William Warfield Scholarship Fund to Hold 41st Annual Benefit Concert Featuring 2017-18 Recipient

By Staff –

Jonathan Rhodes

Jonathan Rhodes

The William Warfield Scholarship fund will hold its 41st annual benefit concert Jan. 7, in an effort to raise money for the scholarship fund, and to celebrate the legacy of Warfield, who was a prominent African-American soloist and recitalist at the Eastman School of Music.

The concert will take place in the school’s Kilbourn Hall on Sunday, at 4 p.m., and feature this year’s award recipient, tenor Jonathan Rhodes.

The fund was created in 1977, “to promote opportunity for deserving African-American artists who are pursuing a career in vocal performance through advanced training at the Eastman School of Music, and to promote the life and work of William Warfield,” a press release stated.

The Mt. Vernon Missionary Baptist Church Male Chorus, along with director Thomas Green Sr.; Alexander Peña, founding director and lead teaching artist of the ROCMusic Collaborative; and soprano Taiiz Ocasio, from the Rochester City School District’s School of the Arts, will also perform during the event.

Rhodes, a sophomore vocal performance major at Eastman, is currently studying with Professor Anthony Dean Griffey, and previously made his performance debut in the premiere of “Memory Boy” with the Minnesota Opera’s youth program in the principal role of Kurz.

Rhodes’ ensemble experience includes the Eastman Chorale, the Bach Festival Society, as well as a touring choir with Hans Zimmer in 2017.

He was also the recipient of the Eastman Voice and Opera Department’s Freshman Jury award.

In addition, last November he also performed the role of Liberto in Eastman Opera Theatre’s production of Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea.

Outside of music, Jonathan is pursuing a dual degree in Political Science at the University of Rochester.

Past recipients of the scholarship have included soprano Julia Bullock, winner of the 2014 Walter W. Naumburg Foundation’s International Vocal Competition; soprano Nicole Cabell, winner of the 2005 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition; and bass-baritone Jamal Moore, who was featured with the University of Rochester a cappella ensemble The Yellowjackets on the NBC competition The Sing-Off in 2011.

Born in Arkansas, Warfield moved to Rochester with his family as a young boy, and attended Rochester city schools.

During his senior year in high school, he won the National Music Educators League Competition, and a full scholarship to the Eastman School of Music, where he received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the school in 1942 and 1946, respectively.

Warfield is best known for his portrayals of Porgy in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, and as Joe, the dock hand, in the movie Showboat.

He also won a Grammy Award for his narration of Aaron Copland’s A Lincoln Portrait, accompanied by the Eastman Philharmonic.

Warfield died in 2002, at the age of 82.

Individuals interested in attending the event may purchase tickets for $18 in advance, or for $20 at the door; $10 for students with ID.

Advance tickets are available online, at http://www.williamwarfield.org/.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/williamwarfieldscholarshipfund/ for additional information regarding the scholarship fund.

Click here to comment on this article on our Facebook page.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Before Romare Bearden’s Collages

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In the 1940s, Bearden was particularly drawn to religious imagery. Carl Van Vechten pronounced him “the Negro Rouault,” referring to the French painter then renowned for his rough-hewn images of Christianity. But Bearden’s treatment, in a work like the Madonna and Child (1945), hardly seems as deeply imbued with fervent spirituality as a typical Rouault. One of Bearden’s “hierographic paintings,” it is more analytical—and less concerned with religious faith than with trying to work through the European art-historical tradition while homing in on a distinctly modern style. In particular, Bearden seems to have been interested in exploring the potential for narrative sequences, which his somewhat younger contemporary Jacob Lawrence had been doing with great success, most notably in the 1941 series “The Migration of the Negro.” In this work, Bearden also makes use of literary sources: Federico García Lorca’s “Lament for the Death of a Bullfighter” (his Kootz Gallery colleague Robert Motherwell was also painting works on Spanish themes at this time) and Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel.

Could tradition and contemporaneity be reconciled? The highly stylized, semi-abstracted Madonna and Child succeeds on its own terms; its colors glow with joyful clarity, and the heavy black outlines in which the artist encloses them seem to update the leading of stained-glass windows with the geometrical intricacy of Cubism. And yet, at least in retrospect, the painting feels constrained by its too clear-cut distinction between drawing (construction) and color, which is demoted to a kind of filling-in, however beautiful. And there’s little sense of engagement with paint as matter, as body. It’s enlightening to learn that until this time, Bearden had been painting mainly in gouache or watercolor on paper. It was Kootz who, on seeing Bearden’s watercolor series on the Passion of Christ, asked the artist if he would undertake a similar series in oil on canvas.

The process by which Bearden scaled up and transferred his watercolors to canvas turns out to have been important for the much later shift that took place in his work in 1963. As the artist explained, “When I started to paint in oil, I simply wanted to extend what I had done in watercolor. To do so, I had the initial sketch enlarged as a Photostat”—that is, in black and white—and “traced it onto a gessoed panel and with thinned color completed the oil as if it were a watercolor.” The photostat machine—a predecessor of the photocopier that produced negative prints—was something not much used by painters. Bearden was presumably familiar with it from his days supplying illustrations for magazines and newspapers. In his early painting process, it was merely a disposable intermediate step—but years later, when the machine was already becoming obsolete, he would return to it as an integral step for his finished works.

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A 1950 visit to Paris apparently did not provide the inspiration that Bearden might have wanted. Without a studio, it’s no surprise that he didn’t paint there. But the same was true when he returned to New York. He dabbled in songwriting, not without success. It was Heinrich Blücher—the philosopher better known as Mr. Hannah Arendt—who confronted him in 1952. “You’re just wasting your time being a songwriter,” Blücher warned, “and, if you keep on at this, you’ll just go to pot and you’ll never paint again.” Instead of following his friend’s advice, Bearden had a nervous breakdown.

By the summer of 1952, he was painting again—in a very different mode. Mountains of the Moon (circa 1955) shows him working with paint in a far more full-bodied manner than had ever been the case before, laying it on in big, heavy brushstrokes. It’s all about color and texture—a weave of blue marks with other hues peeking through. The bluntness of his physical attack and the thick, dragged paint surface have a lot in common with the “action painting” of the time, but Bearden’s approach is more architectonic than that of most Abstract Expressionists. The brushstroke is not posited as a bravura expression of the painter’s subjectivity; it’s an element in the overall construction of space.

Mountains of the Moon is pure abstraction. But this wasn’t a definite commitment on Bearden’s part. Painted at around the same time, Blue Lady retains his unmistakable figurative references, but its emphasis on color and texture for their own sake is just as compelling. The lady is there, but evanescent—yet her ethereal state is counterpointed by the corporeality of the painting itself. Bearden was exploring, without preconceptions, the fundamentals of his art, rediscovering it on new terms. This is abstraction in the best sense, not an eschewal of representation on ideological grounds but a search without presuppositions. I like a phrase that Richard J. Powell once used with regard to this phase of Bearden’s work: “chromatic emancipation.” As Bearden put it, “I am trying to find out what there is in me that is common to, or touches, other men. It is hard to do and realize.”

Abstract collages made in the mid-1950s show Bearden working freely with paper of various sorts as well as with paint. Some of them were done on top of old watercolors—reclaiming his own history and rendering it unrecognizable in the process. Bearden also began studying Chinese ink painting and calligraphy. Thinning his oil paint, he taught himself how to use it with the same sense of fluidity that he’d known with watercolor and that he was learning to experience with ink. The heavy materiality of Mountains of the Moon had enabled a diaphanous chromatic lightness, but around this time he began to explore much subtler interfusions of hue in paintings like Snow Morning (1959) and Golden Day (1960), which seem to anticipate color-field paintings such as Jules Olitski’s works of the mid-’60s.

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In these works, the artist seems to stand to one side and let natural (perhaps chemical) processes take over. The paintings feel like landscapes, but not because of any representational residues; rather, they feel like the results of an exposure to the elements. The painting Eastern Gate, from around 1961, more overtly alludes to Bearden’s interest in Chinese calligraphy. That year, Brian O’Doherty reviewed an exhibition of such canvases in The New York Times, saying:

He paints thinly, so thinly that at times the substance of the paint seems to have evaporated, leaving behind ectoplasmic stains scored and etched and veined with lines or dotted with evaporated bubbles, which, like collaborating atoms, move to create lines of force. This integument makes each canvas a complex of highly evocative suggestions.

As Fitzpatrick points out in the Neuberger catalog, the show that so moved O’Doherty “would be the last exhibition to focus on Bearden’s abstractions during his lifetime.” Perhaps as a result, the most powerful of his abstract paintings may be among his least-known—works made, presumably, after the 1961 show of abstractions but before the fateful meeting of the Spiral group in 1963, after which Bearden returned to figuration. I’m referring to a group of mostly untitled abstract works—many of them undated, though some are specifically dated 1962 or 1963—in which cut-out pieces of painted canvas have been collaged onto board.

Some of these are almost shockingly powerful. They combine the “ectoplasmic” chromatic atmospheres of Bearden’s color-field paintings with sometimes more or less rectilinear, often virtuosically arabesque drawing accomplished by cutting. Bearden was surely inspired by the paper cutouts of Henri Matisse; but the weight of cut canvas compared with paper, plus the rather overripe juiciness of his rich chromata—often very earthy, and so different from Matisse’s pure, uninflected, and typically astringent hues—have a much different effect. Whereas Matisse’s paper cutouts convey a wonderful sense of ease (no matter how intricate they are, they feel like they somehow came together all at once), Bearden’s canvas cutouts more often display a sense of struggle triumphantly overcome. One of the great strengths of many of these cut-out works is their use of outline. Rather than employing painted lines, as he did in the ’40s, Bearden collaged his painted pieces of canvas on top of a dark-painted board, and the outlines emerge as the seemingly accidental by-product of the canvas’s placement, of the varying gaps between the affixed elements. Paradoxically but powerfully, this gives the dark outline all the more fluidity and plasticity.

It’s true that, at least once, in an undated piece referred to as Untitled (green)—though green is only one of its colors and not the dominant one—Bearden comes close to Matissean grace, but much more typical and just as fine is a work like River Mist (circa 1962), with its juxtaposed vertical areas that I somehow want to call slabs of sky, vistas of stone. Finally, three small works from 1962 and 1963, very short and wide (two of them are just under three by 12 inches; the third, seven by 25 inches), would appear to be studies for murals. There is a grandeur to their forms that suggests they’d work perfectly at seven by 24 feet. One could imagine their maker on the verge of a great expansion.

Instead, Bearden moved forward by turning inward. Evidently, his works with collaged canvas—like his experiments in the mid-’50s with abstract paper collage—would feed into his turn to figurative collage-making in 1963. So, of course, would his familiarity with the photostat machine, and the socially conscious Expressionism he’d imbibed from George Grosz at the Art Students League in the 1930s. As usual, the great turn was also a great synthesis.

Just as “Romare Bearden: Abstraction” started not from the artist’s first abstractions but with the figurative, narrative works that paved their way, it contained several of the “Projections,” as Bearden called the photostat works of 1964, and ended with some other figurative collages from 1967—thereby acknowledging that abstraction turned out to be, for Bearden, not an end but a method of discovery. Still, the question lingers: What made the change necessary? Was Bearden acceding to a demand imposed by the times? Was it an inflection of the inner logic of his artistic development? Or was this one of those happy cases where an artist’s inclination and the historical moment were magically in sync?

Those last three abstractions I mentioned, the ones that I take as pointing toward the possibility of expanding to environmental scale, suggest that Bearden had come to a crossroads. The whole decade that he’d spent exploring abstraction—working restlessly without quite settling on a signature style; plumbing the resources of paint as material and letting go of his old, ingrained dependence on linear design; coming to terms with what he’d learned of Chinese art (which I suspect was influenced by the principles of the Southern Sung period, with its emphasis on atmosphere over detail, spontaneous expression over control, in order to generate what one scholar sums up as a “landscape of the mind”)—all this had led Bearden to a point at which he was clearly prepared to commit himself to an abstract art of rare grandeur.

But he decided not to go there and, in a sense, made a strategic retreat from the cosmic-nature dreamworld to which his abstraction seemed to be leading him, in order to recoup a different area of his inner life, one that was still mythic in nature but in which mythic beings were incarnated as figures and faces rather than impersonal natural forces. I’m reminded of the pianist Cecil Taylor’s observation that, at a certain point, he “had put a lot of things into music that the music itself was not able to resolve,” leading to “a kind of personal isolation.” The conceptual artist Charles Gaines later diagnosed Bearden’s problem (and Taylor’s might have been similar) this way: “How does the language of modernism allow minority artists to make art that also reflects the reality of the social space?” Taylor’s solution was to seek an outside witness to catalyze the resolution he sought. For him, that came through psychoanalysis; I suspect that Bearden was looking to his friends in the Spiral group to help him resolve the dilemmas in his art. When they didn’t respond, he continued on his own.

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It’s important to remember that although Bearden’s ostensible reason for the move to figurative collage-making was to register a response to the civil-rights crisis in America that had necessitated the March on Washington, most of his collages—and the photostat “Projections” that he made from them at first—were far from topical in substance. His emphasis was on what the titles of some of the projections call “the prevalence of ritual”—that is, on the mysteries of the inner life, not of an isolated individual but of a society. The darkness of the black-and-white photostats, in particular, seems a direct reflection of the dreamlike night world into which Bearden plunged his art.

And the society with whose rituals he identified was not the one in which he was living—the urban world of New York City—but the one from which he had come: His new art would trace the resonance in his own memory of the folkways of the rural black South. Still searching for “what there is in me that is common to, or touches, other men,” he began doing so by way of the myths and memories woven into his own sense of identity—a side of Bearden’s work manifest, for instance, in the sultry, chromatically rich 1979 “Bayou Fever” collage series that was shown last spring at the DC Moore Gallery in New York. As James Joyce had found the universality of Dublin and Picasso that of a mythic Spain, Bearden had arrived at a point where he felt confident that “the validity of my Negro experience could live and make its own logic.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Inner-city kids get theater day with Boston police leadership

Police Superintendent-in-Chief William G. Gross, Boston Police Department command staff and Harvard Club members made the holidays a little brighter for dozens of inner-city kids yesterday, treating them all to lunch before taking them to a showing of “Black Nativity” at the Paramount Theatre.

Gross and other police officials sat down to lunch with 50 kids at the Harvard Club on Commonwealth Avenue before escorting them to the Paramount, where they took in the song-play, which is produced by the National Center of Afro-American Artists.

“Black Nativity” combines the poetry of Harlem poet Langston Hughes with gospel music to tell the story of Jesus Christ’s birth. This is its 47th year in Boston.

Police officials said they hope the celebration, hosted by the Harvard Club and the Boston Police Activities and Athletic League, will become an annual event.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Feature: Jordan Peele’s X-Ray Vision

For a white audience, the movie might be one of the few times they’ve been asked to identify with a regular, imperiled black person without the sweetener of a white co-star — no Spencer Tracy or Sandra Bullock here, just Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford as the Armitages, the sort of parents who’ll inquire about the history of their daughter’s interracial relationship by asking: “How long’s this been going on? This thang,” as daddy Armitage does. For a black audience, the movie could have ended right there. What does an affluent, middle-aged, suburban white dude know about a thang? And what’s he doing saying the word with this much insinuating self-delight, this much put-on jive? “I didn’t want any white saviors,” Peele said over lunch. White saviors hog the history of race in American film. Instead, his movie is full of white people whom Peele reveals as insatiable predators of blackness.

In a bid to help rid Chris of the urge to smoke, Mrs. Armitage tries hypnosis. She sits him down and swirls a spoon around the rim of a teacup and commands him to “sink into the floor.” Suddenly, Chris can’t move. He’s entered a state of paralysis that Mrs. Armitage calls the “sunken place.” There’s a cut to Chris falling downward into a dark space, looking up at the lighted surface where his body sits motionless while his struggling subconscious drowns. It’s a strange, complicated, disturbing metaphor for the long history of white control over the black body. It’s also a prelude to the rest of the movie’s sinister doings, which include a racist cabal of the Armitages and their mostly white friends and culminate in an elaborate medical procedure called “coagula.”

The “sunken place” is the movie’s most potent metaphor. Peele says he devised it as a way of thinking about a crisis like the mass incarceration of black men. “The first moment in the writing process where I sat there and cried,” he told me, “was realizing that while I was having fun writing this mischievous popcorn film, there were real black people who were being abducted and put into dark holes, and the worst part of it is we don’t think about them. I hadn’t been thinking about them. We put them to the back of our minds. That was kind of a trigger point for me, this idea of the back of one’s mind.”

As a concept, the sunken place has grown even more capacious. It has been repurposed to explain both institutional disenfranchisement and racial self-estrangement — an explanation for the behavior of black people who seem to be under white control, based on either their sustained proximity to whiteness or statements construable as anti-black, or probably both. Sunken-place entrants include Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson, Tiger Woods, O.J. Simpson, sometimes Kanye West and any black person with something nice to say about President Trump. It’s more generous than “sellout” and less punitive than “Uncle Tom,” a dis and a road to redemption.

Before he noticed fake Chris, Peele had been talking about the restricted ways bigotry is discussed. “We’re never going to fix this problem of racism if the idea is you have to be in a K.K.K. hood to be part of the problem,” he said. The culture still tends to think of American racism as a disease of the Confederacy rather than as a national pastime with particular regional traditions, like barbecue. “Get Out” is set in the Northeast, where the racial attitude veers toward self-congratulatory tolerance. Mr. Armitage, for instance, gets chummy with Chris by telling him he’d have voted for Obama a third time. “Get Out” would have made one kind of sense under a post-Obama Hillary Clinton administration, slapping at the smugness of American liberals still singing: “Ding dong, race is dead.” Peele shows that other, more backhanded forms of racism exist — the presumptuous “can I touch your hair” icebreaker, Mr. Armitage’s “I voted for Obama, so I can’t be racist” sleeper hold are just two. But Clinton lost. Now the movie seems to amplify the racism that emanates from the Trump White House and smolders around the country.

A few people have remarked to me, not unreasonably, that “Get Out” isn’t terribly plausible. The cabal doesn’t make sociological sense. How does the cotton stuffing go from the armchair into Chris’s ears? What does a weekend at the Armitages look like with no black visitor? None of the terror stands up to logic! But when is terror logical? Peele developed a tone, other than hysteria, to present the black experience of discomfort in seemingly benign white worlds and the way their residents chronically deny the reality of that experience. Peele takes that reality as a given, but he is amplifying the paranoia that results from its constant denial. It’s a movie made by a person having the same bad dream I and lots of other black people have had.

Photo

Peele, center, on the set of “Get Out.” Credit Justin Lubin/Universal Pictures

Every time I’ve seen it, I’ve thought about that moment not too far into Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” when somebody asks, “What difference do it make if the thing you scared of is real or not?” What befalls the black characters in “Get Out” is the thing we’re scared of.

Before we met, Peele presented one serious stipulation. “When you come to the office and see cards with names and details on them, I don’t want anybody knowing about that,” he warned. He is already at work on his next movie and doesn’t want to say much about what it is. He does intend to sic the “Get Out” model on other phobias and -isms. But which ones? “It’s tippy-top secret,” he told me on Halloween. “I can give you hints or something.” Peele says he wants to make “more social thrillers about different human demons, and the first human demon that I was trying to tackle with ‘Get Out’ was racism and neglect for one another. It’s going to be another piece of that project.”

On an overcast afternoon, Peele’s assistant, a chill young man named Alex Kim, drove us into the Hollywood Hills to the Spanish-style colonial house that for about eight months has been the office of Peele’s production company, Monkeypaw. Like a lot of the residences up here, this one is nestled into the geological table and seems charmingly underfurnished. Most of the common space feels spare in a lonely, college-y sort of way. Some rooms have rugs, but the longer you’re there, the more rugs you want to put down. There were no visible markers of any coming projects, just walls of inspired fan art and designer posters, like the black-and-white image of a coffee mug fashioned with Kaluuya’s worried face and a spoon stirring where the top of his skull should be.

These guys might be too busy to worry about décor. Peele is producing a new “Twilight Zone” for CBS All Access and, with Misha Green and J.J. Abrams, another anthology series for HBO based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff, “Lovecraft Country.” Peele’s comedy “The Last O.G.” — in which an ex-con played by Tracy Morgan adjusts to, among other things, Brooklyn gentrification — is set to start on TBS in the spring. Monkeypaw is co-producing Spike Lee’s next movie, “Black Klansman,” in which an undercover detective somehow winds up running a chapter of the K.K.K. And then there’s the diversification initiative for young writers and filmmakers working in what lots of fans and critics call “genre,” which combs the country for voices — women of color, say, or gay people — that Hollywood tends to ignore. And of course there’s Peele’s own movie.

Wandering around the house makes clear that Peele’s lean into horror and thriller and science fiction and fantasy isn’t a lean at all. It’s just Peele. Anytime I’d marvel at a picture or poster in the house, he seemed delighted that I recognized it. He recited with perfect accuracy the scariness classifications from Stephen King’s 1981 horror-culture manifesto, “Danse Macabre” — terror, horror, revulsion — and convincingly applied them to “The Blair Witch Project.” He loves Alfred Hitchcock’s films (“every single possible aspect of the cinema working in unison to bring you something new”). But also Darren Aronofsky’s bonkers crypto-Old Testament flop, “Mother!”: “I think that that movie will stand the test of time in a way that more successful movies won’t.”

Peele’s space on the top floor doubles as a mini museum of his sensibility. A tall, loaded bookshelf holds everything from screenwriting manuals and six installments of the Japanese manga landmark “Akira” to Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” to an LP of Philip Glass’s score for the underrated 1992 urban-blight horror film “Candyman.” There are encyclopedias on “early earth” and “vampire, werewolves and other monsters,” and a slender volume titled “Trolls.” “Another one of my favorites over there,” Peele said, gesturing toward a frame hanging by the door: a poster for “The Secret of NIMH,” an animated Don Bluth special from 1982. It’s “a weird combination of fantasy,” he said, “and kind of melancholy and some scary [expletive], but beautiful. Beautiful.”

“I’m a film geek,” he told me when we first met. And as a film geek, Peele has learned the rules for various genres — whom they include, omit and exploit and how to re-engineer it all. Earlier, Peele thought aloud about the notorious horror convention of black characters being the first to die. He believes we’ve looked at it the wrong way. The real problem, as Peele sees it, is that they don’t survive the movie at all. “Final girl” is a horror trope. “Final brother” is not. Usually, if Peele is watching a black person in a horror movie, he knows that “it’s just a matter of time until Tyrone walks away to smoke some weed or pee or something and gets macheted. It used to come right at that moment when you know everyone’s going to die. But you definitely know the final girl is not going to be the black dude.” So Kaluuya represents a correction. Now, he said, “Daniel’s the final girl.”

For a movie with this much grisliness centered around as fraught a theme as race relations in America, it’s notable that the only substantial fight about it has been one of classification: What is it? In mid-November, it was reported that “Get Out” had been submitted for Golden Globes consideration in the “musical or comedy” category, in which it’s now a nominee. Twitter — black Twitter — practically collapsed in exasperation, managing a collective SMDH. “Musical or comedy” constituted an insult, albeit an ironic one, to the historical injury the film appeared to be addressing. The dismay amounted to: What’s so funny about black pain? At the controversy’s peak, Peele tweeted simply, “It’s a documentary,” poking the beehive with characteristic waggishness. But days later, he released a statement that read, in part:

The reason for the visceral response to this movie being called a comedy is that we are still living in a time in which African-American cries for justice aren’t being taken seriously. It’s important to acknowledge that though there are funny moments, the systemic racism that the movie is about is very real. More than anything, it shows me that film can be a force for change. At the end of the day, call “Get Out” horror, comedy, drama, action or documentary, I don’t care. Whatever you call it, just know it’s our truth.

Peele told me he meant for the tweet and the statement to reflect the anguish and pride of the movie’s fans. “To me one of the greatest things about having this movie come out is we can get to this conversation that says: Who’s calling it what, and why are they calling it that?” With that “documentary” tweet, Peele was more or less saying that the movie’s genre is truth. Its other genre could be empathy. A nonwhite audience might have been Chris once, twice or all the time. But white audiences are pushed into an uncomfortable new experience. “One of the reasons this movie clicked with more than just a black audience,” Peele said, “is because you get to be black while you’re watching it.”

Blackness is the orienting principle of Peele’s art. Its richness, its strangeness, its beauty, its complication, its ridiculousness, its divisiveness, its allure, its very realness. Many a black artist has explored blackness, but few have found it as fascinating as Peele appears to. It perplexes, amuses and excites him, the way language obsesses some novelists and food delights certain cooks. Increasingly, though, he has wanted to do more for blackness — building that pipeline, for instance, through which other artists’ ideas would flow.

You can see the shift from frolic to duty in his sketch work with Keegan-Michael Key. Their Comedy Central show, “Key & Peele,” was, in some ways, a lab for “Get Out,” one in which they did as much critiquing of blackness as they did of white people’s relationship to it.

One sketch from Season 1 features a fake documentary about the bar mitzvah “party motivators” Gafilta Fresh (Key) and Dr. Dreidel (Peele). They blast into a banquet hall with a dose of rappity-rap B-boy blackness. They’re Kid ’N Play. They’re a minstrel act. And everybody digs them. The documentary cuts to a Jewish mother who says: “When you see black people at a bar mitzvah, it’s very exciting. It’s like a scary ride. And the kids just love it.” The father tells the filmmakers: “You just really can’t put a price on the look on your child’s face when they see a black person for the first time. It’s just magical.” Gafilta and Dreidel do all kinds of stereotypical black-party shtick, in the hope, they say, of exposing Jewish kids to black people early enough so that they don’t discriminate. It’s a walk around the rim of a sunken place.

Somewhere in all this code-switching and impersonation is a stinging indictment of the cultural attraction to “niggas.” America loves a loud, crazy, funny black person as much as it needs to see him passed over for work, harshly sentenced and shot to death. “Key & Peele” was unusually creative in the way it satirized that duality, until the gravity of what we were being asked to laugh at began to darken the lunacy of the show. For the final two seasons, the bright “Cosby Show”-style a cappella number that opened each episode was replaced with ominous “True Detective”-like music, and rather than talking to a live audience, the comedians talked to each other in a car. They were on a road trip, but their enclosure whispered “fallout shelter.”

Key and Peele’s was a classical comedy combo: tall and shorter, zany and chill, wet and dry, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. Key’s exuberant virtuosity can upstage Peele’s subtlety. Peele is quieter and seems to be doing less. Whether Key is Michael Jackson or Tim Cook, he boils over, melts down, blows up, simmers, stews and karate-kicks. He’s the rocket. Peele is the control center. He doesn’t appear to hunger for applause the way Key does. You laugh at Key because he works so hard. You laugh at Peele because, by comparison, he makes it look easy.

Key told me he believes “Get Out” is cathartic for Peele. He’s using his work to work on himself. “I’m the kind of person who would sit across from a therapist on the couch and go, ‘Then my mom. …’ ” Key told me. “Whereas Jordan doesn’t know another way to do it other than to do, and he has enough confidence in himself to say, ‘Well, I’m going to do it this way,’ and I’m not sure he’s necessarily conscious that he’s doing it.”

Peele suspects that the self-investigation he is undertaking through his work has something to do with his father, whom he didn’t see after his 7th or 8th birthday. He contrasts his relationship to his blackness with that of Key, whose biological and adoptive fathers were black. “If you had a black father around, I think that role model gave him a context to understand his blackness,” he says. “I would probably have been the voice in ‘Key & Peele’ that was pushing and pushing and pushing to expand the definition of ‘African-American.’ I can see how that is something I’ve been searching for in my art.” He and Key played scores of black people of every type, and many with no type at all. For some African-Americans, for a long time, rules for what counts as black have been apparent. And they’ve been fixed. The joy of Peele’s comedy with Key was in their violation of those rules. The show was about how lost in this stuff we all are. “Get Out” is a determination to be found.

In November, Peele was in good spirits as he sat in the greenroom before a conversation with Seth Meyers at the 92nd Street Y. He was dressed in new jeans, white sneakers and a black sweater with a taxi-cab-yellow stripe across the front. It was a variation on his usual streetwear (baseball caps, varsity jackets, hoodies, boots) but even fresher. As he was getting ready to go onstage, I asked him if he missed performing. His answer was firm. “I don’t miss it. I just don’t.” Did he not miss it for the moment? Like, was he on a break from it? Or did he existentially not miss it?

“I existentially don’t miss it,” he said. “I think there will probably be a point where I get really excited about a role and go for it because it feels fresh again and new.” With comedy, “the failure on performing is brutal,” he said, then laughed to himself. “We’ll see how I feel when my next movie bombs.”

I mentioned that the between-sketch banter in the early episodes of “Key & Peele” was often as funny and as revealing as the sketches themselves. “One of the hardest things about a sketch show is,” he started to say, before taking a second to consider what the hardest thing could be. He happened to be facing the dressing-room mirror, giving himself a solemn stare. “The way we were approaching sketch was complete immersion into these characters and going for it. People like routine in television. They like ritual. They like knowing what they’re going to get. This is why it’s hard to break in a new sketch show — because the first season you just look like a bunch of people putting on outfits and trying too hard to make everybody laugh. And we only want to laugh at people we trust, not these new [expletive] coming in. No way.” He thought some more. “I’ve noticed that the truth works. People can feel the truth. If you’re being yourself and you’re just using your own emotions, they can feel it. If you’re doing fake, they can feel it. It took me a while in comedy to realize that your truth is more powerful than your mask.”

Continue reading the main story RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Jordan Peele’s X-Ray Vision

For a white audience, the movie might be one of the few times they’ve been asked to identify with a regular, imperiled black person without the sweetener of a white co-star — no Spencer Tracy or Sandra Bullock here, just Catherine Keener and Bradley Whitford as the Armitages, the sort of parents who’ll inquire about the history of their daughter’s interracial relationship by asking: “How long’s this been going on? This thang,” as daddy Armitage does. For a black audience, the movie could have ended right there. What does an affluent, middle-aged, suburban white dude know about a thang? And what’s he doing saying the word with this much insinuating self-delight, this much put-on jive? “I didn’t want any white saviors,” Peele said over lunch. White saviors hog the history of race in American film. Instead, his movie is full of white people whom Peele reveals as insatiable predators of blackness.

In a bid to help rid Chris of the urge to smoke, Mrs. Armitage tries hypnosis. She sits him down and swirls a spoon around the rim of a teacup and commands him to “sink into the floor.” Suddenly, Chris can’t move. He’s entered a state of paralysis that Mrs. Armitage calls the “sunken place.” There’s a cut to Chris falling downward into a dark space, looking up at the lighted surface where his body sits motionless while his struggling subconscious drowns. It’s a strange, complicated, disturbing metaphor for the long history of white control over the black body. It’s also a prelude to the rest of the movie’s sinister doings, which include a racist cabal of the Armitages and their mostly white friends and culminate in an elaborate medical procedure called “coagula.”

The “sunken place” is the movie’s most potent metaphor. Peele says he devised it as a way of thinking about a crisis like the mass incarceration of black men. “The first moment in the writing process where I sat there and cried,” he told me, “was realizing that while I was having fun writing this mischievous popcorn film, there were real black people who were being abducted and put into dark holes, and the worst part of it is we don’t think about them. I hadn’t been thinking about them. We put them to the back of our minds. That was kind of a trigger point for me, this idea of the back of one’s mind.”

As a concept, the sunken place has grown even more capacious. It has been repurposed to explain both institutional disenfranchisement and racial self-estrangement — an explanation for the behavior of black people who seem to be under white control, based on either their sustained proximity to whiteness or statements construable as anti-black, or probably both. Sunken-place entrants include Clarence Thomas, Ben Carson, Tiger Woods, O.J. Simpson, sometimes Kanye West and any black person with something nice to say about President Trump. It’s more generous than “sellout” and less punitive than “Uncle Tom,” a dis and a road to redemption.

Before he noticed fake Chris, Peele had been talking about the restricted ways bigotry is discussed. “We’re never going to fix this problem of racism if the idea is you have to be in a K.K.K. hood to be part of the problem,” he said. The culture still tends to think of American racism as a disease of the Confederacy rather than as a national pastime with particular regional traditions, like barbecue. “Get Out” is set in the Northeast, where the racial attitude veers toward self-congratulatory tolerance. Mr. Armitage, for instance, gets chummy with Chris by telling him he’d have voted for Obama a third time. “Get Out” would have made one kind of sense under a post-Obama Hillary Clinton administration, slapping at the smugness of American liberals still singing: “Ding dong, race is dead.” Peele shows that other, more backhanded forms of racism exist — the presumptuous “can I touch your hair” icebreaker, Mr. Armitage’s “I voted for Obama, so I can’t be racist” sleeper hold are just two. But Clinton lost. Now the movie seems to amplify the racism that emanates from the Trump White House and smolders around the country.

A few people have remarked to me, not unreasonably, that “Get Out” isn’t terribly plausible. The cabal doesn’t make sociological sense. How does the cotton stuffing go from the armchair into Chris’s ears? What does a weekend at the Armitages look like with no black visitor? None of the terror stands up to logic! But when is terror logical? Peele developed a tone, other than hysteria, to present the black experience of discomfort in seemingly benign white worlds and the way their residents chronically deny the reality of that experience. Peele takes that reality as a given, but he is amplifying the paranoia that results from its constant denial. It’s a movie made by a person having the same bad dream I and lots of other black people have had.

Photo

Peele, center, on the set of “Get Out.” Credit Justin Lubin/Universal Pictures

Every time I’ve seen it, I’ve thought about that moment not too far into Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” when somebody asks, “What difference do it make if the thing you scared of is real or not?” What befalls the black characters in “Get Out” is the thing we’re scared of.

Before we met, Peele presented one serious stipulation. “When you come to the office and see cards with names and details on them, I don’t want anybody knowing about that,” he warned. He is already at work on his next movie and doesn’t want to say much about what it is. He does intend to sic the “Get Out” model on other phobias and -isms. But which ones? “It’s tippy-top secret,” he told me on Halloween. “I can give you hints or something.” Peele says he wants to make “more social thrillers about different human demons, and the first human demon that I was trying to tackle with ‘Get Out’ was racism and neglect for one another. It’s going to be another piece of that project.”

On an overcast afternoon, Peele’s assistant, a chill young man named Alex Kim, drove us into the Hollywood Hills to the Spanish-style colonial house that for about eight months has been the office of Peele’s production company, Monkeypaw. Like a lot of the residences up here, this one is nestled into the geological table and seems charmingly underfurnished. Most of the common space feels spare in a lonely, college-y sort of way. Some rooms have rugs, but the longer you’re there, the more rugs you want to put down. There were no visible markers of any coming projects, just walls of inspired fan art and designer posters, like the black-and-white image of a coffee mug fashioned with Kaluuya’s worried face and a spoon stirring where the top of his skull should be.

These guys might be too busy to worry about décor. Peele is producing a new “Twilight Zone” for CBS All Access and, with Misha Green and J.J. Abrams, another anthology series for HBO based on the 2016 novel by Matt Ruff, “Lovecraft Country.” Peele’s comedy “The Last O.G.” — in which an ex-con played by Tracy Morgan adjusts to, among other things, Brooklyn gentrification — is set to start on TBS in the spring. Monkeypaw is co-producing Spike Lee’s next movie, “Black Klansman,” in which an undercover detective somehow winds up running a chapter of the K.K.K. And then there’s the diversification initiative for young writers and filmmakers working in what lots of fans and critics call “genre,” which combs the country for voices — women of color, say, or gay people — that Hollywood tends to ignore. And of course there’s Peele’s own movie.

Wandering around the house makes clear that Peele’s lean into horror and thriller and science fiction and fantasy isn’t a lean at all. It’s just Peele. Anytime I’d marvel at a picture or poster in the house, he seemed delighted that I recognized it. He recited with perfect accuracy the scariness classifications from Stephen King’s 1981 horror-culture manifesto, “Danse Macabre” — terror, horror, revulsion — and convincingly applied them to “The Blair Witch Project.” He loves Alfred Hitchcock’s films (“every single possible aspect of the cinema working in unison to bring you something new”). But also Darren Aronofsky’s bonkers crypto-Old Testament flop, “Mother!”: “I think that that movie will stand the test of time in a way that more successful movies won’t.”

Peele’s space on the top floor doubles as a mini museum of his sensibility. A tall, loaded bookshelf holds everything from screenwriting manuals and six installments of the Japanese manga landmark “Akira” to Raymond Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love” to an LP of Philip Glass’s score for the underrated 1992 urban-blight horror film “Candyman.” There are encyclopedias on “early earth” and “vampire, werewolves and other monsters,” and a slender volume titled “Trolls.” “Another one of my favorites over there,” Peele said, gesturing toward a frame hanging by the door: a poster for “The Secret of NIMH,” an animated Don Bluth special from 1982. It’s “a weird combination of fantasy,” he said, “and kind of melancholy and some scary [expletive], but beautiful. Beautiful.”

“I’m a film geek,” he told me when we first met. And as a film geek, Peele has learned the rules for various genres — whom they include, omit and exploit and how to re-engineer it all. Earlier, Peele thought aloud about the notorious horror convention of black characters being the first to die. He believes we’ve looked at it the wrong way. The real problem, as Peele sees it, is that they don’t survive the movie at all. “Final girl” is a horror trope. “Final brother” is not. Usually, if Peele is watching a black person in a horror movie, he knows that “it’s just a matter of time until Tyrone walks away to smoke some weed or pee or something and gets macheted. It used to come right at that moment when you know everyone’s going to die. But you definitely know the final girl is not going to be the black dude.” So Kaluuya represents a correction. Now, he said, “Daniel’s the final girl.”

For a movie with this much grisliness centered around as fraught a theme as race relations in America, it’s notable that the only substantial fight about it has been one of classification: What is it? In mid-November, it was reported that “Get Out” had been submitted for Golden Globes consideration in the “musical or comedy” category, in which it’s now a nominee. Twitter — black Twitter — practically collapsed in exasperation, managing a collective SMDH. “Musical or comedy” constituted an insult, albeit an ironic one, to the historical injury the film appeared to be addressing. The dismay amounted to: What’s so funny about black pain? At the controversy’s peak, Peele tweeted simply, “It’s a documentary,” poking the beehive with characteristic waggishness. But days later, he released a statement that read, in part:

The reason for the visceral response to this movie being called a comedy is that we are still living in a time in which African-American cries for justice aren’t being taken seriously. It’s important to acknowledge that though there are funny moments, the systemic racism that the movie is about is very real. More than anything, it shows me that film can be a force for change. At the end of the day, call “Get Out” horror, comedy, drama, action or documentary, I don’t care. Whatever you call it, just know it’s our truth.

Peele told me he meant for the tweet and the statement to reflect the anguish and pride of the movie’s fans. “To me one of the greatest things about having this movie come out is we can get to this conversation that says: Who’s calling it what, and why are they calling it that?” With that “documentary” tweet, Peele was more or less saying that the movie’s genre is truth. Its other genre could be empathy. A nonwhite audience might have been Chris once, twice or all the time. But white audiences are pushed into an uncomfortable new experience. “One of the reasons this movie clicked with more than just a black audience,” Peele said, “is because you get to be black while you’re watching it.”

Blackness is the orienting principle of Peele’s art. Its richness, its strangeness, its beauty, its complication, its ridiculousness, its divisiveness, its allure, its very realness. Many a black artist has explored blackness, but few have found it as fascinating as Peele appears to. It perplexes, amuses and excites him, the way language obsesses some novelists and food delights certain cooks. Increasingly, though, he has wanted to do more for blackness — building that pipeline, for instance, through which other artists’ ideas would flow.

You can see the shift from frolic to duty in his sketch work with Keegan-Michael Key. Their Comedy Central show, “Key & Peele,” was, in some ways, a lab for “Get Out,” one in which they did as much critiquing of blackness as they did of white people’s relationship to it.

One sketch from Season 1 features a fake documentary about the bar mitzvah “party motivators” Gafilta Fresh (Key) and Dr. Dreidel (Peele). They blast into a banquet hall with a dose of rappity-rap B-boy blackness. They’re Kid ’N Play. They’re a minstrel act. And everybody digs them. The documentary cuts to a Jewish mother who says: “When you see black people at a bar mitzvah, it’s very exciting. It’s like a scary ride. And the kids just love it.” The father tells the filmmakers: “You just really can’t put a price on the look on your child’s face when they see a black person for the first time. It’s just magical.” Gafilta and Dreidel do all kinds of stereotypical black-party shtick, in the hope, they say, of exposing Jewish kids to black people early enough so that they don’t discriminate. It’s a walk around the rim of a sunken place.

Somewhere in all this code-switching and impersonation is a stinging indictment of the cultural attraction to “niggas.” America loves a loud, crazy, funny black person as much as it needs to see him passed over for work, harshly sentenced and shot to death. “Key & Peele” was unusually creative in the way it satirized that duality, until the gravity of what we were being asked to laugh at began to darken the lunacy of the show. For the final two seasons, the bright “Cosby Show”-style a cappella number that opened each episode was replaced with ominous “True Detective”-like music, and rather than talking to a live audience, the comedians talked to each other in a car. They were on a road trip, but their enclosure whispered “fallout shelter.”

Key and Peele’s was a classical comedy combo: tall and shorter, zany and chill, wet and dry, Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin, Martin Lawrence and Will Smith. Key’s exuberant virtuosity can upstage Peele’s subtlety. Peele is quieter and seems to be doing less. Whether Key is Michael Jackson or Tim Cook, he boils over, melts down, blows up, simmers, stews and karate-kicks. He’s the rocket. Peele is the control center. He doesn’t appear to hunger for applause the way Key does. You laugh at Key because he works so hard. You laugh at Peele because, by comparison, he makes it look easy.

Key told me he believes “Get Out” is cathartic for Peele. He’s using his work to work on himself. “I’m the kind of person who would sit across from a therapist on the couch and go, ‘Then my mom. …’ ” Key told me. “Whereas Jordan doesn’t know another way to do it other than to do, and he has enough confidence in himself to say, ‘Well, I’m going to do it this way,’ and I’m not sure he’s necessarily conscious that he’s doing it.”

Peele suspects that the self-investigation he is undertaking through his work has something to do with his father, whom he didn’t see after his 7th or 8th birthday. He contrasts his relationship to his blackness with that of Key, whose biological and adoptive fathers were black. “If you had a black father around, I think that role model gave him a context to understand his blackness,” he says. “I would probably have been the voice in ‘Key & Peele’ that was pushing and pushing and pushing to expand the definition of ‘African-American.’ I can see how that is something I’ve been searching for in my art.” He and Key played scores of black people of every type, and many with no type at all. For some African-Americans, for a long time, rules for what counts as black have been apparent. And they’ve been fixed. The joy of Peele’s comedy with Key was in their violation of those rules. The show was about how lost in this stuff we all are. “Get Out” is a determination to be found.

In November, Peele was in good spirits as he sat in the greenroom before a conversation with Seth Meyers at the 92nd Street Y. He was dressed in new jeans, white sneakers and a black sweater with a taxi-cab-yellow stripe across the front. It was a variation on his usual streetwear (baseball caps, varsity jackets, hoodies, boots) but even fresher. As he was getting ready to go onstage, I asked him if he missed performing. His answer was firm. “I don’t miss it. I just don’t.” Did he not miss it for the moment? Like, was he on a break from it? Or did he existentially not miss it?

“I existentially don’t miss it,” he said. “I think there will probably be a point where I get really excited about a role and go for it because it feels fresh again and new.” With comedy, “the failure on performing is brutal,” he said, then laughed to himself. “We’ll see how I feel when my next movie bombs.”

I mentioned that the between-sketch banter in the early episodes of “Key & Peele” was often as funny and as revealing as the sketches themselves. “One of the hardest things about a sketch show is,” he started to say, before taking a second to consider what the hardest thing could be. He happened to be facing the dressing-room mirror, giving himself a solemn stare. “The way we were approaching sketch was complete immersion into these characters and going for it. People like routine in television. They like ritual. They like knowing what they’re going to get. This is why it’s hard to break in a new sketch show — because the first season you just look like a bunch of people putting on outfits and trying too hard to make everybody laugh. And we only want to laugh at people we trust, not these new [expletive] coming in. No way.” He thought some more. “I’ve noticed that the truth works. People can feel the truth. If you’re being yourself and you’re just using your own emotions, they can feel it. If you’re doing fake, they can feel it. It took me a while in comedy to realize that your truth is more powerful than your mask.”

Continue reading the main story RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Phoenix Gallery Removes Blackface Art

Phoenix Institute for Contemporary Art (a.k.a. phICA) has taken down an exhibition following public outcry over a photograph that depicts a white artist in blackface.

The photograph is a self-portrait taken by New York artist Bob Carey in Brooklyn in 2004. It was shown at phICA on Friday, December 15.

Curator Ted Decker chose to include the photograph in an exhibition presented by phICA in a shipping container gallery in downtown Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row. Decker co-founded phICA in 2009 with artists Eddie Shea and Greg Esser. He organizes phICA exhibitions and other programming.

Following Friday’s art show, many took to social media calling for the exhibition to come down. Some suggested that Decker should resign.

The controversial piece was part of a three-photograph exhibition that also included two photographs created in Phoenix in October, in collaboration with visual artist Paul S. Wilson and makeup artist Lauren Reid, according to phICA exhibition materials.

It’s worth noting that Decker — like Carey, Wilson, and Reid — is white.

In his curatorial statement, Decker noted that Carey’s intention was to decry divisiveness in the aftermath of events in Charlottesville, Virginia, earlier this year.

But that didn’t change the way the show was received.

The blackface piece drew swift criticism from a variety of sources — including JJ Johnson, vice chairman for Black Lives Matter-Phoenix.

“There is nothing artistic or clever about using Black pain for an exhibit,” he wrote in a public post on the phICA Facebook page. “This exhibit was cheap, lazy, and stupid. At a time when racism is making a national comeback, this shabby work is incredibly insensitive.”

Neither Johnson nor Decker responded to Phoenix New Times‘ requests for comment.

Several members of the Arizona arts community also posted public comments on the phICA Facebook page — including Tyson Krank, whose work is featured on the large-scale Roosevelt map and directory located near the phICA shipping container gallery.

“I can’t even begin to explain how disappointed I am and this community is also very upset,” Krank wrote, in part.

Other artists who expressed outrage over the exhibition on social media included Pete Petrisko, JB Snyder, and Tawny Kerr.

Modified Arts
, a gallery located near the shipping container galleries, posted a response on its own Facebook page on Saturday afternoon, December 16. “Modified Arts stands with black artists,” it read, in part.

Modified Arts also called for the exhibition to be closed. And that’s exactly what happened.

On Sunday afternoon, December 17, Decker issued a public apology on the phICA Facebook page.

Decker began by writing that the images had been interpreted as racist and hateful by African-Americans and other community members. Then Decker explained that he was solely responsible for phICA curatorial decisions, and apologized for causing upset and pain.

“The images in question represent an error in judgement and my lack of awareness,” Decker also wrote. “We will remove the work immediately, and it will not be shown on January First Friday.”

Carey also issued a written apology that Decker posted on the phICA Facebook page late Sunday afternoon. “I am truly sorry if my recent work has offended any viewer,” Carey wrote. Then he explained the intentions behind his work, including “psychological self-exploration and transformation.”

Here’s how Carey’s apology described the images in the show: “The images … were meant to address the Other within me; they are all aimed at evoking the humanity of any human countenance, especially those who have either been marginalized or demonized or ignored by society or history.”

Shortly after those apologies were issued, Johnson put a public post on his own Facebook page. It noted that Johnson had talked at length with both Decker and Carey, and described both as “apologetic and contrite.”

That post also included this recommendation: “I’ve urged all involved to use this episode to create opportunities for persons of color in art galleries. It does no good to banish people or to destroy them professionally.” Johnson ended by rebuking the Phoenix arts community for staying mostly silent on the issue.

But about two hours later, Johnson added this “edit” for public view on his own Facebook page: “The curator is no longer apologetic. He has pivoted to place the onus for this mess that he created on persons of color. Alternatively, Mr. Decker seems to feel we are not sophisticated enough to understand the subject matter.”

It’s unclear what caused the change in Johnson’s stance. On Tuesday, December 19, those Facebook comments were no longer visible to the public on his Facebook page.

This wasn’t the first time Carey’s blackface photograph was shown here in the Valley.

It was also part of Carey’s solo exhibition at Fiat Lux gallery in Scottsdale, where it was not accompanied by the other two works included in Decker’s First Friday show. The Scottsdale exhibition, which ran from October 5 to November 9, also included Carey’s self-portraits in pink tutus, which were made to raise breast cancer awareness.

“It was in the Scottsdale show and it was received very well there as a single image,” Carey told Phoenix New Times about the photograph by phone on Sunday, December 17. Fiat Lux has not responded to Phoenix New Times‘ request for information on responses to the piece.

Some people, including Jake Friedman, have taken to the phICA Facebook page to publicly to call for Decker’s resignation. Friedman is the founder, director, and editor-in-chief for a Phoenix-based literary journal called Four Chambers. “The artwork never should have been shown in the first place,” Friedman told Phoenix New Times by phone Sunday night.

“This is absurd,” Friedman says. “It feels like a really naive display of white privilege.”

Despite the recent outcry, not everyone agrees that the phICA exhibition should be closed.

Kathleen Vanesian, former Phoenix New Times art critic, posted on the phICA Facebook page to decry censorship and support freedom of artistic expression. “Bob Carey owes no one any apologies,” Vanesian wrote after Carey’s apology went up on the phICA Facebook page. “This is his art, for which he need not make any apologies. It’s called freedom of speech.”

Vanesian’s stance was a rare exception in a steady stream of comments that shared a common thread: Blackface is racist, and it’s not art.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

P. Diddy, Beyonce among highest-paid musicians of 2017

Diddy

Diddy earned an estimated US$130mil (RM530mil) for the year, according to Forbes. Photo: EPA

Black artistes Sean “Diddy” Combs, Beyonce, Drake and The Weeknd were ranked the world’s highest-paid musicians.

Rapper, producer and entrepreneur Combs earned an estimated US$130mil (RM530mil) for the year, according to Forbes, mostly from his Bad Boy Family Reunion tour and the sale of his Sean Jean clothing line.

His fellow American Beyonce was ranked second, with earnings estimated at US$105mil (RM428mil) from her Formation world tour and hit album Lemonade, while Canadians Drake (US$94mil/RM383mil) and The Weeknd (US$92mil/RM375mil) rounded out the top four. British band Coldplay earned an estimated US$88mil (RM358mil) to take the No. 5 spot.

Forbes compiled the list after estimating pre-tax income for the 12 months from June 2016 to 2017, based on interviews with managers, agents, lawyers, interviews and data from Pollstar, the Recording Industry Association of America and Nielsen.

Last year’s top two artistes – Taylor Swift and boyband One Direction – both slipped out of the Top 10 this year. – Reuters

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Arts Transforming Neighborhoods

VOL. 132 | NO. 250 | Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Pearl and Mel Shaw

By Mel and Pearl Shaw

Updated 2:49PM

What does an artist look like? What about a businessperson? Do they look the same? What are they doing? How do they dress? Where do they live? Here are two more questions. Which is the introvert? Which can assess the environment and create impactful solutions?

We pose these questions as dichotomies, building on the assumption that artists and businesspeople are of two different minds. That is the dominant message in our culture. It is “luck” that makes an artist successful in his or her lifetime, and “smarts” that lead to business success. What we are learning is that these assumptions are not necessarily true and can keep us – as a community and a country – from finding solutions to our challenges.

Over the past few years we have been exposed to new thoughts about economic development, community development and the role that artists play in both. Importantly, we have seen how a focus on equity and the work of African-American artists has the potential to inspire and support businesses that are by, for and from the black community.

Yes, we said businesses. Revenue- and job-producing ideas which – with investment – can improve neighborhoods, encourage community, introduce young people to working with a therapist, reduce blight, remove trash, encourage the culinary arts of immigrants and introduce herbal arts to the next generation.

We learned this from Memphians, the 2017 ArtUp fellows. These are women and men with visions for transforming their communities through the arts. They received six months of training, investment and travel to other cities as they grew and refined their ideas, and began creating a business plan and a “pitch.”

These are neighbors solving neighborhood problems with primarily low-cost, art-focused solutions. The fellows use their creativity as a catalyst for growing community, creating jobs, retaining culture and bringing the generations together. Many of the businesses are rooted in black history and culture. They focus on music, painting, upholstery and furniture refinishing, culinary arts, quilting and herbs.

Each is a microenterprise with the potential for economic development and social impact that extends beyond the entrepreneur. That’s just one of the things we like about ArtUp.

The organization – under the leadership of Harvard-educated Linda Steele – is looking for equitable arts investments and solutions to the challenges our city and our neighborhoods face. The ArtUp fellows program seeks to expose Memphians from disinvested communities such as Soulsville, Orange Mound and Klondike Smokey City to how neighborhoods in other cities across the country are harnessing resources and creativity to create economically viable solutions to their needs.

ArtUp is intentional. As its website proclaims, “We are using the arts to redefine places, reimagine spaces, and invest in people to create sustainable communities of color.”

Investing in this work is one example of equity in philanthropy and economic development. Learn more at weArtUp.org.

Mel and Pearl Shaw, owners of fundraising consultancy firm Saad&Shaw, can be reached at 901-522-8727 or saadandshaw.com.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

“Cool People, Dope Books, Great Coffee…”

ABOVE PHOTO:  Marc Lamont Hill proudly stands in front of the cafe’ honoring his late uncle…Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books.  (Photo: Robert Mendelsohn)

Through Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books, author, academic and CNN commentator Marc Lamont Hill hopes to create a space where everyone can connect.

By Denise Clay

Thanks to Amazon.com and other online book outlets, there are fewer places to buy a book, curl up in a chair, and read it while grabbing a cup of coffee. Those spaces are even less prevalent in traditionally Black neighborhoods.

So when Marc Lamont Hill decided to add opening Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books to a dance card that includes a professorship at Temple University, writing books, and appearing on CNN as someone who sometimes helps us understand a strange political world, everyone took notice.

Named for the uncle that inspired Hill’s love of reading, Uncle Bobbie’s is a place that’s warm, inviting and knows exactly where it’s coming from.

The SUN met Hill at the education center next door to the coffee shop to talk with him about his latest venture, the idea behind it, and the connections he hopes it fosters.

Patrons are already enjoying the reading selections at Uncle Bobbie’s.   (Photo: Robert Mendelsohn)

SUN: Thanks for taking the time to talk with me today. What were the things that inspired you when creating this space?

MLH: I honestly just felt like it was time. I’ve always wanted to have a cool place for Black people to hang out. There was a place that I used to go to called the Crimson Moon.

SUN: I think we all went there. It was really popular and a nice place to hang out. When it closed, it made no sense to a lot of us…until we found out her rent was raised…

MLH: It was really unfortunate. But (the owner) Koko created something special there and it left a mark on me. The other part of it was the Black bookstore tradition. So Crimson Moon left a mark on me but so did Hakim’s on 52nd Street. So did Basic Black Books, Mahogany Books and the other Black bookstores in the Gallery. They left a mark on me, and I knew that I had an opportunity to recreate something and to create something new. And so, I said what would it mean to mean to mean to mash that stuff up, right? To take the best of Crimson Moon, the great coffee experience and great gathering spot and take the best of the Black bookstore tradition, the best of Hakim’s and Black and Nobel and all these places and put them together, but try to create a sustainable business model, so that I’m not just the cool spot for a week or two weeks, but something that people can enjoy for some time. That’s what I wanted.

SUN: Why did you decide to do this on Germantown Avenue?

MLH: We deserve cool stuff.

SUN: Of course we do…

MLH: But I feel like sometimes our business choices don’t reflect that. If I opened this near Chestnut Hill, people would be like,‘Yeah! Of course! Chestnut Hill!’If I opened it downtown, it would be like “Oh, yeah! 20th and Chestnut next to the clubs.’ But, Germantown deserves fly stuff. And Germantown has a need for it. You shouldn’t have to go to Chestnut Hill to get a great cup of coffee. You shouldn’t have to go to Amazon.com to get the book you want…You shouldn’t have to live in Rittenhouse to get a good book. So I said, let’s do something here. I live in Germantown. So why not build where I am? Isn’t that the Temple way? Acres of diamonds in your own backyard? Let’s dig, you know? So I thought that this would be a dope spot, and when I saw that this particular corner was open, it spoke to me. There were other places down the street, but that building, those windows and that corner spot? I walked in there and said‘I need to do this now!’ It wasn’t like I spent a year scouting for bookstores. I was perfectly fine doing TV and teaching and writing books and hitting the road. But I swear to God, I walked in that place and I was like‘That’s the spot that I need. This is where my bookstore is going to be. Bookstores are cool and it’s good for community education and learning and I think that we can do something special there.’

I also ran the numbers and I said that that this place doesn’t stand up without some serious revenue streams coming in. Coffee for me was a business choice, but it was also an ideological and political choice. I could have sold other things and it would have made sense. I could have sold pizza. I could have sold water ice. I could have sold other stuff, I could have serve alcohol and done other things to make people spend money because bookstores are a tough business.

SUN: Because people don’t read anymore, as sad as I am to say that…

MLH: They read differently. They read on the internet. They get their newspapers for free. They download books on Kindle. They watch the video of a lecture instead of going to it. There are all these ways in which our experience is just different. Literacy looks different. I don’t think that we consume less literacy or that we engage in literate activity any less. I think it’s that literacy looks different and it doesn’t present in a way that makes it easy to have a bookstore.

So I thought that I need to sell something else. That I need to do something else to create a functional model. But coffee was also deeply political and ideological. I travel around the world and I spend a great deal of time in the Middle East when I’m not here. And coffee is also the centerpiece of political discussion. It’s also something that connects many cultures from the Middle East to Africa, to Latin America to here. Coffee is part of people’s experience and coffee’s a community building tool, just like a book is. So why not coffee? Coffee and a book go so well together. Coffee and politics go so well together. So let’s do it! So I did that and I said now’s the time because I don’t know of any time where we needed community more.

SUN: Why is community so much more important now?

MLH: We’re in the Era of Trump. We’re fragmented. People are hurting. People are trying to figure the world out. People are vulnerable, and they’re disconnected, right? Social media is a great thing, but it also means that sometimes…If someone asks you if you’ve talked to someone, you can say ‘Oh, yeah! I talk to them all the time!’ On Facebook, we’re always online and it’s great to connect people. But it also means that I don’t get to physically experience people; I don’t get to experience community in the same ways. And there’s a great need for physical proximity. There’s a need to connect with people. The internet takes people who are really far apart and brings them closer together and takes people who should be close together and pulls them apart. So I wanted to make something that could bring us together and to maybe advance something bigger.

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SUN: When you say that, what do you mean?

MLH: Community building, but also community education. Our slogan is ‘Dope People, Cool Books, Great Coffee.’ The first thing is cool people. I’m trying to advance this idea that we can…connecting and affirming each other’s value and doing it in real time. To me, that’s important. I think that makes us stronger. I think it helps us do better in resisting a dark moment. Black joy is resistance and creating Black joy is part of the political work we do. I hope that Uncle Bobbie’s creates some Black joy. But also community education. The room we’re in now is a community education center. The political work that I want to do in here is about community education. I want to create a place where the community can be empowered. To get ideas. To learn. You can go next door and get some books that I think may make your life better. But it’s not just about selling people books. You can come over here and get financial literacy. We’re going to do first-time homebuyers classes on a regular basis. We’re going to do financial literacy on a regular basis. We have youth poetry slams here. I am trying to help nurture the next generation of young poets. This will become a space where you can come in and experience art. Free films on Fridays for the community on topics that I think are interesting and engaging. We’re going to do author readings here. We’re going to have forums here and community groups can come here and meet. Grassroots organizations can meet here for free.

Philly jazz guitarist Monnette Sudler stops in for her coffee at Uncle Bobbie’s. (Photo: Robert Mendelsohn)

SUN: Are you surprised that it’s been as successful as it has?

MLH: I wouldn’t have opened it if I didn’t think it would be successful, but it has exceeded my expectations. Not everybody, but nine out of 10 people I talked to about this thought it was a bad idea. They thought it was a terrible idea. Because they didn’t think that Black people buy books. Bookstores are closing. You can’t beat Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts. They said Black people won’t support it. We don’t support our own businesses. Everything you would think. I just saw it differently.

SUN: So basically, you got every possible objection thrown at you…

MLH: Yeah. But it’s early. I’m not claiming victory, but what I thought would happen in terms of Black people supporting and expressing their hunger for books and community, all those things have happened. They’ve just happened faster and more intensely that I expected. And to be honest, every day when I walk in here, somebody walks up to me and says‘Thank you.’And I’m saying hey, I’m thanking y’all for coming and patronizing this business and they’re like thank you for building something that we can come to. Thank you for building a space to hang. Thank for building something where we can build with people and meet with people and share ideas and just feel like we’re at home. And I didn’t expect that.

SUN: My experiences with gentrification have always been that there are two ways that I can tell that I’m about to get priced out of my neighborhood: I see a coffee shop and I see a lot of people with dogs. Those are usually the indicators that tell me that I need to start looking for another place to live. The fact that you’re doing this here, in a neighborhood that’s kind of in-between…are you concerned about that?

MLH: I made a decision to make a space that everybody can come to, but that is clearly a Black space. If you look at my logo on the window, the cup with the mug with the kind of Black Arts Movement-style writing, the kind of DIY flavor, it adds a certain aesthetic. The big sign with my Uncle Bobbie’s face on it does not fit that aesthetic. I made a conscious choice to use that logo on Germantown Avenue so there would be a Black face on Germantown Avenue, marking it to some extent as a Black space. The books we choose, the fact that sweet potato pie is the primary dessert, that kind of stuff is…

SUN: That’s as Black as you can possibly get…

MLH: That’s unavoidably, unabashedly, unashamedly Black. And that’s how I wanted it. White people come in, and they’re welcome. And they’re having a great time and they’re feeling the community and enjoying the experience as well. But I wanted it to be clear that I wasn’t building a space so that gentrifiers could come in and swallow it up. The prices here are marked so that you can come in here and pay a $1.85 and get yourself a cup of coffee. I‘m not charging $8 for a slice of pie or $6 for a slice of pie like I could downtown or in Chestnut Hill. And if I priced it like that, I could change who comes in right away; you know, and make the same money, maybe more. But it was important for me to make everything from the menu to the pricing to the books to the music, I wanted it to feel like home to the locals to people who are indigenous to Germantown and indigenous to Philadelphia.

SUN: You named this bookstore after your late Uncle Bobbie, who inspired your love of books and learning. Do you think he’d be happy?

MLH: Yeah. Yeah, I do. Uncle Bobbie was born in 1917, there’s so much he didn’t get to see. He died in 1994, and I think about the things he didn‘t get to see. He would have wept at [President Barack] Obama’s election. He would have marveled at some of the achievements of Oprah Winfrey, or [outgoing American Express CEO] Ken Chenault. It would have been stunning to him to see some of the extraordinary things that have happened.

He was a hopeful person. I think he always thought the world could get better, but he had a critical eye, a critical analysis of the world. And I think that he would be happy to see that we’ve nurtured a space that advances the next generations of dreamers. The next generation of freedom fighters. The next generation of thinkers. He may have been a little uncomfortable with his face on the wall. He wasn’t vain in that way. I don’t think he would have needed for it to be called Uncle Bobbie’s. I think he would have been happy if it was called something else. He just wanted to see a space where Black people could be together and leave the world better than they found it. And to have a little joy while doing it. That would have made him happy.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Sky’s the Limit Entertainment Releases “Bad Gyal” by its First Afrobeat Artist Ziggee Boy

Designed by Eddie Harris

Single Features Billboard Charting Pop Artist Eddie Jones; Mixed by Suka Sounds, Distributed by Tuff Gong International

WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES, December 16, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ — Today, Sky’s the Limit Entertainment released “Bad Gyal,” a mid-tempo rhthymic Afropop song written and performed by its first Afrobeat artist Ziggee Boy and featuring and co-written by its Billboard charting Pop singer/songwriter Eddie Jones. The song, which Ziggee Boy co-produced with the label’s senior producer and co-owner Art Powell, aka Art The Great, represents Ziggee Boy’s debut release that was mixed and engineered by renowned sound engireer Suka Sounds based in Nigeria and distributed by Tuff Gong International (through Blachawk Records). The song is now available on Spotify, iTunes, Amazon, and other major digital music platforms.

Ziggee Boy, a Washington, DC area resident, is from Sierra Leone where he first developed his passion for music, particularly Afrobeat music that originated in West Africa and has gained immense popularity in recent years within the U.S. and global music scenes. He describes “Bad Gyal” as Afropop because it fuses traditional Afrobeat sounds with Pop elements well known in music originated in the U.S. On Bad Gyal’s theme, Ziggee Boy says the message of the song, which celebrates the beauty of a woman’s body, is universal for those worldwide who appreciate the beauty of the female form.

For this release, Sky’s the Limit Entertainment is pleased to partner with Afropolitan Cities, a preeminent U.S.-based organization dedicated to building a united and dynamic global Diaspora network and connecting and empowering Diaspora communities, businesses, and professionals around the world for opportunity creation and socio-economic development.

Stephanie Powell
ASP Management/Sky’s the Limit Entertainment
301-592-1454
email us here

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment