Four Corners artist promoting a home for black artists in his neighborhood

Dorchester-based artist Mfalme Kenyatta has no qualms about assigning eyebrow-raising value to his own art. The painter/sculptor/fashion designer, who compared himself to Picasso and Basquiat in an interview with the Reporter, has priced some of his paintings at millions, even tens of millions of dollars on his website.

By way of explanation, Kenyatta offered an example of a painting he saw at a contemporary art museum — a canvas painted solid red — that sold for $30 million. Why shouldn’t he treat his own art the same way?

“I don’t really feel that anyone can tell you what something is worth,” he said. “Not an appraiser, not a curator. It’s like, I made it, I know how long it took, I know what type of paint this is, I know how long it’ll last…as an artist, that comes from us.”

It’s a bold stance, but Kenyatta believes the truth inherent in his artwork supports his confidence. He considers each of his paintings to be “one of one,” trusting that their value comes from their uniqueness. “I look at it like every painting is like a piece of my soul. That’s how I approach it. And I’m always met with like, oh, you have to famous or dead to do that [with pricing]. But you know, fame doesn’t change your artwork.”

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Photo credit Earnest X.

At the moment, Kenyatta is concerned less with fame and more with sparking a renaissance of black artists in his neighborhood. He works from his studio in the basement of the Erick Jean Center for the Arts in Four Corners, a space that is quickly becoming the new center for black art in Boston, according to Kenyatta. He describes the property, which is shared by the Afro-Caribbean Museum and the Dorchester Arts Collaborative, as “the heart” of the local creative black community.

“For black artists, there’s not really too many options. They just closed AAMARP,” he said, referring to Northeastern University’s African American Master Artist-in-Residence Program, which had been under fire since last summer when the university threatened to force the black arts collective to vacate its premises due to safety concerns in the warehouse that housed it. With safe spaces for black artists imperiled elsewhere in the city, Kenyatta sees his home base as a welcoming, if under-the-radar, sanctuary.

“Something important that people need to realize is that there’s not too many options for us. That’s why here we’ve really been trying to cultivate that culture.”

The artistic presence at the Four Corners hub is growing, notably in the form of the “Indigo Regime,” a contingent of roughly fifteen artists from the area who gather in the museum to work and host shows.

Kenyatta stressed the crucial role of the arts center in “making sure that there’s a platform for black artists, because there’s a lot of artists around here, and I feel like if it wasn’t for this space, we wouldn’t even know. Me, personally, before this opened, I used to just walk around, pretty much. I had the talent, but I didn’t have the platform. And when I started thinking about it, there’s probably a lot of people like me who have talent but no outlet for it.”

Thanks to his Four Corners outlet, Kenyatta has spent the last several years honing his craft. He will present his second solo show at the museum’s gallery on May 2 as part of ArtWeek, a statewide creative festival.

When he’s not painting, Kenyatta is often out scavenging along the sidewalks of Dorchester for scraps of metal and plastic that he then uses to create found-object sculptures. Lawnmowers, bicycle wheels, and tires are all candidates for artistic repurposing.

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One of Kenyatta’s found object sculptures.

“With the sculptures, sometimes it came from a place of lack,” he said. “You know, like not having. Sometimes I didn’t have materials to paint canvases or maybe didn’t have the particular paint or colors I wanted, so I just switched over to that.”

Another medium Kenyatta has crossed over to is clothing design. In that process, he usually begins by purchasing clothing wholesale. “If you buy clothes wholesale, it’s not really branded, you know what I mean? You can brand it yourself. I look at it like canvases. That’s really how I look at clothes, like a walking canvas.”

He often adorns his “walking canvases” with historical and religious symbolism, flicking splotches of paint at jackets and t-shirts until they become works he can call his own.

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One of Kenyatta’s “walking canvases.”

Elsewhere, residents can spot Kenyatta’s brushstrokes at public art murals in Four Corners, Grove Hall, and on Dudley Street, as well as on a trio of painted mailboxes in the neighborhood.

Currently, artists of the Indigo Regime are exploring fundraising efforts in addition to their creative endeavors. Some crucial donors to the arts center recently pulled their funding, says Kenyatta. Those cuts mean a constant struggle to make ends meet for the nonprofit, but he dismissed any threat of closing as an impossibility.

“This place – you can’t close it. That’s not an option.”

Mfalme Kenyatta will host his ArtWeek solo show, “Mind of an Introvert 2” on Thurs., May 2, from 7 p.m. to-11 p.m. at the Afro-Caribbean Museum, 155A Washington St. $10 admission.

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Oberlin Eyes Enrollment Swap

Facing challenging finances and a demographic cliff, Ohio’s Oberlin College is mulling a strategic plan that would trim 100 students from its renowned music conservatory while adding the same number to its liberal arts program.

The shift, which would take place slowly, over four years, would bring the conservatory’s enrollment to around 480. It would also create a brand-new minor in music for liberal arts students, who often show up with musical interests but little interest in a music career. Oberlin would offer these students conservatory classes and private lessons, as well as the opportunity to perform with conservatory students.

College officials say the moves would make the conservatory more competitive. For one thing, they would technically shrink it, offering fewer slots for top musicians. They would also allow Oberlin to capture musically inclined students who nonetheless want to major in the liberal arts — the college’s data on recently admitted applicants to the liberal arts program show that nearly 80 percent of applicants who list music performance as a field of primary or secondary interest end up enrolling elsewhere, despite the presence of the acclaimed conservatory on the same campus.

The changes are aimed at “ensuring Oberlin’s long-term resiliency” in an uncertain time for both liberal arts colleges and music conservatories, said President Carmen Twillie Ambar.

Oberlin predicts that the shift would also bring in millions more in revenue. As recently as 2017, the liberal arts program saw net revenues of $23.9 million, while the conservatory lost $11.1 million.

That’s not because of different tuition rates — the two programs are priced identically, college officials said. But conservatory students bring in about $10,000 less, on average, since the two schools are in search of different pools of students. To be competitive among other conservatories, Oberlin must offer these prospective students more aid than it does liberal arts students, who are enrolled in what’s officially known as Oberlin’s Arts & Sciences program.

Officials predict the change could produce an estimated $1 million in new revenues annually, beginning in year four of the plan.

The change would need approval by Oberlin’s Board of Trustees, which is expected to vote on it at its June meeting.

“If this is how you keep financial aid intact, and you continue to work on the most important initiatives you have going on, then maybe it’s the right thing to do.” — alumna Linda Holmes (’93)

In an interview, Ambar said many “extremely talented” musicians don’t choose the conservatory because they don’t see themselves performing professionally. “We haven’t captured enough of those students because we can’t give them enough access to the conservatory to enhance those abilities,” she said. Doing that won’t dilute the quality of instruction — even the student musicians say that “hasn’t been a concern that they’ve expressed” during the process.

“Yes, our conservatory’s students perform at an extremely high level — they’re entering the profession, absolutely. But there is a nice, robust group of Arts & Sciences students who will be able to mesh with those students in ways that will enhance this experience.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, alumni say they hate to see the conservatory shrink, but they see both sides of the debate.

Linda Holmes, a 1993 liberal arts graduate who hosts NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour, said she hasn’t followed Oberlin’s financial travails closely enough to second-guess “people who have put this kind of work into coming up with recommendations.” But she said she’d be sad to see the conservatory — and the number of people who each year earn degrees there — shrink. “At the same time, it always gives me comfort that everything that happens at Oberlin is argued over endlessly, to the point where if there are other options to prevent this, they’ll be brought to the forefront.”

Holmes, whose first novel appears in June, said she “loved being on a campus that was shared with a music school. It enriched my life so much to know musicians — some of my close friends were either conservatory students or double degree. I don’t relish any reduction in the size of the conservatory. But I also don’t relish seeing the school struggle in the long term. If this is how you keep financial aid intact, and you continue to work on the most important initiatives you have going on, then maybe it’s the right thing to do. But I trust them to fight it out. That’s kind of classic Oberlin.”

Ziya Smallens, 2016 liberal arts graduate who works as a political speechwriter with West Wing Writers in New York City, similarly said he is weighing the proposal’s pros and cons. An amateur musician himself, he recalled applying for a conservatory class that required passing a vocal skills test. He balked at the test and never took the class. As painful as that was, he thinks Oberlin was correct to demand top-notch musical skills. “It would have been lovely” to take the class, he said, “but those opportunities should not come at the cost of preventing would-be musicians from entering the conservatory.”

Terry Hsieh, a Beijing-based multi-instrumentalist who earned bachelor’s degrees in Chinese and jazz performance at Oberlin in 2012, said he hadn’t seen the proposal. But he said he hopes Oberlin “can continue to leverage its strength in the higher ed world: producing both talented and creative liberal arts and sciences graduates and professional-level musicians who make a sustained impact in the world of music.”

Needed: More Revenue

Like many other small private colleges, Oberlin faces challenging financial times ahead. In addition to structural deficits that could last several years if unaddressed, Ambar said, Oberlin is confronting the reality of smaller numbers of high school graduates in the Northeast that puts it at a distinct disadvantage, since unlike many larger colleges, it primarily serves traditional-age students.

The extra revenue from more liberal arts students can’t come fast enough. Last June, the board approved a $160 million budget that included a projected $4.7 million deficit. Without making cuts, the college’s deficit could have been as high as $9 million this year, an “unsustainable” figure that would hamper Oberlin’s ability to offer financial aid “and to invest in our faculty, staff and campus,” college officials said in an open letter to campus.

Ambar, along with Chris Canavan, Oberlin’s board chair, and Chesley Maddox-Dorsey, the vice chair, said the college last year raised enrollment. “But we’ve also had to contribute more financial aid, so the net revenue gain from improved enrollment has been modest. In other words, we are exhausting our pricing power,” they wrote.

For new students, fall 2019 tuition and fees, along with room and board, are expected to be $73,694.

Raising tuition, they said, “only increases the demand for financial aid. It also adds to the financial strains on our students and their families, making it harder for us to keep them at Oberlin from the day they matriculate to the day they graduate. This weighs heavily on Oberlin’s finances.”

The college has said that if it doesn’t trim expenses, Oberlin’s deficit could reach $162 million within a decade. It relies on net student income for 83 percent of operating revenue.

In its most recent audited financial statement, Oberlin said 97 employees took voluntary buyouts in 2016, with another 17 in 2018. It reported $184 million of outstanding bonded debt.

With an $887.4 million endowment last year, 186-year-old Oberlin is wealthier than most small private institutions, but far behind its wealthier peers — colleges like Amherst, Swarthmore and Wellesley all reported endowments at or near $2 billion. For the past few years, Oberlin has drawn about 5 percent of its endowment for operating expenses, a standard distribution. Last year, that amounted to about $44.1 million.

In a widely circulated October 2017 letter, Canavan, the board chair, said a group of trustees examining the college’s finances concluded that “we lean too heavily on cash from generosity (past and present gifts, and borrowing against future gifts) and not enough on cash from operations (tuition, room and board).”

He said Oberlin has many generous donors. “But they’re not generous enough to insulate us from the ups and downs of enrollment and retention, or from the broader socioeconomic trends that make it harder for families to afford Oberlin. The conclusion may seem self-evident, but it’s important nevertheless: we can’t stop appealing to generous donors, we need to find ways to boost our operating revenues and we have to reduce our cash needs where possible.”

Oberlin remains selective, said Ambar, but it’s “still facing those same headwinds” as other liberal arts colleges.

Looking back over the past decade, the conservatory’s application numbers peaked in 2017, with 1,396 applications, up from a low of 1,189 in 2014. Last year, 1,256 prospective students applied. Of those, 33 percent were admitted, up slightly from 28 percent in 2017.

The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston had a slightly higher acceptance rate at 33 percent in 2017, according to the most recent federal data. At the Juilliard School in New York City, just 6 percent of applicants were admitted in 2017, federal data show.

While last fall’s enrolled conservatory students had higher average SAT scores than in recent years, Oberlin’s liberal arts students had mixed scores.

Oberlin’s selectivity in the college of liberal arts has dropped slightly: in 2018, it admitted 39 percent of applicants. As recently as 2016, its acceptance rate stood at just 29 percent.

By way of comparison, Amherst College admitted just 13 percent of applicants in 2017. Middlebury last year admitted about 19 percent. Carleton College in Minnesota admitted about 20 percent, an admissions official said.

“To say that they’re being prepared just to show up to be the first violinist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a very narrow view of what their career path will be.” — Oberlin president Carmen Twillie Ambar

Oberlin’s yield, in both the conservatory and the college of liberal arts, has shrunk: the conservatory enrolled 42 percent of admitted students in 2009. Last year, that dropped to 33 percent. In the college of liberal arts, yield dropped from 32 percent to 29 percent. Enrollment last fall totaled 2,785, about what it was a decade earlier.

C. Todd Jones, president of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio (AICUO), said he was impressed with how the college is going about the strategic process. “The beauty of what Oberlin is doing here is addressing the problem before it becomes a crisis. And that’s leadership,” he said.

It’s clear that college officials have looked at the conservatory “in the context of the whole operation” and are trying to “make adjustments that are true to the overall mission of the institution, while looking at the dollars and cents of how it operates.”

Officials foresee conservatory faculty, facing smaller enrollments, being freed up to offer “greater and more meaningful musical experiences” to liberal arts students — collaborating with faculty across campus in interdisciplinary performances, for instance.

David Kamitsuka, dean of the liberal arts college, said the goal is to provide a more integrated experience that connects classroom work with experiential learning, likely in the form of more internships. Students come to Oberlin because they’re interested in a classical education, he said, “but they want pathways for that classical education to launch them into meaningful lives.”

William Quillen, the conservatory’s acting dean, said, “Every conservatory is having this conversation.” The realities of being a professional musician are “completely different from the world of 2010 or 2000, let alone 1980,” he said. “What we offer them in 2020 has to be different — and will invariably, and must be different, from what we offered them 10, 20, 30, 40 years ago.”

While today’s conservatory graduates must play their instruments with the same technical mastery as always — and with broad knowledge of classical repertoire — they must also be able to perform in other musical styles and in different settings such as in film, animation and videogame soundtracks. “And on top of that, they have to have an entrepreneurial disposition,” he said, a set of skills that musicians simply didn’t need a generation ago.

“They’re being asked to do radically different work,” Ambar said. “To say that they’re being prepared just to show up to be the first violinist in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is a very narrow view of what their career path will be.”

She said conservatories “have to be prepared for an industry that’s changing more rapidly than health care has changed. What it will look like we don’t know, but we think we’re on the right track in helping our students prepare for the unknown.”

A Way to Differentiate Itself

Among other proposals, Oberlin is considering shrinking the size of its campus to save on utility costs and deferred maintenance, as well as introducing new majors such as business and global health.

AICUO’s Jones said he can’t recall another instance in which he has seen “a deeper engagement of various stakeholders, while simultaneously being very public about numbers and about the effects of policies. I just don’t see that very often with processes like these at campuses.”

He’s not surprised that’s taking place at Oberlin, a college known for inclusivity. Founded in 1833, it was coeducational from the beginning and began admitting African American students two years later.

The open process is “true to the culture of the place,” Jones said. “I’m looking forward to the results of it, because colleges learn from each other. And the experience here, if it’s successful — and I expect it to be so — it is one that’s likely to be drawn upon by other institutions going forward.”

Michael Emerson Dirda, a 2009 graduate who majored in English and history, said many students choose Oberlin because “while they may not be conservatory-caliber musicians themselves, they still love playing music, learning about music and being surrounded by music. If the enrollment changes are able to free up resources for such students and otherwise bridge the gap between college and conservatory, this could be a useful way for Oberlin to differentiate itself from similar liberal arts institutions.”

NPR’s Holmes, who is also a former attorney, said she’s more concerned about what seems a bid by Oberlin to reconsider hourly workers’ pay. “That worries me a little,” she said.

The college says that while many faculty salaries fall below those of peer institutions, Oberlin’s hourly workers earn “significantly higher wages than their counterparts” at four nearby liberal arts colleges. Oberlin’s average hourly staff wage is 34 percent higher than at Kenyon, Dennison, Ohio Wesleyan and Wooster Colleges.

“I don’t want to see the school in a race to the bottom with hourly wages — although again, I feel weird second-guessing, because they’ve put some study into this, and it’s not like they’re likely to be leaving chests full of money they could just open up and empty out,” Holmes said. “It’s just hard. It’s painful. Oberlin for me was weird and intense and serious and sometimes kind of aggravating, but there’s nothing quite like it. I think that’s probably still the case, even as they tackle this.”

Afrofuturism in the Age of

African American Studies conference offers cross-section of movement: film, authors, comics, more

Afrofuturism steps into the spotlight at BU on Thursday, in the wake of the successes of Black Panther and Jordan Peele (Get Out).

Wait. Afrowhat?

The term “Afrofuturism” was coined by critic Mark Dery in 1993 to describe the use in African American culture of science fiction tropes to explore the condition of black people in the world—and to imagine the destinies they could shape for themselves.

“So much of black cultural production and thinking and politics is rooted in the traumas of the past,” says Louis Chude-Sokei, a College of Arts & Sciences professor of English, the George and Joyce Wein Chair in African American Studies, and director of the African American Studies Program. “Afrofuturism has allowed people to reimagine that past through the lens of possibility and the future.”

The African American Studies Program presents Afrofuturism & Black Speculative Arts: Expo and Symposium, on Thursday, April 18, from noon to 6 pm, at the Photonics Center. The event, free and open to the public, is cosponsored by the BU Arts Initiative.

Long before there was a word for it, African American artists created sci-fi and fantasy tales through the lens of the African diaspora, finding new freedoms and dangers in imagined futures, from the early science fiction of authors Samuel R. Delany and Octavia Butler to the astro-jazz of Sun Ra (Space Is the Place).

“Someone said science fiction writers capture the astonishment that black Americans live,” says Reynaldo Anderson, executive director and cofounder of the Black Speculative Arts Movement (BSAM), who will speak at the event. Consider, he says, the transatlantic slave trade as a form of alien abduction. “Using that type of genre to examine history has been a useful tool.”

Genre fiction also can fly under the radar while examining issues that would have been inflammatory if confronted directly. “Maybe the FBI wouldn’t come knocking at your door if you did it as a tall tale,” Anderson says.

And now, with Black Panther, actor, comedian, and filmmaker Peele’s horror flicks Get Out and Us, and the android feminist funk of Janelle Monáe, the genre seems to be moving into the mainstream. But putting a person of color in the spandex hero suit is only part of it.

As writer Jamie Broadnax put it in the Huffington Post, “A narrative that simply features a black character in a futuristic world is not enough. To be Afrofuturism, it must be rooted in and unapologetically celebrate the uniqueness and innovation of black culture.”

That means that mainstreaming can have its perils. “There is in fact a growing tension between those who have long been engaged in what’s now called Afrofuturism and those who are new to it due to its increasing cultural visibility,” Chude-Sokei says. “For the early adopters of Afrofuturism, there has been a stronger political and cultural content, where for many of the newcomers, it becomes hard to see beyond style and fashion.” That’s less a problem than it might seem, though, he says, because it’s simply how movements and cultural phenomena work.

AFROFUTURISM and Black Speculative Arts Expo and Symposium Thursday, April 18, 2019, 12-6 PM Photonics Center, Room 906, 8 St. Mary's St, Boston, MA 02215 BSAM, African American Studies Program, BU Arts Initiative, Arts Grant from the BU Arts Initiative - Office of the Provost

Thursday’s event will offer a modest cross-section of the movement, including representatives of Boston’s Comics in Color collective, filmmaker David Kirkman, who’ll screen his short film Static, several authors, and some merchandise tables. Don’t be surprised to see a few Black Panther cosplayers, too, Chude-Sokei says.

BSAM is currently the largest Afrofuturist organization, with satellites in Africa, Europe, and the United States. But it also deals with a variety of adjacent disciplines, from digital humanities to comics, says director Anderson, a Harris-Stowe State University associate professor of communication and humanities department chair.

“We refer to it as Afrofuturism 2.0 because this is the second wave, different from the earlier connotation, which focused on the digital divide for African Americans,” Anderson says. And as smartphones have greatly narrowed that divide, he says, 2.0 is more global, while social media and climate change know no borders.

Anderson, too, wonders whether mainstreaming in the wake of Black Panther could be a double-edged sword. “I suppose some people will try to co-opt it,” he says. “Everything is co-optable, but people who actually read and do scholarship will know what that is. That’s just a side effect of capitalism, I suppose.”

But Black Panther is itself a product of Hollywood capitalism, he says with a chuckle, and thus hardly perfect. “A CIA guy is the hero in Africa? We had a good laugh about that. They had to find one white person who was a hero to get the film made, probably. But you don’t want the perfect to be the enemy of the good.”

The conference is the third one centered on new-generation ideas about race and diversity and sexuality that Chude-Sokei has organized for the African American Studies Program. It’s his effort to rebrand the program as cutting-edge, and he says it’s been a boon for student interest.

The idea of this week’s event is “to introduce people to Afrofuturism not just as this cool thing that’s done in pop culture,” he says, “but how it actually can work in redesigning our futures.”

The African American Studies Program presents Afrofuturism & Black Speculative Arts: Expo and Symposium on Thursday, April 18, from noon to 6 pm, at the Photonics Center, Room 906, 8 St. Mary’s St. The event is free and open to the public; tickets are available here. The event is cosponsored by the BU Arts Initiative and funded in part by an Arts Grant from the BU Arts Initiative—Office of the Provost.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Top 5 Takeaways from Rep. Karen Bass’ Town Hall

By Gary Walker

Nearly 300 people attended an April 6 town hall meeting in Palms hosted by Rep. Karen Bass, whose congressional district also includes Mar Vista, Del Rey, Culver City and much of South Los Angeles.

A member of the House Judiciary and Foreign Affairs committees who also chairs the Congressional Black Caucus, Bass held a press briefing and listened to comments and questions from the audience on topics that included the Mueller investigation, health care and immigration.

Key takeaways from the event included:

1. Democrats Won’t Accept a Heavily Redacted Mueller Report

Bass said the Judiciary Committee (of which Westside-area Rep. Ted Lieu is also a member) will issue a subpoena for the Mueller Report if Attorney General William Barr fails to deliver the repot this month, or delivers a very limited version.

Said Bass: “You have numerous attorneys that worked on the Mueller report who are saying, ‘Wait a minute, that’s not what we meant.’ So right now there’s just a little ripple of that, but I imagine that’s going to increase over time if he does not release the report or he releases a report that is so redacted that you can’t tell what’s in it.”

2. The Affordable Care Act Isn’t Just for Poor People

Speaking of efforts by the Trump Administration to de-fund and dismantle President Obama’s signature health care legislation, Bass emphasized that the Affordable Care Act also forces market-rate insurers to provide stronger coverage.

“I think what a lot of people don’t understand is that everybody is impacted by the Affordable Care Act. … [which] prohibits insurance companies from saying we will not provide coverage to you if you have a preexisting condition,” said Bass. “Just about everyone has a condition like arthritis, diabetes or hypertension after a certain age and those conditions would allow an insurance company to not cover you. This really needs to be clarified, because some people think that [The Affordable Care Act] only helps poor people. … It helps all of us who have insurance.”

3. Liberals Shouldn’t Heckle Trump Supporters (Even If They Heckle Liberals)

A handful of town hall attendees periodically interrupted Bass, shouting “Liar” or “Trump 2020” when the congresswoman mentioned President Donald Trump. “There are many people in our district who, like me, are happy with what the president is doing at the economy and with our border,” said an unidentified woman who supports Trump, as the audience rained boos upon her. Bass admonished the audience: “Let her speak. She has the right to say what she wants.”

4. Feds Could Face Liability for Separating Families at the Border

Bass said that she will introduce legislation that would make the federal government liable for damages caused by separating immigrant children from their families at the border.

“Right now the government is not responsible for reuniting children, so my bill will make it responsible to pay damages to every family where they’ve taken a child,” Bass said. “I don’t know any other definition of kidnapping children than a human rights abuse. … I find this to be on the order of the internment of the Japanese or what was done to Native American and African Americans.”

5. Nipsey Hussle is Noted in the Congressional Record

Nipsey Hussle attended Hamilton High School in Palms and was shot to death on the corner of Slauson Avenue and Crenshaw Boulevard, at the north and south ends of Bass’ district. She promised to enter the slain South L.A. musician and community activist’s story into the congressional record, and did so on April 10.

“People need to know of his contributions,” Bass said. “Often you hear of a rap artist and maybe they had a background where they were gang involved, and they’re kind of written off. But what Nipsey provided was a sort of leadership in the South Los Angeles community by opening up businesses. He didn’t take all of his money and run off to another part of town. He stayed in South L.A. and contributed to the community positively, and I think that needs to be celebrated.”

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Beyoncé’s Netflix doc captures icon at her radical peak

Beyoncé
KEVIN WINTER/GETTY IMAGES FOR COACHELLA/TNS
Beyoncé performs onstage during 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Field on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California.

REVIEW

BY GERRICK D. KENNEDY
LOS ANGELES TIMES/TNS

Beyoncé could have just come to the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and played the hits.

She didn’t.

The artist instead opted to conceptualize a performance that paid tribute to Black culture, and championed — and even challenged — her Black fans. The concert’s creation was painstakingly captured for “Homecoming,” a film Beyoncé directed and produced for Netflix that began streaming on Wednesday.

What made Beyoncé’s Coachella showing so radical was her mission to celebrate the Black art that has long influenced popular culture even though its architects — especially the female ones — haven’t always been given their due from White America.

It was audacious for a performer whose celebrity has increasingly transcended her music to stand onstage at the holy grail of music festivals and perform with such specificity. The move could have been divisive if it hadn’t been such a jubilant affair.

COACHELLA AND BEYOND

In “Homecoming,” the performer lifts the veil on the grueling planning and rehearsals that went into mounting the ambitious set. You might not have been at Beychella, but you most certainly heard of it.

The nearly 2 1/2-hour film is a replay of the exquisitely choreographed and visually grand performance from dozens of perspectives — the way she intended it to look, Netflix executives explained before a private screening on Monday — while also providing a rare look into her personal orbit she’s so carefully kept at bay.

Both a traditional concert documentary and the manifesto of a superstar artist no longer bound by convention, the film shows her Coachella performances through a tapestry of rehearsal footage, home videos, archival pieces and voice-over.

“Instead of me pulling out my flower crown, it was important that I brought our culture,” Beyoncé says over grainy footage of the cadre of Black dancers, singers and musicians she recruited.

ODE TO HBCUS

It’s a clever jab at the inherent whiteness of a festival that waited nearly 10 years before having a lack artist top its bill and let another 10 go by before a Black woman headlined. “Ain’t that ’bout a bitch,” Beyoncé famously said onstage.

The performance was explicitly an homage to the spiritual experience and rich culture of homecoming celebrations at historically Black colleges and universities, and the sight of Beyoncé, clad in a sporty hoodie with her own sorority insignia, posed atop a pyramid stuffed with a drumline, orchestra, steppers, majorettes, breakers and dancers, was instantly iconic.

The first 15 minutes of “Homecoming” is a straight-ahead concert experience, with the opening salvo — she sandwiched two of her biggest hits, “Crazy in Love” and “Formation,” with the Black national anthem, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” — playing out from a flurry of angles.

And then we step back to nearly a year before she was set to perform, shortly after giving birth to twins, a pregnancy that was fraught with complications — and resulted in her postponing her Coachella appearance for a year.

EVERY LAST DETAIL

She’s been generous with behind-the-scenes footage throughout her career and made a documentary about her life and career for HBO back in 2013, but it’s not often she lets us in on the moments when she’s feeling insecure or unsteady. We see her fail to perfect a routine and cut others that she can’t execute.

Beyoncé is at her most vulnerable when she’s juggling the rigors of building a performance of this scale with motherhood, but the tension in the film comes from her commitment to perfection in her craft.

Every artistic decision is made by her, and her only — not that it comes as a surprise, particularly for those who can recall the famous clip of her detailing to a lighting director why a particular hue of blue would never work for black skin.

Nearly every moment of the eight months of rehearsal was captured on film, from the grueling first workouts and rehearsals to selecting the hundreds of dancers and musicians that appeared with her to costume creation to mapping the show and traipsing between the three soundstages.

It’s far more action than necessary for anyone just wanting to watch the concert, but it’s a revelatory — and celebratory — look at the boldest statement she’s made yet.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Beyonce drops surprise live Coachella album alongside Homecoming Netflix doco

Posted April 18, 2019 16:58:45

You might not have known it was coming, but that seems to be Beyonce’s style.

Key points:

  • Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce was released on Netflix worldwide this week
  • The film and its accompanying soundtrack centre on Beyonce’s now-iconic performances at Coachella in 2017 and 2018
  • The documentary captures the human side of the singer, and features the voices of Nina Simone and Maya Angelou

The US singer announced the release of a surprise live album to coincide with the launch of her Netflix documentary, Homecoming: A Film by Beyonce.

And it’s already all over the internet.

While Netflix had been dropping not-so-subtle spoilers about the documentary all week, fans were in the dark about a potential album until hours before the announcement.

That’s when speculation surfaced the singer was preparing to drop a new album.

Nothing had been confirmed until Beyonce herself took to Twitter to announce the live soundtrack, called Homecoming: The Live Album, which features mainly tracks performed at her 2017 Coachella performance.

But it also includes a new studio recording, a cover of Maze’s 1981 hit Before I Let Go, which plays over the closing credits of the film.

The film premiered on Wednesday and captures the human side of the superstar singer with intimate, behind-the-scenes moments from Beyonce’s headlining show at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

The show has already become one of the most iconic musical performances of all time, marking the first time a black woman headlined the famed festival.

It was also just the third time a woman scored the gig, behind Bjork and Lady Gaga.

But the film takes the performance a step further to showcase what was happening to get Beyonce to this historic moment, including the birth of her twins and her tributes to black college culture and black art.

The documentary also includes audio soundbites from popular figures to help narrate the story: Nina Simone speaks about blackness, Maya Angelou talks about truth, and Tessa Thompson and Danai Gurira explain the importance of seeing people who look like you on large screens.

Beyonce speaks too, saying the importance of her performance was to bring “our culture to Coachella” and highlight “everyone that had never seen themselves represented”.

Her performance is an homage to the culturally-rich homecoming events held annually at historically black colleges and universities.

It also showcases Beyonce’s own homecoming — her return to her roots, and how she’s found a new voice by reinterpreting her music through the lens of black history.

ABC/AP

Topics: music, arts-and-entertainment, united-states

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Review – Beyonce’s Homecoming doco shows how she changed Coachella, forever

REVIEW: Beyonce is extremely private, and only lets you know what she wants you to know, when she wants you to know it – typically, in a surprise post be it on her website or Instagram.

But throughout the years, she’s slightly cracked open her door to reveal parts of her life and personality – apart from what she gives through strong singing and extraordinary dance moves – to help remind us that though she is epic and flawless, she is still mortal.

HOMECOMING: A film by Beyonce, which premiered Wednesday (Thursday NZT) on Netflix, captures the human side of the superstar singer with behind-the-scenes, intimate moments of a mother, wife and artist tirelessly working on what’s already become one of most iconic musical performances of all-time: Beyonce’s headlining show at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

Beyonce at Coachella.

GETTY IMAGES

Beyonce at Coachella.

The performance marked the first time a black woman headlined the famed festival and made Beyonce just the third woman to score the gig, behind Bjork and Lady Gaga.

READ MORE:
* Adele can’t wait for Beyonce’s Coachella Netflix film
* Coachella at 20: How Beyonce forever changed the famous festival
* Netflix documentary to offer inside look at Beyonce’s ‘Homecoming’ at Coachella
* Solange pulls out of Coachella
* Beyonce’s Coachella performance wasn’t just pure entertainment, it was a historic cultural moment

Beyonce took on the role seriously – as she does all live performances – giving the audience a rousing, terrific and new show highlighted by a full marching band, majorette dancers, steppers and more that is the norm at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs).

Beyonce's Coachella was widely lauded.

GETTY

Beyonce’s Coachella was widely lauded.

The film takes it a step further to showcase what was happening to get to the historic moment: you see a mother bouncing back from giving birth to twins via an emergency C-section; an African American woman embracing her family’s history and paying tribute to black college culture and honouring black art; and the world’s No. 1 pop star defying the odds yet again and pushing herself to new heights, creating an even wider space between herself and whoever is No. 2.

Simply put, Beyonce changed Coachella – forever – and performing after her is like trying to out-ace Serena Williams or dunk better than Michael Jordan: You won’t win.

Woven into the film are audio soundbites from popular figures to help narrate the story: Nina Simone speaks about blackness, Maya Angelou talks about truth, and Tessa Thompson and Danai Gurira explain the importance of seeing people who look like you on large screens.

Beyonce speaks, too, saying that she dreamed of attending an HBCU, though she explains: “My college was Destiny’s Child.”

She also says the importance of her Coachella performance was to bring “our culture to Coachella” and highlight “everyone that had never seen themselves represented.”

So many people were represented during those performances last April – her stage was packed with about 200 performers, from dancers to singers to band and orchestra players. Beyonce kicked off the performance dressed like an African queen, walking up the stage as the jazzy, soulful big band sound of New Orleans is played. After letting her dancers and backing band shine, she emerges again, this time dressed down – like a studious, eager, hopeful college student.

The musical direction and song selection flows effortlessly and was purposely crafted to tell a story: the first song is 2003’s Crazy In Love, a massively successful No. 1 hit and her first apart from Destiny’s Child. It also was Beyonce’s first of many collaborations with Jay-Z. But then comes Freedom, representing the Beyonce of today, unconcerned with having a radio or streaming hit, but more focused on the art, and the message.

And her message was loud and clear on HOMECOMING: Her performance is a homage to the culturally rich homecoming events held annually at HBCUs, but also showcases Beyonce’s own homecoming  – her return to her roots, and how she’s found a new voice by reinterpreting her music through the lens of black history.

Young, gifted and black, indeed.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

India- Gwen Tells and the House of Shroom features an exciting story with an African-American girl as the protagonist

(MENAFN – GetNews)

For the kids who’re a fan of Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia like adventure-fantasy stories will be delighted to know that there is another exciting book in the house, ‘Gwen Tells and the House of Shroom. The book, recently launched on Kickstarter features an African American girl as the protagonist who goes on an adventurous journey with his favorite stuffed panda bear. What makes it different from the others is that it’s not just another illustrated books for children, as the main character will go on an adventurous journey, with sometimes dark plot twists and thrilling situations, making it more suitable for the young adults.

The book is created by Dennis Robinson II, commonly recognizable as D2Artz, a passionate illustrator who has worked on various films and books. It is his passion to breathe whimsical stories to life through illustrations that saw him write Gwen and the House of Shroom. This art book is centered around a young girl of African American descent who one day wakes up to ridiculous accusations from her stuffed panda bear. After a heated conversation with the bear, she realizes that he is trapped in another body and agrees to help get his original body back.

What follows is an exciting adventure into spellbinding lands and encounters with bizarre creatures but during this journey, they don’t realize that something is watching their every move. Gwen and the House of Shroom will incorporate creative writing and illustrations to make the story more exciting. The main purpose of this book is to encourage people of color to follow their dreams no matter what.

All funds collected from this Kickstarter Campaign will be used to hire an editor and for the production of hardcover copies. They will also be used to include a digital aspect to the adventures and make them more tech savvy. The most amazing thing about this whole project is that the story is already complete and the illustrations are almost done. All that’s left is the production process which will be made possible through the donations. Rewards will be given to the backers based on the amount of their donation and range from Gwen Tells stickers, coloring book, t-shirt, digital copy or a physical copy.

The creative process of creating an art book can be exciting but also difficult especially when done alone. It is for this reason that D2Artz could use donations to make the process a little smoother. Should any mishaps leading to a delay in production occur, all backers will be made aware.

Illustrative art books are often a child’s favorite and finding one that actually incorporates people of color is equivalent to hitting a gold mine.

Media Contact
Company Name: D2Artz
Contact Person: Dennis Robinson II
Email: Send Email
Country: United States
Website: D2artz.com

MENAFN1704201900703268ID1098405675


India- Gwen Tells and the House of Shroom features an exciting story with an African-American girl as the protagonist

PROFile: Rowan history made as Arielle Gedeon set to become first female African-American SGA president, with her twin sister as secretary

Arielle Gedeon and her identical twin sister Ayala Gedeon, both sophomore Radio, Tv, Film majors and Political Science minors. -Photo courtesy of Arielle Gedeon

Dedicated to the success and overall contentment of the Rowan student body, the Student Government Association (SGA) determines what students want and then figures out how to give it to them.

Next school year will see the first female African-American SGA president in radio, television and film major/political science minor, Arielle Gedeon, currently a sophomore. Her identical twin sister, Ayala Gedeon, is also a sophomore RTF major and political science minor who will be serving as SGA secretary.

“I was involved with student government in my high school and so I knew I definitely wanted to continue on that path in college,” Arielle said. “This decision was solidified after attending Rowan’s Pre-College Institute program that my sister and I got to spend six weeks in the summer before attending Rowan. I remember after high school graduation we were already packing up our stuff to attend Rowan, so that was a really exciting time for us. Basically, that program really helped us understand what it means to be a leader.”

These twin sisters are focused on excelling the SGA program and helping students become leaders dedicated to their studies as well as overall success.

Arielle joined SGA immediately after starting at Rowan, winning the election for freshman class senator.

“Originally, I ran for alternative student trustee and lost that election. I cried for a day or two, but I wasn’t going to give up because I definitely wanted to work for student government,” she said. “My main purpose is helping people and so I ran for secretary, winning by four votes, which was really crazy. I’m almost done that role and will be assuming the president position.”

Arielle is only a sophomore at Rowan but has high hopes for the coming years

“I’m on the young side actually, since the other two candidates who ran are going to be super seniors,” she said. “But our previous president before Rbrey [Singleton], Lauren Bitzer, actually ran for president her sophomore year and she was president by junior year, so it’s not completely unheard of.”

Starting out in SGA from the very beginning of her college career, Arielle’s mission is to act as a catalyst for decisions and policies that help students and the university as a whole. She noted that this early start in the high ranks of SGA will allow her time to see to it that her plans of action come to fruition.

In the secretary position, Ayala is determined to help her sister out as much as she can while also improving the overall image of the SGA board.

“I definitely want to push being able to put the image of our board on paper with things like thank you cards to faculty when we go to events,” Ayala said. “I really want to help with the structuring of how things are done, like the voting system and the placards. I want to set the organizational standards of SGA, getting everything to move smoothly.”

With their involvement in several organizations on campus, Arielle and Ayala work towards improving their school and themselves. They are admissions ambassadors and orientation leaders; they work for Student University Programmers and SGA; they also work with Circle K, an organization dedicated to helping those in need via service projects every Tuesday.

Ayala will be the director of social activities next year for SUP.

“I’m really excited to be on the [SUP] board,” she said. “I mainly deal with committee member bonding. I’m going to push to make a SUP yearbook because we make so many memories. Why not have something tangible to take home?”

The twin duo of Arielle and Ayala has become a powerhouse within the SGA and on the Rowan campus as a whole. Namely, the sisters hope to improve communication between SGA and the student body to develop ideas that strengthen the university.

History has been made with the election of Arielle Gedeon as Rowan’s first female African-American SGA president. The Gedeon sisters will hopefully leave a lasting impact on Rowan during their time at the top.

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