Category Archives: Journalism

The Pop Stars That Swayed Nigeria’s Political Change

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By H’Rina DeTroy
Reporting contributed by Eromo Egbejule

Nigerian history was made this month when power changed hands peacefully with the defeat of incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan and the fifteen-year rule of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Here’s a roundup of how the glitterati of Nigeria were involved in this year’s elections and how some reacted to General Muhammadu Buhari‘s win and the landslide victory for All Progressives Congress.

Original here.


Editorial: An Open Letter To Buhari On The Eve Of Inauguration

By Gbénga Sèsan. (Edited by H’Rina DeTroy.)

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Information and communications guru, ‘Gbénga Sèsan was appointed Nigeria’s first Information Technology Youth Ambassador in 2001. Currently he is the Executive Director of Paradigm Initiative Nigeria and uses his expertise for socio-economic transformation in Nigeria and Africa.

Dear President-Elect,

In April, despite your imminent victory, I found my eyes full of tears. “We can’t afford to go through this again,” I said to myself, knowing well the man-hours and money I had invested in the electoral defeat of the incumbent president. My work as a social entrepreneur at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria is to connect disadvantaged youth with opportunities; this was one election that just had to go right – to bring in a government that would do the required work to put a dent in the youth unemployment rate of 56%.

Editorial: The African King of Pinterest

By William Chitangala. (Edited by H’Rina DeTroy.)

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When Okayafrica came across the stunning Pinterest boards of German-Zambian luxury brander William Chitangala we quickly dubbed him “The African King of Pinterest.” When he’s not applying his marketing know-how to the Frankfurt-based company Saint-Germain, he’s creating collaborative pinning boards inspired by Afrocentric design, fashion and culture. In the op-ed below, Chitangala shares his ideas on color as a muse for reimagining and redefining the Continent.

I started “pinning” circa three years ago. My main motivation was I wanted to be inspired. I wanted to understand this divine love affair we have with design and art, and I wanted to cultivate ideas around the conceptual business, or an enterprise that corresponds with the environment.

Flowers, Chocolates and Skateboards: Valentine’s Day, Park Delicatessen-Style

(In Prospect Heights Patch)

Park Delicatessen has a new commercial via Youtube, where local storeowner Mike Sclafani adds the finishing touches to a flower bouquet, hops on his skateboard and hand delivers it — all to a tune by Nina Simone.

For many, a skateboard shop is not the go-to place to buy Valentine’s Day gifts. But, the ad makes clear that Park Delicatessen is also a florist that delivers. The Park Deli Classic is a one-of-a-kind arrangement of seasonal blooms that can be customized and ordered online.

Or, choose the artisan Liddabit chocolates, a handmade card, or a special pair of earrings. Husband-and-wife owners Sclafani and Valentine Leung are giving the typical sweetheart gifts a unique, Brooklyn D.I.Y. spin.

“Just give us a call, or come by,” said Sclafani, 32, who grew up in Marine Park, Brooklyn and moved to Prospect Heights four years ago. “We’ve got you covered.”

Of course, if your loved one happens to be a skater, there’s also the limited edition Chocolate skateboard deck covered in hearts.

Located at 533 Park Place, at Classon Avenue, Park Delicatessen is possibly the only store where customers can buy a skateboard and a bouquet of roses with green shoots of lemon leaf and buplerum. Leung’s background in fine arts and fashion, and Sclafani’s in floral arrangements, window dressing – and, well, skateboarding — have made a canvas out of a space that once was an German-styled deli in the 1950s.

“It’s just the current art project for us,” said Sclafani, who saw an opportunity in the lack of skateboarder shops and florists in the vicinity. “It’s a living, breathing art piece.”

Continue reading Flowers, Chocolates and Skateboards: Valentine’s Day, Park Delicatessen-Style

Where to Get Your Wine (And Spirits)

Where to get your wine in Prospect Heights

(Originally appearing in Prospect Heights Patch.)

Whether buying the expertly-chosen bottle for oohs and aahs, gift basket trimmings or running out to a holiday party in a hurry, here are some places convenient for getting your wine:

Fermented Grapes

651 Vanderbilt Avenue; 718-230-3216

If interested in venturing out-of-bounds of well-known grape varieties (Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio, etc.), this is where you’ll find an expert guide. “We focus on unique wines made my individual, small producers – not necessarily bigger producers,” said Fermented Grapes employee Matt (who declined to give his last name). Their newsletter subscribers even get a lowdown on tastings held on Wednesdays and Saturdays. The website is handy with descriptions, prices and categories likeSustainably-farmedStaff Picks, or Under 10 Dollars. More info here.

Wine Exchange

595 Vanderbilt Avenue; 718-783-WINE

Also on the Prospect Heights’ main drag, Vanderbilt Avenue, Wine Exchange sells a large selection of major producers from all over the world, and stocks a considerable sake shelf. Future renovations will bring a tasting room and cellar for fine wines. More info here.

Continue reading Where to Get Your Wine (And Spirits)

Roads Remain Unplowed, Subways Delayed

(Contributed reporting in Prospect Heights Patch)

Updated as of December 29, 9 a.m.:

The year’s biggest snowstorm blew through Prospect Heights on Sunday night, but now, Tuesday afternoon, roads still remain unplowed and public transportation is messy and slow.

On Vanderbilt Avenue, only one lane in each direction has been plowed, forcing cars to inch along the thoroughfare. Carlton Avenue has been fully plowed, along with Washington Avenue, but so far it looks like the side streets have not been touched.

Most businesses have re-opened today, and residents and landlords have done their part in shoveling and icing sidewalks and stoops. Still, many cars remain abandoned, buried under inches of snow. According to one eyewitness, livery drivers are capitalizing on people’s desperation to get to their destinations, picking up multiple passengers and charging them reduced fares.

A few pranksters have left their mark on Prospect Heights.  A large snowman bearing a scarf, a carrot nose  — and a fake summons for an open container – in front of a stuck plow truck on St. Johns Place approaching Franklin Avenue. One person walking by asked if it was a recreation of Tiananmen Square – when a Chinese tank was halted by a defiant citizen in 1989. Locals walking by keep adding to the snowman, laughing while commiserating on how the snow has brought the streets to halt. The snowman has a twin, standing next to a stranded bus, on Bergen and Bedford avenues in Crown Heights.

“You know you’re (expletive deleted) when the plowtruck gets stuck,” was overheard from a resident walking his dog on Franklin Avenue at St. Johns Place.

Huge snowballs “the size of a boulder” were spotted by Patch reporter H’Rina DeTroy at St. Johns Place and Washington Avenue, and at St. Johns Place and Underhill Avenue.

Some residents who left their cars to chance in the snow weren’t so lucky, as yesterday a snowplow fishtailed and smashed into two cars on St. Johns Place and Washington.

Overall, the consensus was that the city could have done a better job.

Continue reading Roads Remain Unplowed, Subways Delayed

Organic Food Market adds Korean Cafe with a Greenhouse Feel

(Published on Prospect Heights Patch)

Owner Kenny Nam of Pine Tree in a new sun-filled dining backroom.

The owners of Pine Tree, an organic food store and Asian restaurant that opened earlier this month, are pulling out all the stops to make their mark in Prospect Heights.

“New people want organic,” said owner Kenny Nam, who also owns the smaller Nam’s Greenmarket on the opposite corner.

Nam’s parents opened Nam’s Greenmarket in the ’90s and carried West Indian food items that catered to residents. But around four years ago, buckets of Caribbean-styled salted fish shared the space with organic foods in bright, colored boxes. Then, with subsequent renovations of Nam’s Greenmarket, the buckets disappeared. Soon the tight space was crammed with specialty foods.

“With organic items, a lot of people are happy,” said Nam.

Nam brought family members and past employees on board to run Pine Tree. The 36 year-old Flushing, Queens resident used to own two sushi restaurants in East Village.

On opening day, flags or balloons weren’t necessary, said Nam. Local residents had been walking through Pine Tree’s doors since the renovation, piqued with curiosity to see the most recent novelty in a neighborhood that has seen a flush of new businesses on Franklin Avenue.

The newest addition is the a pleasant glass-walled seating area with bamboo shades and a greenhouse feel. It is connected to an elevated alcove and sushi bar and holds up to 35 people in all.

Although there is meat-free bibimbop at the vegetarian restaurant, Dao’s Palate, Pine Tree is the only place to offer typical Korean cuisine in the neighborhood.

Continue reading Organic Food Market adds Korean Cafe with a Greenhouse Feel

Gun Violence Inspires Short Film Series

(Originally appearing here.)

A bullet is blind.

That was the message of Thurday night’s short film screening and discussion on gun violence in the neighborhood.

Almost 30 residents, students and organizers squeezed into LaunchPad on Franklin Avenue, a narrow renovated storefront space, and watched short documentaries addressing gun violence that ranged from poignant to informative.

“A Harlem Mother” documented the story of a woman who became a vocal activist after losing her son. “Halt” depicted how arms find their way to New York – a state with tighter gun laws – by passing through states like Georgia and South Carolina, where the laws are less strict.

Attending the event were the parents of Benny Lyde, a young man who was shot by a schoolmate. They appeared in one of the shorts and addressed the audience about the message of  “not snitching, but ditching” peer pressure around using guns and staying quiet about crimes. The documentary was part of a national media project called Beyond Bullets.

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Fighting Goliath in Chinatown


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To some, Mei Rong Song might seem like an unlikely hero. She’s owns a flower shop in Chinatown’s East Broadway Mall.  She’s a mother of three in her late 30s, who doesn’t let her limited English prevent her from being outgoing and talkative.

But Song has become strident spokeswoman against an allegedly corrupt management company that demand bribes, called key money, on city property. What makes her powerful is simple: she knows her rights and wields the law with confidence.

“People tell me that they admire me,” Song said, surprise on her face. “They’re afraid to stand out, like me.” She has been vocal and visible by talking to media and working with lawyers to push for investigations.

“I’ve been here for over 20 years and I know American law,” she said. It may seem like a minor, or obvious feat, but among the Fuzhounese– who are the majority of vendors in the East Broadway Mall– this type of courage isn’t common enough.

Continue reading Fighting Goliath in Chinatown

LAVA Leaps Into 11th Year With Gala

(Published on Prospect Heights Patch)

The award-winning acrobatic dance troupe LAVA kicks off a benefit with a performance that somersaults, literally, into their 2011 season. The event also marks the 11th year that the Prospect Heights-based, all-female troupe have been defying gravity.

Ticket sales will help support this locally-grown dance troupe. The $111 price tag for a seat at the benefit pays for artists’ fees and make LAVA’s new projects possible.

“It makes it sustainable working with the same artist for many years,” said Sarah East Johnson and who founded LAVA in 2000. “And we can deepen its quality.”

Continue reading LAVA Leaps Into 11th Year With Gala