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Ntozake Shange’s famed “For Colored Girls” at the Encore March 1-3

THE BIRMINGHAM TIMES — There is no better time than now for a production of Ntozake Shange’s famed choreopoem and award-winning stage play.

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By Erica Wright

There is no better time than now for a production of Ntozake Shange’s famed choreopoem and award-winning stage play, “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/ When the Rainbow is Enuf”, according to Alicia Johnson-Williams, director.

Commonly known as “For Colored Girls,” the play will be staged at the Encore Theatre and Gallery March 1-3. The performance is a series of 20 separate poems choreographed to music that weaves interconnected stories of love, empowerment, struggle and loss into a complex representation of sisterhood. The cast typically consists of seven, nameless African-American women who are only identified by the colors they are assigned.

Johnson-Williams talked about the timeliness of the canonical play, which originally opened in the 1970’s by Shange, who died last year.

“We’re in the crust of the #MeToo movement and #TimesUp but the fact is, time was always up,” said Johnson-Williams. “This production speaks directly to women and how they’ve coped with these very issues that even today we still encounter and have to deal with as women and in particular as African American females in the United States of America.”

Johnson-Williams said “For Colored Girls” has always been an iconic production in African American theatre, particularly as it relates to women.

“The original production that Ntozake Shange mounted in the ’70s in San Francisco, was in a bar… but with this what we’ve aimed to do is add a different slant to it by adding some music and different elements to reengage audiences, particularly those who may have seen the show before.”

She said the film was good but theater is where you really hone in on your craft. “Live productions help you develop your talent and skills . . . it just gives you a different flavor when you see the live production. It’s more engaging and it’s in an intimate space and you feel more and engage even better and it just pulls on your heart strings even more than what it does in film.”

The cast includes local artists such as Te’Shara Monique as the lady in purple; Erika Kellom as the lady in brown; Juna Givhan as lady in red; Phaith “DJ Chocolate” Frazier as lady in blue; Lashonda Corder as lady in yellow; Nadia Tellis as lady in orange; Lashanna Tripp as lady in green;  and even features a special guest choreographer, Ursula Smith of Ursula Smith Dance Company.

“When I got the call to be a part, it was a no brainer for me and it’s kind of been one of those things that I always wanted to do all of my time that I’ve been involved in theater and had an interest in acting,” said Frazier, who studied theater at Alabama State University, who added “it’s one of those coming of age type of performances and is one of the best things of your life to be a part of this particular production and phenomenal piece.”

‘Love Yourself First’

Encore Theatre and Gallery is a new theatre company in Center Point dedicated to producing works for minority

Director Alicia Johnson during a Rehearsal For Colored Girls at Encore Theatre and Gallery in Birmingham, Alabama. (Frank Couch for The Birmingham Times)

[/media-credit] Director Alicia Johnson during a Rehearsal For Colored Girls at Encore Theatre and Gallery in Birmingham, Alabama.

performers.Johnson, who has more than 25 years of theater experience and has directed “For Colored Girls” a number of times, said one central theme is always “you have to love yourself first. You have to connect with a higher power to be all that you can be and know that you can overcome anything no matter what it looks like. It’s a very spiritual piece in nature,” she said “…it speaks to so many things, pretty much everything that you can think of that a woman might experience at some point is in this play. Overcoming those obstacles to . . . be all that you can be is what resonates every single time.”

Marc Raby, producer of “For Colored Girls” and creative director of Encore, said, “I’m convinced that we can create greatness right here at home . . . so we made a decision to open a space, we’re just an addition to the entertainment scene, arts scene and the cultural scene in our city.”

Four performances of “For Colored Girls” including Friday, March 1, evening show at 7 p.m.; two Saturday, March 2, showings at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and a Sunday, March 3, evening show at 5:30 p.m. There will also be a talk back event after the Saturday afternoon show with local radio host Tasha Simone from Hot 107.7. Tickets $15-$35 and can be found on Eventbrite.

For more information visit www.encorebham.com.

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times

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Crime

How to spot signs of, report elder abuse

THE BIRMINGHAM TIMES — Approximately one in 10 older people living in the United States has experienced physical, sexual, psychological or financial abuse or neglect, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.

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By Holly Gainer

Approximately one in 10 older people living in the United States has experienced physical, sexual, psychological or financial abuse or neglect, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse.

To understand how to keep your elderly loved ones safe, whether in your care or in the care of others, Patricia Speck, DNSc, a board-certified family nurse practitioner who specializes in forensic nursing, family and sexual violence at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing, explains the different types of elder abuse and how to spot signs of and report suspected abuse.

Physical and sexual abuse

Physical abuse is defined as the intentional use of physical force that results in illness, injury, pain or functional impairment.

“Unexplained bruises, cuts, burns and bedsores are signs of physical abuse,” Speck explained. “If you notice sudden changes in behavior, particularly when the suspected abuser is around, that is a sign that you should seek help for your loved one.”

Speck says health care providers should suspect abuse if they see subdural hemorrhages (or bleeding that occurs outside the brain as a result of a head injury) and eye, nose and mouth injuries.

“Nurses should particularly look for signs of intentional injuries, such as contusions of lips, cheeks, soft palate, facial fractures, missing hair, particularly in odd places and not where you would expect to see balding,” Speck said. “Bruising and skin tears in odd places, like the abdomen or under the arm or in the crotch, are also common signs.”

Another common indication of abuse is for people who spend most of their time in wheelchairs.

“If there is injury to an older person who is being restrained in a wheelchair, you would look for friction burns on the abdomen or wrists, different patterns in bruising and skin tears,” Speck said.

The majority of sexual assault cases to older adults are in the community; but many are reported from institutions, and in most cases the perpetrator is known by the victim.

Speck says signs of sexual abuse include unexplained venereal diseases, genital infections, and bleeding and tearing in the genital area. They also include bruises to the buttocks and around the inner and outer thighs.

Psychological abuse

Psychological abuse is one of the most common types of abuse. Suspected signs include unusual changes in behavior or sleep, fear or anxiety, sadness, and isolation.

“Isolation is one of the worst symptoms of psychological abuse,” Speck said. “Many older people who are being abused by a loved one don’t want to tell other people what their son or daughter is doing to them because it is their child. This leaves the victim feeling very alone and depressed.”

Speck says control is a major issue in psychological abuse.

“The abuse could come in the form of scolding, insults and degradation; but it could also be less obvious to see,” Speck said. “For example, if a loved one or caretaker keeps a walker or wheelchair just out of reach of the person so they can’t get up and around. Another example might be withholding glasses or dentures from the patient so they can’t eat or see.”

Common signs of abuse may occur when one notices that the patient is unwilling to communicate when a certain person is in the room or nearby.

“If you suspect abuse and are speaking to the patient as part of an investigation or as a friend or relative who is concerned, and you notice the older person’s behavior changes, that should be a major indicator of abuse,” Speck said. “The problem is that moving an older person from their living environment may be disorienting. It takes time to figure out what happened.”

Financial abuse

Financial abuse is defined as the illegal or impromptu use of an elder’s funds, property or assets. Examples include forging an older person’s signature, coercing an older person into signing documents, such as a contract or will, and the improper use of power of attorney.

Speck says financial abuse is common among seniors, especially those with dementia or cognitive impairment; but despite their mental state, the best thing to do is believe them when they complain of missing funds.

“When an older person complains, believe them and listen to them,” she said. “If a loved one is in an assisted-living facility and complains that things are missing, pay attention to that. It is important to do this until you have evidence to prove otherwise.”

Not listening or disregarding complaints about financial abuse will cause the victim to feel shame for not being believed and will also create fear and skepticism when it comes to reporting future instances of abuse. Providers want to create a trauma-informed safe environment.

Neglect

According to Speck, there are three types of neglect — physical, emotional and self.

“Physical neglect is defined as failing to attend to a person’s medical hygiene, nutrition and dietary needs,” she said. “It may also involve not giving them the medications they’ve been prescribed or not changing their bandages on time.”

Emotional neglect also causes pain and distress.

“We often see emotional neglect when an older person is infantilized by their caregivers,” she said. “Abandonment is also a common problem, where someone is left at an emergency department or the hospital.”

Self-neglect is a growing concern and appears when a person chooses not to be treated by a health care provider. Signs of self-neglect include attempted suicide, withdrawal, anxiety, psychosomatic ailments such as stomachaches and headaches, and difficulty sleeping. The older person may desire to be alone, but social support is so important to the older person’s health.

What to do if you see signs of abuse

As the elderly population continues to grow, understanding the signs and symptoms of abuse is an important way to care for your loved ones. Speck says the best thing to do is to be gentle and listen.

“Older people need you to be patient with them, so be patient and listen twice as long as you speak,” she said.

When communicating with an older person whom you suspect has been abused, make sure the person knows what you are saying. If a document or something they need to read is involved, make sure the letters are large enough so they can read the print.

Also, use trauma-informed care principles of safety and transparency to communicate with them in a place where they feel comfortable, and ask them about their hearing and vision preferences.

“They may not be able to see well in a bright room, or they may be sensitive to loud speech and need you to speak in a slow, calm manner using their language,” Speck said. “Avoid medical-ese. Ask them if they have any difficulties, and offer to help them make the environment safer for them. They will be more cooperative and trust you if you show that you are putting their needs first.”

If you suspect abuse, talk with them when the two of you are alone. Offer to take that person to get help and let them know you are worried about their safety and well-being. Many communities have Coordinated Community Responses to Elder Abuse, with a variety of services for the older person. Be proactive, identify older persons at risk, and participate in the development of Coordinated Community Responses to elder maltreatment. In Alabama, Adult Protective Services supports and enables county departments to protect elderly and disabled adults from abuse, neglect and exploitation and to prevent unnecessary institutionalization.

In Alabama, to report abuse, neglect and exploitation of elders or vulnerable adults:

  • IMMEDIATE DANGER? Call 911 if that person is in immediate, life-threatening danger.
  • Call the HOTLINE at 1-800-458-7214 to report abuse, neglect and exploitation of elders or vulnerable adults when suspicious.
  • For services to support elder persons in your community, call 1-800-677-1116 TO PREVENT, the Eldercare Locator (a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging), to speak with someone who will connect you to services for older adults and their families and prevent abuse, neglect and exploitation of elders or vulnerable adults.

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times

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Education

City’s Young Basketball Talent on Display at Skills Clinic 

THE BIRMINGHAM TIMES — Dozens of area children were at A.H. Parker High School on Friday for a basketball skills clinic as part of the Young3, an initiative for children ages 7-14. Young3 is part of BIG3, a professional 3-on-3 basketball league that came to Birmingham on Saturday.

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By Time Staff Report

Dozens of area children were at A.H. Parker High School on Friday for a basketball skills clinic as part of the Young3, an initiative for children ages 7-14.

Young3 is part of BIG3, a professional 3-on-3 basketball league that came to Birmingham on Saturday.

“Our goal with this [Young3] program is to inspire youth across the nation to shoot for their dreams,” said Jerome Williams, president of the Young3 initiative and former NBA global ambassador and 9-year NBA veteran.

Ronnie Rice, board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Birmingham and attorney with the Alexander Shunnarah Law Firm, said, “Every day at our Boys & Girls Clubs, we encourage our members to live an active lifestyle. The Young3 initiative from the BIG3 is an exciting opportunity, not only for our members to learn more about the game of basketball from professionals, but to have a great time doing it.”

The Young3 looks to advance 3-on-3 basketball in each of the local communities it visits, but also looks to enrich a child’s experience with the game of basketball.

The following clinic participants were named to the Young3 All-Tournament Team: Christian Milteer, Terrance Atkins, Shelly Millender IV, Reagan Casper, Kamil Goodman, and Madrecus “Drec” Moreland, who was named MVP.

Some of the notable locals who attended throughout included Sheriff Mark Pettway, Kelvin Datcher of the City of Birmingham Mayor’s Office, DJ Chocolate, Principal Darrell Hudson of A. H. Parker High School, and Jay Johnson who is with College Prep U.

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times

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Entertainment

Rickey Smiley To Take Over Tom Joyner Morning Show

THE BIRMINGHAM TIMES — Birmingham native Rickey Smiley will take over The Tom Joyner Morning Show when Joyner retires at the end of the year. Joyner said that Smiley has established himself as a trusted leader on-air and in the community with his current show, captivating audiences with his authentic humor but also his unique perspective on topics important to his audience. 

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By Times Staff Report

Birmingham native Rickey Smiley will take over The Tom Joyner Morning Show when Joyner retires at the end of the year.

Joyner said that Smiley has established himself as a trusted leader on-air and in the community with his current show, captivating audiences with his authentic humor but also his unique perspective on topics important to his audience.

“I’m happy to see the landscape of Urban Adult Contemporary morning radio continue to expand with Rickey, and I’m proud of the doors the Tom Joyner Morning Show opened,” said Joyner. “Twenty-five years ago, there was no template for a syndicated Urban radio show and we worked hard to prove that we could successfully produce and market a national platform that would entertain, inform and empower African- American listeners.”

Smiley, who attended Alabama State University, also announced that Eva Marcille and Gary Wit Da Tea would be among the on-air cast members joining him to broadcast out of the Dallas studios beginning January 2020.

“It’s an honor to continue the legacy of my boss and frat brother Tom Joyner,” said Smiley. “Not only has he been a friend to my family and me over the years, but we consider him family. Tom’s mentorship has instilled in me valuable wisdom that I will carry with me through this new morning show.”

Additional details about the show will be shared in the coming months.

www.987.kiss.com contributed to this post. 

This article originally appeared in The Birmingham Times

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