The new British Prime Minister Theresa May announced six members of her cabinet today.

Amid a sweeping crackdown on dissent in Egypt, security forces have forcibly disappeared hundreds of people since the beginning of 2015, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

It's an "unprecedented spike," the group says, with an average of three or four people disappeared every day.

The Republican Party, as it prepares for its convention next week has checked off item No. 1 on its housekeeping list — drafting a party platform. The document reflects the conservative views of its authors, many of whom are party activists. So don't look for any concessions to changing views among the broader public on key social issues.

Many public figures who took to Twitter and Facebook following the murder of five police officers in Dallas have faced public blowback and, in some cases, found their employers less than forgiving about inflammatory and sometimes hateful online comments.

As Venezuela unravels — with shortages of food and medicine, as well as runaway inflation — President Nicolas Maduro is increasingly unpopular. But he's still holding onto power.

"The truth in Venezuela is there is real hunger. We are hungry," says a man who has invited me into his house in the northwestern city of Maracaibo, but doesn't want his name used for fear of reprisals by the government.

The wiry man paces angrily as he speaks. It wasn't always this way, he says, showing how loose his pants are now.

Ask a typical teenage girl about the latest slang and girl crushes and you might get answers like "spilling the tea" and Taylor Swift. But at the Girl Up Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C., the answers were "intersectional feminism" — the idea that there's no one-size-fits-all definition of feminism — and U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit


African-American Musicians, More Than Just Jazz

Aug 14, 2013
Originally published on August 14, 2013 2:23 pm

Jazz or blues may be the first thing that comes to mind we think of the contributions that African Americans have made to American music genres, but that overlooks the rich heritage of African- Americans in classical music. For two decades the Gateways Music Festival has challenged that image. This year the festival celebrates its 20th Anniversary in Rochester, New York and continues to celebrate the contributions of African-Americans to classical music by featuring world class musicians and conductors of African heritage.

The Gateways Music Festival has free concerts in unexpected venues like synagogues and libraries and it offers new perspectives and experiences to all. World-class musicians, cellist Kenneth Law and violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins are members of the Gateways Festival Orchestra. They tell NPR's Celeste Headlee about the festival and how classical music is interwoven within the African-American experience.

Interview Highlights

Kenneth Law on his exposure to classical music

"There are so few African-American faces in these American orchestras. And there are any number of issues that come into play. One may be just lack of exposure to classical music. I was very fortunate to have grown up in a musical family where my mother is a pianist and a retired music school teacher, elementary music school teacher. And my sister, although she is an attorney by trade, she also plays flute and piano. So I grew up with a family chamber ensemble. I also went to a church that did Bach concertos and Brahms. And so I grew up in that classical tradition. And so for me to actually find out that African-Americans did not have that connection was something of a surprise to me. And so the challenge for me, actually, is to find ways of making that classical music more accessible to the younger generation, and also to my own colleagues as well."

Kelly Hall-Tompkins on the visibility of African-American musicians in the orchestra

"There are some amazingly talented African American artists that are out on the scene. And they are disproportionately not getting that they sometimes rightly deserve as often as they should. And that is starting to change now. I noticed that there is a little bit of and issue of people want to program ethnic programming for the month of February....But the presenters and the organizations that are really serious about presenting the greatest artists out there are the ones for whom you will see African American artists in other months of the year as well...

I think that people are starting to get the positions that they truly merit but I think that there is sometimes a disconnect in quite honestly people being able to envision African-Americans in these positions. I frequently introduce myself as a violinist and people say, 'Oh wow, that is so terrific. Where do you sing?' And their mind automatically goes to it because we have such a wonderful tradition of African American singers but I would like for people to recognize, you know, that we have an equally large and growing tradition of African-American string players."

Kelly Hall-Tompkins on classical music as a part of the Black experience.

"I frequently tell people that it is 400 years plus of describing through musical language the human experience. And I relate to all of it. So I love the idea that there are so many voices through which we can express these incredible emotions and the incredible power of the human experience.

I've had people - very well-meaning people - say to me 'Oh you play the violin, oh isn't that wonderful. Oh, you play classical music, well maybe one of these days you'll switch over to play our music. And I just tell them, this is our music. This is so much my music. I claim it. You know it is so much part of me. I can't separate myself."

Kelly Hall-Tompkins on the next generation of African-American classical musicians

"I believe that actually there are a growing number. Similar to the little budding Tiger Woods out there who once they got introduced to the world of golf are somehow smitten with it because they've seen a role model. There are tons of African-American young students that are starting instruments and that are also becoming quite advanced and world-class players...

What may be missing is a disconnect for some people who find themselves in isolated places as the only African-American string player. If they don't have someone who can understand just their passion for classical music, which is also just rare in our society, unfortunately across all races. But what's important is to have somebody who can - I hate to use the world mentor, it's overused - but who can introduce you to the path that we take when we become serious about classical music."

Kenneth Law on the need for a Tiger Woods of African-American string players

"I really don't feel that we need to have that kind of iconic figure, actually. I think classical music and just that whole idea of classical music being an integral part of your life is enough. And just really understanding the universality of music and that classical music has no less importance or no more importance than any other style of music. You can express yourself exactly the same way in classical music that you can in other forms of music. And in fact one of the reasons why I started playing the cello was because I was able to express myself in a way that I wouldn't have been able to otherwise. And so for me we wouldn't need necessarily that figure. But we would need that education."

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