It is the presence of strong women in the Broadway musical, ‘Holler If Ya Hear Me’ that attracted Saycon Sengbloh to be part of the cast and serves as a reminder of one usually overlooked facet of Tupac Shakur’s enduring legacy: his female empowerment anthems. The production, currently playing at the Palace Theatre uses Tupac Shakur’s music to frame the non-autobiographical story of an ex-offender John (Saul Williams) who returns home to a community plagued by poverty, joblessness and violence. Sengbloh plays the role of Corrine, the ex-girlfriend of John who tries to steer him away from the wrong path.
“I think the female voice in this production is very important,” said Sengbloh. “With my character I inspire men in the play to see that you can choose to love your brothers and sisters by not harming them.”
Although the musical is centered on a man, throughout are performances of several of Shakur’s songs about the struggles and triumphs of women such as ‘Brenda’s Got a Baby,’ ‘Keep Ya Head Up’ and ‘Dear Mama.’ For Sengbloh the fact that a man who was found guilty of sexually abusing a woman created these songs doesn’t detract from the power of the late rapper’s lyrics.
“I won’t defend or make excuses regarding his innocence but an entire group of teenagers were moved to not have unprotected sex by ‘Brenda’s Got a Baby.’ I won’t remove that song from their ears because of an issue that happened at another time. I do believe everyone should be allowed an opportunity for redemption.”
Off the stage, Saycon is creating her own music to touch listeners as heard here.
Eriq La Salle takes artistic control while giving back
After memorable roles in everything from the big screen classic ‘Coming to America’ to the hit television series ‘ER’ Eriq La Salle is finally where he should be. And that place is either behind a desk or in the director’s chair as he balances career reinvention as an author and director.
La Salle recently released his second novel, ‘Laws of Wrath,’ a thriller sequel to ‘Laws of Depravity,’ which follows NYPD detectives Quincy Cavanaugh and Phee Freeman as they attempt to stop a cult from committing ritualistic murders. But these are no cheap thrills as La Salle says the plot is meant to inspire contemplation on the nature of faith. “The book really raises the question of where does faith and spirituality lead you. Will it lead to forgiveness or vengeance?”
La Salle’s spiritual convictions have also led him to the director’s chair where he is determined to increase diversity and broaden the representation of women on-screen. La Salle recently directed episodes of CBS’ ‘Under the Dome’ and NBC’s ‘Crisis’ (the latter is now cancelled).
“As a director I love getting a script and having a role written for a man and saying why not make the judge a female. It’s not always that they [TV networks] are resistant to it. It’s just that they haven’t thought about it. Those victories of helping there be more diversity are tangible and meaningful for me.”
Equally important is La Salle’s passion for giving back. He regularly mentors aspiring television directors and lends his support to charities such as the Bronx Charter School for the Arts. This past June he served as an ambassador to the school’s Friends of Bronx Arts program where he helped raise over $50,000 to supports Bronx Arts’ arts and academic programs.
Hennessy’s ‘wild rabbit’ campaign like you’ve never seen it before
What does your ‘wild rabbit’ look like? That was the question presented to ten Pratt Institute graduate students as they were challenged with creating art inspired by Hennessy’s popular campaign which celebrates the inner motivation that pushes one to reach their full potential.
A panel of judges including legendary street artist, Futura selected the winner, Eduardo Palma and first and second finalists, Eden Daniell and Lillian Ling, respectively. Winners receive funding to help support their careers and a trip to Los Angeles to display their works in conjunction with the launch of Hennessy’s new art bottle designed by Shepard Fairey. Take a look at the winning designs below including the work of one outstanding participant, Jiajia Jin, who surprisingly did not advance to the finals.
The weekly column, On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture entertainment and philanthropy in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.