Tuesday, September 6, 2011

DeNeen Brown:Norman Rockwell painting of Ruby Bridges is on display at the White House

By DeNeen L. Brown,
Washington Post Staff Writer

The little girl in the painting titled “The Problem We All Live With” is walking to school in a white dress, white socks and white shoes. Her hair is parted in neat plaits and she is carrying a book and a ruler. The girl appears confident and proud, even as she is overshadowed by U.S. marshals in muted gray suits. She does not seem to notice the tomato splashed on the painted wall behind her or the racial epithet scrawled above her.

The Norman Rockwell painting, depicting the walk by 6-year-old Ruby Bridges as she integrated William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960, captures an ugly chapter in U.S. history, a transition between a past of segregation and a new era that would come.

This summer, the iconic artwork has found a temporary home — in the West Wing of the White House, just outside the Oval Office. The road to the White House began in 2008, with a suggestion from Bridges herself. After a lobbying campaign by members of Congress and others, the painting arrived in June.

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Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Smithsonian Just Got Soul: Soul Train Awards by DeNeen Brown

By DeNeen Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Peace, love and soooooooul spilled out of a white tent Thursday night on the Mall as a crowd boogied down a massive “Soul Train” line. The event celebrating a donation of artifacts from the popular 1970s-era TV show to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture had, appropriately, turned into a dance party.

A man in brown dress socks and white Converse shoes danced wildly next to a prim woman in a platinum sheath. Nearby, a woman dressed straight out of the iconic television program, in hot pants and platform shoes, grooved to the old-school music pumping through the speakers. Those in the multiracial crowd laughed and threw their hands in the air as they danced the Bump, the Loose Booty, the Robot and the Funky Chicken.“Girl, you better swing it! Push it, baby!” yelled Tyrone “the Bone” Proctor, an original “Soul Train” dancer who taught the crowd iconic dances.

The woman in hot pants pumped a little harder and swung her arms.

“Oh, my!” Proctor yelled. “Stop it! You are impressing me!”

To help celebrate its 40th anniversary, “Soul Train” — which began airing nationally in 1971 and became one of the longest-airing nationally syndicated first-run programs in television history — donated five signature props for the museum’s exhibitions “Musical Crossroads,” “Black Popular Culture” and “Make a Way Out of No Way.” The museum is set to be completed on the Mall in 2015.

The items that were donated: “Applause” signs, the 10-foot-wide neon “Soul Train” sign, the neon “Soul Train Awards” sign, silver African heads from the awards program, and the Scramble Board, on which dancers unscrambled word puzzles quickly, then broke out in dance.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

DeNeen Brown Washington Post: Will You Look This Good at 74?

She is 74 years old, and she is ripped.

Sculpted deltoids, carved biceps and a stomach chiseled into a glorious six-pack that rises and falls into magnificent little hills and valleys.It is the first thing you notice when you see Ernestine Shepherd in the front of the class, teaching body sculpting at a gym north of Baltimore.

Shepherd is wearing tight red shorts and a red bikini top. Between the two is her signature span of chiseled abs.

She is a Dorothy Dandridge beauty, a knockout. Her makeup is perfect, lips painted candy red to match her workout clothes. She has thick, black eyelashes and wears her hair in a long, gray braid that swings down her superbly sculpted back.

She is wearing white Converse sneakers with little white kitten heels. She flexes. “If you are going to try to motivate people, you have to live that part,” she says. “You have to look that part.” Her husband will say later that he still has trouble keeping guys away from her.

Behind her, women many, many years younger than she are struggling — huffing and puffing and trying to keep up. Thighs heavy, bellies jiggling, breath short, they sweat away as their 74-year-old instructor with the body of a college cheerleader counts.