Community Voices

Friends and Neighbors: Alvin Ailey director Robert Battle’s story told in children’s book

Robert Battle, center, with ‘My Story, My Dance’ author Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrator James E. Ransome.
Robert Battle, center, with ‘My Story, My Dance’ author Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrator James E. Ransome.

A new children’s book chronicles the early life of Robert Battle, artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, who grew up in Liberty City.

My Story, My Dance: Robert Battle’s Journey to Alvin Ailey and tells of how he overcame obstacles to achieve success from Liberty City to New York City and to the world’s stages. The book has been nominated for the Orbis Pictus award, which recognizes excellence in nonfiction.

As a way for families to celebrate the season and experience the arts together, Alvin Ailey and Books & Books have teamed up to offer a book-and-performance holiday gift package available at four Books and Books locations (Coral Gables, Lincoln Road, Arsht Center and Bal Harbour) through Jan. 15. Buy two tickets to Ailey’s Arsht Center performances Feb. 18-21, bring proof of purchase and get 10 percent off the book at Books & Books.

A highlight of the Arsht engagement, the only this season in South Florida, will be the premiere of Awakening, Battle’s first new work since becoming the company’s artistic director in 2011. The performance will feature Jamar Roberts, another Miami native and one of the company’s star dancers.

For more information, visit


You have to get up real early to keep up with Archbishop Thomas Wenski. At 7 a.m. Sunday, he will join some 30,000 motorcycle riders for the 2015 Toys in the Sun Run, which begins at the Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach.

The motorcyclists will line up at 7 a.m. and the actual run begins 9:45 a.m.. It concludes at Markham Park, 16001 W. State Road 84 in Sunrise.

Before the run, Wenski will say a prayer and blessing. The archbishop, like each of the riders, will donate a holiday gift for a needy child. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Just so you know, the motorcyclists’ parade route will be as follows: Pembroke Road west to Interstate 95, north to Interstate 595, west to 136th Ave. to State Road 84 west.

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The deadline is approaching for nominations for the annual Breaking the Glass Ceiling award. And it’s time for you to be thinking of the woman you would like to nominate for the annual award sponsored by the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU.

The museum is celebrating the 20th year of the annual award, which is presented to women who have broken the proverbial glass ceiling in professional fields that are normally dominated by men. The nominees are also judged based upon activities in the Jewish and civic communities and serving as role models for other women.

The deadline for the nominations is 5 p.m. Jan. 15, 2016.

“While there have been outstanding strides made by Jewish professional women throughout the state, it is important that we continue to recognize these women as an inspiration to others to aim for the stars,” Museum director Jo Ann Arnowitz said. “We encourage the Florida community to nominate women who they feel are worthy of this honor.”

Arnowitz said that each year the Museum receives a “fascinating assortment of nominations of women in diverse professions from all over the state.” Their careers range from firefighters to forensic artists.

Since its establishment in 1995, the Breaking the Glass Ceiling award has recognized more than 80, outstanding women. The 2016 awards ceremony will be 2 p.m. April 3, 2016.

To see a list of past winners, or to submit a nominee for the 2016 awards, visit and download the nomination form. You may also contact the museum’s membership department at 786-972-3164.


Shamele Jenkins, president of the Miami-Dade County Foster and Adoptive Parent Association (MDCFAPA), which watches out for more than 4,800 youths in foster care, as well as those adopted and in kinship care, is asking the community to partner with the association to help with a toy drive for children ages 1 to 11, and holiday gift drives for foster-care tween/teens ages 12 to 18.

Jenkins said that when donating, people often give toys for the younger children, but to date she said, “We have a tremendous amount of tween/teens ages 12 to 18 who wish to have gifts for the holidays, too, but they have outgrown the traditional toys. We are asking for gifts of perfume/cologne sets, handbags and wallets or gift cards to Target, Wal-Mart, Burger King, McDonalds, KFC, Subway or the movies.” She said “re-gifting” is welcome, and any toys that are not violent are great for the younger children.

Parties for association are planned for Dec. 17, and on Jan. 9, 2016 for those who miss Christmas and the holiday season. Jenkins said the goal is to have at least 500 gifts for young children and 500 gifts for tweens and teens. Tax-deductible monetary donations will also be accepted.

Call Jenkins at 305-469-1157 for more information.


Congratulations to Miami Music Project on being awarded the Knight Arts Challenge Grant for the fourth time in the organization’s history.

You can help the project celebrate by attending the first of its concerts in a four-show series, 3 p.m. Dec. 12 at University of Miami’s Gusman Concert Hall. This first concert will celebrate the community of Little Havana, home of Miami Music Project’s four chapters. The following three shows will be at their respective chapters: Little Haiti Chapter, Toussaint L’Ouverture Elementary, 120 NE 59th St.; Doral Chapter, John I. Smith Middle School, 5005 NW 112th Ave.; and Liberty City, Charles Drew K-8 Center, 7555 NW 60th St.

The Miami Music Project ensemble is comprised of young musicians committed to social transformation through music and is designed as a tuition-free, high-quality musical training for young musicians while at the same time improving their social and academic skills.

Call Maritza Diaz at 786-422-5221, ext. 5, for more information.

Send all items at least two weeks in advance to Friends and Neighbors, c/o Neighbors, 3511 NW 91st Ave., Doral, FL 33172 or email Pictures are accepted but cannot be returned.