SYMPOSIUM: Cuba in the World: Literature, Politics, Performance

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of meeting Ariel Fernandez at the Future of Music Policy Summit. Ariel’s working on a new documentary “Hip-Hop in Cuba: a Revolution Within the Revolution.” He sent me an email to let me know that he’s in DC this week for a very interesting event at George Washington University presented by the department of English. Ariel will present his project on Friday. Check it out!

Cuba in the World: Literature, Politics, Performance
October 8 and 9, 2009
George Washington University

Thursday, October 8, 8 p.m.: Reading and Discussion with Novelist Mayra Montero

Marvin Center, 3rd-Floor Amphitheater, 21st Street N.W. between H and Eye Streets

Mayra Montero, an award-winning novelist and renowned journalist, is the author of Dancing to “Almendra,” The Last Night I Spent with You, and many other works.

Moderator: H.G. Carrillo, George Washington University

Friday, October 9: Symposium
Marvin Center, Room 405, 21st Street N.W. between H and Eye Streets

10:30 a.m. to noon: Political Presents
“‘Justice and Humanity Before the Nation’: Is a Post-Bellum and Post-National Cuban Republic Possible?” José Buscaglia-Salgado, SUNY-Buffalo

“Pánfilo, Ojama: Reflexiones Sobre Raza y Nación en la Cuba Contemporanea/Reflections on Race and Nation in Contemporary Cuba.” Yesenia Selier, Writer and Performer, NYC

“Washington and Havana: Prospects for Normal Relations in the Obama/Raúl Era.” Peter Kornbluh, National Security Archive

Moderator: Antonio López, George Washington University

1:30 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.: Cultural Conditions
“Staging the Racial Past.” Jill Lane, New York University

“Hip-Hop in Cuba: A Revolution Within the Revolution.” Ariel Fernández, Writer and Producer, NYC

“Love in the Temporarily of Diaspora: The Post-Cuban Mode in Cristina García’s A Handbook to Luck.” Ricardo Ortiz, Georgetown University

Moderator: José Esteban Muñoz, New York University, and Wang Visiting Professor in Contemporary English Literature, George Washington University

7:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.: Documentary Screening, La Lupe: Queen of Latin Soul (Filmmaker Ela Troyano Present for Discussion)

Ela Troyano is a Cuban-American filmmaker and documentary artist living in New York.


Dancer, choreographer, and Broadway legend Maurice Hines is in DC next week to give two master classes and hold open auditions for the Arena Stage production of Duke Ellington’s “Sophisticated Ladies” (opening in April 2010).

The master classes are for advanced dancers with background in jazz, hip-hop and tap. The classes are FREE and will be in two locations on Tuesday, October 13:
12:15 to 1:30pm – Howard University (2455 Sixth Street, NW);
3:30 to 4:45pm – the Duke Ellington School for the Arts (3500 R Street, NW).

To register for a class, e-mail résumé and headshot to Amrita Mangus at or call (202) 554-9066, ext. 286. Space is limited.

The OPEN dance audition for “Sophisticated Ladies” is Wednesday, October 14 at the Lincoln Theatre (1215 U Street, NW). Men and women of all ethnicities with strong jazz, ballet and tap background are welcomed to audition. Registration for men begins at noon with auditions from 1:00 to 3:00 pm, and registration for women starts at 2:00p.m. followed by auditions from 3:00 to 5:00pm. Individuals interested in pre-registration may e-mail résumé and headshot Jamil Jude at or call (202) 554-9066, ext. 284. [Serious] Walk-ins welcome. (Note: I added “serious.”)

I’m sure it’s no accident that Columbus Day falls within Hispanic Heritage month. Without Columbus, let’s face it, there would be no Hispanic Heritage. Afterall, he was on an errand for Spain. How you interpret the outcomes depends on where you are now 500+ years after the encounter.

WETA is taping a special concert at the White House Tuesday, “Fiesta Latina” for “In Performance at the White House.” Another quick turn-around for WETA as the concert will air nationally on PBS October 15. Guest artists include George Lopez, Gloria Estefan, Los Lobos, Jimmy Smits, Sheila E, Marc Anthony, and others. There’s also a guest chef: Maricel Presilla who specializes in Latin American foods. Her restaurants, Zafra and Cucharamama are located in Hoboken, NJ. Love the music on her restaurant sites. For an historical assessment of how the Columbus’ voyage changed the way we encounter and are encountered by our environment including food, a good book is The Columbian Exchange by Alfred W. Cosby originally published in 1972.

Sunday, October 11 Rev. Peter Morales will be in the pulpit at All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington, DC (16th & Harvard Streets, NW). Rev. Morales is the first Hispanic president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA). Unitarian Universalism combines two denominations–Unitarianism and Universalism–with a history that goes back several hundreds years in Europe and its emergence in the U.S. in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Rev. Morales will join the National Equality March with UUA congregations and the Standing On the Side of Love campaign. You can read Rev. Morales’ endorsement of the march here.

BEN ALI, Founder of Ben’s Chili Bowl
No true blue Washingtonian doesn’t know about Ben’s Chili Bowl or hasn’t met one of the Ali’s. The now world-famous carryout restaurant’s founder, namesake and owner Ben Ali joined the ancestors last night. He died of natural causes in his home. He was 82. Ben’s Chili Bowl was founded in 1958 by Ben and Virginia Ali in a former silent movie theater. Ben immigrated to the U.S. from Trinidad and attended Howard University.

The Chili Bowl is known for it’s famous chili dog and half smoke. It also had a reputation for being a gathering place for local punditry from all walks of life and as an after-hours spot for musicians and Howard University students. I don’t think they would take offense in being called a “neighborhood joint.” Ben’s Chili Bowl survived when U Street went into urban decline from white and black flight to the suburbs and after the 1968 riots. When the lights of “Black Broadway” went out, Ben’s were still bright and the chili dogs and fries were still being served up. Ben Ali was a constant neighbor and made the Chili Bowl community space. His most famous customer and friend is comedian Bill Cosby who started frequenting Ben’s while courting a young DC woman named Camille. Though this year a President Elect’s visit may have topped a Cosby siting.

Since Ben Ali’s illness, Ben’s Chili Bowl has been managed by his family including his wife Virginia, and sons Kamal and Nizam. They recently opened a sit down restaurant next door, simply called, “Next Door.” This blogger extends sympathies to the entire Ali family –our good neighbors.