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Rhythm and Blues Singer Jazmine Sullivan Is Getting Noticed for Her Edgy, Emotional Music

Also: Learn how American Mosaic was born.  And hear about a museum filled with design objects that tell a story of political, social and technological change. Transcript of radio broadcast:


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC in VOA Special English.


I'm Doug Johnson. This week…

We listen to music from young singer Jazmine Sullivan…

Answer a listener question about the word 'mosaic'…

And, head to Miami, Florida for a visit to an unusual museum…


The Wolfsonian Museum


The Wolfsonian Museum in Miami Beach, Florida is filled with modern design objects that tell a story about political, social and technological change. It was formed in nineteen eighty-six to house the decorative and propaganda collection of Mitchell Wolfson. Now the museum is part of Florida International University. The museum's exhibits provide a lesson in modern European and American history. Faith Lapidus has more.


Visitors to the Wolfsonian Museum last month received a bold red printed brochure filled with propaganda. The brochure called itself a form of propaganda designed to persuade, teach and influence visitors to the museum. It says visitors should think about the objects around them and ask how they were made and for what social and political reasons.

These ideas are repeated in the museum's current exhibitions. One exhibit is about American President Franklin D. Roosevelt's "New Deal" plan. His plan included programs to help the country recover from the failing economy of the nineteen thirties. One federal program employed artists to capture images of American life.

In this exhibit, you can see examples of this public art effort. There are striking images of poor farmers by photographers including Dorothea Lange. Some artists were hired to create large paintings for the inside of government buildings. These paintings show Americans hard at work in different industries.

Other artists made posters to advertise government programs. The images on these posters are meant to express the strength of the government. The objects in the exhibit tell a story about government expansion during a difficult period in American history.

Another exhibit is about American "streamlined" design. Streamlining developed from scientific studies aimed to reduce the wind and water resistance of ships, trains and cars. In the nineteen thirties, industrial designers began to make cars and other objects with smooth, curving lines. Streamlining soon extended to furniture and other objects for the house and office. The look became a sign of scientific progress and modernity.

The museum's permanent collection contains propaganda posters from the United States and Europe. The bold images were made to capture the hearts and minds of citizens. They tell stories of war, peace, industry, and politics.

About American Mosaic


Our listener question this week comes from China. Shen wants to know the meaning of "American Mosaic," the name of this program.

We will begin with a little history.

The Special English staff decided to broadcast a new radio magazine program in nineteen eighty-five. We wanted a special show for young people. We wanted to report on American culture, answer questions from listeners and play popular music. But we could not agree about what to call the program. It was first broadcast under a very simple and uninteresting name, "The Friday Program."

So, we turned to our listeners for help. We announced a contest for listeners to send in suggestions for better names.

Two people won the contest. Listeners from China and Egypt both suggested the same name: "American Mosaic." Mosaic is spelled m-o-s-a-i-c. The dictionary says that the word "mosaic" means a picture or design that is made by placing small colored pieces together. You can see colorful mosaics in art and in designs on buildings.

We chose the name "American Mosaic" because the purpose of the show is to create a picture of life in the United States through many small stories. Each story is different, like the different pieces of a mosaic. But together, they form a complete picture. We hope American Mosaic provides a complete and interesting picture of life in the United States.

If you have questions about life in America, we might be able to answer them on this program. Send your questions to Or go to our Web site, and click on Contact Us on the left side. Or write to American Mosaic, VOA Special English, Washington, D.C., two-zero-two-three-seven, U.S.A. Whichever way you contact us, please include your full name and where you live.

Jazmine Sullivan


Singer and songwriter Jazmine Sullivan has a voice unlike most popular young singers today. Her voice is strong, edgy and emotional. Her first album, "Fearless," was released recently. It has won her five Grammy nominations including best new artist and best rhythm and blues album. Katherine Cole has more.


Jazmine Sullivan uses imagination and storytelling to write songs. She wrote all the songs on her album "Fearless." The songs describe many deeply emotional situations. In the song "Bust Your Windows" she sings about a lover who has treated her badly. Her hurt and anger results in property damage.


Jazmine Sullivan was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The twenty-one year old singer began performing at a very young age. She went on to perform at the city's popular Black Lily event. Black Lily is an organization that supports women artists, especially musicians and filmmakers.

Sullivan says when she was writing and recording songs for her album she knew she had to develop her own style. She says she did not know reggae music well, but was not afraid to try new musical styles. Her efforts made "Need U Bad" a hit song.


We leave you with another song from Jazmine Sullivan's album "Fearless." Here she sings "Lions, Tigers and Bears."



I'm Doug Johnson. I hope you enjoyed our program today.

It was written by Dana Demange, Lawan Davis and Caty Weaver, who was also the producer. To read the text of this program and download audio, go to our Web site,

Join us again next week for AMERICAN MOSAIC, VOA's radio magazine in Special English.