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WELCOME – Biography

Biography

Camille Yarbrough is an award-winning performance artist, author, and cultural activist. With a career that spans over fifty years, several continents, countless awards and accolades, and a few generations, Nana Camille has earned legendary status. She continues to inspire audiences today via her local, long running television show (Ancestor House), via her popular musical CD (also entitled Ancestor House), and via performances and lectures about poetry, music, Black art and culture.Most recently, Nana Camille (as she is honorably called) performed at the Poetry Jam of the 2011Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit in Florida. She is regularly called upon to share her wisdom and life/work, be it Kwanzaa celebrations and Haiti tributes in New York, concerts in California for Maulana Karenga (founder of Kwanzaa), or on the Michael Eric Dyson Radio Show. Regardless of the medium, Nana Camille’s life-long vision remains clear. She consistently champions the beauty and greatness of African people wherever they are in the world. Her mission is to raise their glory and in so doing vibrate that thread of humanity that links all.Yarbrough’s vision was nourished and became a creative force in her life when she toured with the pioneer dancer and choreographer Katherine Dunham as a member of the Katherine Dunham Company of Dancers, Singers, and Musicians. There Nana Camille honed her performance and producing gifts and immersed herself in independent study of African people throughout the Diaspora.The world-traveling Chicago native currently resides in New York. In her travels, Nana Camille has made a number of trips to Africa and is enstooled in the Ghanian tradition as Queen Mother to the late educator Dr. John Henrik Clarke.Nana Camille is also an educator at heart and for 12 years was faculty at City College of New York (located in Harlem). She taught African dance and courses on the internationally famous neighborhood. As an accomplished theater actress, she co-starred in Lorraine Hansberry’s To Be Young, Gifted, and Black, as well as James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones and Kwamina. For television and film, her credits include various network specials, soap operas, and the original movie Shaft.

As an extension of her creative and activist self, Yarbrough turned to writing in the 1970’s. Her published works have appeared in The New York Times, The Black Collegian Magazine, andThe Journal of African Civilization. In 1979 Cornrows, the award-winning, groundbreaking family book that Essence magazine called “a gem,” was published and later three more books followed:The Shimmershine Queens, The Little Tree Growing in the Shade, and Tamika and the Wisdom Rings.

In contemporary pop culture circles, Nana Camille is known as the singer whose song and vocals were sampled on the international mega-hit, Praise You, by techno-musician Fatboy Slim. Her first solo musical recording, The Iron Pot Cooker (1975) is where the hit song Praise You originated.

Writer and activist Kevin Powell offers this praise of the now classic album: “Without question, The Iron Pot Cooker is a precursor to Lauryn Hill’s best-seller The Mis-Education of Lauryn Hill.”

A few other high reviews:
Billboard Magazine: “…Yarbrough has stylish traces of Nina Simone and Gil Scott-Heron but her own style of singing and recitation … are outstanding. Her songs are all thought provoking.”
SPIN Magazine called Nana Camille a “hip-hop foremother.”
And regarding the re-release Iron Pot Cooker, CDNOW said it was the “The most important rediscovery of the year…”

When asked about her longevity and unwavering focus, Yarbrough explains: “Being a griot or storyteller is what I was born to do. I come from a kinship line that was re-born to re-tell our story.We must tell it to the young, tell it to the old…everyone grows when our family story is told!”

When asked about the relevance of her message for today, she further explains: “The freedom of the African mind depends on us being re-educated about our history and our culture. As a griot, I am charged to do more than share stories but I must preserve the meaning and beauty of our culture. That work, with me as a keeper of our culture, transcends time and space. That’s why the themes of my books and my music are not bound to my generation. The ancestors ensure that my work has meaning for all age groups.”

Here are just a few universal themes found in Nana Camille’s vast reservoir of work:

Themes Artistic Work
Celebrating love Take Yo Praise
The need to honor Elders
The healing power of telling family stories Tell It
Hand-me-down generational pain But it Comes Out Mad
Sexual exploitation Little Sally the Super Sex Star
Women being alone Can I Get a Witness?
The destructive power of poverty Sonnyboy the Rip Off Man
Government oppression All Hid
Self-esteem (book) The Shimmershine Queens
Guiding principals (book) Tamika and the Wisdom Rings
The Roots of Cornrows, Our Hair
Has a Mind of Its Own (book)
Cornrows

Additional Career Highlights, Honors, Awards and Achievements
Faculty Member
Black Studies Department
City College, NY (CUNY)
Duration: 12 yearsEstooled by Abladi, Inc. (Ghana)
as Queen Mother to the late educator
John Henrick Clarke
Named Naa Kuokor Agyman 1,
founder of the Stool House of Harriet Tubman
1994

Regular Guest Radio Talk Show Host
New York Radio
with Bob Law and Imhotep Gary Byrd
Duration: +5 years

Awards
The Unity Award In Media (Lincoln University)
The Jazz Folk/Ethnic Performance Fellowship Grant (National Endowment of the Arts)
Ida B. Wells Award (The United African Movement)
Women of the Month Award (Essence Magazine)
13th Annual Ankh Award (International African Arts Festival)
Recent Lectures or Performances
(partial listing)
Millions for Reparations Rally (Washington, DC)
Howard University
University of Wisconsin
Florida International University
University of Pittsburgh
The New School for Social Research
The Brooklyn Museum of Art
The Black Caucus of the American Library Association
The National Black Child Development Institute
The National Action Network
The Association for the Study of Classical African Civilization (ASCAC)
Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People (CEMOTAP)

For a deeper exploration of Nana Camille’s career, visit www.CAMILLEYARBROUGH.com. Also visit her at www.Facebook.com/CamilleYarbrough. For media and bookings, contact AKILA WORKSONGS, Inc. at 718.756.8501 or pr@akilaworksongs.com .