A Battle Cry: The Enemy is Defeated!

As some of you know, I have recently fought (and am still fighting) the battle of my life. Last fall I was told that there was an abnormal result of my regular mammogram. I was called in for a biopsy, and the result was bad news. The calcifications in my breast, which had been there for years, were suddenly malignant. I had to have surgery immediately.
      This was such a trigger for me, to say the least. My first partner, Susan Seltzer, had died from breast cancer at thirty-three years old. I had gone through every step of her diagnosis with her - the initial surgery, the removal of lymph nodes (which were already positive), the radiation treatments, chemotherapy, hair-loss, nausea, and the ultimate heartbreak of holding her hand while she took her last breath. I didn't think I would survive it I ever received a cancer diagnosis. Well, not only have I survived it. I am thriving!
      My doctor told me that thirty years ago, it would not have been possible t…

"African American Entertainers in Australia and New Zealand" by Bill Egan

I was so gratified to see the photograph of African American pianist Leota Henson in the new book by historian Bill Egan titled African American Entertainers in Australia and New Zealand: A History, 1788-1941. Bill Egan saw my blog on Leota Henson last year, and asked for my permission to use the photograph. The reason I had that photograph was because Leota and my grandmother Nina Clinton were dear friends. They had traveled together as part of Frederick Loudin's "Fisk Jubilee Singers," who had traveled and performed in Australia and New Zealand in the 1880s. As some you have read, I opened a box of papers and photos that belonged to my grandmother, and found the autographed portrait of Miss Henson, along with seven typed pages titled "A Few Notes on the Life of Leota Henson." I immediately posted the writings online, along with the photograph.

Bill Egan informed me that he was including a section of his new book on Frederick Loudin's Jubilee Singers. I kne…

The James Baldwin Conference in Saint-Paul de Vence

Nina Kennedy, creative director of INFEMNITY Productions, has been invited to participate as a presenter for the International James Baldwin Conference, celebrating the 50th anniversary of James Baldwin's arrival in the South of France, June 18-21, 2020. Kennedy will moderate a panel on "Baldwin and The Internalized Closet" with panelists J.P. Howard, Dr. Jordanna Matlon, and composer Renée Baker

Dr. Cornel West will be the Closing Keynote speaker. 

INFEMNITY Productions will be on hand to film the event.

Nina Kennedy is a world-renowned concert pianist, orchestral conductor, and award-winning filmmaker. She gave her first complete piano recital at nine years old, and appeared as piano soloist with the Nashville Symphony playing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue at age 13. She holds a master’s degree from the Juilliard School where she studied with Leonard Bernstein. Kurt Masur acted as her conducting mentor during his tenure as music director with the New York Philharmonic and…

The 2019 Paul Weiss Diversity Networking Reception

We were delighted to be invited again to the annual Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison Diversity Networking Reception in The Appel Room of Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall. This year's speaker was Bryan Stevenson, Founder and Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama. Stevenson gave a moving speech on the importance of reaching out to those in the Black community who are less fortunate, to offer role-modeling and guidance. "Some of us were told to stay away from those neighborhoods," he said, "But I say that these are the very neighborhoods we should go into."

Again we were able to chat with the former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson, who is the first African American partner at Paul Weiss. Johnson's grandfather had been the first African American president of Fisk University. Dr. Charles S. Johnson greatly admired my mother, and welcomed her to the Fisk Faculty. He later commissioned c…

Cole Knapper Speaks at Al Sharpton's National Action Network Rally

Congratulations to Cole Knapper, who was invited to speak at the Saturday Morning Rally for the Reverend Al Sharpton's National Action Network on June 1st. Watch the video below.


April Gibson (of April and Nina's Salon and producer of The Noshing with Nina Show) said her final goodbye to her father Ronald Gibson, Sr. who departed this earth on May 9, 2019. His funeral service was held in April's hometown of Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

"Ronald Gibson, Sr. was born in Tallulah, Louisiana to Dollie Mae Lee and adopted by Joseph D. Gibson (Joe). He attended Holy Rosary School, Louisiana State University, and took a position at the U.S. Postal Service where he was employed for 37 years.

Ronald married Sherry Ann Corbin on August 21, 1970. They are the proud parents of two sons, Ronald Keith Gibson, Jr. (Chandra), Robert DeMond Gibson, and a daughter, April Charrissa Gibson. He is also survived by 11 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren, two sisters, an uncle, and a host of nieces, nephews, and other relatives and friends."
Nina Kennedy participated in the program by performing the processional music on the piano (Dedication by Robert Schumann), and p…

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Our latest guest on "The Noshing with Nina Show" was the "Rock Ballerina" herself, Kimberly Nichole. Kimberly received worldwide attention for her soul-stirring performance of "House of the Rising Sun" on NBC's "The Voice." She has since moved to London, but was in town to perform at the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

During our lively conversation, we lamented the fact that black women are hardly recognized for their contribution to Rock and Roll. Kimberly brought up the name of rock legend Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who had only recently been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I had also just recently posted a clip of  Rosetta Tharpe performing on our INFEMNITY Productions Facebook page. So in honor of Women's Herstory Month, here is our article on Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe (March 20, 1915 – October 9, 1973) was an American singer, songwriter, and recording artist. She attained popularity in the 1930s and 1940s wit…

Anne Thompson-Scretching Stars in "OVERCOME"

Veteran playwright/director Anne L. Thompson-Scretching is the subject of a very moving documentary film titled "OVERCOME" by Bianka WidaKay. Born in Macon, Georgia, Anne Thompson-Scretching overcame being lied-to about the true identity of her mother, years of childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by her step-father, and multiple abusive marriages, to become an award-winning playwright and stage director. To quote her LinkedIn page: "I've been a playwright, producer, and director for 18 years at The American Theatre of Actors under the Artistic Director and Founder, James Jennings who has been in the same place for almost 40 years. I'm a 4x Jeam Dalrempyl Award winner for comedy, comedic drama, classical and young peoples plays. I am also an AUDELCO nominee and published by Samuel French LLC for the stage play, 'You Shouldn't Have Told.' My goal is to continue to focus on my own work developing a body of work that will continue to heighten my writing …

Part 4 of the Writings of Leota Henson Turner

I have found much material online about the Jubilee Singers' tour of Australia and New Zealand, including a chapter in the book Out of Sight: The Rise of African American Popular music, 1889-1895 by Lynn Abbott and Doug Seroff, and an excerpt from Uncle Tom in the White Pacific by Melissa Bellanta.

In this segment of Leota's writings she often speaks of her uncle who is Frederick J. Loudin, director of the group called Loudin's Jubilee Singers.

Continued from Part 3.

       "One bright morning a few weeks later we landed all safe and sound in Melbourne, Australia and we were glad to be on land once more, even though we were on the other side of the globe. We found Melbourne a lively bustling city, the buildings and activities much like our own American cities. The weather was warm and bright. Our advance agent, Mr. Sharp, had secured very nice accommodations at the Grand Hotel. After two weeks of rest and rehearsals we gave our first concert, which was a Private Comp…

More Writings from Leota Henson Turner

Continued from Part 2.

"About 5 P.M. we reached our destination and went immediately to Sheppards Hotel, the famous well-known hostelry. At 7 P.M. dinner was served and is customary in England and other countries it is the big event of the day, and a formal dress affair. We hurriedly tidied ourselves up as best we could and we were soon ushered into the spacious, well-lighted dining room. It was filled with Military men in full dress with plenty of gold braid, medals on their uniforms. Their ladies in formal dress wearing plenty of jewels of all kinds. We felt very much out of place in our traveling attire but no one seemed to notice us particularly and we went through the eight course dinner with good grace. After dinner we went to bed immediately as we had to arise at 4 A.M. At that hour carriages had been ordered to take us out to see the Pyramids. We arrived at the Pyramid ‘Cheops’ just at sun rise. As we alighted from our carriages we were immediately surrounded by large grou…

Writings of Leota Henson Turner

While researching Leota Henson's family, I was delighted to discover that we are related. Her cousin, William Loudin, married my grandmother's half-sister, Rosetta Clinton. Members of that Ohio settlement ended up marrying their cousins in many cases. I'm happy to call myself a great-grand niece of Frederick Loudin.

This is a tradition handed down from the first piano accompanist for the Fisk Jubilee Singers, Ella Sheppard, to Leota Henson, to my mother, Anne Gamble Kennedy. Now that my grandmother's friendship with Leota has been revealed to me, I know that Leota's role-modeling was at the forefront of my grandmother's thinking while she raised my mother.

Here is part 2 of the writings of Leota Henson Turner, describing the world concert tour of Loudin's Jubilee Singers from 1888 to 1900.

Continued from Part 1.

      “During our stay of two years in Great Britain we made many friends and had more social invitations than it was possible to accept. In the year …

Leota Henson Turner

While going through a box of my grandmother’s papers and photo albums, I happened upon seven stapled, typed pages written by her friend Leota Henson. I recognized the name because my grandmother had mentioned her in her letters. Then I found this autographed photo of Leota in one of the photo albums. It turns out that Miss Leota had studied piano at the Conservatory of Music in Leipzig, Germany, was the piano accompanist for Frederick Loudin’s Jubilee Singers, and traveled with them throughout Europe, Egypt, Arabia, Australia, India, China, and Japan. The trip took six years, ending in 1900. My grandmother joined the group later in 1901.

Leota Henson married Dr. Alexander L. Turner, a respected surgeon and physician. She went on to become the founder and first board chair of the Colored Y.W.C.A. in Detroit. The ladies of the Board decided to name the branch in honor of Mrs. Lucy Thurman, “… a nationally known Colored woman who worked hard for Women’s Suffrage and also for Prohibition.”…