Phoenix’s First BlakTina Festival Packed an Emotional Punch

Emotions ran deep at Phoenix’s first BlakTina Festival, a single-evening performance of dance created and performed by artists of color.

Through thoughtful choices of movement, subject matter, music, and spoken word, these creatives drew the audience into both inner and outer struggles.

The festival took place on Saturday, July 22, at Black Theatre Troupe’s performance space, where choreographers presented 10 pieces exploring both the universal human experience and the complexities of contemporary life for people of color.

It included eight pieces by choreographers based in metro Phoenix and two by choreographers from the Los Angeles area. That’s where the festival was founded back in 2013.

Phoenix-based choreographer and dancer Liliana Gomez partnered with festival founder Licia Perea to create the Valley’s first BlakTina Festival.

They selected the choreographers, who chose their own dancers. And together, these artists delivered a powerful evening of dance. The performance was sold out, and Gomez is already planning for another BlakTina Festival in Phoenix next year.

Three solo performances, each choreographed by the dancer who performed it, were particularly strong.

For Self Portrait of a Dying Soul, Jenny Gerena sought to free herself from the century-old trappings of polite society, embodied in a long dress and traditional European décor. While seated in a formal chair with her hair in a bun, Gerena’s twitching belied her feelings of being trapped.

Although she broke free for a time and let loose a long cascade of dark curls, she returned to that chair to close out her piece – powerfully conveying how western civilization continues its death grip on those who aren’t part of the dominant culture, including women and people of color.

Gerena, a Phoenix-based Latina performance artist, received her master of fine arts in dance from Arizona State University in 2016. Recently, she was part of a cross-disciplinary team that created Roda-Viva through the new work development nonprofit [nueBOX] and Mesa Arts Center. Roda-Viva coupled contemporary dance and live music with visual art by Rossitza Todorova.

Ashley Baker, a black artist who holds a bachelor of fine arts in dance from ASU, also created a compelling work. Titled Mulato, her piece for the BlakTina Festival explored the prejudices faced by people of color, when that color doesn’t meet others’ expectations. But her work also raised the issue of how race informs identity, and its implications for real lives beyond mere theoretical considerations.

But the real stand-out was Alexander Patrick, a black dancer who recently moved from New Orleans to Phoenix, where he’s now dancing with several companies, including Scorpius Dance Theatre.

Patrick choreographed the festival’s opening number, titled Scarred From Being Scared, with black artist Malikah Fernandez. But he also choreographed and performed a solo piece titled Mirage, which also featured his own costume design.

Donning all white, including a flowing tunic that conveyed a yearning for transcendence, Patrick conjured the vicious persistence of self-doubt through music by New Orleans artist Ledisi and recordings of his own voice incessantly repeating “you’re so stupid” and similar messages. While doing so, he explored the use of pharmaceuticals in attempts to control one’s wilder impulses – even acting as though he was taking pills to reluctantly calm the noise in his own head.

There was humor in the festival’s lineup, too.

With Ni Fú, Ni Fá, a four-member Los Angeles-based dance company called Primera Generación Dance Collective played with America’s cultural appropriation of the holiday Cinco de Mayo, a Mexican celebration of victory over French forces in 1862.

Collectively, these artists addressed issues at the heart of contemporary culture, where racism, sexism, and other social injustice continues to fuel strong rhetoric and feelings. And they took the audience on a moving journey through anger, love, fear, and frustration. Ultimately, the BlakTina Festival’s greatest accomplishment was demonstrating the ongoing power of dance to capture and convey human emotions.

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Lost pilots, the stubborn French and £80k salaries: what you didn’t know about air traffic control

Last week the body in charge of the UK’s airspace was preparing to handle a record number of planes: as the British school holidays kicked off in earnest, 8,800 flights would arrive, depart or pass through our skies. It would be the country’s busiest day in aviation history.

Only, it never happened.

“We actually broke an earlier record on June 20 with 8,747 planes, and we thought we would break it again but we were about 20 short in the end,” explains Martin Rolfe, CEO of NATS, formerly National Air Traffic Services.  

AIR Airspace 070459

In numbers: Britain’s busiest day for flights


“It depends on the number of business jets flying, and the weather. There is a decent chance we might break it this Friday [today], or maybe the bank holiday Friday in August.”

NATS announced the prospective record as a way of highlighting the urgent need to modernise the UK’s ageing airspace structure.

“The record is a double-edged sword,” says Rolfe. “From a thriving economy point of view it’s very exciting to break the record – we host more traffic than any other air space on earth, considering our size. We’re a funnel for the North Atlantic.

“We’re very proud of what we achieve safely but at the same time, the trend can’t continue without a massive overhaul of the airspace,” he says. “We’re still working to a design from the Fifties, a period where aircraft were using their own navigation systems and we knew where they were to within about half a mile. Now, all aircraft are equipped with much more accurate GPS. We know where aircraft are, and they know where to fly probably to within 20cm.”

Rolfe explains that we are giving aircraft airspace corridors to fly in that provide miles of buffers, even though they are capable of existing much closer together. It’s a waste and it’s one that NATS and the Department of Transport think will contribute to a steep rise in flight delays in the coming years.

The difficulty, Rolfe says, is the people on the ground. He says that, on a policy level, the Government is supportive of modernising the airspace, but when it comes down to a local level – for example, at Heathrow – it becomes an incredibly contentious issue.

The UK's skies are getting busier

The UK’s skies are getting busier

“If you take any airport to maximise capacity, you would probably have more routes in and out of it, and this means more people would potentially be affected. It becomes very sensistive to local people,” says Rolfe.

“But we can now fly planes a lot more accurately so that they can fly over rivers, estuaries, industrial areas and reduce the number of people affected. The modern aircraft are also much quieter and can ascend and descend much quicker.

“There will also remain some avenues that are busier than others – all planes have to get to an airport, and there will only be one best route between Heathrow and Edinburgh – but with more routes we can alternate them.”

Five things you didn’t know about air traffic control

1. France is the only country not to use English in the skies

“The good news for the UK is that aviation is done in English around the world, except in France,” said Rolfe. Yes, the international language for pilot and air traffic control communication is English. But our stubborn cousins over the Channel still insist on sticking to their native tongue.

2. The problem with drones could be easily solved

Drones pose a huge challenge to air traffic controllers. “We absolutely recognise that drones are from on an economy and future business point of view a great thing but people need to use them responsibly,” said Rolfe. “Most of the times when reported near to aircraft, people just don’t understand the rules.” He added that working with drone manufacturers can be applying “geofences” to drones so they are unable to function as soon as they near commercial airspace.

Drones are an issue – but they need not be

Drones are an issue – but they need not be

© Jakub Gojda / Alamy Stock Photo/Jakub Gojda / Alamy Stock Photo

3. Summer weather is worse than winter weather

“Weather is the biggest thing we have to contend with, and it’s in the summer when the thunderstorms come that we have the most difficulty,” said Rolfe. “Most pilots won’t fly through thunderstorm. Not only does it upset the passenger but it can be quite dangerous. The lightning is not so much the problem – more the turbulence, the up-drafts and the down-drafts. We have our own Met Office forecaster, and though we’re getting better at predicting them, it’s still a bit of a black art.”

4. Light aircraft sometimes wander into busy flight paths

“We generally are able to track them down, sometimes with the help of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and have a chat with them,” said Rolfe. “People in Cessnas and light aircraft. They will take off and either get lost because something happens to them or they haven’t briefed themselves well enough and they fly into controlled airspace and then we have to fly passenger jets a different path. We go into local flying clubs and talk about the dangers of flying into our space.”

Private pilots sometimes get lost

Private pilots sometimes get lost

Credit: Colin Underhill / Alamy Stock Photo/Colin Underhill / Alamy Stock Photo

5. Strikes in France hit British flights

“When our European counterparts go on strike, the traffic still needs to go somewhere so our skies can become quite congested,” said Rolfe. “The French are particularly prone to going on strike and it can in essence shut down huge swathes of air space above the country.”

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Florida Highwaymen art show coming to Lake Worth

Art Link International is scheduled to open a big show of Florida Highway paintings July 28 at the Palm Beach Art, Antique & Design Center.

The show is curated by Art Link International’s Howard Brassner, a Florida Highway expert. The show will feature more than 150 paintings by the Highwaymen, a group of 26 self-taught black artists from the 1950s to the 1980s who depicted the Florida landscape and sole work door to door or from trunks of their cars.

Al Black, an original Highwayman, and Kevin Hair, son o the late Highwayman Alfred Hair, will exhibit new paintings and attend the show July 28-30. The painting will remain on view through Aug. 13.

Hours are 4-10 p.m., July 28; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. July 29; noon-5 p.m. July 30 and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays Aug. 1-13.

The Center is on 500 N. Dixie Highway.


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Validity of the Blue Whale Challenge is Disputed, but Social Media’s Impact on Young People’s Mental Health is Real

WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES, July 21, 2017 / — Many media outlets are reporting on the “Blue Whale Challenge,” a social media game that allegedly encourages young people to engage in self-harm and suicidal behavior. While we have no evidence the Blue Whale Challenge is a real phenomenon, we do know that social media—in all forms—can have a significant impact on mental health, especially for young people.

Youth are among the highest-risk groups for suicide: according to the CDC, 17% of grade 9-12 students reported seriously considering suicide in the past 12 months. We urge parents and educators to sit down with children and youth and talk about social media’s potential impact. provides useful guidelines for having these conversations. It’s essential to talk openly and honestly about mental health, depression, and thoughts of suicide—and whether social media use might be a contributing factor. While many discussions hinge on the negative effects of social media, its positive impact cannot be ignored: social media can be helpful for people who are suicidal and unable to reach out in person.

Youth struggling with thoughts of suicide usually present with warning signs. In young people, these warning signs might be seen as talking about death or hopelessness, extreme irritability, pulling away from friends and family, and loss of enjoyment in their usual activities. If you notice warning signs, reaching out quickly and talking openly about suicide can help save a life.

AAS President Julie Cerel says, “Anytime a child dies by suicide, we search for the reason why. Suicide is complicated and never has a single cause. By implicating events like the Blue Whale Challenge as the cause of youth suicide, we risk minimizing someone’s emotional pain and further discriminating against those who are suffering.”

Suicide prevention resources:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ( – 800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line ( – Text HOME to 741-741
The Trevor Project ( – 866-488-7386
Trans Lifeline ( – 877-565-8860

For the media: We urge members of the media to be cautious in reporting on stories about the Blue Whale Challenge and similar events. These news items can become viral “urban legends” and contribute to a culture of fear and alarm that makes suicide and social media harder to talk about for youth, parents, and educators.

Responsible reporting on suicide, and the inclusion of stories of hope and resilience, can prevent more suicides. For more information on safe messaging around suicide, click here:


About AAS: Founded in 1968 by Edwin S. Shneidman, PhD, AAS promotes suicide as a research discipline, public awareness programs, public education and training for professionals and volunteers. The membership of AAS includes mental health and public health professionals, researchers, suicide prevention and crisis intervention centers, school districts, crisis center volunteers, survivors of suicide loss, attempt survivors, and a variety of lay persons who have in interest in suicide prevention. You can learn more about AAS at

Colleen Creighton
American Association of Suicidology
email us here

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Bela-Bela takes on the best in Champions Cup

Cape Town trainer Justin Snaith fully expects Bela-Bela to put it up to Marinaresco and Captain America in the R1m, Grade 1 World Sports Betting Champions Cup (1800m) at Greyville on Saturday although he stops short of predicting outright victory.

Bela-Bela, picture Liesl King

Snaith, who won the race with Futura two years ago, said yesterday: “I think this is by far the strongest Champions Cup in years.

“Normally it’s an end-of-season race with one outstanding horse left after the rest have packed their bags and gone home. This time we’ve got the winners of the July, the Gold Challenge and the Garden Province all taking each other on.

“But Bela-Bela is going to give them a go. I had it planned all along that the Champions Cup was going to be part of her programme – that’s why she missed out the odd race – and she has been raced easy during her four months up here.

“If there was ever a time for her to take on the best this is it. She is doing well, she has matured and she is ready.”

Snaith also runs Black Arthur and It’s My Turn, seventh and eighth in the Durban July but less than a length and a half behind Marinaresco– “I couldn’t be happier with either of them than I am at the moment and I think I have them spot on. They will run good races.”

– Snaith will run last weekend’s Final Fling runner-up A Time To Dream in the Champagne Stakes at Kenilworth on Saturday even though the four-year-year has not raced over as short a distance as 1 200m for more than two years.

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Annual Ann Arbor Art Fair

50 years after the first bottle smashed at 12th and Clairmount, two Midtown museums are opening complementary exhibitions tied to the anniversary that examine art’s use as a social, political weapon

Fifty years to the day after the first bottle smashed at 12th and Clairmount in Detroit, sparking five days of mayhem, two Midtown museums are opening complementary exhibitions tied to the anniversary that examine art’s use as a social and political weapon.

On Sunday, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History will unveil “Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion.”

A short walk away, “Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement” debuts at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The two institutions collaborated on their shows, and the result is a kaleidoscopic tour of some of the most-important black art from the 1960s to the present, albeit with a focus on exhortation and protest.

“This exhibition has been a lifelong dream of mine,” said the Wright’s Erin Falker, an assistant curator who organized “Say It Loud” with Jennifer Evans, also an assistant curator.

“We even got Faith Ringgold’s ‘Flag for the Moon,’ ” Falker said with an astonished laugh, referring to the artist famous for her narrative quilts. “I’ve been looking at that in art-history books since 10th or 11th grade. It’s pretty amazing.”

Indeed, prepare to be amazed throughout these two shows, whose works brim with urgency, rage and hope.

At the DIA, African American Art Curator Valerie Mercer explains that a number of the 34 works on display emerged from black art collectives that in some cases aimed to instruct a community whose self-identity was in rapid flux.

“Harlem’s Weusi collective felt we African-Americans needed to learn more about African culture,” Mercer said, “which is hard for us, since it’s typically not taught in schools.”

Ademola Olugebefola’s colorful, totemic “Shango” exemplifies this push — painted in 1969, it introduces black Americans to the Yoruba god of thunder, rendered in primary tones of red, blue, black and white.

Other instructional works are tied to themes of self-image and empowerment, like AfriCOBRA collective artist Wadsworth Jarrell’s dazzling, mosaic-like “Three Queens” from 1971.

In this work, said Mercer, “Jarrell promotes the natural beauty of black people.” Indeed, he goes further, demanding that the viewer “Stop buying Chuck’s wigs and make-up.” (One wonders how Chuck felt.)

But Afro-centric art started well before the Detroit riots, of course. Indeed, don’t walk out of the DIA’s exhibit without taking in “Conjur Woman” by the legendary Romare Bearden, a 1964 black-and-white collage invoking shamanic ritual.

Bringing the DIA’s show right up to date, however, is the punchy “1967: Death in the Algiers Motel and Beyond” by Detroiter Rita Dickerson, which connects the murder of those three young black men with much more recent victims of police shootings like Tamir Rice and Eric Garner.

The violence upholding white privilege crops up in any number of works at the Wright’s “Say It Loud.”

“Uneven Fight” by Detroit artist Jason H. Phillips stars a young black boxer surrounded by agents of white repression, including — leaping back several hundred years — a dour judge in powdered wig.

To underline the point, Phillips, who’s also a tattoo artist, inked “Black Lives Matter” on the muscular chest of his boxer, who regards the world with resigned despair.

Overall, the Wright’s exhibition has a more contemporary feel than the DIA’s “Art of Rebellion,” with its classic works by Bearden and Jacob Lawrence, among others.

A good example at the Wright is native Detroiter Jamea Richmond Edwards’ “An Ode to Farrad #2,” a 2014 tribute to a brother who was killed that mixes the masculine and feminine in a gender-bending fashion that feels very 21st century.

“Jamea sort of makes shrines” with her portraits, said Falker, adding, “you’ll note the flower halo. And Farrad’s face is actually a combination of his and Jamea’s.”

Also very contemporary is Detroiter Senghor Reid’s “Broadcast News,” with its black, blocky letters on bright yellow that scream, “The ’67 riot didn’t take place.”

Like much work here, Reid’s piece is in your face and defiant, reflecting the angry self-confidence forged in the last century’s struggles.

By contrast, Benny Andrews’ haunting “There Must Be a Heaven” spotlights one of racism’s casualties, a faceless, anguished African-American, both bent and beseeching. The piece by the late New York artist is one of the most emotionally resonant in the entire show, a composition moving and deeply disturbing.

By contrast, Detroiter Yvonne Parks Catchings’ “The Chains Are Still There” is an elegant, black-and-white abstract of interconnected links — a simple composition that, like so much in “Say It Loud” and “Art of Rebellion,” packs extraordinary punch.

(313) 222-6021

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy

‘Art of Rebellion: Black Art of the Civil Rights Movement’

Sunday-Oct. 22

Detroit Institute of Arts

5200 Woodward, Detroit

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturdays-Sundays; 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays

$14 adults; $9 seniors 62 and older; $8 college students; $6 children 6-17; free for Macomb, Oakland and Wayne county residents

(313) 833-7900

‘Say It Loud: Art, History, Rebellion’

Sunday-Jan. 2

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

315 E. Warren, Detroit

1-5 p.m. Sundays; 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays

$8 adults; $5 seniors 62 and older; $3 children 3-12

(313) 494-5800

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A New Exhibition Goes Inside the “Soul of a Nation”

Artwork: Lorraine O’Grady, Art Is (Girlfriends Times Two), 1983/2009. Courtesy of the artist and Alexander Grey Associates, NY.

On June 16, 1966, Stokely Carmichael stood before a crowd of 3,000 in a park in Greenwood, Mississippi, who had gathered to march in place of James Meredith, who had been wounded during his solitary “Walk Against Fear” in an effort to integrate the University of Mississippi.

Carmichael, who had been arrested after setting up camp, took to the stage with fire in his gut. “We’ve been saying ‘Freedom’ for six years,” the newly appointed chairman of the SNCC announced, “What we are going to start saying now is ‘Black Power!’”

Barkley l. Hendricks, Icon for My Man Superman (Superman Never Saved any Black People--Bobby Seale), 1969. Collection of Liz and Eric Lefkofsky.

Barkley L. Hendricks, Icon for My Man Superman (Superman Never Saved any Black People–Bobby Seale), 1969. Collection of Liz and Eric Lefkofsky.

With those words, Carmichael did more than change the paradigm for Civil Rights, he transformed the language of race itself. Up until that time, Americans had been using the word “Negro,” taken from the Spanish slave trade. It’s linguistic resemblance to the “N” word was all-too evident; the Spanish word for “Black” that was commonly used had been corrupted by English speakers and infested with pathological hatred, fear, and rage.

Carmichael embraced the word “Black” while simultaneously making the case that “Negro” was the oppressor’s term of diminution and disrespect. Malcolm X, who had had been killed a year earlier, was also a proponent for the word “Black.” By the decade’s end, Ebony was using it exclusively, helping to guide the group towards a self-chosen identity that the rest of the nation came to use.

Why does this matter? Because we think in words; the very terms we use to describe the world, and the connotations they hold, inform our beliefs and perceptions, whether we realize it or not. “Black Power” began in the very naming of the act. It was a means of transforming identity from one that was given to that which was claimed.

In doing so, the Civil Rights Movement evolved in turn—and with the United States government’s execution of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the die was cast. The peaceful protests met with militarized violence became a thing of that past as groups like the Black Panthers organized a 10 Point Program that followed the Constitution to the letter of the law—including the Second Amendment right to bear arms.

Betye Sar, Rainbow Mojo, 1972. Paul Michael diMeglio, New York.

Betye Saar, Rainbow Mojo, 1972. Paul Michael diMeglio, New York.

As the citizens of this nation organized themselves to fight for the basic human rights guaranteed under the law, artists played a vital role in spreading the word, from Black Panther Party’s Culture Minister Emory Douglas, who declared “The ghetto itself is the gallery,” to David Hammons, who created the double self-portrait Black First, America Second 1970, saying, “I feel it is my moral obligation as a black artist to try to graphically document what I feel socially.”

Hammons’ portrait visually expresses W.E.B. DuBois‘ famed “double-consciousness” that exists as a result of the schism cleaved into the psyche of Black people since the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade first began. It is the awareness that the double standard as defined by the imperialist powers of Europe and their descendants: the use of double talk, disinformation, and destruction to wage war on the people that they, in the words of Thomas Jefferson, are named as their “equals.”

Because we think in words, thought is easily corrupted. Logic does not need to follow a rational premise, it simply needs to follow itself. As a result, words can be used to manipulate, obfuscate, and delude. People, for the most part, are empirical creatures inclined to trust cliché over critical thought. This is why you find most people will agree: “Seeing is believing.”

Enter the artist.

The Tate Modern, London, has just opened a major exhibition of work that looks at this vital period of transformation in American life. Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power is a tour-de-force, showcasing more than 150 words by over 60 artists made between 1963 and 1983 including Romare Bearden, Dawoud Bey, Adger Cowans, Roy DeCarava, Emory Douglas, Louis Draper, David Hammons, Barkley L. Hendricks, Archibald Motley, Alice Neel, Lorraine O’Grady, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Ming Smith, Alma Thomas, and Andy Warhol, among others.

512brmUxy6LThe exhibition runs through October 22, 2017, and will travel to Crystal Bridges, Bentonville, AR (February 2–April 23, 2018) and the Brooklyn Museum, NY (September 7, 2018-February 2, 2019). The show is accompanied by a masterful catalogue published by the Tate/D.A.P., which features substantial essays that provide much-needed insights into this vastly underserved and broadly neglected period of art history And, as no artistic study of Black America would be complete without ample consideration of the music it makes, Soul Jazz Records is releasing Soul of a Nation, featuring 13 tracks central to the movement, from Gil-Scott Heron to Roy Ayers Ubiquity.

Faith Ringgold, American People Series #20: Die, 1967. The Museum of Modern Art, NY.

Faith Ringgold, American People Series #20: Die, 1967. The Museum of Modern Art, NY.

Soul of a Nation opens in 1963 with the formation of the Spiral Group, a New York-based collective of Black artists that focused on how to relate and respond to living in the United States. At a time when the apartheid laws of Jim Crow were still on the books, they looked inward to build spaces for art within their own communities.

That same year, the Kamoinge Workshop was founded in Harlem, with 15 members dedicated to using the photography to “reflect a concern for truth about the world, about society, and about themselves.” To this day, they are the longest-standing photography collective in the United States. The artists in the group, including Roy DeCarava, Ming Smith, and Louis Draper, did not simply document what they saw; they used the camera as a tool to paint pictures of Black life as they knew it to be: soulful, spiritual, and poetic scenes of joy and pain.

Emma Amos, Eva the Babysitter, 1973. Courtesy of the artist and Ryan Lee Gallery, NY.

Emma Amos, Eva the Babysitter, 1973. Courtesy of the artist and Ryan Lee Gallery, NY.

As the Black Power movement took hold, AfriCOBRA (the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists) formed in Chicago in 1967 and became the only group to produce a manifesto for Black Art, which was centered around providing art to the communities in the form of large-scale public murals depicting contemporary and historic figures of Black history. Today, it would simply be known as street art, but 50 years ago, at a time when images of Black men and women were scarce, it was a revolutionary movement.

Soul of a Nation continues forward with openly political work, where artists like Emory Douglas became vital parts of the revolution. As the artist for the Black Panther Party newspaper, Douglas’s art was literally held in the hands, made for populist appeal and affordability so that it could reach far and wide. The ability to distribute his work across the nation to local BPP chapters sparked a dialogue with other artists who quickly took to using their talents to tell stories.

By the 1970s, a decade into the movement, the styles begin to evolve, embracing the power of abstraction to redefine the way we see the world. Here we see the ways in which fine artists bring the issues and concerns of Black America inside the art world, showing in galleries and museums and adding new narratives and perspectives to the conversation.

Soul of a Nation is by no means exhaustive, but it is intense, providing a wide array of perspectives that show the return of figurative works, sculpture, performance art, and the role of Black women in a traditional male space. The show reveals the layers of complexity, nuance, and dialogue within the community that are so deeply immersed in the traditions of Black culture that David Hammons’ declaration in his double-self portrait becomes crystal clear. In a country that forces people to live double lives and code-switch, the depth of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding of its artists is one of its greatest gifts.

Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Aperture Online, and Feature Shoot. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.

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Jessica Harris creates a world of glitterati artists in latest book

Jessica B. Harris of Oak Bluffs, New York, and New Orleans, is more than a cookbook writer, even though she’s written 12 of them. Some have earned her prestigious awards, including the recent IACP Award for Culinary History for “High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America.” I say “more than a cookbook writer” because each book has rendered up a voice of stirring memory and cultural context that’s a mix of M.F.K. Fisher and Marcel Proust.

Consider this from her 2009 book titled, simply enough, “Rum Drinks” (Chronicle): “The flowers were still blooming on Papa Doc’s tomb and the eternal flame was flickering in the torrid wind the first time I tasted rum. I’d arrived in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, the previous evening and been whisked off to that gingerbread hotel, the legendary Oloffson, celebrated by Graham Greene in ‘The Comedians.’ The hotel was every writer’s dream — with the flotsam and jetsam of the island circulating at cocktail time. Modern-day pirates rubbed shoulders with pale-skinned newcomers, their sharp eyes evaluating the worth of each summer cotton frock and gold-braceleted arm and calculating schemes and scams. Paint-daubed artists sought solace in the bottom of glasses, weary island-exiled writers fled from the blank page, socialites fought ennui, and white linen-suited Aubelin Jolicoeur, the model of Greene’s character Petitpierre, hovered: a celebrity in search of an audience. The sophistication was palpable.”

Isn’t it about time Ms. Harris wrote a full-out memoir? “My Soul Looks Back” (Scribner) is what we’ve been waiting for. Mind you, it contains a handful of recipes, but they are a kind of epilogue to each tale beautifully wrought before it. But no, this is 99 percent, flat-out autobiography, which is not to say that food isn’t sumptuously described as the saga unfolds.

Lots of celebrated faces run through Harris’ story, but two in particular make up the pivotal threads of the tapestry extending from the bohemian chic New York of the 1970s to France and England and Africa and back again. These two figures are James Baldwin and Maya Angelou. Ms. Harris had an elite African-American upbringing in Brooklyn, with a father from a hardscrabble Southern background, lifted by his own bootstraps, who insisted on an Ivy League education for his only child, from the U.N. International School in New York to Bryn Mawr. Her own status in a world of famous black artists had everything to do with her slow-cooked romance with player Sam Floyd, “master of revels” and best friend of James Baldwin.

Harris is humble about her own credentials in the fabulous circles into which she’s thrust, from glam parties to nights at the opera to jazz in seedy dives. It’s all about Sam Floyd, who knows everyone and whom everyone knows and loves. Eventually Sam’s brilliant “date” is taken to the bosoms of Baldwin, Angelou, and all the others, including Nina Simone, and all these folks, who are not only famous writers but also love to cook, provide the backdrop.

And there is also the culinary, cultural, and ethnic history that Harris — a professor of English at Queens College for decades, and still going strong — loves to feed on, pun intended. For instance, “The restaurant scene in New York in the 1970s was breaking away from the Gallic dominance and adding a note of fun.” With an opening gambit such as that, get ready for a bright mosaic of facts, from the Forum of the Twelve Caesars with wine in Roman helmets, to La Fonda del Sol that was “an exuberant splash of Latin American art and food that changed the palate of many New Yorkers, and showcased the food of the Hispanic world in ways that would take more than 20 years to repeat.”

But it’s not all luscious food and picnics in St.-Paul de Vence on the French Riviera, with side trips to Sonoma and Haiti, the West Coast of Africa, and much time in Paris. At the heart of the Harris/Floyd liaison is a dark secret, one that the memoirist herself doesn’t discover until her long-lost lover is lost mortally, and some things she never knew about him stand revealed.

As she does most summers, Jessica Harris resides in her gingerbread house with pink shutters, which her parents were canny enough to purchase in the 1950s. A number of talks and book signings will be scheduled locally, but buy the book now and spend some long, lazy summer days basking in Harris’ memories, such as watching old French men play boules in St. Paul: “I mused that it was nothing more than a game of marbles with bigger marbles and bigger boys. But I understood how it could be a major spectator sport, especially if viewed from the sunny terrace of a cafe while sipping a pastis or a glass of rosé de Provence.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Art gallery and museum listings: July 27-Aug. 2

All shows are free unless otherwise noted.


Archway Gallery: “Ninth Annual Juried Exhibition,” through Aug. 3; 2305 Dunlavy; 713-522-2409,

Barbara Davis Gallery: “Owen Drysdale and Rajab Ali Sayed: Swim,” through Sept. 2; 4411 Montrose; 713-520-9200,

BlueOrange Art: Matthew Kelly Debbaudt‘s “Motion Pictures,” through Aug. 11; 1208 W. Gray; 713-527-0030,

Catherine Couturier Gallery: “Jefferson Hayman: Things I Saw Without You,” through Saturday; 713-524-5070,

Cindy Lisica Gallery: “Fine Wind, Clear Morning,” through Sept. 2; 4411 Montrose; 713-807-7760,

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Clarke & Associates: “James Surls: Thought Wave – Drawings From Matter and Mind,” through Sept. 3; 301 E. 11th; 713-254-2998,

David Shelton Gallery: “Austin Eddy and Benjamin Edmiston: Walking to Work,” through Aug. 19; 4411 Montrose; 713-393-7319,

Deborah Colton Gallery: “Grayson Chandler: Tautologies and Memoirs,” through Aug. 19; 2445 North Blvd.; 713-869-5151,

DesignWorks Gallery: “A Selection of Gallery Artists,” through Aug. 31; 2119-A Postoffice, Galveston; 409-766-7599.

Gallery Sonja Roesch: “Jonathan Leach: Planes Drifter,” through Aug. 19; 2309 Caroline; 713-659-5424,

Gray Contemporary: “Robby Scott & Rebecca Braziel,” through Aug. 11; 3508 Lake; 713-862-4425,

G Spot Contemporary Art Space: “Vladimir Alexander,” through Sunday; 310 E. 9th; 713-822-4842,

Hiram Butler Gallery: “Apertures,” through Saturday; 4520 Blossom; 713-863-7097,

Hooks-Epstein Galleries: “Leamon Green: Is The Way Closed,” through Aug. 12; 2631 Colquitt; 713-522-0718,

Jonathan Hopson Gallery: “Coyote,” through Sunday; 832-819-2918,

Koelsch Haus: “Chris Hedrick: All Summer Long,” through Aug. 25; 801 Richmond; 713-862-5744,

McClain Gallery: “Mara Held: Errant Traveler,” through Aug. 31; 2242 Richmond; 713-520-9988,

Moody Gallery: “Flatbed Press: A Selection of Prints,” through Aug. 12; 2815 Colquitt; 713-526-9911,

Nicole Longnecker Gallery: “Harumi Shimazu,” through Aug. 19; 2625 Colquitt; 713-591-4997,

Redbud Gallery: “David Andrews: Rail Providence,” through Monday; 303 E. 11th; 713-854-4246,

Samara Gallery: “Maria Bordelon-Nelson: Carved and Woven Souls,” through Aug. 12; 3911 Main; 713-999-1009,

Sicardi Gallery: “Carlos Cruz-Diez: La Autonomia del Color,” through Aug. 24; 1506 W. Alabama; 713-529-1313,

William Reaves | Sarah Foltz Fine Art: “As Is Rural Realism,” through Aug. 12; 2143 Westheimer; 713-521-7500,

Zoya Tommy: “James Ciosek: Moth to the Flame,” through Aug. 26; 4102 Fannin; 832-649-5814,


Art Car Museum: “Literacy Through Photography: The FotoFest Writing and Photography Project,” through Aug. 13; 140 Heights; 713-861-5526,

Asia Society Texas Center: “Modern Twist: Contemporary Japanese Bamboo Art,” through Saturday, and “Sangram Majumdar,” through Sept. 10; $5; 1370 Southmore; 713-496-9901,

Blaffer Art Museum: “The Propeller Group,” through Sept. 30; 4173 Elgin, University of Houston; 713-743-9521,

Box 13 Artspace: The Center for Imaginative Cartography & Research’s “Through Here,” group show “Things We Used to Know” and a window installation by Melinda Laszczynski, through Sept. 9; 6700 Harrisburg;

Contemporary Art Museum Houston: “A Better Yesterday,” works by JooYoung Choi, Jack Early and Lily van der Stokker, through Sept. 3; “Atlas, Plural, Monumental: Paul Ramirez Jonas,” through Aug. 6; 5216 Montrose; 713-284-8250,

Galveston Arts Center: “Abhidnya Ghuge: Changing Perspectives” and “Burning Bones Press: Collective Pulse,” through Aug. 20; 2127 Strand, Galveston; 409-763-2403,

Houston Center for Contemporary Craft: “Edward Eberle Retrospective” and “Annie Evelyn: Multiple Impressions,” through Sept. 1; “Small Expressions,” through Saturday; 4848 Main; 713-529-4848,

Houston Museum of African American Culture: “The Magnificent Faith Ringgold,” through Sept. 25; 4807 Caroline; 713-526-1015,

Houston Center for Photography: 35th annual Juried Membership Exhibition, through Aug. 27; 1441 W. Alabama; 713-529-4755,

Lawndale Art Center: “The Big Show,” through Aug. 12; 4912 Main; 713-528-5858,

The Menil Collection: “Between Land and Sea: Artists of the Coenties Slip,” through Aug. 6; 1533 Sul Ross; 713-525-9400,

Museum of Fine Arts, Houston: “Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism, 1910-1950,” through Oct. 1; “Pipilotti Rist: ‘Pixel Forest’ and ‘Worry Will Vanish,’ ” through Sept. 17; “Ron Mueck,” through Aug. 19; “Homelands and Histories: Photographs by Fazal Sheikh,” through Oct. 1; $7.50-$23; 5601 Main; 713-639-7300,

Moody Center for the Arts: “David Scanavino: Repeater,” through Aug. 26; teamLab’s “Flowers & People …,” through Aug. 13; Rice University, 6100 Main; 713-348-4772,

O’Kane Gallery: “Windows on Death Row: Art Inside and Outside Prison Walls,” through Saturday; UHDowntown Visitors Center, 100 Main; 713-221-8042,

Station Museum of Contemporary Art: “Torture,” by Andres Serrano, through Oct. 8; 1502 Alabama; 713-529-6900,

University Museum: “2017 Citywide African American Artists Exhibition,” through Sunday; 3100 Cleburne, Texas Southern University; 713-313-7145,

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

‘The thrill of the hunt’: Vinyl enthusiasts drawn to ABC record sale