companies of the transportation and logistics sector in Martinique, and then other private and public sector companies and organizations and the Regional Council of Martinique. GAT Caribbean member companies fully benefit from resources and innovative solutions that result from sector studies and research projects in connection with organizations involved in training and research on behalf of the cluster.

All cluster members are considered an essential link in the value chain, and therefore help design, model and disseminate solutions for transport and logistics, sustainable development, not only for Martinique but also to the benefit of the Caribbean region.Annual objectives include a freight exchange solution for the Caribbean (in the Americas and to Europe), the development of ICT solutions for transport and logistics, business tools to improve logistics performance, and the use of “inter modality” for both freight and passenger transport.

The Port of Martinique is one of the biggest natural harbors in the region, with a draft of up to 17 meters (56 feet) deep, which with its modern infrastructure has all the potential to become a leading regional hub and gateway to Europe in the Americas. Through support of the Regional Council and a major investment of 70 million €uros (approximately US$95 million), the Port of Martinique is presently being renovated and modernized to handle post-Panamax vessels of up to 13,000 TEUs.

For more information on the cluster, please visit .www.clustergatcaraibes.com.

Alive!, featuring seasoned performers, electrifies in Harlem’s Dempsey Theater


The cast of Alive demonstrate their vast talents.

The cast members of Alive! demonstrate their vast talents.

By Carmen Glover

The Mama Foundation for the Arts’ premiere performance of its off-Broadway musical Alive! played to a full house in Harlem’s Dempsey Theater on Saturday, October 5. Co-creators Vy Higginsen and her husband Ken Wydro greeted the crowd and a representative from sponsor, AARP shared a few words. Wydro, who directed the production, revealed that the show’s concept was derived from necessity.

“We were holding auditions and noticed that a lot of people were auditioning who were in their fifties and sixties,” he explained. Eventually, they decided to create the show as a vehicle for more seasoned singers who would be able to tap into their life experiences to offer a raw glimpse of triumph over tribulation. The result is a show that is rich in range and textured with a mixture of shared experiences and some level of diversity.

Cast members from Alive perform with confidence.

Cast members from Alive ! perform with confidence and passion.

Comprised of both men and women, Alive! weaves a tale of people who persevered despite challenges in order to triumph over the demons of their past. It tells a story of redemption, hope, resilience and determination. Told through a musical repertoire that runs the gamut from gospel, to reggae, to jazz, rhythm and blues, Alive! illustrates the power of the human spirit to endure, rise above painful circumstances and walk in the light of hope and destiny.

Alive! begins with a heavy reliance on gospel classics such as “Oh Mary Don’t You Weep,” “I have a Testimony,” “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah,” and “Take the Lord with you,” As the story develops, various members of the cast shared snippets of their background before delivering thunderous renditions of individual numbers that best reflect the theme of their lives. The audience was interactive, singing along to a solid rendition of Tamala Mann’s “Take me to the king,” and “I Will Always Love You.”

But it was when the performer walked calmly to the edge of the stage and effortlessly belted out The Righteous Brothers’ “Unchained Melody” that the audience erupted in cheers, waves and a standing ovation. The singer’s clear delivery belied the harsh life of struggle that he described and the consequences he paid for the indiscretions of his youth. But his story of redemption was so compelling that the appreciative crowd showed him with applause, reluctant to see him leave the stage. Act one ended on a high with a searing rendition of “The Impossible Dream.”

Vy Higginsen, co-creator of the off-Broadway production, Alive.

Vy Higginsen, co-creator of the off-Broadway production, Alive!

At the conclusion of a brief intermission, the show resumed with renditions including “Salvation Day,” that featured a performer sharing his narrative while banging smoothly on a drum. Other staples followed in short order. Among them were: “She Works Hard for the Money,” Georgia on my Mind,” Neither one of us,” “Slow Hand,” “If I could” and “Amazing Grace.” The performer who delivered a poignant version of the James Ingram classic “Find 100 Ways” almost brought the show to a standstill as an appreciative crowd clapped energetically, whistled, shouted and simply reveled in an exquisite rendition of a song that is as timeless as it is beautiful.

Although the musical numbers in Alive! were delivered with precision and accuracy, the show itself could benefit from a more tightly developed story line that is not as reliant on piecemeal narratives. That element of the production, if addressed, would transform the show into an exceptional masterpiece because the other elements such as the singing, lighting and appeal of the show unquestionably come together to provide moments of levity blended with sadness and joy.

The modest ticket prices make Alive! affordable, providing an excellent idea for a special occasion such as a first date. Attendees can use their ticket stubs to receive discounts at participating restaurants and parking garages, adding more incentive for those who are indecisive about attending the show. Alive! is scheduled to run every Saturday through November 16 and is real treat that music lovers would not want to miss For more information, please visit www.mamafoundation.org.–OnPointPress.net     

Disney Dreamers Academy accepting applications through October 31

E! News host Terrence J (c) is flanked by Husain and Zahra Abd' Allah, who participated in the Disney Dreamers Academy in 2013 and 2012, respectively.

E! News host Terrence J (c) is flanked by Husain and Zahra Abd’ Allah, who participated in the Disney Dreamers Academy in 2013 and 2012, respectively. (All photos by Disney/Julie Hirshenson).

By Carmen Glover

For the past six years, Walt Disney World has partnered with entertainer Steve Harvey and Essence magazine to present the Disney Dreamers Academy (DDA). The DDA provides 100 U.S. high school students, aged 13-19, with a weekend getaway at Walt Disney World. During the weekend, participants are paired with mentors and provided with immersion seminars geared towards careers. The career and mentoring events are interspersed with activities which allow the students to enjoy the sights and sounds of the theme parks.  Applications are currently being accepted for the competitive program and interested students are encouraged to take advantage of the free, event-filled, enlightening weekend event by submitting their applications before the deadline of October 31.

Terrence J and his mother, Lisa Gonzalez, talk about his book.

Terrence J and his mother, Lisa Gonzalez, talk about his book and his fond memories as a mentor with the Disney Dreamers Academy.

Representatives from the Disney Dreamers Academy, including Director of Walt Disney World Public Relations Carole Munroe and  Public Relations Manager Maria Cecilia Toro, were on hand at Trattoria Dell’ Arte in Manhattan on Wednesday, October 2, to talk about the program and the ways in which it changes the lives of the students who have been participants. E! News co-host and actor Terrence J was a featured speaker at the Manhattan event . He talked about his recent book, “The Wealth of My Mother’s Wisdom,” while sharing the stage with his mother, Lisa Gonzalez,. Terrence J answered questions about his life as well as his involvement with the Disney Dreamers Academy as a mentor and speaker. “The deadline is October 31 so if you know anyone that’s young tell them to apply,” he said. “It’s a genuine program. You will see Steve Harvey with a group of men teaching them to tie a tie.”

Members of the media listen as Terrence J and his mother discuss his book.

Members of the media listen as Terrence J and his mother discuss his book and the Disney Dreamers Academy program.

Terrence J also spoke about the degree of dedication that Disney has to the DDA. “Disney is very committed to the event,” he said. “After the event we meet and discuss what worked and what didn’t. They meet with the students to find out what their favorite parts were.“ Describing the joy that he derives from participating in the program,Terrance J said: “The Disney Dreamers Academy is so rewarding and fulfilling. This is the first organization I really sank my teeth into with mentoring. I feel that the program benefits me more than the students.”

Brother and sister Zahra and Husain Abd’Allah, 2012 and 2013 DDA alums, respectively, spoke eloquently about their participation in the program.  When asked what they have learned through their participation in the program, they brightened and talked animatedly, “I learned that you should never give up on your dreams because dreams are the things that make you who you are,” said Zahra, 18, a freshman at Laguardia Community College majoring in communication studies. “I learned that it’s not enough to learn everything. It’s enough to learn enough to help others,” said Husain, 15, who is taking a public speaking class at Hostos Community College. The siblings, who were both home-schooled and are spoken word artists, excelled in the DDA. Zahra was named Ms Curiosity during when she participated, while Husain wrote an original piece called “Ain’t Nothin’ Like A Dreamer” in honor of his DDA class.

Tanisha Sykes, personal finance editor at Essence, described one of the ways in which  the magazine contributes to the weekend’s activities. “At the Disney Dreamers Academy Essence provides a deep dive where we gave an immersion seminar on journalism,” she said. “What I have come to learn,” Sykes said, “is that a dream plus a plan equals success.” Essence, she said, “has been a part of this from the beginning and will continue to be a support.” Zahra said that during her participation in the program she attended a deep dive on health care with Dr Ian Smith as well as the Essence deep dive on journalism. As a result, she said she is considering becoming a journalist.  Husain said he met the founders of the Kinsey Collection during his participation in the journalism deep dive. “I learned to hold fast to my dreams,” he said of the deep dive experience. Keeping with the theme of dreams, Zahra said she learned that “dreams are the blueprint of who you are.”

Applications for the seventh class are being accepted through October 31, 2013 at www.disneysdreamersacademy.com. The next Academy will take place over the weekend of March 6-9, 2014. OnPointPress.net