Thank you for your readership, more to come!

As most of you probably already know, I have been keeping this blog as part of a college journalism class. But it’s that time of year and the semester is coming to a close. I’ll be graduating with a degree in Public Relations and Journalism and I couldn’t be more excited for my next adventure!

Writing for this blog has brought me out of my comfort zone in so many different ways. I’ve learned how to navigate an online writing platform like WordPress and how to market my content online to generate readership. I’ve gained new skills in audio editing, video editing, interviewing and I’ve also enjoyed the freedom to set my own schedule and choose the subjects I get to write about!

It has been fun watching this blog grow each week with new posts and new subjects. I’ve enjoyed it so much that I would like to continue writing for Philly Curated in the future as a hobby and side project. I plan to take a short break after graduating but after that, I will continue writing about museums and historical sites in Philadelphia. I am also considering the idea of branching out into the social and entertainment scenes in Philadelphia. I hope you come along for the ride!

Here are some of the posts I’ve enjoyed writing the most this semester:

Hannibal Lokumbe: how history inspires musical influence

The Philadelphia Museum of Art Sculpture Garden and Staff Favorites

Meet GroJLart: blogging mastermind behind ‘Philaphilia,’ a trove of Philadelphia’s architecture

Please Touch Museum’s Director of Exhibits, Ray Radigan, tells us what he finds most inspiring about his job

Museum Staff and Guests tell us about the Museum of the American Revolution

As always, thanks for visiting!




Museum Staff and Guests tell us about the Museum Of The American Revolution

Where: The Museum of the American Revolution, 101 S. 3rd Street, Philadelphia, PA

How much: $19 per ticket / $17 for students with ID!

When: The museum is open everyday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Additional information: Tickets are timed! They are available in 20 minute intervals and are good for two days. Make sure to purchase tickets online because they are limited!

The Museum of the American Revolution hosts a range of historical artifacts and exhibits like George Washington’s original war tent and sash. It also has made revolutionary strides in museum exhibition with its interactive touch screens and tableau dioramas all woven into the same beautiful narrative. But the museum is not only exciting because of its extensive collection, it is also the people who work there and of course, its visitors that bring the excitement as well.

Check out the video below to hear more:

Opening Ceremonies of the Museum Of the American Revolution: Philly’s Newest Museum

On Wednesday, April 19, Philadelphia unveiled a brand new museum: The Museum of the American Revolution (MOAR). Over 100 years in the making, the debut of this highly anticipated museum is a revolution in itself.

All photos and video by Amy Dennis

IMG_2674The Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia

The opening ceremonies in Center City, Philadelphia featured appearances from Former Vice President Joe Biden, Historian and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author David McCullough and musical guest Sydney James Harcourt from the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton,” among other esteemed guests.

Hallowed Ground

The Opening Ceremonies began at 8 a.m. with an interfaith service and ceremonial wreath-laying in Philadelphia’s Washington Square.

Not only is Washington Square a prime location because it sits just blocks away from the museum, the park is also deeply rooted in American history.

Washington Square is home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument built in honor of soldiers who died during the Revolutionary War. According to Cynthia McCleod, Superintendent of Philadelphia’s Independence National Historic Park, the monument is “One of the most sacred sites in the city [of Philadelphia].”

But, it was not just American soldier’s blood that was shed. According to Michael Quinn, President and CEO of the Museum of the American Revolution, during the 18th century, the land that is now Washington Square served as a burial ground for both Native Americans and African Americans in Philadelphia.

The ceremony paid homage to those lives lost through prayer, spoken word and song. In closing, General John P. Jumper, chairman of the Museum of the American Revolution and CPT Andrew J. Talone, Commander of the Commander in Chief’s Guard (The Old Guard) placed a ceremonial wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier to conclude the ceremony in Washington Square.

St. Thomas African American gospel choir performance

The Building Where It Happened

At 9 a.m., the ceremonies continued to Independence Hall. Each ceremony bringing the crowd closer to the museum itself.

Independence Hall is famous for being the building “where it happened,” where the Declaration of Independence was adopted, where the constitution was debated, drafted and signed and America was born.

But like the city of Philadelphia itself, Independence Hall has seen its share of violence, defeat and uncertainty. When British troops captured Philadelphia during the Revolutionary War, they took over Independence Hall, making it a prison for American soldiers. The Museum of the American Revolution succeeds at bringing these and other stories to life, through its collection of artifacts and interactive exhibits.

Master of Ceremonies Vai Sikahema, from NBC 10 introduced former and current governors from eight of the Thirteen Original Colonies, who each gave a toast to their respective states: Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Rhode Island. Each toast ended with a shout of “Huzzah!” which sounds kind of silly and ridiculous in today’s time but was actually a very common cheer during the Revolutionary War.

Governors present included Former Pennsylvania Governor Edward G. Rendell, Former Delaware Governor Michael Castle and Former New Jersey Governor James Florio, among others.

After the speeches, students from St. Mary’s Interparochial School in Philadelphia participated in creating a “living flag” as a camera drone flew overhead to capture an aerial photo of the flag.

A New Gem

At 10:30 a.m., the students of St. Mary’s Interparochial School led a final procession to the Museum of the American Revolution on Philadelphia’s 3rd Street. There, a ceremonial ribbon cutting would take place and the museum would welcome its very first guests.

The final ceremony began with a singing of The Star Spangled Banner led by Jamez McCorkle of the Curtis Institute of Music. Following McCorkle’s performance, Mayor of Philadelphia Jim Kenney spoke, calling the museum “an exciting new addition to the city.”

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf, Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough, and Oneida Nation Representative Ray Halbritter followed Kenney in giving opening remarks about the museum.

Afterward, Sydney James Harcourt of Hamilton accompanied by the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts performed “History Has Its Eyes on You” and “The Room Where It Happens” from Hamilton. Additional speakers NPR Political Commentator Cokie Roberts, Harvard University Professor Dr. Vincent Brown and Museum Chairman General John P. Jumper, along with Former Vice President Joe Biden all joined in celebrating the Museum of the American Revolution with opening remarks.

A final musical performance by the Philadelphia Boys Choir led to the official dedication and ceremonial ribbon cutting at the Museum of the American Revolution.

All original photos and video taken by Amy Dennis

Update: Meter Up App No Longer in Service!


Photo from Philadelphia Parking Authority

Way back in February, I wrote a post recommending convenient parking options in Philadelphia. Well, as of April 11, one of the apps I mentioned called “Meter Up” is no longer in service. According to 6abc Action News, the company sponsoring the app is experiencing financial issues which led to the shut-down.

Now, instead of being able to pay Philadelphia’s parking meters from anywhere using your phone, drivers will need to pay the kiosk using cash, coins or credit cards instead.

There is hope though, and if a more financially prosperous company agrees to sponsor the app, it should be up and running again soon. Stay tuned for updates!

A U.S. National Historic Landmark: Discover where Edgar Allen Poe lived and penned his most prolific writing period

IMG_2427Preserved photo of Edgar Allen Poe on display in the Edgar Allen Poe House in Philadelphia Photo by Amy Dennis

If you were to meet Edgar Allen Poe on the streets of Philadelphia, what would you say to him? He probably would try to outsmart you, with an arrogant comment or witty comeback as he was known for. Unfortunately, since his mysterious death in October of 1849, no one has been able to speak a word to Edgar Allen Poe. But there is still hope for Poe fans around the globe. . .

IMG_2409Sign designating The Edgar Allen Poe House as a National Historic Landmark / Photo by Amy Dennis

Nestled peacefully on the corner of Spring Garden and 7th Streets in Center City, Philadelphia, The Edgar Allen Poe House sits. Here, you can walk the original wood floors where he walked, explore the rooms where he wrote and ponder the grief he felt as his beloved wife, Virginia, struggled to fight tuberculosis.

 Sign marking the entrance to the Edgar Allen Poe House where Poe lived briefly during the 1840’s with his wife and mother-in-law / Photo by Amy Dennis

A registered National Historic Landmark, the Edgar Allen Poe house pays homage to the six years Poe spent living and working as an author in Philadelphia. Although Poe lived in several different houses throughout those six years, this is the only one that remains standing today. During his time in Philadelphia, Poe socialized with a circle of writer friends whom he and Virginia often entertained in their Philadelphia home. Among these friends were famous writers Thomas Mayne Reid and Charles Dickens. In fact, it is said that Dickens’ pet Raven actually inspired the famous poem by Poe.

Though his original home is Richmond, Virginia, Poe himself has said that he spent some of the happiest and most successful years of his life in Philadelphia. During his time in Philadelphia, Poe worked as a literary critic and editor for Graham Magazine, where he increased the magazine’s circulation significantly. He also published some of his most famous works like “The Black Cat,” “The Gold Bug” and “The Telltale Heart” (among others) during his time here. In all, the author published 31 stories while living and working in Philadelphia.

Today, people journey from all over the world to visit the Edgar Allen Poe house.

“We get visitors from all over the world because Poe fans are all over the world,” said Eric Knight, 61, a Park Ranger with Philadelphia’s Independence National Historical Park.

Though you won’t get a chance to meet Poe himself, Philadelphia’s Park Rangers are knowledgable of the house and ready to guide you through. Each visit also includes an introductory film and optional self-guided tour.

Where: 532 N 7th St, Philadelphia, PA 19123

How much: Free! Since the Edgar Allen Poe house in Philadelphia is a Registered National Historic Landmark, there is no charge to visit.

When: The Edgar Allen Poe House is open Friday – Sunday ONLY from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Fun Fact: The Edgar Allen Poe house in Philadelphia experiences an average of about 150 visitors per day.

Click on the photos below to learn more about the Edgar Allen Poe house in Philadelphia.

Have you visited the Edgar Allen Poe house? If so, comment below and share your favorite part of your visit or a favorite literary work by Poe.

Please Touch Museum’s Director of Exhibits, Ray Radigan, tells us what he finds most inspiring about his job



The Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park / Photo by Amy Dennis

Sometimes, kids just need a place where they can roam free and put their little hands on everything they possibly can. While most museums forbid this, the Please Touch Museum in Philadelphia welcomes it and even encourages it! According to the Please Touch Museum website, learning through play is a key component in children’s cognitive, social and physical development.


Ray Radigan, Director of Exhibits at the Please Touch Museum / Photo by Amy Dennis


Ray Radigan, 33, is the Director of Exhibits at the Please Touch Museum. Originally from the suburbs of New York, his interest in Illustration and Exhibit Design has brought him as far west as San Francisco and back east to Philadelphia. Listen as Ray shares how the Please Touch Museum encourages learning through play and also what inspires him most about his job.

Museum Information

Where: Memorial Hall Fairmount Park
4231 Avenue of the Republic
(formerly North Concourse Drive)
Philadelphia, PA 19131

How much: Prices vary from $15-$18 depending on how long you stay

When: The Please Touch Museum is open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Featured Exhibit: The Please Touch Museum is currently featuring “The Fantastic World of Dan Yaccarino.” This exhibit runs from March 11- May 14 and exposes children to visual art and illustration in a kid-friendly way. Dan Yaccarino is a children’s author and illustrator and also the the designer behind Nick Jr.’s hit series The Backyardigans!

Meet GroJLart: blogging mastermind behind ‘Philaphilia,’ a trove of Philadelphia’s architecture

What started out as a fun way to share Philadelphia’s buildings and the stories behind them has now evolved into a successful writing and touring gig with Hidden City Philadelphia and even part-time work in the field of Commercial Real Estate.

Read on to find out how blogging has led GroJLart to other incredible opportunities and just an exciting life in general. Note: This interview was conducted over email and I can not reveal GroJLart’s actual name because he is anonymous.

Screen Shot 2017-03-27 at 11.44.37 PMPhilaphilia’s logo taken from the Philaphilia website / Original artwork by GroJLart

GroJLart is 36 years old and from Central Jersey — yes, he believes that is a real place. According to GroJLart, he wound up in Philly for grad school in 2003 and never left. Out of an innate curiosity to learn everything he could about the environment around him, he began doing independent research about the various buildings, parking lots and public art in Philadelphia.

“After researching all this stuff I had no one to tell about it,” GroJLart said, “and my wife got tired of me telling her about all the buildings and other pieces of built environment we would walk by in Center City.”

At the same time, the Real Estate bust of 2009 sparked a lack of online content about cities, land and buildings. GroJLart noticed this and felt an inner spark to re-ignite that type of blogging. Thus, Philaphilia was born.

Philaphilia became an official blog in April 2011. Like most great blogs, it started out with humble beginnings. According to GroJLart, most of his initial blog posts were short and poorly-researched.

“I cursed and talked [casually] in them because I felt like I needed to express myself,” said GroJLart, “I didn’t think anyone was going to read it anyway.”

Turns out, people were definitely reading it! College professors, historians and journalists had their eyes on Philaphilia, to name a few. Even professional Real Estate developers were interested in what GroJLart had to say:

“One time, a reader invited me to have a drink with him because I wrote about his building,” GroJLart said, “This started a chain of events that lead me to my Commercial Real Estate consulting gig – I went from writing about buildings and parking lots to actually having the ability to affect them in the real world.”

unnamedDrawing depicting the Comcast Center as a monster that William Penn has to confront from atop City Hall / Original artwork by GroJLart

GroJLart was first contacted about his blog just a month after starting it. Since then, he has been invited to attend events and has been interviewed by TV, radio, newspapers and blogs. He has even been asked to speak at functions and contribute written material to various architectural museum exhibits.

According to GroJLart, blogging empowers common citizens to break through barriers that have long existed in Philadelphia’s “elite” journalism bubble.

“Up until only a few years ago, the press seemed like an elite club that was in touch with everything going on, but was only releasing information to us in small, strategically timed segments,” said GroJLart.

GroJLart believes blogging and journalism have essentially merged, especially in Philadelphia. He remains largely optimistic about journalism in the future because of this.

“You can see how Inga Saffron, architecture critic for the Inquirer, first gained local attention by blogging about architecture, then got picked up by the Philadelphia Inquirer and even got a Pulitzer Prize in 2014,” said GroJLart.

Today, GroJLart spends most of his blogging time writing for Hidden City Philadelphia. Although he does not maintain the-blog-that-started-it-all as closely as he did between 2011 and 2014, he still shares his Hidden City articles on Philaphilia. When he’s not writing or consulting, you can find GroJLart giving tours of Philadelphia for Hidden City, which he enjoys. As the name suggests, GroJLart conducts detailed tours of Philadelphia’s hidden streets and architectural gems. His next tour, “Forgotten Chestnut Street” is happening May 6. Tours fill up quickly so don’t hesitate to sign up– only $14 for students!

GroJLart encourages bloggers who are just starting out to keep it up, “even when you think no one is reading it.” He also stressed the importance of keeping your information private when publishing content on the internet.

“I see story after story about people’s lives getting ruined over something they typed on the internet under their own name and face,” said GroJLart, adding “I write under a pseudonym because I’m a relatively private person. More people know GroJLart than my real self and I’m fine with that.”

The origin of “GroJLart” comes from a comic he drew at the age of 13. How did he come up with the name Philaphilia? It’s a merging of the suffix -philia (unusual fondness) with the first five letters of Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Museum of Art Sculpture Garden and Staff Favorites

Each month, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has something new to offer. Whether it’s a special exhibition or a featured artist, you can almost always leave the museum with a different experience than before.

You can also snag some sweet discounts at the Philadelphia Museum of Art if you know when to go. Every first Sunday of the month and every Wednesday after 5 p.m. is “pay-what-you-wish.” The museum also offers student discounts with a valid university id and even free admission to art students from select universities and colleges.

Last weekend I visited the Philadelphia Museum of Art to document my own personal experience and even get some feedback from museum staff.

As I mentioned in my last post, the museum itself is a work of art. In addition to the spectacular architecture of the museum building, you can also enjoy views of Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River and appreciate the beautiful public art in the museum’s Sculpture Garden.

In addition to the rich outdoor sculpture, the art museum is home to hundreds of indoor galleries arranged by culture and time period.  To help with my photo excursion, I asked Ben Spitler from Member Services to narrow it down to five of his personal favorites. Meet Ben and his top 5 picks below!

It was fascinating to view the Philadelphia Museum of Art through another’s perspective. On your next museum visit, try asking an expert what some of their favorite exhibits are. You never know what you might find out!

I’d love to hear about some of your favorite works of art too. Feel free to leave a comment and share!

Philadelphia Museums: The Art Behind the Architecture

Museums are home to some of the rarest and most interesting artifacts in the world. They tell stories, draw from emotion and teach us about other cultures. Most of the time, you won’t find them anywhere else. But arguably just as interesting, are the museums themselves. The architecture of the buildings that house such rarities is sometimes just as awe-inspiring as the treasures within. Here are 3 Philadelphia Museums whose outward beauty is a marvel all its own:

Photo by ArchDaily

The Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation is primarily a horticultural museum and an art exhibition. Its architecture is modern in external design, yet the internal spaces are almost identical to the rooms in Dr. Albert C. Barnes’ Merion estate, where the pieces were originally housed.

The museum has many windows, which allow for visitors to view the artwork in natural lighting. New York Architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsie designed the building with the Barnes’ guiding principles in mind – art, nature, education, and aesthetics. The result is several art galleries and classrooms, surrounded by a landscape of external gardens.

The Barnes sits serenely on the North side of The Ben Franklin Parkway in Center City Philadelphia. It is part of Philadelphia’s 9,200-acre Fairmount Park system.

Photo by Clark Capital Management group

The Art Museum

The Philadelphia Museum of Art opened in 1928.  A tribute to Greek Revival architecture, it is the third largest art museum in the country second to the Met in New York City and the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C.

It is perhaps even more recognizable, however, for the proverbial “Rocky” running scene. So much so, that many tourists are content to simply run up the steps and call it a day. However, there is more to appreciate about the art museum beyond the steps.

While several museums look like a throwback to Ancient Greece on the outside, few of them continue the tradition to the interior. The Art Museum is unique in that it does do this, making it an architectural masterpiece both inside and out. The Philadelphia Museum of Art is located at the end of The Ben Franklin Parkway, overlooking the Schuylkill River.

Fun fact: Philadelphia gets its name from the Greek words for “brotherly love.”

Photo by Getty Images

Fisher Fine Arts Library

Located on the University of Pennsylvania campus, The Fisher Fine Arts Library pays homage to ancient Hogwarts architecture! …Okay, that was a joke, but I know you were all thinking it! Although it’s not technically a museum, there’s no questioning this is an architectural landmark.

Frank Furness, a prestigious Philadelphia architect known for his traditional Gothic style, designed the library (originally called Furness Library) and construction began in 1888. The library is truly a work of art. It is cloaked in red brick, with stained glass windows and pointed arches– even gargoyles! To top it off, there are actual Shakespearean quotes inscribed on the windows.

In today’s modern and always-changing University City, the Fisher Fine Arts Library is a refreshing glimpse of the past.

Whether, it be modern, Greek or Gothic, Philadelphia museums are a sight to see both inside and out. They are always best viewed in person though. Feel free to comment and share some of your own favorite architectural masterpieces in Philly!

Hannibal Lokumbe: how history inspires musical influence








The African American Museum and American Jewish History Museum in Philadelphia / Photos by Amy Dennis

It’s Black History Month in Philadelphia – A time of reflection, celebration and … spring weather?!? Although the high temperatures this past weekend were shockingly warm for February, it certainly made for a beautiful afternoon of musical museum crawling.

On Saturday, February 25, Philadelphia’s African American Museum and American Jewish History Museum collaborated with the Philadelphia Orchestra for “And Their Voices Cry Freedom,” a musical performance and museum crawl event.

shawn-theodore-photographer-african-american-museum-of-philadelphiaWorks of Shawn Theodore, Photographer, on display at the African American Museum of Philadelphia / Photos by Amy Dennis

The lives of Fannie Lou Hamer, an African-American voting rights activist, and Anne Frank, a historical Jewish diarist and Holocaust victim, inspired the original string quartets “Fannie Lou Hamer” and “A Star for Anne.” Each piece was an original composition by Hannibal Lokumbe, Composer-in-Residence for the Philadelphia Orchestra’s Music Alive program.

hannibal700pxPhoto courtesy of Hannibal Lokumbe

Together, The Philadelphia Orchestra violinists William Polk and Kimberly Fisher, violist Kerri Ryan and cellist John Koen performed “Fannie Lou Hamer” and “A Star for Anne.” Both pieces made their world premiere just last Wednesday.

Each musician brought Lokumbe’s compositions to life with “technique, sound and feeling,”- the three necessary elements of musical performance, according to Lokumbe.

IMG_2008.jpg“And Their Voices Cry Freedom” string quartet performing at the American Jewish History Museum / Photo by Amy Dennis

Although, Lokumbe is a natural born composer, he talks about food similarly to the way he talks about music, and couldn’t help sharing with the audience that he had some marinated turkey legs waiting for him at home that evening. I had the privilege of speaking with Lokumbe after the performance, to find out where he draws his musical inspiration from and of course, what he marinates those turkey legs in. . .

img_2034Interviewing Hannibal Lokumbe at the American Jewish History Museum in Philadelphia / Photo by Zeth Marra

How did you get your inspiration for the original pieces “Fannie Lou Hamer” and “A Star For Anne?”

Growing up in Texas, during the ’60s, it was very volatile, and very excruciatingly painful for me in terms of the way society saw me and looked at me. My mother had a dear friend, his name was Dave and he owned a pawn shop called “Dave’s Pawn Shop.” One day he was reaching for a book to give me and I noticed numbers on his arm, and I asked him about those numbers and he explained to me, of course, that he was in a concentration camp and what all of that meant. At age 13, I was much too young to transfer that into music on this level (gestures toward stage where string quartet was playing). I was playing blues at  the time and I often thought about that when I played. . . I got my trumpet when I was 13. That story that Mr. Dave shared with me stayed with me. And when I got old enough and mature enough to write down what I was feeling and what I learned from that story, that’s when I wrote “A Star for Anne.”

Fannie Lou Hamer has always been one of my angels. One day, again when I was 14, I had this dream that this woman was coming towards me on my back porch and she had a wheelbarrow, and in the wheelbarrow, was all of the notes to that piece for her that I wrote (“Fannie Lou Hamer”). And I remembered them, I retained them until I later wrote them. I see everything visually, all my music is visual, every piece I’ve ever written. All these notes started coming out of this wheelbarrow and I didn’t know what to do with them until I was skillfully able to write them.

Can you tell me a story about when you knew that you wanted to be a composer?

I was in the eighth grade, and I saw this beautiful young lady, her name was Linda Love, and I was too shy to approach her. So I wrote her a song called “Five Foot Even” because she was five feet tall, and I sneaked it to her. It was my first composition. And I was still too embarrassed to say anything. After she got married I saw her and she said “Why didn’t you ever talk to me? I loved the song.” I said “Well I didn’t know, you never said anything to me.” She said “I love it, I sing it to my husband everyday!” So I realized that music was a very powerful force, and a very powerful tool. It can have an impact.

What do you most look forward to in your collaboration with the Philadelphia orchestra?

To go to places where kids would never ever think they could be a composer or would never ever have enough money to have a private lesson from a professional musician.

We’re going into Holmesburg Prison; the other night we played at the Broad Street Ministry, an organization that feeds 7,000 homeless people everyday. That’s where I wanna take the music, I wanna take the music to where it can really help people, where people have no sense of hope. Because that’s what music was for me. In a cotton field, you can’t see the end of a cotton field once you’re in it. It goes straight up to Heaven. So my aunts, my uncles, my mother, my grandparents, when they would get too hot to cool themselves off, literally, they began to sing. So I saw the effect of music, to the degree that it could cool people down, so I knew there was something powerful about it.

From the talks that you gave, it sounds as if you really struggled trying to make a professional career out of creating music due to social stigma and society’s prejudices. If this is true, how did you overcome it?

I had an extraordinary mother, and my grandparents owned land. My great-grandfather, an escaped slave. . . He bought 101 acres of land, some of the most beautiful land you could ever imagine, he never worked for anyone else again in his life. His daughter, my grandmother, bought another 92 acres of land on a bluff overlooking the Colorado River, which is where I grew up. So I was around people who were very powerful. Once I left the farm and went into town, I realized that society did not see me with the same love and respect as my family did. And so, from then on, I had conflict.

Do you still struggle with that conflict?

Oh of course, it never ends. My son is 18 years old, when he went to his prom I was up all night worrying if he would get killed or shot. I had to teach him how to survive a police encounter, my grandfather taught me, that’s why I was able to survive so many. An American shouldn’t have to teach their child how to survive a police stop.

Does it ever affect your writing?

Absolutely. It made me realize, first of all, what a privilege it is to be able to do that [music] because basically, I’m addressing my trauma. And it’s important as a human being to have a way to address your trauma, because if you don’t it will overcome you. It’ll make you violent and there’s a certain level of violence we can’t recover from. When a lot of my friends had football or basketball, there’s a limitation to that, but there’s no limitation to music. I am an eternal student of the craft. I’m always learning… I had to understand why people hate me because of the way I look. I had to deal with that or go insane. . . I was able to do that and I am able to do that, through music.

Is there a specific reason why you chose to compose for a string quartet?

Well, I love the sound. I love the Bach string quartet pieces and I love the sound of the strings. It’s wonderful. Isn’t it extraordinary the way they played? They became the music. There’s a difference between when you play the music and when you become the music. When you become what you’re playing then the people can be healed and be restored and that’s important.

What do you marinate your turkey legs in?

Spike, lemon powder, garlic powder. I cut up onions and garlic. First, I wash my wings really well, put vinegar on them, clean them. I put onions, garlic and celery in a pan with grapeseed oil, and sauté them real good. Then I get that mixture of spices that I told you about and I spice all the onions and garlic and celery in the pan. I warm it up, don’t cook it, just warm it a little. Then, I get a bag, put the turkey wings in the bag, from the pan, pour that over it and tie it, let it sit for about three days. Then, I put it in a pan, put foil over it and bake it at 350 for about an hour, and just let it cook internally, then I take the foil off and just crisp it up. That’s something I came up with.

Hannibal added laughing:

Yeah, this music thing, it’s alright. But in truth, I’m a cook.

img_2035Myself posing with Hannibal Lokumbe / Photo by Zeth Marra