2013 HAF EMCEES

Here we present the hosts of the Harlem Arts Festival 2013. These charismatic individuals lead us through the festivities at this year\’s festival. To learn more about the performers they presented, check out the 2013 Festival Schedule for a full list of performers and visual artists!

Raydar Ellis

 raydarRaydar Ellis is a “Jack of All Trades” in a musical landscape that embraces diversity. He is equal parts hip hop connoisseur and jazz aficionado, masterfully combining the two genres and creating music people can add to the soundtrack of their lives. Whether he is producing new songs, spinning party-goers into a frenzy, influencing students, or contributing to The Revivalist (Okayplayer’s offshoot for the jazz community), Ellis has made tremendous strides to cement his place as a major player on several fronts in music scene.A native of the New York area, Ellis is currently hard at work recording his new album B.A.N.G. (due Summer 2013) while also preparing for the Winter 2014 release of his EP, The Lost Salvage. The collection is a joint effort with acclaimed jazz saxophonist and producer, Marcus Strickland. The six-song compilation showcases tracks like “Don’t Understand”, which features a cleverly chosen sample of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, and the fun but self-aware “Young & Black”, a largely autobiographical account of Ellis’ own upbringing.As further evidence of his ties within a community of respected and accomplished musicians, Ellis is also featured on Esperanza Spalding’s recent Grammy-winning album, Radio Music Society. Ellis shares a long-standing recording and performance history with his fellow Berklee alum, and his vocals can be heard on Spalding’s “Black and Gold” and “Let Her”.On the creative end, Ellis’ production credits include the critically-acclaimed Boombox by Raheem Jamal, co-production of Champs vs. The League with Quite Nyce, guest artist/production with Esoteric on “Boston Garden Rap” & “First of a New Breed”, and Chris “Daddy” Dave’s remix “of Private Party” performed by Michelle Williams (Destinys Child).When factoring in the schedule he keeps as an emcee and producer, it’s quite impressive that Ellis also invests a substantial amount of time into being an educator. He remains fully dedicated to the students he teaches at Berklee College of Music, commuting to Boston at the start of each week to teach the first ever J Dilla Ensemble, a curriculum he was tapped to create and share. As descibed in a feature on Ellis from Complex.com, the course is “focused on live musicians re-interpreting and playing music from James Yancey\’s extensive catalog.”From Dilla to deejay, the transitions in Ellis’ life are seamless as once a month, he takes to the stage spinning at Mark de Clive Lowe\’s CHURCH at DROM. The event draws a substantial and devoted crowd every month, due in no small part to the vibe set by Ellis from the decks.Adding even more heft to his already solid performance history, Ellis has shared the stage with internationally known artists including: Robert Glasper, Meshell Ndegeocello, Sonnymoon, Questlove, Slum Village, CeeLo Green, Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def), Supernatural, Pharoahe Monch, DJ Wreckineyez, Phonte, John Robinson, Marc Cary, Marcus Strickland, Igmar Thomas, John Cena, Pete Rock, The Experiment, Adam Deitch, Ben Williams, Abraham Inc., 7L & Esoteric, and J-LiveAn innovator with a limitless perspective and a resume that favors both quality and quantity in his body of work, Raydar Ellis is well on his way to becoming a luminary in his own right.

Savona Bailey-McClain

 savonaredSavona Bailey-McClain currently lives and works in New York City. She is an independent curator, producer and preservation advocate. The range of McClain’s practice has included sculpture, drawings, performance, sound, and mixed media. McClain is the Executive Director and Chief Curator for The West Harlem Art Fund, Inc. a fifteen year old public art organization and curatorial collective serving neighborhoods around the City. Her public art installations have been seen in the New York Times, Art Daily, Artnet Magazine, Los Angeles Times, DNAinfo, among others. McClain strives for a soulful, meaningful connection with the public and the “arts”. It simply has to be approachable as far as she is concerned. McClain has installed at Times Square, DUMBO, Soho, NoLita, Williamsburg, Governors Island, Queens, Greater Harlem (East, Central and West), Chelsea this past fall and now the Bronx. McClain has a liberal arts degree from the University of Pittsburgh.

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Brenda Braxton

 brendabraxtonBrenda Braxton, who is currently starring in COUGAR The Musical, is a native New Yorker and graduate of the High School for the Performing Arts. She was featured on Broadway in SMOKEY JOE’S CAFÉ for which she was nominated for a Tony Award and the recipient of the NAACP Theater Award, Chicago’s Jefferson Award and Grammy for Best Cast Album. In 2003 she joined the Broadway cast of CHICAGO in the starring role of Velma Kelly and has enjoyed six years with the company.Ms Braxton began her professional career in 1976 when she joined the all Black Broadway production of GUYS AND DOLLS starring Robert Guillume and Ken Page. In 1977 Ms. Braxton became assistant to playwright/director Vinnette Carroll on her productions of ALICE starring Debbie Allen and the Broadway production of BUT NEVER JAM TODAY. During that time she was also production assistant on the Broadway production of Ms. Lena Horn’s one woman show THE LADY AND HER MUSIC. In 1980 Ms. Braxton co-choreographed and starred in the PBS special WHEN HELL FREEZES OVER I’LL SKATE for which she was nominated for an AUDELCO Award for best choreography. In 1981 she assisted Michael Bennett and Michael Peters on the original Broadway production of DREAMGIRLS starring Jennifer Holiday. She then toured with the international company and understudied the role of Lorrell Robinson. In 1985 she wrote and produced her one woman show which she performed in clubs throughout New York. In 1987 she was featured on Broadway with Peter Allen in LEGS DIAMOND and later performed with him at the Westbury Music Fair and the Concord Hotel. In 1990 she joined the Broadway company of CATS in the role of Demeter and understudy to Grizabella. In 1992 she opened on Broadway in George C. Wolf’s production of JELLY’S LAST JAM starring Gregory Hines and Savion Glover where she originated the role of Too Tight Nora. In 1995 she starred in BABY THAT’S ROCK AND ROLL at the Royal George Theater in Chicago which was later brought to Broadway and became SMOKEY JOES CAFÉ. She enjoyed a successful five year run. In 2001 she co-directed and choreographed the DREAMGIRLS concert on Broadway at the Ford Theater.In 2002 she was featured as Sugar Lou Bird in the Off Broadway production of Langston Hughes’ LITTLE HAM at the John Houseman Theater and appeared as Gladiola in the Encores! Production of HOUSE OF FLOWERS directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall at City Center.In 2006 she added entrepreneur to her resume with the launching of BBRAXTON Exceptional Grooming for Exceptional Men A gentlemen only grooming parlor in Harlem, NY. In 2009 Ms. Braxton was the only woman honored with the “Men of Style Award ” given by Gillette Fuzion and BBRAXTON salon hosted the Gillette Fuzion Tour in New York City for the second year.In realizing the importance of giving back, Ms Braxton founded a not -for-profit organization called, Leading Ladies Just for Teens (LLJFT), seminars geared toward empowering young girls to be the best they can be. Leading Ladies began in 1996 at the Virginia Theater with a series of seminars designed to encourage, challenge and inspire young girls to dream and set goals.For her work as founder of LLJFT Ms. Braxton has received the Dr. Martin Luther King “Living the Dream” award given by New York’s Governor Pataki, the Josephine Baker Award from the National Council of Negro Women, and the Community Service award given by the National Association of Negro Business Women.Leading Ladies Just for Teens has recently expanded to include the BBRAXTON Grooming Academy. The Academy is a community based initiative to provide neighborhood seniors with complimentary grooming services on a regular basis while training apprentice barbers in the art of grooming. It seeks to encourage elderly men to continue to maintain a healthy appearance while educating and preparing a fresh cluster of barbers for professional grooming. With hands on training, academy members will gain immeasurable knowledge of grooming etiquette, equivalent to grooming schools, even as they serve a need to enhance self esteem of seniors as they continue to mature.

Flo Wiley

 Flo_Wiley_2013Florene “Flo” Wiley is the narrator of the Harlem Is…Music documentary produced by Community Works Inc., and the 2006 Apollo Legends Hall of Fame Awards Tribute Videos. She was the “God Voice” for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards at the Kennedy Center in 2002 and at Carnegie Hall from 2003 through 2008. A sought after host, she has served as Mistress of Ceremony for Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., The Wall Street Alphas, The City College of New York, Jazzmobile, and guest co-host of Apollo Amateur Night. Since 2001, Flo has produced and hosted a weekly radio show, Black Beat New York: The Flo Wiley Show which broadcasts Thursdays from 6pm to 7pm on Harlem Community Radio (WHCR 90.3 FM & www.whcr.org). She is also a member of the WHCR Broadcast Emergency Response Team.Florene has a B.A. in Speech/Drama from California State University at Hayward (1970), and has been teaching acting since 1979 and public speaking since 2006. She received an AUDELCO Award for Best Supporting Actress (1978, Sandra Lane, Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center) and has performed at Woodie King Jr.’s New Federal Theatre, the New York Shakespeare Festival/Public Theater, and the Manhattan Theatre Club.She is a disciple at Memorial Baptist Church, where she coordinates the annual Easter and Christmas pageants and where she presented her first play, A Righteous Sisterhood, in 2012. Flo is a charter member of the Harlem Arts Alliance, and became a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. in 1967 (Rho, U.C. Berkeley).A native of Little Rock AR, Ms. Wiley grew up in Oakland CA and has lived in Lagos, Nigeria, Chicago IL, and New York City, where she currently resides in Harlem.