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Icon Profiles

Painter Laura Wheeler Waring, noted for her portraits and illustrations

Depicted on the cover of the April 1923 edition of The Crisis magazine is the art of Laura Wheeler Waring, and this image of a woman playing an ancient harp, entitled “Egypt and Spring,” was just one of several covers ...
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An undaunted civil and human rights advocate, Rep. Charles Diggs Jr.

Current news stories surrounding the political turmoil in Zimbabwe and Kenya, the sexual harassment charges against Rep. John Conyers Jr., remembering Rosa Parks’ iconic moment almost 62 years ago to the day and the ongoing recollection of the tragic death ...
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Remember her name—Singer and composer Alberta Hunter

There’s a large blowup photo/poster of famed singer Alberta Hunter in the office of the Edwards Sisters’ Realty in Harlem. Hunter’s naked body is partially covered and at the bottom of the photo is her inscription to a Charlie Parker.
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Pianist/composer Alice Coltrane cast her own shadow

By now, many of you have seen the documentary “Chasing Trane,” about the acclaimed musician John Coltrane.
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Dakota Staton, a versatile vocalist with fantastic rhythm

Whenever a notable person appears in a profile, particularly when that person is a relative or a close associate, I find it difficult to ignore that individual, and that is certainly the case with songstress Dakota Staton.
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Fred Staton, a tenor saxophonist for the ages

Because I won’t be around for Fred Staton’s home going services Nov. 2—the tenor saxophonist died Oct. 24 at the Atria Nursing Home & Zicklin Hospice in Riverdale, Bronx at 102—I thought the Classroom would be a perfect venue for ...
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Cornelia Bailey, the Gullah-Geechee griot of Sapelo Island

Many years ago, while conducting research on the Gullah-Geechee culture in the small islands off the coast of South Carolina, I had plans to extend this pursuit to Georgia, particularly to Sapelo Island.
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Hugh Bell, an artist with a camera

When artist Otto Neals took a seat next to me at a street renaming ceremony in honor of the late Elombe Brath Saturday in Harlem, he had a copy of Breuckelen with himself on the cover and it caught my ...
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Bernie Casey, gifted athlete, artist and actor

Within a few days of learning of Bernie Casey’s death, I had read an article about polymaths, those individuals who are proficient in several endeavors.
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Dr. Ruth Elizabeth Burks, literary scholar and film authority

When Ishmael Reed announced this week that Dr. Ruth Elizabeth Burks had died, he reminded us that she was among the contributors to “Black Hollywood Unchained—Commentary on the State of Black Hollywood,” a collection of essays he edited in response ...
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A. J. Smitherman, a fearless publisher and advocate for the damned

It was during a recent speaking engagement in Tulsa on the riot that occurred there in 1921 that I discovered in my research a most interesting man.
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Evelyn La Rue Pittman, teacher and composer of folk operas and spirituals

In preparation for lectures in Tulsa, Okla., I stumbled upon the name of Evelyn La Rue, or LaRue, Pittman, and recalled seeing a photo of her taken by Carl Van Vechten, who documented so many outstanding African-Americans, particularly during the ...
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James Edwards, consummate actor and war veteran

The recent death of Dick Gregory and citations from his book “Nigger” brought to mind the actor James Edwards.
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The Rev. Charleszetta ‘Mother’ Waddles, fed the body and the soul

Nearly every African-American community has its “Mother” or “Queen Mother,” who has dedicated her life to preserving both her people’s present welfare and her enduring legacy.
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Dick Gregory—He attacked racism and bigotry with ironic humor

Dick Gregory possessed a comedic gift that when combined with his political insight cut like a laser to the heart of the Black experience in America.
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