THE FACT OF BLACKNESS
Re Gregory Stephen Tate's 'Extensions of a Woman' [November 28December 4]: As a (non-singing) high-yella sister who loves her some good soul music, I don't mean to disparage Gregespecially since he appears to be one of the few black male writers at the Voice these daysbut old G.'s writing and ear (and perhaps eyes) appear to be going through a midlife crisis. Yes, Alicia is cute, charismatic, and seems to have a huge heart. But to compare her to the can-sing sisters who came before her is dishonest and silly. And for the record, Greg, there were lots of high-yella pop stars who came before Ms. Keys: Sister Sledge, Cherelle, the sister from Midnight Star, to name but a very fewand those women could actually sing. More importantly, they didn't have to prove to everyone that they were blackety-black-black. They just were.
Owings Mills, Maryland
STANDING UP FOR THE COTTON CLUB
In 'Clubbed to Death' (Erik Shilling, November 28December 4], Columbia University's Michael Novielli said that the Cotton Club on 125th Street was not historic because it was not the original Cotton Club. However, history can be measured in many ways.
For buildings, historic significance is most often bestowed by the structure's architectural beauty or its connection to a well-known architect or other important person. A building can also be historic because of a strong connection to cultural or social history. Perhaps a case could be made for historic significance for the current Cotton Club based on its carrying on the tradition of its namesake and its connection to African-American culture.
However, a lesser-known fact about the building might actually make a stronger case.
What is now the Cotton Club was designed by the renowned architectural firm of Cross & Cross. Christopher Gray, Streetscapes columnist for The New York Times, calls Cross & Cross "among the suavest, savviest architects ever to practice in New York." They designed the Tiffany & Co. building, which opened in 1940, the same year that the building permit was issued for the streamlined bar and grill/automobile service station on West 125th Street that is now the Cotton Club.
John and Eliot Cross had already designed such buildings as the exuberant Art Deco General Electric Building (1931). Eliot partnered with the real estate firm of Webb & Knapp to develop properties including Sutton Place.
The Cotton Club is a more important building than Columbia thinks it is.
Manhattanville Preservation Alliance
CRAZY ABOUT MAGNANI
Re Ed Gonzalez's 'Outsider Art' [November 28December 4]: Anna Magnani's "manic-depressive performance"? What an insipid, uninformed, and gross mischaracterization of the great Magnani's acting. What does that even mean? A writer and critic should really choose his words more carefully.
LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
I was interested to read in Neil deMause's "Bridge-and-Tunnel Kids" [Education Supplement, November 1420] that "P.S.116 . . . was a failing school until it set up its gifted and talented program, which brought in resources that benefited the entire school."
My daughter attended P.S. 116 about five years after it was a "failing" school. The institution of the gifted and talented program did help revive the school by the time we arrived, but it is not nearly the whole story. The school turned around when Anna Marie Carillo was assigned as principal by then District 2 supervisor Anthony Alvarado. Mrs. Carillo's first act was to institute a single teaching philosophy, the New Standards, from kindergarten through sixth grade. The teachers who were assigned to 116 were asked to teach to the Standards or to find another school. As positions opened up, young, dynamic teachers from Teacher's College and NYU were recruited and trained.
The Talented and Gifted Program allowed students who were capable of reaching the Standards faster to accelerate. Students not in the TAG program were given the same material at a pace they could absorb. Students were not locked into one program or the other but moved as their talents and needs became clear to the teaching staff. The teachers also moved from one group of students to the next every few years.
At the center of this philosophy was Alvarado's and Carillo's belief that all students can learn and will learn given the resources, support, and time. Their faculty took classes during the summer. Experts in the teaching of math and reading were brought in on a regular basis to work with the staff and with the parents. Walls once barren became filled with student work.
The school turned around when it was centered on the students, on learning and teaching. One would think that this should be the norm in any school, but it was Mrs. Carillo's leadership, her educational philosophy, her rigor, and the talent and dedication of her teachers that revived the school. To be sure, not all parents were happy with the approach to education their children received. Many wanted a traditional memorization approach rather than the New Standards, which used many different teaching strategies to help the students not only be able to manipulate the material and arrive at the correct answer, but also to understand the how and why of the strategies.
My daughter is now a college freshman. The foundation for her intellectual life was created by the district supervisor, the principal, and the teachers of P.S. 116, all of whom were dedicated to a rigorous approach to education and to helping our children learn.
OUT OF THE FOG
Re Chuck Wilson's 'Condensation Nation' [November 2127]: The ending of The Mist was awesome and left me in awe. Just because Wilson couldn't handle it doesn't mean it deserves a bad review. Maybe you should have been watch- ing Bee Movie instead.
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