Sunday, April 11, 2010

Remembering... Jane Bolin

As will happen when somebody is first at something, they soon find a lot of other firsts piled at their feet; at least that was the case with Jane Bolin...

PhotobucketAside from being fourth of her siblings - born on this day in 1908 - everything else Jane Bolin did was first: she was the first black woman to receive a law degree from Yale Law School (in 1931), the first to join the New York City Bar Association, and the first to join the city's law department. In 1939 she became the first black woman to serve as a judge in the United States when she was sworn in to the bench of the New York City Domestic Relations Court, having been appointed to the position at the age of just 31 by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia.

Her position was renewed three times, and when she was finally forced to retire at the age of 70 she'd served the families of New York for 40 years. In that time she strove to racially integrate city services. She also served on the boards of the NAACP and the National Urban League, and was awarded honorary degrees from Tuskeegee Institute, Williams College, Hampton University, Western College for Women and Morgan State University.

Bolin died in January 2007 at the age of 98, and was survived by her son, Yorke B. Mizelle.
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"Down In The Depths" by Lisa Stansfield

As performed by birthday gal Lisa Stansfield - in a video directed by Phillippe Gautier - Down in the Depths retains all of the power inherent in the performance of its originator, Ethel Merman, but without the latter's trademark bombast; as a result, you may or may not like this version, which Stansfield recorded for the 1990's AIDS relief album Red Hot + Blue, and which itself was named for Cole Porter's 1936 musical Red, Hot and Blue in which this song premiered.

Got that?
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"All Around The World" by Lisa Stansfield

Lisa Stansfield was a middling pop star and children's television presenter when All Around the World rocketed her to international stardom in 1989, and along with it her debut solo album Affection; with a smoky, smooth voice ideally suited to blue-eyed soul she offered a version of Cole Porter's Down in the Depths (on the tribute/charity album Red Hot + Blue) so torchy it was a threat to curtains. She also did her part to raise the roof on Wembley Stadium during her duet with George Michael on These Are the Days of Our Lives at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert.

Thanks to one of my rare relationships, I'll always have half a claim on this as being 'my song', since once upon a time it had been 'our song'; thanks as well to a thriving sense of nostalgia (which seems especially strong in these, my twilight years) the song is once again on heavy rotation in my iPod nearly 20 years after it became too painful to listen to when that adolescent love affair - as these things will - inevitably came to an end...
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Pop History Moment: Rock Song Proves Prophetic

London's Brixton neighbourhood erupted in violence on this day in 1981, in an eerie echo of the song The Guns of Brixton, by The Clash. Although the song was written and released in December 1979 for their third album, London Calling, it spoke of discontent then brewing between Metropolitan Police and the largely black population there.

The 1981 riot began when police arrested a black youth on Railton Road under the aegis of Operation Swamp 81, which was aimed at reducing street crime in the area; needless to say, given the outcome, it failed miserably. More than 300 police and 65 civilian injuries were reported following the fracas, while 100 vehicles - including 56 belonging to police - were burned, along with 30 buildings. Another 150 buildings were damaged, mainly by looters. Of the 5,000 people involved, the 1,000 police present made just 82 arrests.

A public inquiry into the riot was made by Lord Scarman; his findings were published in November 1981.
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POPnews - April 11th

[Architect Adolf Leonard van Gendt found his inspiration for the Concertgebouw in Leipzig's Neue Gewandhaus, which was later destroyed during World War II; located in the Amsterdam suburb of Amstelveen - and built on some 2,186 twelve to thirteen meter (forty to forty-three foot) long pilings - the Concertgebouw is considered to have some of the best acoustics in the world.]

491 CE - Flavius Anastasius became Byzantine Emperor, with the name of Anastasius I, following the death of Zeno.

1079 - Stanislaus, Bishop of Krakow, was executed by order of Poland's Duke Bolesław II. Maybe. Then again, it might have been on May 8th. Anyway, for his trouble he would be canonized by Pope Innocent IV in September 1253.

1241 - Mongolian warlord and founder of the Blue Horde, Batu Khan defeated Hungary's Béla IV at the Battle of Muhi.

1689 - William III and Mary II were crowned as joint sovereigns of Great Britain; in order to accommodate the unprecedented arrangement special coronation regalia was made, including two pieces now known as the Queen's Orb and Sceptre.

1814 - The Treaty of Fontainebleau ended the War of the Sixth Coalition against Napoleon Bonaparte, forcing him to abdicate unconditionally for the first time.

1828 - The Argentinian city of Bahia Blanca was established as a fortress by Ramón Estomba upon the orders of Juan Manuel de Rosas, governor of Buenos Aires.

1865 - President Abraham Lincoln made his last public speech, at the gates of the White House, during which he spoke in favour of black suffrage. In the modestly-sized crowd that day was a certain John Wilkes Booth, whose reaction to Lincoln's announcement was to reverberate for generations... 'That is the last speech he will ever give,' he said, to his companion Lewis Powell, as they walked away.

1888 - Amsterdam's Concertgebouw was inaugurated with a concert in which an orchestra of 120 musicians and a chorus of 500 singers participated, performing works of Wagner, Handel, Bach, and Beethoven.

1919 - The International Labour Organization was founded.

Photobucket1951 - The Stone of Scone - the stone upon which Scottish monarchs were (and British monarchs since Edward II in February 1308 have been) traditionally crowned - was found on the site of the altar of Arbroath Abbey; it had been taken from within St. Edward's Chair in Westminster Abbey in December 1950 by four Scottish nationalist students (Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon, Kay Matheson and Alan Stuart) who also damaged it in the pilfering, whereupon it was repaired by Glasgow stonemason Robert Gray and returned to London.

That's the chair there, with the Stone of Scone safely thereunder ensconced; of course, since November 1996 the Stone has actually resided at Edinburgh Castle.

* * *

1955 - Air India's Kashmir Princess crashed as a result of a bomb blast in a failed assassination attempt on Zhou Enlai by the Kuomintang; while it has always been explained that the Chinese Premier missed the flight due to an emercency appendectomy, recent intelligence indicates he may have been aware of the plot and sacrificed those on board for some reason known only to him. In all sixteen passengers and crew died in the crash - including seven journalists and Raymond Wong, the Hong Kong branch director of Xinhua News Agency - while three survived.

1961 - The war crimes trial of Adolf Eichmann began, in Jerusalem.

1965 - During the Palm Sunday tornado outbreak fifty-one tornadoes touched down in six Midwestern states, killing 256 people.

1968 - US President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968, prohibiting discrimination in the sale, rental, and financing of housing.

1970 - Apollo 13 was launched.

1979 - Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was deposed.

1987 - The London Agreement was secretly signed between Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Shimon Peres and Jordan's King Hussein.

2002 - An attempted coup d'état aimed at toppling Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez began.

2007 - A pair of bombings in the Algerian capital of Algiers killed 33 people and wounded 222 others.

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