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The Cast

Dr. Maya Angelou - Narrator

Dr. Maya Angelou is one of the most renowned and influential voices of our time. Hailed as a global renaissance woman, Dr. Angelou is a celebrated poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and civil rights activist. The author of more than 30 bestselling books in poetry, memoir, and non-fiction, Dr. Angelou has won hundreds of awards including the Presidential Medal of Arts, the Lincoln Medal, and 3 Grammy Awards. President Clinton requested that she compose a poem to read at his inauguration in 1993. Dr. Angelou's reading of her poem "On the Pulse of the Morning" was broadcast live around the world. Dr. Angelou has received over 30 honorary degrees and is Reynolds Professor of American Studies at Wake Forest University. As the voice of The Black Candle, Dr. Angelou's power and grace inspires all of us.

Amiri Baraka

Amiri Baraka is the author of over 40 books of essays, poems, drama, and music history and criticism, a poet icon and revolutionary political activist who has recited poetry and lectured on cultural and political issues extensively in the USA, the Caribbean, Africa, and Europe. Baraka is renowned as the founder of the Black Arts Movement in Harlem in the 1960s that became, though short-lived, the virtual blueprint for a new American theater aesthetics. The movement and his published and performance work, such as the signature study on African-American music, Blues People (1963) and the play Dutchman (1963) practically seeded “the cultural corollary to black nationalism” of that revolutionary American milieu.

Dr. Lisa Brock

Lisa Brock is a professor of African history and Diaspora studies at Columbia College, Chicago. Her articles on South Africa, Mozambique, African-Americans, Cuba and Blacks in the Diaspora have appeared in numerous journals and book collections. Her book, Between Race and Empire: African-Americans and Cubans Before the Cuban Revolution, was published in 1998 and her writings are regularly a part of the website: AfroCubaweb.com. She sees herself as operating in an interdisciplinary arena and has given lectures and served as visiting professor at numerous institutions such as the University of New Mexico, Clemson, Columbia University and many many others.

Jim Brown

NFL legend, actor, and community activist Jim Brown was born in Georgia and raised in a black Long Island ghetto. Recruited from Syracuse University, Brown was signed with the Cleveland Browns in 1957, and played on the team as star fullback for ten years. Breaking dozens of NFL records, Brown was named Rookie of the Year in 1958 and Player of the Year in 1960; he played in every Pro Bowl game from 1958 through 1965, and in 1971 was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame. While still with Cleveland, Brown made his film debut in the 1963 Western Rio Conchos, an event deemed worthy of a four-page color spread in Life magazine. He became a full-time actor upon his retirement from the NFL in 1967, co-starring that year in The Dirty Dozen. Brown is also committed to empowering his community. Through his Amer-I-Can Foundation, he has helped hundreds of young men reach their full potential.

Chuck D

One of hip-hop's most commanding and instantly recognizable voices, Chuck D has influenced an entire generation of fans and artists alike. Hailing from Long Island, he found fame as the frontman for Public Enemy, a group known for their revolutionary, pro-black/anti-government lyricism and groundbreaking production. Though often demonized by the media, PE's fiery rhymes and unique stage show (featuring their military-style dancers/bodyguards the S1W's) won them millions of fans across the globe. They released four classic albums between '1987 and '91, during the height of hip-hop's conscious and Afrocentic movement (acts like X-Clan, Brand Nubian, Paris, etc).

Baba Chuck Davis

Baba Chuck Davis is Founder and Artistic Director of the African American Dance Ensemble and then New York based DanceAfrica. A native of Raleigh, North Carolina, Davis attended Howard University and majored in Theater/Dance. Continuing his study in African dance under the guidance of Babatunde Olatunji, Eleo Pomare, and the Bernice Johnson Dance Company, his growing reputation was as one of the foremost teachers and accomplished choreographers in the traditional techniques of African dance. In 1982, the American Dance Festival of Durham, NC, recruited Davis as an Artist-in-Residence, to organize and manage its outreach program. From this effort sprung the African American Dance Ensemble in 1984.

Kiri Davis

Kiri Davis knew from an early age that film was a medium she wanted to work in. Through her films she's found a way of expressing herself as well as telling the stories that are important to her. She has directed several short films including her first documentary "A Girl Like Me" which she made at age sixteen. Since 2005 the film received numerous awards including the Urban League Guild: "Vanguard Award," Hampton Film Festival "Golden Starfish Award," and The Media That Matters "Diversity Award." "A Girl Like Me" has also been featured in over twenty film festivals including the Tribeca Film Festival and has screened worldwide. Now eighteen, Kiri has recently been named by Ebony Magazine as one of "The Ebony Power 150 Most Influential Blacks In America."

Dead Prez

Dead Prez (short for dead presidents) is an American rap duo composed of Stic.man and M-1. They are often referred to as the most politically-conscious group since Public Enemy. Their lyrics tend to focus on revolution, veganism, institutional racism, critical pedagogy, police, capitalism, education, prison systems, religion, activism against governmental repression, and corporate control over the media, especially hip-hop record labels. The duo's debut album was 2000's Let's Get Free, which featured a major hit with the song "Hip Hop" from the year before and was well-received by critics. To date, they've released 6 albums and mixtapes.

Synthia Saint James

Synthia Saint James is an international award winning artist and designer of the first United States Postal Stamp for the Kwanzaa holiday. She is the receipient of The Woman of the Year Award for the 26th Senate District, and she has garnered numerous other awards including a Parent’s Choice Silver Honor for her book Sunday, a Coretta Scott King Honor Award for illustrating Neeny Coming…Neeny Going, and an Oppenheim Gold Award for the book To Dinner For Dinner, which she illustrated. She was honored with the 2004 Woman of the Year Award in Education by the Los Angeles County Commission for Women and she is a proud recipient of The History Makers Award. In the Fall of 2006 she received both the MOSTE Inspirational Women Award and the Samella Award for her artistry.

Dr. Gaye Theresa Johnson

Gaye Theresa Johnson holds a B.A. in Sociology and Ethnic Studies from the University of California at San Diego, and a PhD in American Studies from the University of Minnesota. Dr. Johnson's areas of expertise are twentieth century U.S. history, race and racism, social movements and identities, and cultural history with an emphasis on music. Johnson's publications include articles and book reviews in Aztlan: A Journal of Chicano Studies, the Comparative American Studies Journal, the National Women's Studies Association Journal, and several edited collections on race and popular culture. Professor Johnson is completing a manuscript entitled The Future Has a Past: Politics, Music and Memory in Afro-Chicano Los Angeles.

Dr. Maulana Karenga

Dr. Maulana Karenga is professor and chair of the Department of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach. He is also chair of the President's Task Force on Multicultural Education and Campus Diversity at California State University, Long Beach. Dr. Karenga holds two Ph.D.'s; his first in political science with focus on the theory and practice of nationalism (United States International University) and his second in social ethics with a focus on the classical African ethics of ancient Egypt (University of Southern California). Dr. Karenga is also widely known as the creator of Kwanzaa, an African American and Pan-African holiday celebrated also in Africa, the Caribbean, South America--especially Brazil, and African communities in Britain and other European countries.

Dr. Haki Madhubuti

As poet, publisher, editor and educator, Haki R. Madhubuti serves as a pivotal figure in the development of a strong Black literary tradition, emerging from the era of the sixties and continuing to the present. Over the years, he has published 24 books (some under his former name, Don L. Lee) and is one of the world’s best-selling authors of poetry and non-fiction, with books in print in excess of 3 million. His book Black Men, Obsolete, Single, Dangerous?: The Afrikan American Family in Transition has sold over 1,000,000 copies. His latest books are Claiming Earth: Race, Rage, Rape, Redemption, GroundWork: New and Selected Poems 1966-1996, HeartLove: Wedding and Love Poems, and Tough Notes: A Healing Call For Creating Exceptional Black Men.

Dr. Keith Mayes

Keith Mayes holds an Ph.D. from Princeton University and is currently an assistant Professor of History and African American and African Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Dr. Mayes' areas of expertise are African American History in the 19th and 20th centuries, Kwanzaa and Black holidays, Civil Rights and Black Power Movements, Black History and Educational Policy, and African American Public History. His publication include, Alternative Observances: Kwanzaa and the Black Holiday Tradition, Civil Rights and Black Power: The Struggle for Black Equality in the United States, A Holiday of Our Own: Kwanzaa, Cultural Nationalism, and the Promotion of a Black Power Holiday, and Kwanzaa and the African-American Holiday Tradition.

Sunni Patterson

Emerging from the musical womb that is New Orleans, artist and visionary Sunni Patterson combines the heritage and tradition of her Native town with an enlightened modern world view to create music and poetry that is timeless in its groove. Sunni has been a featured performer at the many of Nation's premier spoken word venues, including HBO's Def Poetry Jam. She has also had the privilege of speaking at the Panafest in Ghana, West Africa. She has worked with several well known artists and performers including Hannibal Lokumbe- singing lead vocals for his score,"King and the Cresent City Moon," Kalamu Ya Salaam, Sonia Sanchez, Wanda Coleman, Amiri Baraka, Laini Kuumba Afrikan Dance Company, and many more.

Dr. Kariamu Welsh

Kariamu Welsh, Professor and the Department of Dance Chairperson at Temple University, received her Doctorate of Arts from New York University and her MA.H. from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Widely published in both scholarly journals and book length studies, she is a scholar of cultural studies including performance and culture within Africa and the African Diaspora. Dr. Welsh serves as the Director of the Institute for African Dance Research and Performance and the artistic director of Kariamu & Co.: Traditions. She is the founding artistic director of the National Dance Company of Zimbabwe in southern Africa and creator of the Umfundalai dance technique, a Pan African contemporary technique that has been in existence for over thirty-three years.