One of the true joys of my life is being a mother and grandmother.
So, when I learned about Grands As Parents I was especially moved by the mission of this organization. I understand the love, energy and dedication that the group’s members share in raising their grandchildren. Even though I don’t have the primary responsibility of raising my grandchildren, I know it takes a village to do so, and I salute them!
On Sunday, Grands As Parents celebrated Grandparents Day and 15 years of service at their 15th Annual Anniversary Luncheon. The event was held at Temple University’s Diamond Club in North Philadelphia.
Each year, Grands As Parents honors individuals who have made meaningful contributions to the organization’s growth and development. Among this year’s “HELP A CHILD, KEEP A SMILE” honorees was Philadelphia City Councilman Darrell L. Clarke, who is City Council’s Majority Whip and represents the Fifth Council District. “As an elected official I recognize that it is important that we in government try to provide whatever resources that are available because Grands As Parents is a stabilizing force in our community,” Councilman Clarke remarked.
Other individuals recognized at the event were state Rep. Michelle S. Brownlee who represents the 195th Legislative District; Aissia L. Richardson, president of the African American United Fund; and Shariff Street, who is a member of the Philadelphia Bar Association.
Grands As Parents President Eileen Brown said, “Our honorees this year helped us make our move from the Church of the Advocate a smooth transition into new opportunities for the organization. Our annual luncheon is a celebration of the continuity of our services and advocacy and recognizes the assistance each honoree provided to us as we maintain the programs our constituents need and develop new partnerships and alliances to fulfill our mission.”
President of the African American United Fund (AAUF) Michelle Aissia Richardson noted, “Grands As Parents is an important North Philadelphia institution with committed leaders and strong constituent support. I am honored to be recognized for the role AAUF has played this year in assisting the organization to achieve program goals. As AAUF celebrates its 30th Anniversary, our mission to provide technical assistance to nonprofits remains as firm as it did when we were founded during the 1982 recession. Now that we are in another economic crisis, it’s more important than ever for organizations to pull together to improve our community.”
Grands As Parents was founded in 1996 to assist, support and advocate for the rights of grandparents. This advocacy focuses on creating changes in our society to ensure that children grow fruitfully into adulthood. The name of the organization was chosen to signify the way grandparents replace the gaps of parenthood in grandchildren’s lives.
State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas made heartfelt remarks about the work of Grands As Parents. Also, a few of those “Out & About” for the well attended event were Lillian Hentz, Darlene Marcus, Charis Parker, Shelly Day and Wanda Johnson.
Sharif Street was joined by his son, Sharif Street Jr., daughter, Sheyla Street and stepchildren Maliya Ennels and Sunai Kinight. State Rep. Michelle Brownlee’s lovely granddaughter, Blake Jeune, accompanied her grandmother. Aissia Richardson was joined by her lovely mother, Linda Richardson, and her daughter, Yasmine Richardson. State Rep. Vanessa Brown also attended the event.
Congratulations and continued success are extended to all!
For more information or to support Grands As Parents programs, please contact Jean Hackney, vice president of the organization, at (215) 236-5848.
Have a fantastic week “Out & About” in Philadelphia, everyone!
Raina Marie Johnson and Jack N.E. Pitts Jr. were married on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2011, in an elegant early evening ceremony at One Atlantic in Atlantic City, N.J. The couple was married by pastor Adam Jacobs of As You Are Church in Raesda, Calif., as approximately 250 guests, family and friends from as far away as California, Michigan, Arizona, New Jersey and Washington, D.C., looked on.
In a vintage trumpet style gown, the bride was as beautiful as the picture perfect day at the Jersey Shore. It was adorned with an ornate lace-edged train with crystal and beaded detail throughout, including a crystal-embellished belt. A piece of the fabric from the father-of-the-bride’s suit that he wore on his wedding day to Raina’s mother was sewn in the shape of a heart on the inside of Raina’s gown. The bride wore Jimmy Choo stilettos with “something blue” being the blue crystal lettering reading “I Do” on the soles of her shoes.
About the Bride
Raina Marie Johnson, 28, is the daughter of Randall and Tanya Johnson. She was born in Boston, Mass. Raina’s childhood years were spent in Stoughton, Mass., and Huntsville, Ala. These years were filled with dance recitals — and Pastime, which, thanks to her “Nanny” (great-grandmother), was all she ate until she was four. In the mid-1990s, Raina and her family moved to New Jersey, where they “and her heart” have been ever since. She received a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park, in 2005. In 2008, Raina received her Juris Doctorate from Howard University School of Law — which is where she met Jack. Licensed to practice law in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, Raina is now in her second year as an associate with a law firm where she defends public entities against employment, education and civil rights claims.
About the Groom
Jack Nelson Evangelista Pitts Jr., 29, is the son of Jack N.E. Pitts Sr. and Greta Pitts-Moore. He was born in Lansing, Mich., and spent his early childhood years in Lansing and the suburbs of Detroit playing with G.I. Joes, sleeping with a football and making countless trips to the city for little league practices and games. After moving to East Lansing, Jack starred on the football field and in the classroom at East Lansing High School, earning a football scholarship to Hillsdale College where he played quarterback, running back, wide receiver and corner back during his four-year tenure. He received a bachelor’s degree in financial management in 2004 and graduated from Howard University School of Law, with Raina, in May of 2008. Currently, Jack is a third year associate at a law firm where his practice focuses on securities law, capital markets transactions and advising sponsors of and institutional investors in private investment funds.
The Wedding Party
The bride’s stunning attendants wore elegant black silk dresses adorned with crystals. Handsome groomsmen wore classic black tuxedos with black suspenders, white pocket squares and classic all-black ties. The ladies in the wedding party were: Teri Curtis, maid of honor; Stephanie Spow, maid of honor; and bridesmaids Dareth Wallace, Devin Williams, Stephanie Johnson, Kayra Merrills, Aja Nowlin and Erin Cannon.
The groom was supported by Jean Pitts, best man; Adam Jacobs, officiant/groomsman; and groomsmen James Barr, Jason Hollowell, Fred Walker, Charles Mann, Josh House, Jason Johnson and Todd Johnson.
A lavish yet intimate reception at One Atlantic followed the ceremony. There was also an after party at The Chelsea Hotel themed, “Happily Ever After.” The new Mrs. Pitts changed into a short, white party dress with a crystal bodice and comfortable, designer crystal flats. The couple danced their first dance as husband and wife to “With These Hands” by Joe Sample featuring Howard Hewett, and the groom danced to “Summertime” by Sam Cooke with his mother. Raina danced to “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder. And wasn’t that appropriate?
Guests were treated to a professional cigar roller and photo booth complete with props for guests to play dress up! In lieu of guest favors, the bride and groom made a donation to the American Cancer Society.
Those Very Special Moments
One of the most special moments of Raina and Jack’s wedding was the first time Jack saw Raina in her wedding dress. The first look occurred at the entrance of The Pier at Caesar’s. Surrounded by the bridal party and his parents, as well as hundreds of onlookers on the Boardwalk who had slowly gathered around the entrance in anticipation of Raina’s entrance, Jack watched from a far as Raina’s Rolls Royce Phantom slowly drove atop the Boardwalk and inched slowly towards him.
When the car finally arrived for Jack, Raina’s parents exited from both sides. Jack then escorted Raina from the limousine, seeing his bride for the first time. After sharing a few whispered words and a few tears, Raina and Jack kissed to the cheers of the crowd and, hand-in-hand, entered The Pier. It was truly magical!
The newlyweds honeymooned in Paris and the South of France, specifically Cannes. The honeymoon, planned from start to finish by Jack, included everything from a private cooking lesson with a French chef, dinner aboard the Marina de Paris on the River Seine, a bicycle tour along Giverny to Monet’s gardens, guided tours of the Louvre and Versailles and dining at the most famous restaurants and cafés in Paris, including in the Eifel Tower and Les Cocottes. In the South of France, Raina and Jack stayed at the chic Hotel Martinez in Cannes and spent their days relaxing on the beach, swimming in the Mediterranean and visiting historic Nice and the luxurious Monaco and Monte Carlo.
“Our wedding surpassed my wildest dreams. It was actually better than I imagined it would be. It was magical and filled with excitement, love and laughter. So many people worked so hard to execute my dream wedding, especially my mom who was 100 percent my wedding planner from start to finish. It would not have been what it was without her,” said Raina.
“In addition to an absolutely fantastic and fun wedding, I really enjoyed the rehearsal dinner. It was held at the Wolfgang Puck American Grille at the Borgata, with delicious food and a great atmosphere, including tear jerking speeches which made for a memorable evening. On the morning of the wedding, I never will forget all of the laughs I shared with my groomsmen. With our schedules, who knows when we will all be in the same room together again? It was very special,” said Jack.
Congratulations, and very best wishes, Mr. and Mrs. Jack Pitts!
LOS ANGELES — You are spending Thanksgiving with Aunt Nellie in Kansas. Your dog will be staying in a hotel suite called Neiman Barcus with a flat-screen TV. There might be surf lessons, catered meals, a massage, pawdicure, spa bath and photo shoot.
Boarding your pet has changed a lot over the past decade.
Kennels still exist, but many locales also now offer pet-only resorts, hotels or in-home care. Whichever option you choose, there are some basic steps you should take so that arrangements go smoothly, including visiting or getting references for the facility, reserving well in advance of busy holiday times, and making sure your pet meets vaccination and other requirements.
If money is no object, there is no end to the extravagances you can order for your pet. The Barkley Pet Hotel & Day Spa — which really does have a Neiman Barcus suite — is a one-of-a-kind animal funhouse in Westlake Village, about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles. You can rent a Serenity Suite for $44 a night or reserve a storefront suite on Rodeo Drive or Hollywoof Boulevard (they start at $72.50 a night). Add-ons include day camp sessions, limousine pickup and delivery, surf lessons, charm school, a mud mask, obedience training, holiday fur-dyeing and filet mignon from the Four Seasons.
You also get webcams, 24-hour staffing, a veterinarian under the same roof and lots of attention for your pet, said Malia A. Rivera, director of marketing for the hotel.
Daniel Smith and wife Kimberly Mellon-Smith of Thousand Oaks wouldn’t leave their West Highlander white terrier Charlie alone for more than three hours before the Barkley opened. Now he’s a regular there.
“Our dog means everything to us. He’s like a child to us, our little buddy. He’s part of our family,” Smith said.
For special needs animals — a senior or ailing dog, a puppy that isn’t fully vaccinated, a large collection of pets, a pet that doesn’t like to leave home or a new rescue dog that isn’t socialized yet — home care might be the best choice. A professional pet sitter can come as many times a day as needed, walk and feed the animals, give medicines, even stay overnight, said Gretchen Rexach, who owns Home Buddies Caregivers in Burbank, a franchise of the national Home Buddies in-home pet care service.
Rexach caters to workers in the entertainment industry with seasonal work and odd hours. In addition to caring for animals, her employees will also water plants and bring in mail, she said.
Her staff specializes in special needs pets — those that need medicine or careful handling — and can also do overnight shifts for pets that are “just not used to being left alone. They are used to sleeping with somebody,” she said. Clients pay $17 for 15 minutes, up to $32 for an hour, $100 for a 12-hour overnight.
If you’re hiring someone for the first time, “don’t go with the cheapest or most convenient” option, Rexach said. “Ask for references.” After all, you are not only entrusting your pet to a stranger, but your home as well.
Home Buddies also rents webcams for temporary home use.
Do research before booking boarding facilities, too, advised Deborah Ropes, general manager of Lucky Dog Resorts in Colorado Springs, Colo. Tour the place, talk to the staff, take a sniff, talk to other customers, she said. And tailor arrangements to your pet’s style.
“If your pet is laid back and loves to play, a daycare playgroup will help him burn off energy and sleep better at night,” said Ropes. “Is your pet shy and anxious? A low-volume, low-activity kennel might be best, or call an in-home pet sitter.”
Some facilities, like the Barkley, will let pets drop in for a visit to see how they like it. Others — like Home Buddies’ Camp BowWow, a daycare and overnight program — require that animals be brought in for an “interview” to see how they interact with other pets. Most facilities will refuse aggressive dogs.
Once you’ve decided on a facility, make reservations well ahead of time. “Our rule of thumb at Lucky Dog is book before Halloween for Thanksgiving, and book before Thanksgiving for Christmas,” Ropes said.
Most facilities close on major holidays and many close Sundays. If you arrive home from vacation late on Saturday, you may not be able to pick your dog up until Monday, so be prepared to do without your dog and pay for the extra day. Find out what happens if you’re late picking up; holiday plane schedules and traffic can be unpredictable.
Most facilities want proof of vaccinations for rabies, distemper and sometimes bordetella (kennel cough). Most vets can easily print out and if necessary fax a record of shots. Some places require that your animal be spayed or neutered, and some even want your pet microchipped.
Some facilities require collars and leashes, some use their own. The Barkley does not allow any personal clothing, blankets or toys, but some places suggest bringing a piece of owner’s clothing. “We encourage clients to bring a T-shirt or other large piece of clothing with the owner’s scent well-embedded,” Ropes said.
If your pet has special needs, bring the food, medicine or supplements to the resort or kennel, along with instructions and contact information for your vet.
Finally, if available, consider scheduling a bath and other grooming just before pickup. It will save you a smelly trip home. — (AP)
According to the 2010 Census, interracial partnering in the United States has increased as people of different races are committing to marriage or co-habitation. Among opposite sex married couples, one in 10 (5.4 million couples) are interracial, a 28 percent jump since 2000. However, when it comes to Black women, the statistics have been grim when it comes to the prospects of dating and finding a husband, so much so that the term “Black girl curse” is now part of the vernacular. Stanford law professor and author Ralph Richard Banks made headlines last year when he revealed that 70 percent of professional Black women are unmarried compared to 45 percent of comparable white women — largely due to the fact that the majority of Black women choose not to date and marry outside their race, while waiting on that “good Black man.” It’s an ongoing debate which has many Black women wrestling with their long-held fantasies of whether to hold out, give up on or move towards the idea of dating men who are not African-American.
For those considering the idea of an interracial relationship, journalists Christelyn D. Karazin and Janice Rhoshalle Littlejohn have come to the rescue with their guidebook, “Swirling: How to Date, Mate, and Relate Mixing Race, Culture and Creed” (Atria Books; $15). Karazin, who is known for her popular blog “BeyondBlackWhite.com” (and is married to a non-Black man), and Littlejohn, a journalist for more than 20 years, write candidly about the personal journeys of interracial dating and marriage.
The duo also discuss why it is increasing important for more Black women who are interested in having a male partner to look outside the limited pool of Black men for mates. “The lamentable truth is that at least two million of us are in jeopordy of never experiencing that kind of love, especially within our own race. The shortage of Black men is real—and Black women are fighting like alley cats for the half a handful of eligible and marriageable brothers,” writes Karazin.
So, where does it begin for Black women when it comes to interracial dating and finding what the authors call a “rainbeau”? First, the authors suggest getting rid of the mythical “Strong Black Woman” mentality because it jeopardizes Black women’s dating prospects. Next, Black women can love a non-Black man and still uplift and represent her race. Third, she should know that just because she wants a man who is equally successful or exceeds her income does not make her a gold-digger. And finally, it’s okay for her to have a preference, whatever that preference is.
“Swirling” is filled with honest, straightforward and practical tips and personal stories from the authors and hundreds of Black women interviewed. Karazin and Littlejohn explain that Black women should not wait for the “Black community to give them the green light to swirl” because it’s never going to happen.
“So, as the world swirls, Black women are stuck in lives filled with made-for-soap-opera drama and settling for less than they deserve,” notes Littlejohn. “It is telling when a woman with her masters degree and making a decent amount of money decides to steal a car with her man just to prove she loves him, or a Christian woman and mother of four opts to marry a man serving a three-strikes sentence in prison because she doesn’t want to be alone anymore — and all because Black women fear cultural isolation from their own community when the mix date and marry.”
In addition, the book is chock-full of resources that offer the names of blogs and books, tips to finding a partner and the best U.S. cities to swirl, which further explore the concept of interracial dating.
A lyrical debut with an infusion of noir, “A Cupboard Full of Coats” (Amistad, $14.99) is a page-turning novel that tells the story of Jinx, a woman who is haunted by her mother’s murder and the role she played in it.
Plagued by guilt, paralyzed by shame, Jinx has spent the years since her mother’s death alone, estranged from her husband, withdrawn from her son, and entrenched in a childhood home filled with fierce and violent memories. When Lemon, an old family friend, appears unbidden at the door, he seduces Jinx with a heady mix of powerful storytelling and tender care. What follows is a tense and passionate weekend, as the two join forces to unravel the tragedy that binds them. Jinx has long carried the burden of the past; now, she must relive her mother’s last days, confront her grief head-on and speak the truth as only she knows it.
Expertly woven and perfectly paced, “A Cupboard Full of Coats” is a debut novel that has garnered rave reviews when it was released in the UK in 2011 and is long-listed for the Man Booker Literary Prize.
“(The book) does not concern itself with the politics of power, or racism, or Black British history,” explained author Yvvette Edwards. “It is a novel that transcends race and culture, a story about the ‘human’ experience, one that any human being can identify with. My aim was to tell a riveting tale, to write the kind of book I love to read, one that maybe teaches the reader something they never knew before, that would be thought-provoking and impossible to put down. The color of my characters was never an issue. On auto-pilot, I crafted characters from an established community of Londoners who are generally under-represented in English literature, a community I am part of and know well.
“My mother was born in the Caribbean. As did many of my aunts and uncles, she came to England over 40 years ago. My generation has grown up in London eating Caribbean food and listening to Black music, yet I am, they are, Londoners. ‘A Cupboard Full of Coats’ is set in the London I’ve been fortunate to have spent my whole life in, one of the most diverse and truly multicultural cities in the world. My reduced cast of characters was drawn from my life and cultural experience. Lemon, in particular, has a number of my late grandfather’s attributes; he is articulate and has the ability to coolly tell a tale with the capacity to blow the socks off anyone listening. These characters are like members of my family. They speak in ways I recognize, like people whose roots were forged in the Caribbean who have made their permanent homes here in the UK. And, it is not color, but that difference, and their beautiful, dynamic eloquence, which singularly distinguishes this book.”
Beverly Bond is the model-turned-DJ whose vision for a foundation — Black Girls Rock! — has spawned into the inspiring awards show of the same title that celebrates the brilliance of Black women. The second Annual Black Girls Rock! program that will air Sunday on BET is a pure evolution of the Black Girls Rock (BGR) mission that began with a T-shirt.
“First I started the T-shirt and was thinking of all the incredible women to list on it,” Bond told BlackEnterprise.com. “I was writing down all of these names and just couldn’t fit them all. In my attempt to try, I said, ‘This is bigger than just a shirt.’ So I decided to start a mentoring program.” The message shirt has since expanded into a full range of tees and hoodies that are currently available for purchase through the organization’s website store.”
Though she sought out to honor and inspire other Black women, Bond’s vision for Black Girls Rock! resulted in her own honors and distinctions. She was named one of New York’s Fifty Fabulous Females by Love Heals, a leading foundation for AIDS education, in 2006; received the 2009 “Gold Rush Award” by Russell Simmons’ Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation for her community work and for promoting youth programs; listed on The Source magazine’s 2009 Power Circle group of leaders in hip hop and got the 2009 “Agent of Change Award” the “Obama: THAT ONE!” Pre-Inaugural Awards gala in Washington, D.C., — just to name a few of her honors. This year Black Girls Rock! returns to BET for the second year with “Reed Between the Lines” star Tracee Ellis Ross and actress Regina King on board as the hosts.
“Last year was the first year we partnered with Black Girls Rock! and Beverly Bonds,” said Debra Lee, Black Entertainment Television’s chairman and CEO. “It’s such a great cause, and it was so successful last year. It’s such a simple premise to do an all-female show, but once you do it you realize how powerful it is, and what it means to young girls to see women being honored. It’s an all-female band and all-female performers, and it really was much bigger than we expected. It is personally gratifying to be a part of this, and for us to be able to help Beverly spread her message.
Since 2006, Black Girls Rock! has been dedicated to the healthy development of young women and girls and seeks to build the self-esteem and self-worth of young women of color by changing their outlook on life, broadening their horizons, and helping them to empower themselves through mentorship, arts eduction, cultural exploration and public service. In addition to promoting the arts for young women of color, BGR encourage dialogue and analysis of the ways women of color are portrayed in the media.
“I’m sure that there are a lot of Black girls that rock,” said legendary model-agent Bethann Hardison. “I think that the ones that I’m more impressed with are the ones who have passed. I’m still looking for the ones that be rocking in the present, and God knows maybe there will be some rocking in the future — because they surely have the potential. It’s a great organization, to take it to a further point where girls can have a bit a real life education.”
The recent BGR taping at New York’s historic Paradise Theater included performances by Philly’s own Jill Scott and state Sen. Vincent Hughes’ wife, actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, along with a guest sighting of Philadelphia Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. “Mommies know that Black Girls Rock!, and we want to help our young daughters be wherever they need to be to be reaffirmed about that,” said Reynolds Brown. “Tonight is an affirmation that Black girls do rock everywhere — not just in New York, but also in Philly.”
The second Annual Black Girls Rock! special will air on BET Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and the “Uniquely You Summit for Girls” are co-hosting the Philadelphia Watch Party for the 2011 Black Girls Rock Awards on BET on Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. at Ms. Tootsie’s Restaurant Bar & Lounge, 1314 South St. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door, or via www.urbantix.com. Ten percent of ticket sales will be donated to Black Girls Rock, Inc.
Phoebe Baker Hyde was happily married with a new baby, financially thriving, and surrounded by the adventure and luxury of expatriate Hong Kong. She lunched with ex-pat friends and wore designer labels to her husband lavish work parties. But she wasn’t happy. Catching her reflection in a mirrored store window one morning, she realized she looked — and felt — miserable. She was not a role model for her daughter, someone who could pass off the values of self-confident and compassion, someone who confronted her problems rather than attempting to prettify them. She wanted her daughter to believe in inner beauty — but was she actively teaching that by example?
“The Beauty Experiment: How I Skipped Lipstick, Ditched Fashion, Faced the World without Concealer, and Learned to Love the Real Me” (DaCapo, $16) developed when Baker Hyde swore off beauty and all its trappings: makeup, new clothes, salon haircuts and jewelry. This radical beauty cleanse lasted a year, but ignited the author’s ongoing quest to outgrow the fantasy of feminine perfection and remake the mantle of womanhood in the only size that fits — her own.
“Some of my favorite writers are people who can delicately flavored their own cultural milieus, but let the reader come out a lot along with the hero or heroine,” explained the author.” I’m thinking Jane Austen, Zora Neale Hurston, Muriel Spark Nabokov. I tried to give the book and anthropological field — the confidence of a participant observer like Margaret Mead — with the subject being me in my own freaking 21st century drop. … I wanted to hang myself out to dry so we could all laugh and then move forward.”
“The Beauty Experiment” is really a memoir of woman juggling as an inexperienced parent, an awkward foreigner and trailing in the wake of her husband’s more successful career.
“Well, I had this grandiose scheme when I started the experiment — that I save up all the money I usually spend on beauty products and new clothes and donate it all to a good cause in the end,” recalled Baker Hyde. “African schoolgirls were my cause du jour, since I seen the challenges they face during the college semester abroad. But as my experiment went on I found my plan had serious problems — namely I didn’t feel entitled to give away money that wasn’t mine, meaning my husband had earned it. As the no-income housebound caregiver, I had zero financial traction, which led me to think about the plight of those hundreds of millions of women in the world who were stuck in exactly the same way. I did finally find a way to make donations I’ve wanted, but I had to work to reframe my notion of value and partnership, and I have to develop a set of tools to make that happen. The good news is that some of those tools are available for anyone to use on my website: phoebebakerhyde.com.”
Evelyn Harrod and Tommy Fonville exchanged wedding vows on September 18, 2011 at The Merion Tribute House in Merion, Pa. Bishop R.J. Norris from The Open Door Baptist Church, where the bride’s mother was a long time member, officiated. The couple selected Bishop Norris to perform the ceremony in honor of the bride’s mother.
Evelyn, escorted by her brother, Anthony L. Womack, was exquisite in a satin, ivory strapless A-line gown with a sweetheart neckline and corseted back. The pleated bodice was embellished with beading and crystals, a tulle underskirt and satin flower accent on the skirt. She chose a chapel length train and added a pop of color with espresso brown satin pumps. Tommy complemented his bride, wearing a traditional tuxedo accented with an espresso bow tie and pocket square.
The Bride and Groom
Evelyn, 42, is a native Philadelphian. She is the daughter of the late James Harrod and the late Elaine Rucker. She has an extensive background in early childhood education and has worked in this field for more than 20 years.
“Tommy and I love children and were foster parents for more than 15 children for several years. But that wasn’t enough; we wanted to do more, so we decided to open a child care center. We are currently business owners of two child care centers in Germantown and Northeast Philadelphia and will open a third, 24-hour infant care center in 2012,” Evelyn shared.
Tommy, 40, is also a native Philadelphian. He is the son of the late Catherline and Thomas Fonville. Tommy has a bachelor’s degree in Information Technology and has worked for The Philadelphia Youth Network and The Diocese of Camden, N.J.
The Bridal Party
Evelyn’s attendants were maids of honor Shaneka Harrod and Irene Jones. Bridesmaids: Safeesah Harrod-Hurtt, Frederica Lindsay, Ganell Tyler, Pamela Spence and flower girl Zhi’Nae Campfield. They were lovely, wearing espresso-colored dresses in two styles.
Toby Knox and Zerrick Nathaniel stood as best men and Raymond Harrod Sr., Charles Thomas, Raheem Thomas, Vernon Harrod and Tommir Fonville were groomsmen. The handsome ring bearers were Xo’Sigha Greene and Ziamir Harrod. Ebony Harrod, who also read the significance of the “Broom Jumping Ceremony,” and Ernest Harrod Jr. were dutiful attendants.
How They Met … The Proposal
Tommy and Evelyn met 15 years ago while she was visiting a friend in the neighborhood where she grew up. He had moved to Philadelphia just a few years earlier.
“I gave Tommy my pager number and he gave me his telephone number. Two weeks later I gave Tommy a call, and he said that he had been trying to reach me on my pager. I realized that I had mistakenly given him the wrong number. Well, that evening we talked on the telephone all night. We began dating. For the first two years, we went everywhere we could possibly go on a date. Then we made it official. We were a couple. Nine wonderful years later Tommy surprised me with a proposal on July 4th in front of my entire family and friends. It was simply beautiful, and definitely a surprise since Tommy does not like to be the center of attention,” Evelyn said.
“Our first songs were a medley: Began with “If It Wasn’t For Your Love” by Heather Headley. Tommy and I did a duet of 4Evermore by Anthony David feat. Algebra & Phonte. Bridal Party joined in, to the remix of “Let’s Get Married” by Jagged Edge feat. Rev. Run. For the finale, the entire wedding party line danced to “Wobble Baby,” by V.I.C…. so much fun,” Evelyn exclaimed.
The bride and groom opted for an anniversary dance instead of tossing her bouquet of fresh white roses and pink tulips. The coupled married the longest, 31 years, was Mr. Ronald Smiley and Marilyn Smiley of Philadelphia.
The bride was especially pleased with the, “delicious meal catered by none other than Tuxedo Caterers, Inc. owned by Jewel Mann Lassiter. Tommy and I were certain about having a tiered wedding cake. From there, we chose to add some bling and color by adding the initial cake toppers and the espresso colored ribbon around each tier. Then I gave our caterer an idea of what we wanted, she showed me a photo and it was perfect.”
Relatives there for the joyous day included Tommy’s sister, Ganell Tyler, who traveled from Jacksonville, N.C., Malik Cross and Minister Michele Cross from Newark, Del., Chris and Andrea Perry from Pottstown, Pa., and Michael and Juwan Carty from Wilmington, Del. Other guests included Dorothy Stein, Walter Harrod, Cynthia Harrod, William and Rosalyn Douglas, Ramona Douglas, Johnny Ray Lindsay, Minister Bobby Walker and Chenelle Walker, and Linda Ansley.
“Tommy awakened with anticipation of his wedding day and marrying a beautiful woman. He was excited and enthusiastic. The day was excellent. The weather was a concern since our ceremony was outdoors. But Mother Nature was good to us. Once I arrived at the venue and was told, “there is a gentleman waiting to marry you,” I was ready. The wedding and reception was everything Tommy and I envisioned,” Evelyn said.
“We wanted to have our ceremony and reception at the same venue. The Merion Tribute House grounds are so captivating, we didn’t need to go anywhere for photographs. Tommy and I look forward to spending a long, loving life together. We’ve been together for so many years, being married just solidifies the union we already have,” she added.
“We selected simple but elegant wedding bands. We chose a band that would complement my engagement ring and one that would be appropriate for my lifestyle. Tommy said, “I want a simple titanium band, “It’s the best metal and it lasts forever, like us!”
“The music was also a very important part of our ceremony. We wanted it to be memorable and reflect a clear impression of our individual taste. We also wanted to set the atmosphere for such beautiful surroundings and what would be such a beautiful and long awaited occasion for both of us. My cousin, Alberta Douglas of The William Douglas Orchestra, played a beautiful violin prelude,” Evelyn shared.
Evelyn and Tommy enjoyed a seven-day honeymoon, visiting several islands in the Bahamas. They loved the sun and surf of the Grand Bahamas Island, Great Stirrup Cay and Paradise Island. “We enjoyed everything about it, the beautiful water, the scenic views, the food and talking with the Bahamians,” they said.
Congratulations and very best wishes to Mr. and Mrs. Fonville!
The Philadelphia Mummers Parade is a renowned tradition that traces its roots to before the city was founded. The daylong event is held every New Year’s Day (weather permitting) and is the oldest folk parade in America. The annual parade is a celebration of the New Year, but is serious business in Philadelphia. For many years, the parade has been the most-watched television program in the region on New Year’s Day, averaging an 8.7 household rating over the years it has been broadcast on myphl17.
This year marks the 112th edition of the parade, which will proceed north on South Broad Street to 15th and Market, the site of myphl17’s broadcast center, and the location of the reviewing stands where judging takes place.
The Mummers tradition dates back to 400 B.C. and the Roman festival of Saturnalia, where Latin laborers marched in masks throughout the day of satire and gift exchange. The Mummers are organized into four distinct types of groups: Comics, Fancies, String Bands and Fancy Brigades. All dress in elaborate costumes and incorporate the costumes of the many ethnic groups that have influenced American culture. This included Celtic variations of “trick-or-treat” and Druidic noise-making to drive away demons for the new year. Comic club traditions stem from the ancient Greek god Momus, who was the personification of mockery, blame, ridicule, scorn, raillery and stinging criticism. Momus was expelled from heaven for his/her criticisms and ridicule of the gods.
Reports of rowdy groups “parading” on New Year’s Day in Philadelphia date back before the revolution. Prizes were offered by merchants in the late 1800s. Jan. 1, 1901 was the first “official” parade, offering about $1,725 in prize money from the city.
The parade’s pre-colonial roots have been traced to the New Year’s celebrations of Northern European and African-American settlers in the mid-1600s. According to the documentary “Strut,” the influence of Southern plantation life is evident in the cakewalk-like “strut” that is the Mummers signature dance — which is usually performed to African-American composer James A. Bland’s “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers,” a 19th-century minstrel song that is played and sung all day long.
James Bland was the greatest and most prolific African-American songwriter of the late 1800s. His tune, “Oh, Dem Golden Slippers,” is a minstrel show song set in the style of a spiritual. The song’s first stanza tells of the protagonist setting aside such fine clothes as golden slippers, a long-tailed coat and a white robe for a chariot ride in the morning (presumably to Heaven).
Born in Flushing, N.Y. in 1854, Bland grew up in a family with rare educational advantages. His father, Allen Bland, a free Black from South Carolina, had attended Oberlin, then graduated from Wilberforce before moving his young family to Philadelphia where Bland, according to legend, first heard an elderly Black street musician and fell in love with the banjo. Bland composed anywhere from 600 to 700 popular songs and was glowingly referred to as “The Best Ethiopian Song Writer in the World” and “The Prince of the Colored Song Writers.” However, he was a poor money manager.
In 1881, Bland traveled to England as a member of the Callender–Haverly Minstrels. They were very popular and were highlighted before Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales. At that time, he was making about $10,000 a year, which was quite a bit of money for those years, but Bland was careless about his money. Penniless, he managed to return to the U.S., where a friend got him a job in Washington, D.C. From there he moved to Philadelphia, where he died of tuberculosis on May 5, 1911.
Bland was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave just outside the city. For over 25 years his memory languished as he faded into obscurity while some of his songs where mis-credited to Stephen Foster or John Philip Sousa. Eventually, one of Bland’s surviving sisters shared with a reporter the suspected whereabouts of Bland’s grave in Merion Cemetery at the corner of Rock Hill Road and Bryn Mawr Avenue in Bala Cynwyd, only miles from where the Mummers continue to march in Philadelphia.
In 1939, ASCAP found his gravesite, landscaped it and erected a granite monument. In 1970, he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. A musical scholarship sponsored by the Lions Club continues to this day.
The Mummers Parade still manages to draw controversy. The comic clubs continue to raise ire over the themes they use in the parade that make fun of current issues and news stories such as those involving religion, ethnicity and feminism. Women were not officially allowed in the parade until the 1970s, and the wearing of black face paint was once a traditional part of the parade until protests from civil rights groups and the African-American community led to most clubs phasing out blackface in the early 1960s. While a 1964 city policy officially ruled out blackface, some still appears in the parade. The outdoor parade was postponed in 2003 for the first time in 13 years, and there have been 22 weather-related postponements since 1922. There was no parade in 1919 due to World War 1, and none in 1934 due to the Depression and the lack of prize money. If postponed, this year’s event will take place on Jan. 2.
The 112th annual Mummers Parade on New Year’s Day will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. It will start at Oregon Avenue and end at JFK Boulevard (new this year). The public event is free along the main route; $17 for Fancy Brigade shows at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, 12th and Arch streets. For more information, visit www.mummers.com.
Denise Ray and John T. Shields were married by the Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Johnson, senior pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church in North Philadelphia. The ceremony took place on Sept. 9. It was especially meaningful for the bride to be married in this house of worship where she has been an official member for more than 38 years and an attending member for more than 50 years. Having known each other for 31 years, Denise and John’s union was truly a celebration of love, friendship and commitment.
The bride was dazzling as she was escorted down the aisle and given away by her brother, Kenneth Ray of Philadelphia. Her beautiful strapless gown was accented with white satin appliqués and rhinestones throughout, with a modest, but elegant train. A custom-designed wrap made of flowing organza and silk rhinestone appliqués was exquisite. The groom was handsome in a traditional tuxedo and traditional black tie.
Denise, 60, is a graduate of Howard University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Later, she earned a master’s degree in clinical social work from the Bryn Mawr College of Social Work and Social Research and then a doctorate in marriage and family therapy from Drexel University.
The center of Denise’s professional experience has been in Philadelphia Juvenile Court. Since 1991, she has practiced privately, treating individuals, couples and families.
John, 69, is a graduate of South Carolina State University, where he majored in physical education. He found his purpose in helping young people on probation to utilize their physical talents to stay out of trouble. He is responsible for directing hundreds of youth to organized basketball as a positive resource.
How they met…the proposal
John and Denise’s meeting, more than three decades ago, occurred when both were employed by the Philadelphia Family Court. At the time, he was a juvenile probation officer and she oversaw a volunteer program for youths involved in the court system. Denise described John’s proposal as, “A mutually sweet and exciting agreement to move our long-term relationship to a higher level.”
The Wedding Party
The couple’s parents are deceased, but lovingly remembered. Denise fondly refers to John as “Tee.” Tee’s only nephew, Edward Shields, served as his best man and traveled from Michigan with his family for their special day. Denise’s aunt, Lunette Ray of Philadelphia, sat in place of her mother.
One of Denise’s closest friends, Marlene F. Watson, served as her maid of honor. Other attendants wore a variation of Marlene’s luxuriously vibrant fuchsia gown. The lovely bridesmaids, who were all Denise’s nieces, were Saireah Ray, Alexis Henry-Ray, Anastasia Henry-Ray and Imani Fletcher. Denise’s brother, Kenneth Ray, was also the groomsman.
A fabulous reception followed the ceremony at the Four Seasons Hotel in Center City, where the couple danced their first dance as man and wife to “Close to You” by Bebe and Cece Winans. In keeping with tradition, the bride’s bouquet of white calla lilies, roses and hydrangeas was caught by her niece, Candice Ray, and the garter was caught by one of the bride’s brothers, Darrell Ray.
Among the guests celebrating the joyous occasion were: Van Woods, John’s college roommate who traveled from South Carolina, and Judge Paul P. and Mrs. Panepinto. Judge Panepinto appointed Denise to the position of deputy chief of juvenile probation in 1999.
Members of The Bright Hope Baptist Church family included the senior pastor, the Rev. Kevin R. Johnson and Kimya Johnson , the Rev. and Mrs. Pluria Marshall of Maryland, the Rev. and Mrs. George R. Taylor, the Rev. Omari Hughes and his fiancée, Natalie Marshall, Derrick Sawyer, Aaron White and other fellow worshipers.
Judge and Mrs. A. Frank Reynolds, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, former Councilwoman Augusta Clark, Dr. and Mrs. Michael Whitaker, Mr. and Mrs. William “Sonny” Hill, Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Oates, Lionel and Ruth Simmons, Mr. and Mrs. Fran Dunphy, James Flint Jr., Mr. and Mrs. Horace Owens, Mr. and Mrs. Geoffrey Arnold, Mr. and Mrs. James Roundtree, Troy Roundtree and Denise’s fellow members of The Philadelphia Chapter of Carats, Inc. were also among the jubilant guests.
“It was an absolutely incredible day. Everything went by so quickly. I still find myself reliving missed moments through the stories of friends and relatives. The weather had been rainy all week, even the early morning of the wedding, but the sun soon came out as if to ready the day for the ceremony and reception. Following the ceremony, the entire bridal party was whisked away to the hotel for the grand reception. Our family and friends were jovial and ready for our arrival. We all felt so very special. Pictures were taken in the hotel’s beautiful courtyard in front of the waterfall as guests looked on admiringly. The young bridesmaids were full of excitement and awe and were endeared by the guests. It was a fantastic day where God answered prayers and ensured that all went well,” Denise said.
“My maid of honor remarked that my family, in their excitement, provided guests with a sense of how the Rays celebrated holidays when my mother was alive with her amazingly warm personality and preparation of special meals. My husband characterizes it as a very happy day and a day he could do all over again,” she added.
“The last song played at the reception was intended to provide our guests with a clue as to where we would honeymoon. The Isley Brothers’ ‘Atlantis’ is such a beautiful and mystical song,” Denise said. The newlyweds traveled to Paradise Island in the Bahamas and stayed at the Atlantis Resort. They described it as “perfect.” Denise and John loved the view from their suite on the 19th floor overlooking all the water scenes. “We especially loved the amazing turquoise waters of God’s vast ocean and awakened to this spiritual phenomenon every morning for a week,” the new Mrs. John T. Shields reflected.