tv Cityline ABC February 7, 2016 12:00pm-12:30pm EST
karen: today on "cityline, "our 29 days enough to celebrate black history and, coming to boston -- hello, everyone, i am karen holmes ward, and welcome to "cityline. heroic and historic deeds make many question why black history is not fully woven into american history. first, "peyton" comes to boston. it won
features the choreography of bob fosse. 44 years later, a tony-winner takes it into a new direction. from the moment you step into the theater, you are treated to a sensational spectacle. follow the young peyton on a journey for fulfillment. the journey unfolds for this with a fine acrobat, and the discovery of the real american dream. gabrielle joins us in the studio now. how are you today question mark gabrielle: i am great -- how are you today? gabrielle: i am great. karen: tell us about the story. gabrielle: it follows a circus troupe and we follow the character who is on a journey of life, and a leading player is
life. he goes through war, love, lust, glory, the simple life, and what ordinary life. it is told through the circus troupe, the fosse style, incredible singing. karen: been very played the leading player in the 1972 production. production. i am. the opportunity. it is really different now having a woman. you get to see a little bit more of a sensual society, that at the same time you see the strength of a woman too,, playing this role now. it is great to see an african-american woman playing this strong female role guiding
her hold her power and to see where she stands in this troop, and it relates to the world today, and you see how strong we are. karen: what was your experience with the show "pippin" before you joined the production? gabrielle: i did not know much i saw it in high school once. i did not know much about it, but i started watching clips of denver rain all the time, and -- ben, and i was impressive what he was doing. he is so fantastical. it was really intense. i saw the show on broadway. this is similar to the first one, but completely different. karen: completely different? gabrielle: yeah. it is about the circus element -- it is still dark, but not as dark as the original production. karen: everyone remember the bob fosse choreography from the first production, but diane has
it is a very difficult show. what was it like for you preparing with the dancing, the acrobatics, etc.? gabrielle: it is still hard to this day. i will still learn steps before the show. you never master fosse. it is specific. you have to have strong physicality to do the show because you have to sing, dance, and do acrobatics. karen: and keep your breath at the same time. gabrielle: you have to breathe. karen: [laughter] gabrielle: there are some shows where i am like "gabby," just breathe. karen: do you have to take energy bars? gabrielle: you definitely have to eat a lot and be healthy. i cannot eat junk food or else i kind of crash.
gabrielle: that is what the show has taught me -- my instrument is my gift, and you have to take care of what you have -- your body, your voice, all of that. karen: what do you want people to take away from this production? gabrielle: come to the show not expecting anything, and really let yourself go, go with the unknown. i think it will make you question a lot of things about your life and it takes you to places you did not think were possible. karen: great. congratulations to you. thank you for being here. "pippin" is on stage through february 14. next, advancing the story of unsung african-american heroes in a creative way during black
karen: welcome back. throughout the year we recount the great moments and achievements of heroes in american history, but it seems like in february -- only in february -- the story of black icons come into focus as we celebrate black history month. but why are these stories, with many forgotten in the annual retelling, relegated to one month? for author and illustrator joel christian g ill, 28 days, were in the case of this year, 29 days, are not enough. his graphic novels introduce
history is being revitalized through beautiful and vividly all year. in the studio. what a wonderful way to display and tell black history. joel: thank you. it is a lot of fun. karen: give us an overview of some of your books like "strange fruit nine stories of one celebrated narratives from black history -- stories you will not find in history books, like the slave who in a five-year span learned to play chess, mastered it, wrote a book about it, and then disappeared. nobody knows what happened to him. i was trying to find stories you do not necessarily here during the greatest hits of black history month -- dr. king, jesse owens -- those kinds of people.
that were not those that people always talk about. the stories in "strange fruit" are stories that i feel like our true american, rugged, individual stories. people not given anything, but were able to succeed in spite of the environment they lived in -- people like marshall taylor, or bass reeves, living in a hostile environment, were able to be successful black people and do the thing that people always say if the american dream even about. "tales of the talented tent." joel: growing up as a kid, i wanted to tell -- write comics action based. law man
he caught 34,000 criminals in the old west. he had a native american sidekick. dressed in disguises, left a silver coin behind, and most of the exploits were written about in the newspaper. a lot of scholars, including myself, believe he was the original inspiration for "the lone ranger." karen: who knew? joel: people pick it up and say i did not know he was the inspiration, and i say that is because he was a black man. karen: [laughter] the titles have black history meeting in themselves, right? karen: right. --joel: right. "strange fruit is the billie
some lynching photos, and i went back to telling comics. mile stories were not working. i ran across a story of box brown, a slave who mailed himself to escape to freedom. as i found that story, people told me other ones. and with "tales of the talented tenth" i wanted to tell one story, and then do another person' s story. one was about a black woman who wrote a motorcycle across the united states in the 1930' s and the 1940' s. karen: and "tales of the talented tenth" is a phrase -- joel: about the 10% of the population that would be the intellectual to rise up and leave the community, which was in contrast to the atlanta enterprise -- that we would be laborers. it' s it we also need intellectuals.
it is an interesting argument. anyone looking to change that in those books as well. karen: what was it like for you researching these stories -- and when you find out the information, there was a phrase about black history lost, stolen , and free -- what was it like for you discovering these? joel: it is magical. it. has. happened? finding the story of rice, who was a slave -- we only have two things about him. we have the two letters that he wrote to his children and records of his enlistment in the military, but he wrote the letter telling his kids take care of yourself, i will come back and get you, things are be ok, and then he wrote a letter to the slave master saying i am coming to get my children and
men -- black men with him. there was a research project and they talked to his daughter, and she said he came back and got me. those stories that have been lost because we have a tendency in america to rewrite history. history is written by the victors. there will always be stories glorifying the hunter until the lion learns to write. that is what has happened in america. we do not look at the idea that black people as a whole are the true horatio alger story. we were people that came from less than property, in some we are most to an area where we talk about becoming successful. finding these stories is like a way of affirmation for me. i like to see that. karen: why did you choose this particular medium to tell these black history stories? joel: if you have ever seen an e-mail from me, you know why i draw instead of right. less typos.
joel: i think comics have a way of reaching people you could not reach with prose sometimes. people learn things. i use racist caricatures in commonly here, and embedded in those pictures is a hieroglyphic people can look at and automatically see, understand what that means, and why that is an offensive thing. karen: are you the person that started #28daysare the notenough? joel: i am. we should make it a 365-date celebration. it is embedded --black history is an elective. karen: black history is american history. joel: right. it is an elective and people have a tendency to think i will take it as an elective, but --
we built the white house. we built the capital. the civil war was won by slaves. karen: washington, d.c., the streets, were laid out by black men. joel: black people in america are the longest immigration story. because of the color of our skin, we are seen as the exotic other. when you have a person that comes to the -- to america that is german in one generation, they can be white. black is black. by incorporating those stories and connecting those stories, that will help us understand that, you know, country music and apple pie is american, but so is hip-hop and baggy pants. karen: any plans to focus on the women? joel: absolutely. betsy was a woman motorcyclist, individual.
in "strange fruit -- volume 2" about women, including confederate who helped to turn the civil war. it is important to recognize things. try to do better the next time. that is the point. that is what happened with me. i did not draw women because i did not think about them -- i am not a woman. now i have to actively make the decision. karen: joel christian gill, your work is beautiful, and not only is it beautiful, it is educational and informative. share with us. joel: thank you for having me. a lot of fun. karen: find out more about joel christian gill on our "cityline" page on wcvb.com.
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karen: welcome back. established in 1866, 6 months after the civil war, the university was set up as an slaves. seeking ways to raise money for tuition, the jubilee singers came together in 1871 to sing along the route of the underground railroad and across europe. the jubilee singers have been credited with introducing the world to the tradition of negro spirituals and african-american religious music. you will have a chance to hear this performed in boston on february 21. donna mcilroy, the class of 1977 alumna and a jubilee singer joins us in the studio now.
s go more into the history and the significance of the fisk university. donna: yes. there was a need for newly freed slaves and the votto children to and the school was established to provide that secondary education and prepare young african-americans to go out in the world and be professionals. after the civil war there were only a
few people thinking about even providing higher education for freed slaves and fisk university was one of those places. with moorhouse, hampton. were also the pioneers of this general using.
karen: as the story goes, they were trying to raise money for college tuition. tell us how the fisk
jubilee singers came to be. karen: based -- donna: they started singing, they were students of the european style and show the ability to learn the music. they were out doing brown and mozart, and that kind of music, and they got an opportunity to travel, and the people continually said we would like to hear you do your slave songs, and that is why -- how they group. karen: it is interesting, because as the fisk jubilee singers were traveling around music, they were performing against type of what people able to sing and perform, isn'
that is correct. shuffleboard, no dancing. karen: which is associated with what we call minstrel music. donna: right. they were not minstrel singers. they were classically trained singers, and that is where we get the arrangements that came out of that era as being driven. karen: and that means -- donna: savanna -- soprano, alto, tenor, face, -- base. karen: they also traveled in england and around europe. how are they received? donna: absolutely embraced. queen victoria, i think it was, named them america'
the jubilee singers have made america' s music city, and that is how usa. she was impressed with their ability to emulate the european repertoire and style, and she still asked them, we want to hear some of your slave songs, and that is when they came back out, and they were immediately, warmly embraced. karen: and where does the name jubilee singers come from? donna: they needed a name, and they went through the scripture -- is atticus, i think -- it is mentioned and it is about claiming your right as a free person, and of course this was referring to the jewish people, but they adapted that name, the
it was the celebration of claiming of your heritage, freedom. karen: freedom in this case. donna: freedom. that is exactly right. karen: you are a jubilee singer alum. what was your time like with the group? donna: we traveled. we came up to the city a lot. in those days, as may be true now, i have not checked the director --we did not stay in hotels. karen: because? donna: because the way the music got dispersed was mostly through churches -- the united church of christ and the african methodist episcopal church would host us, and we would stay in the pastor' s house, in various deacon' s homes, and members of the church. we would get on the bus, go
route of the underground railway. karen: did you have a chance to travel abroad? donna: i did not. i think i have done that -- i think they have been a european trip since i graduated. karen: what was special for you? donna: i think the reverence, for the history, the sacrifice, that the singers had to make. the music, the stories -- the singing about everyday living and how to handle the oppression. karen: and here we have a picture -- a modern picture of the fisk jubilee singer group, and i cannot let you leave without talking about the upcoming symphony hall concert. donna: i' m very excited about that. karen: tell us what we' re going to hear. donna: you' re going to hear, first of all, great narration written by terry carter, who
he is the class of 1980. it will be performed by former governor deval patrick and professor sarah lawrence lyford from over at howard -- harvard. you will hear the children' s chorus. karen: another renowned group. it will be a wonderful evening. thank you for stopping by to tell us about the fisk jubilee singers. you can celebrate the fisk jubilee singers as symphony hall in figure 21st at 7:00 p.m. featuring donna mcelroy, and on march 11, joined a moorhouse glee club for the annual concert and scholarship fundraiser at the st. paul church in cambridge at 7:00 p.m. learn more about everyone we featured on the episode by logging onto our "cityline" page at wcvb.com. thank you for watching, everybody. have a great rest of your day. take care. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its