I am at a loss for words, in this same year that I have lost my beloved physical grandmother, Miss Susie May Jackson, I just heard on the news that “Madiba”, my spiritual grandfather, Nelson Rolilahla Mandela. The news was not a complete shock due to his waning health but it is deeply saddening. A great deal of my life as a teenager was spent learning about Nelson Mandela, and having not known any grandfather, paternally or maternally, I secretly carried him in my heart as the grandfather I never knew. His passion and political career and life has served as an inspiration to me and countless others over the years. The true example of passion and unrelenting commitment, In fact, me and my cohorts had an obsessive focus on South Africa as kids studying Apartheid and Nelson Mandela and studying the great changes that took place in that country from the 70’s- late 80’s. As a theatre student and member of the Freddie Hendricks’ Youth Ensemble of Atlanta,also known as Y.E.A. I can still hear the voice of Michael “Sahr” Ngaujah yelling Amandla! Long before we starred together in Broadway’s Fela!, we, and many others, portrayed the young South African students who struggled in their fight against Apartheid in some of the earliest productions of “Soweto! Soweto! A Township Is Calling!” with Y.E.A.
Saycon Sengbloh and cast of Freddie Hendricks’s Youth Ensemble “Soweto! Soweto! A Township is Calling”
As a child of a Liberian father I saw very few African stars on television, but I saw Nelson Mandela walk from prison after 27 years of captivity, a star indeed. Every year just around the time for school Turner Broadcast the mini-series, Shaka Zulu about a great South African warrior king who reigned tall above tyranny from his own people and from foreigners alike. Mandela was a great warrior king and first black president of that nation. Next to my own Liberia, the South African story has fascinated me to no end! Seeing and learning about Nelson and Winnie Mandela helped with my own appreciation and pride in my African heritage, as children can be cruel I was often isolated by my name. My African pride was seeded more deeply as I watched in 1990 as apartheid was abolished much like the ending of segregation had occurred so many years before in the United States. It is with great pride that I honor the life of Madiba! Nelson Mandela!!! #Amandla
Doing it and doing it and doing it well! That lyric is playing in my mind when I think of movement, when I visualize Mr. Juel Lane. Fusing West African, contemporary modern, and hip-hop and ballet his style is all his own. He continues to innovate and surprise with his skill as a passionate performer and choreographer. Check out this month’s issue of Dance magazine where Juel D. Lane is listed as one of the top 25 to watch in Dance. Not surprising considering his amazing work from his highschool years in Freddie Hendricks’ YEA to the performing with the likes of Ron Brown and Camille A. Brown to name a few.
He has moved on to do choreography in his own right and his work is definitely taking the reins, proudly exemplifying that “he got next” in the dance game. I’m gonna have to holler at him for some choreography on a song or two. Get it Juel!
See his upcoming gigs below:
Camille A. Brown’s – San Francisco’s Dance Mission Theatre, Feb. 15-17.
Helen Simoneau in Winston-Salem, NC, Feb. 28 and March 1
Atlanta’s Southwest Arts Center for his second annual full-stage showcase “Juel D. Lane and Friends” April 26.
Shout out to my homegirl, D.Woods a fellow alumni of what I like to call the *Freddie Hendricks affect. Been many months since she came by to visit me at the Signature Theatre during the Hurt Village show I was doing this past spring. Not many of you know that Miss. D. Woods is an actress as well, catch her in theatre, commercials, and television too! I’m excited to support her music latest video premiere” 2 The Bottom” enjoy the video below! Support Independent Music! And visit her site! She’s doing big things!
*Freddie Hendricks is an actor, director, and acting coach who taught drama at Tri-Cities highschool and founded the Youth Ensemble of Atlanta encouraging young students like myself, and D.Woods among others, to succeed in the arts and entertainment.