San Francisco Elects Its First Black Mayor, London Breed

London Breed made history on June 13 by becoming the first African American woman to be elected mayor of San Francisco. Her opponent, Mark Leno, was seeking to become the first openly gay man in the position.

Breed, 43, who previously served on the Board of Supervisors for San Francisco as president, is set to take the reins of the city in July and will be concluding Mayor Ed Lee’s term, who passed away in December.

The San Francisco native vowed to lead the economically thriving city through the complications of homelessness, congestion, and pricey real estate. She pledged in her bid to clean up the streets and rid the sidewalks of homeless tent camps, all within her first year of office.

After being announced mayor, Breed led her victory speech with optimism and confidence stating, “I am so hopeful about the future of our city, and I am looking forward to serving as your mayor. I am truly humbled and I am truly honored.” She also addressed San Francisco’s youth, especially those who are growing up in poverty like she herself did, saying, “No matter where you come from, no matter what you decide to do in life, you can do anything you want to do. Never let your circumstances determine your outcome in life.”

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When asked to reflect on her achievement as becoming the first black woman to be elected as the city’s mayor, she stated, “It’s really amazing, and it’s really such an honor. I know it meant so much to so many people.”

According to CNN, Leno called Breed on Wednesday to congratulate her.

“She is a remarkable young woman. She is going to do a very fine job and we wish her the best because her success is San Francisco’s success,” Leno said.

The results of the 250,000 ballots were tallied by the San Francisco’s Department of Elections over a period of eight days and by Wednesday Breed established a large enough lead over Leno to claim the job with 2,177 votes.

Breed was raised by her grandmother and lived in the city’s public housing while attending public school. After finishing high school she attended University of California, Davis, where she graduated with a degree in political science and a minor in African American studies. She then earned her master’s degree in public administration from the University of San Francisco. Before starting her career in public office, she worked as an executive director of African American Art and Culture Complex for over a decade.

Image via Getty

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AfriCOBRA

With bright Kool-Aid colors (“Everyone was drinking Kool-Aid,” said the original member Barbara Jones-Hogu), political slogans and portraits of Duke Ellington and Malcolm X, the AfriCOBRA art movement was first founded in 1968 on the south side of Chicago by five artists who wanted to define a “black aesthetic”.

This month, the group is celebrating its 50th anniversary with a retrospective entitled AfriCOBRA: Now at the Kravets Wehby gallery in the Chelsea district of New York City.

“As civil rights activists and an integral part of the black power movement, this art group are still going strong,” said the gallerist Marc Wehby. “I wanted to show people: you’re not looking at a relic or a fossil, you’re looking at vibrant, influential artists who are still making work today.”

All 15 members will show their artworks and some will be featured again in the forthcoming Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power exhibition that opens at the Brooklyn Museum on 14 September. It features the works of 60 African American artists from 1963 to 1983.

The first show highlights the origins of the collective, which began in the home studio of Wadsworth and Jae Jarrell, two artists who wanted to build an African American art community among their friends.

Their 1969 manifesto, Ten in Search of a Nation, historically reshaped the mindset of black art communities. The founding member Jeff Donaldson wrote that the goal was “to preach positivity to the people” while combining geometric abstraction and realistic imagery.

Their artwork wasn’t just intended to illustrate their manifesto – it sought to breathe new life into the world. “We were aware of the negative experiences in our present and past, but we wanted to accentuate the positive mode of thought and action,” Jones-Hogu wrote in 2008. “It was specific and functional by expressing statements about our existence as black people.”

Barbara Jones-Hogu - Blackmen We Need You, 1970



Black Men We Need You, by Barbara Jones-Hogu, 1970. Photograph: Courtesy of Kravets Wehby Gallery

Rhythm is a core element of the art collective’s work, but so is celebration of style, color and life. “We are not addressing racial antagonism, which speaks to power,” said the AfriCOBRA artist Michael Harris. “We are speaking to people within the community, so rather than squeezing into the canon, we’re saying let’s expand the canon to include what we do and who we are.”

A few of the group’s members were part of Chicago’s Organization of Black American Culture, which helped create the famous 1967 community mural the Wall of Respect, a revolutionary political artwork of black liberation that paid tribute to 50 black heroes, including Martin Luther King Jr, Aretha Franklin and WEB Du Bois.

Even though these artists came together to help each other, many were ignored by the art world. “People were uncertain about buying an artist who was black and that had a political agenda,” said Wehby. “You’d never see their work at auction or at the Museum of Modern Art, only at the institutions that focused on African American artists.”

Jones-Hogu, who made empowering black imagery with graphic lettering, has a piece in the show that reads: “Black men, preserve our race. Leave white bitches alone.”

The group were rejected from the mainstream art community. “People were afraid,” said Wehby. “Images of black people with fists in the air was not favored – it was only in the past few years that people are realizing this is part of American art history, civil rights history and the black arts movement.”

The exhibition features a work by Nelson Stevens, a Brooklyn-born artist who joined the group in 1969 and is known for creating psychedelic portraits with a bright, Crayola-hued palette. It also features the works of James Phillips, who became a member of the group in 1973, showing his colorful geometric paintings, which are influenced by African patterns, the black arts movement and the Weusi artist collective in Harlem, which he was a part of.

Homage to Murry DePillars by James Phillips, 2010.



Homage to Murry DePillars by James Phillips, 2010. Photograph: Courtesy of Kravets/Wehby Gallery

The exhibition also features a work by one of the group’s youngest members, Kevin Cole, who makes musical references in his lyrical wall sculptures made from metal, wood, cloth and canvas. “When you look at AfriCOBRA, they were like the Black Panthers of the black arts movement,” Cole told the Guardian. “The movement is important because it paved the way for African American artists and it gave them a voice to speak about respect, family, social and political issues.”

The AfriCOBRA movement influenced artists like Kerry James Marshall, reportedly the highest paid living African American artist, who recently broke sales records at Sotheby’s, and Kehinde Wiley, who painted the presidential portrait of Barack Obama.

“The art world for black artists was small,” said Wehby. “It was only recently that people took notice that these artists are incredibly influential.”

But while the group has accomplished a lot since its founding in 1968, it still has work to do. “Mainly, we brought recognition to artist of color and provided mentorship to other artists,” said Cole. “We need more mentorship to artists of color.”

  • AfriCOBRA: Now is showing at the Kravets Wehby gallery in New York from 16 June until 17 August

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Saugerties’ Augusta Savage exhibit will be open through July

They say you can’t keep a good woman down. The same applies to Augusta Savage — you can’t keep a good exhibit closed. Lift Every Voice, an exhibit presented by the Saugerties Historical Society featuring seven sculptures created the Saugerties resident, civil rights activist and sculptor opened on Feb. 17 and will be on display until this August at the historic Kiersted House, 119 Main St.

Born in 1892, Savage was a resident of the hamlet Katsbaan from 1945 until shortly before her death in 1962. “Gus,” as she was known locally by her friends and neighbors, retired from the New York art world in 1945 and moved upstate. To support herself in her new surroundings, Savage raised chickens and pigeons that were sold in New York City and worked at the laboratory of Herman Knaust taking care of mice.

Knaust also kept her supplied with clay so that she could continue to create sculptures. Her subjects were the children who frequently came to visit her, as well as animals.  Savage accepted commissions when she could get them, one of which was a bust of the reclusive author and journalist Poultney Bigelow who resided in Malden-on-Hudson.

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Savage taught art to local children and spent some of her time writing children’s books and poetry to augment her income. She was also invited on occasion to give talks, one in particular about the Congo that she presented at the Atonement Lutheran Church in 1961. 

Before relocating to Saugerties, Savage led a trailblazing career — she was considered to be one of the leading artist of the Harlem Renaissance, an African-American literary and artistic movement during the early 20th century. During the Depression she lobbied the Works Projects Administration to help find work for young artists and was appointed as a director at the WPA’s Harlem Community Center.  

In 1929, she got a chance to study in Paris and while there traveled to other European countries. Upon returning to the U.S. in 1932 she established the Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts and became the first black artist to join the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors (now called the National Association of Women Artists). Savage was an active spokesperson for African-American artists and in 1935 was a principal organizer of the Harlem Artists Guild.  

In 1939, Savage was commissioned to create a sculpture for the New York World’s Fair.  Inspired by a poem “Lift Every Voice and Sing” by James Weldon Johnson she created The Harp. The sculpture was 16 feet tall and featured 12 singing African-American youths in graduated heights as the strings. The figure of a young man kneeling in front offered music in his hands. Although considered one of her major works, The Harp was destroyed at the end of the fair.

Lift Every Voice, the exhibit presented by the Saugerties Historical Society, is made possible through the generosity of the Baran family: Audrey Steenburn, Wesley Finger and Karen Johnson Myer to whom these sculptures were given by Savage. For operating hours and directions, visit the society’s website at www.saugertieshistoricalsociety.org or contact Marjorie Block, president of the Saugerties Historical Society at (845) 246-0784. l



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‘I can’t continue to do this forever’: Families with children aging out of care seek answers

Every day, the Canto family speeds closer towards a precipice.

Their son Matthew has severe cerebral palsy and requires 24-hour care, and at 18, the pediatric services that have kept him and his family going are slowly evaporating.

First to go, on his 18th birthday, was the respite funding from the Ontario government that helped Matthew’s mother Rose pay for extra help so that he could join the family on the occasional trip.

In two more years, it will be Matthew’s school, where he gets to hang out with classmates with similar disabilities and do favourite activities such as swimming.

“I’m at peace when he’s at school,” Rose said.

She’s worried about a future where Matthew could end up isolated at home, in the care of his aging parents.

“I’ve been looking around for day programs and there really are very few programs that can accommodate his needs. And if I do want to put him in a program I’ve got to hire a nurse,” said Rose. “It just becomes very, very expensive.”

“School is my saviour,” says Rose Canto, whose son Matthew has cerebral palsy. 1:48

The Cantos are far from alone. Across the country, stories are piling up as families anxiously watch their children with disabilities age out of care, graduating into a under-resourced system where programs are few and far between.  

In Newfoundland, a woman in her 60s fears getting sick because of what could happen to her developmentally delayed adult son.

In Manitoba, a group of people with disabilities who “aged out” and found themselves cut off from meaningful access to education and work filed a human rights complaint.

And in Nova Scotia, parents are so discouraged by the years-long wait times for community care spots for their adult children with disabilities that they have stopped putting their names on waitlists altogether.

It was one of those stories — from the Geddes family, in Toronto — that inspired CBC Radio’s White Coat, Black Art to bring together families and experts in town hall meeting called Crisis of Care: Help for Families and their High-Needs Kids as they Age out of the System.

Gilly Geddes, who has autism, will be out of school in two years. Her parents, Ian and Rachelle were told it could be a 20-year-wait for residential care. There are at least 12,000 other Ontarians also waiting for a space.

Fear, anxiety, dread

Like the Cantos, they fear for Gilly’s future, particularly as they themselves grow older.

“I think our fear is that there isn’t a clear plan,” Rachelle Geddes told White Coat‘s Dr. Brian Goldman. “We’re managing, we’re managing, we’re managing … and heaven forbid I get T-boned at an intersection or something.”

As Dr. Yona Lunsky explained, a sudden drop-off in resources and programming can have a devastating toll on people like Gilly and Matthew.

Lunsky is the director of the Azrieli Centre for Adult Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Mental Health at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Panel members Rose Canto, left, Yona Lunsky, middle, and Brendon Pooran, right. (Ruby Buiza/CBC)

“You’re isolated because you can’t leave your home, and you can’t be connecting with other people. You’re not doing something meaningful during the day, [and] you’ve lost the friends you are connecting with when you went to school,” Lunsky said.

It’s a transition that can set the stage for a mental health crisis, not only for the person being cared for, but for entire families.

“If you don’t have the supports and services you need, whether you have a disability or you’re a parent or a sibling… you’re feeling this anxiety and this dread perhaps about what’s going to happen,” she said.

Families versus the system

That dread – and a struggle that extends to an entire family – rings true for Don Andersen. His 16-year-old son Jamie, who has Phelan-McDermid Syndrome, is now living in a residential care home.

A social worker friend helped his family navigate what Andersen describes as “an opaque system with silos” to get his son a spot in residential care.   

“I don’t know how anybody gets through the system without a navigator,” he said.

It was a frequent refrain from experts and families alike: services are spread across multiple government ministries and communication between them is poor, leaving families confused about where to turn.  

Here’s what audience member Brian Cox had to say: 

There were many questions and comments from the town hall audience. Here’s what Brian had to say. 1:25

Concerned about where his 33-year-old disabled son Kapil would live after he was gone, audience member Surjit Sachdev created a non-profit that aims to co-house seniors and people with disabilities.

“You share meals, you share circumstances, you share your milestones…you live in an healthy safe environment ….[you’re] living a dignified life,” said Sachdev.

Financial planning for the future

Beyond advocating, what else can families do to ensure their adult children’s future?

Lawyer Brendon Pooran, who specializes in disability law and helps families plan for the future, suggests starting to plan while children are still young, looking into forming a microboard and establishing a savings account.

A microboard is a “group of family and friends that come together with an individual to form a small not-for-profit corporation.”

Wesley Magee-Saxton, flanked by his service dog Gypsy, recently made the successful transition to living in residence at York University. He described being able to do things others take for granted — like spontaneously joining some friends at a coffee shop — as life-changing for him. (Ruby Buiza/CBC)

The group works together to help the individual make decisions, and “the statistics show … they do facilitate a good life for people,” said Pooran.

His second suggestion is setting up a registered disability savings plan, “a fantastic long term savings plan designed for people with disabilities implemented by the federal government in 2008.”

Banding together for change

Though financial planning is always prudent, Mona Sidler-Hosios warns that newcomers and families without independent wealth can run into additional barriers.

Sidler-Hosios, who works as an occupational therapist at the Toronto District School Board, described the lack of resources for the students she works with who are aging out of care as “reprehensible.”

People shouldn’t have to struggle for care, says occupational therapist Mona Sidler-Hosios. 2:12

“The students that I work with … are at the bottom rung of the ladder. There isn’t enough publicity. There isn’t enough talk about it, and I think that’s part of what the problem is.”

She suggested parents band together to fight for their children. “Why do people who are truly in need have to struggle to get the disability tax benefit, have to struggle to get residential setting, have to struggle to get residential health services?” she asked as the crowd applauded.  

Another panel member, Wesley Magee-Saxton, also called on the audiences to raise their voices to help make change.

Magee-Saxton, who has cerebral palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair to get around, transitioned from high school to his first year of university, where he is studying acting.

Wesley Magee-Saxton, 18, talks about the impact of living in residence had on him. 1:56

“Two words: social media,” he told the audience. “Share your stories.… The more we post about it, the more it becomes recognized and the more people are pressured to do something about it.”

The need for a national strategy

For Pooran and panellist Dr. Jan Willem Gorter, director of the CanChild Research Centre at McMaster University, it’s a national strategy to approach the problem that’s most needed.  

“Trying to facilitate some sort of forum … between federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions is vital to solving these systemic issues,” suggested Pooran.

For Rose Canto, it’s timing that’s the imperative. 

She hopes that respite services and residential care improve sooner rather than later, for her family’s sake. 

“I’m getting older and I know I can’t continue to do this forever,” she said. “I need to make sure that my son will have a place to go.” 


Written by Kate McGillivray. White Coat, Black Art’s town hall was produced by Erin Pettit.

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Kamasi Washington: The jazz superstar in interstellar overdrive

"As a musician, you sometimes have to deal with life's bigger issues," says Kamasi Washington.

SUPPLIED

“As a musician, you sometimes have to deal with life’s bigger issues,” says Kamasi Washington.

I was weightless, disembodied, floating through the stars.

Up, up and away I went, dodging asteroids, swooping past the moon, hurtling towards Saturn.

Below me, Earth was just a tiny blue globe.

Or at least, that’s how it felt.

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In truth, I was merely on the phone, having a cosmic chinwag with Kamasi Washington, the L.A. saxophonist some have called “the saviour of jazz”.

Huge, gentle, boundlessly intense, fond of getting about the place in woven skullcaps and African dashikis, his neck ringed with all manner of amulets and beads, Washington is, in the best possible sense of the term, a space cadet.

Kamasi Washington live on stage, doing what he does best.

Supplied

Kamasi Washington live on stage, doing what he does best.

“We all have the power to change the way this Earth operates and make our own Universe,” he tells me.

“As a musician, you have to deal with life’s bigger questions. The music industry tries to hold us back from that, because it’s not the sort of music that sells, but if an artist really goes deep, they come to the realisation that we’re all spiritual beings, and music is a spiritual experience.”

As with earlier African-American musical explorers such as Sun Ra, Alice Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders and George Clinton, Washington seeks to move beyond our earthly realm with his music.

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He’s interested in The Big Picture, you dig? I mean – why focus on the mundane, the terrestrial, the here and now?

Washington writes epic jazz concertos about the kind of utopia we might create if we all became more compassionate and enlightened, rather than settling for the status quo as careless and competitive parcels of blood, bone, anxiety and ego, hurtling through space on an overcrowded rock.

He is a horn-honking Afronaut, an astral traveller, a cartographer of the universal. His mind is in a permanent state of interstellar overdrive. He is unrepentantly cosmic, baby.

“My new record looks at our perceptions of reality,” he tells me in a soft Californian drawl.

“There’s two linked albums. The first one, Earth, is about how I experience things, and the second album, Heaven, is about how I imagine they could be. I’ve always believed that if we perceive things being a certain way, they become that way. The world that your mind lives in, lives in your mind, you know?”

A cynic might dismiss Washington’s world-view as just the flaky ramblings of a New Age hippie, but it’s more difficult to shrug off his records.

Because this man is a musical powerhouse. More than any other player of recent times, he has prompted a reassessment of the possibilities of jazz as a wild and lively contemporary art-form, rather than some dusty museum-friendly genre once loved by your grandparents.

Space is the place: L.A. jazz star, Kamasi Washington is looking to the stars on his ambitious new release.

Reiner Pfisterer

Space is the place: L.A. jazz star, Kamasi Washington is looking to the stars on his ambitious new release.

In 2015, Washington’s solo debut The Epic hit the shelves – a highly ambitious triple LP that connected the dots between R’n’B and folk music, funk and the blues, hard bop and cool jazz, African music and the European classical tradition.

Styles ranged from John Coltrane-inspired bebop to 70s jazz-fusion workouts a la Miles Davis/ Weather Report to Debussy covers backed by an orchestra and 20-voice choir.

All manner of breathless “saviour of jazz” hype started to appear in the music press, though Washington admits that jazz needed no such saviour.

There have been extraordinary jazz players beavering away on the margins of mainstream music for decades, despite limited financial rewards and shrinking audiences.

“All that ‘Saviour of Jazz’ stuff was just plain weird,” Washington told me soon after The Epic was released, passing through New Zealand to play the inaugural Auckland City Limits festival.

“I thought listeners would like that record, sure, but people treated it like it was some hugely important thing they’d been missing their whole lives!”

"It's flattering, but I ain't the saviour of jazz," says Kamasi Washington.

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“It’s flattering, but I ain’t the saviour of jazz,” says Kamasi Washington.

Really, Washington nudged a younger audience towards jazz via his long association with another predominantly African-American artform: hip hop.

He grew up in the tough gang-land area of Inglewood in L.A., a musical prodigy who “loved N.W.A. and Bach equally” and was mentored by his father Rickey, who played sax for The Temptations and Diana Ross.

Washington went on to tour and record with Snoop Dogg, Lauren Hill, Erykah Badu, Nas and Flying Lotus between jazz gigs, and contributed horn arrangements to key hip hop albums by Kendrick Lamar and Run The Jewels, among others.

“Well, I see no distinction between jazz and hip hop, really. All music is connected, and genres are just words people use for marketing. I mean, hip hop was built on samples of older funk, soul and jazz records. It is, quite literally, the same music! The way I see it, music is one tree, but with different branches and very deep roots.”

Kamasi Washington grew up "loving N.W.A. and Bach equally".

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Kamasi Washington grew up “loving N.W.A. and Bach equally”.

Washington is now in high demand worldwide. He played a sold-out show at Auckland’s Power Station in March, followed by a fiery performance at WOMAD in New Plymouth.

“I love doing those festival shows, man! People are often really searching for new sounds, and the fact that they don’t know they’re getting a jazz band is an advantage, really. Someone will walk past and it will just resonate for them, without them having to deal with the bad reputation jazz has as stale old music from your grandpa’s generation.”

He lets loose a big booming laugh. “They just stumble across you and experience your music from a really pure place. It’s always just me and my band tapping into whatever energy we’re feeling in that space and time, and people that are in that space and time with us, they vibe with it. It gets to them emotionally.”

To those with open minds and ears, Washington’s new record will have much the same affect. It is, shall we say, quite a trip.

As with The Epic, Heaven & Earth is a whirlwind of sounds, styles and ideas, all coalescing around Washington’s fast and fluid saxophone, the rhythmic backbone provided on many tracks by two drummers.

There are hell-for-leather free-jazz meltdowns alongside contemplative ballads. There are punchy “gangsta-funk” tracks and sinuous tropical workouts that might have been recorded at a Brazilian carnival.

There are mad semi-classical suites overlaid with gospel choirs, the singers making spooky wordless sounds like the Star Trek theme tune.

“Oh, that’s great! My mum was a huge Trekkie, and I grew up watching a lot of sci-fi TV. But yeah, I guess those big choirs have become a trademark of mine. When I first started out, I would play at my uncle’s church alongside the choir, and to me, the human voice is the original instrument. There’s a real power to it, so whenever I’m really trying to energise something, that’s the sound that comes into my head.”

"We can use our lives to benefit the world, rather than diminish it."

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“We can use our lives to benefit the world, rather than diminish it.”

Perhaps inevitably, the album also contains tracks with righteous rocket-man titles such as Vi Lua Vi Sol (The Sun and The Moon) and The Space Traveller’s Lullaby.

“I wrote Vi Lua Vi Sol after this festival in Brazil. We were sitting outside at the after-party, just chillin’, and there was this girl who was just, you know… talking to the moon! It was full-on, man! It took me to this imaginary place where people addressed the planets directly, like talking to the universe, so I wrote about that.”

The Space Traveller’s Lullaby, meanwhile, is a companion piece to a track called Fists Of Fury, inspired by the old Bruce Lee kung fu flick.

“For me, that movie encapsulates the idea that to live is to struggle, but it also makes the point that you do have power over your circumstances. So Fists Of Fury is about the eternal struggle that is life, and Space Traveller’s Lullaby is about the endless potential that is life. It’s about relishing your struggle, because that struggle helps you realise your potential.”

I have to admit, I have a few issues with all this “attract your own reality” palaver. While intended to be inspirational and life-affirming, it can also be a way of blaming people for the crappy situations they find themselves in.

"I love to play festival shows..." he says.

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“I love to play festival shows…” he says.

Yes, I understand that Washington is inspired by the “spiritual jazz” movement of the late 60s and 70s, a time when many musicians were pondering notions of freedom and self-determination and suggesting that we all shared some sort of cosmic consciousness.

And like a lot of other thoughtful people raised in tough areas, he learned to look beyond his immediate surroundings and visualise a better world.

Fair enough. But in the meantime, our earthy reality is not flash. Out in the real world, it’s been a very strange few years, with many people’s lives defined by increasing levels of fear, anxiety, political instability and natural disasters.

Surely Washington isn’t suggesting we’ve brought all this on ourselves?

“It’s complicated, right? I’m not pretending to have all the answers. But I strongly believe that the world becomes what we want it to be. I might have a sensation of being powerless, and that the world is a dark, harsh, hard place. But then I zoom in, and I think about some of the people I’ve met and experiences I’ve had in this world of ours, and it seems like a really beautiful, exciting and supportive sort of place.”

"My mum was a huge Trekkie, and I grew up watching a lot of sci-fi TV," Kamasi Washington says of his influences.

Supplied

“My mum was a huge Trekkie, and I grew up watching a lot of sci-fi TV,” Kamasi Washington says of his influences.

There are, he reckons, far more people on our shared planet working towards positive change than there are negative and destructive people.

“Even people who seem very powerful actually aren’t; we give them that power over us, and we can take it away again. We have the power to change things. We just have to make sure the people and places within our reach are affected by our positivity, and we’ll all be making the world come a little closer to that ideal.”

This is why Washington makes music, he says – to help bring about such a change.

“There’s a deeper wisdom that your spirit has that your conscious mind’s often still trying to catch up to. Music helps you get there somehow by tapping into your unconscious, both as a player and as a listener. Music nurtures the emotional and imaginative lives of people. It explores possible futures through sound.”

Not that he sees himself as being particularly special. Washington believes everyone can help promote positive change, not just musicians.

“Musicians might reach a lot of people, but you can also make the world a better place by being a thoughtful and compassionate mechanic or architect or teacher or parent, or a really great neighbour or friend or cousin or aunt. Whatever you do, you can put your skills and your energy towards making the world a better place, and bit by bit, we can make it happen. We can use our lives to benefit the world, rather than diminish it.”

Kamasi Washington's new album, Heaven & Earth, is a whirlwind of sounds, styles and ideas.

Supplied

Kamasi Washington’s new album, Heaven & Earth, is a whirlwind of sounds, styles and ideas.

Washington’s latest contribution to this struggle is the Heaven & Earth record, and he also tries to nudge things in a more positive direction with every live show.

“With a good live show, you might not know the people either side of you, but when it’s over, you feel like you all went on a profound emotional journey together. I want my records to do that too. I’m really hoping people get a sense of empowerment from this music, you know?

“Like you say, this world can seem like a pretty cold place, and there’s this feeling that it’s beyond our influence as individuals. But really, our world’s just a collection of billions of smaller worlds that are our individual lives. If we make our own world better, we make a difference. I hope this music might help bring people’s worlds together a bit more, so they feel more of a sense of connection and mutual support. It’s a big high aim, I know, but why aim low?”

Kamasi Washington’s Heaven & Earth is released on June 22

 – Stuff

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Families with children aging out of care seek answers

Every day, the Canto family speeds closer towards a precipice.

Their son Matthew has severe cerebral palsy and requires 24-hour care, and at 18, the pediatric services that have kept him and his family going are slowly evaporating.

First to go, on his 18th birthday, was the respite funding from the Ontario government that helped Matthew’s mother Rose pay for extra help so that he could join the family on the occasional trip.

In two more years, it will be Matthew’s school, where he gets to hang out with classmates with similar disabilities and do favourite activities such as swimming.

“I’m at peace when he’s at school,” Rose said.

She’s worried about a future where Matthew could end up isolated at home, in the care of his aging parents.

“I’ve been looking around for day programs and there really are very few programs that can accommodate his needs. And if I do want to put him in a program I’ve got to hire a nurse,” said Rose. “It just becomes very, very expensive.”

“School is my saviour,” says Rose Canto, whose son Matthew has cerebral palsy. 1:48

The Cantos are far from alone. Across the country, stories are piling up as families anxiously watch their children with disabilities age out of care, graduating into a under-resourced system where programs are few and far between.  

In Newfoundland, a woman in her 60s fears getting sick because of what could happen to her developmentally delayed adult son.

In Manitoba, a group of people with disabilities who “aged out” and found themselves cut off from meaningful access to education and work filed a human rights complaint.

And in Nova Scotia, parents are so discouraged by the years-long wait times for community care spots for their adult children with disabilities that they have stopped putting their names on waitlists altogether.

It was one of those stories — from the Geddes family, in Toronto — that inspired CBC Radio’s White Coat, Black Art to bring together families and experts in town hall meeting called Crisis of Care: Help for Families and their High-Needs Kids as they Age out of the System.

Gilly Geddes, who has autism, will be out of school in two years. Her parents, Ian and Rachelle were told it could be a 20-year-wait for residential care. There are at least 12,000 other Ontarians also waiting for a space.

Fear, anxiety, dread

Like the Cantos, they fear for Gilly’s future, particularly as they themselves grow older.

“I think our fear is that there isn’t a clear plan,” Rachelle Geddes told White Coat‘s Dr. Brian Goldman. “We’re managing, we’re managing, we’re managing … and heaven forbid I get T-boned at an intersection or something.”

As Dr. Yona Lunsky explained, a sudden drop-off in resources and programming can have a devastating toll on people like Gilly and Matthew.

Lunsky is the director of the Azrieli Centre for Adult Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Mental Health at Toronto’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Panel members Rose Canto, left, Yona Lunsky, middle, and Brendon Pooran, right. (Ruby Buiza/CBC)

“You’re isolated because you can’t leave your home, and you can’t be connecting with other people. You’re not doing something meaningful during the day, [and] you’ve lost the friends you are connecting with when you went to school,” Lunsky said.

It’s a transition that can set the stage for a mental health crisis, not only for the person being cared for, but for entire families.

“If you don’t have the supports and services you need, whether you have a disability or you’re a parent or a sibling… you’re feeling this anxiety and this dread perhaps about what’s going to happen,” she said.

Families versus the system

That dread – and a struggle that extends to an entire family – rings true for Don Andersen. His 16-year-old son Jamie, who has Phelan-McDermid Syndrome, is now living in a residential care home.

A social worker friend helped his family navigate what Andersen describes as “an opaque system with silos” to get his son a spot in residential care.   

“I don’t know how anybody gets through the system without a navigator,” he said.

It was a frequent refrain from experts and families alike: services are spread across multiple government ministries and communication between them is poor, leaving families confused about where to turn.  

Here’s what audience member Brian Cox had to say: 

There were many questions and comments from the town hall audience. Here’s what Brian had to say. 1:25

Concerned about where his 33-year-old disabled son Kapil would live after he was gone, audience member Surjit Sachdev created a non-profit that aims to co-house seniors and people with disabilities.

“You share meals, you share circumstances, you share your milestones…you live in an healthy safe environment ….[you’re] living a dignified life,” said Sachdev.

Financial planning for the future

Beyond advocating, what else can families do to ensure their adult children’s future?

Lawyer Brendon Pooran, who specializes in disability law and helps families plan for the future, suggests starting to plan while children are still young, looking into forming a microboard and establishing a savings account.

A microboard is a “group of family and friends that come together with an individual to form a small not-for-profit corporation.”

Wesley Magee-Saxton, flanked by his service dog Gypsy, recently made the successful transition to living in residence at York University. He described being able to do things others take for granted — like spontaneously joining some friends at a coffee shop — as life-changing for him. (Ruby Buiza/CBC)

The group works together to help the individual make decisions, and “the statistics show … they do facilitate a good life for people,” said Pooran.

His second suggestion is setting up a registered disability savings plan, “a fantastic long term savings plan designed for people with disabilities implemented by the federal government in 2008.”

Banding together for change

Though financial planning is always prudent, Mona Sidler-Hosios warns that newcomers and families without independent wealth can run into additional barriers.

Sidler-Hosios, who works as an occupational therapist at the Toronto District School Board, described the lack of resources for the students she works with who are aging out of care as “reprehensible.”

People shouldn’t have to struggle for care, says occupational therapist Mona Sidler-Hosios. 2:12

“The students that I work with … are at the bottom rung of the ladder. There isn’t enough publicity. There isn’t enough talk about it, and I think that’s part of what the problem is.”

She suggested parents band together to fight for their children. “Why do people who are truly in need have to struggle to get the disability tax benefit, have to struggle to get residential setting, have to struggle to get residential health services?” she asked as the crowd applauded.  

Another panel member, Wesley Magee-Saxton, also called on the audiences to raise their voices to help make change.

Magee-Saxton, who has cerebral palsy and uses a motorized wheelchair to get around, transitioned from high school to his first year of university, where he is studying acting.

Wesley Magee-Saxton, 18, talks about the impact of living in residence had on him. 1:56

“Two words: social media,” he told the audience. “Share your stories.… The more we post about it, the more it becomes recognized and the more people are pressured to do something about it.”

The need for a national strategy

For Pooran and panellist Dr. Jan Willem Gorter, director of the CanChild Research Centre at McMaster University, it’s a national strategy to approach the problem that’s most needed.  

“Trying to facilitate some sort of forum … between federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions is vital to solving these systemic issues,” suggested Pooran.

For Rose Canto, it’s timing that’s the imperative. 

She hopes that respite services and residential care improve sooner rather than later, for her family’s sake. 

“I’m getting older and I know I can’t continue to do this forever,” she said. “I need to make sure that my son will have a place to go.” 


Written by Kate McGillivray. White Coat, Black Art’s town hall was produced by Erin Pettit.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

All they needed was a break; Northland is trying to give them one

Jaelin Grey was in his hospital bed at Erie County Medical Center last year after being stabbed when he decided he needed to change his ways.

“I felt like a victim. I felt like I wasn’t in control of my life,” Grey said.

At 20, he had already been in jail. He had been kicked out of high school but managed to come back to graduate. College wasn’t an option. He had a steady girlfriend and they had a baby together. He was supporting his family doing handyman jobs on his grandfather’s properties but it paid about $13,000 a year. And now, he had almost died after meddling in a fight.

A few months later, he was riding in his uncle’s car on their way to a job when they heard an ad on the radio: It was an invitation to apply to the Northland Workforce Training Center, a new school in the heart of the East Side that aims to annually train 300 to 400 people for advanced manufacturing and energy jobs – jobs that would pay $30,000 to $50,000.

Grey looked up the website on his smartphone and applied in his uncle’s car.

“I felt like they were talking to me,” Grey said. “Hopefully, they are.”

That’s the idea.

Part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion, the Northland Workforce Training Center’s goal is to create a pipeline of workers from disadvantaged communities to good-paying jobs that manufacturers and energy companies are desperate to fill. It’s the centerpiece of the $100 million Northland Avenue Beltline Corridor project to bring back manufacturing to the East Side. Mayor Byron W. Brown, who has shepherded the project, has called it “a game-changer, for the Northland neighborhood, all of Buffalo’s East Side and our entire city.”

The training center brings together four organizations: Buffalo Niagara Manufacturing Alliance; Buffalo Urban League; Catholic Charities; and Goodwill Industries of Western New York. It’s offering one and two-year training programs through SUNY Erie Community College and Alfred State College in the kinds of jobs local industries need filled in precision machining, welding, electrical construction and maintenance and energy technology. Students earn certificates or associate degrees.

Construction is underway at the future home of the Northland training center, inside the long-vacant Clearing Niagara factory on Northland Avenue.

The first classes at the center are set to begin at the end of August. Grey plans to be in one.

Filling a need

There are 3,000 jobs open right now in manufacturing and energy in Western New York, Duncan Kirkwood told a crowd at a recruiting event at the Delavan-Grider Community Center on the evening of May 21, a few blocks from the construction.

Employers are having a tough time finding people to fill those jobs, said Kirkwood, the charismatic outreach and recruiting manager for Northland. The audience, composed almost entirely of African-American men and women, nodded.

Duncan Kirkwood leads a session at Northland’s temporary office on Broadway at Bailey. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Kirkwood got a round of knowing laughs as he said a previous outreach effort at a Buffalo church led to him being “bombarded by grandmas” who wanted to talk to them about getting their grandsons and granddaughters into Northland. “They know this is a good thing,” Kirkwood said.

By the end of the session, 72 people had signed up to take the entry test to apply for one of Northland’s training programs.

“A lot of people on the East Side are ready to work hard,” Kirkwood said later in an interview. “But they don’t have the opportunity to be trained. … Now we’re giving them that chance.”

The event was one of dozens held every month since January to identify students for Northland in the Buffalo Niagara region. Recruiters are looking especially for potential students in the neighborhoods around the Northland project that have long struggled with poverty.

More than four out of every five children on the East Side – 84 percent – qualify for Medicaid or some other government health care program for the poor, according to 2016 Census data. That’s compared to 33 percent of all children in Erie County.

It’s not that East Side residents aren’t working. Nearly two thirds – 64 percent – of people between 20 to 64 years old who live on the East Side are in the labor force, according to Census figures.

Kirkwood, 33, who grew up on Manhattan Avenue in the Central Park neighborhood knows from experience of the poverty and violence that plague the East Side.

“I know what the alternative is for a lot of these kids,” he said. “If we can get them in Northland, they can radically change their lives.”

When people are earning a good salary, they don’t have to be in “survival mode,” Kirkwood said. “You can really enjoy life and you can support nonprofits and go to PTA meetings and be involved in their communities.”

Jaelin Grey manages to get by on his handyman work, he said. Forced from a young age to take care of himself, he’s had all kinds of jobs. He worked at the McDonald’s on Genesee Street and Bailey Avenue as a fry cook. He spent a few months at a call center. “It was an office job,” he said. “I thought it was a step up from the grill.”

But he wants to be able to take care of his girlfriend and daughter, who is now 17 months old. He’s hoping that by learning welding, he can become a contractor.

“I make $13,000,” he said. “$13,000 to $30,000? I don’t know what that actually is? It seems – I can’t think of the right word – promising.”

Looking for workers

Rupa Shanmugam, the president and chief operating officer of SoPark, constantly struggles to fill open positions at the circuit board printing company in Lackawanna.

“Actually, right at this moment, I have eight openings,” Shanmugam said last week. She needs surface mount operators, inspectors and people with soldering skills – but she can’t find people who are trained in any of those jobs. So SoPark started hiring people without any experience and trained them.

It’s not just about the skills gap, she acknowledged. She has a hard time finding people willing to work second and third shifts. She also believes there are misconceptions about working in manufacturing – that the work is dirty, for instance, or that it’s not for women. Advanced manufacturing requires pristine environments, she said. And as for women in the workplace, her factory is split evenly between men and women.

Having a training center like Northland will help her find more qualified workers, Shanmugam predicted. “It makes it easier,” she said. And she can attest that the jobs, at least in electronics, will be there. “I don’t believe Buffalo was big into electronics in the past. But you do see a lot of it now.”

The need is expected to grow as a “gray tsunami” of older workers retire. Northland cites industry studies that show more than 17,000 jobs in manufacturing are expected to open up between now and 2027.

Craig Ray, 45, a married father, is eager to try to grab one of those jobs. He had a tough start to life, moving from city to city before ending up in Buffalo. He graduated from Hutchinson Technical Central High School but his grades weren’t great. “I was kind of … you could say below average,” he said.

He fell in with a bad crowd and got arrested for a few minor incidents, but he was never be convicted.  He worked odd jobs – restaurants, collection agencies – and admits he sometimes supported himself as a “street pharmacist.”

But Ray grew up, he said. With children to support, he became a certified nursing assistant, a job he kept for a few years. He then found work at the casino in downtown Buffalo, first in the kitchen and then moving up to security. He lost that job in January. Not long after someone brought in some flyers to his wife, who is an accountant, about Northland.

He applied and said he is thrilled to have been accepted.

“It’s a straight road forward – a road forward doing something I would enjoy. Something I can be proud of doing,” Ray said. “I want to be able to go to sleep dead tired because I earned it.”

The barriers

April M. fills out an application during an informational session for prospective students at the Northland Workforce Training Center’s temporary office. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

So if there are all these job openings and all these people who want good jobs, what’s keeping them from getting the jobs?

There are many barriers, said Stephen Tucker, CEO of the Northland Workforce Training Center, and he and his staff are determined to help break those down.

The location itself should make it easier for people on the East Side to get the training they need. The training center is on Northland, between Fillmore Avenue and Grider Street.

It’s also going to be affordable, in some cases covered through scholarships including.

“We want our students to acquire the training at little to no cost out of pocket,” Tucker said.

Students aren’t required to bring school transcripts; all they need to start is an ID. They do have to pass a literacy test – called a TABE test. A number of students have struggled with that so Northland is allowing potential students to retake it, offering sample tests and tutoring to help them.

Having a criminal record won’t automatically exclude applicants, Tucker said. “We’re going to look at you on a case-by-case basis. We’ll give you a shot,” he said.

The students aren’t drug tested but they’re warned from the beginning that any job they apply for will require they pass a drug test. Northland is going to offer substance abuse counseling to help students get clean as well as candid advice about what employers expect.

Northland students can also qualify for free child care and get bus passes if they need them. Classes are offered during the day and evening to allow people to keep their jobs. They also will be offered entry-level jobs in manufacturing while they’re being trained.

The free tuition was a key factor for Jayne Burts, 21, to decide to enroll at Northland, along with the wrap-around services. “They help you every step of the way,” she said.

Burts grew up on the East Side and recently moved just over the border to Cheektowaga with her mother.

Burts studied electrical engineering at Hutch Tech and had planned to pursue a job in the field, but it hasn’t worked out the way she thought it would. She recounted going to the electrical workers union in Orchard Park to take the test and feeling a little out of place.

“Really awkward,” she said she felt. “I was the only girl and the only person of color.”

She failed the test and never went back to retake it.

She also tried to apply at ECC and was ready to start when she found out at the orientation that she needed to pay an $800 deposit within two weeks. She couldn’t afford it.

Burts has signed up for the electrical construction and maintenance program. She sees herself going into business for herself when she graduates.

“I just want to be my own boss,” she said.

A new approach

To be sure, there are other efforts underway to try to connect local residents with manufacturing jobs. Even some of the organizations like Goodwill and the Buffalo Urban League have their own job training programs.

But Northland is taking new approaches.

Stephen Tucker, who ran a similar job training program in Cincinnati before coming to Buffalo, said Northland’s partners are working together to develop a curriculum that will train students in the skills they would need to fill jobs that companies know they’ll have open.

“We train you for a job that’s actually there,” Tucker said.

Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, president and CEO of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, said one difference she’s seen between Northland and other job training efforts is the way Northland is offering intensive case management for each of its students. “They’re going to be supported through the process in a coordinated way that doesn’t exist right now,” she said.

“Everything is pointing in the right direction right now. It is a bit of an experiment. I am looking forward to seeing the results.”

There’s a lot riding on the success of Northland. Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Brown have championed the project, holding it up as an example of the state and city’s commitment to bring the “renaissance” enjoyed by other parts of Buffalo – Canalside and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus – to the East Side.

“This is probably one of the most transformational projects to happen in this community in decades,” Brown said in April.

But some are cautioning about expecting too much from Northland.

Henry Louis Taylor, a professor of Urban and Regional Planning at the University at Buffalo who is the director of the UB Center for Urban Studies, said the training center is a great idea and commends the creative and aggressive efforts being made to recruit from disadvantaged communities.

But he doesn’t think a school that graduates 300 to 400 workers a year can have a transformative impact on the East Side – at least not without even more ambitious investment in housing and the communities around it.

“This does not belong in the happy-talk lane,” Taylor said. “It’s a good step forward. It will help a handful of workers. We should celebrate that. But let’s not exaggerate and pretend this is a big festival. It’s a small family dinner.”

For the East Side to experience the renaissance that other parts of the city have enjoyed, Taylor said, two things need to happen: government leaders, planners and the community stakeholders coming together to identify ways to lift up the East Side and then having the region’s major businesses create a fund that would the projects.

“The minute we have those honest conversations, then we don’t have to pretend that a really great project like the Northland Workforce Training Center is not Santa Claus. Let’s get honest. Let’s get real and build a real, legitimate plan.”

A new future

Jaelin Grey. (Derek Gee/Buffalo News)

Jaelin Grey can’t say if Northland will transform his neighborhood. But he’s hopeful it will transform him.

Grey grew up on the East Side around people, he said, who “were too cool to live by the rules. … They’re not ‘citizens,’ ” he said. By citizens, he’s not talking about what country you’re from. “Citizens are people who vote, go to the library, go to the DMV and pay their taxes,” he said.

That’s what he wants to be, for his girlfriend, his daughter, his younger brother and himself.

“I just hope the past can be the past and the future can be new,” he said. “That’s my biggest thing – a new future.”

5 Perspective Will ‘Ain’t Too Proud’ be better than other jukebox musicals?


HANDOUT IMAGE: The cast of “Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations” at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Photo by Kevin Berne. (Kevin Berne/Kevin Berne)

NEW YORK — In the course of figuring out her approach to the story of the Temptations, playwright Dominique Morisseau sat down one day in Los Angeles with Otis Williams, the only surviving original member of the group. Her goal: to get him to spill the beans.

“So I asked Otis, in as nonconfrontational a way as possible,” she recalled, “ ‘Is there a perspective now that you have that you didn’t have before?’ ”

“You mean, regrets?” Williams replied. 

And then, Morisseau remembered, “He stops talking. He gets emotional. And all I can think is, ‘Oh, if I make Otis Williams cry, my parents will never forgive me!’ ”

Cry, Otis, cry! Of such encounters are biographical musicals sometimes made. And if they excavate some nuggets of bona fide candor, then the resulting musical might, just might, have the potential to become more than a greatest-hits hagiography of beloved figures from the recording industry. This more artful mission is the one the creative team had in mind as they put together “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations,” an anthology show built around one of the most influential groups in Motown, not to mention rock-and-roll, history.

After a well-received trial run last year at the Bay Area’s Berkeley Rep, “Ain’t Too Proud” continues its long march toward Broadway with what its producers describe as a crucial month-long visit to the Kennedy Center, with performances starting Tuesday  and an official opening night set for June 28, when reviews will appear. Additional stops are scheduled for Los Angeles and Toronto, as the show both awaits word on a suitable space among the 41 theaters of Broadway, where availability is tight, and takes advantage of the time to make adjustments to the show.


The cast of “Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations.” (litwin)

Des McAnuff, who won his first Tony 25 year ago for his direction of “The Who’s Tommy” — one of the first musicals to develop a rock-group album into a stage story — says shaping the music of the Temptations for the theater has been relatively easy. “Happily, the themes that affected their lives are very much alive in the songs they sing,” McAnuff said by phone from Bloomington, Ind., where “Ain’t Too Proud” stopped for several days for technical refinements. “The harmonies and certainly the electrifying music they were generating, and is still with us, have become classics.”

That an assembly line has formed to manufacture popular rock songbooks into jukebox shows doesn’t necessarily mean the road to Broadway success is a breeze. Entries in the genre, such as the Tony-winning “Jersey Boys,” based on Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons; the Abba-inspired “Mamma Mia!”; and “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” can make theatergoers forget how many others have crashed and burned. Anyone recall “Ring of Fire,” the Johnny Cash musical that lasted a month on Broadway in winter 2006? Or “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” a two-month wonder featuring the songs of Bob Dylan? Or, for that matter, this past season’s flop, “Escape to Margaritaville,” with the songs of Jimmy Buffett and a life span ending July 1, foreshortened by anemic ticket sales?

To stave off the shopworn and infuse the project with as much authenticity as possible, lead producers Tom Hulce and Ira Pittelman, of “Spring Awakening” and “American Idiot,” among others, recruited Morisseau. Her highly praised plays on hot-button issues such as the hardships befalling blue-collar workers (“Skeleton Crew”) and urban education (“Pipeline”) have made her a sought-after voice by theaters across the country. As recounted by Hulce, the actor-turned-producer famous to film fans for his role in “National Lampoon’s Animal House” and starring as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Milos Forman’s Oscar-winning “Amadeus,” he mentioned “two or three names” to an influential acquaintance as to a book writer for the project, “And he said, ‘Dominique Morisseau.’ ” 


“Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations.” (Joel Dockendorf)

Born and raised in Detroit, where she graduated from a high school for gifted and talented students, and went on to the University of Michigan, where she honed her writing skills, Morisseau was steeped in knowledge of the city and the lore of Motown. “The Temptations is my parents’ favorite group,” she said, recalling stories of how the group’s members also grew up there. None of this was lost on the producers: Pittelman had for several years held the option on the rights to the Temptations’ music, and after he and Hulce read her plays, several set in the Motor City, she became their first and only choice.

“There is something about her language that is her own, and connected to Detroit,” Hulce said.

The Temptations’ string of R&B successes is of such a magnitude — “42 top-10 hits and 16 number ones,” said Pittelman — that there could be no problem with audiences being heart-meltingly familiar with the archives. “My Girl,” “Get Ready,” “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg,” “I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)”, “Just My Imagination” — and, as they say on those late-night commercials, there’s more! The composition of the group, which, by the way, still performs, has changed dramatically over the years since the breakthrough in the mid-1960s; there have been two dozen Temptations who have cycled in and out of the group.

It is Williams’s 2012 memoir “The Temptations” on which the show is based, with a concentration on its storytelling from the mid-’60s to 1974 and some of the group’s earliest members, such as Paul Williams, Mel Franklin, Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin. (Smokey Robinson, who wrote some of the group’s best-known songs, is a character in the musical, as well.) Morisseau has tried to link their stories to the tumultuous currents of the times, which correspond to the accelerating influence of African American artists on the music industry, as well as to the burgeoning civil rights movement. 

“There is something important about artists and where they stand in a moment of civic unrest,” she said. “It feels like we’re having this contemporary conversation [in the show] about another time.”

As McAnuff notes, the Temptations were pioneers in multiple respects, not the least of these concerning the particularly theatrical style of performance they honed. Modeled on influencers such as the Cadillacs, the Temptations dazzlingly incorporated dance into their act. “The Cadillacs knew about movement and choreography, but the Temptations took that to an entirely new level,” the director said.

This placed a daunting responsibility on choreographer Sergio Trujillo. Although his credits have included “Jersey Boys” — also directed by McAnuff — and another more recent, dance-oriented jukebox show, “On Your Feet!,” the story of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Trujillo came to “Ain’t Too Proud” feeling he had to prove himself again. “Of all the shows that I have done, this is the one that has the most pressure,” he said, “because these guys were known for their moves.”

Expect to see a lot of those moves onstage in the Eisenhower Theater, and even a few more. It seems that the young actors who have been recruited might be able to out-Temptation the actual Temptations. “The things that I have them doing,” Trujillo said with a laugh, “I don’t know that the real David Ruffin could do.”

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Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations, book by Dominique Morisseau, music and lyrics from the Motown catalogue. Directed by Des McAnuff and choreographed by Sergio Trujillo. June 19-July 22 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. kennedy-center.org or 202-467-4600.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Nigeria game first big test of Russia’s resolve to stamp out racism

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