CDs by Alicia Keys
Songs in A Minor
As I Am
* * * *
Keys: The Secret Life of Bees
Interview with Kam Williams
Alicia Keys burst on the
scene in April of 2001 with the release of the single
Songs in A Minor, the critically-acclaimed
debut album which launched her meteoric rise. A piano
prodigy who studied both jazz and classical composition
at the prestigious Professional Performance Arts School
of Manhattan, the class valedictorian was admitted to
Columbia University at just 16 years of age, but soon
took a leave to pursue her musical career. Among the
many accolades sheís already collected are 11 Grammys,
along with multiple American Music, Billboard, Soul
Train, Teen Choice, Peopleís Choice, NAACP Image, Rolling Stone Magazine, VH1 and BET Awards.
Hailing from Harlem,
Alicia was born on January 25, 1980 to Teresa Auguello,
a paralegal, and Craig Cook, a flight attendant. The
stunning diva is a delicious mix of Irish, Italian,
Jamaican and Puerto Rican lineage, and sheís been named
one of People Magazineís 50 Most Beautiful People,
Magazineís 100 Sexiest Women in the World, Maxim
Magazineís Hot 100 and VH1ís 100 Sexiest Artists.
A true Renaissance
woman, Alicia is not only a gifted
singer/songwriter/arranger/musician/actress, but also
the author of a best-selling book comprised of poetry,
lyrics, and intimate reflections called
She made her big screen
debut in 2006 playing a seductive yet ruthless assassin
Smokiní Aces, following that well-received outing
with a measured performance as Scarlett Johanssonís best
The Nanny Diaries.
Aliciaís about to make
cinematic history as half of the first duet (with Jack
White) ever to perform a James Bond theme on a 007 movie
soundtrack, namely, ďAnother Way to Die,Ē in the
upcoming Quantum of Solace. Despite her incredibly busy
schedule, she makes time for philanthropic work with
numerous charities, most notably, Keep a Child Alive (http://www.keepachildalive.org/main.html),
an organization she co-founded which is dedicated to
delivering life-saving medicines directly to AIDS
victims in Africa. On November 13th, Alicia and some
very famous friends will be performing in NYC at a
benefit dinner/concert. (For more details, call (718)
Here, she talks about
her latest film The Secret Life of Bees, a touching tale
of female empowerment set in the Sixties at the height
of the Civil Rights Movement. She turns in what proved
to be the movieís most memorable performance as June
Boatwright, despite being surrounded by a stellar cast
which included Academy Award-winner Jennifer Hudson, and
a couple of Oscar-nominees in Queen Latifah and Sophie
* * * *
for the time, Alicia. Iím really honored.
you, sir, I appreciate that so much.
KW: I feel
terrible, because itís so late and I understand youíre
in Germany and you just came offstage after performing a
big concert. You must be exhausted.
Yes, and you should feel awful! [Laughs out loud] No,
Iím good. Iím definitely good. I had a good show, and it
takes me a little while to settle down anyway.
KW: Well, I
wanted to talk to you about The Secret Life of Bees.
AK: I loved
this movie, so I want to do this.
KW: I donít
want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasnít seen it,
but thereís a scene early in the picture where a
character silently opens up a tiny, folded piece of
paper which says something about the Civil Rights
Movement. When I read it, I started crying right then
and there, and my eyes remained watery until the very
Well, Iím so glad that it moved you, because it moved
KW: The film
had so many subtle touches like that which delivered an
emotional wallop. Its effective use of space and
emptiness reminded me of your music.
AK: That is a
beautiful image, and thank you for comparing it to my
music. I appreciate that so much. I agree that Gina
[Director Gina Prince-Bythewood] did an amazing job. And
everybody involved loved it from the minute they signed
on. She created a very nourishing environment on the
set, where we just supported each other and wanted to do
an incredible job. So, Iím really, really happy about
how Gina was able to be so subtle, yet so strong.
KW: To me, it
was the most important film of its type since
Bayou. Have you seen that film?
AK: Funny you
should mention it, because I watched Eveís Bayou prior
to beginning work on this one because I felt it would
have a similar vibe. Also, I wanted to watch it for the
accents, figuring it would give you a nice feel for the
regional dialects, given that it was set in the Bayou.
But did you know they didnít do any dialects in that
KW: I never
AK: That was
really funny, but it was still a great movie.
KW: What did
you base your interpretation of June Boatwright on?
AK: On many
things. On my own personal emotions and feelings . . . on my
understanding of my characterís complexities and really
wanting to bring them forth even without explaining
them. I also based her somewhat on these beautiful
pictures we had from this book called
There was one girl in it in a black and white photograph
who just had her arms crossed. The way she was looking
at the camera made me feel, ďWow! Thatís my June!Ē There
was something about how hopeful and strong she was, yet
closed-off emotionally, that I really wanted to take and
make a part of June. I also took some inspiration from a
really good friend of mine who has a kind of attitude
like June has. When you first meet her, youíre terrified
of her. You think sheís just the meanest thing, when
sheís really a sweetheart, and so vulnerable underneath
it all. Thatís why she has to be a little tough, because
she canít afford to give all her love away. So, I really
took a lot of those firsthand experiences and put them
into June, too. She was based on little pieces of a lot
of different people and things.
thing I was impressed with was that there was an arc,
not only to June, but to so many characters in the film.
That degree of development added to the richness of the
Seriously, thatís true what you say. You see each person
start one place and end up somewhere else. How many
times do you have a film where so many characters can
make such significant transitions within it? So, I
KW: I also
liked the way the movie made statements about the Civil
Rights Movement without hitting you over the head with
because you wouldnít quite say itís a story about the
Civil Rights Movement, but itís definitely about that
era. Iím really proud of that aspect.
KW: Any truth
to the rumor that you might play Philippa Schuyler in
the screen adaptation of her biography,
Black and White?
something that Halle Berry really wanted to bring to
life, and that weíve been working on for a little while.
Hopefully, itíll pan out.
KW: Born in
the Thirties, Philippa was also a child prodigy from
Harlem who had one black parent and one white parent. Do
you think there are many parallels between your life and
there are fewer parallels than differences. The most
obvious parallel is that my mother is white and my
fatherís black, and that we both play classical piano.
What I love about the idea of playing her is that sheís
not me, and Iím not her. And that she was this amazing
person that too few people know about. Iím fascinated by
the strangeness of that era, and her trying to perform
classical music as a black woman back then when she had
to, in essence, hide her identity just to play the music
she loved. That confusion of ďWho am I?Ē and ďWhere do I
belong?Ē is just crazy and is the theme of her story
that I really relate to because I think we all kind of
want to find where we belong.
reminds me to congratulate you on your five recent
American Music Award nominations.
AK: Oh, thank
congrats on ďAnother Way to Die,Ē the new James Bond
theme for Quantum of Solace. I just heard that your
co-collaborator on the song, Jack White, hurt his neck.
Are you still going to perform it on MTV in conjunction
with the movieís release as planned, or will you have to
cancel that appearance. I really love the video,
although the song is a change of pace for you.
AK: I really
love the song, too. Well, we really wanted to do that
song together, so weíre going to pass at this point.
Fortunately, heís definitely going to heal up and will
soon be all right.
KW: As a
child with one black parent, and one white parent, how
do you feel about Barack Obamaís candidacy?
AK: You know
I love it, and that I support him. Iím confident that
heís going to be the next president and I refuse to
accept the idea of anything else. There you have it.
KW: You not
only play piano and sing, but you compose, arrange, act,
and write poetry and prose. Do you have a favorite means
of artistic expression?
rotate [Laughs heartily] They really do. Sometimes,
after Iíve been on tour for so long, I start looking
forward to composing and creating again. And after Iíve
been songwriting for a long stretch, Iím kinda looking
forward to going outside of myself and exploring someone
else. And then sometimes itís nice to be able to sit
quietly and reflect and write without any specific
outcome in mind, to just do it. So, it rotates.
Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
AK: Yes, Iím
KW: The Tasha
Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
AK: Sure, but
I try to push fear out of my mind, because I think you
attract what you fear.
Troy Johnson asked me to ask you, what was the last book
AK: The last
book I read was
The House on Sugar Beach: In Search of a
Lost African Childhood by Helene Cooper. And now Iíve
actually just started a novel,
Song of the Cuckoo Bird
by Amulya Malladi.
maven Heather Covington was wondering, what music are
you listening to nowadays?
listening to a mixture of Kanye West, Sergio Mendes,
Fela Kuti and Common.
KW: Is there
a question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone
AK: No. I
always thought that I could figure out a really good
answer to that question, but I havenít found it yet.
thanks again, Alicia, and best of luck with everything.
AK: Thank you
so much. Great to talk with you and Iím looking forward
to speaking with you again soon. Oh, and Kam, make sure
you tell everybody about my Black Ball on November 13th
for my organization, Keep a Child Alive,
KW: Will do.
AK: Thank you
Kam. Take care.
* * * *
The Katrina Papers, by Jerry W.
Ward, Jr. $18.95 /
The Richard Wright Encyclopedia (2008)
* * *
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammyís behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folksí domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own familyís needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * *
Sex at the Margins
Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry
By Laura MarŪa AgustŪn
This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura AgustŪn makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."óLisa Adkins, University of London
* * * * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Boisí
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
* * * * *
* * *
(Books, DVDs, Music, and more)
posted 26 October 2008