This week crews are flushing hydrants to continue the process of clearing the water, something neighbors like Dawn Toner are glad to see.
“I think we’re getting to the end of the road though and I say that today and I don’t know what tomorrow is gonna bring but I believe we’re doing the right things now,” says Toner.
The town is also preparing for a series of improvements in the next few years. Mangini says the dater water plant will need to be replaced in the next 5 years.
“The Town is working with our town engineers, MDE, and MRWA to review options and plans to undertake what I will call a “mini upgrade” to the Water treatment plant,” said Mangini. “Our short term fix or “mini upgrade” will be close to $400,000. The new water treatment plant will cost about $2,000,000.”
Mangini adds the town will look for federal and state funding to support the projects.
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
Jam-packed jam: Thousands of Spike Lee fans celebrated the 30th anniversary of his film “Do the Right Thing” at a block party on Stuyvesant Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant on June 30.
By Kevin Duggan
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They did the right thing — and partied!
Spike Lee fans celebrated the 30th anniversary of the auteur’s seminal film “Do the Right Thing” at a block party in Bedford-Stuyvesant on June 30.
The Oscar-winning director hosted his annual blowout on the same Stuyvesant Avenue block where he filmed the Academy Award-nominated flick — between Quincy Street and Lexington Avenue.
And, like his film, the blockbuster party featured a star-studded lineup featuring actors from the film, including actor Rosie Perez, and hip hop greats such as rap group Public Enemy, who provided the soundtrack to the movie with their rousing anthem “Fight the Power,” according to one party-goer.
“My favorite part was when Public Enemy came on the stage, the actual music from the film, and mingling with people,” said Frank Loftoa, a Brownsville resident.
Lee has hosted his famous block parties for years, celebrating his movies, along with black artists such as Michael Jackson and Prince.
The 1989 film highlights racial tensions in the neighborhood during the hottest day of the year, which eventually culminates in a tragic death of a young black man.
Lee’s classic struck a chord with many Brooklyn film goers, who were drawn to the film’s exploration of racial themes, Loftoa said.
“What was going on with the racism and the cultural differences,” said Frank Loftoa. “It was phenomenal around that time.”
One Crown Heights granddad came to the party with his family, where he showed off his skills at a classic Kings County pastime — Double Dutch jumping ropes — noting the game isn’t just for the ladies.
“I hadn’t done that in years, it was wonderful to do it again,” said Curtis Harris, the manager of the Green Earth Poets Cafe in Crown Heights. “I didn’t see a lot of guys trying the jumping, so I stepped in to do it. I started something.”
Harris said the party was a great celebration of Lee’s work and, more generally, of the greatest borough on earth.
“I liked the sense of family, the people, the purpose of the event and most importantly, I’m a Brooklynite, so I was proud to celebrate with other Brooklynites,” he said.
On a warm July evening in 2013, approximately 40 people gathered in a Mid-City Los Angeles garage adorned with psychedelic murals. It was two days after George Zimmerman had been acquitted of killing 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida. Disheartened and infuriated by police and institutional violence toward black people, artist and activist Patrisse Cullors had organized the meeting. She wanted to provide a space where people could grieve and brainstorm ways to mobilize activists.
“Folks were on a high that night,” Cullors says. “People had been protesting since the acquittal. They were ready and engaged and wanted to know the next steps.”
That four-hour meeting sowed the seeds for what would become the national Black Lives Matter movement — and Cullors had found the perfect spot to plant them.
That summer, she saw no better place to mobilize than St. Elmo Village, a free-spirited arts education complex where she had been living for two years. One of L.A.’s most important but underrecognized Black arts hubs, it had a long history of activism.
FROM RUBBLE TO REFUGE
Founded in 1969 at the height of the hippie movement, St. Elmo Village has served as a haven for anyone who crossed its rainbow-colored pathway. Located on what was once actress Mary Pickford’s horse farm on the corner of St. Elmo Dr. and Rimpau Blvd., the compound is comprised of 10 wood frame, Craftsman bungalows and a garage-like backroom. In the garden, sculptures fashioned from junk sprout between cactus and chinaberry trees, forming a colorful respite amid the urban sprawl.
Muralist and photographer Roderick Sykes and his uncle, visual artist Rozzell Sykes, built St. Elmo Village. They wanted a space where children and adults could explore their creativity outside the structures of the mainstream art world.
The pair had tried their hand at the gallery circuit, only to face indifference and racial discrimination. Although Rozzell kept a studio in Hollywood, he craved a more community-centered space.
After settling in Mid-City in the summer of 1969, Rozzell and Roderick hosted a festival that raised the $10,000 they needed for the down payment on the bungalows. Tom Bradley, then a city councilman, helped them raise additional funds and the landlord agreed to sell the quarter-acre property to the Sykes for a cool $60,000. In 1969, it was a good deal. In today’s astronomically high real estate market, it’s a brilliant one. But before it could become an explosion of color and creativity, the place needed work, a lot of work.
Nestled between middle and low income homes, the 10 dilapidated bungalows were infested with rats and roaches. The compound served mostly as a graveyard for cars. Where others had seen ruin and neglect, the Sykes saw an opportunity to blossom.
Rozzell and Roderick spent the next few months clearing away debris and covering harsh asphalt with splashes of paint. During a blistering summer, the men built a shallow reflecting pond, sectioned off by stones from the San Fernando Mountains.
In 1971, with its makeover complete, St. Elmo Village became a formal nonprofit. Many of the patrons who had visited Rozzell at his studio joined the organization’s board of directors.
IT’S A FAMILY AFFAIR
In 1979, Jackie Sykes was living in Northern California and she had an unbreakable tradition. Every Memorial Day, she attended the Berkeley Jazz Festival. That year, her college roommate called and told her about an up-and-coming black arts space in L.A. that was hosting a two-day festival of live music, dance performances and works by local artists. It was happening Memorial Day weekend. Jackie was torn. She would have to skip one of her favorite events but this confab, in her native city, sounded too good to pass up. A graphic artist with a background in African American art history, Jackie had dreamed about an organization like St. Elmo. So she broke precedent and came to Southern California to check out the Art of Creative Survival fundraiser and celebration.
That weekend, the same friend introduced Jackie to Roderick and the two hit it off. “Six months later, I moved all my stuff down here, and I haven’t been back to Berkeley Jazz,” Jackie says. She and Roderick became a couple later that year and have lived in one of the bungalows ever since.
For more than two decades, nephew and uncle worked together to maintain St. Elmo Village until Rozzell passed away in 1994. Today, Jackie, 68, who has helped with everything from teaching workshops to writing grants over the years, keeps the institution afloat, with Roderick participating in a more limited fashion. Each year, she welcomes volunteers and interns to facilitate free weekly workshops, host quarterly exhibitions and help with administrative duties. But even after half a century as a staple in its tight-knit and ethnically diverse Mid-City neighborhood, St. Elmo Village is barely known outside of L.A.’s Black arts community.
MID-CITY’S UNOFFICIAL ART SCHOOL
The 2019 Memorial Day shindig marked the 50th anniversary of St. Elmo Village. The Art of Creative Survival, which now happens every five years, featured performances by the Lula Washington Dance Theatre, a blues set by the Reverend Shawn Amos and speeches by current and former residents of the neighborhood. About 150 people showed up.
Mark Ridley-Thomas, the supervisor of L.A. County’s second district, asked the crowd, “Without St. Elmo, what would the city be?”
Songwriter and sound engineer Denny Singleton, who grew up around the corner, says the Village was fundamental to his artistic development. “It was like living in a full-time park,” he says. “The creative space was always there. This was the place to be.”
The Village has nurtured a generation of Black and Latinx artists including late filmmaker John Singleton, a cousin of Denny’s, and music producer and adopted son of Rozzell Sykes, Benny Medina, whose life provided the loose basis for The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
Many of these artists grew up watching their Mid-City neighborhood change. During the height of the crack epidemic in the 1980s, when police raids were common, Jackie says the colorful steps of St. Elmo Village were designated a no conflict-zone. Neither police nor dealer would set foot on them, even if a chase passed through the Village. Since 2000, a slow but persistent wave of gentrification has driven away some of the Village’s close neighbors.
“The fact that it exists in our neighborhood is important. It isn’t some center or industrial space,” Singleton says.
FACING THE FUTURE
As one of the city’s oldest nonprofits, the Village is mostly self-sufficient and doesn’t rely much on state or federal funding. In addition to the bungalows, it includes an adjacent apartment complex on St. Elmo Drive. Those 14 units are rented out to help cover programming and maintenance costs. The village’s residents, many of whom are artists, are asked to help with the organization, from staffing events to tidying workshop spaces.
Next year, Jackie hopes to launch a campaign to raise funds to pay off the property and start working with an architect to redesign a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house, located at the corner of St. Elmo Dr. and Rimpau Blvd., that she and Roderick have owned for the last 15 years. In the future she wants to host two artists-in-residence each season and create a music studio for workshops and recording.
She doesn’t have a target date for its completion. She says that’s up to St. Elmo Village’s 18-person board to decide. Eventually, the board will also have to decide who will oversee the village when she and Roderick step away from the organization or pass on.
St. Elmo Village is, in many ways, a living monument to the 1970s Black Arts Movement. As much as that has allowed scores of artists to experience an alternative, and often rare, creative space, it has left the village tethered to its past and reluctant to diverge from its laid-back roots.
“There has to be a plan to evolve the Village and train the next generation of leaders,” says Cullors who lived at the Village for four years. “It is a historical landmark at this point.”
From 2013 to early 2016, the Village served as a meeting point for Black Lives Matter. “It became a politically active space that it hadn’t been in years. It became a space where artists and organizers could come and talk. It became a center for resilience,” Cullors says.
But in October of 2013, she saw the darker side of that recognition. Cullors says the police showed up at her door one night, guns first. Before that, the residents of St. Elmo had never locked their doors. She says it was the first time she started to worry about her safety. In 2015, after four years at the Village, Cullors, who was pregnant at the time, decided to move to a more secure location, taking much of that activism with her.
Most of the young artists I spoke to for this story had never heard of St. Elmo Village. Among the few who had, it was mostly from Cullors’s book, When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. (A few had also heard of it from Agnes Varda’s documentary Murs Murs or from the nonprofit arts world.) That’s partly because Jackie, Roderick and Rozzell haven’t expanded the organization. Jackie is the only full time staffer. She currently has one volunteer who helps with the website and an accountant who balances the books twice a month.
The Sykes have also resisted traditional avenues of recognition. Jackie doesn’t advertise new vacancies at the Village. Instead, she keeps a list of potential tenants on hand. She doesn’t want the affordable rent prices to change the village’s atmosphere. In addition, Jackie and the board have chosen not to apply for historical cultural monument status, which can provide tax reductions and technical assistance. Doing so would mean scrapping the wood-framed windows on St. Elmo’s cottages and making other changes that would alter the vibe the Sykes have spent half a century cultivating.
“There isn’t a space like that in Los Angeles,” say Cullors who, worries about the future of St. Elmo Village. “We have to protect the village for all of us. It must exist for as long as it can.”
Although the operation is small, St. Elmo is deeply embedded in its Mid-City neighborhood. Change, both inside and outside the compound, doesn’t bother Jackie. “We survived,” she says, “now we’re thriving.”
Although long-term survival will rely on more than community goodwill with questions around funding, leadership and gentrification up in the air, Jackie is focused on what the Village can do for people today. To her, thriving isn’t about recognition or money. It means being able to offer a “safe creative place” to children in the neighborhood. “Creativity saved my life,” Sykes says. “It’s one of the most important assets we can have that doesn’t cost you anything.”
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
In 1993, Toni Morrison accepted the Nobel Prize in Literature — a momentous occasion not just for the author, but also for the history of the award itself. Her power is just that great, as anyone who’s read her works — The Bluest Eye, Sula, Jazz and Beloved among them — can attest. But the real takeaway of the new documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am is that even those who have never read a Toni Morrison book have been affected by her. We all have, and we’re all better because of it.
The Pieces I Am director Timothy Greenfield-Sanders is a celebrated photographer, and he brings a portraitist’s eye to his subject. At 88 years old, Morrison looks regal as she conveys stories from her life, looking straight into the camera. Major cultural figures including Hilton Als, Oprah Winfrey, Walter Mosley, Angela Davis and Fran Lebowitz also provide commentary on the author’s life and work, spilling effusive praise for Morrison.
As for the author herself, she makes bold declarations about literature throughout the film, in beautifully constructed sentences. “I think history has always proved that books are the first plane on which certain kinds of battles are fought,” she says, along with, “Navigating a white male world was not threatening — it wasn’t even interesting.”
Readers of Morrison’s work will find much to love here, but writers should also take note: Consider this a master class in writing from one of the world’s greatest living novelists. Activist and fellow author Angela Davis tells stories of how Morrison guided her writing, asking questions about small details Davis was writing about, like what the air smelled like and what color a person’s dress was. Morrison herself relays advice she gave her students at Howard University, where she taught creative writing for years before she delved into writing novels. “Don’t write what you know — invent!”
Before Morrison began writing her own novels, she also worked as an editor for Random House in New York. She spent the early 1970s breaking ground as an important figure at the crux of the black power and women’s liberation movements. This is the most exciting point in the film, when archival footage of activists like Davis shows Morrison working from the sidelines. She brought black voices into the largely white institution of literary publishing, and counted Gayl Jones, Lucille Clifton and Tony Cade Bambara among the writers she elevated. As Als suggests, Morrison played the roles of both architect and midwife to the black literary movement of the 1970s. And all of that was before she even published a word of her own fiction.
Alongside archival footage and interviews lit with portrait-photographer precision, masterpieces of contemporary art by African Americans help illustrate the breadth of Morrison’s influence among black creatives. With still shots of works by Rashid Johnson, Kerry James Marshall, Kara Walker, Hank Willis Thomas, The Pieces I Am could easily function as a kind of introductory African American art tutorial. Included among the pieces are the Aaron Douglas murals at Fisk University in Nashville, pieces that illustrate a particularly resonant segment. The opening credits feature collage work by Mickalene Thomas, who piles photographs of Morrison throughout the years on top of carefully deconstructed ephemera. It’s a hypnotic tribute.
Since childhood, says Morrison, she noticed a white reader’s presence in works by black authors. Of Frederick Douglass, Morrison says she always felt him holding back, of not telling the whole truth to his audience. Of Ralph Ellison, Morrison asks to whom his Invisible Man was invisible. The intended audience for black literature, she noticed, was still largely white. Morrison says she’s spent her entire writing life trying to make sure that white gaze was not dominant in any of her books.
The literary world has made great progress toward putting black voices and black readers at the center of their own narratives. That, the film asserts, is a direct result of Morrison’s influence.
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
Due to last Thursday (the first Thursday of the month) being Independence Day (do de do de do), tomorrow is the convergence of two of the biggest recurring art events in city: Pioneer Square Art Walk and Capitol Hill Art Walk are happening on the same goddamn day. Which is a little overwhelming to an art lover like me, but there’s art to be seen! Also, tomorrow looks like it’ll be less humid and sunnier, so it’s really the perfect day to put on your trainers, glitter eyeshadow, and hit all the best galleries in town.
Zanele Muholi: Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness at Seattle Art Museum
Babhekile II They are watching, 2015Jasmyne Keimig
Listen—I went to the press preview for this yesterday and it fucked me up. In the best way possible. Sprawled across two galleries and a long hallway, Somnyama Ngonyama, Hail the Dark Lioness at SAM features 76 staged self-portraits of South African “visual activist” Zanele Muholi. This ongoing series explores blackness, with Muholi fashioning garments using found materials like pads, cowrie shells, and washing machine tubes, connecting them to parts of their own identity.
I studied Muholi when I was in college, mostly their ongoing Faces & Phases project, which depicts black lesbian and transgender people in South Africa, rewriting the visual history of that particular community. It is a Big Fucking Deal that Muholi has a show here. To demonstrate how important black queer art is to the Seattle community, y’all have to go! Document it! Submit a comment card! Tell everyone and their gramma to go see this shit! Data/feedback absolutely counts in terms of money put towards and given to black artists, but we have to do our part and show up. SO SHOW UP. I’ll be writing a more depthy review of the show later. Stay tuned.
Offerte: Photographs by Steven Miller at The Factory
Steven Miller shot the gorgeous Ms. Briq House for the cover of our 2019 Queer Issue, which we passed out at the Pride Parade. It was sexy and moody and I think one of my favorite covers that we’ve done during my (short) tenure as visual arts critic here at The Stranger. You have a chance to see his work again at the Factory in Capitol Hill in his show, Offerte. Meaning “offering” in Italian, Miller calls on a specific episode from his childhood where he burned his stash of gay porn mags out of shame, thinking this action would stop him from being gay. It didn’t.
For this series, Miller burned gay porn mags from the ’70s to the ’90s in a fire pit, documenting the images being consumed by fire in a tribute to “love and loss through the AIDS years.” In revisiting this moment from his childhood, the fire comes to mean something different—less Christian hell fire and more passion, desire, and power. From what I’ve seen, the pictures look gorgeous: nude bods getting eaten up by flame.
Amjad Faur and Paula Rebsom: In Our Absence at SOIL
Paula Rebsom, “Absence of Time”Courtesy of the Artist
My backyard kind of scares me. A couple of days ago, someone slept in it, and stole my roommate’s bike. Really anything could happen. The local artists of In Our Absence, SOIL’s latest show, would like to know what’s going on, though. Amjad Faur and Paula Rebsom are interested in exploring what happens in environments they feel intimately connected to when they are not there. Using infrared motion-sensor camera traps, Faur documents a hunting reserve just south of Olympia, while Rebsom documents her backyard in Greenwood. Both look to highlight parallels between their own experiences in these spaces and what happens when neither of them is around.
There’s a thousand more shows you can check out here. Please go! And see ya there
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
[embedded content] Music has been a connecting force between Michigan and Ohio for decades. In 1959, Motown Records Corporation was started by Berry Gordy with an $800 loan from his family. The music that came out of that label would yield hits that have a special place in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and in millions of lives. Gordy himself was inducted into the Rock Hall in 1988 alongside many of the artists his label gave voice to throughout their careers.
“Motown is one of the most pivotal and critical record labels established in history,” said Nwaka Onwusa, curator and director of curatorial affairs at the Rock Hall, “not just a sound but a movement in making and celebrating music… for being accepted by all people.”
Within 60 years, Motown earned the title of “the most successful” record label founded and owned by an African American artist. Gordy’s movement with Motown was akin to an assembly line a fitting touch for being founded in Motor City — Detroit.
When the Rock Hall got together in Detroit for a special retreat earlier this summer, members of the Rock Hall community heard from various Motown icons, including one panel “Women of Motown,” moderated by Onwusa. The “First Lady of Motown,” Claudette Robinson of The Miracles and The Vandellas were on Onwusa’s panel. Both groups are current Hall of Fame Inductees.
Motown’s 60th anniversary festivities continue with a visit from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
By Sara Barron
“It was our job that we were performing, so we didn’t realize that it was also helping others,” said Claudette Robinson of The Miracles.
These panels included stories about the history being made as an artist, writer, and more at Motown. “From the stage, Motown artists were literally able to see music as melting pot, defying intense segregation laws at the time,” Onwusa noted.
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Courtesy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
“What we all were doing was bringing encouragement,” noted Robinson, “… as I’ve heard most often, young ladies, most especially, they said ‘If they can do that, it gives us hope that we’ll be able to do that as well.’”
At the Rock Hall in Cleveland, the 60th anniversary of the birth of Motown continues to be celebrated so the music community worldwide can immerse themselves in this groundbreaking music.
The legacy of Motown is kept alive here in Cleveland with the museum being one of the few institutions in the country to have rare footage and artifacts on display in addition to content available at the Rock Halls Library & Archives from Diana Ross and The Supremes, Jackson Five, Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, and more!
Motown photos from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Collection
By Courtesy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
Coming to the Rock Hall will amplify the world of Motown for fans. “Motown is a foundational pillar for what we celebrate as rock and roll today” according to Onwusa and is a label that transcends generations, racial barriers and is still influential to music today.
To step into the Motown movement and hear more inspiring stories, visit rockhall.com to start your trip to celebrate the label’s milestone at the museum.
click to enlarge
Courtesy of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
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Fifty years ago, on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11’s Saturn V rocket took off from its launch site at Cape Kennedy (now Cape Canaveral), Florida. On a field near the launch site, Ralph Abernathy, president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), led a protest march of 25 black families and members of SCLC’s Poor People’s Campaign, along with four mules to represent the poverty facing black families.
In his speech, Abernathy called on NASA to use their skills and technologies to address “the problems we face in society,” and clarified that they were not protesting the space program but the “distorted sense of national priorities.”
Hundreds of thousands watched the historic launch in Florida, and an estimated 650 million people were glued to their TV screens on July 20, when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon, according to NASA.
Meanwhile, many black families deliberately opted out of watching the Apollo 11 mission entirely. Neil Maher, a professor of history at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and Rutgers University, and author of the book “Apollo in the Age of Aquarius,” argued that this was done in protest as well.
“They didn’t go out in the streets and protest, but instead, during the Apollo launch they sat home and watched a baseball game. They consciously did this. This was a conscious act. I want to argue that both of those acts are political and both of those acts are very very important,” said Maher.
Maher said that at the time, critics and supporters of the space program were divided by their visions for the U.S.’ future.
Critics saw the opportunity to turn the resources and technology of the space program back toward the immediate social issues on Earth. NASA administrators and supporters, who, Maher said, tended to be more conservative and from middle America, saw the Apollo missions as “a real cold war, feather-in-our-cap that ‘we beat the Russians’ ” and as the key to a Utopian future.
As this year’s 50th-anniversary celebrations honor the space program’s achievements, a look back at the art, music and social movements of the ’60s and ’70s captures the more complicated reality of an age awed by the possibilities of space travel while grounded in the inequalities and struggles of the time.
A space-age dream of racial harmony
University of Washington professor of history of science and technology Bruce Hevly pointed to shows like the original “Star Trek” series — with its multiracial crew and famous interracial kiss between Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura — as an example of the Utopian hopes that supporters had linked to the space program.
“Star Trek” premiered in 1966 when NASA was surveying landing areas for the Apollo mission. NASA and “Star Trek” would interact with each other in different ways over the next decade — “Star Trek: Voyager” used Hubble Space Telescope images, actress Nichelle Nichols recruited for NASA, and over the years several astronauts cited “Star Trek” as an inspiration — but in 1966, the TV show quickly launched beyond the realities of the space program into an imagined future of light-speed travel and alien civilizations.
Walidah Imarisha, a Portland-based writer, educator and co-editor of “Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories From Social Justice Movements,” noted that even in the Utopian space-age vision put forth by “Star Trek,” the social inequities of the real world bled through.
Imarisha noted a “Star Trek” episode called “The Savage Curtain,” in which a revived Abraham Lincoln refers to Lt. Uhura, the only black character on the show, as “a charming negress,” to which Uhura (played by Nichols) responds that she is not offended because humanity has moved beyond a place where words can hurt us.
“I feel like that is the embodiment of that white liberalism — the notion that we have moved beyond, magically, all of these issues of the past,” Imarisha said.
For Imarisha, “Star Trek” was “the place where [she] learned to be a nerd,” and the original “Star Trek” series was complex, reflecting the show’s complicated connection to black viewers in the ’60s and ’70s . While many did not buy into its portrayals of a magically racism-free future, many saw possibility in the character of Lt. Uhura.
Later, Nichols used her celebrity, through the “Women in Motion” campaign and NASA recruitment films, to attract a more diverse pool of candidates to the space program.
Her efforts were instrumental in recruiting both the first female astronaut, Sally Ride, and the first black astronaut, Guion Bluford. Mae Jemison, who became the first black woman astronaut to go into space in 1992, also cited Nichols as an inspiration.
For many of those critical of the space race, however, poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron’s 1970 spoken-word poem “Whitey on the Moon” best captured their feelings about it. .
The poem, which was recorded on Scott-Heron’s debut album “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox,” directly contrasted the moon landing against poverty in black communities. An excerpt:
“A rat done bit my sister Nell
With whitey on the moon
Her face and arms began to swell
And whitey’s on the moon
I can’t pay no doctor bills
But whitey’s on the moon
Ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still
While whitey’s on the moon”
According to UW professor Hevly, “Whitey on the Moon” was a rallying cry.
“That’s the kind of anthem for this general sense that we can put a man on the moon, but we can’t [fill in the blank]. We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t feed people, we can’t resolve the war in Vietnam, we can’t educate the population,” said Hevly.
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Black Panthers as science-fiction creators
But movement organizers weren’t waiting around. While NASA was putting a man on the moon, movements like the Black Panther Party created programs that fit into their own vision for the future.
“[Sociologist] Alondra Nelson talks a lot about the Black Panther Party as science-fiction creators,” said Imarisha. “And I think that framing is really important because the Black Panther Party was doing what NASA and the federal government said they were doing with the moon landing, which was imagining these new futures going beyond the boundaries of what we know and then building them into existence.”
Elmer Dixon, a co-founder of the Black Panther Party’s Seattle chapter, agreed, pointing to the organization’s breakfast program for children, which began in Oakland, California, in 1969 and predated the expansion of the national School Breakfast Program to all public schools, and to the party’s free health clinics as a precursor of Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act.
For Dixon, the space race was a childhood fascination. However, by 1968, when he was 17 and had co-founded the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party, he had come to think of the space race as a distraction from the issues affecting his own community.
“After sitting in at Franklin [High School], getting arrested, seeing King murdered, learning that Bobby Hutton had been murdered, and then becoming a Panther, my whole perspective shifted,” Dixon said. “Hell yes, I was opposed to wasting money on sending astronauts to fly up to the moon and plant a flag.”
Finding a place in space
While some black activists and artists decried the space race, others held up a different vision: Space as refuge.
Musical artists like Sun Ra, the eclectic jazz musician, composer and bandleader who infused his work with futuristic and space themes..
In his 1974 short film “Space is the Place,” Sun Ra, portraying a character also named Sun Ra, traveled to Earth on a spaceship to tell the people of Earth about the black Utopia that he hails from.
In the film, when one of the young people asks Ra if there are any “whiteys” in space, he answers that white people take frequent trips to the moon.
“I notice none of you have been invited,” he says, referencing that while several black scientists and mathematicians were an important part of making the moon landing possible, the public face of the Apollo missions in the ’60s was dominated by white men.
In “Space is the Place,” Ra is quite literally extending the invitation to black people to join him in space.
Other invitations for black people to find a place for themselves in space weren’t as literal as Ra’s. In 1976, George Clinton’s influential group Parliament Funkadelic, for example, commissioned the creation of an elaborate mothership that would “land” amidst an explosion of lights and fireworks during their concerts. A replica of the mothership now stands on the top floor of the National Museum of African American History & Culture in D.C., representing the future for black people in this country.
The spacey influences of musicians and bands like Sun Ra and Parliament Funkadelic show up in the music of today’s black artists such as Janelle Monáe, Kendrick Lamar and The Coup.
Seattle-based artist and musician Julian Priester (also known as Pepo Mtoto), recalled being fascinated and influenced by Sun Ra and his philosophy after he played in Ra’s band in the 1950s.
“It was way above my understanding,” said Priester, who was 17 at the time, but he credits Ra with the spontaneity that he incorporated into his music for the rest of his career.
“As a source of inspiration, [science and science fiction] is a good thing. It can lead us to new things, new methods,” said Priester. .”
Seattle hip-hop artist Gabriel Teodros cites Parliament Funkadelic as one of the influences on his work and many others.
In 2012, Teodros, along with artists Meklit Hadero and Burntface, released an album that told the story of three space fugitives landing on Earth in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in the stolen spacecraft CopperWire. Hugo & Nebula Award-winning author Nnedi Okorafor wrote the liner notes for the album.
The album incorporated into the musicsonified light curves, or what stars “sound” like when the vibrations of a star are amplified to a frequency that the human ear can hear.
With the 50th anniversary of the moon landing approaching, Teodros said he feels that in some ways the country has moved backward. But, like Imarisha, he believes that change comes from the kind of imagining that space travel and science fiction inspire.
“When we’re creating narratives about space and when we’re creating narratives about the future, we’re essentially talking about what’s possible,” said Teodros.
“Science fiction at its best can inform somebody’s imagination, and when you can inform somebody else’s imagination and just show that this is possible, so much can be done. That’s everything. Showing somebody that something is possible will help them create it.”
Crystal Paul: firstname.lastname@example.org;on Twitter: @cplhouse.Crystal Paul is the travel and outdoors reporter at The Seattle Times. She is interested in stories about the people, places and histories that capture the soul of their communities.
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
Davian Chester went to Google’s homepage the morning of June 19 expecting to see a Google doodle honoring Juneteenth, the most widely recognized celebration of the end of slavery in the United States.
Instead, he saw Google’s regular colorful logo.
So Chester, a graphic artist who often draws social commentary, grabbed his pencil. “I thought I could come up with something real quick,” he said.
He dashed off his own Google doodle depicting the day: handcuffed wrists of a black person breaking out of chains — with the chains being the word Google. It took him about an hour.
The start of the Juneteenth Google doodle that Davian Chester made.
He posted on Facebook and wrote, “So I noticed that Google didn’t make a doodle for Juneteenth. I decided to help out! lol.”
Chester, 26, had no idea it was about to go viral — or that he would soon end up on a celebratory billboard and get a call from Google about a job.
“It blew up and took off,” said Chester, who lives in Columbus, Ga., near the Alabama border. “It was crazy.”
At first he noticed his friends and acquaintances were sharing his post, which isn’t unusual when he posts what he describes as his “conversation pieces or black art pieces.”
But then his post hit a wider circle and people started tagging Google, saying, “Why didn’t you do anything for Juneteenth?”
His doodle flew across social media and was shared on Instagram by people who have huge followings, including D.L. Hughley and “Blackish” actor Anthony Anderson.
Chester, a freelance artist and part-time art teacher, was thrilled that his work got such a boost — he said he felt like a celebrity when he walked into his barbershop, a stranger recognized him at the Atlanta airport and even his UPS guy left him a congratulatory note.
But more than personal recognition, Chester loved the spotlight it brought to Juneteenth, a celebration of the day in 1865 that slavery ended in Texas and, thus, across the country. While the Emancipation Proclamation became law in January 1863, it wasn’t until a year and a half later that enslaved people in Texas learned about their freedom when Union soldiers arrived with the news.
“It made me happy it went viral and brought more awareness to Juneteenth,” Chester said. “It was exciting because this is most traction my work had ever gotten.”
He didn’t, however, think it would reach Google. “I was like, ‘They’re too big, they won’t notice,’” Chester said.
But three days later, an email from Google landed in his inbox, he said. It was from a recruiter gauging Chester’s interest in working for Google as an artist. He said he was, and he quickly received a Google calendar invite for a phone call.
“They called me and told me how much they liked my work,” Chester said. “They said they’d already seen my work on social media before the doodle.”
A representative from Google confirmed Monday that the company has reached out to Chester about a job.
Chester said he’s still in the interview process with Google, but, meanwhile, he has gotten flooded with requests from local companies and people ordering his logos, portraits and other graphic art work. He even won a quick job from Proctor and Gamble, he said, which should be released as early as this week.
But the reaction to his doodle that he’s most in awe of is that the arts community in Columbus got together and raised $1,200 to put up a billboard featuring his now-famous doodle, coupled with a drawing of Chester and these words:
“Juneteenth. Recognize it. Celebrate it. Google it.” And also: “Congrats on your doodle, Davian!”
The billboard designed by Keith Phillips for Davain Chester, which stands in Columbus, Ga., for the rest of the month. (Keith Phillips)
The billboard went up July 1 near downtown Columbus at the 13th Street bridge. It will stay up for 30 days.
Chester posted a photo of it on Facebook and wrote, “I really don’t know what to say. THANK YOU *Tear*”
The billboard was the idea of Keith Phillips, a local artist who is a friend and admirer of Chester’s.
“There was so much excitement around it, but some people didn’t realize Davian is from our area,” said Phillips, 43, who designed the billboard for his friend, whom he described as “young, quiet and tall — like a gentle giant.”
When Phillips floated the idea of a billboard, his friend Sherricka Day, 41, who is also involved in the local arts scene, ran with it. She immediately put up an online fundraiser and coordinated with the billboard company.
“I was like, ‘Well, let’s make it happen,” Day said. “We had the money for the billboard within two days.”
From left, Keith Phillips, Davian Chester and Sherricka Day in front of the billboard that Phillips and Day made for Chester.
Chester said he has been drawing since fifth grade, when he’d sketch superheroes and cartoons and hide them in his school folder. By middle school, friends started asking him to draw their portraits as mini-cartoons.
In high school, a teacher introduced him to drawing on the computer, and he learned to create art using both paper drawing and drawing with a stylus on a screen. He started selling his work for the first time while he was a student at Chattahoochee Valley Community College in Alabama.
The Google doodle was the second time that Chester’s work has grabbed Internet attention.
In February, his drawings were featured in BuzzFeed with the headline “This Artist Reimagined Disney Princesses as Black Women and The Images Are Incredible.” He drew Snow White with an Afro, Belle reading Maya Angelou’s “I know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and Ariel with dreadlocks.
When it was announced last week that Halle Bailey was cast as Ariel for the live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid,” eliciting lots of praise but some racially tinged Internet backlash, Chester’s drawing resurfaced. He posted it on Instagram and wrote: “Always thought Ariel should have locs”
Chester said that the newfound exposure from his doodle is nice and that it would be great if the Google job works out, but, either way, he’ll just keep doing what he has always done.
“I love to draw, I’m a bit of a nerd,” he said. “I mostly work, I’m always working.”
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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment
BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Poet Steve Cannon, the legendary founder of the East Village’s A Gathering of the Tribes, died in the early morning hours on Sun., July 7. He was 84.
Cannon was rehabbing from a broken hip at the VillageCare Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, at 214 W. Houston St., across from the Film Forum movie theater. He had fallen and broken his hip in his East Village home on June 12, after which he had surgery at the Veterans Affairs Hospital on E. 23rd St. and First Ave. He transferred to VillageCare on Sat., June 29, according to poet and friend Melanie Maria Goodreaux.
Goodreaux said that, after Cannon fell in his apartment, he was lying in pain for two hours until he was able to use Alexa to get help. She said he went to the V.A. for surgery because he was a former paratrooper.
She had seen him the Tuesday before he died.
Steve Cannon at the finale of A Gathering of the Tribes in its former space. (Photo by Sarah Ferguson)
“He said he was bored in the hospital and he was really looking forward to going home,” she said. “He was still talking, still laughing, and we were still talking about art.
“He was there to rehab his hip,” she said. “He had to learn to stand and walk around. He was going to be in rehab about a month.”
But something happened and Cannon was sent to the emergency room Saturday night, she said. According to her, poets Bob Holman and Chavisa Woods were among those at his bedside when he died.
As for the cause of death, Goodreaux said, simply, he was 84 and had been dealing with a lengthy recovery from a broken hip, first in the hospital and then in rehab, and it simply proved too much for him.
East Village performance artist David Leslie said Cannon had been suffering from a bed sore when he recently visited.
“He had a cyst or some sort of abscess,” he said. “He said he had gotten like a bed sore on his ass, which needed to be cleaned up.”
Leslie said that he had, by coincidence, been visiting Cannon with some friends just about 40 hours before his death. Cannon had been sleeping, and so he woke him up.
“Steve seemed perfectly fine. He was joking and in good spirits,” he said, “and the next thing I heard, he had died.”
Leslie said he doesn’t know what the cause of death was, but speculated it might have been sepsis. But Goodreaux said, although that rumor is going around, she thinks it was simply Cannon’s age combined with the serious hip injury.
“If he wasn’t blind, they probably would have let him out by now,” Leslie added. “People get out with a broken hip. But you wouldn’t want a blind person stumbling around with a broken hip.”
Cannon went blind from glaucoma in the late 1980s.
He was born in New Orleans and moved to New York City in the early 1960s. Early on, he collaborated with black artistic luminaries novelist Ishmael Reed and artist David Hammons.
Steve Cannon, right, at A Gathering of the Tribes. (Photo by Sarah Ferguson)
In 1990, Cannon created the East Village/Lower East Side literary magazine A Gathering of the Tribes, and soon afterward turned his East Village home into the Tribes literary salon and art gallery. In 2014, Cannon was forced to vacate the space due to a complicated situation with the building’s former owner.
Leslie originally met Cannon when Leslie asked him to be on the advisory board of the first HOWL! Festival of East Village Arts in the 2000s.
Steve Cannon with “best friend” Phoebe Halkowich, a young actress who answered a Craigslist ad the blind poet placed, seeking people to read to him. (File photo)
Steve Cannon in his younger days.
“Everybody’s got the same story about how he was such a hard ass on young poets,” Leslie said. “But those are the guys you learn from.”
Indeed, poet/playwright Liza Jessie Peterson posted a fond recollection on Facebook of Cannon at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe shouting at young poets to dispense with the introductions and explanations of their work and “Just read the damn poem!”
“He was definitely a guide. He gave counsel,” she said. “He was just on the surface like that — really mean, a strict teacher. But he brought out the best in you. He was tough, he wasn’t mean. He just raised the standard. He gave us, like backbone, courage, to get up there and just, ‘Read the goddamn poem!’ … He would just scream it.”
Cannon would sit at the corner of the bar and was the toughest critic in the place.
“It was like Steve’s sacred spot at the bar,” she recalled. “This was in the ’90s, you could still smoke inside places. He was just this Lower East Side cat. He just had a keen ear. When you’re blind, it heightens the other senses. He didn’t want no bull crap: Just get up on that microphone. He’d be sitting there with Lois, and they ran the Nuyorican. Steve, Lois, Pepe and Julio — they held it up.
“We were young, full of fire. He gave us tough love,” she added. “His home was open to the poets. I participated in writing groups there. He seemed like an ogre, but he wasn’t.”
Today a playwright and actress, Peterson has been nominated for a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance for her acting in her play “The Peculiar Patriot.”
Goodreaux noted she knew Cannon for 27 years, ever since arriving in the city.
“When I moved to New York in the late ’90s, I would read the newspaper to him in the morning, and his e-mails and books,” she recalled. “Not just me — many, many people read to him.”
This January, Cannon published a book of Goodreaux’s poems, “Black Jelly,” and Goodreaux said his impact as an independent publisher must be acknowledged.
“I think he’s one of the most important publishers in the history of the city,” she stated.
On top of that, Cannon was always simply encouraging people to write and hone their chops.
“If we went to a movie, he’d say, ‘Write a review of it, put it up on a Web site,’” she said. “He was constantly pushing people to write. He wanted to educate people and he wanted them to understand the importance of being an artist. But he was also down to earth.
“He went to every play I ever had,” she recalled. “He was constantly hungry for art.”
Details were not immediately available about a memorial, but Goodreaux said there would probably be something this week, and then a memorial in the fall.
This obituary will be updated as more information becomes available.
RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment