BMW invests $1 million in International African American Museum

$1 Million Boost from BMW pushes museum toward goal (source: International African American Museum)$1 Million Boost from BMW pushes museum toward goal (source: International African American Museum)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) -

Global automotive manufacturer BMW has invested $1 million in the upcoming International African American Museum.

This gift to the museum’s Founders Fund brings the museum within $2 million of reaching its $25 million private philanthropy goal.

“In 1994, BMW ventured out of Germany to build its first North American manufacturing facility and found a wonderful home in Greer, South Carolina,” Joseph P. Riley, Jr., former Charleston mayor and IAAM board member said. “BMW’s relationship with our state is symbiotic: South Carolina’s continuous infrastructure improvements have created productive ports through which BMW’s automobiles flow. In turn, BMW has shown its commitment to our state and its people not only through job creation but through generous donations like this one. We are honored to have the support of this great company.”

The $1 million investment will be recognized in the Orientation Theater, where guests will begin their exploration of the International African American Museum. Visitors will view videos that provide essential historical context of the museum’s location at the former site of Gadsden Wharf.

This introduction will orient visitors to the significance of Charleston and South Carolina in both national and international histories; offer stories of African American resistance, sacrifice, survival and achievement, and illuminate the central role of people of African descent in shaping the nation and the Atlantic World.

Copyright 2018 WCSC. All rights reserved.

Prince-related weekend topped off with award for ‘Got to Be Something Here’; ‘This Bitter Earth’ at Penumbra

Andrea Swensson

Photo by Leslie Plesse

Andrea Swensson: “This whole project was never about me – it was about uncovering stories that have been ignored by most of us for far too long.”

Two years to the day after Prince died, on a weekend filled with Prince-related events and news, the Current’s Andrea Swensson won a Minnesota Book Award for telling the story of where Prince came from and the struggles black artists in the Twin Cities have faced to be heard. “Got to Be Something Here: The Rise of the Minneapolis Sound” won the award for Minneapolis Nonfiction. Swensson later wrote on Facebook, “This whole project was never about me – it was about uncovering stories that have been ignored by most of us for far too long.”

More than 800 book lovers attended the 30th Annual Minnesota Book Awards, held Saturday at the InterContinental Hotel in St. Paul. Poet Bao Phi won the Children’s Literature award for his first children’s book, “A Different Pond,” already a Caldecott Honor winner. Steve Sack, the Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist for the Star Tribune, took the General Nonfiction award for “The First and Only Book of Sack: 16 Years of Cartoons for the Star Tribune.”

The Genre Fiction award went to Wendy Webb for her mystery “The End of Temperance Dare.” For “Onigamiising: Seasons of an Ojibwe Year,” Linda LeGarde Grover won for Memoir & Creative Nonfiction. Onigamiising is the Ojibwe name for the western tip of Lake Superior. The Middle Grade Literature award went to Nicole Helget for “The End of the Wild.”

Leslie Nneka Arimah

Leslie Nneka Arimah

Lesley Nneka Arimah has been showered with honors, including the Kirkus Prize, for “What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky.” She now has a Minnesota Book Award for Novel & Short Story. Heid Erdrich won the Poetry award for “Curator of Ephemera at the New Museum for Archaic Media.” The Young Adult Literature award went to Andrew DeYoung for his dystopian first novel “The Exo Project.”

Two of the winning titles, “Got to Be Something Here” and “Onigamiising,” were published by the University of Minnesota Press.

Three previously announced special awards were also presented on Saturday. Erica Spitzer Rasmussen won the Book Artist Award for her mixed-media sculptural book “The Love Affair.” Gary Kaunonen received the Hognander Minnesota History Award for “Flames of Discontent: The 1916 Minnesota Iron Ore Strike.” And local writer, teacher, and community organizer Kathryn Haddad won the Kay Sexton Award for helping to create a space in the Minnesota creative community for the Arab, Arab American and Muslim communities.

Books written by Minnesotans and first published in 2017 were eligible for this year’s awards. From 256 submissions, 36 were chosen as finalists before judges from around the state picked the winners. 

The picks

Tonight (Tuesday, April 24) at Minneapolis Central Library: Talk of the Stacks: Alex Wagner. Daughter of a Burmese mother and a white American father, Wagner – of MSNBC, Showtime, CBS News and the Atlantic – grew up thinking of herself as a “futureface,” the personification of a time when everyone will be brown. In conversation with political columnist and podcaster Ana Marie Cox, she’ll talk about her new book by that title, the story of her quest to learn who she is and where she belongs. Doors at 6:15 p.m., program at 7. Free.

Tonight at Penumbra: “This Bitter Earth.” Harrison David Rivers’ play about a couple dealing with the politics of their love – Neil is a wealthy white advocate for civil rights, Jesse a black playwright coming to terms with his activism – starts with two nights of previews (tonight and Wednesday). Thursday is opening night. This is Rivers’ fourth play in a remarkable arc that began in February at the History Theatre with “A Crack in the Sky,” touched down briefly at the Playwrights’ Center with “the bandaged place” and continues with Latté Da’s production of the musical “Five Points,” sold out for the rest of its run. FMI and tickets ($15 previews; $15-40 after).

Tonight and Wednesday at the Ordway Concert Hall: Steven Isserlis and Richard Egarr. On first glance you might think Isserlis is Pat Metheny’s lost twin (hint: it’s the hair). He’s a star in the cello world, one of two living cellists in Gramophone’s Hall of Fame. Isserlis has made numerous recordings, but only one so far with harpsichordist Egarr: Hyperion’s highly praised 2015 release “Gamba Sonatas,” with music by Bach, Handel and Scarlatti. That’s what they’ll play for their dates in the Schubert Club’s International Artist Series. Isserlis is known for his exceptionally human tone. His secret (along with being a virtuoso): gut strings. 7:30 p.m. tonight, 10:30 a.m. tomorrow. FMI and tickets ($24-76); 651-224-4222. The two artists will sign CDs after tonight’s performance.

Thursday at Open Book: Milkweed’s Third Annual National Poetry Month Party and Reading. This year’s event spotlights the finalists of the Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry, the largest regional poetry prize in the United States. The evening starts with poetry-themed drinks and appetizers, then moves to a reading by all five finalists: Su Hwang, Michael Torres, Elizabeth Tannen, Angela Voras-Hills and Claire Wahmanholm. 6 p.m. party, 7:30 reading. FMI and tickets ($25/10/pay-what-you-can).

Aparna Ramaswamy

Photo by Amanulla

Aparna Ramaswamy

Thursday through Saturday at the Cowles: Ragamala Dance Company: “Body, the Shrine.” To see Ragamala dance is to witness a form of physical poetry. The ritualized movements and gestures of Bharatanatyam, the 2,000-year-old South Indian classical dance form they practice; the vivid colors of the traditional costumes; the thoughtfulness and rigor with which they research, plan and choreograph their programs; and the physical beauty of the dancers themselves make each performance memorable and unique. Bharatanatyam’s roots are ancient, but this is not dance stuck in the past; Ragamala’s women are thoroughly modern, and previous shows have featured contemporary jazz musicians Rudresh Mahanthappa and Amir El Safar as composers and performers. The title of their latest work, which will have its world premiere here this week, comes from a 12th-century Hindu poem: “My legs are pillars/The body the shrine/The head a cupola of gold. … Things standing shall fall/But the moving ever shall stay.” 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; FMI and tickets ($25). Saturday is Ragamala’s 25th anniversary gala; doors at 6 p.m., performance at 6:30, party after. FMI and tickets ($75).

Coming up

Bob Ross Painting Party at TPT on Friday, May 18. Bob Ross, late painting instructor, beloved former host (for 11 years) of the PBS series “The Joy of Painting,” man of happy accidents. One of TPT’s “Nostalgia Nights,” this event sold out so quickly (at $40/pop) that TPT should just schedule another one, shouldn’t they?

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Kanye West fell for the worst black Republican sales pitch there is. Here’s why.

Kanye West accepts an award at the MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles on Aug. 30, 2015. (Matt Sayles/Invision/AP)

The best black Republican sales pitch I ever heard was from Niger Innis, then the spokesman for the Council of Racial Equality, or CORE, the civil rights-era organization led by his father, Roy Innis. The GOP “is not for rich people,” he said during our conversation at the 2011 Conservative Political Action Conference, “It’s for people who want to be rich.” There are, of course, plenty of working-class Republicans, and plenty of rich black Democrats, but it was a clever way to make a point: Striving black Americans ought to reconsider what the GOP has to offer.

The worst black Republican sales pitch is the one Kanye West just fell for: Turning Point USA spokeswoman Candace Owens’s one-woman revival of the trope that black Americans are slaves on the Democratic Party plantation. It’s shopworn, defies logic and mainly highlights the shallow politics of those who subscribe to it.

It took off in the tea party era. There was Deneen Borelli’s “Blacklash: How Obama and the Left Are Driving Americans to the Government Plantation”; Star Parker’s “Uncle Sam’s Plantation: How Big Government Enslaves America’s Poor and What we can Do About It”; and C.L. Bryant’s film “Runaway Slave: A New Underground Railroad.” Back then, he told me, “Government dependency is the plantation that Democrats support.” Then-gadfly, now-HUD Secretary Ben Carson referred to Obamacare as the “worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery” — a related form of hyperbole meant to make a slightly different point.

[Kanye West, alt-right darling]

But as the Obama era wound down and the Trump era ramped up, the pejorative characterization lost something. Maybe the absence of a black president took some of the sting out of it; maybe it couldn’t be squared with President-elect Donald Trump’s promise to “take care of everybody” when it came to health care or his repeated promises to bring American jobs back from overseas, rather than take the approach that his Republican predecessors did — encouraging Americans to compete.

In any case, we were almost rid of a riff that essentially cast black voters as dupes.

Owens, though, is breathing new life into the idea. Earlier this month, she tweeted:

Last week, while speaking to an audience at the University of California at Los Angeles, she addressed a group of, apparently, Black Lives Matter protesters by saying:

“Victim mentality is not cool. I don’t know why people like being oppressed … ‘We’re oppressed! Four-hundred years of slavery! Jim Crow!’ By the way, none of you guys lived through [that] … Your grandparents did, and it’s embarrassing that you utilize their history. You’re not living through anything right now.”

Shortly thereafter, West, back on Twitter after a long hiatus, chimed in thusly:

And later:

Over the weekend, in an interview on Fox News about the UCLA dust-up, Owens said, “The truth is, the numbers are in, okay. Police brutality is not an issue that is facing the black community whatsoever.” But as The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery explained in 2016, The Post’s reporting has found that African Americans are killed by police at far higher rates than, for instance, whites. In terms of the impetus for ongoing protest, Columbia University professor John McWhorter, regularly tabbed as outside the black mainstream and a sometimes critic of the Black Lives Matter movement’s approach, has argued that “police violence is not just one of many issues in black America’s take on racism: It is the central one.”

To Owens, though, it’s all of a piece. “The left,” she went on, “wants to strap black people to this idea that they are victims … they don’t like to see black people that are free thinkers and are independent, and I think that’s what Kanye West and myself represent to the black community, and that makes them very nervous.”

Not so much.

The notion of African Americans as captives is meant to convey that black Republicans are free, while black Democrats, who make up about 90 percent of black voters, are victims of groupthink. Which is why the idea appeals so much to West. A defining feature of his career is the degree to which he cherishes, and nurtures, his self-conception as an outside-the-box thinker. His line from the infamous “How, Sway?” interview pretty much captures it: “I am Warhol. I am the number one most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh. Walt Disney. Nike. Google.” He knows that he is, rightly, considered a musical genius. The rest of what he does — from promoting his “Derelicte”-esque couture to his rush to embrace Trump — suggests that recognition as a performer and producer was never enough. He seems to want people to see him as special, even ordained. Several days before he tweeted about Owens, West tweeted:

Today:

True enough. But when Owens decries the “victim mentality,” she’s signaling her allegiance to an alternative worldview. West, on the other hand, isn’t concerned with the issues driving partisan politics; he craves reification of his self-image. Just five years ago, he released the song “New Slaves,” but a quick perusal of the lyrics leaves you unclear whether he’s indicting the “victim mentality” against which Owens inveighs or whether he’s treading perilously close to engaging in it.

Piggybacking on Owens’s rant, he’s implying: The world can’t yet fathom my genius. And his Achilles’ heel may be that he’s not attuned to the difference.

All of which, of course, is fine. Kanye was, is and always will be Kanye.

And if Owens believes that the Democratic platform works to the detriment of black America, she should make that case, issue by issue. She will find more agreement out there than you might suspect. But the implication, that the vast majority of black voters are bound to a Democratic Party plantation, is a misunderstanding of Politics 101 and an insult to an entire slice of the electorate.

For better or worse, most African Americans support Obamacare: In March, the Kaiser Health Tracking Poll found that 82 percent of African American respondents had a favorable view of Obamacare — the most contentious domestic issue during the last Democratic administration.

A 2017 Pew Research Center survey found that 62 percent of African American respondents said abortion should be legal “in all/most cases.”

In early 2003, at the start of the Iraq War — not just after it became apparent to nearly everyone that it was a catastrophe — Gallup found that 68 percent of African Americans opposed the conflict.

The list goes on, but the point is that with few exceptions — a notable one is school choice — black voter priorities more closely overlay those of Democrats as a whole. When you add in the fact that in recent years, Democrats, generally speaking, have been more supportive than Republicans on African American priorities related to criminal justice reform and that the current Republican president was a birther, it only follows that black voters would find themselves in the Democratic camp.

[Trump promised black voters equal justice. That’s all Kaepernick wants.]

Like every other demographic, African Americans vote their interests, real or perceived. In the context of a two-party system, the fact that black voters overwhelmingly support Democrats isn’t an indicator of groupthink, it’s an indicator of an informed black electorate.

If Owens prefers the GOP platform, then, certainly, she should support it. But as Rolling Stone’s Jamil Smith points out, “Contrarianism is a much lesser goal than iconoclasm, and much easier to achieve.” Calling other people victims, or slaves, isn’t an argument about the proper size and scope of government. It’s not a defense of a foreign-policy doctrine. It’s not an anti-choice argument. And it’s not a coherent (or, for that matter, conservative) explanation for police brutality.

By giving herself bonus points for voting her conscience while attempting to write off most of the black voters who vote theirs, Owens is exempting herself from the hard work of trying to persuade people, black or otherwise, that the policies she favors are the right course for the black community and the country.

And Kanye West fell for it.

Fusebox Festival Review: (Re)current Unrest

In a way, his dance (Re)current Unrest began with Beyoncé, said choreographer Charles O. Anderson during a Fusebox Festival “Waffle Chat” artist talk.

(Re)current Unrest (Photo by Chian-Ann Lu)

When the singer’s 2011 video for the song “Countdown” contained dances by Belgian choreographer Anna Teresa de Keersmaeker, among other images and references, he said, the attention given to discussing plagiarism was striking considering the incalculable appropriations of black art and culture by white people throughout history.

Anderson set (Re)current Unrest to early Steve Reich works “It’s Gonna Rain” (1965) and “Come Out” (1966), both of which are based on recordings of the speech of black men. “It’s Gonna Rain,” built on a sample from a sermon given by a homeless street preacher named Brother Walter, became an anthem for the nuclear crisis and helped launch Reich’s career. “Come Out” relies on a phrase spoken by Daniel Hamm, a victim of police brutality and false accusation, 19 years old at the time of the recording, and one of the Harlem Six.

“The bible tell me, they knocked upon the door until the skin came off their hands,” said Brother Walter.

“I had to, like, open the bruise up, and let some of the bruise blood come out to show them,” said Hamm, referring to how he had to prove he needed to be released from jail to get medical attention for injuries he’d sustained at the batons and boots of police. (He was describing an incident that predated the Harlem Six witch hunt.)

“Ladies, if you love your man, show him you the fliest / Grind up on it, girl, show him how you ride it,” sang Beyoncé, performing various bits of choreography that also appear in de Keersmaeker’s work, shown with cinematography similar to how de Keersmaeker’s dancers are shown in films of her work.

According to an article in Pitchfork, Reich wasn’t aware of the Harlem Six until he was approached by an activist who asked him to splice tapes of interviews with the boys into a cohesive narrative. Reich agreed to do it on the condition that he could take a sample for his own work if he found something interesting.

One section of de Keersmaeker’s 1982 work Fase is set to “Come Out.”

It would be oversimplifying things to say that by setting (Re)current Unrest, a 90-minute work for two-dozen-odd dancers, to “It’s Gonna Rain” and “Come Out,” Anderson reclaimed the words of Brother Walter and Hamm. Those words, and their emotions and cadences, had already been taken out of context, distorted, looped, repeated beyond recognition, celebrated, criticized, studied. Anderson doesn’t repudiate these facts. Instead, he raises the questions: Who gets to call plagiarism, and who gets to borrow and sample freely?

I’m reminded of how the narrator of Zadie Smith’s novel Swing Time confronts shameless appropriation, by asking whether a person can “both love something and leave it alone.” But this question floats to theory-land when confronted with the primal connectors of dance and music: It’s difficult to hear a beat and not move to it, or see a social dance and not want to join in. A more practical question is the one (Re)current Unrest expands to: How can we rise to the obligation to acknowledge and value the histories behind the art that informs our lives, tastes, and ways of being? And how do we unpack these histories after centuries of obfuscation?

Anderson takes on these questions by fleshing out their oft-hidden contexts and contingencies. In the movement, performed by a cast more racially diverse than is typically seen in Austin dance, we saw the legacies of appropriation in modern dance and influence and fusion in African-derived contemporary dance. We saw all of it in the meditative tap solos of Jeremy Arnold. (Arnold is white – not to say that appropriation is just about who’s doing what.)

In the work, we also saw a collective grappling with legacies – yokes – that are murky yet omnipresent. Things shapeshifted and code-switched without warning. Sweatshirt hoods became silencing masks. The points of Lady Liberty’s crown jutted out like daggers. Chants distorted into interrogations. Laughter became crazed. Play morphed into target practice. Hands raised to the sky became hands-up.

The responsibility of unpacking these shared histories was shouldered by a griot, a master of histories played by Anderson himself. It’s a character role, but Anderson was hardly playing a character. As the head of the dance division at the University of Texas, he is tasked with sharing and unpacking his students’ experiences of racism and social justice movements and meeting them where they are, while helping them contextualize #icantbreathe and #blacklivesmatter — not to mention their own personal experiences or the murder of one of their classmates in 2016 by a homeless black teenager – within the history of racism in the 1980s, the 1960s, the 1860s, and before.

There really is no starting point, which the work acknowledged by beginning in media res, with the ensemble beginning to move inside the performance space before the audience was ushered in through a curtain of dangling ropes. We made our way around an hourglass-shaped compilation of wooden ladders, their ends protruding at various angles and papered with news articles, and filtered onto rows of benches at left and right, choosing sides based on our predictions for the best view of the dance, despite a sign that directed “white” to one side and “black” to the other.

As the griot, Anderson was at times a concertmaster for the ensemble, who, in loose white and black clothes and masks over their mouths, chanted, clapped, fell in and out of synchronous movement, and opened their mouths (unmasked for a moment) to rain. At other times, having lost their attention, Anderson held up a hand and shook his head. At one point, amid the ensemble’s cackling laughter, the rope of a playground swing turned out to be a noose. Anderson took the rope from around a young black man’s neck and placed it around his own.

When I asked Anderson about his role during the Waffle Chat, he mentioned that it included some degree of improvisation, as he responds to the ensemble around him. But facts are constants. Anderson’s great-grandfather was lynched. As griot, he must bear the histories. As professor, he must sit vigil with the shadows left by the canons of his academic forbears, not to mention his personal histories, and bear the task of illuminating them for his students.

I don’t think it’s possible to overemphasize the importance of this work – invoking the past to meet the present – at this particular time. It’s an impossible task, with all kinds of dead-ends, yes-ands, and no-buts. There is no perfection to be measured against – a perfect history did not, could not, and will not exist. Progress, authenticity, generosity, stewardship: These are the indicators we have. The dancers’ embodiment of these histories of neglect, whitewashing, white power, Jim Crow, racial profiling, discrimination, and brutality – as well as the social movements that rose to look these demons in the eye – is significant. Body-to-body empathy, dancer to individual audience member, is perhaps the closest route to understanding.

But the valuable resource of willing and sensitive dancers has to be stewarded carefully. In a section recalling the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a few women lay on the floor, screaming and writhing, as though they were on fire. The way in which this image resurrected the murder of King was resonant, but it was empathy with the dancers that brought this work home for me. It wasn’t that I was surprised by the prowess of the cast, made up largely of UT students I’d seen perform an earlier stage excerpt of this work like the fate of the world was hinging on them. As much as the images of these dancers in (Re)current Unrest will stick with me, I am thinking more about what will stick with them. Even stronger than kinetic empathy is body memory. The dancers are shouldering a part of this for us. For this, I am sorry, but grateful.

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Berlin Galleries Find a Way to Lure the World

Strong sales on home base are good news for German galleries as they face the soaring expense of international art fairs — booths at big fairs go for tens of thousands of dollars — and a surge (to 19 percent, from 7 percent) in the German value-added tax on sales of art.

Unlike fast-paced international art fairs elsewhere, Gallery Weekend has a more low-key and inclusive ethos. Because the organization running it is a nonprofit owned by the galleries themselves, the participation fee is deliberately kept low: This year, it’s 7,500 euros (about $9,200). That allows small and midsize galleries to enjoy the attention of art-world professionals (though galleries that take part are selected by the organizers).

Photo

A work by Jonas Burgert at the Blain/Southern Gallery will be part of the gallery weekend. Credit Monika Skolimowska/picture-alliance, via dpa, Associated Press

“There are a lot of artists and critics and curators living in Berlin who might not really be able to afford life in most other comparable cities in the world,” said Philomene Magers, a founder of the Sprüth Magers Gallery, one of Berlin’s most prominent. “It is really important to bring an international crowd to Berlin which interacts with them.

“Obviously, the galleries profit from the same people coming,” she added, and not just financially: Gallery Weekend is “a magnet for international curators” who could later show the work of artists they see.

Encouraged in part by the event’s success, Berlin’s gallerists have in the last few years raised their game architecturally. The Esther Schipper Gallery and Blain/Southern Gallery have spaces in what was once the printing site and warehouse of Berlin’s Der Tagesspiegel newspaper.

The König Gallery is based out of the disused St. Agnes church, a striking 1960s work of Brutalist concrete in a formerly working-class area. “Nobody knew what to do with this massive space,” Mr. König said. “After a long process of negotiation, we bought it, fixed it and commissioned an architect to make it usable.”

Photo

The König Gallery in Berlin is in the disused St. Agnes church, a 1960s work of Brutalist concrete in a formerly working-class area. Credit Monika Skolimowska/picture-alliance, via dpa, Associated Press

The Konrad Fischer Gallery (which is moving into a new warehouse space) is showing Carl Andre and Lawrence Weiner, while Sprüth Magers is putting the African-American artist Kara Walker in the spotlight. Ms. Walker is presenting a movie with shadow puppets called “Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale,” dealing with the oppression of African-American women in United States history.

Berlin’s relative affordability has meant that it’s witnessing fewer gallery shutdowns than cities like New York and London. Still, what is the future for an event that focuses exclusively on art galleries, considered something of a dying model in other capitals?

“If people cannot participate in art fairs anymore, they will concentrate more and more on these kinds of events that are cheap and that happen in their own gallery,” said Ms. Kruse.

Mr. König added that the event “is a model for destinations which are not financial capitals and don’t host the big auctions like London or New York.”

“The concept fits Berlin very well,” he added, “because Berlin is a city of artists more than it is a city of collectors.”

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Choice Of Bay Area For AIDS Conference Exposes Tension Among Activists

After George Ayala learned last month that San Francisco and Oakland had been chosen to co-host the International AIDS Conference in 2020, he quickly published a statement of disapproval.

Ayala, an Oakland-based AIDS advocate, does not want the conference in his own city — or anywhere else in the United States, for that matter.

His statement of opposition and a second one drafted by colleagues at other AIDS organizations have been co-signed by hundreds of organizations and individuals in the United States and around the world.

Their biggest concern: long-standing U.S. visa policies will prevent many of the people most affected by AIDS and HIV, including drug users and sex workers who live in other countries, from attending the conference. They also worry about new restrictions affecting travel from Muslim countries.

George Ayala (Credit: Nadia Rafif)

“In this day and age, I have to wonder why we support big international AIDS conferences happening in places that bar anyone,” said Ayala, executive director of the Global Forum on MSM [Men who have Sex with Men] & HIV.

HIV/AIDS is far more prevalent in many countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, than in the United States. Almost 19 percent of people ages 15 to 49 in South Africa are infected with HIV, as are more than 20 percent in some neighboring countries.

In the U.S., prevalence among the same demographic group hovers around a half of 1 percent — although that masks some stark disparities. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projected that 1 in 2 black men in the U.S. who have sex with men were at risk of contracting HIV. Globally, nearly 37 million people are living with HIV.

Ayala and other critics of the Bay Area location raise broader questions about the cost and frequency of a biennial event they say is enormously expensive and often excludes the very people it purports to represent.

The organizers of the conference and others who support the decision to bring it to the Bay Area say they understand these worries.

“Travel restrictions to the U.S. remain a significant concern for us,” said Mandy Sugrue, spokeswoman for the International AIDS Society, which organizes the conference.

However, Sugrue and other proponents of a San Francisco-Oakland conference venue argue that the politically liberal Bay Area offers a perfect platform for rebuking the Trump administration’s exclusionary immigration policies and its perceived retreat from leadership on AIDS policy.

In December, the administration fired all remaining members of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, six months after a half-dozen others had resigned in protest. Trump officials have also proposed cutting national HIV/AIDS spending by more than $100 million and reducing the U.S. contribution to global funding by more than $1 billion.

“If there is any place in the U.S. where people can come and protest and rise up and have their voices heard … Oakland is it,” said Cynthia Carey-Grant, executive director of the Oakland-based group Women Organized to Respond to Life-Threatening Disease. She penned a statement in support of the conference location that has been signed by nearly a dozen individuals and groups.

Carey-Grant believes the contrast between upscale, predominantly white San Francisco and its decidedly poorer neighbor across the Bay offers a window on the disparities that pervade AIDS treatment and funding around the world – to the detriment of low-income communities of color.

Sofia Tobar (Courtesy of Sofia Tobar)

Sofia Tobar, a 50-year-old transgender woman from Oakland who was diagnosed with HIV in 1998, said the conference is an opportunity “for Oakland’s diverse humans to embrace people from other countries … and to also highlight what we’re lacking.” She is especially interested in speaking out against federal cuts to AIDS services and violence targeting the transgender community, she said.

Others say they are eager to honor San Francisco’s long history of battling AIDS.

Joe Hollendoner, CEO of San Francisco AIDS Foundation, noted that the conference organizers have secured use of the Moscone Center, the central conference venue, free of charge. They will use the money they save to help more people attend, he said. His foundation, along with the San Francisco Travel Association, led the committee that submitted the successful conference bid.

The planners of the International AIDS Conference usually try to alternate venues between affluent and lower-income countries. The conference was last held in the United States in 2012 in Washington, D.C. In 2014, it was in Melbourne, Australia, and in 2016, in Durban, South Africa. This year, the conference will be in Amsterdam.

Conference organizers said they reached out to a number of lower-income countries to host the 2020 conference, but none submitted a bid. As many as 20,000 people, perhaps more, are expected to attend the conference — and many cities cannot accommodate such a large gathering, they said. Sugrue, the International AIDS Society spokeswoman, said they are not considering changing the venue.

She said the location of major conference donors was not a factor in the 2020 venue decision.

In this day and age, I have to wonder why we support big international AIDS conferences happening in places that bar anyone.

George Ayala, Global Forum on MSM & HIV

Gilead Sciences Inc., which is based 20 miles from San Francisco and makes the HIV prevention drug Truvada, is one of the top sponsors of this year’s conference, as it was in 2016. Other big industry donors are not located in the Bay Area, including Johnson & Johnson, Merck and ViiV Healthcare, which specializes in HIV drugs. Funding for the 2020 conference has not yet been confirmed, Sugrue said.

Naina Khanna, the executive director of the Oakland-based Positive Women’s Network, said the fact that no developing countries submitted a bid isn’t enough to assuage her concern for the people who will likely be excluded. Khanna helped draft a separate statement demanding that the conference be relocated outside the U.S. More than 100 organizations and nearly as many individuals have signed the statement.

“Where is our commitment to actually holding the conference where the most people are impacted?” asked Ruth Morgan Thomas, global coordinator of the Global Network of Sex Work Projects, which includes 305 organizations representing sex workers in 85 countries.

Prior to the Washington, D.C., conference, the U.S. had lifted a ban on people with HIV entering the country, and many were hopeful that similar prohibitions against sex workers and drug users would also end. But they didn’t, and sex workers scrambled to organize a parallel conference in Kolkata, India, Morgan Thomas said. Drug users convened one in Kiev.

Khanna, of the Positive Women’s Network, said that the high cost of accommodations in the Bay Area will also make the conference inaccessible to many people within the United States — especially low-income African-Americans in the South, who are disproportionately burdened with the virus.

Marsha Martin, coordinating director of the Global Network of Black People Working in HIV, said she would have been happy had Bangkok or South America or even Atlanta been chosen to host the conference. “But if venues don’t submit bids, there’s nothing to do about it,” she said. So she’s treating the Bay Area conference as an opportunity to grapple with the big disparities in AIDS funding and to reinvigorate efforts in the U.S. to combat the disease.

“If we do bring it [to the Bay Area] and make it the best conference we can make it, then we win,” Martin said. “We show the world we are not giving up.”

This story was produced by Kaiser Health News, which publishes California Healthline, a service of the California Health Care Foundation.

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Cory Booker to receive honorary degree at commencement

New Jersey Democratic United States Sen. Cory Booker will be the 2018 commencement speaker and receive an honorary degree at the ceremony on May 10.

As the Class of 2018 graduates, Booker will accept his honorary degree along with Robert Bogle, the president and CEO of the Philadelphia Tribune, and Meryl Levitz, the president and CEO of the travel site Visit Philly, according to a university release. Toni Oliver, the president of the National Association of Black Social Workers, will also receive an honorary degree from the School of Social Work.

Booker is the first Black senator to serve the state of New Jersey. Prior to his five years as the state’s junior senator, he served as mayor of Newark from 2006-13, when his administration implemented reforms to overhaul the police department, improve city services and reduce crime rates.

Booker later won a special Senate election in October 2013 after the death of incumbent Sen. Frank Lautenberg.

Booker is regarded as a “rising star” in the Democratic Party, and it is rumored that he may run for president in 2020, the Washington Post reported.

“I am grateful to be invited to speak to the newest graduates of an institution that is so deeply rooted in American history and in our shared commitment to fortifying our civic values,” Booker said in a statement to The Temple News. “I’m looking forward to joining the graduating Temple Owls and their families this May as they prepare to enter the next chapter of their lives.”

Temple has awarded more than 900 honorary degrees to leaders, artists, researchers and professionals whose values officials say align with the university’s mission.

The University Committee on Honorary Degrees receives nominations from the Temple community, and nominates individuals based on the level of their achievements and contributions. The nominees are then approved by the Board of Trustees to receive the degree.

Bogle is being recognized for his achievements at The Philadelphia Tribune, where he was first hired in 1970 and later became the CEO and president. Bogle was also appointed president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association in 1991, where he served two terms.

“Temple is noted for its diversity and academic offerings, and for me to be honored with a degree makes me extremely pleased and proud to be associated with Temple, as well as them to recognize the work that I’ve done to make this a better place for all of us,” Bogle told The Temple News.

Levitz worked with former Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and CEO of The Pew Charitable Trusts Rebecca Rimel to research Philadelphia’s potential as a tourist destination under Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation, which later became known as Visit Philly.

Levitz became the CEO and president of Visit Philly in 1996. She has helped to develop the popular tourist website and, in turn, the image of Philadelphia as a whole. In January, it was announced that Levitz will be stepping down from her position at the end of the year.

“I am proud to accept an honorary degree from Temple University,” Levitz said in a statement to The Temple News. “So many of my talented staff members have come out of this iconic Philadelphia school through the years. It’s an honor to be Temple proud with them now.”

Oliver, a 1979 master’s of social work alumna, is being honored for her work in empowering people of color as the president of the National Association of Black Social Workers. In 1992, she founded and served as CEO and president of Roots, Inc., a former adoption agency in Georgia focused on improving adoption opportunities for African-American children.

“I would never have thought that Temple University would know about my career path or be moved to recognize my work and my passion in this way,” Oliver said in a statement to The Temple News. “I am most humbled to have had an opportunity and determination to play a part in creating pathways an opportunities to improve the quality of life for so many children and families.  For that, I will be eternally grateful.”

Some graduating seniors are excited for Booker to speak at their graduation, like Logan Peterson, a senior economics major who worked on Booker’s 2013 Senate campaign.

“He has fought for expanding educational access for the disabled, increasing the accessibility of health care and protecting our nation’s most at-risk populations,” Peterson said. “Since volunteering on Booker’s Senate campaign, he’s been a huge role model for me, and I can’t wait to hear him speak at commencement.”

Other students are not happy with Temple’s choice, like Ryan Doyle, a senior strategic communications major, who thinks Temple “could’ve done better.”

“Not everything should have a political message or figure involved,” Doyle said. “Graduation should be about us and not a potential presidential candidate.”

Should Liverpool fear black arts ahead of Roma clash? Dundee United legend recalls barking moment

The dogs in the street knew Dundee United would never qualify for the European Cup Final and they spent all night barking a symphony just to make sure.

Liverpool entertain Roma tonight in the Champions League semi-final, just 24 hours short of the 44th anniversary of the match that broke Billy Kirkwood’s heart.

The Italians will play in the last four for the first time since their 3-2 aggregate victory over United in a tie still mired in controversy.

Four years ago, Paul Sturrock wrote to UEFA president Michel Platini demanding medals for his team-mates after a plot to bribe French referee Michel Vautrot with £50,000 was exposed.

The offer was sanctioned by Roma president Dino Viola and confirmed by his son Riccardo in an interview with Italian television company Mediaset Premium.

Viola junior said: “Roma gave a middle man 100 million lire destined for referee Vautrot. That is true and a shameful fact.”

Derek Stark scores for United at Tannadice
(Image: Sportapics)

United won the first leg at Tannadice 2-0 with second-half goals from Derek Stark and Davie Dodds and came within 90 minutes of an appearance in a final that was being held on Roma’s own patch, the Olympic Stadium.

Infamously, Roma won 3-0 with the decisive third goal coming from the penalty spot and although no evidence exists that Vautriot was ever handed the cash Viola set aside, the demands from SFA secretary Ernie Walker for a UEFA probe fell on deaf ears.


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Kirkwood, now youth coach at Rangers, played in both games and knew the odds were stacked against them reaching the Final against Liverpool when they arrived at their luxury hotel before the game and couldn’t get a wink of sleep.

He said: “They posted dozens of security guards and police around the hotel, most of them with dogs, but I genuinely believe they spent the night kicking and mis-treating their animals.

“They did nothing but bark and squeal for hours on end and I maintain it was an act designed to disrupt our preparations. I didn’t get a great sleep on the eve of the game as a result and I know some of the other lads didn’t sleep at all.

Dundee United's Jim McLean and Walter Smith are abused by the Roma players in their 1984 European Cup clash
The iconic picture from 1984
(Image: Reuters)

“The intimidation only intensified when we reached the stadium and John Holt was pelted square on the napper with an orange the size of a football.

“Could you imagine Dundee United playing in a European Cup final, in that same Olympic Stadium, against Liverpool? They were never going to allow it to happen.

“The second leg kicked off in the afternoon and I know the broadcast feed to the BBC blanked out for five minutes at the start, so viewers missed a great chance at the back post by Ralph Milne.

“Who knows what might have happened had that gone in? In truth, even if we were still leading 1-0 they would have been allowed to score four and progress. If they needed to net six that day it would have happened.

“In the end, their third came from the penalty spot. I know Hamish McAlpine still maintains it should never have been awarded, but I think the ref got it right. It doesn’t matter, after being got at he would have awarded it regardless.

“The honest truth is we were caught up in it all and didn’t do ourselves justice with our performance, but it didn’t excuse their behaviour after the final whistle when they went for wee Jim and Walter Smith. Walter might even have hooked one or two of them.”

Jurgen Klopp’s side take on Roma on Tuesday night
(Image: Liverpool FC)

McLean had incensed the Italian media after the first leg when they asked him what drugs his players had been on at Tannadice to play so well.

He sarcastically replied he didn’t know, but he would make sure they were on the same ones for the return. They took his answer literally and it only added to the ill feeling.

Kirkwood added: “They had 1982 World Cup stars such as Falcao, Antonio Carlos Cerezo, Francesco Graziani and Bruno Conti. We shouldn’t have been on the same pitch.

“I still remember Falcao in the tunnel area at Tannadice before the game being put through a fitness test next to the cramped corridors and dressing rooms.

“They looked shell-shocked and there was no atmosphere quite like our place on those big European nights. Tannadice was packed to capacity, the place was rocking.”

United, of course, would never come close to European Cup glory ever again, although their march to the final of the UEFA Cup in 1987 and many other memorable campaigns proved they were no flash-in-the-pans.

Wee Jim being wee Jim, he pointed the finger at half of his team for under-performing in Rome, including Kirkwood, and there were typical consequences to face.

Rangers U17 coach Billy Kirkwood
Kirkwood is now at Rangers
(Image: SNS Group)

Kirkwood recalled: “I was ordered to play for the reserves at Tannadice on the Friday night, just a couple of days after Roma, and I was so knackered I ended up doing my ligaments. That was disappointing.

“I know Luggy has called for medals and investigations and when you look back on it now, after hearing all the stories about the bribes, you think, ‘Oh aye?’

“However, during the game I can’t recall thinking there was anything amiss about the referee’s performance and the third, in my mind, was a penalty.

“It doesn’t leave a nice taste to think Roma had a safety net that cost them 50 grand but, unfortunately, that’s just the way football sometime operates.

“I’m more inclined to let bygones be bygones. Mind you, maybe we could all put in a request for our win bonus from United – with interest added!”

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South African students celebrate Winnie Mandela at American University of Nigeria

The life and struggles of late anti-apartheid icon, Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela-Mandela, came alive in Yola, Adamawa State on April 12 at the American University of Nigeria, which held a memorial service in her honour.

AUN’s contingent of South African students organized the evening of solidarity songs, tributes, poetry recitations and personal recollections and was supported by expatriate and Nigerian members of the community.

AUN is home to several students from South Africa and many other African countries.

Drawing from South African mythology, a third year International and Comparative Politics major, Luyand Khanyile, said Madikizela-Mandela “did not die but multiplied”, a reference to the popular ownership of the struggle she led against apartheid and injustice, and how those tribulations defined her life.

Other South African students – Jeremiah Sello Mafokoane, Ntuthuko Buthelezi, Kebone Mofokeng and Alex Gekpe – delivered stirring eulogies in honour of the “Mother of the Nation”.

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Kebone, a Petroleum Chemistry major from Orange State, recited a poem for Winnie from the work of Vangile Gantsho.

Paying his last respects, the Provost of American University of Nigeria, Prof. Muhammadou Kah, described Madikizela-Mandele as a formidable and phenomenal heroine, whose commitment, contributions, leadership and centrality to the resistance to Apartheid is second to none.

Kah, who stood in for President Dawn Dekle, eulogized Madikizela-Majdela who he said represented the people of South Africa to her death, spoke up against injustice regardless of who was in power, a brave, driven, courageous and selfless woman, who stood firmly and said No to oppression.

The globally acclaimed professor of Information Systems stated: “We all grew up seeing her as a symbol of hope, selflessness, courage, strength, passion, enthusiasm, dignity, with a huge capacity for leadership and a relentless quest and commitment for freedom for her peoples.

“She never claimed to be perfect in her approach and tactics to activism and demands for the human rights of her peoples, especially when the heat was up and intense, and within the context of the brutality of the apartheid regime. She stood firm to the end! Indeed, her spirit lives on, and through you, she multiplies.”

Other dignitaries who spoke were the Dean of Students Byron Bullock, who narrated a memorable encounter with the late activist in her hometown of Soweto and in Byron’s native United States; and Assistant Professor of English Language and published author, Dr. Agatha Ukata, who rendered a rousing tribute in her memory.

Controlling High Blood Pressure Could Prevent Dementia

MONDAY, April 23, 2018 — Controlling high blood pressure in older African-Americans may prevent future dementia, according to a study published recently in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Michael D. Murray, Pharm.D., from the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis, and colleagues assessed the longitudinal effects of antihypertensive medications and blood pressure on the onset of incident dementia in 1,236 African-Americans (≥65 years) seen in an inner-city public health care system.

The researchers found that 9 percent of participants developed dementia over a 24-year follow-up period. There was a significantly reduced risk of dementia among the 816 patients prescribed any antihypertensive medication (hazard ratio, 0.57; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.37 to 0.88; P = 0.0114), compared to the 420 untreated hypertensive patients. The effect of antihypertensive medication was no longer statistically significant when analysis included suboptimally treated blood pressure (>140 mm Hg systolic or >90 mm Hg diastolic; hazard ratio, 0.65; 95 percent confidence interval, 0.32 to 1.30; P = 0.2217).

“Control of blood pressure in older adult African-American patients with hypertension is a key intervention for preventing dementia, with similar benefits from most of the commonly available antihypertensive medications,” the authors write.

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Posted: April 2018

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