Charlotte Hill O’Neal aka Mama C is an internationally known visual artist, musician and poet with more than two decades of experience. She was born in Kansas City, KS in 1951 and has lived in Africa with her husband Pete O’Neal since 1970. She is the mother of two children, Malcolm and AnnWood “Stormy”. She is co-director of the United African Alliance Community Center UAACC located outside of Arusha, Tanzania. www.uaacc.habari.co.tz
Mama C was greatly influenced in her early years by the jazz, blues and gospel that Kansas City is famous for and integrates elements of that experience in both her music and the rhythm of her poetry along with the African beats and hip hop vibe of her spirit. She explores the reality of her life as a Diaspora born African who has lived most of her years in Tanzania in many of her poems, one of the most famous being I Almost Lost Myself.
“As a member of the Black Panther Party I was taught the importance of building international solidarity among all people while honoring my Ancestral roots. That philosophy has never changed and many of my poems and songs reflect this burning desire and mission to spread peace, love and unity through my art”, Mama C reflects. “The spontaneous release of love that comes from poetry and music and art, in general… that thing that binds us all together and builds solidarity and understanding among all people no matter where they are from or what language they speak, is like magic!”
Her song writing and performing talents have been showcased on stage, television and radio in many cities in Africa and in America during the annual UAACC Heal the Community Tour. She launched her book of poetry, Warrior Woman of Peace in 2008 and plans to launch her second book of poetry titled Life Slices – a Taste of My Heaven, in 2013. Mama C debuted several of her newest poems during the Poetry Africa Tour 2010 to Cape Town – South Africa, Harare – Zimbabwe and Blantyre – Malawi and the 14th Annual Poetry Africa Festival in Durban, all sponsored by the Creative Arts Center at University of KwaZulu Natal.
Mama C is co-director along with George Kyomushula, of the newly established Arusha Poetry Club in Arusha, Tanzania which serves as a platform for East African poets and artists around the planet.
She recently completed her 4th music/spoken word album produced at Peace Power Productions studio at UAACC and she has directed and appeared in several music videos featuring East African artists, YouTube channel: mamacharlotteuaacc
Mama C and Pete O’Neal are the subjects of two award winning documentaries about their lives and activism including American Exile narrated by Hollywood actress Alfre Woodard and the PBS documentary, A Panther in Africa by Aaron Matthews and she is one of the featured artists along with M1 of Deadprez in a newly released documentary on art and activism by Michael Wanguhu titled Ni Wakati, http://www.pbs.org/itvs/globalvoices/pantherinafrica.html, http://www.niwakatithefilm.com/
Mama C has learned to play the Obokano, an ancient African eight string lyre that originates in the Gusii community in western Kenya. Even though the instrument was considered taboo for women to play, one of the recognized masters of obokano, Dennis “Grandmaster Masese” Mosiere, felt that things should change and taught Mama C. She is the first woman to play professionally and finds that, “mixing obokano with poetry and song brings me so much pleasure and adds to the scope of my creativity!”
She is presently working with several artists to establish an indigenous music school and archive/museum at UAACC. They have already begun building instruments like the kiteníge from the Maasai community; umakhweyane from the Zulu community; obokano from the Gusii community; the marimba and the kalimba thumb piano that is played in nearly every country in sub Saharan Africa,Youtube channel: Wakunga zamani
Mama C: Urban Warrior in the African Bush is a new documentary about Mama C’s life as an artist activist by film maker, Dr. Joanne Hershfield who is a professor of Womens Studies and Department Head, at North Carolina State University Chapel Hill.
A trailer and more information about the film can be found at www.mamacurbanwarriorfilm.com