Monthly Archives: May 2009

HATEWATCH: IN HUGE SWEEP, AUTHORITIES MOVE AGAINST LATINO GANG ACCUSED OF CAMPAIGN AGAINST BLACKS

Here is an update on a Southern California Latino street gang that has been targeting Black Americans with ethnic cleansing in Los Angeles, California. The arrests totaled 90, with members arrested “for engaging in “systematic efforts to rid the community of African-Americans with a campaign of shootings and other attacks.”

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MASSIVE SWEEP NETS LATINO GANG MEMBERS ACCUSED OF RACIST VIOLENCE

by Casey Sanchez on May 21, 2009
Nearly 90 members of a Southern California Latino street gang were arrested today for engaging in “systematic efforts to rid the community of African-Americans with a campaign of shootings and other attacks,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office in Los Angeles.
 
Five indictments unsealed today charged 147 members and associates of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens street gang with 476 “overt acts” of racketeering that include murder, attempted murder, drug and weapons trafficking, extortion and witness intimidation. The main indictment said that members of the gang “have expressed a desire to rid the city of Hawaiian Gardens of all African-Americans and have engaged in a systematic effort to achieve that result by perpetrating crimes against African-Americans.”
 
The city is reportedly 73% Latino and 4% black.
 
In a press conference, U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien said it was “the largest gang takedown in history.”
 
The investigation of the Varrio Hawaiian Gardens gang began in 2005, after a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy was killed while attempting to arrest a gang member charged with shooting an African-American man.
 
In 2006, the Intelligence Report, published by the Southern Poverty Law Center, reported on Latino gangs’ efforts to carry out “ethnic cleansing” attacks on blacks that were meant to establish purely Latino neighborhoods. The story revealed that gang members were acting of orders from the Mexican Mafia gang. Members of the Avenues, a Latino gang, targeted blacks in Highland Park, an L.A. neighborhood. And last year, Los Angeles police launched a major investigation into another Latino street gang accused of targeting blacks.
 
 

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ON THIS DAY IN BLACK MUSIC HISTORY: MAY 12

#1 R&B Song 1979:   “Reunited,” Peaches & Herb

 

Born:   Jay Otis Washington (the Persuasions), 1941

 

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1945   Known as Lady Day, Billie Holliday charted R&B (#5) with “Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)” It was her firsr and only R&B Hit but her last of thirty-nine pop hits that started in 1935. The film Lady Sings the Blues, starring Diana Ross was based on Billie’s life.

 

 

 

1956   The Flamingos’ “A Kiss of Your Lips” and the Penguins’ “Dealer of Dreams” were issued.

 

 

1962   The Temptations charted for the first time with “Dream Come True,” reaching #22 R&B, though it was the flip, “Isn’t She Pretty,” that was the portent of things to come from this Hall of Fame quintet.

 

 

 

1963   Ray Charles & the Raelettes began their first British tour in London’s Finbury Astoria.

 

1965   After three R&B chart singles with Llyod Price’s Double L Label, Wilson Pickett’s contract was bought by Atlantic records. He would go on to have his greatest success with Atlantic, racking up thirty-five R&B hits between 1965 and 1973.

 

1979   Originally known as the gospel group the Heavenly Sunbeams, the Emotions (paired with Earth, Wind & Fire) charted with “Boogie Wonderland” (#6), their last of nine Hot 100 discs.

 

 

1993   Honored at the fifth annual World Music Awards in Monte Carlo,Monaco, Michael Jackson received awards as World’s Best-Selling pop and Overall Artist of the Year, Best-Selling U.S. Artist of the Year, and World’s Best-Selling Artist of the Era. Boyx II Men were christened International New Group of the Year and performed their international hit, “End of the Road.” Tina Turner was given Outstanding Contribution to the Music Industry award.

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JACOB HOLDT: SHOWCASE IN BLACK AND WHITE

When you hear the name Jacob Holdt, the Danish photographer who is well-known in Europe, what image comes to mind?
  
Sadly, if you are like most Americans, you cannot picture an image of Jacob Holdt in your mind, because like so many Americans you may have never heard of him.
  
I came across this excellent article from the New York Times on a photography exhibit of Mr. Holdt’s of photographs taken on a cross-country journey through America’s racism, from 1971 to 1975.
  
Mr. Holdt took center stage in this year’s New York Photo Festival, which showcased the beauty of his work.
 
With another famous Dane, Jacob Riis, Mr. Holdt now has a place in the annals of telling the truth of America’s hypocrisy and denial of its racial history.
  
  
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May 20, 2009, 2:30 pm

Showcase: Blacks and Whites

By James Estrin JaJames
The Danish photographer Jacob Holdt has devoted his life to an epic photographic telling of American racism.

 

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His Web site, American Pictures, contains thousands of photographs documenting the lives of both black and white Americans, the underclass and the privileged. He has befriended and lived with his subjects; the poorest and the wealthiest, the migrant workers and the members of the Ku Klux Klan. He has become intimately involved in his subjects’ lives and photographed them in a fresh, direct style that turned out to have been years ahead of its time.
 
From 1971 to 1975, he hitchhiked across America, a penniless vagabond who said he sold his blood twice a week to pay for film for the inexpensive half-frame Olympus camera that his parents had given him. (The half-frame camera could shoot twice as many photographs as a full-frame camera. Therefore, both the cost and the quality were lower.)
 
Mr. Holdt has traveled tens of thousands of miles across this country, staying with his subjects and often eating in soup kitchens. (“United States: 1970-1975” was published in 2007 by Steidl & Partners.)
 
This tall man with a long white beard braided in the center took this year’s New York Photo festival by storm. His lecture and presentation, curated by Paul Cottin and Jerome Sother, attracted crowds. Though Mr. Holdt has lectured on racism at universities in this country and is the author of a book that sold well in Europe, he was almost unknown to the American photographic community until now.
 
“I chose Holdt because of the extraordinary power and scope of the work,” said William A. Ewing, one of thefestival curators. “I think that our curatorial establishment has made an enormous error in not acknowledging this work. The history of American color photography needs to be rewritten now, and some of the so-called pioneers re-evaluated in the light of Holdt’s accomplishment. Certain big names are suddenly in the shade.”
 
“And I can see the public at the festival gets that, too,” Mr. Ewing added.
 
A true eccentric, Mr. Holdt has created a body of work that is both brutally honest yet remarkably sympathetic both to the oppressors and the oppressed.
 
Because of space limitations in our slide player, not all of Mr. Holdt’s idiosyncratic captions — more like narratives — can be reproduced in their entirety. Following is the full text for Slides 6, 7 and 10.
 
 
Slide 6: “When I lived with this 15-year-old boy and his mother in Richmond, Va., his 13-year-old brother lay in hospital, hit in a gang fight by his brother’s bullet, which penetrated his head and blinded him. Nevertheless, I followed the 15-year-old on his new expeditions in the streets two days after the tragedy. Shortly after, he received a 16-year prison sentence. But today, he is out and holds a steady job, trying to raise a family.”
 
Slide 7: “In Alabama, this poor old woman of 87 asked me to drive her to Phoenix, Ariz. She wanted to go there to die. I helped her board up the windows in her dilapidated shack outside Tuskegee. She knew she would never return, but did not want local blacks to move into it. She sat the whole way out there with a pistol in her hand, scared stiff of my long hair and beard. She was so weak that I had to carry her whenever she had to leave the car, still clinging to her gun.”
 
Slide 10: “Apartheid’s Forbidden Love. I first lived with Mary in Alabama in 1975 and we have been very close friends for over 30 years. Apparently for no other reason than that she had a white boyfriend, three white men threw a firebomb into her kitchen in the dead of night and the entire house went up in flames in seconds. She managed to get her son out, but her brother perished. In 2005, I took a friend — a K.K.K. leader — with me to visit Mary.”
 
 
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PHYLICIA RASHAD: THE MANY ROLES OF MOTHERHOOD

Here is a great article about Phylicia Rashad, one of my favourite actresses, who has made a great career out of playing mothers. Phylicia is definitely under-rated, and deserves much respect for what she brings to whatever role she takes on.

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MOTHERHOOD AGAIN – PHYLICIA RASHAD PLAYS THE MATRIARCH
 
Published: May 20, 2009
 
PHYLICIA RASHAD is a mother who gets around. She killed her own children in a jealous rage as Medea. She bought a house in a hostile white neighborhood then persuaded her offspring to live there as Lena Younger in “A Raisin In the Sun.” And she juggled a law practice, five children and a mischievous husband without breaking a sweat as Clair Huxtable on the NBC sitcom “The Cosby Show.”
May 24, 2009    

Robert Presutti for The New York Times

Phylicia Rashad at the Music Box Theater.

Multimedia

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Times Topics: Phylicia Rashad

May 20, 2009    

Robert Presutti for The New York Times

Phylicia Rashad, center, rehearsing “Osage County” with John Cullum and Kimberly Guerrero.

May 20, 2009    

Sara Krulwich/The New York Times

From lfet, Alexander Mitchell, Audra McDonald and Phylicia Rashad in “A Raisin in the Sun.”

 

 

This soft-spoken, slyly humorous actress has fashioned a celebrated career out of playing mothers. Beginning Tuesday, at the Music Box Theater, she takes on the role of Violet Weston, the brittle, uncensored drug-abusing matriarch of an Oklahoma family in the drama “August: Osage Country.” In a notable flourish of so-called nontraditional casting, Ms. Rashad inherits a white stage family of three daughters, a husband, a sister and other relatives.
 
“People are more alike than we could ever be different,” Ms. Rashad, a real-life mother of two, said in an interview, taking on the question of whether a racially mixed Weston family is different from an all-white Weston family. “And there are all kinds of nuances in families, most of which we just don’t explore in film and television, onstage or, let’s face it, in life.”
 
Ms. Rashad, 60, said her approach to acting is to find the heart of a character without judgment, the same thing she hopes audiences will do with a black Violet. Though she had yet to arrive at the “core truth” about Violet at the time she was interviewed, she said, she believed things would become clearer in rehearsals. “This is a woman who is, among other things, damaged,” she said. “She’s damaged early on. She’s sharp, she’s intuitive.”
 
Ms. Rashad, whose performance in “A Raisin in the Sun” in 2004 won her a Tony Award for best actress — a first for a black actress — is the third person to play Violet on Broadway: Deanna Dunagan was the original Violet in a performance that won her a Tony last year, followed by Estelle Parsons, who will go on a national tour of the play. “August” won both the Pulitzer Prize and a Tony last year.
 
Ms. Rashad’s most recent Broadway performance was the role of Big Mama in Tennessee Williams’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” last year. It was one of three well-known 1950s dramas —along with William Inge’s “Come Back, Little Sheba” and Clifford Odets’s “Country Girl” — that arrived on Broadway in 2008 with black or racially polyglot casts. “August,” however, is a contemporary drama.
 
“It’s an interesting new development,” said Robert Brustein, the founding director of the Yale and American Repertory Theaters. While using all-black or racially mixed casts in Shakespeare and American classics is becoming less of a big deal, race can seem more vivid in a contemporary play, Mr. Brustein said.
 
“My guess, and it’s an educated guess,” he added, “is that after 10 minutes you’ll forget what color anybody is.”
 
Still, Ms. Rashad dismisses the notion that she is breaking new ground, mentioning that John Cullum, who plays her husband in “August,” was her husband when she played the Queen in “Cymbeline” in 2007. She also noted that in “Bernarda Alba” at Lincoln Center in 2006 she played the title role with daughters played by actresses who came in various hues.
 
Although she was delighted to be asked to play Violet, a role offered in a phone call from one of the play’s producers, Jeffrey Richards, Ms. Rashad said most of her work had come through serendipity.
 
The lust for acting seized Ms. Rashad as an 11-year-old in Houston, when she was a mistress of ceremonies for a music festival. It made her feel beautiful, she said. “The beauty was something that would take me time to articulate, but beauty was communication from the heart,” she said.
 
She studied theater at Howard University and began her career as a stage actress in New York, making her Broadway debut in the 1975 musical “The Wiz.” (Among other roles she was a field mouse.)
 
In 1982 she played a lawyer in the ABC soap opera “One Life to Live” before landing her most famous TV role as Bill Cosby’s wife on “The Cosby Show,” which was broadcast from 1984 to 1992 and broke ground for its portrayal of an upper-middle-class black family.
 
Besides her recent turns on Broadway as Aunt Ester in August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean” in 2005 and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” she has worked steadily in regional and Off Broadway theater. Her reprisal of the Lena Younger role in the 2008 ABC film version of “A Raisin in the Sun” won her an Emmy nomination.
“I love theater,” said Ms. Rashad, a self-described “born-again bachelorette” who lives in the New York area. “To have the people onstage right there, to be working in concert with other artists,” she said, her soft voice rising, “this is a like a school of fish moving together.”
 
Ms. Rashad comes from a family of educators and artists. Her mother, Vivian Ayers Allen, is a poet and playwright. Her sister, Debbie Allen, is a director and actress with whom she often works. Her daughter, Condola Rashad, (from her third marriage, to Ahmad Rashad) decided on acting at the age of 4, Ms. Rashad said, her face lighting up with pride.
 
Condola is currently Off Broadway in “Ruined,” the Lynn Nottage play that won a Pulitzer this year. Ms. Rashad’s older child, William, works in computer graphics.
 
Turning 61 next month is not something she dwells on, professionally or personally, she insisted. “Actors get better,” she said. “Haven’t you noticed? That’s because it’s rooted in understanding.”
 
Mr. Richards said it was his idea to cast Ms. Rashad and that the playwright, Tracy Letts, and the director, Anna D. Shapiro, quickly agreed. There were no changes in the script to reflect Ms. Rashad’s race. And though she was picked foremost because of her talent, Mr. Richards said, she was also viewed as a Violet who could expand the play’s audience, especially of black theatergoers. (Some of the marketing has been geared to black audiences, with e-mail blasts and newsletters to churches and organizations like the New York Coalition of One Hundred Black Women.)
 
“She’s an extraordinary actress,” Mr. Richards said. “People want to see Phylicia’s approach to this role.”
 
Ms. Shapiro said she is focusing on the insights Ms. Rashad will bring as a fresh cast member. “It changes what we see, literally,” she said, “but I think the audience knows immediately that the color of the family doesn’t change anything else.”
 
But characters influence actors too, Ms. Rashad said. The role that changed her was Aunt Ester, a more-than-200-year-old former slave and spiritual guide in “Gem of the Ocean,” set in 1904. “It made me intolerant of nonsense,” she said, coming back to the question of how she will pull off her newest mother role.
 
“Every role affords me something different in the way of understanding, and that’s really why you take these roles,” Ms. Rashad said, “not to show that thing that people talk about of showing what you can do, that has nothing to do with anything.”
 
 
  

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ON THIS DAY IN BLACK MUSIC HISTORY: MAY 11

#1 R&B Song 1959:   “It’s Just A Matter Of  Time,” Brook Benton

 

Born:   Coronet player Joe “King” Oliver, 1885

 

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1956   R&B entered Chicago for the first all-star show when the Flamingos, Drifters, Platters, Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, and the Teen Queens tore up the International Amphitheater.

 

1962   In a blockbuster show put on by legendary Pittsburgh disc jockey Porky Chedwick, the Civic Arena was rocked by the Drifters, Jerry Butler, Jackie Wilson, the Flamingos, the Jive Five, Bo Diddley, Patti LaBelle & the Bluebelles (then only known as the Bluebelles), the Coasters, the Marvelettes, the Skyliners, Ketty Lester, Big Maybelle, the Carousels, Gene Pitney, and Bobby Vinton. The average ticket price for the spectacular was under $3 with 13,000 fans in attendance.

 

1968   The Raelettes entered the R&B charts with “Im Getting’ Long Alright,” reaching #23. The group was originally called the Cookies and were Ray Charles’ backing vocalists through the mid-60s. Some of the outstanding vocalists in the group included Minnie Ripperton, Merry Clayton, Clydie King (Brown Sugar), and Mable John.

 

1974   Tavares, a quintet from Bedford, MA, jumped on the charts with “Too Late,” peaking at #10 R&B. The five were all brothers who would have twenty-seven hits over a ten-year span from 1973 to 1983.

 

1981   Bob Marley died of lung cancer in Miami at the age of thrity-six.

 

1985   Whitney Houston charted solo for the first time on the pop charts with “You Give Good Love,” reaching #3 and becoming her first of eight R&B #1s. Whitney is the daughter of Cissy Houston and cousin of Dionne and Dee Dee Warwick. Before her solo career started she was a model for Glamour magazine and she graced the cover of Seventeen.

 

 

 

 

1989   Anita Baker cohosted, with Dick Clark, the twentieth annual Songwriters Hall of Fame awards ceremony at Radio City Music Hall in New York.

 

1989   The ever-versatile, ever-surprising Ray Charles performed his song, “A Fool For You” with the New York City Ballet at Lincoln Center.

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IN REMEMBRANCE: 5-24-2009

ELSIE B. WASHINGTON, NOVELIST
 
Published: May 16, 2009
 
Elsie B. Washington, whose 1980 book, “Entwined Destinies,” is widely considered the first black romance novel, died on May 5 in Manhattan. She was 66 and had lived in Yonkers in recent years.
 
Fikisha Cumbo

Elsie B. Washington

 

The cause was multiple sclerosis and cancer, her brother, James E. Peterson, said.
The 575th title in Dell’s Candlelight Romance series, “Entwined Destinies” was published under the pen name Rosalind Welles. It tells the story of a beautiful young black woman, a magazine correspondent, who after many travails finds love with a tall, dashing black man, an oil company executive.
 
In 2002 Black Issues Book Review said the novel was “the first known romance featuring African-American characters written by an African-American author.”
 
“Entwined Destinies” was Ms. Washington’s only novel. Primarily a journalist, she wrote two nonfiction books, “Sickle Cell Anemia” (Third Press, 1974, with Anthony Cerami) and “Uncivil War: The Struggle Between Black Men and Women” (Noble Press, 1996).
 
Elsie Bernice Washington was born in the Bronx on Dec. 28, 1942. She received a bachelor’s degree in English from the City College of New York and afterward was a writer and editor with The New York Post, Life magazine, Newsweek and Essence magazine.
 
An essay by Ms. Washington in the January 1988 issue of Essence attracted wide attention in the news media. In it she deplored the trend among black people to conform to white standards of beauty by using tinted contact lenses to change the color of their eyes, among other things.
 
Besides her brother, Mr. Peterson, Ms. Washington is survived by her parents, Samuel Washington and Kathleen Peterson Erby.
 
The black romance novel is today a thriving genre that includes several publishing imprints devoted to it exclusively and that features books by Sandra Kitt, Beverly Jenkins, Rochelle Alers and many other writers.
 
SOURCE: The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com
  
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WAYMAN TISDALE, BASKETBALL STAR WHO BECAME NOTED JAZZ MUSICIAN
 
Published: May 15, 2009
 
Wayman Tisdale, who excelled at basketball at the college, Olympic and professional levels, then conquered new horizons by developing his own style of playing jazz melodies on the bass guitar, died Friday in Tulsa, Okla. He was 44.
 
 
May 16, 2009    
United Press International

A three-time all-American at Oklahoma, Wayman Tisdale set a Big Eight record with 2,661 points.

 
 
May 16, 2009    

Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times

Wayman Tisdale later released 12 jazz albums.

 

 

The cause was bone cancer, Miles Ahead Entertainment, a public relations firm, announced. He had a leg amputated last August.
 
Tisdale led a life of storybook success. He was a three-time all-American basketball player at the University of Oklahoma, the leading rebounder on the gold-medal-winning 1984 United States Olympic basketball team and a highly respected 12-year veteran of the National Basketball Association.
 
He played for the Indiana Pacers, the Sacramento Kings and the Phoenix Suns, averaging 15.3 points a game. Sports Illustrated in 2003 included him in a list of the best players never chosen to play in an All-Star Game, along with stars like Sam Perkins and Byron Scott.
 
In 1995, two years before he retired from basketball, he put out his first album, “Power Forward,” which made it to No. 4 on Billboard’s contemporary jazz charts. Miles Ahead said that it was the first of his 12 albums, many of which crossed over to the R&B charts, in addition to making the contemporary jazz charts.
 
He used his bass guitar as a melodic lead instrument, and sometimes, depending on the song, invited another bassist to play the rhythm. The Web site All About Jazz in 2006 said that Tisdale “literally makes the music sing, particularly on high notes.”
 
Partly in his striving for a smooth combination of musical forms, Tisdale patterned his bass playing after that of the renowned bassist Stanley Clarke.
 
“I feel that jazz is in me, R&B is in me, gospel is in me, and you hear a lot of that in my music,” Tisdale said in an interview with The Philadelphia Tribune in 1996. “Just to be classified as a jazz bassist is limiting to me.”
 
Wayman Lawrence Tisdale was born on June 9, 1964, in Tulsa, where his father, the Rev. Louis Tisdale, was pastor of the Friendship Baptist Church for more than 20 years. Wayman idolized the bass players in the church band.
 
“I thought they were the coolest cats,” he said in an interview with Ebony in 2007. “They got to stand and do their thing in the back. I’d watch their fingering and how they played.”
 
Louis bought each of his sons a Mickey Mouse guitar. His brothers quickly turned them into paddles and baseball bats, but Wayman taught himself to play. He never took lessons or learned to read sheet music, but his mastery of the instrument flowered.
 
As a child Wayman had little interest in the pickup basketball games in his family’s yard. But after sprouting 24 inches in height during junior high school and learning to dunk a stick and then a ball, he began to like the game. At 6 feet 9 inches, he became a sensational player in high school.
 
More than 150 colleges tried to recruit him, The New York Times reported in 1983. The Times reported the next year that he had chosen the Oklahoma Sooners after Oklahoma recruited his considerably less talented older brother to play and his high school coach to be an assistant coach.
 
At Oklahoma, The Times said Tisdale’s freshman season was “like a continuous 33-game fireworks display,” and he became the first freshman to become a first-team all-American since freshmen were once again allowed to play, in the 1971-72 season. He became one of 10 three-time all-Americans in Division I basketball.
 
He skipped his senior year to enter the N.B.A. draft; he needed only 1,007 points to surpass Pete Maravich’s college scoring record. He scored 2,661 points in his career, a Big Eight Conference record. His 61 points in a 1983 game surpassed Wilt Chamberlain’s 52 in a 1956 game for Kansas, setting the league’s single-game scoring record.
 
Tisdale was the first Oklahoma athlete in any sport, including football, to have his jersey retired. Two years ago, Blake Griffin asked Tisdale for permission to wear No. 23, which Tisdale granted. Griffin went on to become the consensus national player of the year this past season as a sophomore.
 
On the 1984 Olympic team, then composed of amateurs, including Michael Jordan, Tisdale scored 14 points to help defeat Spain for the gold medal. In the 1985 N.B.A. draft, Tisdale was chosen second over all after Patrick Ewing. His best professional season was in 1989-90, when he averaged 22.3 points and 7.5 rebounds with the Kings. He retired in 1997 to pursue his musical career.
 
Tisdale’s survivors include his wife, Regina; his daughters, Tiffany, Danielle and Gabrielle; his son, Wayman II; and a granddaughter.
 
Last month, the former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams, another professional sports star turned professional musician, as a guitarist, released an album in which Tisdale played on the title track. It is titled “Moving Forward.”
 
SOURCE:  The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com
  
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MARIO BENEDETTI, WRITER REVERED IN LATIN AMERICA
 
Published: May 19, 2009
 
Mario Benedetti, one of Latin America’s most respected, popular and prolific writers, who excelled as a novelist, poet, playwright and essayist while immersing himself in the region’s political struggles, died on Sunday in Montevideo, Uruguay. He was 88.
 
 
Andres Stapff/Reuters

Mario Benedetti in 2001.

 

 

His death was announced by his secretary, Ariel Silva. Mr. Benedetti had been hospitalized four times in the last year for intestinal and respiratory problems, according to Uruguayan news reports, and was released for the last time May 6.
 
In a career of more than 60 years, Mr. Benedetti wrote more than 80 books, addressing subjects that range from love and middle-class frustration in Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital, to the pain of exile. He also worked for decades as an editor of literary and political magazines and was a film, literary and theater critic for newspapers in Uruguay and elsewhere in the Spanish-speaking world.
 
The Portuguese Nobel laureate José Saramago wrote this week in the Madrid daily El País: “The work of Mario Benedetti, my friend and brother, is surprising in all its aspects, whether the varied extent of genres it touches, the density of its poetic expression or the extreme conceptual freedom it employs.” He added, “To Benedetti, language, all of it, is poetic.”
 
Mario Benedetti Farrugia was born in 1920 into an Italian immigrant family in the cattle town of Paso de los Toros, in central Uruguay. But he came of age in Montevideo, going to work at 14 in an auto-parts shop before making his mark in Latin American literary circles in his mid-20s, first for poems and then for short stories.
 
Mr. Benedetti’s best-known work, however, is probably his 1960 novel “The Truce,” a film version of which, made in Argentina, was nominated for an Academy Award as best foreign film in 1975. “The Truce,” which has been translated into 19 languages, is written in the form of a diary and tells the story of a romance in Montevideo between a middle-aged widower and a woman half his age.
 
Several of Mr. Benedetti’s poems, which dealt mainly with love and politics, were set to music and recorded; a few even became pop hits. The most notable example is “The South Also Exists,” a collection of 10 songs, all with lyrics by Mr. Benedetti, which the popular Catalan singer-songwriter Joan Manuel Serrat released in 1985.
 
“Mario is probably the poet most widely read in Latin America,” Mr. Serrat said Monday. “But we shouldn’t forget his contribution as a playwright, journalist and political activist.”
 
It was precisely that political engagement that complicated Mr. Benedetti’s life, especially during the cold war. He was a man of the left who criticized the United States, championed Cuba’s revolution, embraced independence for Puerto Rico and, in 1971, helped organize a left-wing coalition in Uruguay called the Broad Front to challenge the two-party system that had prevailed for nearly 150 years.
 
After a military coup in 1973, the front was outlawed and Mr. Benedetti’s magazine, Marcha, shut down. He went into exile, living first in Buenos Aires, until threats from right-wing death squads forced his departure; then in Lima, Peru, until he was detained and deported; next in Havana; and finally in Madrid. He returned to Uruguay 12 years later, but also continued to spend time in Spain, where his work was enormously popular.
 
Mr. Benedetti’s wife of 60 years, Luz López Alegre, died in 2006. His younger brother, Raúl, is the only immediate family member who survives.
 
Mr. Benedetti’s body lay in state at the Congress building in Montevideo for his admirers, ranging from Tabaré Vázquez, the president of Uruguay and leader of the Broad Front, to humble workers and young students. The burial was Tuesday.
 
“It wasn’t an easy life, frankly,” Mr. Benedetti said in one of his last books, “Songs of Someone Who Doesn’t Sing.” But, he added, it was the causes he believed in, even in defeat, that kept him going. “Thanks to them,” he said, “I can sleep tranquilly.”
 
SOURCE:  The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com
  
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DANEIL CARASSO, A PIONEER OF YOGURT
 
Published: May 20, 2009
 
Daniel Carasso, who helped turn yogurt from an obscure ethnic food into an international staple through the Danone brand in Europe and Dannon in the United States, died Sunday at his home in Paris. He was 103.
 
 
May 21, 2009    

Jacky Naegelen/Reuters

Daniel Carasso, at a Danone news conference in Paris in April.

 

 

The death was announced by Groupe Danone, of which Mr. Carasso was honorary chairman.
 
The Danone brand owes nearly everything to Mr. Carasso, including its name. When his father, Isaac, created the yogurt in Barcelona in 1919, he named it after his son, whose nickname in Catalan was Danon, or Danny.
 
From this small start-up operation Daniel Carasso developed a global business, beginning in France in 1929, expanding to the United States during World War II and eventually reaching markets as far-flung as Mexico, Brazil and Morocco. “My dream was to make Danone a worldwide brand,” he said at a news conference in April to celebrate Danone’s 90th anniversary.
 
Mr. Carasso was born in Thessalonika, Greece, where his Sephardic family had settled four centuries earlier after the Jews were driven out of Spain. In 1916 his father took the family back to Spain, where he became disturbed by the high incidence of intestinal disorders, especially among children.
 
Isaac Carasso began studying the work of Élie Metchnikoff, the Russian microbiologist who believed that human life could be extended by introducing lactic-acid bacilli, found in yogurt and sour milk, into the digestive system. Using cultures developed at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, Isaac began producing Danone.
 
At the time, yogurt was exotic. Although a traditional food in Greece, the Middle East, southeastern Europe and large parts of Asia, it was known elsewhere only to a small population of health faddists. Early on, Danone was marketed as a health food and sold by prescription through pharmacies. Gradually it found favor as a milk product that did not spoil in the heat.
 
In 1923 Daniel Carasso enrolled in business school in Marseille and, the better to understand yogurt, took a training course in bacteriology at the Pasteur Institute.
 
In 1929 he planted the Danone flag in France, just in time for the worldwide business slump. “I barely realized that there was a financial crisis raging around me,” he said at a news conference in April. “I was too caught up in trying to find dairy stores to sell my product.”
 
His efforts paid off, as the French took to this newfangled food, but in 1941 the arrival of the Nazis forced him to flee to the United States. There he formed a partnership with two family friends, Joe Metzger, a Swiss-born Spanish businessman, and his son Juan, whose flair for marketing would make Dannon a household name in the United States.
 
Mr. Carasso and the Metzgers bought Oxy-Gala, a small Greek yogurt company in the Bronx, and in October 1942 began producing unflavored yogurt in half-pint glass bottles under the Americanized name Dannon.
 
Customers paid 11 cents and a 3-cent deposit. Juan washed out the returns. “We only sold $20 worth a day, but even then we were the bigger of the two companies in the business,” Juan Metzger, who died in 1998, told People magazine in 1980. (Joe Metzger had died in 1965.)
 
The little company operated at a loss until 1947, when, in a concession to the American sweet tooth, strawberry jam was added to the yogurt. Sales took off, new flavors were added to the product line, and Dannon yogurt made the leap from specialty product to snack food and dessert. In 1959 the company was bought by Beatrice Foods.
 
Mr. Carasso returned to Europe after the war to restart Danone in Spain and France. He then embarked on an aggressive campaign to expand the business by establishing Danone plants in other countries and merging with other food companies. It acquired the fresh-cheese company Gervais in 1967 and in 1973 merged with the bottle maker BSN, which was eager to expand the food side of its business.
 
The new company, BSN-Gervais Danone, bought Dannon from Beatrice Foods in 1981 and changed its name to Groupe Danone two years later. One of France’s largest food conglomerates, with revenue of nearly $19 billion in 2008, it ranks first in the world in sales of fresh dairy products and second in sales of bottled water and baby foods.
 
Mr. Carasso is survived by a daughter, Marina Nahmias, four grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
 
SOURCE:  The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com
  
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LUCY GORDON, ‘SPIDER-MAN 3’ ACTRESS
  
lucy-gordon
(Photo courtesy of http://www.thefablife.com/ )
 
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: May 21, 2009
 
PARIS (AP) — Lucy Gordon, a British actress who appeared in “Spider-Man 3,” was found dead in her Paris apartment, the French police said on Thursday. She was 28.
 
An autopsy has been ordered to determine the cause of death, though it appeared to be a suicide, a Paris police official said. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing a police policy, gave no additional details.
 
Ms. Gordon, who would have turned 29 on Friday, appeared in about a dozen films. In “Spider-Man 3,” released in 2007, she played a reporter, Jennifer Dugan. In 2006 she played a spoiled British supermodel in “The Russian Dolls,” a French film with Audrey Tautou that was released in the United States. In a coming biopic about Serge Gainsbourg, she portrays the British singer and actress Jane Birkin.
 
Speaking from the family’s home in Oxford, Ms. Gordon’s father, Richard Gordon, told Britain’s Press Association that his daughter was “a natural actress all her life, since she was about 2.”
 
“She’s always loved being on stage and in front of the camera, and she has kept all her naturalness and charm all the way through,” he added. “She has been the most beautiful daughter. We are obviously devastated.”
 
He added that his daughter had spent much of her childhood and her summer vacations in France and was bilingual. She recently moved to Paris after living in New York.
 
SOURCE:  The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com
  
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RAFAEL ESCALONA, COLOMBIAN FOLK BALLADEER
 
Published: May 19, 2009
 
Rafael Escalona, who absorbed the ways and wisdom of wandering troubadours to become a beloved writer of ballads that became classics of Colombia folk music and inspired the novelist Gabriel García Márquez, died Wednesday in Bogotá. He was 81.
 
 
Adamis Guerra/Reuters

Rafael Escalona

 

 

The death was announced by the government of Colombia. Reports on the cause of death differed.
 
Mr. Escalona was a pioneering songwriter and singer of vallenato, the folk music of Colombia’s remote Caribbean region. The sound, driven by the plaintive wail of an accordion and raspy, often nostalgic voices, recalls Louisiana zydeco music. The vallenato — which can mean all music in that style or a particular song — goes back to the time when news, gossip and legends were passed by traveling minstrels.
 
It is a rough, whiskey-tinged sound with simple rhythms and tender lyrics that long fueled working-class celebrations. Now it has progressed from villages and shabby public buses to gleaming Bogotá bars and beyond, becoming a vibrant part of today’s global musical fusion.
 
Mr. Escalona, who helped bring the music to its new level of popularity, saw himself as rooted in the music’s humble past. He never learned to play a musical instrument.
 
“I don’t have a band,” he said in an interview with World Music Central in 2006. “I only sing with my friends at night while we party. I don’t make a living from music. I’m a cotton farmer and rancher on the northern coast of Colombia since I was a child. I like to work.
“I compose vallenatos in a different style,” he added, “sort of like musical chronicles — like the gentleman that crashed his cart, or the farmer that fell off his horse and broke his leg.”
Many of his songs became national classics. One was “The House in the Sky,” in which he pledges to the love of his life that he will “put up a big sign, framed by white clouds, that says Ada Luz.”
 
Mr. Escalona was a longtime friend of Mr. García Márquez, who once told Mr. Escalona that his novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” was nothing more than a 400-page vallenato. Mr. García Márquez referred to Mr. Escalona in the book.
 
Rafael Calixto Escalona Martínez was born on May 27, 1927, in Patillal, Colombia, a town known as the “cradle of maestros” not far from Mr. García Márquez’s hometown, Aracataca. Evenings in Patillal are still punctuated by musicians playing ballads under a mango tree.
 
Mr. Escalona first dreamed of becoming a cartoonist but turned out to be better at writing poems. He wrote his first song when he was 15. Three years later, he wrote a song about how bad the food was in his school and soon dropped out to work on his middle-class family’s farm.
 
Mr. Escalona became an enthusiastic parrandero, which roughly translates as someone who likes to party a lot.
 
Vallenato musicians often spend long evenings singing ballads with friends — songs of women and love, of vendettas and legends, and always of the land, with its mountains and valleys. And often they lubricate the proceedings with rum and whiskey and invite women to join in.
 
Mr. Escalona married Marina Arzuaga Mejía, called “La Maye,” who was the subject of several of his songs. They had six children before they eventually divorced. His youngest child, Rafael, told The Associated Press that Mr. Escalona is survived by a companion, Luz María Zambrano, and 23 children.
 
Despite his rough-and-ready image, Mr. Escalona said sensitivity was the key to his success.
 
“Because I am an educated person,” he told The Los Angeles Times in 1998, “I know how to use poetic language that is more subtle, and that caught on.”
 
In 1968, Mr. Escalona helped found the Festival de la Leyanda Vallenata in Valledupar, Colombia, which became the most important gathering for vallenato music.
 
His life also became the basis of a soap opera, “Escalona,” in the early 1990s. Carlos Vives, a singer and actor who appeared in the show, went on to fuse vallenato music with rock, pop and other Colombian ethnic rhythms to spread a new sort of vallenato all over Latin America as well as to the United States and Europe.
 
Here is what Mr. García Márquez wrote about Mr. Escalona in “One Hundred Years” : “In the last open salon of the tumbledown red-light district an accordion group was playing the songs of Rafael Escalona, the bishop’s nephew, heir to the secrets of Francisco the Man.”
 
Francisco the Man — Francisco el Hombre in Spanish — was a legendary musician who, by one account, originated vallenato music in an accordion-playing contest with Satan. Mr. Escalona’s funeral was held on the Francisco el Hombre stage in Valledupar,
 
SOURCE:  The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com
  
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JOAN A. STANTON, RADIO VOICE OF LOIS LANE
 
Published: May 22, 2009
 
Joan A. Stanton, who was known as Joan Alexander in the 1940s when she was the voice of Lois Lane on the radio version of “The Adventures of Superman,” died on Thursday in Manhattan. She was 94 and lived in Manhattan and East Hampton, N.Y.
 
 
May 23, 2009    
WOR-Mutual

Joan A. Stanton around 1943.

 

 

The cause was an intestinal blockage, said her daughter, Jane Stanton Hitchcock.
 
Mrs. Stanton was a dark-haired beauty, model and stage actress before she became a radio star, performing on many shows, including “Perry Mason,” in which she played the loyal secretary Della Street. But it was as Lois Lane, the intrepid but perpetually imperiled reporter for The Daily Planet, where she was a colleague of Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent, that she became a fixture in pop culture.
 
The show began in 1940, two years after Superman was introduced in comic-book form, and continued on the radio in various formats until 1951, doing much to establish the character as the quintessential American superhero. Lois Lane first appeared in the seventh episode, and though most sources indicate that Mrs. Stanton was not the first actress cast — Superman was played by Bud Collyer — she landed the part early in the show’s tenure and was heard in hundreds of episodes, becoming the identifiable radio Lois of lore.
 
She was born Louise Abrass in St. Paul on April 16, 1915, but when she was young, her father died, her mother remarried, and her stepfather moved the family to Brooklyn, where she was raised.
 
She called herself Joan because she loved the actress Joan Crawford. The origin of Alexander, according to her daughter, remains a mystery. So, for a long while, did an early marriage to the actor John Sylvester White, who eventually became known for playing the school principal, Mr. Woodman, on the television comedy “Welcome Back, Kotter.”
 
“Until about two years ago, I didn’t even know there was a first husband,” said Ms. Hitchcock, whose father was Mrs. Stanton’s second husband, Robert Crowley, a surgeon. Both marriages ended in divorce. In 1954 she married Arthur Stanton, a successful Volkswagen and Audi distributor. He died in 1987.
 
In addition to her daughter, a writer who lives in New York and Washington, Mrs. Stanton is survived by a son, Tim, of Manhattan, and a grandson, Liam.
 
SOURCE:  The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com
  
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TURKAN SAYLAN, WOMEN’S RIGHTS CHAMPION
 
By SEBNEM ARSU
Published: May 21, 2009
 
ISTANBUL — Turkan Saylan, a champion of women’s rights and education for poor children in Turkey and a leader in the fight against leprosy, died here on Monday. She was 73.
 
 
May 22, 2009    

Associated Press

Turkan Saylan

 

 

The cause was breast cancer, which she had for 19 years, said her doctor, Yavuz Dizdar.
One of the first women to work as a dermatologist in Turkey, Dr. Saylan became active in the fight against leprosy in the 1970s, founding the Turkish Leprosy Relief Association.
 
Later, she was a consultant to the World Health Organization on leprosy and a founding member of the International Leprosy Union.
 
She worked for years in rural Turkey with limited resources, an experience that inspired her to organize an effort to provide education for poor children. In 1989 she helped found the Association to Support Contemporary Life, which focused primarily on the education of young girls.
 
A staunch secularist, she was put on a watch list compiled by public prosecutors looking into allegations that conspirators were planning a military coup against the Islamic-inspired Justice and Development government. A police raid on her home and office last month outraged many critics of the government, who say that the investigation is part of a power struggle between the secular establishment and the religiously conservative governing party.
 
After the raid, in which both private and professional documents were confiscated, Dr. Saylan appeared on television, looking weak but insisting that her association favored neither an Islamic state nor a military coup. “We want democracy and contemporary values to rule,” she said. “Therefore, we are ready to fight for this cause as long as it takes.”
 
Dr. Saylan promoted the image of secular Turkish women and denounced the sexual inequality often associated with the world view of the governing party.
 
Thousands of supporters filled the streets and joined her funeral in Istanbul on Tuesday, which coincided with Youth and Sports Day, a national holiday.
 
“Does seeking an independent, democratic university structure and secular education mean you favor military coups?” Prof. Aysel Celikel, deputy director of the education association, said at the funeral, which was broadcast live. “Then we all do.”
 
In her later years, Dr. Saylan dedicated herself to the education of young girls in rural parts of the country, where local customs force many to marry and have children when they are as young as 12. The education association has given grants and scholarships to at least 58,000 students since its establishment.
 
Dr. Saylan was born on Dec. 13, 1935, in Istanbul. She is survived by two sons, Cinar Orge, a medical doctor, and Caglayan Orge, a graphic designer.
 
As part of a book she had been working on before she died, Dr. Saylan wrote a letter to the girls of Turkey, which was read at her funeral. “You, my dear daughter,” it said in part, “stop asking yourself, ‘Why am I born a girl?’ and aim at becoming the best you can be.”
 
SOURCE:  The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com
  
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BUDDY MONTGOMERY, JAZZ PIANIST AND VIBRAPHONIST
 
By PETER KEEPNEWS
Published: May 21, 2009
 
Buddy Montgomery, a jazz pianist and vibraphonist best known for his work with the guitarist Wes Montgomery, his older brother, died on May 14 at his home in Palmdale, Calif. He was 79.
 
 
Associated Press, via Monterey County Herald

Charles “Buddy” Montgomery plays vibes with the Benny Barth Trio during the Monterey Jazz Festival in 2007.

 

 

The cause was a heart attack, said his granddaughter Mykah Montgomery.
 
Mr. Montgomery and another brother, the bassist Monk Montgomery, were members of Wes Montgomery’s quartet on and off during the 1960s. They first worked with him when he was critically acclaimed but little known outside the jazz world and toured with him again after he made a series of lushly orchestrated albums that cracked the pop charts, although they did not play on those records.
 
Both Buddy and Monk Montgomery had considerable success before then as members of the Mastersounds, a West Coast quartet that specialized in a quiet, gently swinging brand of modern jazz; Buddy played vibraphone with the group. It made several well-received albums for the Pacific Jazz Label between 1957 and 1961.
 
After Wes Montgomery’s death in 1968, Buddy became active as a jazz educator and advocate. He founded organizations in Milwaukee, where he lived from 1969 to 1982, and Oakland, Calif., where he lived for most of the 1980s, that offered jazz classes and presented free concerts. (Monk Montgomery, who went on to found the Las Vegas Jazz Society, died in 1982.)
 
Mr. Montgomery also continued to perform, primarily as a pianist, and led a trio at the Parker Meridien Hotel in New York from 1989 to 1993 before moving back to California.
Buddy Montgomery was born Charles Montgomery on Jan. 30, 1930, in Indianapolis. He began his musical career there before touring as a pianist with the blues singer Big Joe Turner. In 1955, after serving in the Army, he teamed with his brothers and two other Indianapolis musicians to form the Montgomery Johnson Quintet.
 
Over the years Mr. Montgomery recorded several albums as a leader. He also performed or recorded with the singer Marlena Shaw, the saxophonist David (Fathead) Newman and others.
 
Mr. Montgomery’s first marriage, to Lois Ann Smith, ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, Ann; a sister, Ervena Floyd; two children, David and Charla Montgomery; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
 
SOURCE:  The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com
  
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RORY TALBOT, BERMUDAN CALYPSO MUSICIAN
 
Published: May 23, 2009
 
Roy Talbot, the last surviving member of the original Talbot Brothers of Bermuda, one of the top calypso groups of the 1950s, died on May 15 in Paget, Bermuda. He was 94 and lived in Harris Bay.
 
May 24, 2009    

Mark Tatem/The Royal Gazette

Roy Talbot with his single-string “Bermudavarius” bass.

 

 

The death was confirmed by his nephew Clement Talbot.
 
Mr. Talbot lent his voice to the Talbots’ distinctive blended harmonies and cut a striking figure onstage with his homemade bass. Called the doghouse or the Bermudavarius, it was fashioned from a Swift meatpacking crate and had a single string made from fishing line. As the Talbot Brothers toured the world, fans would sign the instrument, among them Babe Ruth, Bing Crosby and Tommy Dorsey.
 
In their heyday, the late 1940s and ’50s, the Talbot Brothers were a major attraction at Bermuda’s hotels and clubs and at the private homes of wealthy Americans who were discovering the island. Their popularity is often credited with playing an important role in putting Bermuda on the tourist map. Songs like “Bermuda Buggy Ride” and “Bermuda’s Still Paradise,” with their smooth harmonies and easy, swinging beat, helped establish the islands’ image as a carefree, no-worries leisure destination.
 
Roy Talbot was born in Tucker’s Town, Bermuda, one of 10 siblings. His father cut coral stone in a quarry, and his mother played organ in the local Methodist church. When Roy, his brothers Archie and Austin and their cousin Ernest Stovell decided to form a singing group, Roy’s mother instructed them in the intricacies of four-part vocal harmony while playing piano accompaniment. The group gained local fame performing at weddings and clubs.
 
In the ’30s, as part of a government effort to promote Bermuda’s tourism industry, the Talbots and other families were relocated so that Tucker’s Town could be developed as an enclave for the rich. Today H. Ross Perot, the Texas businessman, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York own vacation homes there.
 
In the early ’40s, as the new sounds of calypso drifted over from Trinidad, Roy, Archie and Austin joined with their brothers Bryan and Ross and their cousin Cromwell Mandres to form the Talbot Brothers of Bermuda, a calypso group with a difference.
 
Unlike Trinidadian calypso groups, the Talbot Brothers did not use percussion, except for an occasional conga drum, and their instrumentation was unusual: a blend of acoustic and electric guitars, harmonicas, a 10-string ukulele called a tiple, an accordion and Roy’s booming bass. The group performed in floral shirts and straw hats.
 
“Bermuda Buggy Ride,” a swing ballad recorded in the United States, made the Talbot Brothers the musical act that tourists to Bermuda wanted to see. In addition to original songs like “Razor Razor” and the nuclear-bomb ballad “Atomic Nightmare” (“I’m going to run, run, run like a son of a gun”), the group recorded popular cover versions of the calypso classic “Yellow Bird” and the infectious “Is She Is, or Is She Ain’t?,” which was originally recorded by Louis Eugene Walcott, professionally known as the Charmer, who later achieved fame as Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam leader.
 
American enthusiasm for the group led to two appearances on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and two albums on ABC Paramount Records, “Calypsos” and “Talbot Brothers of Bermuda.”
 
Roy Talbot’s nephew recently published a history of the group with two CDs, “Bermuda’s Famous Talbot Brothers: A Celebration in Pictures and Song.”
 
Although the Talbot Brothers stopped recording in 1962, they continued to perform until the 1980s.
 
Mr. Talbot is survived by his wife, Mary; a sister, Etta Talbot; three sons, Delmont, Vance and Brent; seven grandchildren; and several great-grandchildren.
 
SOURCE:  The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com
  
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WORLD DAY FOR CULTURAL DIVERSITY FOR DIALOGUE AND DEVELOPMENT – MAY 21, 2009

 

       
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  World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development21 May


Further to the adoption of the Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity by UNESCO on November 2001, the General Assembly, in Resolution 57/249, welcomed the Declaration and the main lines of an Action Plan for its implementation, and proclaimed 21 May the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.  
The Day provides us with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the values of cultural diversity and to learn to “live together” better. UNESCO continues to promote greater awareness of the crucial relationship between culture and development and the important role of information and communication technologies in this relationship. 
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