Best Of :: People & Places
A writer, a singer, an organizer, a teacher, a storyteller, a dancer, and an activist. Fatimah Halim does it all, and she does it for the girls of the Valley.
The founder of GHETTO GIRLS and the president and CEO of Blueprint for Womanhood, this goddess preaches the dignity of the Sisterhood (with a capital "S") and the sanctity of womanhood to African-American and Latina girls from around the Valley who might not have realized they were worth more than their midriffs without her.
GHETTO GIRLS does not mean what you think it does, though. Halim has made sure of that. She has re-envisioned the meaning in an attempt to reverse the negative connotation. Here it stands for: Goddesses Have Every Thing to Offer — Grace, Integrity, Renewal, Love, Sisterhood. Talk about a transformation.
Through GHETTO GIRLS, Halim runs the Rites of Passage Program to help adolescent young women transition into womanhood, along with the Sistah Circle workshops that build a bond of sisterhood among womankind. She is also one of four Valley artists involved in Journey Home, an arts project that works to empower incarcerated women in the Estrella jail.
Halim has been a model of transformation from the start. A girl from the real ghetto of Harlem, Halim was a member, alongside Jimi Hendrix, of the Ghettofighters before moving to Phoenix and beginning a career as a special events coordinator with the city of Phoenix.
She blends genres and destroys definitions. Her work is a mix of the arts, the literary world, the government, the spiritual realm, and the non-profit spectrum. She has toured as a storyteller with Rosa Parks. She has written one book and four plays, filled stadiums with thousands of people and recruited notables such as Stevie Wonder, Martin Sheen, and Coretta Scott King — all to raise awareness and promote understanding among people of all colors and genders.
She even starred in her own one-woman show, She's So G.H.E.T.T.O. — Chronicles of a Ghetto Girl Gone Goddess.
Amen, sister! We're right behind you.
Though nobody knows her real name, "Cake Lady," as downtowners have affectionately dubbed her, continues to contribute to central Phoenix lore. In short, there's a woman about town who occasionally shows up at gatherings (a music performance, an art exhibit) looking for free stuff, especially cake. The consensus is that she reads New Times (a smart woman, indeed) and then calls ahead to inquire about the possibility of free goodies. She's been spotted only a couple of times, including years ago at a birthday party at the now-defunct Paper Heart, where she briefly showed up, then dashed out the door with a bunch of cake to go. Hey, Cake Lady, share some next time!
Yes, you're reading that right. No, we're not heat-addled.
Summer in Phoenix rules.
We first noticed this seeming contraction one day several years ago when all the traffic on Indian School Road dried up. Poof! It was like a scene from I Am Legend or Vanilla Sky. And it made us ponder the other positives of a season in which temps can hit the 120s in the shade and you can get a third-degree burn on your butt just by getting in your car.
The sunsets. The storms. The long light of evenings. The short lines at our favorite hangs. The full-moon hikes. The abundant parking at Piestewa Peak. The pool parties. The misters. The cheap resort rates. The free Sunday-afternoon films at the Phoenix Art Museum.
More than specific pleasures, though, our late-blooming appreciation of Phoenix summer has to do with the sense of inclusion we feel from Memorial Day through late September. For 120-odd days, it's our town — not the fifth-largest city in America. It feels like a community.
It's hot, but it's home.
It was weird, right? This year, summer didn't really start 'til July. Sure, we had a hot day here and there, but any true Phoenician knows to brace for the heat starting in, oh, March. Not so in 2009, and June was particularly balmy. If you don't believe us, check out the stats: We haven't had this many days under 100 in the month of June (only 13!) since 1927. Which only made July the cruelest month — when, as if on cue, the temperature soared.
Here at New Times, we know maps. We've spent countless hours trying to assemble them for our own various purposes. That's why we have such an appreciation for the Small Wonders map, published by Local First Arizona, designed to promote local businesses in both central/downtown Phoenix and Tempe. Consider this our thank you note for the labor of love it took to create these fold-out, easy-to-use, eye-pleasing guides to our favorite stuff in the city. It was surely no small feat to produce them.
Depending on whom you ask, the year-old Metro light rail may or may not be the most over-hyped project in Phoenix history. But no matter what you think of the billion-dollar (and counting!) project, you have to admit the view of the Phoenix skyline from the bridge going over Tempe Town Lake is pretty amazing, especially at dusk. From the confines of the always overpacked or nearly empty train car, you get a glimpse of Phoenix at its best. The downtown towers reach ever higher, their steady ascent seemingly fueled by the mysterious desert waters around you, but they never quite catch their backdrop, South Mountain. As the copper-colored star fades into the purplish haze of an Arizona sunset, even the most curmudgeonly rail-hater has to be impressed by the beautiful scene framed through the windows of this ambitious transportation project.