Sunday, September 17, 2017

A00811 - Lorraine Hansberry, Author of "A Raisin in the Sun"

*Playwright Lorraine Hansberry, the author of A Raisin in the Sun, was born in Chicago (May 19),

Lorraine Vivian Hansberry (b. May 19, 1930, Chicago, Illinois – d. January 12, 1965, New York City, New York) was an American playwright and writer. Hansberry inspired Nina Simone's song "To Be Young, Gifted and Black". 
She was the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway. Her best known work, the play A Raisin in the Sun,  highlights the lives of African Americans living under racial segregation in Chicago. Hansberry's family had struggled against segregation, challenging a restrictive covenant and eventually provoking the Supreme Court case Hansberry v. Lee.  The title of her most famous play was taken from the poem "Harlem" by Langston Hughes: "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?"
After she moved to New York City, Hansberry worked at the Pan-Africanist newspaper Freedom, where she dealt with intellectuals such as Paul Robeson and W. E. B. Du Bois.  Much of her work during this time concerned the African struggle for liberation and their impact on the world. Hansberry has been identified as a lesbian, and sexual freedom is an important topic in several of her works. She died of cancer at the age of 34.

Lorraine Hansberry was born in a comfortable, middle-class family in Chicago, and was educated at the University of Wisconsisn  and Roosevelt University.  She first appeared in print in Paul Robeson's Freedom, a monthly newspaper, during the early 1950's.  In 1959, A Raisin in the Sun, her first play, was produced on Broadway.  It was among the first full-length African American plays to be taken seriously by a European American audience.  
The success of A Raisin in the Sun catapulted Hansberry to an early fame.  She was expected to be a spokesperson for the African American poor, when in fact she was more attuned to the aspirations of the African American bourgeoisie.  Hansberry was very militant about integration and not supportive of black nationalist or separatist movements.
Lorraine Vivian Hansberry was the first black woman to write a play performed on Broadway. Her best known work, the play A Raisin in the Sun, highlights the lives of Black Americans living under racial segregation in Chicago. Hansberry's family had struggled against segregation, challenging a restrictive covenant and eventually provoking the Supreme Court case Hansberry v. Lee. The title of the play was taken from the poem "Harlem" by Langston Hughes: "What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?"
At the young age of 29, Hansberry won the New York's Drama Critic's Circle Award — making her the first black dramatist, the fifth woman, and the youngest playwright to do so.
After she moved to New York City, Hansberry worked at the Pan-Africanist newspaper Freedom, where she dealt with intellectuals such as Paul Robeson and W. E. B. DuBois. Much of her work during this time concerned the African struggle for liberation and their impact on the world. Hansberry has been identified as a lesbian, and sexual freedom is an important topic in several of her works. She died of cancer at the age of 34. Hansberry inspired Nina Simone's song "To Be Young, Gifted and Black".
Lorraine Hansberry was the youngest of four children born to Carl Augustus Hansberry, a successful real-estate broker, and Nannie Louise (born Perry) a driving school teacher and ward committeewoman. In 1938, her father bought a house in the Washington Park Subdivision of the South Side of Chicago, incurring the wrath of their white neighbors. The latter's legal efforts to force the Hansberry family out culminated in the United States Supreme Court's decision in Hansberry v. Lee. The restrictive covenant was ruled contestable, though not inherently invalid. Carl Hansberry was also a supporter of the Urban League and NAACP in Chicago. Both Hansberrys were active in the Chicago Republican Party. Carl died in 1946, when Lorraine was fifteen years old; "American racism helped kill him," she later said.
The Hansberrys were routinely visited by prominent Black intellectuals, including W. E. B. DuBois and Paul Robeson. Carl Hansberry's brother, William Leo Hansberry, founded the African Civilization section of the history department at Howard University. Lorraine was taught: ‘‘Above all, there were two things which were never to be betrayed: the family and the race.’’
Hansberry became the godmother to Nina Simone's daughter Lisa—now Simone.
Hansberry graduated from Betsy Ross Elementary in 1944 and from Englewood High School in 1948. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she immediately became politically active and integrated a dormitory.
She worked on Henry A. Wallace's presidential campaign in 1948, despite her mother's disapproval. She spent the summer of 1949 in Mexico, studying painting at the University of Guadalajara.
She decided in 1950 to leave Madison and pursue her career as a writer in New York City, where she attended The New School. She moved to Harlem in 1951 and became involved in activist struggles such as the fight against evictions.
In 1951, she joined the staff of the black newspaper Freedom, edited by Louis E. Burnham and published by Paul Robeson.  At Freedom, she worked with W. E. B. Du Bois, whose office was in the same building, and other Black Pan-Africanists. At the newspaper, she worked as subscription clerk, receptionist, typist and editorial assistant in addition to writing news articles and editorials.
One of her first reports covered the Sojourners for Truth and Justice convened in Washington, D.C., by Mary Church Terrell.  She traveled to Georgia to cover the case of Willie McGee, and was inspired to write the poem "Lynchsong" about his case.
She worked not only on the United States civil rights movement, but also on global struggles against colonialism and imperialism. Hansberry wrote in support of the Mau Mau Uprising in Kenya, criticizing the mainstream press for its biased coverage.
Hansberry often clarified these global struggles by explaining them in terms of female participants. She was particularly interested in the situation of Egypt, "the traditional Islamic 'cradle of civilization,' where women had led one of the most important fights anywhere for the equality of their sex."
In 1952, Hansberry attended a peace conference in Montevideo, Uruguay, in place of Paul Robeson, who had been denied travel rights by the State Department.
On June 20, 1953, Hansberry married Robert Nemiroff, a Jewish publisher, songwriter and political activist. Hansberry and Nemiroff moved to Greenwich Village, the setting of The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window.  Success of the song "Cindy, Oh Cindy", co-authored by Nemiroff, enabled Hansberry to start writing full-time. On the night before their wedding in 1953, Nemiroff and Hansberry protested the execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg in NYC.
It is widely believed that Hansberry was a closeted lesbian, a theory supported by her secret writings in letters and personal notebooks. She was an activist for gay rights and wrote about feminism and homophobia, joining the Daughters of Bilitis and contributing two letters to their magazine, The Ladder, in 1957 under her initials "LHN." She separated from her husband at this time, but they continued to work together.
A Raisin in the Sun was written at this time and completed in 1957.
Opening on March 11, 1959, A Raisin in the Sun became the first play written by an African American woman to be produced on Broadway.  The 29-year-old author became the youngest American playwright and only the fifth woman to receive the New York Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Play. Over the next two years, Raisin was translated into 35 languages and was being performed all over the world.
Hansberry wrote two screenplays of Raisin, both of which were rejected as controversial by Columbia Pictures. Commissioned by NBC in 1960 to create a television program about slavery, Hansberry wrote The Drinking Gourd. This script was also rejected.
In 1960, during Delta Sigma Theta's 26th national convention in Chicago, Hansberry was made an honorary member.
In 1961, Hansberry was set to replace Vinnette Carroll as the director of the musical Kicks and Co, after its try-out at Chicago's McCormick Place. It was written by Oscar Brown, Jr. and featured an interracial cast including Lonnie Sattin, Nichelle Nichols, Vi Velasco, Al Freeman, Jr., Zabeth Wilde and Burgess Meredith in the title role of Mr. Kicks. A satire involving miscegenation, the $400,000 production was co-produced by her husband Robert Nemiroff. Despite a warm reception in Chicago, the show never made it to Broadway.
In 1963, Hansberry participated in a meeting with Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, set up by James Baldwin. 
Also in 1963, Hansberry was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She underwent two operations, on June 24 and August 2. Neither was successful in removing the cancer.
On March 10, 1964, Hansberry and Nemiroff divorced but continued to work together.
While many of her other writings were published in her lifetime—essays, articles, and the text for the SNCC book The Movement — the only other play given a contemporary production was The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window. The Sign in Sidney Brustein's Window ran for 101 performances on Broadway and closed the night she died.
Hansberry was an atheist.
Hansberry believed that gaining civil rights in the United States and obtaining independence in colonial Africa were two sides of the same coin that presented similar challenges for Africans on both sides of the Atlantic. In response to the independence of Ghana, led by Kwame Nkrumah, Hansberry wrote: "The promise of the future of Ghana is that of all the colored peoples of the world; it is the promise of freedom."
Regarding tactics, Hansberry said Blacks "must concern themselves with every single means of struggle: legal, illegal, passive, active, violent and non-violent.... They must harass, debate, petition, give money to court struggles, sit-in, lie-down, strike, boycott, sing hymns, pray on steps—and shoot from their windows when the racists come cruising through their communities."
In a Town Hall debate on June 15, 1964, Hansberry criticized white liberals who could not accept civil disobedience, expressing a need "to encourage the white liberal to stop being a liberal and become an American radical." At the same time, she said, "some of the first people who have died so far in this struggle have been white men."
The Federal Bureau of Investigation began surveillance of Hansberry when she prepared to go to the Montevideo peace conference. The Washington, D.C. office searched her passport files "in an effort to obtain all available background material on the subject, any derogatory information contained therein, and a photograph and complete description," while officers in Milwaukee and Chicago examined her life history. Later, an FBI reviewer of Raisin in the Sun highlighted its Pan-Africanist themes as dangerous.
Hansberry, a heavy smoker her whole life, died of pancreatic cancer on January 12, 1965, aged 34. James Baldwin believed "it is not at all farfetched to suspect that what she saw contributed to the strain which killed her, for the effort to which Lorraine was dedicated is more than enough to kill a man."
Hansberry's funeral was held in Harlem on January 15, 1965. Paul Robeson and SNCC organizer James Forman gave eulogies. The presiding minister, Eugene Callender, recited messages from Baldwin and the Martin Luther King, Jr. which read: "Her creative ability and her profound grasp of the deep social issues confronting the world today will remain an inspiration to generations yet unborn." The 15th was also Dr. King's birthday. Hansberry was buried at Asbury United Methodist Church Cemetery in Croton-on-Hudson, New York. 
Hansberry's ex-husband, Robert Nemiroff, became the executor for several unfinished manuscripts. He added minor changes to complete the play Les Blancs, and he adapted many of her writings into the play To Be Young, Gifted and Black, which was the longest-running Off Broadway play of the 1968–69 season. It appeared in book form the following year under the title To Be Young, Gifted and Black: Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words. She left behind an unfinished novel and several other plays, including The Drinking Gourd and What Use Are Flowers?, with a range of content, from slavery to a post-apocalyptic future.
Raisin, a musical based on A Raisin in the Sun,  opened in New York in 1973, winning the Tony Award for Best Musical, with the book by Nemiroff, music by Judd Woldin, and lyrics by Robert Britten. A Raisin in the Sun was revived on Broadway in 2004 and received a Tony Award nomination for Best Revival of a Play. The cast included Sean Combs ("P Diddy") as Walter Lee Younger Jr., Phylicia Rashad (Tony Award-winner for Best Actress) and Audra McDonald (Tony Award-winner for Best Featured Actress).  It was produced for television in 2008 with the same cast, garnering two NAACP Image Awards.
Nina Simone first released a song about Hansberry in 1969 called "To Be Young, Gifted and Black".  The title of the song refers to the title of Hansberry's autobiography, which Hansberry first coined when speaking to the winners of a creative writing conference on May 1, 1964, "though it be a thrilling and marvelous thing to be merely young and gifted in such times, it is doubly so, doubly dynamic — to be young, gifted and black." Simone wrote the song with a poet named Weldon Irvine and told him that she wanted lyrics that would "make black children all over the world feel good about themselves forever." When Irvine read the lyrics after it was finished, he thought, "I didn't write this. God wrote it through me." In a recorded introduction to the song, Simone explained the difficulty of losing a close friend and talented artist.
Patricia and Frederick McKissack wrote a children's biography of Hansberry, Young, Black, and Determined, in 1998.
In 1999, Hansberry was posthumously inducted into the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame.
In 2002, scholar Molefi Kete Asante listed Hansberry as one of his 100 Greatest African Americans.
The Lorraine Hansberry Theatre of San Francisco, which specializes in original stagings and revivals of African-American theatre, is named in her honor. Singer and pianist Nina Simone,  who was a close friend of Hansberry, used the title of her unfinished play to write a civil rights-themed song "To Be Young, Gifted and Black" together with Weldon Irvine. The single reached the top 10 on the R&B charts. A studio recording by Simone was released as a single and the first live recording on October 26, 1969, was captured on Black Gold (1970).
In 2013 Hansberry was inducted into the Legacy Walk, an outdoor public display which celebrates LGBT history and people. 
In 2013, Lorraine Hansberry was posthumously inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A00810 - Mahershala Ali, First Muslim to Win an Oscar

Ali, Mahershala
Mahershalalhashbaz "Mahershala" Ali Gilmore (b. February 16, 1974, Oakland, California), an American actor and rapper, began his career as a regular on series such as Crossing Jordan and Threat Matrix before his breakthrough role as Richard Tyler in the science-fiction series The 4400. His first major film release was in the 2008 David Fincher-directed romantic fantasy drama film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and his other notable films include Predators, The Place Beyond the Pines, Free State of Jones, Hidden Figures, and as Boggs in The Hunger Games series. Ali is also known for his roles in the Netflix series House of Cards as Remy Danton and as Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes in Luke Cage. 
For his performance as mentor Juan in the drama film Moonlight (2016), Ali received universal acclaim from critics and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the SAG Award and the Critics' Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor, and received a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award nomination.  his win at the 89th Academy Awards made him the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar. 
Ali was born in 1974, in Oakland, California, the son of Willicia and Phillip Gilmore. He was raised in Cleveland, Ohio, and returned to Oakland when he was fourteen. He is named after Maher-shalal-hash-baz, a biblical prophetic-name child. Raised Christian by his mother, an ordained minister, he later converted to Islam, changing his surname from Gilmore to Ali, and joining the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. His father appeared on Broadway.  He attended St. Mary's College of California (SMC) in Moraga, where he graduated in 1996 with a degree in mass communication.
Though Ali entered SMC with a basketball scholarship, he became disenchanted with the idea of a sports career because of the treatment given to the team's athletes. Ali developed an interest in acting, particularly after taking part in a staging of Spunk that later landed him an apprenticeship at the California Shakespeare Theater following graduation. Following a sabbatical year where Ali worked for Gavin Report, he enrolled in New York University's graduate acting program, earning his master's degree in 2000.
Ali was known professionally as Mahershalalhashbaz Ali until 2010. He is known for his portrayal of Remy Danton in the Netflix series House of Cards, Cornell Stokes in Luke Cage, Colonel Boggs in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1 and The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2, and Tizzy in the 2008 film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. 
His first major film release was in the 2008 David Fincher-directed romantic fantasy drama film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, and his other notable films include Predators, the Place Beyond the Pines, Free State of Jones, Hidden Figures, and as Boggs in The Hunger Games series.  
For his performance as mentor and drug dealer Juan in the drama film Moonlight (2016), Ali received universal acclaim from critics and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, the Screen Actors' Guild (SAG) Award and Critics' Choice Award for Best Supporting Actor, and received a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award nomination. His win at the 89th Academy Awards made him the first Muslim actor to win an Oscar.
Ali married Amatus-Sami Karim in 2013.

A00809 - Hal Tulchin, "Black Woodstock" Documentarian

Sly Stone performing at the Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969, as shot by Hal Tulchin. CreditHal Tulchin/Joe Lauro
In August 1969, Nina Simone took the stage at Mount Morris Park in Harlem for a remarkable performance in which she sang “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” and recited a poem that asked, provocatively, if her audience was ready to “kill if necessary,” “smash white things” and “give yourself, your love, your soul, your heart, to create life.”
Ms. Simone was one of many artists, mostly African-American, who appeared that summer at the Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of six free Sunday concerts. Stevie Wonder was there, as were other popular music acts, each of which could have attracted a big crowd on its own: the 5th Dimension, Abbey Lincoln, B. B. King, Sly & the Family Stone, Herbie Mann, Hugh Masekela, Gladys Knight & the Pips, David Ruffin, Mahalia Jackson and the Staple Singers.
The series, partly overlapping with another music festival being held in upstate New York that summer, became known as “the Black Woodstock.”
All six concerts — at what is now called Marcus Garvey Park — were videotaped under the direction of Hal Tulchin, a television veteran. He compiled an estimated 40 hours of music, dance and comedy (by Moms Mabley and George Kirby).
Mahalia Jackson as videotaped by Hal Tulchin at the Harlem Cultural Festival in 1969.CreditHal Tulchin/Joe Lauro
But unlike the Woodstock festival in Bethel, N.Y., a countercultural milestone that spawned an Academy Award-winning documentary film and a No. 1 soundtrack double album, the Harlem series was destined for near-obscurity. Little of Mr. Tulchin’s project has been seen publicly.
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He tried, unsuccessfully, to interest networks in using his footage for a documentary; another plan to make a documentary ended a decade ago. Until he died at 90 on Aug. 29 in Bronxville, N.Y., he was still hoping that a film or a series would be made, his daughter, Sasha Tulchin, said.
By 1969, Mr. Tulchin had been working in television since the 1950s, directing entertainment specials, commercials (including some for Timex, in which its watches were advertised as so durable, they could “take a licking but keep on ticking”) and game shows (including the short-lived crossword-puzzle-themed “Across the Board” in 1959).
Mr. Tulchin used five portable videotape cameras to record the concerts and, according to his daughter, designed the set.
“It was a peanuts operation, because nobody really cared about black shows,” Mr. Tulchin bluntly told in 2007. “But I knew it was going to be like real estate, and sooner or later someone would have interest in it.”
The Aug. 17 concert, the one at which Ms. Simone sang and famously read the incendiary poem, overlapped with the Woodstock festival in Bethel, where Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Janis Joplin and Crosby Stills, Nash & Young and many others performed.
Mr. Tulchin’s footage did not fully disappear. Some of it was used in two television specials shown that summer. And some of it was seen in two Nina Simone projects: the “Soul of Nina Simone” (2005), a combined CD-DVD, and “What Happened, Miss Simone” (2015), a documentary by Liz Garbus.
One of the few people who have seen all the footage is Joe Lauro, the president of Historic Films, an archive of music and entertainment film that restored, digitized and licensed Mr. Tulchin’s tapes for a while.
“The material is amazing,” Mr. Lauro said in a telephone interview. “He used all his expertise to film something extraordinary.”
Mr. Lauro began working with Mr. Tulchin in 2004 and teamed up with the filmmakers Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon in a plan to turn the videotapes into a documentary film. But within a few years the deal had unraveled over financial issues.
Mr. Tulchin at a Harlem Cultural Festival concert in 1969. CreditTulchin Family
Harold Monroe Tulchin was born to Jewish immigrants from Ukraine in Elizabeth, N.J., on Dec. 23, 1926. His father, Leo, was a machinist and a supermarket manager, and his mother, the former Clara Fisher, was a homemaker. He graduated from the University of Iowa with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and studied acting and directing at the Dramatic Workshop in Manhattan.
From a job in programming with Sterling Television, a syndicator, he went to the advertising agency Young & Rubicam, where he worked for President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1956 re-election campaign, his daughter said. He then began directing live commercials for shows like “The $64,000 Question” and “The Philco Television Playhouse.” He became an expert in the use of videotape, especially in commercials.
In the years after the Harlem festival, Mr. Tulchin directed TV specials with Wayne Newton, Noel Harrison and Lesley Gore, and a rock ’n’ roll revival special starring Chubby Checker and Little Richard. He also formed a commercial production firm.
In addition to his daughter, Mr. Tulchin is survived by his third wife, the former Janine Scarola; another daughter, Ava Seavey; three grandchildren; and two half sisters, Joanne Dolgow and Anita Gibbs. His marriages to Billie Jean Holt and Doreen Soraci ended in divorce.
The documentary might still be made. A producer, Robert Fyvolent, said he had lined up a director and had an offer to finance a film that would ideally be released in 2019 for the 50th anniversary of the festival. In a telephone interview, Mr. Fyvolent said that until a month ago Mr. Tulchin was pitching ideas for marketing the concert footage, such as turning some of it into webisodes.
“He was thinking outside the box,” Mr. Fyvolent said, “and had strong opinions about what he wanted to try.”

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A00808 - Hadje Halime, The Mother of the Chadian Revolution

*Hadje Halime, a Chadian activist, educator, and politician called the "mother of the revolution", was born in Salamat, Chad.
Hadjé Halimé Oumar (b. 1930, Salamat, Chad - d. 2001) was born in the town of Salamat in 1930 to a mother from Salamat and a father from Abeche. She became involved with the Parti Progressiste Tchadien (PPT) in 1950 while working as a Quranic instructor. She was able to bring in more women who did not know French due to her knowledge of Chadian Arabic. At the time she had only a limited grasp of French. She was particularly close to Gabriel Lisette, the founder of the party, and his wife, Lisette Yéyon. She became responsible for recruiting Northern women following the General Meeting of April 2, 1950.  Halimé harshly criticized the colonial administration's poll tax, and declared that if the PPT secured a victory, the poll tax would be abolished for all despite the platform calling for ending the tax only on women. She declared that Lisette was the undisputed leader of the party, despite the rise of Southern Chadian politician Francois Tombalbaye, and traveled to France on Lisette's urging to meet with the French politician Rene Coty. 

However, in 1959 and 1960, Tombalbaye gained power and Lisette was removed from power.  Halimé became the target of repression soon after independence, unlike her PPT female colleague Kaltouma Nguembang.  As part of a purge of those near to Lisette, Halimé's only son was murdered, and she was arrested in September 1963. At first, she was taken to Massenya in Chari-Baguirmi Region, then to a central prison in Chad's capital of N'Djamena, and finally to a dreaded prison at Kela. At the Kela prison, she was regularly tortured by guards through electrocution while French and Israeli army officers supervised. Her torture resulted in her losing all her fingernails and hair. Despite Tombalbaye wanting Halimé to be killed, a French officer spared her life. In an interview, she stated that only her faith was able to keep her going through the difficult circumstances of torture. She was finally released on April 28, 1975, days after the overthrow of Tombalbaye and his regime. Out of 600 people who were imprisoned during this purge, she was one of only 45 who lived.
Lisette, who had been exiled in France, helped bring her to Paris to receive medical treatment. Halimé spent time in a hospital in Cote d'Ivoire, where the president Felix Houphouet-Boigny mandated that her medical care be free. She later joined the National Liberation Front of Chad or FROLINAT, which was based in Libya. In 1978, she moved to Tripoli and returned to politics. FROLINAT members dubbed her "the mother of the revolution", and the party seized power in 1979. She also began educating girls in Libya and founded an Islamic school, the Rising New Generation, where she taught religion, home economics, and child care. She taught over 3600 girls at the school during her years there.
Halime returned to N'Djamena in 1980 with the Popular Armed Forces (FAP) leader Goukouni Oueddei. She was then the president of the women's faction of FROLINAT. After the election of Hissene Habre in 1982, she left with forces loyal to Oueddeï in Libya. While in Libya, Halimé taught military skills to exiled Chadian women. She returned to Chad in 1991, a year after the overthrow of Habré by Idriss Deby.  Many people told Deby they would support him only if he received the backing of Halimé, which she eventually gave. Shortly after her return, she won a seat in Chad's parliament and served there until 1996.
In 1993, Halime participated in the National Sovereign Conference (CNS), and was one of the most fervent defenders of the Arabic language. In 1994, she created an association called Women Az-Zara. On behalf of the association, she was voted among ten women candidates to be a member of the Higher Council of Transition, staying four years. In June 1996, she ran for parliament as a member of the opposition National Front of Chad party, as it was impossible to run as an independent. She was defeated but maintained the election was rigged. Halimé afterwards cared for orphans whose parents were killed during the Habré regime. She also opened an Arabic school in N'Djamena.
Halime went on six pilgrimages to Mecca in her life, including one last trip in 2000. She died on January 7, 2001.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A00807 - Rollie Massimino, Rode Dark Horse Villanova to Basketball Glory

Rollie Massimino celebrates with his Villanova team after the Wildcats’ storied run to the 1985 N.C.A.A. championship. CreditAssociated Press
Rollie Massimino, who coached Villanova University to one of the greatest upsets in N.C.A.A. basketball history, the defeat of powerful Georgetown to win the 1985 national championship, died on Wednesday in hospice care in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was 82.
Villanova announced his death on its website.
Massimino, who struggled with lung cancer and its complications in recent years, had coached through last season at Keiser University in West Palm Beach, where he came out of retirement to found its basketball program in 2006 and turned it into a small-college power.
Keiser was the final stop in a long career that began when he was a high school coach. But it was at Villanova, where he led the men’s team for 19 years and compiled a 481-375 record, that he was catapulted to fame as a fiery sideline tactician, fond of inspirational speeches that drew on his Italian heritage.
In 1985, Villanova was a good team from a powerful Big East Conference, but with 10 regular-season losses it considered itself fortunate to be selected for the N.C.A.A. tournament. The Wildcats were seeded eighth in their region.
The Wildcats proceeded on a run of narrow victories, including by two points over Dayton, four over Michigan and three over Maryland in the early rounds.
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By the time the team slipped past Memphis State in the national semifinals at Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky., Villanova had the look of a Cinderella team. But its Big East Conference rival Georgetown and Patrick Ewing, the team’s all-American center, loomed in the title game, and few people gave Villanova much of a chance against the Hoyas, who arrived for the showdown with a gaudy 35-2 record and a national title already under their belt.
Massimino was known for his ability to confuse opponents with zone defenses, but it was a painstakingly deliberate and efficient Villanova offense that was the difference in its 66-64 victory over Georgetown. The Wildcats made 22 of 29 shots that night, or 78.6 percent, including 9 of 10 in the second half.
“As close to the perfect game as any team has ever played, ever,” P. J. Carlesimo, who coached Seton Hall, another Big East team, told Sports Illustrated in 2015.
Massimino as head basketball coach at Keiser University in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 2015.CreditAngel Valentin for The New York Times
Massimino remained at Villanova for seven more years, though he had almost left to accept the head-coaching job with the New Jersey Nets. When he did leave, his relationship with Villanova cooled, and two subsequent unsuccessful seasons at Nevada-Las Vegas ended with the revelation that his contract agreement had violated state guidelines.
His next job took him to Cleveland State, where he had only mild success during a seven-year run that was blemished by player disobedience and institutional dysfunction.
In basketball circles, it is believed that Massimino, while a finalist this year for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, had been denied entry because of his post-Villanova years, a stretch in which he never returned to the N.C.A.A. tournament.
Moreover, in March 1987, the Villanova championship was marred by a Sports Illustrated cover article in which Gary McLain, the point guard on the title team, revealed that he had been high on cocaine during much of that 1985 tournament run. He said he had long used cocaine and marijuana and implied that his coach and university knew, a suggestion that Massimino always denied.
Roland Vincent Massimino was born on Nov. 13, 1934, in Hillside, N.J., the son of Salvatore and Grace Massimino. His father, an Italian immigrant, was a shoemaker.
Rollie Massimino graduated from Hillside High School and went on to the University of Vermont, where he played for the basketball team for three years. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education there in 1956 and a master’s equivalent in health and physical education from Rutgers University in 1959.
He married Mary Jane Reid in 1958. They retired to Florida after he was fired by Cleveland State in 2003, but Massimino soon grew bored with playing golf. Then he received a telephone call one day from someone he knew from his first head-coaching job, at Stony Brook University on Long Island. It led to his being lured to Keiser, then known as Northwood University, to help begin a basketball program there.
In 2015, Mary Jane Massimino told The New York Times: “He was going down to be a consultant. The next thing I knew, he was coaching.”
Soon after, Massimino announced that his team would play its inaugural home game against Villanova, coached by his former assistant there, Jay Wright. This was news to Wright, who had helped mend the relationship between Massimino and the university that he had put on the national basketball map.
Massimino with his Keiser University players during a practice in 2015. CreditAngel Valentin for The New York Times
Wright wound up agreeing to take his Wildcats to Northwood’s cramped gym for the 2006-7 season opener. He told The Times in 2015 that he “couldn’t say no.”
Nor could John Calipari, the Kentucky coach, who hosted Massimino’s Keiser team in a 2012 exhibition game because Massimino had wanted one last chance to coach in Rupp Arena, the site of his career-defining triumph.
Even as he entered his 80s, Massimino remained volatile and irascible. At Keiser’s practices, he would refuse to sit, even after his struggles with cancer, and would occasionally wander into the field of play.
At the start of the 2015-16 season, recovering from a collapsed lung, he was ordered by his doctor not to fly to a game in Vermont. He took the train instead.
“I thought he was foolish taking the train all the way up there, but I wasn’t surprised,” Ms. Massimino told The Times. “He takes his job seriously. It’s what he loves, what keeps him active and young.”
In addition to his wife, Massimino is survived by three sons, Tom, R. C. and Andrew; two daughters, Lee Ann and Michele; and 17 grandchildren. R. C. Massimino was a member of Villanova’s 1985 team.
Massimino never lost touch with those championship Wildcats. During his years in Florida, he coached the sons of two players from that team, Ed Pinckney, who had a successful N.B.A. career, and Dwayne McClain, and a group of them would visit him most years for a weekend in February, dining on Mary Jane Massimino’s pasta and sleeping over on spare beds and air mattresses.
Last year, he won his 800th game as a college coach. And thanks to the fence-mending initiated by Wright, Massimino attended Villanova’s 2016 national championship victory, the university’s second, over North Carolina.
“I’ve been lucky in life,” Massimino said, “with coaching and family.”