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Sitting Down


Cyrille Aimee

Cyrille Aimee

As a musician, every now and then I run into a person that inspires me by his or her approach to what they do. I met Cyrille Aimee on the subway one Saturday night while hanging out with my high school b-ball teammate, Steve. She was very friendly and we talked about music and life. She said modestly, “We will be playing a Birdland next week; you should come check out the show.” Although I didn’t make that show, I did get a chance to check the show out about a year later. Cyrille turned out be one of the most authentic musicians I have met in my life. Her personality is as genuine on stage as it is off stage. So when I got the opportunity to interview Ms. Aimee for my blog, I naturally kicked it with her like an old friend, a new ally, and a fellow musician. Check out what Cyrille had to say about her music, and how she approaches this stage of her career.

Jeffrey C. Suttles: When did you start singing?

Cyrille Aimee: Hmmm, I started when I was around 13 or 14 years old.

Jeff: Did your parents inspire you to sing?

Cyrille: Well my parents always loved music and musicians. My mother is from the Dominican Republic, so she loves to dance. I actually started singing when I met these gypsies.

Jeff: What school did you attend?

Cyrille: I came here to study at Suny Purchase College in Westchester, New York. I loved going to school in that area of New York, they have a great music program.

Jeff: Your new project, Let’s Get Lost, did you do the writing and production or did you collaborate with other musicians?

Cyrille: A little bit of both, some of the songs I wrote by myself. Some of the songs I collaborated with the guitar player in the band. There are some songs I did in French and I also did some covers. It’s a mix!

Jeff: How much are you touring these days?

Cyrille: I just got back from France two days ago, and I’m headed to Japan next week. So I’m pretty busy.

Jeff: How often do you get back to France, to visit your family?

Cyrille: Well I was there last week, and I’m going back in June. I try to get back as much as I can, I usually go when I have a concert. I try to stay a little longer to spend time with my family and friends.

Jeff: How does your family feel about you success? Are they happy for you?

Cyrille: Yeah, of course they are.

Jeff: Who would you say influenced you the most, as a musician or an artist? Who inspired you to do what you do?

Cyrille: Hmmm, many artists have inspired me. Ella Scott Fitzgerald heavily influenced me when I begin my career. But I’m also crazy about Michael Jackson. It’s so many artists that influence me. The list is very long!

Jeff: How about Sade, some of you vocal work reminds me of Sade.

Cyrille: Yeah, I love Sade.

Jeff: What do you feeling is missing right now in jazz culture?

Cyrille: I would like to see jazz become available to wider audiences. Jazz has an old connotation to it, and it’s not that at all. Jazz is a very evolving music and the only thing is people don’t know they like it because they are not exposed to it. If they were exposed to it more, they would discover more about it. I would like to see more jazz on TV and on the radio.

Jeff: Yeah, it would be nice to see commercial radio and TV embrace the jazz culture. Okay last question, what words of wisdom or suggestions do you have for young artist aspiring to do what you do?

Cyrille: Hmmm, do be afraid to get back on the horse when you fall off. You are going fall many times, and basically the job of an artist is to use the times that you fall as constructive criticism and learn from it.

Jeff: Hmmm-great advice Cyrille, every young artist should apply that concept. It’s always a pleasure to kick it with you. Have a safe trip to Japan; we’ll talk when you get back. Peace.

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Jeffrey C. Suttles is a Master of Arts candidate in Urban Studies at the Murphy Institute. He is an independent songwriter/musician who completed his undergraduate studies at The City College of New York. He is currently a CUNY CAP student who continues to pursue career opportunities in publishing, communications, and the arts.




Million Man Movement

Million Man March, October 2015

On October 10, 2015 the people spoke to the injustice that we have been forced to endure. Millions of us came together to awaken the feeling for solidarity among our clergymen, organizers, and the everyday working class people. We stood together to represent the fact that, “enough is enough.” As the buses entered Washington D.C., we were blessed with exceptional weather, and although the Nation of Islam served as a most gracious host, we all felt at home, as we refreshed our spirits and minds.

I was blessed to attend the march with The Universal Zulu Nation. We rode into the nations capital to reinforce the desire for peace in our New York communities. Afrika Bambaataa, a true legend of hip hop, explained, “it’s about taking ourselves home, doing the knowledge, waking up our communities, to get up and do something for ourselves.” The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan delivered the message in a monumental way, and we all returned home enriched in substance through love.

View the full message here.

Be sure to checkout the 42nd Universal Zula Nation Anniversary, November 12-15.

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Jeffrey C. Suttles is a Master of Arts candidate in Urban Studies at the Murphy Institute. He is an independent songwriter/musician who completed his undergraduate studies at The City College of New York. He is currently a CUNY CAP student who continues to pursue career opportunities in publishing, communications, and the arts.

Last week, I got to go see Clive Owen make his Broadway debut in Roundabout Theatre Company’s Old Times.  I also had a little too much wine beforehand.  As such, the following is not a review.

Old Times is by Nobel Laureate Harold Pinter and is a so-called “memory play”… this is theater-speak for difficult to follow.  

Old Times was also an unusually brief theater experience, a mere 67 minutes.  In the short time I was seated in the American Airlines Theater a lot of urgent questions came up for me…not all these questions were related to Pinter’s abstract script.  See below:

How much are tickets to Old Times on Broadway…per minute?

By my calculations, anywhere from $1.25 – $5 or more per minute if you buy directly from the box office.  I couldn’t help but wonder if 
maybe they should have inserted some more of Pinter’s famous pauses (google: “Pinter pause”) to add value for the audience.

How much does the show cost the The Roundabout Theatre Company…per minute?

A silly question, maybe, considering all the preliminary work that goes into a large-scale production like Old Times.  But interesting because Roundabout is the nation’s largest 501c3 not-for-profit theater company.   

Apparently, they also have to publish a public financial report which would answer the question of how much the production costs.  This report will come out next year so stay tuned  (Roundabout is likely back in the black thanks to a network of donors and subscribers after a recession that hit the arts hard).  But the financial report will not explicitly answer the next question…

How much does Clive Owen make…per minute?

An internet search for “Clive Owen salary” reveals that Clive Owen may be one of the highest paid actors in the world…but there is little to be found regarding compensation for his theater work.  

Clive Owens, if I had to take a not-very-educated guess, is making less than the $150,000 per week Julia Roberts reportedly made for her star-turn in Three Days of Rain.  Let’s say he makes the same $40,000 Patti Lupone allegedly pulled in for the last Broadway revival of Gypsy.

 It is not-for-profit after all, it’s a meaty role that Clive expressed great interest in and it is not like he needs the money.

So let’s say $40,000.  He performs for a total of 536 enigmatic, sexually-charged minutes per week.  That is a total of 74.63 unconfirmed US Dollars per minute of stage time.  It’s not Hollywood money but it’ll pay the bills.

I won’t touch the issue of wage inequality based on gender…and the question of how much Clive’s Tony-nominated female co-star Eve Best might be making.  But I’m all over the implications for income inequality…

How about the other workers on the show: what do they make?

A living wage.

The New York theater industry is heavily unionized.  FOX News aired an interview a few years back with Broadway producer Barry Habib of Rock of Ages, in which he knocked the influence of organized labor.  In fact, as many as 17 unions represent workers and artists in some Broadway productions, many under the umbrella of IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees).  This ensures that, in an industry that is VERY fickle and precarious, all workers involved are paid a living wage as long as the show is running and enjoy benefits such as health insurance long after it closes.   

By the way, producers have been known to complain about the high cost of the acting talent as a percentage of their total costs when negotiating with the actor’s union, Actor’s Equity Association (AEA).  But Equity does not negotiate star salaries; they simply negotiate minimums.  So a union can not be blamed for the star salaries here as much as the star’s agents and the stars themselves…and maybe a little bit the audience that flocks to see such stars.

What does Old Times have to teach us? 

There has been a lot of buzz recently on the “Hollywood” business model: a short-term, project-based model of employment.  In a world of work increasingly precarious, movies create a ton of good quality, high-paying jobs…so much so, that cities throughout the US now offer tax credits to lure production.  In large part, this is due to the unions that represent many of the workers.  But it was Broadway that wrote the book on equitable pay for skilled temporary workers.

If producers bemoan the cost of doing business on Broadway as compared to, say, London, it is because everyone gets paid more over here.  Broadway theater professionals can, unlike their counterparts in London, afford to live within the city limits.  That includes dressers and stage technicians as well as stars like Clive Owen living the proverbial American Dream.  No wonder our stages and films are filled with Brits.  

Roundabout reports that 70% of its “salaries and benefits” costs are paid under collective bargaining agreements, that is to say, negotiates by unions.  In my mind, that is all the more reason to subscribe.  

The revenue from your ticket to Old Times goes to support a not-for-profit institution that manages to pay equitable salaries for hundreds of Americans.  Pat yourself on the back.  You can feel good about supporting the theater.

Oh ya: Old Times is also an important British play from an important British playwright with a big-name British movie star…and you’ll be out by 9:30.

Professional actor turned hotel concierge, Dana Steer arrived in New York to pursue a career on the musical stage in 2000.  Work as an actor came and went—and Dana found opportunity to explore many other professions and interests.  He eventually settled into a job in New York’s robust hotel industry.  His professional life in the arts and the hotel industry has been shaped by unions: Actor’s Equity, SAG/AFTRA and more recently the New York Hotel Trades Council, the union of hotel workers.  An interest in the world of work and social justice in the workplace brought Dana to the renowned Murphy Institute at CUNY SPS, where he is pursuing a Masters degree in Labor Studies.  Dana is active in his union and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Carnegie Mellon University.

Jeff’s Top 5

Crafting music for artists has changed tremendously within the last 40 years. From the days of Gamble and Huff laying down rhythms and melodies for the Ojay’s, to generating new music for the Black Eye Peas, technology has taken on a whole new meaning as we continue to create music. Nowadays one man has the ability to lay down numerous tracks, without an engineer, or additional musicians through music programs like Pro Tools and Reason.

As a musician, I decided to name the top five beat makers that influenced me to continue to make music. As technology continues to be a driving force in the creation of music, these guys have found a way to stay innovative. Also featured are a great list of honorable mentions, I feel that they are equally gifted and remain rooted in the art of creating music. In hindsight I left out Pete Rock, The Neptunes, Da Beatminerz, and D.I.T.C who also were very influential in the music industry and set a high standard when it came to making beats. Check out the video and let me know what you think, these are obviously my opinions and solely mint to inspire and encourage the next generation of music makers.

Jeff’s Top 5 Beat Makers:

  1. Dr. Dre
  2. DJ Premier
  3. Timbaland
  4. Erick Sermon
  5. RZA

***** This Blog is dedicated to the families and friends that lost a loved one on October 1, 2015 at Umpqua Community College.

Jeffrey C. Suttles is a Master of Arts candidate in Urban Studies at the Murphy Institute. He is an independent songwriter/musician who completed his undergraduate studies at The City College of New York.  He is currently a CUNY CAP student who continues to pursue career opportunities in publishing, communications, and the arts.

The following was submitted by Brandon M. Chiwaya (Murphy Institute ’13):  

After graduating from SPS in June, I reached out to Tanya Fields for a bit of career advice. Tanya (who you may remember from my last blog post was the commencement speaker at the spring 2013 SPS graduation ceremony) is the executive director of The BLK ProjeK, a food justice and community development organization in the South Bronx. About a week or two after graduation I sat down with Tanya over a cup of coffee to talk about strategies for career planning. As the conversation gradually shifted toward The BLK ProjeK, Tanya mentioned she was extremely busy planning the upcoming launch of The South Bronx Mobile Market, her latest project. In fact the project was growing so fast she was looking to bring someone new onboard to help mitigate the workload. Tanya floated a proposal to me to come work with her, to which I quickly accepted.

Tanya Fields Mobile Market With Brandon

Since the beginning of the summer, the launching of the South Bronx Mobile Market (SBMM) has been the main focus of the organization. The SBMM is a former school bus, which has been repainted (in a cool paint scheme) and converted to run on used vegetable oil. When fully operational, the SBMM will supply the neighborhoods of the South Bronx with fresh, organic, and locally grown Hudson Valley produce.

New York state’s 16th congressional district, which encompasses the South Bronx, was ranked number one in the 2011-2012 Food Hardship Poll and is the poorest of the 436 congressional districts in the United States. Combined with an over abundance of fast food and take out establishments, area residents rank among the nation’s highest in health related problems due to poor food nutrition. This makes the work of The BLK ProjeK, and the SBMM all the more vital to the local community.

I hit the ground running on my first day at The BLK ProjeK. With the launch of the mobile market only a few weeks away, there was no time to waste. Creating a community needs assessment and survey to help understand the local attitudes toward healthy eating was my first assignment. Feeling a bit unsure where to start with such a task and halfway freaking out, I quickly reached out to a few of my former SPS professors for help. Professor Michael McNeil who teaches Research Methods and Professor Basil Smikle, Jr., who teaches Policy Analysis, were both willing to help out and give me some advice. Throughout this initial phase, it was incredible to know I was using skills and knowledge I’d acquired at SPS a few months ago in a practical application. In a matter of months I’d gone from sitting in Professor McNeil’s 6pm Thursday night class, wondering to myself, “when will I ever need to know about survey sets?” to creating my own. I’d gone from writing abstract policy papers in Professor Smikle’s class to drafting real research reports.

In addition to the mobile market, Tanya and The BLK ProjeK, have been working hard to turn a few vacant lots owned by New York City into urban gardens. Community organizing at this level presents its own share of obstacles. Canvassing neighborhoods, conducting bus tours, and holding community meetings requires an enormous amount of time and manpower. To help support the continued development of The BLK ProjeK, we will be hosting a fundraiser tonight, Thursday, September 5, at the Brook Park Community Garden. For more information about this event please visit:

Tanya Fields BLK ProjeK

To find out more about The BLK ProjeK or ways you can get involved and support our work, please contact us at or call us at 718.635.0951, and the next time you find yourself in the South Bronx be sure to keep a look out for the colorful school bus.

Brandon M. Chiwaya studied Public Administration and Public Policy at the Murphy Institute, and is a class of 2013 CUNY SPS graduate. While in school, he was a member of the 2013-2014 Technology Budget Fee Committee, and was awarded the CUNY Vice Chancellor’s Excellence in Leadership Award. He is currently a Research Analyst with The BLK-ProjeK

About a month ago I received an email from the faculty at SPS inviting me to join a few of my fellow students to attend a dinner in the city. The dinner was organized to give this year’s commencement speaker, Ms. Tanya Fields an opportunity to meet with the students she will be talking to in a few weeks at graduation. Prior to receiving the email I’d never heard of Ms. Fields and at the time, overwhelmed with class work, I did not have time to Google her. Nevertheless, I eagerly accepted the invitation and a week later found myself seated with a few students and staff from SPS at a table in the middle of a candle lit restaurant in mid-town.

When Ms. Fields arrived we took turns going around the table to introduce ourselves. Hearing the diverse exchange of personal and professional stories reminded me just how unique the SPS community is. From students who attend class via the web to those, like myself, that attend in person, SPS brings together students from all backgrounds and ages to a single learning environment. Finally it was Ms. Fields’ turn to share with us her story. She began by telling the table about her current role as director of The BLK ProjeK, a Bronx community food justice campaign.

Tanya Fields has been extremely successful in using social media to bring attention to her social work and community building projects. Over the course of our evening the conversation covered food justice, new media, higher education and politics that included a spirited debate on the social cost of corn commodities between Ms. Fields and myself.

I soon discovered Tanya Fields is a vibrant and energetic young social entrepreneur. Her personal commitment to creating a positive change in her community is a noble act worthy of recognition. In a city as big as New York, it is easy for us to get caught up in our own lives and overlook social problems like poverty, reductions in high school graduation rates, and youth unemployment. It is easier to simply regard these issues as the problem of someone else and turn a blind eye. However, simply ignoring these issues will not make them disappear.

As New Yorkers we enjoy the benefit of living in a great city that encourages us to be ambitious go-getters. Yet in doing so we often forget that we still live in a communal society where a negative impact to any one segment of the population will eventually affect all of us in some manner. Because of this we all have a social responsibility to each other and Tanya Fields’ work reflects this. Her food justice project, which educates young children on good dieting habits, is raising a new generation of New Yorkers that won’t have to shoulder the burden of increased taxes to address obesity related health effects and the increased social cost they place on the public. Ms. Fields’ mentoring and outreach program is empowering young girls by teaching them the importance of education. I believe Ms. Fields’ work is true a benefit to not just her community but also our entire city.

The night concluded with the students sharing their thoughts on what a good graduation speech should touch on with Ms. Fields. I left the dinner feeling truly inspired by the work Tanya Fields does. So much so I thought it only right I use the power of social media to share with the SPS community our commencement speaker and her story.

Following our dinner, I asked Ms. Fields if she would be interested in doing an interview for the SPS Community Blog, which she eagerly accepted. I spent a morning at Ms. Fields’ office in the Bronx chatting about every thing from the future of social media in education to the Jedi mind trick Celie plays on Albert in the end of The Color Purple (her favorite movie). My interview with Tanya was both informative and lighthearted and provides some insight into the life of Ms. Tanya Fields.

Brandon M. Chiwaya is a current SPS student studying Public Administration and Public Policy at the Murphy Institute. He is a member of the school’s 2013-2014 Technology Budget Fee Committee, and was recently awarded the CUNY Vice Chancellor’s Excellence in Leadership Award. Below is an excerpt from Brandon’s interview with Tanya Fields.

Workers Unite! Film Festival

To all of the veterans, active troops, and military families in the SPS community, we thank you! Returning home and making higher education a goal is not always easy.  We asked alum Armando Vega, and current student Enrique Diaz to share some of their thoughts on being student veterans.

1. What branch of the United States Military did you serve, and for how many years were you enlisted?

I was in the U.S. Navy, and I served honorably for 4 years (1994 – 1998).

2. What CUNY SPS program did you receive a degree in, when, and how has that changed your life?

I earned an MA in Labor Studies. My desire is to work in Human Resources and the Labor Relations department. My dream is to one day become the HR manager and or director of a reputable corporation.

3. Were your experiences as a student affected by also being a veteran?

Not really because I returned to school much later in life, and my classmates where older working class adults. I try to keep my veteran status private for the most part.

4. What does Veterans Day mean to you?

Veterans Day is close to being the most important day of the year next to July 4th. It is a day of remembrance for the sacrifices made by the many brave men and women that has enabled this great nation to remain free from tyranny.

5. What advice do you have for newly returning veterans?

To be resilient, and realize that the civilian world is not very kind to returning veterans, and that finding employment is very difficult right now. Keep the faith and seek help from the Veterans Administration.

Any additional thoughts?

For me to attend CUNY and earn my Masters degree was a worthwhile accomplishment, and hopefully I can use it to advance in my career.

1. What branch of the United States Military did you serve, and for how many years were you enlisted?

I served 6 years as a Religious Program Specialist (RP) with the United States Navy and 4 years as an 0111 (Administrative Specialist) with the United States Marine Corps.

2. What CUNY SPS program did you receive a degree in, when, and how has that changed your life?

Currently enrolled in the Public Administration Certificate Program, once completed, June 2013, I plan on transferring to Brooklyn College for a bachelor’s degree in Political Science. Once I have earned my degree in Political Science, I hope to use it to advance my career within City government.

3. Were your experiences as a student affected by also being a veteran?

My yearning for learning was nurtured while I was on active duty. As a veteran, I now have more time to pursue my desire to learn.

4. What does Veterans Day mean to you?

It’s a day of reflection. I think back to my time served, my friends and family who have served and those who have made the ultimate sacrifice so that I could live in a land where the only one holding me back is myself. All the opportunities are there for the taking.

5. What advice do you have for newly returning veterans?

Take advantage of any programs available to you. Use your GI Bill to further your education and make yourself more marketable. As sad as it is to say, being a veteran is simply not enough anymore to obtain a good paying job to sustain yourself and your family.

All across the country, states are facing budget crises and are looking to fix the situation. However, the focus of many of the “fixes” is to attack public sector unions and erode labor rights in general. The justification is that public sector workers supposedly have inflated benefit packages, and they must finally “pay their fair share.”  In reality, this is hogwash. It is nothing more than an excuse to bust unions, rollback social safety nets, all while giving tax cuts to the rich. On the Rachel Maddow Show, Naomi Klein brilliantly describes what is really going on. The recent massive demonstrations in Wisconsin, and the threat of a general strike by some labor leaders, show that this time workers aren’t necessarily going to sit back and take the beating.

Most of the ant-union bills are happening under Republican governors. But working people are under attack, under the pretext of addressing a fiscal crisis, even under the reign Democratic local governments. In Providence, RI, for example, a labor-backed mayor recently handed all of the public school teachers pink slips. This was to prepare for firings and school closings that are said to be imminent and necessary to address the deficit. I just wrote something on the situation.

I propose one “fix” that would both help solve some of these economic woes and be fair. It focuses on going after those who bask in great wealth even during the economic crisis that they caused. We need to raise taxes on corporations and the rich. We need to collect the taxes that they owe and close the loopholes that allow them to shield money from taxes. The reality is that many corporations pay little to no taxes, and the rich pay taxes almost a third lower than they did in the 1950s—a time of great economic growth.

Yes, taxes need to be cut. We need to extend the tax cuts for the bottom 80% of the population–I would even settle for extending them for the bottom 95%. However, the top percentiles’ taxes need to be increased, so here are a few reasons why we should raise (and collect!) taxes on the rich, not cut them.

First, history shows that they can handle it. In the golden age of capitalism–a time where GDP growth rates vastly outpaced those of the last 30 years–the top tax brackets paid taxes as high as 94% of their income. High rates lasted up until as late as the early 1970s, with them paying 70%.

Second, it is good for the economy and the budget. It provides government income that can be used to provided vital services to the working class–like unemployment benefits, subsidized housing and healthcare, increasing the minimum wage, etc.–as well as be a source of funding for infrastructure spending–which we need badly, especially in addressing the ecological crisis. Both of these things stimulate the economy and provide jobs. Providing the social services reducing inequality and decreases the chances of economic meltdown. It also puts more dispensable income in the hands of people who will spend it, increasing demand and stimulating the economy. Infrastructure spending will directly create jobs–that’s an easy one.

Third, tax cuts for the wealthy do not create jobs at the level we need, if any at all. Wealthy people do not put their money into the economy the same way that working class and middle income people do. They are more likely to save it or sit on it to wait for more profitable times in the market. For example, reports came out recently stating that non-financial companies are sitting on over a TRILLION DOLLARS. Yet, they are not hiring people. This is because they don’t have confidence in the market. They don’t think they’ll make the profits the want. Here’s the link to the article.

What we need is a high road, wage-led growth, not low road, profit-led growth. The latter is what we’ve had since the 70s–the neoliberal era. This can be done in the short term by providing adequate fiscal stimulus–much, much, larger than has already been provided–and taxing the wealthy and cutting wasteful spending can pay for it (a few wars come to mind). Also, the government needs to have a more active role in creating jobs through infrastructure spending, etc. Trickle-down economics just doesn’t work.

But here’s the catch. It is going to be difficult to for anything to happen on the federal level in the next two years. We couldn’t get meaningful economic legislation passed under a Democratic majority, never mind under a Republican controlled house. We need to consolidate our forces on the ground and build so we can pressure for change from below now, as well as get some people elected in 2012. This does not, however, suggest extending tax cuts for the wealthy and cutting spending on social programs becomes the only option. That will only exacerbate the crisis even more. We need to buckle down and make sure that they DON”T get extended, that labor rights are not taken away, that teachers don’t get fired, and defend all of the other programs that are good–like social security. Also, there is room for us to wage battles on the state level. If we show our power in the streets, as they have done in Wisconsin, we can make them listen to us. A state-wide or nation-wide general strike certainly would shift some power to our hands.

The first step is to break away from the narrative that says solving the economic crisis “will require shared sacrifice across our community,” to quote Providence, RI’s Mayor Taveras. Working people are always sacrificing. It’s time for those who caused the current crisis—and for those who benefit from the perpetual crisis working people face laboring under an oppressive system like capitalism—to pay. Let’s draw a line in the sand and pick sides. Which side will you choose?

John Cronan Jr is a restaurant worker, organizer, and a masters student at the Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies.  Currently, he is a volunteer organizer for the Restaurant Opportunities Center of New York (ROC-NY). John is also an avid Boston sports fan.