Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/ Souleo

R&B Diva Monifah Talks Voting and Finding Inner Peace

As the presidential election nears, the arts/culture community is playing a significant role in encouraging citizens to vote. TV One’s R&B Divas star and Harlem native Monifah lent her voice to the cause at the event, Go Vote: A Memo to Black America. Pastor Joseph Tolton led the event at Grace Congregational Church of Harlem, which featured a powerful keynote speech by noted economist, columnist and author, Dr. Julianne Malveaux.

Backstage, Monifah shared that voting wasn’t always a priority for her, which is why she hopes to inspire the younger generation to be more politically conscious. “In my 20s I was like not subscribing to the establishment,” she says. “When you’re younger you don’t realize how disrespectful it is not to vote because people gave their lives and much more for us.”

Monifah gave her all as she performed her new song, “Invincible.” Thematically the song is similar to the recent recording “She’s Me,” as they both aim to inspire triumph over adversity. The message is a testament to Monifah’s newfound spiritual outlook on life, which has helped her overcome the pain of being raped as a teenager.  “At 17 I was raped. I didn’t go to the police because I thought it was my fault,” she reveals. “But when I didn’t harbor that anger [He] came in and got me through that. Everything I’ve been through in my life has gotten me to where I am now.”

Presently Monifah is working on her forthcoming untitled album, which will mark her return to music after over a decade. But one thing she is keeping top secret is whether or not we will see her on season two of R&B Divas.

One of the best-kept secrets on the music scene has been the talent of rising singer-songwriter and Harlem-based recording artist Abiah. After a series of industry challenges–mainly from operating within the often-stifling major label process–Abiah returns with his sophomore release Life as a Ballad.  He notes that in order to move forward with his career he had to avoid internalizing the professional setbacks of being on a major label. “I definitely didn’t want to be that artist who stayed angry. When you take responsibility for what you could have done, then it actually empowers you. I am not anti-major label but I believe an artist has to know what to expect and what to do in the business. I feel so strong and have a healthy perspective because of the experiences.”

Coming across new artists is always an exciting experience, especially when they are as gifted as Shantell Martin. After graduating with top honors in London and honing her craft in Tokyo, Martin has made New York City her residence of choice as she elevates her career. In the exhibition Continuous Line, Martin integrates analog drawing with recurring words and phrases on canvas, found objects, walls and floors within the indoor and outdoor space of the Black & White Gallery/Project Space. The effect is like stepping into Martin’s subconscious mind as single lines lead to stimulating fantastical and surreal images for a style that some refer to as “free association.” As Martin tells it, the goal is to free the viewer of their normal daily routine in an effort to tap into one’s imagination and intuition. “There is pressure to plan everything these days and to know where you’re going,” she says. “But when you don’t plan and you trust your instinct and work spontaneously there is more reward in doing that. I am tugging away from that systematic approach.”

Hopefully everyone’s intuition will guide them to the polls and then off to enjoy an arts and culture event.

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The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.



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