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August Wilson Center - Front & Center » Pittsburgh Cultural District - “Amplifying African American Voices”

Posts Tagged ‘Pittsburgh Cultural District’

REVIEW: In My Father’s House

Posted in Exhibitions, General, Guest Posts, Review on September 12th, 2010 by Shaunda – Be the first to comment
This past weekend, we opened the first exhibit we ever commissioned,  In My Father’s House. It’s been years in the making–but well worth the wait. Underwritten by UPMC, with additional support from FedEx, it is a mixed-media exhibition designed as five rooms in a house. Each room highlights a distinct approach to preserving and displaying the visual art and material culture of people of African descent.  The rooms tell the story of a fictional Pittsburgh family, their hopes, dreams, struggles and triumphs. Guest blogger Ada Gay Griffin, director of annual giving at The Center, took what she thought would be a few moments to check out the new exhibit. Ada sings praises of the entire exhibit, but in this blog pays homage to the exhibit’s last room, titled “From Drums to Zeros and Ones.”

Inside "In My Father's House"

Inside "In My Father's House"

“From Drums to Zeros and Ones” is a multichannel video installation commissioned by the August Wilson Center for African American Culture for its newest exhibit, In My Father’s House, which opened September 11, 2010. The 8-minute anthem, created by award-winning documentary filmmaker Demetria Royals, is projected in a modern, dimly lit media room decorated with comfy seats and subtle electronic media references.The room and video have the same name.  Here, Royals (Mama’s Push Cart, Conjure Woman) invokes America’s complex heritage of repression, pitted against the intellectual muscle, political action, and sublime creativity wielded by intrepid African Americans resisting the horrors of Middle Passage and its lasting impact.

Culturally-literate, historically-informed and pop-afflicted, this is an emotionally riveting video poem, connecting multiple themes and powerful messages of culture consciousness and social change through media clips, a James Baldwin interview, and a stylized chronolography.

Depicting centuries of repression, struggle and achievement, the mini-documentary is a welcome tribute to both the embattled and the inspired. Images and commentary of 20th century innovators pop up unexpectedly. Text fades in and out, or tracks across the screen. I whisper the names of each fleeting image I recognize - Ethel Waters, Paul Robeson, Marcus Garvey, Phyllis Hyman, Shirley Chisholm…”unbought and unbossed.” The musical parody of the Wings’ hit classic Let ‘Em In at first seems more silly than profound as it sweeps over speeches, sound bites and brief shots of trailblazers that flicker by. All of a sudden, the enduring duality of African American experiences and expressions, represented throughout the entire exhibit, clicks in. And it feels just right.

Sorcerer’s Village, Romare Bearden, Serigraph, 1972

Sorcerer’s Village, Romare Bearden, Serigraph, 1972

The fifth and final installation in the 5-room exhibit, “From Drums to Zeros and Ones” is an appropriate finale for In My Father’s House. The total exhibit is brimming with masterpieces by Romare Bearden, spectacular photography, African American paintings, African masks and fabrics, an experimental video, as well as period furnishings, chosen by, and in some instances created by, the five curators responsible for assembling the meticulously researched art and artifacts placed in each of the rooms.  This is an exhibit for everyone and well worth the price of bus fare, parking, or a skipped lunch on a Saturday or weekday afternoon. One of the messages here is that regardless of your class, color, age, or education, any lived-in environment can be seen as a gallery of memories and of aspirations, depicted in objects of many forms, collected and displayed because they are important, because they are beautiful. Visit the August Wilson Center soon.

Ada Gay Griffin

Editor’s Note: In My Father’s House will be up through July 2011 at The Center, 980 Liberty Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh. Hours are 11 am to 6 pm Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is a suggested donation of $5 for adults, $3 for seniors and students and free ages 5 and under and members. For information, call 412.258.2700 or visit AugustWilsonCenter.org.

Speak Up! The Black Man Is…

Posted in Education, General on July 19th, 2010 by Shaunda – Be the first to comment

2010-2011 PERFORMANCE SEASON CELEBRATING THE BLACK MALE

The August Wilson Center’s second full season in its new home will present international, national and regional artists, living legends and local trailblazers starring in multidisciplinary events in music, dance, theater, film and literature that celebrate Black men and boys.

Respond to The Black Man Is… Text in or type you answer here!

Review: August Wilson Center Hosts Romare Bearden Symposium

Posted in General, Review on April 8th, 2010 by Shaunda – Be the first to comment

In late March, the August Wilson Center had the honor and privilege of  hosting the 2010 National Romare Bearden Symposium, Romare Bearden in the Public Realm. Why Pittsburgh? Why the August Wilson Center?
Well for one Bearden spent some formative years in Pittsburgh, graduating from Peabody High School and living in East Liberty with his grandparents. Also, some of his works were inspirations for some of August Wilson’s plays. Bearden came back to Pittsburgh in the 1980s and designed a ceramic tile mural, Pittsburgh Recollections, for the

Homage to Mary Lou, 1984

Homage to Mary Lou, 1984

Gateway Center subway station, Downtown. The piece is now appraised at $15 million. Over 22 national scholars and artists convened to discuss Pittsburgh’s influence on Bearden and the works that fall outside the studio. This included his cartoons, murals and printmaking.
Key moments of the conference included a conversation with novelist John Edgar Wideman, a Pittsburgh native who received early acclaim for his “Homewood Trilogy” and is now on the faculty of Brown University, and a keynote address from Mary Schmidt-Campbell, who was recently named vice chairman of President Barack Obama’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities and is dean of the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Dr. Schmidt-Campbell has written a book on Bearden that will be published in 2011, the centennial year of his birth.

Joyce Baucum, a photographer and administrative assistant at the August Wilson Center, attended the symposium, calling it “enlightening…and intellectually captivating.” Below she recaps her experience at the two-day symposium:

There was such a wealth of information at the symposium, that I left wanting more and more information to continue learning about the fascinating life and art of Romare Bearden.  The keynote speaker, Mary Schmidt-Campbell pointed me in the direction of Ruth Fine, Bearden biographer and curator of Bearden exhibitions.  All of the panelists were experts in their fields of study and brought wonderful information to share about Bearden, the artist and about “Romie,” the friend.  Grace Stanislaus, the Center’s former vp of education and public programs and Bearden Foundation’s former president and CEO, played a key role in the planning and implementation of the symposium.  The panelists consisted of scholars, visual artists, art historians, art collectors, gallery owners, curators, a choreographer, August Wilson scholars, history professors, a Teenie Harris / Courier archives consultant, and a world-renowned author!  So much intelligence and information was present, that it filled the room and made us want to learn even more.

Here’s hoping we continue the stream of intellectual conversations and exhibitions encompassing the Visual Arts here at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

Up Next: International Festival of Children’s Films

Posted in Events, General on March 1st, 2010 by Shaunda – Be the first to comment

If you have children, or know where you can get some I encourage you to secure your tickets–better yet–secure your day passes for the August Wilson Center’s International Festival of Children’s Films held March 6, 13 and 14.

Now I know you will take a look below and watch our fun festival “infomercial” of sorts, but let me make it very plain: By purchasing a $15 single day pass, your child will be entertained for basically an entire day. The films selected in this festival are films from around the world and will be sure to captivate your special little ones.

Some of the films in the festival include: Gettin’ Grown, Speedy Delivery, Gentle Planet, The Red Jacket and also  Maharal which is co-sponsored by the Pittsburgh Jewish Israeli Film Festival.

Space is limited, so purchase your tickets today! This is perfect for your nieces, nephews, godchildren, children in your local church or other youth groups in the community. Come out and explore what your August Wilson Center has to offer your family.

Visit AugustWilsonCenter.org to:

  • DOWNLOAD or browse through a FULL Festival guide.
  • WATCH snippets of several movies in the Festival

Visit pgharts.org to buy tickets today!

The International Festival of Children’s Films is made possible through the generous support of the Alcoa Foundation, Allegheny Regional Asset District, the Buhl Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, McAuley Ministries, the Richard King Mellon Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on theArts, The Pittsburgh Foundation and Margaret Ritchie R. Scaife.

Keeping Phyllis Hyman’s Legacy Alive

Posted in General, Review on February 27th, 2010 by Shaunda – Be the first to comment
August Wilson Center fans, welcome another one of our new guest bloggers, Kieashia Edwell. An avid music and arts aficionado, Kieashia was very enthusiastic about reviewing the Center’s “Tribute to Phyllis Hyman,” held February 19-20 for 2 sold-out performances. The following is her very candid perspective of the evening. Please feel free to comment on how you viewed the evening. And check out the video clips of a couple of the awesome and LIVELY performances.

Walking into the August Wilson Center for the Tribute to Phyllis Hyman, I could not help but to notice that the place was alive! Everyone was dressed to the nines, the place was filled with so much energy-I knew then, this was going to be a show to remember. After scooting past a few people who had clearly had more than their fair share of wine and spirits, I made my way to the theatre, found my seat and got comfortable. An old soul myself, I’m familiar with such artists as Gladys Knight and the Pips, The Stylistics and The Temptations. So, I was ready to relax, hear the pianist (and musical director) Alton Merrell play that big black instrument, and groove to the rich sounds of the legendary Phyllis Hyman.

The house lights dimmed and there was a short intro by the emcee, KDKA’s Lynne Hayes-Freeland, who used words like amazing and

August Wilson Center's "Tribute to Phyllis Hyman"

August Wilson Center's "Tribute to Phyllis Hyman"

wonderful to describe what the packed house was about to see. The band took their place as the stage lit up in front of me. In walked Laila Bey, Tamara Faulkner, Teresa Hawthorne and Deborah Moncrief singing an inspiring rendition of Phyllis’ “Just 25 Miles To Anywhere.” They were dressed with the same flare, style and pizzazz of Ms. Hyman herself. At the end of the song, a photo of the late songstress was projected on a large screen to spark our memory, and the ladies exited. The musicians transitioned into perhaps the most familiar of Phyllis Hyman’s jams. “You Know How To Love Me” was performed by Laila Bey, who gave a good vocal performance, but left a little to be desired. Although she possessed a powerful vocal range and looked beautiful, she lacked stage presence–something Phyllis was known for possessing.  After quickly exiting the stage, Ms. Bey made way for Deborah Moncrief. The band then engaged the crowd with the slow and steady “No One Can Love You More.” Mrs. Moncrief belted out a spectacular version of the timeless ballad. With that soulful and strong performance, she made us all remember when we cried along with Phyllis as she pleaded with her love.

We were then taken back to 1978 by Tamara Faulkner and her lively version of “The Answer Is You.” The crowd ooh’d and aah’d as she swept herself across the stage. Her energy was contagious, and her vocal performance was brilliant. She connected well with the audience and even kicked off her shoes to replicate the famous performances Ms. Hyman was known to give. Tamara’s scatting and strong personality kept us enthralled in her presentation. It was then Teresa Hawthorne’s turn to show us her chops. Her version of “Betcha By Golly Wow” was somewhat nasal and frequently pitchy, but still entertaining. It was hard not to tap your foot to the well-known hit. More performances followed including a spectacular cover of “Living Inside Your Love,” “Be Careful” and “When You Get Right Down To It.” We were then treated to yet another moving presentation by Deborah Moncrief with “Living All Alone.” A cover of “Gonna Make Changes” by Tamara Faulkner closed out the first half of the show.

Upon returning from our little intermission, Deborah Moncrief took us back with a true Phyllis Hyman classic - “Old Friend.” It was another breathtaking performance by Mrs. Moncrief and subsequently earned her a well-deserved standing ovation. We then enjoyed Ms. Hawthorne’s third performance of the evening. Her rendition of “As You Are” wowed the audience and had few mistakes in pitch and tone. Laila Bey and Tamara Faulkner returned with their moving presentation of “Somewhere In My Lifetime,” and “Don’t Wanna Change The World” marking the later years of Ms. Hyman’s career. Perhaps the most memorable performance of the evening, Sonya Carter, of the three background singers, sang “I Refuse to Be Lonely” with such passion and strength that she earned a lasting standing ovation from the crowd. She did a near perfect job of capturing the raw emotion and meaning behind the song. I, for one, was amazed, and wondered how they could not use her as the lead for more of the concert’s pieces. The show concluded with the cast joining together for “In Search of My Heart.”

The August Wilson Center chose the perfect production to share with its members. The striking performances featured in this show had me tapping and humming all the way home. These remarkable singers truly captured the bold and sensuous qualities of Phyllis Hyman’s music. Overall, the night was filled with joy, laughter, and sheer wonder at the talent of the fabulous live band. I was enchanted by the booming bass and distinctive moan of the trombone. I think that Phyllis would have been pleased with the passion behind these voices, and the commitment to keeping her legacy alive.

–Kieashia Edwell

If you would like to be a volunteer guest blogger for the August Wilson Center and blog about your experience at the Center’s programs and events, contact the Center’s Manager of Communications & e-Marketing, Treshea N. Wade at 412.338.8734 or twade@AugustWilsonCenter.org

The Legendary, the Late Phyllis Hyman - August Wilson Center’s Tribute

Posted in Events, General, Review on February 18th, 2010 by Shaunda – Be the first to comment


Sensuous and sassy. Bold and brilliant. Earthy and ethereal.Phyllis Hyman

Phyllis Hyman was all these things and more.

As a singer she was nearly unmatched in her ability to convey the depths of the pain and heartache of lost love. Phyllis, Philly-born and Pittsburgh-raised, could tackle pop and jazz standards as well as up-tempo R&B with equal aplomb. Yet it was the vulnerability of her ballads that most endeared her to fans, who took the journey with her to those lonely, dark places of which she sang.

The August Wilson Center is paying tribute to the late singer Friday, February 19 and Saturday, February 20 by producing a full concert of Phyllis Hyman tunes: 16 songs, 7 voices selected from an open audition and a 7-piece band led by the awesome Alton Merrell. Friday’s show sold out in just a couple of weeks–here’s a tip:

Get your tickets now for Saturday’s show!

Shay Wafer, the Center’s Vice President of Programs, and director for this event, took a few moments to talk with KQV’s Elaine Effort about the Tribute to Phyllis Hyman.

The interview is in three parts. Take a look!

Also–Don’t miss out on this free educational event!

African American Mental Health Forum
Saturday, February 20, 2 to 4 pm
August Wilson Center Education Center, Free

African Americans are at high risk for mental illness, but less likely to receive mental health services, diagnosis and treatment, says a 2002 Surgeon General’s report. This panel discussion explores the history of mental health issues in the African American community and provides steps you can take to assist others in their well-being. Panelists include: Dr. Charma Dudley, Clinical Director - Family Resources, Dr. Daniel Hall, Dr. Nelson Harris, Jeannie Hyman (sister of Phyllis Hyman) and Marguerita Matthew. For information, call 412.258.2700.

Explore the Unknown in 2010…You Just Might Like It!

Posted in Events, General on January 5th, 2010 by Shaunda – 1 Comment

Happy New Year!

Many of you are returning back to work after a week or two of family fun, festive feasting or just plain old much-needed solitude.

Whatever the case may be, it’s 2010–a new year, for a better version of you. Well, statistics show that many people tend to fade off of their new year’s resolutions within the first 3 months of the new year, never reaching their goals. I know someone who has denounced the phrase “New Year’s Resolution” and instead has vowed to make “lifestyle adjustments.” How refreshing.

What is your lifestyle adjustment? Okay–beyond the typical “exercise more” and “stop smoking/cursing/etc.”–what is your goal?

I overheard an interesting conversation between two middle-aged women. One woman pointed at an advertisement for an event going on in the Pittsburgh Cultural District, and encouraged her friend to come along. The friend, scrunched her face and said “I’ll pass, thanks,” citing the fact that she had never heard of the performer and never had been to that type of event before. Clearly it wasn’t her style. Out of her comfort zone. Foreign.

LINES Ballet @ August Wilson Center Jan. 15-16

LINES Ballet @ August Wilson Center Jan. 15-16

As the conversation progressed, the first woman expressed how she had made a promise to her family that in the New Year they would go to more cultural events in the city. To myself, I thought, what a great “lifestyle adjustment.” After some coaxing, the second woman agreed to go.

As we begin the second half of our Inaugural Season in the brand new August Wilson Center, I encourage you all to explore the unknown. In examining the Center’s impressive and aggressive schedule of events, I realize there may be more unfamiliar than familiar names on the lineup. Also, for many performers, Pittsburgh may be unfamiliar to them. Admittedly, a few performers are indeed alien to me, a self-proclaimed cultural enthusiast.  However, I consider it a good thing, for I find it challenges me to traverse deeper into the plush rainforest we call arts and culture.

Daniel Bernard Roumain @ the August Wilson Center Feb. 6

Daniel Bernard Roumain @ the August Wilson Center Feb. 6

In about two weeks, Alonzo King’s LINES Ballet will grace the August Wilson Center stage. They are performing a piece, Signs and Wonders, celebrated by The New York Times as a work that “remains unpredictable and inventive, right up to its dazzling, fast-moving finale.” The piece, which was originally commissioned by Dance Theatre of Harlem, has toured around the world to critical acclaim and will be at the August Wilson Center January 15-16.

Then during Black History Month, the Center is presenting Daniel Bernard Roumain–a classically trained composer, performer, violinist, and band-leader noted for blending funk, rock, hip-hop and classical music into an energetic and experiential sonic form. My musical thirst (especially) is very comprehensive, and since DBR was foreign to my ipod, I decided on a whim to purchase his latest project, etudes4violin&electronix. I am actually listening to it now for the first time, and have yet to be disappointed and find myself looking forward to his February 6th performance at the Center.

Here are a few more events the Center is presenting in 2010:

Tribute to Phyllis Hyman - Feb. 19

Feb. 19

  • Habib Koite - An internationally-known Malian musician who sings and plays the guitar, integrating jazz, blues, flamenco, samba and diverse sounds from his native land.  Koite was donned “Mali’s biggest pop star” by Rolling Stone. In the same article, country/blues-star Bonnie Raitt compared Koite to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughn. He will be at the Center March 13.

    May 21

    May 21

  • Rennie Harris Puremovement - If you can appreciate dance and pure athleticism seeing this performance will definitely be worth your time. Known as the international hip-hop ambassadors, this Philly-based dance company strives to provide audiences with a sincere view of the essence and spirit of hip-hop, rather than the commercially exploited stereotypes most often presented by the media. Rennie Harris Puremovement will be at the Center May 21.

To see a complete list of all of the August Wilson Center’s upcoming events, click here!

Here’s to exploring the unknown in 2010–HAPPY NEW YEAR!

CHEERS!

Contract Resistance: Hip-Hop, Soul & More

Posted in Events, General on October 20th, 2009 by Shaunda – Be the first to comment

hiphopeblast2

It’s all going down this Friday — don’t miss out on how the August Wilson Center does hip-hop, soul and more!
The beats are tight and the grooves smooth as the August Wilson Center, the Shadow Lounge and Urban Kontent Brand present an evening of hip-hop and soul collective performances featuring hip-hop artists Formula412, J-San & The Analogue Sons, Chen-Lo, D.C.’s own W. Ellington Felton, Common Wealth Family, Kellee Maize, DJ Selecta will provide the house music and Yah Lioness & Gene Stovall will host the evening.

Free After Party* @ Shadow Lounge featuring J-San & the Analogue Sons and Man in the Street…Plus DJ Vex spinning in AVA til 2 am! Show your ticket stub at the door.

TICKETS: $15 —–> PURCHASE NOW

BUT THAT’S NOT ALL….

State of Hip-Hop Forum

Friday, October 23, 6 pm
Free

Explore the economic, social, political and musical influences of hip-hop, both in the United States and around the world, at this special “town hall” discussion featuring a panel of hip-hop artists, including Paradise Gray, Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis (aka Dr. Goddess), DJ Boogie, DJ Omar-Abdul and Jasiri X. Appropriate for high school students and adults.

DJing Workshop

Saturday, October 24, Noon to 2 pm
$10/person

Explore the world of DJing in this hands-on course, appropriate for teens and adults. Learn the technical and musical skills necessary to become a DJ, including mixing and blending, scratching and beatmaking. Herman Pearl, aka DJ Soy Sos will be instructing. For details, call 412.338.8737 or e-mail swilliamsdevereux@AugustWilsonCenter.org.

One-on-One with Lalah Hathaway

Posted in Events, General on September 10th, 2009 by Shaunda – 3 Comments

Lalah Hathaway

Lalah Hathaway


LISTEN NOW: One-on-One w/Lalah Hathaway

Lalah Hathaway is in the building.

Well, not literally, but she is in Pittsburgh and, from what I hear, is very excited about being the first performer in the August Wilson Center’s Inaugural Season. The energy level has been through the roof here in the Center’s offices…chatter is high on our Twitter, Facebook and MySpace pages–everyone is amp’d about Lalah.

Not that I needed a reason to, but Lalah Hathaway has been on heavy rotation on my iTunes. What is it about Lalah that makes people from various walks of life flock to her like bees to honey? When I told all of my musician and non-musician friends alike that the August Wilson Center was bringing Lalah into Pittsburgh, all of them had the same reaction–and it usually included screaming.

I asked one of my friends in particular, why she had such an appreciation for Lalah. Our conversation:

Me: Hey, I know you bought your ticket for Lalah, why do you like her?

Friend: WHY? WHY? I mean, there are so many answers to that. I mean, it’s not rocket science–she can SING!

Me: That’s it? That’s why you paid $45 to sit two inches from the stage to hear Lalah sing?

Friend: Lalah is set apart from the masses. Her music and sound are soulful, and everybody doesn’t have that. Most people sing just because they have talent. Lalah’s voice comes from a place of authentic soul.

My friend is correct. Lalah’s refreshing tone and vocal acrobatics are simply amazing, impeccably crisp and will leave you jaw-dropped for days. What’s bananas is that Lalah doesn’t even have to do a lot vocally to leave you memorized. I remember when her latest project Self Portrait first came out how my friends and I would listen to it intently, always turning up the volume at the end of every song because every Lalah fan knows that she tends to give us little vocal treats at the end of her songs. Man we wore that CD out. lol. Instrumentation — off the charts. Background singers (in her concerts) — will just have you shaking your head (do a Lalah search on YouTube to see what I mean). Her lyrics reach deep into your heart and connect with every issue in your life.

Lalah is authentic soul. Funny…..remind you of anybody else with the same last name?

PURCHASE TICKETS NOW

Keepin’ it real,

Treshea

P.S. If you all see a woman standing and waving at the concert like that old lady from It’s Showtime at the Apollo—that’s just my friend–she means no harm, she just loves Lalah. Can you blame her?

It’s Official…the August Wilson Center blogs!

Posted in General on September 6th, 2009 by Shaunda – 1 Comment

It’s almost time.

In less than two weeks, the August Wilson Center’s permanent home will officially open to the public. Up until now, the Center’s six seasons of programming has been spread across the Pittsburgh Cultural District’s fine spaces like french fries on a Primanti Brother’s sandwich–but no more.

The August Wilson Center for African American Culture will finally live, operate and exist in its own home at 980 Liberty Avenue, Downtown Pittsburgh. Guess what—you are all invited to see what we are all about!

Now, you can experience the Center in a multitude of ways: You can always physically visit the Center (of course we encourage that), but you can also visit us via our Web site, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter pages.

However….if that’s not enough….(insert drum roll)….the August Wilson Center blogs! This is awesomeness on so many different levels because in THIS realm you will learn about the Center from the voices of various people working behind the scenes to the voices of people performing in the Center’s theater to those installing exhibits in the Center’s gallery spaces and everything in between.

While I will be the primary blogger, a couple of my other friends, who happen to be my colleagues, have agreed to get down and bloggy with me by submitting regular posts. This is magically delicious because we all share the same main goal — Amplifying the Voices of African Americans — but see the world through different spectacles, have varied experiences resulting in contrasting personalities and writing styles. For example, in this realm I tend to be more informal/some would say comedic, and guilty of making up a word or two just because I can (I promised my boss no misspelled words though lol). Sarah on the other hand, a brilliant mind, is very analytical and studious and may use a word or two that will have you searching Dictionary.com every now and then. Maybe that’s why she is the Manager of Education at the Center. The point is: RELAX and enjoy–it’s all done in a great effort to help you stay connected to the Center.

We look forward to being able to rap with you openly in this space. Feel free to hang your coat up and kick off your shoes. Let’s talk intimately about the art, history and culture of people of African descent throughout the world and in Western Pennsylvania and the issues that affect us all.

Real talk. Authentic voices.

So get ready—ain’t no stoppin’ us now!

Keepin’ it real,

Treshea

Treshea Wade - AWC Blogger

Treshea Wade - AWC Blogger