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Artists Share Secrets to Staying Power at 11th Annual Jazz in the Gardens

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MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (FNN News) – Sun Life Stadium saw 70,000+ attendees on its grounds Saturday and Sunday—despite the rainfall—for the 11th annual Jazz in the Gardens (JITG11). Saturday’s lineup included local artists CriStyle Renae, Ronnie VOP, and April Raquel & The Kouture Funk Band; Jazz in the Gardens All-Stars Najee, Regina Belle, and Alex Bugnon; Average White Band; Michael McDonald; Kool & The Gang; and the explosive closing show by Charlie Wilson. Sunday’s lineup featured South Florida’s own LaVie, followed by Fred Hammond, Brian Culbertson, Janelle Monae, Babyface, and Usher’s thrilling finale. The two-night festival was hosted by Rickey Smiley, a veteran in his own right. The JITG11 artists have consistent careers spanning two decades or more, and some, like Charlie Wilson, have made massive comebacks, making fans in a new generation. They shared the keys to their long-lasting success at JITG. “The key is to not let anything stop you,” Babyface told FNN News of his experience. “If you come up on roadblocks, find a way to work around them, but keep pushing forward.”

Regina Belle (left) performs with Najee during the Jazz in the Gardens All Stars concert during Jazz in the Gardens 2016 on Saturday. Photo: Mellissa Thomas/Florida National News.

Regina Belle (left) performs with Najee during the Jazz in the Gardens All Stars concert during Jazz in the Gardens 2016 on Saturday. Photo: Mellissa Thomas/Florida National News.

Additionally, artists like Kool & The Gang and the Jazz in the Gardens All Stars learned firsthand that the key to staying power is remaining relevant. When asked of their biggest challenge in this current age of music, Najee, Belle, and Bugnon all agreed on one: technology. “Technology is always changing,” Belle told FNN News. “I miss the days of being in the record shops…and doing signings. We would interact with the fans more. Now, anybody can download a song—and they usually download one song [at a time].”

Janelle Monae brings the house down at Jazz in the Gardens Sunday. Photo: Mellissa Thomas/Florida National News.

Janelle Monae brings the house down at Jazz in the Gardens Sunday. Photo: Mellissa Thomas/Florida National News.

Keeping up with and working with younger artists, as well as staying young themselves, are equally important. Kool & The Gang told FNN News that their biggest musical influences today include Kendrick Lamar and fellow JITG11 performer Janelle Monae (above). On staying young, the artists keep health first. Charlie Wilson shared that he works out regularly. Babyface said, smiling, “I drink my green drink every day…and I stay away from the salty foods, ‘cause salty foods aren’t good to black people.” He showcased his youthfulness on stage during the performance of his final song, Boy II Men hit “End of the Road,” unbuttoning his shirt and walking the audience, raising the pulse of every woman in attendance.

Charlie Wilson lights the crowd up at Jazz in the Gardens 2016. Photo: Mellissa Thomas/Florida National News.

Charlie Wilson lights the crowd up at Jazz in the Gardens 2016. Photo: Mellissa Thomas/Florida National News.

Jazz in the Gardens was a blast for the multi-generational artists, who enjoy pouring into the fans. For Babyface, an additional joy was watching his protege, Usher, close out Sunday’s show—in fact, he requested his press conference be quick so that he could leave before Usher graced the stage. Fred Hammond gushed that he loves Miami Gardens, and would in fact soon return for a gospel concert in April; and Charlie Wilson (above), who performed at JITG two years ago, had gotten the itch to perform and was glad to step in when he received the call last week to perform in Aretha Franklin’s absence. As for the fans, all 70,000+ were all too happy to have them.

 

 

Jamaica-born author and freelance journalist Mellissa Thomas is a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with degrees in Entertainment Business and Film. She helps CEOs and executives, advisors, coaches, consultants, and speakers double their income and clinch the credibility they deserve by walking them step by step through the process of developing, completing, marketing, and publishing their first book.

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Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness Coming March 2023

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WINTER PARK, Fla. (Florida National News) – Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness, inspired by the children’s TV host and icon, comes to Orlando in March 2023. This week-long series of events was announced today at the Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation in Winter Park.

“Fred McFeely Rogers devoted his entire life to reminding us of some of the most important ideas of what it means to be human among humans: love, respect and kindness,” explained Buena Vista Events & Management President & CEO Rich Bradley. “Many of us find that nearly 20 years after Fred’s passing, it is important to focus on his teachings once again, perhaps now more than ever. This is a week to re-engage with his massive body of work with some folks, and to introduce his teachings to others.”

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness begins March 20, 2023, the date which would have been Fred’s 95th birthday, and concludes on Saturday, March 26 with the Red Sweater Soiree, a community dinner to recognize ten ordinary members of the community who inspire and exemplify the affinity that Fred Rogers had for showing kindness to our “Neighbors”.

Mister Rogers Week of Kindness coming March 20-26, 2023. Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Activities planned for the week will include early childhood education activities and faculty training, as well as events open to the public.

“The events will be offered free or at low cost,” continued Bradley. “This week-long celebration is not a series of fundraisers, but rather about once again remembering and sharing some of the great work that Fred Rogers created, not only in early childhood education, but in reminding us that we are all part of one big ‘neighborhood’. Fred taught us the importance of accepting our Neighbors just the way they are and engaging in kindness with our interactions. I can’t think of another period in my lifetime where we needed to reflect on those messages again more than today.”

“There are three ways to ultimate success,” Fred Rogers was once quoted as saying. “The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind. Imagine what our neighborhoods would be like if each of us offered, as a matter of course, just one kind word to another person.”

Many of the activities of Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness will be attended by members of the cast and crew of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, which ran from 1968 – 1975, and again from 1979 – 2001. David Newell, known as “Mr. McFeely,” the “Speedy Delivery” man, appeared at today’s media conference via video, and looks forward to visiting Central Florida next March.

David Newell, “Mr. McFeely.” Photo Credit: Mike Brodsky (Florida National News)

Mister Rogers’ Week of Kindness is supported by the McFeely-Rogers Foundation, the Fred Rogers Institute, and Fred Rogers Productions. Details regarding the specific activities and venues will be released over the next few weeks.

For more information on the events, visit https://www.BuenaVistaEvents.com or https://www.MisterRogersWeekofKindness.com.

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A Quick Primer on the Team Solving Orange County’s Affordable Housing Crisis

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Orange County’s Housing for All Task Force held its introductory meeting on April 12, 2019 at the Board of County Commissioner Chambers. Photo: Orange County Government.

ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Orange County faces a growing affordable housing crisis, and Mayor Jerry Demings has taken notice–and action. Shortly after his inauguration, he formed Housing For All, an affordable housing task force to face the challenge head-on.

The Housing For All task force doesn’t meet monthly like the County Commission–in fact, their next meeting won’t be until October 4, 2019–but they do work when they’re not meeting. The task force is made up of three subcommittees, Design and Infrastructure Subcommittee, Accessibility and Opportunity Subcommittee and Innovation and Sustainability Subcommittee. These three subcommittees meet twice a month to come up with ideas and plans to fix the affordable housing problem.

Each subcommittee has a specific focus on ways to help solve the problem of affordable housing. The Design and Infrastructure Subcommittee is focused on the design of new affordable housing projects, the renovation of current affordable housing that might need fixing and land development for affordable housing units. The Accessibility and Opportunity Subcommittee is focused on making sure affordable housing is accessible to the major economic zones of the city, develop partnerships with groups and focus on outreach in the county. The Innovation and Sustainability Subcommittee is focused on finding ways to increase the supply of affordable housing and how to preserve affordable housing.

At their next meeting in October these subcommittees will update the county on what they have accomplished and what they plan to do in the future. For information from previous Housing for All Task Force meetings or the meeting schedule, visit the Orange County Government website.

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Leyton Blackwell is a photojournalist and Florida National News contributor. | info@floridanationalnews.com

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Opening Biopic ‘Te Ata’ Sets High Bar for 2016 Orlando Film Festival

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ORLANDO: Chickasaw Nation Biopic 'Te Ata' Sets Stage for Orlando Film Festival.

ORLANDO (FNN NEWS) – Orlando Film Festival kicked off at Cobb Theaters in Downtown Orlando Wednesday night. The red carpet came alive with excited filmmakers and actors ready to showcase their projects to the Orlando community and, in some cases, to the world at large, including Nathan Frankowski, director of this year’s opening feature Te Ata.

About Te Ata

Frankowski’s biopic feature chronicles the true story of Chickasaw actress and storyteller Mary Frances Thompson, whose love of stories and the Chickasaw Nation fueled her to share the Chickasaw culture with new audiences in the early 1900s, a time when the United States was still growing as a nation and clashed with Native American peoples in the process.

Viewers are immediately swept into the saga from the film’s opening scene with a voice-over folk tale told by Mary Thompson’s father, T.B. Thompson (played by Gil Birmingham). Ironically, though his storytelling places the seed of inspiration in her, it slowly becomes a source of friction between them as she ages.

What makes the film engrossing is the sprawling backdrop upon which Thompson’s journey takes place. While young Te Ata (which means “The Morning”) flourishes with each solo performance and eventually sets her sights on Broadway, the Chickasaw Nation is fighting to secure the funding due them from the U.S. government in the face of ethnocentrism and religious bigotry–to the point that the government passed a law forbidding the sale of traditional Native American textiles and creations, which caused further financial struggle for the Chickasaw Nation. Viewers even experience the Thompsons’ fish-out-of-water feeling as the Chickasaw people’s territory, Tishomingo, shrinks significantly to become part of the newborn state of Oklahoma.

The political tensions are counterbalanced with Te Ata’s experience. Te Ata does her first performances among family, but chooses to leave home for the first time in her life to attend the Oklahoma College for Women (known today as University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma), despite her father’s wishes for her to find a job at home. Viewers immediately empathize with Te Ata’s awkward experience upon her arrival at the predominantly Caucasian-attended College, but cheer her on when that one connection is made, because all it ever takes is one.

Te Ata’s jumping off point occurs when she meets drama teacher Frances Dinsmore Davis, who encourages her to join her class and to share the Chickasaw stories for her senior presentation instead of the usual Shakespeare recitation. From there, Te Ata’s career blossoms from one serendipitous connection to another, taking her performances across the country. She eventually makes it to New York City, hustling to find her place on Broadway, and finds love in the process while performing privately for Eleanor Roosevelt, whose husband was then Governor of New York. The heroine’s journey continues with well-placed highs and lows, keeping the viewer visually and emotionally engaged.

Te Ata is touchingly channeled through lead actress Q’orianka Kilcher who, like Te Ata, has stage experience, and brought it to bear in the role. Kilcher’s magnetic singing, with the help of the film’s sweeping score and indigenous songs, imprints the true Te Ata’s passion for her people onto the viewer’s heart.

Frankowski, who worked closely with the Chickasaw Nation in creating the film, honors Te Ata’s memory and legacy in a cohesive, sweeping tale that will edify audiences everywhere.

 

 

Florida National News Editor Mellissa Thomas is an author and journalist, as well as a decorated U.S. Navy veteran with degrees in Entertainment Business and Film. She also helps business owners, CEOs, executives, and speakers double their income and clinch the credibility they deserve by walking them step by step through the process of developing, completing, marketing, and publishing their first book.

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