Uneku Atawodi: 1st and Only Black Female Professional Polo Player

I salute this AMAZING Her-story making sista!

Black Female Equestrians

UnekuUneku Saliu-Atawodi wears her crown well. The first female black professional polo player on the international stage represents her native Abujua, Nigeria by giving back through her charity, Ride to Shine. She regularly spends time with orphans, teaching them riding techniques, and raising money for their education trust funds so they can achieve their dreams of being “doctors, lawyers, [and] football players.”

The 25-year-old knows all to well what it feels like to be a child with a dream. Atawodi started out cleaning the horse stables and today, she’s the first and only black female professional polo player in the world.

“The world is fast becoming more and more globalized, and traveling around the world and living on my own from 14, playing polo in beautiful countries in the corners of the world from 16, that really helped me to attain a globalised view way before my time,” she offers.


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Jockey Cheryl White: Broke Racial Barriers for African Americans in Horse Racing

I salute this AMAZING Her-story making sista!

Black Female Equestrians

cheryl-whiteA little-known fact is Cheryl White was a jockey “gem” that most people never knew existed. She raced horses like only a few of the best did during that time. During the time White was racing horses, there were not too many African-American jockeys. But, despite the lack of blacks in the profession, White went on to become one of the first black female jockeys to win five thoroughbred races in “one day” at a major track. She made her mark while riding her mother’s horse, Ace Reward.

It was tough for black jockeys but harder for females and especially African American women. In White’s 21 years of racing, she won 750 races. At one point, she held a five-time winning streak at Appaloosa. In 1990, she was presented an Award of Merit by the African-American Sports Hall of Fame.

White’s license was suspended after it was discovered that she made…

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Great Commentary on Black Women and Our Feelings and Views About Our Natural Hair

What’s not to love?Q: Why do Black women act as though having a relaxer and getting a weave is better than the natural hair our creator gave to us? – Tiara Ella Yo: For me personally, I love my natural hair, but I cannot deny that styling it is often a challenge. It’s very time…

via Ask A Black Girl: Why do Black women think a relaxer or weave is better than natural hair? — Dangerous Lee

Sissieretta Jones: “The Black Patti”


Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones

Matilda Sissieretta Joyner Jones, known as Sissieretta Jones, (January 5, 1868 or 1869[1] – June 24, 1933[2]) was an African-American soprano. She sometimes was called “The Black Patti” in reference to Italian opera singer Adelina Patti. Jones’ repertoire included grand opera, light opera, and popular music.[3]

Matilda Sissieretta Joyner was born in Portsmouth, Virginia, United States, to Jeremiah Malachi Joyner, an African Methodist Episcopal minister, and Henrietta Beale.[2] By 1876 her family moved to Providence, Rhode Island,[4] where she began singing at an early age in her father’s Pond Street Baptist Church.[2]

In 1883, Joyner began the formal study of music at the Providence Academy of Music. The same year she married David Richard Jones, a news dealer and hotel bellman. In the late 1880s, Jones was accepted at the New England Conservatory of Music.[1] On October 29, 1885, Jones gave a solo performance in Providence as an opening act to a production of Richard III put on by John A. Arneaux‘s theatre troupe.[5] In 1887, she performed at Boston’s Music Hall before an audience of 5,000.[2]

Jones made her New York debut on April 5, 1888, at Steinway Hall.[1] During a performance at Wallack’s Theater in New York, Jones came to the attention of Adelina Patti’s manager, who recommended that Jones tour the West Indies with the Fisk Jubilee Singers.[2] Jones made successful tours of the Caribbean in 1888 and 1892.[1]

In February 1892, Jones performed at the White House for President Benjamin Harrison.[2] She eventually sang for four consecutive presidents — Harrison, Grover Cleveland, William McKinley, and Theodore Roosevelt — and the British royal family.[1][2][3]

Jones in an 1889 poster

Jones performed at the Grand Negro Jubilee at New York’s Madison Square Garden in April 1892 before an audience of 75,000. She sang the song “Swanee River” and selections from La traviata.[3] She was so popular that she was invited to perform at the Pittsburgh Exposition (1892) and the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1893).[4]

In June 1892, Jones became the first African-American to sing at the Music Hall in New York (renamed Carnegie Hall the following year).[1][7] Among the selections in her program were Charles Gounod‘s “Ave Maria” and Giuseppe Verdi‘s “Sempre libera” (from La traviata).[1] The New York Echo wrote of her performance at the Music Hall: “If Mme Jones is not the equal of Adelina Patti, she at least can come nearer it than anything the American public has heard. Her notes are as clear as a mockingbird’s and her annunciation perfect.”[1] On June 8, 1892, her career elevated beyond primary ethnic communities, and was furthered when she received a contract, with the possibility of a two-year extension, for $150 per week (plus expenses) with Mayor James B. Pond, who had meaningful affiliations to many authors and musicians.[8] The company Troubadours made an important statement about the capabilities of black performers, that besides minstrelsy, there were other areas of genre and style.[8]

In 1893, Jones met composer Antonín Dvořák, and in January 1894 she performed parts of his Symphony No. 9 at Madison Square Garden. Dvořák wrote a solo part for Jones.[1]

Jones met with international success. Besides the United States and the West Indies, Jones toured in South America, Australia, India, and southern Africa.[1] During a European tour in 1895 and 1896, Jones performed in London, Paris, Berlin, Cologne, Munich, Milan, and Saint Petersburg.[9]


In 1896, Jones returned to Providence to care for her mother, who had become ill.[1] Jones found that access to most American classical concert halls was limited by racism. She formed the Black Patti Troubadours (later renamed the Black Patti Musical Comedy Company), a musical and acrobatic act made up of 40 jugglers, comedians, dancers and a chorus of 40 trained singers.[2] The Indianapolis Freeman reviewed the “Black Patti Troubadours” with the following: “The rendition which she and the entire company give of this reportorial opera selection is said to be incomparably grand. Not only is the solo singing of the highest order, but the choruses are rendered with a spirit and musical finish which never fail to excite genuine enthusiasm.[10]

1898 newspaper advertisement for the Black Patti Troubadours

The revue paired Jones with rising vaudeville composers Bob Cole and Billy Johnson. The show consisted of a musical skit, followed by a series of short songs and acrobatic performances. During the final third of each show, Jones performed arias and operatic excerpts.[9] The revue provided Jones with a comfortable income, reportedly in excess of $20,000 per year. She led the company with reassurance of a forty-week season that would give her a sustainable income, guaranteed lodging in a well-appointed and stylish Pullman car, and the ability to sing opera and operetta excerpts in the final section of the show.[8] This allowed Jones to be the highest paid African American performer of her time.[8] Jones sung passionately and pursued her career choice of opera and different repertory regardless to her lack of audience attendance.[8] For more than two decades, Jones remained the star of the Famous Troubadours, while they graciously toured every season and established their popularity in the principal cities of the United States and Canada.[11] Although their eventual fame and international tours collected many audiences, they began with a “free-for-all” variety production with plenty of “low” comedy, song and dance, and no pretense of a coherent story line.[12]

Several members of the troupe, such as Bert Williams, went on to become famous.[1] April 1908, at the Avenue Theatre in Louisville, Kentucky, an audience made up mostly of whites (segregated seating was still prevalent), accepted Madam ‘Patti’ after singing ‘My Old Kentucky Home’ with much respect and admiration, and marked “the first time that a colored performer received a bouquet at the theatre in this city”.[12] For almost ten years, racial segregation had kept Jones from the mainstream opera platform, but by singing selections from operas within the context of a hard-traveling minstrel and variety show, she was still able to utilize her gifted voice, that people of all races loved.[12] The Black Patti Troubadours reveled in vernacular music and dance.[12]

Jones retired from performing in 1915 because her mother fell ill, so she moved back to Rhode Island to take care of her. For more than two decades, Jones remained the star of the Famous Troubadours, while they graciously toured every season and established their popularity in the principal cities of the United States and Canada.[12] She devoted the remainder of her life to her church and to caring for her mother. Jones was forced to sell most of her property to survive.[1][2] She died in poverty on June 24, 1933 from cancer. She is buried in her hometown at Grace Church Cemetery.[2]

In 2013 Jones was inducted into the Rhode Island Music Hall of Fame.[13]

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matilda_Sissieretta_Joyner_Jones

Photos from Wiki Commons

Reri Grist: African American Pioneer In American Opera

Reri Grist, 1959 Photo by Carl Van Vecten

Reri Grist was born in New York City on Feb.29, 1932, attended the High School of Music and Art and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Queens College, New York City. In early childhood she was given dance and voice lessons and performed in concerts as vocal soloist singing works of Gounod, Schubert, Grieg and Mozart.
Beginning in her early teens in 1946, she appeared on Broadway in small roles and in musicals along with Helen Hayes, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Eartha Kitt and Lawrence Tibbett while attending voice lessons with Claire Gelda who discovered her unusual potential.

Grist performed her first staged, operatic role in 1956 as Cindy Lou (Micaela) in “Carmen Jones”, Oscar Hammerstein II’s adaptation of Bizet’s “Carmen”. In the original production of Leonard Bernstein’s “West Side Story” in 1957, she played Consuelo, one of the Shark girls, and introduced the song ‘Somewhere’ to the public. A major breakthrough in classical music came shortly thereafter in 1960 when Bernstein engaged her to sing the soprano part in Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 in concert with the New York Philharmonic coupled with Bernstein’s prized Young People’s Concerts.

During several years following, she appeared with the New York Philharmonic under the batons of Bernstein, Nadia Boulanger, Pierre Boulez and Michael Gielen in works by Strawinsky, Fauré, Nono and Alban Berg.

Her first opera engagement was in Washington Square Park, NYC in 1959 as Madame Herz in an open air concert performance of Mozart’s “Der Schauspieldirektor”. As winner of the Blanche Thebom Competition, the soprano made her operatic debut in 1959 at the Santa Fe Opera as Blondchen in Mozart’s “Die Entführung aus dem Serail” followed by Adele in “Die Fledermaus”.
Igor Strawinsky heard her there and invited her to perform his “Le Rossignol” with him conducting in 1963 with the Washington Opera Society.

Photo (via operaarts.com)

Reri Grist’s European debut was in 1960 at the Opernhaus Köln where she sang the Queen of the Night in Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte”. Herbert Graf, the then new director of the Zürich Oper, invited Grist to become a permanent member of the company making her the first female, African-American singer to hold such a position in a European opera house. During her engagement with the Zürich Oper, 1960-1966, she sang her first performances of several roles including Zerbinetta in “Ariadne auf Naxos”, Sophie in “Der Rosenkavalier” and Adina in “L’Elisir d’Amore”.

As a result of the successes in Zürich, she found herself much in demand: 1962 at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as the Queen of Shemakhan in Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Le Coq d’Or”, the Glyndebourne Festival as Zerbinetta and Despina in “Cosi FanTutte” and 1963 as Zerbinetta at the Vienna State Opera where she performed throughout twenty-five consecutive seasons.

In the same year she first appeared at the San Francisco Opera as Rosina in Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”. Among the roles she subsequently sang during twelve seasons with the company were Gilda in “Rigoletto”, Oscar in “Un Ballo in Maschera”, Susanna in “Le Nozze di Figaro”, Sister Constance in “Dialogue des Carmélites”, Adele in “Die Fledermaus”, Manon in Massenet’s “Manon” and Adina and Zerbinetta.


Photo (via Beauty, Life, and Discovery, Pinterest)

At the Salzburg Festival in 1964 Grist’s initial performance as Zerbinetta in the Rennert/Böhm production of Strauss’ “Ariadne auf Naxos” was received by the public and press as a particularly notable one in that she showed an unprecedented, encompassing interpretation of vocal, dramatic and dance skills.
During the succeeding twelve seasons, interrupted by the birth of her daughter in 1968, she performed Susanna, Despina, Blondchen and Papagena in productions of the Mozart operas – “Le Nozze di Figaro”,
“Cosi Fan Tutte”, “Die Entführung aus dem Serail” and “Die Zauberflöte” conducted by Karl Böhm, Zubin Mehta and Herbert von Karajan.


Reri Grist debuted at the Metropolitan Opera on February 25, 1966 as Rosina in Rossini’s “Il Barbiere di Siviglia”. Other roles which she sang there throughout twelve years included Gilda in “Rigoletto”, Norina in “Don Pasquale”, Olympia in “Les Contes d’Hoffmann”, Sophie in “Der Rosenkavalier”, Adina, Zerbinetta and Oscar.

There followed an “Ariadne auf Naxos” in italian at Milano’s Piccola Scala with Hermann Scherchen conducting. Several years later she sang Despina in “Cosi Fan Tutte” with Karl Böhm at La Scala.

During a long time association, 1965 – 1983, with the Bayerische Staatsoper,
she performed in several notable productions by Günther Rennert and Wolfgang Sawallisch including Richard Strauss’ “Die Schweigsame Frau” in which she sang Aminta. In 1976 she was honored by the state of Bavaria with the title of ‘Bayerische Kammersängerin’.

Grist ended her operatic career in 1991 at De Nederlanse Oper Amsterdam in the one-woman tour de force “Neither” by Morton Feldman/Samuel Beckett directed by Pierre Audi. She executed the one hour long, unusually exacting, intricate vocal demands of Morton Feldman’s music coupled with the hermetic text of Samuel Beckett with a high degree of artistry which the audience and musicians rewarded with a standing ovation.

Sixteen years later in 2007, she once again appeared on stage on Broadway at the Gypsy of the Year/Equity Fights Aids Gala Celebration of the 50th anniversary of “West Side Story” in which almost all members of the original cast participated and, in an emotional ceremony, were honored. She sang then, as in the original production, ‘Somewhere’.

Grist has performed in concert works by Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Rossini, Orff, Schoenberg, Webern, Fortner, Henze and other composers with the conductors Leonard Bernstein, Seiji Ozawa, Michael Gielen, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Otto Klemperer, Leopold Stokowski, Pierre Boulez and Friedrich Cerha (die reihe) with the Boston Symphony, NY Philharmonic, Wiener Philharmoniker, Bayerisches Staatsorchester, Bayerisches and the Saarländisches Rundfunkorchester.

Photo (via black international cinema)

Among the conductors with whom she has performed in opera are James Levine, Claudio Abbado, Riccardo Muti, Mstislav Rostropowitsch, Francesco Molinari-Pradelli and Silvio Varviso.

Reknown stage directors with whom Grist created several of her most accomplished interpretations were Günther Rennert, Giorgio Strehler, Lotfi Mansouri, Otto Schenk, Ruth Berghaus and Nat Merrill.

She toured in song recitals in the USA, Canada and Austria with classical, romantic and contemporary repertoire partnered with the accompanists Irwin Gage, Phillip Moll, Warren Wilson, Heinz Medjimorec and Kenneth Broadway.

As Professor of Voice Grist has taught at the School of Music Bloomington, Indiana and at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater München. She has been a member of various international juries and has given Master Classes at Young Artists Programs including those of the Santa Fe Opera Apprentice Program, Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Development Program, San Francisco Opera Merola Program, Zürich International Opera Studio, Escuela Superior de Música Reina Sofia Madrid and the Steans Institute Ravinia, Illinois.

Photo (via WonderfulWorldofOpera, Pinterest)

Other recognitions of the soprano’s accomplishments include a Legacy Award of the American Opera Association in 2001, a Lifetime Achievement Award of the Licia Albenese Foundation in 2003 and two awards from her alma mater Queens College, NYC.

Along with her often demanding schedule of performance engagements, Grist and her family spent vacations throughout many years sailing in the Baltic Sea, cross country skiing in Switzerland and Austria and hiking in parts of central Europe. She is married to Dr. Ulf Thomson, 1982-87 Artistic Administrator (Redakteur) of the Norddeutsche Rundfunk Sinfoniorchester Hamburg, 1987- 90 Intendant of the Radio-Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.

Among her other hobbies Ms. Grist includes gardening, cross stitch embroidery, collecting and cooking unusual recipes from various cultures.



Source: http://rerigrist.com/index.php/en.html

Amy Ashwood Garvey: A Revolutionary Pan-African Feminist


Amy Ashwood Garvey (photo via faraitoday.com)


Amy Ashwood Garvey:

A Revolutionary

Pan-African Feminist

by Nydia Swaby



“A nation without great women is a nation frolicking in peril. Let us go forward and lift the degradations which rest on the Negro woman – God’s most glorious gift to all civilizations.”

~Amy Ashwood Garvey

Amy Ashwood’s reception at Juaben. Photo courtesy Lionel Yard collection.


If you ask a Jamaican to name a national hero, the first person that usually comes to mind is Marcus Garvey, the Black Nationalist who popularized the movement of Pan-Africanism in the early 20th century. Based on his belief that the only way to improve the conditions of black people around the world was to unite them into one racial community Marcus Garvey founded the United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) in Kingston, Jamaica in 1914. The influence of “Garveyism” can be traced throughout the Afro-Caribbean, United States, and Africa. People of African heritage from every corner of the world know of Marcus Garvey’s philosophy and writings.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Amy Ashwood Garvey, Marcus Garvey’s first wife and co-founder of the UNIA. Serving as a representative of the Pan-African movement Amy Ashwood lived a politically active life independent of her relationship with Marcus Garvey. She toured the United States, all islands of the Caribbean, South and Central America, Europe, the British Isles, and West Africa lecturing on the need for unity among people of African descent and chronicling the experiences of the people she encountered with the goal of publishing her findings. To date, none of Amy Ashwood Garvey’s manuscripts about her travels and humanitarian work have ever been published. However, two biographies have been written about her life, and she is referenced in several articles and books on Caribbean radicalism, Pan-Africanism, and Black nationalism.

Amy Ashwood and Guests at Afro-Women’s Centre. Photo courtesy Lionel Yard collection.


Amy Ashwood incorporated feminist ideologies into her humanitarian work. Most Pan-African leaders of the time, such as W. E. B. Du Bois and Marcus Garvey, were focused on issues of race and class. But as a woman of African descent Amy Ashwood was particularly concerned with issues of race, class, and gender and how the intersection of all three uniquely affected the black woman. Amy Ashwood believed that women should fight for equal rights, so she focused her efforts on ensuring that women of color were part of the fight against oppression and colonialism.  She believed in bringing women of color together “so that they may work for the betterment of all.”[i] She argued that “there must be a revolution among women” and that they “must realize their importance in the post-war world.” Throughout her travels in the United States, London, Africa, and the Caribbean, she aimed to build a non-hierarchical international woman’s movement that would appeal to all women of color.

Within the Pan-African movement Amy Ashwood served as a voice for women, ensuring that the predominantly male leaders of the movement heard their concerns and considered their needs.  While she did not perceive black men to be the primary oppressors of black women she did believe that they were partially responsible for black women being “shunted to the social background to be a child bearer” and could only get positions working as a domestics.[ii] Amy Ashwood saw colonialism as the true oppressor of all people of color. From her perspective the race, class, and gender oppression that black women and other women of color experienced could be explained as existing as a result of colonialism. Like communist feminist Claudia Jones she believed that women were important allies in the fight for colonial freedom and perceived black men to be comrades in the struggle.

Lionel M. Yard, an amateur historian who was good friends with Amy Ashwood, wrote the first of biographic sketch of her life in the 1980s. While constructing his rendition of Ashwood’s life entitled Biography of Amy Ashwood Garvey 1897-1969: Co-founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, Yard traveled to London in search of information where he acquired a collection of her private papers that were scheduled for removal and dumping the following day.[iii] In order to write this biography, Yard utilized the letters and manuscripts he found at Amy Ashwood’s former residence in London; court records regarding her legal suits with Marcus Garvey; FBI interviews in Jamaica, London, Ghana, Liberia, and Panama; personal conversations with Ashwood; and an recording she did in the basement of his home honoring her late husband.[iv] Dr. Tony Martin, a former history professor who helped to found the Africana Studies Department at Wellesley College, wrote the second of the Amy Ashwood biographies entitled Amy Ashwood Garvey: Pan-Africanist, Feminist, and Mrs. Marcus Garvey No. 1 (2007). Martin, who’s written a series of eight books on Marcus Garvey’s life and teachings, spent 27 years researching Amy Ashwood, traveling to London, Africa, and Jamaica in search of information.

L to R: Claudia Jones, Paul Robeson, Amy Ashwood. Photo courtesy Lionel Yard collection.


Both these historians inspired my own research on Amy Ashwood Garvey’s life and political activities.  Thanks to a lead provided in the forward of Dr. Tony Martin’s work and the wonders of the internet, I was able to locate Lionel Yard’s daughter Patricia Maillard and his grandson Phil Maillard, still living in Brookyln, in possession of Lionel Yard’s research materials and several drafts of his manuscripts. The Maillards were kind enough to let me into their home on two occasions to review Amy Ashwood’s private papers and a collection of photographs, my personal favorite being a picture of Ashwood with Claudia Jones and Paul Robeson. According to Martin the documents in Lionel Yard’s collection are “invaluable historical information,” and I most certainly agree.[v]

Although the documents haven’t been catalogued, pouring through the handwritten letters, manuscripts, and photographs in the Yard collection provided a rare glimpse into who Amy Ashwood Garvey was separate from her relationship with Marcus Garvey. Amy Ashwood had her own understanding of how best to advance the Pan-African movement, her own ideologies of the role of the Black woman, and disagreed with some of Marcus Garvey’s own teachings.  An analysis of Amy Ashwood’s political activities reveals that, as early as her teenage years, she was an ardent Pan-Africanist but first and foremost Amy Ashwood Garvey was a feminist. She believed empowering black women was essential to the establishment of a united racial community. Through my research on her political life before, during, and after her marriage to Marcus Garvey, I aim to shed light on the many contributions she made not only to the Pan-African movement, but also to the feminist movements in Africa and the African Diaspora. ▢

[i] New York Amsterdam News, April 1, 1944: reprinted in Pan-African History: Political Figures from the Africa Diaspora Since 1787 by Marika Sherwood and Hakim Adi, 72. 

[ii] George Padmore, ed. Colonial and Coloured Unity: History of the Pan-African Congress. London: (The Hammersmith Bookshop LTD), 98-99

[iii] Tony Martin The New Marcus Garvey Library, vol 6, The Pan-African Connection: From Slavery to Garvey and Beyond. Rev. ed. (Dover, Massachusetts: Majority Press, 1983), X and Lionel M. Yard Biography of Amy Ashwood Garvey: 1897 – 1969. (Associated Publishers, Inc, 1908), 229

[iv] Yard, 210-212, 228-230

[v] Martin, X


Source: http://kalamu.posthaven.com/history-amy-ashwood-garvey-a-revolutionary-pa

Was Shakespeare A Black Woman?

Have you ever heard of Emilia Lanier? Well, Emilia is believed by some to actually be the author of all of Shakespeare’s works!

Emilia was a very important woman for many reasons. First off she was said to be of dark complexion, she was of Venetian / Moroccan / Jewish descent. Her father was appointed to King Henry VIII’s court as a musician and although she illegitimate she was educated and became the first professional poet through her single volume of poems, Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (1611).

Emilia lived opposite the theatre district in London, she hung around in Shakespeare’s social circles. She was an accomplished poet and there are signs she may have been the author or at lest contributor of Shakespeare’s works. Watch the evidence presented below:

Of course, it’s not conclusive by any means. Snopes said the original meme was false (http://bit.ly/202fBvf) but there is a lot of evidence that says that although the grand claims were not 100% right there could be a lot more to this story.

Emilia was likely mentioned in the Merchant of Venice and is very possibly the Dark Lady!




Read more about her here:

Very interesting!!!!

Source: http://urbanintellectuals.com/2016/02/01/shakespeare-black-woman-video/

From Pinterest