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AFRO Exclusive: Disney on Ice Enchants with Black Skater as Line Captain

THE AFRO — For three years, professional ice skater Chelsea Ridley has been dazzling audiences with performances.



By Micha Green

For three years, professional ice skater Chelsea Ridley has been dazzling audiences with performances through Feld Entertainment, and this year she is not only shining on ice as a member of the ensemble, but keeping her fellow cast mates in formation as ladies line captain for Disney On Ice “Worlds of Enchantment.”

“I’m an ensemble kid, which means you can see me anywhere.  You just got to keep your eyes open, because you never know when you can see me.  But I’m also the ladies line captain, so I’m the person that’s in charge of making sure the numbers get taught, and they’re nice and clean, spick and span and beautiful for every night’s performance,” Ridley told the AFRO.

The 25-year-old skater did not simply stumble into the sport and is now getting to tour with the renowned show.  Ridley has been putting in work on the ice since she was 4 years old, however the sport was not always her first love or career choice.

“I would not say it was love at first sight, because I did not love it,” she said.  Yet, Ridley’s Caribbean parents forced her to keep up with skating and decades years later she’s a pro.

“I think that’s a good message for the kids out there, that sometimes you just have to be resilient, because you never know what could happen.  Just don’t give up too fast.  By the end of the session, I really found my love for it, and here we are 21 years later and I’m still loving it everyday,” Ridley told the AFRO.

Now Ridley loves skating, finding a liberating property on the ice.

“I love that you can express yourself in anyway that you want,” she said. “I think that skating is the closest you can get to flying without actually leaving the ground. You can go and just feel so free.”

Having skated competitively for years, Ridley said she particularly finds joy in being able to perform for audiences regularly.

“I’ve always just really loved performing and I think that’s what’s gravitated me towards being part of Disney and going where I can go with that performance aspect,” Ridley said.  “I just love being able to perform and put smiles on people’s faces, everyday.”

With this being her third year with Feld Entertainment, the producers of Disney On Ice, Ridley is somewhat of a vet when it comes to these shows, having even starred as Princess Tiana from the “Princess and the Frog,” with another Disney on Ice production.  However she said that audiences who see this “Worlds of Enchantment” are in store for a treat.

Unfortunately for D.C. readers, the show was only in the District for a short time (Feb. 14- Feb. 18) at the Capital One Arena, however, this reporter can confirm after seeing the show on Valentine’s Day, it’s a colorful and entrancing trip for all ages if able to catch “Worlds of Enchantment” in another city.

“It’s a really fun show.  I’ll just say that sometimes the shows can be a little more princess-based, but this show is really different because we have a lot of different stories that are told, which is really fun for audiences of all ages, boys, girls, kids of all ages.  It’s so fun,” Ridley said.

“Worlds of Enchantment” is particularly special because it features four different Disney films told on ice.

“We have ‘Toy Story,’ we have ‘The Little Mermaid,’ we have Disney Pixar’s ‘Cars and we even have ‘Frozen,’” she said. “Fun fact: We are the only Disney show that has Disney Pixar’s ‘Cars,’ so you got to make sure you see those cars, because they are great on ice.”

Beyond the joy she brings to Disney audiences, Ridley also inspires the next generation of skaters.  As one of the few people of color in Disney On Ice, and as a Black skater in a sport that is still developing in terms of diversity, Ridley takes her job as a coach seriously.

“I teach a lot of African American skaters at home, and I always try to let them know and teach them that, ‘You need to be yourself, and just really do you and don’t let anyone ever tell you no, because you know yourself the best and what you’re capable of, and you need to go out and do what you want to do because it makes you happy.’ And I think that’s the biggest thing that I’ve learned throughout my career,” Ridley told the AFRO.

The 25-year-old also has one last piece of advice for those that want to follow in her footsteps: “Push the envelope always.”

This article originally appeared in The Afro

Arts and Culture

COMMENTARY: Note From New York As Reed’s “The Conductor” Completes Off-Broadway Run

If “The Conductor” never plays again, I will have been privileged to be part of its evolution from Zoom readings from a year ago to two full off-Broadway runs in 2023. That’s six weeks of live shows, 24 shows in all. But wouldn’t it be nice to have the show satirizing the Bay Area’s race politics actually have a run in the Bay Area?



By Emil Guillermo

Oakland resident Ishmael Reed’s 11th play, “The Conductor,” came to a close last week in New York.

If “The Conductor” never plays again, I will have been privileged to be part of its evolution from Zoom readings from a year ago to two full off-Broadway runs in 2023. That’s six weeks of live shows, 24 shows in all.

But wouldn’t it be nice to have the show satirizing the Bay Area’s race politics actually have a run in the Bay Area?

That would make it a homecoming of sorts for Kenya Wilson, who spent her early years in the Bay Area, the daughter of two members of the Black Panther Party, Walter and Tracy Wilson.

One of the perks of doing the show is being part of such a great group of actors. None of the cast members are household names yet. All are working, paid, professional actors still pursuing their dreams.

Wilson was part of a cast that included Brian Anthony Simmons as Warren Chipp, a fired SF Bay Area columnist; Sri Chilukuri as Shashi Parmar, an Indian American activist in the San Francisco school board recall; Monisha Shiva as Kala Parmar, a lecturer in women’s studies at a local college; Laura Robards and me as conservative television commentators Hedda Duckbill and Gabriel Noitallde.

A play about a diverse America should have a diverse cast, including understudies Joy Renee, Humzah Akbar, and Aaron Watkins.

I should note, Reed has cast me, a Filipino American, in all of the white roles (voice over only).

And then there was Wilson, who played reporter Melody Wells, fitting because Reed has subtitled the play “A Living Newspaper” after a 1930s WPA project where artists and writers took the subtext of the news into the theater to create informative and provocative works that took its cues from society as it unfolded.

And that adds to the significance of Wilson’s role in the play as a Black woman journalist. Not only does she get to spout the poetic literary lines of Reed, but she also gets to lay out factual information on Black women that makes audiences see her as their champion.

As an actress, Wilson admits she only knew about some of the powerful things she was given in Reed’s writing. She knew about the now-deceased writers Bell Hooks, Ntozake Shange, and Toni Morrison. But she also realized how politicized the education system is in America, as to who gets taught what ideas, and what ideas are simply ignored.

Black women, generally, are ignored.

“When it comes to Black women, we are on the bottom of the totem pole,” Wilson said. “I feel when we voice our experiences people don’t want to hear it, and they just assume that we’re all just complaining.”

In her one big scene, Wilson is not complaining but rather making the case for Black women.

“For instance … unintended pregnancies for African American women are 19 times higher than those of white women,” Wilson said. So are chlamydia and gonorrhea infection rates, as well as rates of cervical cancer and breast cancer. “And all of these things are reproductive and sexual in nature. And it just takes me back to times when my ancestors were enslaved, and we were there to breed for more slaves,” Wilson said. “And it’s not a coincidence to me that we have a higher chance of dying in childbirth. None of this is a surprise to me because this is a country that doesn’t care about Black people.”

Wilson’s key scene is a “debate” with an Indian American woman about the plight of Dalits, or lower caste “untouchable” women. Wilson always wins the audience back when, after the hearing about the plight of Dalits, Wilson responds, “Being a Black woman is no lottery prize.”

It’s a line that should also win back critics of Reed from years past who saw him as somehow anti-feminist.

“Definitely not this play,” said Wilson, who has already appeared in multiple productions this year, and is scheduled to appear in another play in Philadelphia. After a 14-year respite from acting, she’s been back at it the last six years and hopes to be on Broadway soon.

But she would definitely welcome a part in the further evolution of “The Conductor.”

Reed’s dubbing the play a “living newspaper,” is instructive. That may be the conceit that keeps “The Conductor” alive, with new iterations written by Reed and performed by a stable cast in real time, telling the story of America’s changing racial politics.

But would that be on some grassroots stage in the Bay Area? Or digitally via podcast or as radio drama?

Oakland resident Ishmael Reed’s “The Conductor” has closed off-Broadway for now, but its future is wide open.

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator. His one-man theater performance, “Emil Amok, Lost NPR Host: A Phool’s Filipino American History,” runs on Sept. 14 @930pm Eastern in New York this week.

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Oakland Post: Week of September 27 – October 3, 2023

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of September 27 – October 3, 2023



The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of September 27 - October 3, 2023

To enlarge your view of this issue, use the slider, magnifying glass icon or full page icon in the lower right corner of the browser window.

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Bay Area

Writer Marc Spears Honored in Oakland

Bay Area leaders and key notables in the city of Oakland congratulated Marc Spears, NBA writer for Andscape/ESPN for receiving the 2023 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Curt Gowdy Media Award



Bay Area leaders and key notables in the city of Oakland congratulated Marc Spears, NBA writer for Andscape/ESPN for receiving the 2023 Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame Curt Gowdy Media Award. The event was held at Hiiiwav, a new location at 2781 Telegraph in Oakland recently purchased by Grammy Award-winner Bosko Kante and his wife Maya Kante. Pictured here, left to right, are Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce President Cathy Adams, Chef David Lawrence, Marc Spears, and Nola Turnage of Okta, Inc. Photo courtesy of Cathy Adams.

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