Black History Month Spotlight: Lenny Williams

Lenny Williams possesses one of the most distinctive voices in contemporary music. 

Leonard Charles “Lenny” Williams was born February 16, 1945 in Little Rock, Arkansas. At a young age he moved to Oakland, California.

His interest in music was initially fueled when he learned to play the trumpet in elementary school, and his skills as a vocalist were nurtured by singing in gospel choirs and groups around the Bay Area. Lenny participated in numerous talent contests and after winning several, he signed his first recording contract with Fantasy Records. He cut two singles for the label including “Lisa’s Gone” and “Feelin’ Blue.”

In 1972, Lenny joined the emerging funk band Tower of Power. A string of hits followed. During his time with Tower of Power the group also recorded three albums: Back To Oakland, Urban Renewal and the gold LP Tower Of Power. Lenny and Tower of Power toured throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.

At the end of 1975, Lenny returned to his solo projects. Initially signing with Motown Records, he later moved to ABC Records in 1977 (later purchased by MCA Records). Over the next four years he scored ten chart hits, including “Shoo Doo FuFu Ooh,” “Choosing You,” “You Got Me Running,” “Love Hurt Me Love Healed Me,” and “Midnight Girl”. Lenny recorded four more albums from 1977 to 1980: Choosing You, his first gold LP; Spark Of Love; Love Current; and Let’s Do It Today.

Over the past few years, Lenny has continued his solo career, touring the US, Europe and South Africa. Lenny Williams’ style has transcended into the new millennium, influencing many of today’s newest R & B and Pop vocalists. He has recently shared stages with such notables as Aretha Franklin, The Whispers, Rick James, Boney James, Bobby Womack, Ohio Players, Al Green, Usher, K-Ci & JoJo, Alicia Keys, Anthony Hamilton and Frankie Beverly and Maze. Lenny has also expanded his multidimensional career to include acting, starring in several stages plays including “Love On Lay Away,” “What Men Don’t Tell” and “When A Woman’s Fed Up.”

He continues making music today. In 2012 he was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.  To learn more about Lenny Willams and other inductees, visit the exhibit at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. That museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.  

Brahms, Wagner and Schubert highlight the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra concerts this weekend

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra (ASO), Philip Mann, Music Director and Conductor, presents the fifth concert in the 2014 -2015 Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks Series: Schubert’s Unfinished.

Renowned violinist Vadim Gluzman joins the ASO to perform Brahms’ Violin Concerto. The program opens with the Prelude to Wagner’s Die Meistersinger and reaches a finale with Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony. The Masterworks Series is sponsored by the Stella Boyle Smith Trust.

The concert takes place Saturday, February 28, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 1, 2015 at 3:00 p.m. at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center, 100 Victory Lane, Maumelle AR.

American Airlines Concert Conversations: All concert ticket holders are invited to a pre-concert lecture an hour before each Masterworks concert. These talks feature insights from the Maestro and guest artists, and feature musical examples to enrich the concert experience.
Tickets are $19, $35, $49, and $58; active duty military and student tickets are $10 are can be purchased online at; at the Maumelle Performing Arts Center box office beginning 90 minutes prior to a concert; or by phone at 501-666-1761, ext. 100.

All Arkansas students grades K-12 are admitted to Sunday’s matinee free of charge with the purchase of an adult ticket using the Entergy Kids’ Ticket, downloadable at the ASO website.


Vadim Gluzman, violin – Richard Sheppard Arnold Artist of Distinction

Philip Mann, conductor


WAGNER: Prelude to Die Meistersinger
BRAHMS: Concerto for Violin in D Major, Op. 77
SCHUBERT: Symphony No. 8 in B minor, “Unfinished”


Wagner’s Prelude to Die Meistersinger introduces the themes of the hero, von Stolzing, and the comic villain, Beckmesser, with a display of contrapuntal ingenuity worthy of Bach.

For Brahms, as it had been for Beethoven, a concerto was no less weighty and important than a symphony. Brahms and soloist Joseph Joachim had been friends for 25 years when Brahms began work on the Violin Concerto in D Major. While ignoring most of Joachim’s suggestions, Brahms crafted a powerful, warm, and dramatic concerto that nonetheless met his requirements of musical substance over pyrotechnic flash.

There are actually several ‘unfinished’ symphonies left by Schubert, but the haunting Symphony No. 8  is the most famous of the fragments. The work was composed while he was seriously ill, and also undergoing a major shift in creative direction. He completed the first two movements in every detail. After composing and partially orchestrating sketches for a third movement, he set the symphony aside and appears never to have returned to it again.

The Arkansas Symphony Orchestra celebrates its 49th season in 2014-2015, under the leadership of Music Director Philip Mann. ASO is the resident orchestra of Robinson Center Music Hall, and performs more than sixty concerts each year for more than 165,000 people through its Stella Boyle Smith Masterworks Series, ACXIOM Pops LIVE! Series, River Rhapsodies Chamber Music Series, and numerous concerts performed around the state of Arkansas, in addition to serving central Arkansas through numerous community outreach programs and bringing live symphonic music education to over 26,000 school children and over 200 schools.

Black History Month Spotlight: Sheryl Underwood

Sheryl Underwood was born in Little Rock in 1963. After graduating from college, she served in the military. In 1989 she became the first female finalist in the Miller Lite Comedy Search.  Today, she is a panelist on CBS Daytime’s hit show “The Talk.”

In addition to her TV appearances, she is an entrepreneur, entertainer, studio executive and  International President of her beloved Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.

Named one of today’s hardest working comediennes, Underwood has starred in such films as “Bullworth,” “I Got the Hook Up” and “Beauty Shop,” starring Queen Latifah. In addition, Underwood was the host of Black Entertainment Television’s (BET’s) “Comic View” and “Holla,” a talk show she created and produced which was loosely based on Bill Maher’s “Politically Incorrect.”

She is a weekly contributor on the “Steve Harvey Morning Show,” also serving as guest host, and appears on “The Steve Harvey Project,” the television version of the show airing on TV-ONE. Underwood also hosts “The Sheryl Underwood Show” on Jamie Foxx’s “The Foxxhole,” airing on Sirius 106/XM 149, where she provides a mix of political satire, comedy and music.

In 2007, she was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.  To learn more about Sheryl Underwood and other inductees, visit the exhibit at the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center. that museum is an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

Noted African American Scholar to speak tonight at Clinton Library

The Clinton Foundation in conjunction with the City of Little Rock and the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame presents a Black History  Month program this evening.  This year’s featured speaker is Dr. Robert L. Williams II. 

Dr. Williams is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology and African and Afro-American Studies at the Washington University in St. Louis and a prominent figure in the history of African-American Psychology. 

He is well known as the stalwart critic of racial and cultural biases in IQ testing, for coining the word “Ebonics” in 1973. He has published more than 60 professional articles and several books. 

He was a founding member of the Association of Black Psychologists. Dr. Williams was a 2011 inductee into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame. 

The program will begin at 6pm at the Clinton Center in the Great Hall. A reception will follow. 

Black History Month Spotlight: Ozell Sutton

Ozell Sutton has been a writer and eyewitness to history, while making some of his own too.

Born in Gould, he moved with his family to Little Rock and graduate from Dunbar High School and Philander Smith College. In 1950, he became the Arkansas Democrat‘s first African American reporter.

He was at Central High when the Little a Rock Nine integrated, marched with Dr Martin Luther King Jr. in Washington in 1963 and was with Dr King when he was assassinated in 1968.

He served as an aide to Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller from 1968 to 1970. From 1972 to 2003 he work for the U.S. Department of Justice Community Relations Service in Atlanta. In that capacity he was often on the forefront in efforts to diffuse racially tense situations.

In 1962, he received an honorary doctorate from Philander Smith in recognition of his political activism in the civil rights movement. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Award by the Department of Justice in 1994.
He also was awarded the Medallion of Freedom by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

In 2012, he was presented with the Congressional Gold Medal in recignition for his being one of the first African Americans to serve in the Marine Corps. His book “From Yonder to Here:” A Memoir of Dr. Ozell Sutton was publiahed in 2009.

Ozell Sutton was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2001. For more on Ozell Sutton and the other inductees, visit the exhibit at Mosaic Templars Cultural Center, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage.

Science of the Heart at Museum of Discovery’s Science After Dark tonight

Each month the Museum of Discovery hosts “Science after Dark” for adults aged 21 and up.  This month’s theme is “Science of the Heart.”

Here’s what you can expect at this month’s Science After Dark:

-Heart healthy diets with Whole Foods (Science After Dark’s new presenting sponsor)

-CPR with American Heart Association

-Chocolate and the heart with Kilwins (and samples)


-The heart and blood with American Red Cross

-Heart dissections with museum staff


-The benefits of wine

-Heart research advances with Children’s Nutrition Institution


Cash bar by Juanita’s, beer sold by Stone’s Throw Brewery and pizza by the slice sold by Damgoode Pies.

The program runs from 6pm to 9pm. Cost is $5, free for museum members.

Shakespeare Scene Festival at UALR today and Friday

The 2015 Shakespeare Scene Festival will be held in UALR’s University Theater in the Center for Performing Arts on Thursday and Friday, Feb. 26 and 27.

shakespeare scene

The festival, held from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. both days, is free and open to the public.

The Shakespeare Festival brings students from central Arkansas schools to campus to celebrate learning through the performance of Shakespeare.

Approximately 600 students are expected to visit UALR over the two-day the festival and about 300 are expected to perform, with players ranging from fifth graders to high school seniors.

Participating schools include Oak Grove Elementary, Warren Dupree Elementary, Henderson Middle School, Sheridan Middle, J.A. Fair High, Little Rock Central High, Clarendon High School, and Perryville High School.

Sponsored by the UALR Departments of English and Theater Arts and Dance, the festival was founded by Roslyn Knutson in 1998 and inspired by a workshop at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.

To see a schedule of performances and to find out more about the festival, visit

Questions should be directed to the festival’s director, Dr. Kris McAbee, at 501.569.8312.