Forty-four years after then-President Jimmy Carter declared June Black Music Month, we pull back the curtain to share some of the behind-the-scenes inner workings that contribute to the ongoing success of Memphis singers, musicians, writers and more.
After kicking off The New Tri-State Defender’s Black History Month salute last week by spotlighting the upcoming Women of Soul concert, we shift the focus to Black music promotion, or employment of Black artists.
While there are myriad entry points for just such a focus, we turn to Cynthia Daniels, chief event strategist for Cynthia Daniels & Co (CDCO), who believes in the strength, transformative power, and greatness of Black music.
Since the Soulful Food Truck Festival in 2017, CDCO has hosted festivals, galas and other events that exclusively employ African-American artists to create soulful musical backdrops for sophisticated audiences and celebrate Black culture.
“When clients call again, you know they’re happy,” she said, “and it’s a confidence booster. When Cynthia calls you back, you know did it right.”
A New Orleans-native, Mayon moved to Memphis after fronting the BB King All Stars Band on a cruise ship and meeting her husband the second time out.
“We thought we’d keep playing on the ship, but then the pandemic hit and now we’re here, and I’m so grateful to be working steadily in Memphis,” said Mayon.
“When I moved here, I thought my career was on the downswing, but Memphis has embraced me, and I love it – I just couldn’t leave.”
Since the age of 4, Mayon has graced stages – from churches to clubs, World Fairs and more – and couldn’t see it any other way.
“I have no idea what I’d do without music; it’s always taken care of me. And being part of the Memphis music scene, with so many legends who’ve come before me, I’m so grateful to follow their path,” said Mayon.
Daniels said, “Memphis has some of the most talented and soulful singers; it’s in our DNA. And when I think about what makes a great experience, Memphis music is a must. …
“Everyone enjoys the artists I select, and I feel like my platform has opened up corporate opportunities for some of these artists.”
Mike Mosby, a native Memphian, a drummer and Daniels’ festival musical director concurred.
“Cynthia includes me in the decision-making process for the artists and trusts me to add my own creativity to make her vision come to life,” said Mosby.
“A lot of opportunities have come since I’ve worked with her. And as she grows and gets even bigger and better, so do others around her.”
When Mosby hires bands for CDCO events, he looks for consummate professionals and those who can bring BIG energy.
“We have a lot of talent here but I’m looking for people to learn and know the music then add their sauce on it,” said Mosby.
Having that secret sauce is paramount for artists, Mayon said.
Mayon continued, “I was lucky enough to recently do background vocals for Jennifer Hudson. It’s work but once you learn the music, the moves and add your own flavor, it’s such a beautiful experience as an artist. I am blessed to connect with people in a way that I can only describe as spiritual.”
Always mindful of generating a “massive, magical, amazing, musical moment,” Mosby said, “I read the crowd and make sure I have the right pieces in place… to bring the massive, magical, amazing, musical moment,” said Mosby.
Daniels believes the success of her events hinge on employing people who are the best at what they do. Mayon and Mosby fit her bill.
CDCO’s two upcoming festivals at Fourth Bluff Park are free and open to the public from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.:
June 17th: Juneteenth Shop Black Festival, featuring Jerome Chism, Angie P. Holmes and Courtney Little;
June 18th: Memphis Vegan Festival, featuring J Buck and Keia Johnson.
Daniels plans to expand CDCO to Huntsville, Alabama, and Dallas and to take Memphis artists with her.
(For more information about when and where you can experience your favorite Memphis artists, check out CDCOFestivals.com.)
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
Now Simpson-Hankins is the recipient of funding that helped him shine a light on Philly’s Black music heritage, as one of the 2023 grantees of Black Music City, a collaboration between WRTI, WXPN and REC Philly, which has returned for a third year.
The 30 grantees in the program’s 2023 class span a range of musicians, visual artists and other creative individuals. They’ll be celebrated at the Black Music City Showcase, a free event this Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. at World Cafe Live. Hosted by Seraiah Nicole, the showcase will feature a gallery viewing of artworks and other media produced by grantees, as well as a selection of grant-supported performance projects, by dancer-choreographer Kiana Williams and musicians Zeek Burse, Julia Pratt & Melvin Darrell, and Badd Kitti.
Conceived in Dec. 2020, Black Music City has a stated aim of offering local Black artists, musicians and other creatives the financial and promotional support to develop new work that recognizes and honors the legacy of Black music in Philadelphia.
“Black Music City is an opportunity to demonstrate how WRTI makes a difference on the ground as well as on the air,” says Bill Johnson, the general manager of WRTI. “Each grant directly supports an artist so that they can continue practicing their craft in tribute to Philadelphia’s rich Black music heritage.”
On May 23, Black Music City was honored by The Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia at the 2023 Arts + Business Council Awards, celebrating projects that demonstrate impactful collaborations between the local arts and business sectors. (Simpson-Hankins performed at the ceremony.)
In its inaugural year, Black Music City awarded $48,000 in grants to 23 local Black creatives. The amount increased to $100,000 in 2022, across 40 recipients. This year’s class of 30 grantees received a total of $125,000, in individual grants of $2,000 to $5,000. The works created with this support span live and recorded music as well as dance, poetry, film and video, painting, photography, fashion and apparel, handcrafted porcelain dolls, and a graphic novel.
The Black Music City Showcase takes place on Sunday, June 11 at World Cafe Live. Registration is suggested but not required.
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
This Saturday, June 10 from 4pm to dusk at the African American Legacy Project, visit the Heirs of Art Festival. The second iteration of “Heirs of Art: the Black Art Festival” features visual artists including painters and photographers. Performers include Teamonade, Money Knox, Queen Gold Chainz, Alanna Hicks, Jelani Maliik, Charles Cooper, and Megan Davis.
Festival organizer Lydia Myrick explained that the festival was inspired by the support she received from her community growing up. “I really just want to better the community that’s helped better me. Toledo has done a lot for me. And I want to pay that back by doing this.”
In addition to visual art, music, and other Black vendors, the festival features a craft table, game table, bouncy house and food trucks. An innovative fashion show will be open to public participation: attendees can compete to win prizes by making clothing on-site that is used in a runway show.
“There’s community within just trying something new. And I want to give that back to my community that’s given that to me.”
The festival also will be holding a drive for art supplies, menstrual products, undergarments, and non-perishable foods. Donated items will be distributed to schools, shelters and other organizations.
Volunteers are still needed for set-up, cleanup, tear-down, artist and music support. Find out more and sign up here.
Heirs of Art is free to attend and open to the public. All ages are welcome at the festival. 1326 Collingwood Blvd., Toledo. heirsofartfest.com.
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
Since 2004 Plastic Crimewave (aka Steve Krakow) has used the Secret History of Chicago Music to shine a light on worthy artists with Chicago ties who’ve been forgotten, underrated, or never noticed in the first place.
When Ramsey Lewis died in September, the Secret History of Chicago Music didn’t weigh in—the keyboardist, composer, and radio personality was hardly a secret, and the news of his passing prompted an international outpouring. The same was true of Maurice White from Earth, Wind & Fire, who’d had an early gig as Lewis’s drummer and died in 2016.
Secret History has covered several other departed Lewis sidemen, though, most recently bassist Cleveland Eaton, who passed in 2020. Drummer Isaac “Redd” Holt, who appeared in Secret History as part of Young-Holt Unlimited (a group he formed with bassist Eldee Young after they both quit Lewis’s trio), left the building just last month. Derf Reklaw, who died in February 2022, was like those giants a Lewis sideman and so much more—and he didn’t get nearly enough recognition in life or in death.
As of this writing, I haven’t found a single Chicago-based notice, tribute, or obituary for Reklaw. A few weeks after his passing, CKCU FM (the radio station at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario) made a note of this silence on its website: “No news outlet reported that Derf Reklaw (aka Fred Walker, aka Pharaoh Derf Reklaw Raheem) sadly died last month, aged 75.”
CKCU went on to describe Reklaw as a percussionist, flutist, composer, and educator; a member of the Pharaohs and Build an Ark; and a support player with Lewis and saxophonist Eddie Harris. It noted his contributions to hip-hop records and his recent collaborations with jazz vocalist Dwight Trible and producer Carlos Niño. Bless those Canucks for caring, and for providing a pretty decent thumbnail summary of Reklaw’s career. I’d add that he was also an arranger, vocalist, dancer, playwright, poet, and inventor—and I’m just getting started here.
Reklaw was born Frederick George Walker in Chicago on January 11, 1947. As a ten-year-old kid, he liked to bang on his family’s metal kitchen cabinets, so one of his cousins (who was also a professional dancer) bought him a set of bongos in an attempt to refocus that energy. When he was 13, he got a hand-me-down flute from an older brother, who’d lost interest in it after getting drafted and serving a stint in the army. His long career as a multi-instrumentalist was just beginning—he’d eventually master a dizzying array of drums as well as keyboards, flutes, saxophones, and even a water jug, which became something of a signature sound for him. He also sang and yodeled and imitated additional instruments with his voice, usually by beatboxing or playing mouth trumpet.
Before he reached high school, flute lessons had landed Reklaw in a student classical orchestra, which performed on weekends at the Abraham Lincoln Center (an early Frank Lloyd Wright commission) and even hosted saxophone superstar Sonny Stitt for a guest appearance. Reklaw is also credited with developing a dance called “the Woodbine Twine” at age 16, and regardless of where the moves actually got started, the dance became a teen craze in late 1963—Reklaw and his friends performed at south- and west-side events held by WVON DJ and radio personality Herb “the Cool Gent” Kent.
R&B producer Andre Williams wanted to capitalize on this dance craze, so he had young singer Alvin Cash record a tune for One-derful Records called “Twine Time,” credited to Williams and One-derful co-owner George Leaner. The song became a hit in 1964, and Cash spread the craze nationwide with appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand (though the steps were toned down for TV).
Reklaw then took a sharp turn, joining the avant-garde trailblazers in the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, founded in 1965. “Yeah, I played with Muhal Abrams’s AACM Big Band with Roscoe Mitchell and Anthony Braxton, Joseph Jarman, Lester Bowie, and Malachi Favors,” Reklaw told Wax Poetics magazine in 2008. “When I saw Joseph Jarman, he was playing the things that I’d been thinking about playing. I first played flute, oboe, and clarinet, and became a drummer after my instrument got stolen. I never had a teacher. I taught myself how to play drums in two weeks, and then I formed my own band.”
That group, which Reklaw started at age 20, combined his flute with African percussion under the name Black Spirits. They never recorded, but they played many activist-focused community events, where the speakers included Jesse Jackson, Dick Gregory, and poet Sonia Sanchez. They caught the eye of visionary AACM cofounder Kelan Phil Cohran. He’d opened his legendary Affro-Arts Theater in 1967 at 3947 S. Drexel, creating an important fulcrum for the Black Arts Movement, and he booked the Black Spirits as part of a revue for a New Year’s event.
Cohran was so taken with the group that he added them to a two-week show, and in 1968 he offered Reklaw his first professional job: a spot in Cohran’s groundbreaking groove unit, the Artistic Heritage Ensemble. The group’s large, fluid lineup also included conga player Master Henry Gibson (who’d later tour with Curtis Mayfield) and guitarist Pete Cosey (who’d go on to join Miles Davis’s electric band), and during its tragically short run its gigs included an empowering musical with Oscar Brown Jr. and an opening slot for Sammy Davis Jr.
When Cohran left the Affro-Arts Theater to teach at Malcolm X College later in ’68, many of the stellar musicians associated with the theater and the Artistic Heritage Ensemble continued to play together as the Pharaohs. Several of them also worked as session musicians at Chess Records, and they recruited colleagues from those gigs, including Maurice White. Bandleader and trumpeter Charles “Ki” Handy invited Reklaw aboard, and he contributed African drums, congas, cowbell, flute, and vocals. He appears on the only Pharaohs LP released during the band’s lifetime, 1971’s Awakening, original copies of which are now extremely coveted—it’s prized for its seminal mix of funk, soul, jazz, and African polyrhythms (which Reklaw had learned from Cohran).
Derf Reklaw plays on Awakening, the only album the Pharaohs released during their lifetime.
Reklaw soon found himself in demand as a session man, recording with a dazzling variety of Chicago stars, including Ahmad Jamal, Jerry Butler, Phil Upchurch, Donny Hathaway, the Chi-Lites, Natalie Cole, and Terry Callier. Perhaps most famously, he maintained long partnerships with Ramsey Lewis and Eddie Harris.
“I first met Eddie in 1968,” Reklaw told Wax Poetics. “He was a guest soloist with the Operation Breadbasket band that was led by Ben Branch. We talked briefly about a few things. Then, in 1972, I was playing in a group with Eddie, Richard Muhal Abrams, Rufus Reid, and Billy James. In ’73, I became permanent with him and played with Eddie until late 1974. I didn’t just play one instrument with Eddie. I played tablas, timbales, djembe, and conga drums. I also played flute and sang. And later on, I played saxophone too. I play all the saxophones, but when Eddie would play the reed trumpet, I’d go to the alto sax.
“I’ve played with several great musicians throughout the world, but Eddie Harris was the best,” Reklaw continued. “There was absolutely nothing that he couldn’t do, whether it was yodeling or playing the piano. He was one of the best piano players I ever saw. He would take newspaper and put it inside, between the strings, and then he’d play the piano and it would sound like drums. I never saw anybody else do that. . . . Sometimes, he’d put bells on his fingers and just play the pads of the saxophone and hum through it with a wah-wah pedal and a phase shifter. Then he would sing through the saxophone like Billie Holiday.”
During Harris’s mid-70s self-deprecating period, he released albums called Bad Luck Is All I Have and I Need Some Money. Reklaw appeared on one cut on the former, and he’s all over the latter—he even cowrote a couple tunes, including the title track.
In 1973, Reklaw joined former Lewis sidemen Eldee Young and Redd Holt on Young-Holt Unlimited’s slappin’ Plays Super Fly platter. He guested with more recent Lewis sideman, Cleveland Eaton, on the 1975 progressive funk album Plenty Good Eaton.
Reklaw himself had joined Lewis’s band in 1974, in part because he knew the money would be better than it was with Harris. “Eddie was real thrifty, and I had kids and a wife and bills. After he moved to Los Angeles in October of ’74, I knew he wasn’t gonna be flyin’ me back and forth from Chicago to wherever he had to play,” he explained to Wax Poetics. “So I wound up playin’ with Ramsey after that. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. You got your clothes, hotel, and a per diem. Charles Stepney, who I did a lot of work with, told me, ‘Eddie is never gonna forgive you for leavin’ his band.’
“I had to tell Eddie that I was leavin’ ’cause I was gonna get my own band together. I knew he’d understand that. I couldn’t tell him I was leavin’ to play with Ramsey. . . . Then, one of the first jobs I had playin’ with Ramsey, Eddie and Donald Byrd were also on the show. Some friends came backstage and asked Eddie, ‘Derf’s not playin’ with you?’ He said, ‘No, Derf is with Ramsey. We can play without Derf, but Ramsey needs all the help he can get!’”
Reklaw partnered with Lewis during the keyboardist’s highly successful fusion period—the first Lewis album on which he appeared was the divine 1974 LP Sun Goddess, recorded at P.S. Studios with founder and engineer Paul Serrano, also an accomplished sideman on trumpet. “He was always cool and funny,” Reklaw recalled in a 2021 interview with the Chicago Reader. “Once he said to me, ‘Gimme three!’ As in [how] someone might say ‘Gimme five!’ And he would put out three fingers”—corresponding to the three valve keys of his horn. “Sometimes I would call him ‘Luap,’ Paul spelled backwards.” Reklaw’s own name, in case you haven’t noticed, was “Fred Walker” backward.
“It was loose [at P.S.],” Reklaw remembered. “Once a guitar player, Byron Gregory, and myself came in to do a recording session. I had a flute and piccolo. We laid our instruments down in the studio and went to Byron’s car for less than two minutes, came back, and those instruments were gone. Nobody around and nobody saw anything.”
Reklaw stayed with Lewis for Don’t It Feel Good (1975), Sălongo (1976), Tequila Mockingbird and Love Notes (both 1977), Legacy (1978), and Ramsey (1979). But his wide variety of useful skills meant he’d soon depart for a busier music market.
Not that he wasn’t keeping busy in Chicago—in the late 70s, he played with soul band Heaven and Earth, anchored by brothers Dwight and James Dukes, and assembled the funk group Ship of the Desert, whose sprawling studio lineup included keyboardist Kirk Brown and his brother, tenor saxophonist Ari Brown (on bass clarinet), plus guitarist Byron Gregory and drummer Morris Jennings. But by the time their sole LP, Oasis, came out in 1982, Reklaw had split for Los Angeles.
In LA, Reklaw was so prolific that I’d need another whole column to get to half of his achievements. He toured with the likes of Burton Cummings of the Guess Who and Aretha Franklin, worked for dance companies, and played in pit orchestras for musicals. In the 80s he joined trumpeter Leslie Drayton of Earth, Wind & Fire in a small combo called Fun.
Beginning in 1984, Reklaw provided live music for dance classes at Santa Monica College’s Theatre Arts Department (a gig he kept for around 16 years), and in 1988 he started doing similar work for UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance (he even danced on stilts at some performances). Reklaw rejoined Eddie Harris in 1991 for a few years of touring, and in 1998 he made his long-overdue debut under his own name, releasing the album From the Nile via Ubiquity Recordings. The recording summed up and showed off Reklaw’s multidimensional skills in jazz, funk, soul, “world music,” and beyond.
In the early 2000s, Reklaw participated in filmmaker Brian “B+” Cross’s Keepintime, a film and music project that featured collaborations between legacy drummers and hip-hop DJs and producers. He was joined by veteran soul drummers James Gadson and Paul Humphrey and beat-scene elders J. Rocc, Madlib, and Cut Chemist. In 2016, the Los Angeles chapter of the Duke Ellington Society recognized Reklaw as a living jazz legend. His jazzy band Da Cuz Mo (sometimes spelled as one word) was active as recently as 2019.
One of Reklaw’s daughters announced his passing via Facebook on Thursday, February 24, 2022. Months later poet, archivist, and dancer Harmony Holiday, a longtime family friend, mentioned the circumstances of his death in a year-end essay for NPR. “He was found waiting for a city bus with his instruments and his phone in his hand,” she wrote. “He had performed hours earlier.”
Reklaw’s recordings will surely be appreciated by deep-groove fiends for years to come, and he also leaves behind a substantial family legacy: children Monilade Walker, Birdieanne Walker, Amani Walker Jackson, and Tahrahka Walker as well as many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, cousins, nieces, and nephews. His relations have launched a nonprofit, Derf Reklaw Arts and Heritage, to offer scholarships in his name to budding artists in LA’s Leimert Park neighborhood, where Reklaw had become a vital part of a bustling Black creative community. Here’s hoping it keeps his name alive forever.
The radio version of the Secret History of Chicago Music airs on Outside the Loop on WGN Radio 720 AM, Saturdays at 5 AM with host Mike Stephen. Past shows are archived here.
Playing for years with Ramsey Lewis and Count Basie, exploring funky fusion, running a club, teaching in a university—he did it all and then some.
June is the month for all things Pride! Celebrate queer pride at the events surrounding Capital City Pride’s PrideFest! All colors of the rainbow will be highlighted in the skies of East Village as well as at the Lauridsen Amphitheater, Wooly’s and more! Top Pick: Uplift Black pride at Mainframe Studios’ Iowa Juneteenth Kickoff Celebration, sure to be a space that feels opens and soulful. Black art, Black culture and more will flare through Des Moines for everyone to soak in.
2023 Summer Concert Series
Jun 8 – 6:00pm
Please join us on Thursday nights from 6pm-9pm for our Summer Concert Series.
On Friday, June 16, Art Week Des Moines kicks off its ninth year showcasing area artists and connecting them with one another, as well as their community.
This year, Art Week has introduced Art Week Fellows: a handful of artists tasked with overseeing specific art pop-ups within five neighborhoods around the Des Moines metro, drawing inspiration from their assigned communities.
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
TACOMA, Wash. — In honor and recognition of Juneteenth, the City of Tacoma is hosting “Juneteenth: Freedom Celebration” from 5 – 8 PM, Thursday, June 15, at Tollefson Plaza.
“Juneteenth is a celebration of human freedom, a reflection on the grievous and ongoing legacy of slavery, and a rededication to rooting out the systemic racism that continues to plague our communities,” said Mayor Victoria Woodards. “Juneteenth not only reminds us that our history remains stained by injustice, it also calls us to action to build a future for our children where systemic inequities that have created barriers for them no longer exist.”
“This event is a family-friendly opportunity to join together as a community and learn more about the significance and importance of celebrating Juneteenth, now and for generations to come,” said Lisa Woods, Director of the City’s Office of Equity and Human Rights. “This is also an opportunity to experience the creative brilliance of our Black community, and share our Black community’s heritage and culture.”
The event will feature a number of activities, including:
An interactive Black Lives Matter mural handprint activity
A community resource fair
Spoken word and dance performances
Food available for purchase from a local food vendor
The Tacoma Art Museum is also hosting its “Free Thursday Neighborhood Night” during this event. A printed tour guide highlighting Black artists on view, curated by Victoria Miles, The Current’s Artist Award Manager, will be available for museum visitors.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is creating a national theater directory designed to increase the number of women, non-binary folks and people of color who work in behind-the-scenes roles.
Set to launch June 8, the Representation, Inclusion, & Support for Employment (RISE)Theatre Directory is meant to serve as a resource for theater producers, directors and other managers across the country and promote the hiring of more underrepresented producers, crew members and theater employees.
The idea was inspired by Ava DuVernay’s Array Crew database, which was created in 2021 to diversify TV and film production crews. Miranda and his family provided seed money for the project and have been closely following its development.
Miranda wanted to do something similar for the theater industry. In writing shows such as InThe Heights and Hamilton, Mirandahas been able bring more diverse talent on stage, but he wanted to have an impact on the other side of the curtain.
“I can write as many characters and roles for us as possible, but that needs to start being matched by the folks who are backstage and front of house and the rest of the theater ecosystem,” Miranda said.
As he began building RISE, Miranda looked to existing projects in the industry and found Maestra, a directory for female and nonbinary theater musicians, created by fellow composer Georgia Stitt. The two combined the framework and partnered to launch the new directory.
The database, which currently has more than 500 entries, is meant to counter the trend of theater producers, directors and other hiring managers who claim they want to hire new, diverse crew members, but don’t know where to find them.
“Our industry operates quite quickly, so there’s kind of a feedback wheel that happens when you’re trying to staff up or where you’re trying to do something at a high, ambitious level,” said Adam Hyndman, a Broadway actor and project manager of RISE Theatre. “You’re going to go to the most immediate person that you trust and that kind of creates these silos.”
The hiring tool is also meant to replace decades-long practices, such as unpaid internships, which give advantages to those who are privileged enough — thanks to family wealth or other resources — to afford living without pay while they learn the ropes.
“I think what’s true in the theater industry is true in every other industry, which is the folks who can afford to be a part of a theater experience, unpaid, do, and that is often a stepping stone in our industry,” Miranda said.
This is the latest in a series of diversity and equity initiatives in the theater industry that came after the death of George Floyd.
Among the many groups that were created, The Black Theatre Coalition, which is now partnered with the directory, was started to help create employment opportunities for Black theater candidates, while Broadway & Beyond created a hiring database of stage managers of color. Black Theatre United, with founding members including Audra McDonald and Billy Porter, asked all sectors of the industry to pledge to make a series of reforms, such as requesting that theater owners name at least one theater after a Black artist.
Many industry leaders today express a desire to see greater diversity and inclusion in theater, according to Miranda and Hyndman, but more action is needed.
“I think that a lot of people have learned to say the right things, and that’s why I think RISE is coming at the right time. Because it’s very easy to say we are committed to things, and it’s another thing to actually hire as diversely as you say you want to hire,” Miranda said.
The RISE Theatre Directory is asking producers, directors and more to sign a pledge saying they will use the database when they begin their hiring processes. Miranda had already reached out to theater owners and hiring managers when he began the project, and has now been texting friends in the industry, asking them to create a profile and spread the word. (He’s already created his own profile within it.)
Other directory partners include the Asian American Performers Action Coalition, Arts Administrators of Color, Idina Menzel and Taye Diggs’ A Broader Way Foundation, Theatre Producers of Color and the Dramatists Guild of America, among others. Hamilton producer Jeffrey Seller, director Thomas Kail, theater owner Jordan Roth and the Broadway League are among the supporting founders.
The directory’s creators hope it will provide greater visibility to underrepresented members of the theater community and potentially spur new collaborations as more community members join.
“Theater really is one of the more welcoming communities, and I’m really hopeful that this directory will be seen as just a positive change and make the tent even bigger,” Miranda said.
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
Omotunwase Osinaike, curator of the Nigerian pavilion at this year’s London Design Biennale, talks about the natural migration of sand from the Sahara to the Amazon
June 08, 2023
Art historian, curator and writer Alayo Akinkugbe is behind the popular Instagram page A Black History of Art, which highlights overlooked Black artists, sitters, curators and thinkers, past and present. In a new column for AnOthermag.com titled Black Gazes, Akinkugbe examines a spectrum of Black perspectives from across artistic disciplines and throughout art history, asking: how do Black artists see and respond to the world around them?
The Sahara desert and the Amazon rainforest are two natural phenomena separated by 3,000 miles but connected by a quiet transatlantic relationship: the migration of sand. The Nigerian pavilion at this year’s London Design Biennale, Natural Synthesis, is based on this connection between two of the world’s most expansive terrains.
London-based Nigerian designer Omotunwase Osinaike graduated with an MA in furniture design from Central Saint Martins last year. His design for a lounge chair was a hit at the graduate showcase and a year later, he has now curated Natural Synthesis. In our Zoom call, he sits mid-journey in a car in Lagos; “three of the furniture pieces in Natural Synthesis are being made in Lagos, including the prototyping and all aspects of production,” he says, giving reason for being in his home city.
The concept for Natural Synthesis is based on the transatlantic journey of dust from the Sahara Desert – just north of Nigeria – to the Amazon rainforest. “There’s sand travelling from the Sahara and being deposited in the Amazon, which is one of the world’s most biodiverse locations,” Osinaike explains. “Interestingly, the amount of sand washed away by rainfall in the Amazon [around 20,000 tonnes] is almost the exact amount that’s replaced by sand which travels from the Sahara. I found this spellbinding and looked at it as a design opportunity; how can we create work that speaks to this natural exchange?”
The theme of this year’s London Design Biennale, The Global Game: Remapping Collaborations, encourages cultural exchange. “I’m [also] working with architects from Bolivia and Peru and we are doing this collaborative installation, part of which has been made in London,” says Osinaike. Working collaboratively with architects from the Amazonian region was important, so that “the design itself has the sensibilities and reference points” of that environment, as well as the Sahara.
Reflecting on the position of African designers in London’s design industry, Osinaike says,“I don’t think it’s hard to see that we are underrepresented … but, many young Black designers are taking prominent positions in the design industry.” He recognises a recent rise in the visibility of Black UK-based designers, saying, “African and Caribbean people are contributing excellent work to the design industry; the likes of Mac Collins, Samuel Ross, Bianca Saunders and Grace Wales Bonner”. With conviction, Osinaike hopes “we will continue to be here and we will continue to multiply. I think it’s inevitable and unstoppable.”
With Natural Synthesis Osinaike hopes to present Nigeria as a “complex, multifaceted place. We are a complex set of people with so many different belief systems, creeds and languages,” he says, hoping that this complexity will be recognised. “I want people to walk away with the desire to be stewards of themselves, their environments and the planet itself. I think that will be the best legacy this could have.”