Merrick, Roger to be honored by ADL in New Orleans

The Anti-Defamation League South-Central region, based in New Orleans, announced that Robert Merrick and Arthur Roger will be this year’s ho…

The Anti-Defamation League South-Central region, based in New Orleans, announced that Robert Merrick and Arthur Roger will be this year’s honorees at the A.I. Botnick Torch of Liberty Award Dinner.

“Award recipients are people who care not just about themselves today but about the children and grandchildren of tomorrow,” says Michael Botnick, former ADL regional board chair and selection committee member. “They care about the greater good and translate that caring into action, they strive to build a brighter future in which all people share the fruits of democracy.”

“Robert Merrick and Arthur Roger are powerful leaders, who have huge footprints in our community,” said Jonathan Lake, ADL South-Central regional board chair. “Their steadfast dedication to equal access and LGBTQ rights have made New Orleans a better place for everyone, and their leadership keeps New Orleans as a cutting-edge city and pace-setter on many civil rights issues.”

The award will be presented at the annual A.I. Botnick Torch of Liberty Award Dinner at the Hyatt Regency on Dec. 5. Merrick’s dinner chairs are Joseph Exnicios, Richard “Rick” Hasse, Alan and Sherry Leventhal, and Hardy Fowler. Roger’s dinner chairs are Timothy Francis, Jack Sullivan and Marc Behar. Tickets are available here or by contacting the local ADL office at (504) 780-5602.

The New Orleans ADL office covers a territory including Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas.

Merrick formed his own company in 1973 and then, in 1986, purchased Latter & Blum, Inc./Realtors, one of the largest and oldest full-service real estate companies in Louisiana. After this initial acquisition, he acquired numerous brokerage firms and incorporated a mortgage firm, a title company and insurance agency.

In 2015, Merrick was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans. In the same year, he was honored as the Distinguished Citizen of the Year by the Southeast Louisiana Council of the Boy Scouts and as the New Orleanian of the Year by Gambit Magazine.

In 2014, he became the first Louisianan to join the United Way Million Dollar Roundtable, a national membership reserved for million-dollar donors. In 2005, the American Red Cross named him the Humanitarian of the Year.

Merrick has served as the campaign manager for the United Way of Southeast Louisiana and the March of Dimes. He has served on Business School advisory boards at the University of New Orleans and University of Louisiana at Lafayette, and as a board member for the Ruth U. Fertel Foundation, Boy Scouts of America, Salvation Army, and WYES-TV, among others.

Merrick is also committed to the higher education of his employees’ and associates’ children, granting 15 scholarships each year. This scholarship fund has now granted over $500,000 to these young adults.

“Bob is truly a visionary leader, who has helped Louisiana grow. His example inspires us to do the same,” said ADL Interim Regional Director Lindsay Baach Friedmann.

Roger is the owner and director of the Arthur Roger Gallery, located in the Arts District of New Orleans. A native of New Orleans, Roger worked in art galleries in the French Quarter while attending high school and college. In 1978, he opened his gallery on Magazine Street, establishing a national and local reputation as the director of a leading New Orleans art gallery and for his efforts supporting emerging female artists, African-American artists and artists from the LGBTQ community.

In 1988, Roger moved the gallery to its current home on Julia Street. After Hurricane Katrina, Roger played a pivotal role in the revival of the visual arts scene in New Orleans and now has a second studio — Arthur Roger@434 near his Julia Street gallery.

Roger has served on numerous boards and commissions, including the Greater New Orleans Foundation, Contemporary Arts Center, Louisiana Children’s Museum, The Ogden Museum of Southern Art, and The Mayor’s Arts Commission, and as an officer in the New Orleans Arts District Association. He originated Arts Against AIDS, benefitting NOAIDS Task Force, and played a leading role in Halloween in New Orleans, the principal fundraising event for Project Lazarus.

In 1995, Roger received the Paul Plauche Award for fundraising. Among other honors, Roger received the Young Leadership Award in 1994, the Junior Achievement Role Model in 2009, and the Human Rights Campaign’s Equality Award in 2016. This year, he donated paintings, drawings, photographs and sculptures from his personal collection to the New Orleans Museum of Art, which are currently on display in the Museum’s exhibition “Pride of Place: The Making of Contemporary Art in New Orleans.”

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Study: African Americans Have Higher Health Risks From Petroleum Pollution. API: Blacks Have Different Genes

Fossil Fuels

Published on November 24th, 2017 | by Steve Hanley

November 24th, 2017 by  


When in doubt, blame the victim.

A study conducted by the NAACP and the Clean Air Task Force finds that African Americans are more likely to suffer from cancer and links that result to living close to oil and gas production facilities. 1 million African Americans live within half a mile of oil and gas operations and another 6.7 million live in counties with refineries.

In the executive summary, the report states, “The life-threatening burdens placed on communities of color near oil and gas facilities are the result of systemic oppression perpetuated by the traditional energy industry, which exposes communities to health, economic, and social hazards. Communities impacted by oil and gas facility operations remain affected due to energy companies’ heavy polluting, low wages for dangerous work, and government lobbying against local interests.” The report continues, “Many African American communities face an elevated risk of cancer due to air toxics emissions from natural gas development. The air in many African American communities violates air quality standards for ozone smog.”

The API Responds

“Pishtosh,” says the  American Petroleum Institute. In the most recent edition of Energy Tomorrow, an online publication of the API, Uni Blake retorts, “I’ve read an NAACP paper released this week that accuses the natural gas and oil industry of emissions that disproportionately burden African American communities. As a scientist, my overall observation is that the paper fails to demonstrate a causal relationship between natural gas activity and the health disparities, reported or predicted, within the African American community.”

Blake may be correct. There is no “smoking gun” in the report. But even casual observers will note the similarities between Blake’s response and the dismissive comments made by the tobacco industry for more than two generations when people tried to suggest that breathing billions of puffs of cigarette smoke during a lifetime might not actually be a good thing for the human body.

Genetics, Not Pollution

Let’s call this a draw, shall we? Just another “he said, she said” during the world’s slow journey along the highway to Hell. In today’s culture of, “It’s not a crime if you can’t prove it,” both sides could declare victory and leave the field. But the API just can’t leave well enough alone. Blake takes that fatal next step. “[S]cholarly research attributes those health disparities to other factors that have nothing to do with natural gas and oil operations,” she writes, “such as genetics, indoor allergens and unequal access to preventative care.” Yup. Black and brown people have different skin pigmentation than whites which proves they have a different genetic makeup. The fault is not in their stars, dear Brutus, but in themselves.

Blake buttresses her claim by citing a study from 2005 conducted by the Asthma and Allergy Foundation and the National Pharmaceutical Council entitled “Ethnic Disparities in the Burden and Treatment of Asthma,” which states, “Household surveys have identified a maternal history or other family history of asthma as a leading risk factor for childhood asthma, highlighting the hereditary component of asthma morbidity… It seems reasonable to hypothesize that the greater burden of asthma among U.S. populations with a significant African ancestry (specifically, the black and Puerto Rican populations)… is somehow related to African genes — or to a combination of African and European genes.”

There it is in black and white (no pun intended). A scientific study that says genetics are responsible for poor health among people of color. Blake, however, commits the cardinal sin of those who cherry pick their quotes to support their positions. She fails to faithfully report the entire quote upon which her argument is founded. “However, most of the evidence to date seems to indicate that the explanation lies elsewhere, in socioeconomic and environmental disparities, in behavioral or cultural differences, and in access to routine health care,” that report concludes.

Shorter Life Expectancy In Louisville

We dealt with precisely this issue recently in a story about a health initiative in Louisville, Kentucky that seeks to lower air pollution in a city surrounded by industrial activities that include several fossil fuel facilities. That plan of action stems in part from research showing that the life expectancy of residents living closest to the source of Louisville’s air pollution live eleven years less than those who reside in other neighborhoods. The ethnic makeup of those poor communities? Predominately people with black or brown skin.

The one factor neither side is talking about is the inverse relationship between poverty and power. Poor people don’t have the political muscle to fight back when industry and governments decide to plunk down another refinery, pipeline, or tank farm in the middle of their community. Often, the siting decision is made based on the knowledge that residents won’t be able to stop it. Lack of power begets abuse by the powerful and invites more of the same.

A Note From A Real Scientist

If Uni Blake wants to put her scientific chops on display, she might find the following article by Kenneth Olden in The Scientist nearly 20 years ago instructive. Entitled “The Complex Interaction Of Poverty, Pollution, Health Status,” Olden’s piece includes this illuminating paragraph:

“While behavioral and lifestyle factors, nutrition, and access to health care services are important contributors to the increased morbidity and mortality among socioeconomically disadvantaged populations, environmental and occupational exposures — over which these individuals have little control — are likely to play a prominent role.  Where one lives and works is less a matter of choice than a result of one’s socioeconomic status. Thus, people in the lower socioeconomic strata are more likely to live in the most hazardous environments and to work in the most hazardous occupations, a fact that would be reflected in greater health risks.” (See original text for citations).

Perhaps Ms. Blake is incapable of searching the scientific literature prior to 2005 or perhaps her scientific training is inhibited in some way by who signs her paycheck. You decide.




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“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” Elie Wiesel







Ten African American College Students Named Rhodes Scholars

Ten African-American college students have won a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship, more than at any other single time in the scholarship’s 115 years in the United States, a Rhodes Trust official announced Nov. 18.

The scholarship, considered one of oldest and most famous awards for international study for Americans, covers all expenses and offers stipends for two or three years of postgraduate study at the University of Oxford in England. The total value of the scholarship averages $68,000 a year.

The 10 African-American winners include Fairfax native Simone Askew, a senior at the United States Military Academy. She is the first African-American woman to become the Brigade Commander of United States Corps of Cadets, the top leadership position which manages the performance and development of 4,400 cadets at West Point. Her thesis centered on rape as a tool of genocide and mass atrocity. She will study evidence-based social intervention at Oxford.  

JaVaughn T. “JT” Flowers of Portland, graduated from Yale University with a degree in political science. As a Truman Scholar at Yale, he compiled a thesis that investigated gaps in Portland’s sanctuary city policy for undocumented immigrants. He also played varsity basketball and spent time in an organization that supports low-income students in their academic and professional lives. Flowers, a first-generation college student, returned to Portland after graduation to work in Democratic U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer’s field office. At Oxford, he will study comparative social policy.

Thamara V. Jean, a senior at Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College, is the school’s first Rhodes Scholar. The Brooklyn native is the daughter of Haitian immigrants, according to NBC, and completed her senior thesis in her junior year on the Black Lives Matter movement that was later published in The Journal of Politics and Society. After that, she did research in the Harvard African-American Studies Department on 1960s-era Black nationalism. She will study political theory at Oxford.

Harvard College Senior Tania N. Fabo of Saugus, Massachusetts, was born in Germany to Cameroonian parents and is an immigrant in the U.S. She’s spent her college career researching cancer and is president of the Harvard Society of Black Scientists and Engineers. She will study oncology at Oxford.

Chelsea Jackson, of Lithonia, Georgia, is a senior at Emory University where she is a Truman Scholar, cofounder of the Atlanta Black Students United and helped revive the campus NAACP. She will study criminology and criminal justice at Oxford.

The 32 American winners were drawn from 866 applicants who were endorsed by 299 colleges and universities. The University of Maryland, Baltimore County was one of four institutions to have a winner for the first time.

The diverse class of winners includes African and Asian immigrants, Muslim, Asian and Latino Americans, and a transgender man.

“This year’s selections—independently elected by 16 committees around the country meeting simultaneously—reflects the rich diversity of America,” American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust Elliot Gerson said in a statement. “They plan to study a wide range of fields across the social sciences, biological and medical sciences, physical sciences and mathematics, and the humanities.”

The Americans will join Rhodes Scholars from 64 other countries at Oxford next October. The trust will select about 100 Rhodes Scholars worldwide.

The scholarship was created in 1902 by the will of Cecil Rhodes, a British philanthropist and mining magnate who has been called an architect of apartheid—making the selection of this year’s unprecedented number of African-American recipients all the more important. Despite Rhodes’ personal history of White supremacy and aggressive British colonialism, the scholarships which bear his name have earned a legacy of their own as one of the academic world’s most important achievements.

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Colin Kaepernick tours African American Civil War Museum in Washington on Veterans Day


Former NFL player Colin Kaepernick, museum founder Frank Smith and two Civil War reenactors at the African American Civil War Memorial & Museum in Washington, D.C., on Sunday. (Roy Lewis)

Hey isn’t that . . . former NFL quarterback (and the man who launched a leaguewide protest) Colin Kaepernick at the African American Civil War Memorial & Museum on Veterans Day?

Early Saturday, Kaepernick, who appears on the cover of GQ magazine’s December issue as “Citizen of the Year,” got a private tour of the museum by its founder, Frank Smith, before it opened to the public. The pair spent about an hour walking through the museum’s “Civil War to Civil Rights” exhibit. Afterward, the athlete participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at the memorial, which pays tribute to the more than 200,000 African American veterans of the Civil War.

“I wanted to pay homage and acknowledge our forgotten heroes,” wrote Kaepernick, who’s been accused of “disrespecting” the American flag and the U.S. military by critics including President Trump, in an Instagram post featuring video of the trip. The 30-year-old free agent sparked a larger movement last season as the first NFL player to take a knee during the national anthem in a silent protest of racial injustice.

Last year Kaepernick pledged to donate $1 million to organizations working in “oppressed communities.” In his Instagram post, the athlete wrote that some of those funds had been allocated to Black Veterans for Social Justice, an organization that provides “program services to assist military personnel making a smooth transition from active duty to civilian life,” according to its website. The former NFL player’s donation had been used to assist with job placement and housing.

“It’s amazing to see the courage and dedication of the veterans that fought for this country only to come home to continue fighting for their rights,” continued Kaepernick, who led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl in 2013 and has accused the league of colluding to keep him off the field since last season.

There’s no word yet on why Kaepernick was in Washington this weekend (we’re told he had a personal tour guide) or if the athlete/activist is still hanging around town.

The Morning News: It’s Thanksgiving, Guns Are Now More Easily Available Now, Shooting Inside Chop Suey, and Seattle “Teacher of the Future” No Longer Has One

Chowing down on Thanksgiving.

Chowing down on Thanksgiving.

THANKSGIVING: Some people are celebrating, some people are mourning, some people are telling you to get offline, and this asshole is violating the emoluments clause and enriching himself.

RACIST PRESIDENT ALWAYS RACISTING: “Let’s be clear about this: President Trump regularly goes out of his way to attack prominent African Americans not just to ‘stoke the culture wars,’ as this euphemism often has it—but, more precisely, to stoke the sense among many of his supporters that the system is unfairly rigged on behalf of minorities, and that he’s here to put things right,” Greg Sargent writes at the Washington Post.

RACIST PRESIDENT ELECTED BY RACIST GOP BASE: Adam Serwer’s new piece at The Atlantic about Trump’s base—the GOP’s base—is required reading. Read it out loud to your conservative/racist uncle at dinner tonight? And speaking of racist uncles: Mike Pesca unpacked the conservative/racist uncle trope on The Gist yesterday in another brilliant end-of-show spiel. Listen here.

RACIST CERAMICIST STILL RACISTING: Charles Krafft is a terrible human being.

WHITE HOUSE WATCH: Melania Trump touches stuff.

FBI: WHAT WE NEED ARE MORE BAD GUYS WITH GUNS: “Tens of thousands of people wanted by law enforcement officials have been removed this year from the FBI criminal background check database that prohibits fugitives from justice from buying guns,” the Washington Post reports. “The names were taken out after the FBI in February changed its legal interpretation of ‘fugitive from justice’ to say it pertains only to wanted people who have crossed state lines. What that means is that those fugitives who were previously prohibited under federal law from purchasing firearms can now buy them, unless barred for other reasons.”

SHOOTING ON CAPITOL HILL LAST NIGHT: “Two people were shot in the arm Wednesday night after a fight broke out at night club in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood,” KOMO reports. “Police got calls about 9:45 p.m. about shots fired inside the Chop Suey night club in the 13000 block of East Madison Street.” Capitol Hill Seattle has updates and pics. This isn’t the first time there’s been a shooting inside Chop Suey.

ARMED AND TIMOROUS: “Three days after the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history, I fired a handgun for the first time,” begins Sean Nelson’s excellent feature in this week’s paper. Pick up a print copy of The Stranger or read it here. A taste:

When I got the gun home, I stared at it, held it, pondered it, and tried hard to think of it as mine. There it was, undeniably owned by me, in all its clunky, boxy, Glocky glory.

Sitting there on my kitchen table, unloaded but next to a box of bullets, it was almost as though the gun was pulsating. The center of gravity in the room changed unmistakably. It was now a room with a gun in it.

As I loaded the magazine with bullets (a bit of a squeeze, PS), I literally flinched as I imagined misfiring. What if one of these little brass and lead numbers went out the window and hit someone waiting for the bus across the street, or went through the wall and hit one of my neighbors, or went across the room and hit one of my dogs? How many lives could be ended, and how many more ruined, all because of this ugly L-shaped tool?

SAVE THE INTERWEBS: “The Republican-helmed Federal Communications Commission is expected to pull the plug on net neutrality rules in three weeks,” reports NBC News. April Glaser explains it all for you at Slate: “If the move goes through as expected, that means that by the end of January, internet providers like Comcast and Verizon will be allowed to charge websites to reach users at faster speeds, essentially slowing down access to websites that can’t afford those fast-lane prices—a tiered internet that the current rules preclude.” You know who wants to end Net Neutrality? Putin. Here’s a petition you can sign to save Net Neutrality. And then we can all get back on the phone Friday—because we’ve got to save health care and stop Trump’s obscene tax cuts and protect the elephants and block voter suppression. At this point we should all just call our representatives and never hang up.

TAX THE RICH: “Seattle’s income tax on people making more than $250,000 annually violates state law and is therefore invalid, a King County Superior Court judge ruled today,” Heidi Groover reports. An appeal is planned.

HOUSE OF CADS: The streaming network moved quickly after Kevin Spacey was accused of sexual assault, canceling one film and firing Spacey from House of Cards. Critics are wondering why the network hasn’t taken any action against Danny Masterson, who has been accused of rape by four different women and has a series in production at Netflix. And this happened yesterday:

In a recorded phone call obtained by HuffPost, Jenni Weinman, the longtime publicist of actor Danny Masterson, suggested to one of the four women accusing Masterson of rape that a woman who is in a relationship with a man can’t claim that man raped her. In that conversation, Weinman remained unfazed when presented with accusations that her client had raped women while they were unconscious.

And religion, as always, is here to make things worse:

Chrissie Bixler was a Scientologist at the time [of the alleged rape]―as Masterson was and still is―so she filed what’s known as a knowledge report to the Church ethics office. One of the key policies of the Church of Scientology is that a Scientologist must never report another Scientologist to law enforcement. (They’re also not allowed to sue fellow Scientologists.) Filing a police report would have led the Church to declare Bixler a suppressive person―a harsher form of excommunication that would have required any Scientologist to immediately “disconnect” from her. Bixler filed the knowledge report with the Church, but was told by Church officials that what happened to her couldn’t be considered rape because she was in a relationship with Masterson. She says the Church repeatedly threatened her to stay silent, and that in 2002 it coerced her, under the threat of being declared a suppressive person, to sign an agreement releasing Masterson from any claims, including palimony.

LOCAL TEACHER ARRESTED ON CHILD PORN CHARGES: Seattle Academy’s 2015 “Teacher of the Future” allegedly “morphed” his students faces into pornographic images. He admitted to authorities that he used school computers to download child porn after a relative turned him in. “Cronin said he never inappropriately touched kids, but told investigators that he fantasized about students he works with,” King5 reports.

ARMPIT OF THE DAY: American Ballet Theater principal dancer Roberto Bolle. And a little something for the foot fetishists. And why isn’t ballet a porn genre?

WHAT’S THE AXING PRICE? Got $800K laying around? You could live in Lizzie Borden’s house.

DEEP FAT FRYERS: So if we all eat more fries—and more deep-fried Twinkies—we can save the planet?

UPSCALE DENVER COFFEE SHOP IN TROUBLE: To gentrify a neighborhood may be regarded as a misfortune, to joke about it looks like callousness.

LAST-MINUTE TURKEY PREP TIP:

Trump tweets ‘Make America Great Again’ to racism op-ed

President Donald Trump is enjoying a working vacation this Thanksgiving, with the Commander-in-Chief kicking off the holiday by posting a few tweets from Mar-a-Lago on Thursday morning. His first tweet came at 6:28am, with President Trump informing his … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

Morning Report: Ex-Councilman Uses Prison Stint as an Entrée Into Chicano Fiction

Ralph Inzunza with his book “The Camp.” / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Former Councilman Ralph Inzunza is out with a new novel about the life of prison inmates, and the main character is the spitting image of Inzunza, who spent time behind bars.

Inzunza was an inmate at a federal prison camp from 2012-2013. He was found guilty in “strippergate,” the notorious scandal in 2003 that led to three councilmen being charged with accepting campaign contributions in exchange for supporting proposed strip club regulations.

In a Q-and-A with Inzunza about the book, VOSD contributor Randy Dotinga asked the author about his doppelgänger main character, an inmate nicknamed “El Mayor” who has no regrets about the illegally raised campaign funds that led to his prosecution and prison term.

In his response, Inzunza made it clear that while he’s moved on, it doesn’t mean he’s admitted guilt.

“I fought the charges for nine years because I felt that I was innocent,” Inzunza said. “But when I lost, I surrendered.”

Inzunza also grades the current city leadership, talks about his plans to continue writing Chicano fiction and tells Dotinga that the main reason he wrote the book was to highlight shortcomings of the criminal justice system.

“Locking up Americans for 10, 15 or 20 years for nonviolent drug sales is nuts,” he said.

Solving the Empty Storefront Problem

In a perfect world, developers would build buildings with commercial space on the bottom and floors of housing on top.

Urbanist types think these kind of “mixed-use” buildings are the bee’s knees. The street-level commercial space helps keep the sidewalk feeling busy and alive, plus the businesses can cater to the needs of the people living above and help build a sense of community.

Problem is, a lot of the commercial space in the new mixed-uses buildings going up in neighborhoods where there isn’t a lot of foot traffic are left vacant. Developers simply can’t find anyone who wants to rent them out.

Earlier this year, I wrote about how leaders in southeastern San Diego are worried that the wave of new mixed-used projects being built there will simply replace old empty storefronts with new empty storefronts.

The vacant storefront problem has become widespread enough that city leaders are now considering softening requirements that say the bottom floor must filled by commercial tenants, the Union-Tribune reports. The change could allow developers to lease out the space as ground-floor housing instead.

San Diego Social

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher had a tense exchange on Twitter with Omar Passons, the attorney and one of the candidates to replace Ron Roberts on the County Board of Supervisors. Gonzalez Fletcher is married to Nathan Fletcher, who is running against Passons. It started after a Passons supporters criticized Nathan Fletcher for this tweet. It didn’t let up.

Gonzalez Fletcher went after Passons for representing short-term vacation rental hosts in policy debates on the issue. Passons expressed regret for supporting Nathan Fletcher in the past and hit the Democratic Party for supporting Fletcher over other diverse candidates.

• VOSD’s Andrew Keatts is well known for his misinformed takes on food, so his Twitter followers were pleasantly surprised when he accurately stated that stuffing is, in fact, the best Thanksgiving dish.

Del Mar Opts for Watered-Down Sea Level Rise Plan

One way to deal with sea level rise is a a “planned retreat,” or managed retreat where cities relocate buildings, houses and other infrastructure threatened by flooding and erosion.

Folks who own seaside homes aren’t big fans of that strategy, though, since it threatens their home values.

In this week’s North County Report, Ruarri Serpa covers how Del Mar’s latest draft of a sea level rise adaptation plan is missing the previously included option for “planned retreat.”

Also in Serpa’s roundup of news from the north: It’s been a hell of a week for the Escondido Country Club, Rep. Darrell Issa votes against the GOP tax plan and more.

Surfers Sick of Getting Sick From Sewage

Surfrider San Diego plans to begin routine testing of coastal waters, citing ongoing frustration among South Bay residents with the county health department’s response to cross-border sewage spills. Surfrider said it was awarded a grant to do water-quality tests at a high school in Imperial Beach and at its offices in Coronado. Anti-sewage activists say the county missed a chance in late October to pin toxic waters off the American coast on sewage spilled at a treatment plant on the Mexican side. Mexican officials deny a spill occurred.

Some environmental groups, including Surfrider, have historically done water-quality tests of their own for various reasons, but this is a new effort.

In a separate matter, the county – and the city of San Diego – are declining to test river water for hepatitis A despite worries among politicians that surface water may have been spreading the infection. Public health officials don’t believe that is how the recent hepatitis outbreak began or spread, but I’ve met a few people who are seeking money to do their own independent testing of creeks, rivers or bays in the area.

– Ry Rivard

Quick News Hits

• Last year, the city launched a new public records portal called NextRequest. It makes putting in a public records request fairly easy, but a review by the U-T Watchdog team found that people are waiting an average of 19 days to get responses.

• Buried in one of the federal tax reform bills is a ban on tax-exempt bond financing for sports facilities shared with professional sports teams. The Union-Tribune’s Roger Showley calls the measure “a poison pill that could complicate the financing for a new Aztec stadium.”

• A new exhibit curated by the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art highlights the work of eight black artists who’ve impacted San Diego’s art scene. (Union-Tribune)

• You’re going to have to click through a disgusting photo of a cockroach to get to it, but the Union-Tribune has listed 12 restaurants the county has repeatedly cited and closed down for major health violations.

• The Reader warns folks to be wary of statistics when it comes to pitches to expand the Convention Center.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

An overview of the history of South African art

South African art has always taken on the unique flavour of the country, from the 4 000-year-old cave paintings of the San Bushmen – the richest collection of rock art in Africa – to the homegrown conceptual art movement that sprang up as apartheid came to an end in the 1990s.

(Image: Google Images)

Brand South Africa reporter

The 4 000-year-old gallery

San Bushman rock painting in the Drakensberg range of mountains. (Image: Drakensberg Tourism)

The San Bushmen, Africa’s oldest hunter-gatherers, lived in the massive Drakensberg range of mountains from 4 000 years ago until they were driven out by colonialists in the 19th century. Over that time, they created a vast body of art on the walls of caves and rock shelters – the largest and most concentrated group of rock paintings in sub-Saharan Africa.

This rich collection prompted Unesco to inscribe the Drakensberg as a mixed natural and cultural world heritage site in 2000. The paintings, Unesco said, “represent the spiritual life of the San people” and are “outstanding both in quality and diversity of subject”.

“The San people lived in the mountainous Drakensberg area for more than four millennia, leaving behind them a corpus of outstanding rock art, which throws much light on their way of life and their beliefs,” Unesco said.

“The authenticity of the paintings, and their shelter and cave settings, as a reflection of the beliefs of the San peoples, are without question.”

Colonial art

‘Elephants Charging over Quartos Country’ by 19th century artist Thomas Baines (Image: Wikipedia)

During the early colonial era, white South African artists tended to concentrate on depicting what they saw as a “new world”, in accurate detail. Artists such as Thomas Baines travelled the country recording its flora, fauna, people and landscapes – a form of reporting for those back in the metropolis.

Towards the end of the 19th century, painters Jan Volschenk and Pieter Hugo Naude and the sculptor Anton van Wouw began to establish a locally rooted art. Their work – the first glimpse of an artistic vision that engaged with life as lived in South Africa – marked the moment the country began to acquire its own national identity, with the 1910 Union of South Africa marking the formal end of the colonial era.

The 20th century and apartheid

‘An extensive view of farmlands’ by 20th century South African artist Pierneef. (Image: Wikipedia)

In the first decades of the 20th century, the Dutch-born painter JH Pierneef brought a coolly geometric sensibility to the South African landscape; he also, in a way that fed into Afrikaner nationalist ideology, found it bereft of human inhabitants.

By the 1930s, two women artists, Maggie Laubscher and Irma Stern, brought the techniques and sensibilities of post-impressionism and expressionism to South African art. Their bold colour and composition, and highly personal point of view, rather scandalised those with old-fashioned concepts of acceptable art. Yet younger artists such as Gregoire Boonzaier, Maud Sumner and Moses Kottler were rejoicing in this new spirit of cosmopolitanism.

The apartheid years (1948-1994) witnessed a great diversity in South African art – ranging from landscape painting to abstract art. There was engagement with European and American currents, but also a fiercely local sense of what it meant to be an artist in this country during troubled times.

Inevitably, black artists were largely neglected. It was left to white artists, endowed with training, resources and supportive galleries, to build a corpus of South African art.

After World War II, returning soldiers and some immigrants brought European ideas to the local art world. In the 1940s, Jean Welz, for instance, born in Austria in 1900, brought a detailed, nuanced and sophisticated style to still lifes, portraits, nudes and landscape paintings. Maurice van Essche, born in Belgium in 1906, applied the modernist techniques of his teacher Matisse to specifically African subject matter.

Impact of African forms

‘Mantis Man’ by 20th century South African artist Walter Battiss. (Image: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, African forms themselves began to have an impact on the work of white artists. An awareness of art forms ranging from those of the ancient Egyptians to San Bushman rock art increasingly influenced South African artists from the 1950s onwards.

Walter Battiss, for one, had developed an interest in rock art long before he became an artist in the 1930s. Until his death in 1982, Battiss returned repeatedly to the motifs and styles of San rock art. In Symbols of Life (1967), for instance, San-type figures and patterns become stylised into a kind of symbolic alphabet.

Other artists found different ways of interacting with the visual stimuli of Africa, whether by adapting its outward forms or finding ways to incorporate its textures into the work.

Alexis Preller, for instance, created fantastically detailed canvases influenced by the European surrealists of the 1920s and 1930s. Beginning in the late 1940s, Preller painted African scenes and themes such as The Kraal and Hieratic Women, but these were not realistic portraits of African life: instead, they were reinvented by Preller’s startling visual imagination.

Cecil Skotnes, by contrast, took a leaf from Picasso’s book – the European art revolution instigated by the great Spaniard had, in part, been generated by his appreciation of African masks. Skotnes became South Africa’s master of the woodcut, bringing European modernism into fruitful collision with African styles.

Meanwhile, a host of white artists were engaging with the South African landscape in interesting ways – though such formalism was increasingly criticised during the struggle against apartheid for its detachment from the political situation.

Emerging black artists

‘Song of the Pick’ by 20th century South African artist Gerard Sekoto. (Image: Wikipedia)

By contrast, black artists such as Gerard Sekoto and George Pemba concentrated on depicting their realities and environments in a direct, though forcefully expressionist, manner.

From the 1930s onward, Sekoto portrayed urban African life in places such as Sophiatown and District Six, vital and tumultuous hotspots of an emerging though unacknowledged black culture.

In Sekoto’s works of the early 1940s, such as Street Scene, bustling African figures are placed in the context of their often denuded environment, while Yellow Houses (the first work by a black artist bought by the Johannesburg Art Gallery), reduces the human presence, focusing instead on the environment itself. In Song of the Pick, naturalism gives way to severe stylisation: a rank of workers wield picks in unison, forming a powerful image of African labour; a white overseer’s figure is dwarfed, even threatened, by this phalanx of diggers.

In 1947, Sekoto left for Paris. Illness and intermittent impoverishment meant that his work never again reached the heights it had in South Africa.

George Pemba, by contrast, stayed in the township of Motherwell near Port Elizabeth, living into his 90s and patiently continuing to paint despite the lack of public acclaim. His often naively styled work focused on the simple lives of poor black people, humbly and sometimes humorously evincing their fundamental humanity, though he also treated themes such as the story of the Xhosa prophetess Nongqawuse of the 19th century.

Increasingly, and inevitably, black artists began to give voice to a political sensibility that left behind the realist depiction of township life. Lack of resources meant that many had to rely on media other than oil-painting, but making a virtue of necessity gave added force to their work. Dumile Feni (known as Dumile), for instance, became a master of drawing, often in ballpoint pen.

Dumile’s sense of anger and despair fed into work of extraordinary power; his distorted figures seemed to have been physically deformed by the very forces of society. Called “the Goya of the townships”, he painted his own version of Picasso’s Guernica, a cry of pain at human suffering. Dumile went into exile in 1968 and died in New York in 1991.

Black artists such as Azaria Mbatha and John Muafangejo also made striking use of the accessible and relatively cheap medium of the linocut. In the 1980s and 1990s, artists such as William Zulu, Vuyile Cameron Voyifwa, Cyprian Shilakoe and others extended linocut work into what has become practically a subgenre of its own.

The outsiders’ view

‘The Rice Lady’ by Vladimir Tretchikoff. (Image: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, the idiosyncratic Jackson Hlungwane, discovered by the mainstream community only late in his life, produced a vast body of sculpture in wood and built environments expressing his own highly individual religious world. It contains a multitude of creatures both mythical and real, as well as a large cast of characters.

In this he has something in common with another “outsider artist”, Helen Martins, who obsessively peopled her small-town home – known as the Owl House – with sculptures of concrete and found objects, up to her suicide in 1976.

Yet South Africa’s most successful “outsider” artist is perhaps the Russian emigre Vladimir Tretchikoff, who developed a distinctive style in which arch sentimentality was rendered with virtuoso formal exactitude.

Tretchikoff had considerable commercial acumen, turning paintings such as The Dying Swan and Chinese Girl (also known informally as The Blue Lady) into prints and selling millions around the world. To the post-modern eye, Tretchikoff’s work, long scoffed at as the peak of kitsch, now has a distinctive ironic charm.

From the 1960s on, many South African artists responded to developments in American and British art. The severe yet sensual work of Cecily Sash showed the impact of post-painterly abstraction and later “op art”; the playful surfaces of Helmut Starke and Kevin Atkinson opened the dialogue with pop art.

A wide range of styles and modes were now available to South African artists, and the likes of Judith Mason and Andrew Verster extended the traditions of oil painting into personal expressions of life, society and the world around them.

Apartheid in crisis: 1970s and 1980s

‘The Conservationists Ball’ by William Kentridge. (Image: Wikipedia)

As the apartheid state became more repressive in the 1970s and 1980s, many artists faced the harsh realities of South African life, sometimes obliquely, sometimes head-on.

In the early 1980s, for instance, Paul Stopforth made a series of works dealing with police torture – the cause of the death of resistance heroes such as Bantu Steve Biko. And Robert Hodgins satirised figures of power in paintings that turned leaders into sinister but laughable echoes of Alfred Jarry’s mad king Ubu.

In paintings, lithographs and sculpture, Norman Catherine developed the playful sensibilities of Walter Battiss into a disturbing private menagerie of threatening and threatened theriomorphs and larger-than-life human figures.

The crowded collages, pastels and charcoals of Helen Sebidi spoke of the struggle of human life; her figures seem to battle upwards, towards the picture plane, as though they were drowning.

William Kentridge used expressionist drawings and highly developed personal metaphors, symbols and characters to expose the hypocrisies and ironies of white South African life. More recently, he has employed his powerful drawing technique in “animated” films and installations, and the set design of Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

Penny Siopis tackled femininity and history in dense, allusive paintings, and in installations, photographs and other conceptual works.

In the 1980s, “resistance art” was increasingly recognised as a genre of expression directed at the white elite’s oppressive exercise of power. For example, trade union posters and T-shirts used imagery that had something in common with the Russian constructivists as well as African art. And anonymous artists placed images of state violence (or bewildering dream reflections) at traffic intersections.

Conceptual art of the 1990s

‘The Butcher Boys’ by Jane Alexander. (Image: Flickr)

Conceptual art in South Africa seemed to come into its own in the 1990s. Events such as the two Johannesburg Biennales (1995 and 1997) contributed to a new dialogue between local artists and currents from other countries. Media such as video, performance and installation took the place of painting.

Jeremy Wafer, for instance, used photography, earth, and fibreglass sculpture to tackle issues such as borders and boundaries.

The complex installations of Sue Williamson used found and reworked materials to speak of memory and history. Sandile Zulu made paintings out of the unpredictable marks of fire on surfaces, or created sculptural tableaux from natural materials.

Even refuse was turned into suggestive assemblages and collages by Moshekwa Langa. Steven Cohen made drag into a form of sculpture-performance that addressed identity and marginality, while Kendell Geers interrogated the very process of artmaking itself.

Other artists put a conceptual spin on traditional artforms: Jane Alexander, for example, took sculpture into new realms with disturbing figures that place the human form in extremis or subject it to frightening transformations, while Jo Ractliffe worked with photography to investigate personal and familial memory, death, decay and love. Hentie van der Merwe also used photographs, taken or found, to talk about the body in an age of HIV/Aids.

Crafts: the reinvention of tradition

An example of traditional Ndebele beadwork. (Image: Wikipedia)

While the “high art” continues to blossom in South Africa, the market for crafts has expanded to include every possible form of traditional artwork.

There is a host of work in traditional media on the market. Artists are constantly developing the repertoire of African crafts – from intricate and near life-size beaded wire sculpture to tableware, ornaments and embroidered cloth, to stunning costume jewellery, welded cast-iron objects, folk painting and more.

At the same time, the status of the traditionally anonymous maker of craft works is changing: “folk art” has made inroads into “high art”. For example, in the 1990s the work of late ceramicist Bonnie Ntshalintshali went well beyond the confines of traditional African pottery, yet her exquisite creations could conceivably still be used at the dinner table.

The Ndebele tradition of house-painting exploded with the advent of commercial paints, giving rise to artists such as Esther Mahlangu, whose adaptations of the highly coloured geometric designs adorned everything from cars to aeroplanes.

Notwithstanding the appearance of celebrity “folk artists”, ordinary craft continues to thrive – the main examples being beadwork, pottery, basketry and wooden carving.

*Images updated November 2017

Source: Wikipedia, Art Times website, Art Africa magazine

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