Fa’al Ali’s ILA Gallery the Newest Denver Hip-Hop Hub

Fa’al Ali, the owner of the soon-to-open street-art hub ILA Gallery, isn’t trying to be Denver’s next best curator. He’s a single father; an entrepreneur who started Eazy Media; a former owner of a co-working spot in Five Points; and a land prospector looking to grow hemp or hops in southern Colorado. But when he bought ILA Gallery, on the south end of the Art District on Santa Fe, his mission was clear: to provide a platform “for all my homies,” he says.

Those homies are movers and shakers of Denver’s thriving hip-hop scene — mostly graffiti and street artists, but also DJs, poets, chefs and other entrepreneurs.

Ali originally came to Denver for the snowboarding but stayed when he started hanging out with this crew of artists. When he was younger, his friends called him a “toy” — a term for someone who vandalizes with unskilled tags, a wannabe graffiti artist. His first connection to the scene was with Jolt, a notorious street artist who heads up the Guerilla Garden crew in Denver. The two immediately hit it off, forming a friendship that helped Ali find acceptance within the often territorial street-art scene.

An entrepreneur to his core, Ali put his passion for videography to use for the artists he was starting to hang out with. He replaced the spray paint and markers of his youth with cameras and editing software, creating everything from full-length documentaries for the Urban Arts Fund to recap videos for the street-art festival Crush Walls to small clips for personal social-media accounts.

ILA Gallery

ILA Gallery

Eazy Media

As the years went by, Ali started talking to his friends more about their needs as artists. “’We need to get paid’ — that’s what they were saying,” says Ali. “And so that became my goal this year: Get the homies paid.”

With that, ILA (pronounced “eela”) Gallery was born. The name is Ali’s last name backward, but it also stands for “I Love Art” and “I Live Authentic.”

“Mostly, it’s about authenticity,” explains Ali. “I would go to art shows all the time, and I would see my culture for sale, but I wouldn’t see us represented in the room. I felt that kinda made it corny or lack authenticity. … I want people of my culture — black people, brown people, anybody who gets a passport to the culture — to come and have a place that represents that. And I want them to make money off of it.”

Even though Ali just signed a four-year lease for the small gallery on January 6, the schedule of monthly exhibitions already stretches into April 2021. The main curator behind that jam-packed timeline is Lorenzo Talcott, a local arts advocate known for organizing shows at Dateline Gallery in the RiNo Art District.

Ali and Talcott have designed the space for fast turnovers between exhibitions. Following most of the rules of a white-cube gallery, it’s a no-nonsense space. But the dreams Ali and Talcott have for exhibitions will make it different from other contemporary art spaces in town.

ILA Gallery

ILA Gallery

Eazy Media

“I’m trying to empower my community. Being a black minority in Denver, I just want to empower everybody that I can but keep where I come from in the forefront of my mind and my business,” says Ali. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to teach people to appreciate art and use art as an investment and as assets. That’s what people with money do, and so we’re focusing on educating our community about that side of art.”

The first exhibition at ILA is all about black identity. “Fa’al wanted a black artist for Black History Month, to represent,” Talcott explains. So the curator invited Hiero Veiga — a Massachusetts-born, Miami-based artist who started his career painting graffiti in alleys — for a two-week solo show, from February 22 to March 6.

ILA Gallery

ILA Gallery

Eazy Media

Called “Uppity” Live in Color, the exhibit includes pieces that represent different people of color who have pushed the boundaries of their genres. Veiga’s skill with portraiture — although displayed worldwide on enormous buildings — transfers to smaller canvases beautifully. And “Uppity” Live in Color will allow fans of Veiga’s murals to buy something of his to take home.

“I want to have a place that’s safe for graffiti or street artists, but a lot of these guys are transitioning when they aren’t painting the streets,” Ali says. “But they get looped into that genre where it’s only graffiti, when they are so much more and have different ways of expressing themselves.”

The gallery’s schedule, which hasn’t been fully announced, will include works by regional artists including Casey Kawaguchi and New Mexico-based artist Jodie Herrera. The space will host other events, from a daytime party celebrating art, music and food to kid-friendly family gatherings and an event where artists give back to the community.

“Hopefully, we can put some art in people’s homes and put some money in people’s pockets and keep the vibe and authenticity of the culture and the scene and keep a stakehold in it before it gets completely taken away from us,” says Ali.

ILA Gallery, at 209 Kalamath Street, Unit 12, will be open from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays starting March 6. RSVP to this Eventbrite page for a sneak peek of work by Hiero Veiga from 5 to 10 p.m. on Saturday, February 22.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Joyce Scott: ACC Consummate Craftsman

By Jannette J. Witmyer
Special to the AFRO

“Validation” is the word that artist Joyce J. Scott says first comes to mind when asked how it feels to be recognized as the 2020 recipient of the American Craft Council Gold Medal for Consummate Craftsmanship, but she quickly discards that explanation as “just a word that pops up that people use in regard to things like this…”  

Then, after a moment’s reflection, she says with a laugh, “I think it’s more of a big old sloppy kiss and a hug from those that I’ve worked with and from those who see that what I’ve done came straight from my heart and was a culmination of all of those people who supported little Joyce all the way up to incredibly large Joyce.”

Artist Joyce J. Scott (Photo Courtesy of Joyce J. Scott)

Although she responds with humor, Scott is dead serious about the importance of the award, her work, and their realized and potential impact. Every two years, the American Craft Council recognizes a Fellow of the Council with the ACC Gold Medal for Consummate Craftsmanship, an award for a lifetime of achievements. After being nominated by the College of Fellows, the recipient is ultimately selected by the American Craft Council board of trustees. She knows that this award comes as recognition from her peers.

“For me to get this big hug from my colleagues… They watched me continually work, and they celebrate that part of my life with me because this is a celebration. It’s not only an honor being bestowed upon me, but it’s a celebration of craft and of those who make craft with me.”

Scott considers herself a craftsman and an artist, equally. She is clear in her valuation when speaking of the fields of crafts and art. “Some people don’t understand how profoundly necessary it is to be a good craftsman as well as a good artist. I consider them to be of equal worth,” she says and then explains, “I spring from a well, from a fount of African-American artists who were craft people, who were folks that not only made art because they understood the aesthetics of it but because of how functional it was. I’m proud of that.”

A large part of her appreciation for the award stems from her appreciation of the ACC’s role as an organization that helps to service and promote the art of craft. “It is important because not only do craftsmen want to learn, be together, and have their work shown, but it’s important because it helps retain the history of crafts, the knowledge and learning of crafts, the archiving of crafts… So, it is a repository, not only for what has happened in the past but as a learning instrument for the future,” she explains.

Always one to recognize and bring social implications to the fore, Scott also reflects on the importance of receiving the award as an African American and how it says to others that “the art that we do is of import as well.” 

“It can be seismic because we are going through a time in our society now all the “isms” are being challenged, and so my being a woman, and my being an African-American woman, an African-American woman who glows as an artist, an artist who is a craft person… All of these things are very potent. I know for me as a young person it would have been potent to see an African-American woman being lauded in this way.”

Scott, along with the other 2020 ACC Honorees, will be recognized, Oct. 24, during a formal ceremony at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Final plans are forthcoming. Additional information about the 2020 ACC Honorees and updates can be found at https://craftcouncil.org/post/celebrating-50-years-awards-honoring-distinction-craft-field.

February 21 – 23, 2020, the American Craft Council’s American Craft Show will be held at the Baltimore Convention Center, presenting the work of 600 craft artists. For additional information and tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/american-craft-show-baltimore-february-21-23-2020-tickets-83628638509.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

DCCC Employs Innovative Game Plan to Increase New Democratic Majority

Campaign Arm of House Dems Expanding Access to Ballot thru Legal Victories   

 “[We] know that voting is an essential right and that expanding access to ballot is good for our democracy,” said Cheri Bustos, who in her role as DCCC chairwoman, heads what serves as the sole official campaign arm of the Democrats in the House of Representatives. “This legal strategy is only more urgent as Republicans have been emboldened by President Trump’s baseless and dis-proven claims of voter fraud. We are working to remove barriers to the ballot box and throughout the cycle we are going to keep pushing this work forward. That means devoting serious resources to engaging voters, inspiring them and then making sure they turn out to vote in November.”

By D. Kevin McNeir, Washington Informer Editor@dkevinmcneir  

      With several Democratic presidential hopefuls bowing out of the race following lackluster results in Iowa and New Hampshire, those who remain have set their sights on scoring big in primary elections or caucuses in Nevada, South Carolina and the delegate-rich “Super Tuesday” showdowns (March 3) in their bid to challenge the Republican incumbent, Donald Trump, for control of the White House and Congress.

But their ultimate success, both in the primaries and General Election, may rest on the ability of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee [DCCC] – the official campaign arm of the Dems in the House – to rack up enough victories in pending or future voting rights litigation awaiting rulings in courtrooms throughout the U.S. so that voters backing the Democratic agenda can cast their ballots free of recent voter suppression tactics fueled by Republican legislators in Congress.

Cheri Bustos, who in her role as DCCC chairwoman, heads what serves as the sole official campaign arm of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, says their mission remains clear: to support Democratic candidates every step of the way, up and down the ballot, in their efforts to both fortify and expand the newly-forged Democratic Majority.

“[We] know that voting is an essential right and that expanding access to ballot is good for our democracy,” she said. “This legal strategy is only more urgent as Republicans have been emboldened by President Trump’s baseless and disproven claims of voter fraud. We are working to remove barriers to the ballot box and throughout the cycle we are going to keep pushing this work forward. That means devoting serious resources to engaging voters, inspiring them and then making sure they turn out to vote in November.”

Bustos notes that when it comes to the litigation, winning ballot access and similarly-related lawsuits which protect early voting days yield positive consequences well beyond the current election cycle of 2020, particularly for Blacks – still disproportionately disenfranchised despite both record-breaking numbers of Blacks elected to Congress and the landmark, two-term victory of Barack Obama as the nation’s first African American president. Thus, their efforts serve as critical civil rights work with the Democratic party leading the way.

     Initiatives Launched to Foster Dems’ Success in 2020  

Last Spring, the DCCC unfolded a multi-million dollar program, “March Forward,” which began with 60-plus field organizers in battleground states across the U.S. ahead of November 2020 – the earliest they’ve ever begun to engage Democratic coalitions as they attempt to take grassroots organizing to the next level. Following on the program’s positive results in 2018, field managers receive training in communications, digital, research and field tactics – all aimed toward executing more modern campaign strategies.

Since its inception, March Forward looks bring more Americans, in cities big and small, into the Democratic Party while continuing the DCCC’s heralded “Cycle of Engagement” – a program designed to foster greater voter registration drives within communities of color.

Bustos says March Forward continues to be an important step in the path to solidify and increase the Democratic Majority.

“As Democrats, we’ve always drawn our strength from the people we fight for each and every day… and our first major investment of the 2020 cycle [March Forward] puts boots on the ground in dozens of communities across America,” she said. “Whether it’s tackling the high cost of health care or fighting for fair wages, we believe in an America where everyone has the opportunity to succeed.”

As an example of their hard work, the DCCC recently celebrated a legislative victory in South Carolina, just ahead of the upcoming State primary, which opens access to the ballot for nearly one million unregistered voters, 400,000 of whom they estimate to be people of color.

A spokesperson for the DCCC said the next several weeks should be viewed as crucial in the organization’s year-long efforts to both solidify and increase the Democratic Party’s base of voters of color.

Late last month, Bustos, along with House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) and DCCC General Counsel Marc Elias, held a press conference during which they highlighted a legislative victory that should be celebrated by all Americans.

A collaborative effort initiated by the South Carolina Democratic Party and the DCCC recently led to the elimination of South Carolina’s requirement – one which they deemed as unconstitutional – that potential voters provide their full nine-digit Social Security number when registering to vote.

The lawsuit served as part of an eight-figure investment from the DCCC and DSCC in their collective battle to fight voter suppression laws across the country.

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The Bernie Bamboozle

 The Gantt Report

By Lucius Gantt

      No disrespect to Independent Democratic Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders but I disagree with his suggestion that all “billionaires” are basically alike and that wealthy, qualified Americans should not be allowed to participate in Presidential elections.

I say political candidate money doesn’t care who contributes it, doesn’t care who receives it and doesn’t worry about who benefits from the dollars.

Well, Bernie Sanders suggests that it’s a bad thing for the electoral process if so-called billionaires invest their own money to promote their own attempt to win an elected office.

Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Oprah Winfrey are said to be billionaires. Are they bad people? Would Oprah be a bad candidate for President?

Perhaps, but not necessarily because she has a lot of money.

Bad people make bad Presidents!

To suggest that all billionaires are like President Donald Trump is ludicrous and ridiculous.

Bernie rants and raves because one of his opponents, former New York Mayor and wealthy businessman Mike Bloomberg, has a ton of money and has been spending hundreds of millions of dollars on campaign advertising

Democratic Presidential candidates should be promoting themselves and their plans and their proposals and not taking pot shots at each other.

Don’t let Bernie Sanders, Mike Bloomberg or any other Presidential candidate trick you, trap you, hoodwink you or bamboozle you with lofty ideas about Medicare for all, free college and reduction of educational debts.

Government programs cost money and Presidents don’t make or pass appropriation bills. Congress passes appropriation bills. The President signs or vetoes money bills, unless you’re like Trump who takes money from designated sources, like the military, and uses it to build useless walls.

Remember, Bernie Sanders is an Independent running for President in the Democratic Presidential Primaries. Even if Sanders is victorious in the primary elections, will Democrats and/or Republicans in Congress vote to pass all of Bernie’s legislative proposals?

I think not. That won’t happen in a Hollywood movie!

Don’t believe the candidate hype. Candidates will always say what they think voters want to hear.

Usually, it will take substantial tax increases to fund the grand ideas proposed by Presidential candidates. I don’t mind paying higher taxes for better health care but you may not want to pay the government another dime to do anything without knowing exactly what you will get in return.

Another thing is how Presidential candidates go back 10, 20 or 30 years to find something distasteful that their opponents may have done to use.

Black people have to understand that all “major” candidates in the major political parties are in the loop.

People you love like Kamala Harris and Amy Klobuchar have prosecuted African Americans that shouldn’t have been charged. None of the Presidential candidates have hired Blacks in decision making and purchasing positions. None support reparations for Black families that were victimized by America’s slave trade. All Presidential candidates are in the loop. At the end of the day they will endorse each other but they won’t endorse their Black supporters.

Candidates care more about getting elected than they care about you.

My advice to you is take your time when evaluating candidates. Historically, Presidential campaigns have been permeated with false promises to African American citizens.

Candidates that look good from afar are oftentimes far from looking good.

Too many times we’ve had to go to voting booths to chose a fox or a wolf and no mater who we choose, Black people still end up in the canine dog house!

Time will tell the difference between Presidential contenders and Presidential pretenders!

And, FYI, only two candidates that I know have spent money on advertising with Black media outlets at the time this column was written, Donald Trump and Mike Bloomberg. Others are merely talking loud and saying nothing about how much they love Black voters.

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She Persisted unites Southern women of words and art

The South’s complicated history has, for better or worse, given rise to some of the most significant works of art and literature in the American canon. When considered together, they amplify one another and offer a fuller understanding of the complexity of human experience in the region. The Gibbes, in partnership with woman-owned bookstore Itinerant Literate, offers this multidisciplinary opportunity with She Persisted: Women of Letters and the American South, a literary counterpart to the visual works on display as part of ongoing visual arts exhibition, Central to Their Lives. These events focus on female creatives in particular, a nod to the centennial anniversary of women’s suffrage.

She Persisted is a singular event and a conversation with facilitator Julia Eichelberger, director of Southern studies at CofC; Nikky Finney, recipient of the National Book Award for Poetry; and Michele Moore, author of the Charleston-based novel The Cigar Factory. “I’m really honored to have been asked to talk about the literary counterparts to these visual artists and what women in the South have done and are doing to express their individual voices and interpret their lives in the region,” says Eichelberger. “This is a chance to put literature in conversation with visual art and be in a space together where we can talk about how important it is to find your own voice and to encourage the creative voices of others.”

During the event, a slideshow of select images from Central to Their Lives provides a backdrop to the conversation. All of these women, artists and writers alike, were confronting the same social landscape that held so tightly to traditional values. “That’s something that’s true of a lot of the women in this exhibit. They faced various challenges and barriers whether it was opportunities to go to art school and the time to produce art or what other people expected of them as women artists,” says Eichelberger. Their work gives visual context to the discussion of women’s literature from the early 20th century to the present.

Some of the South’s best literature comes from the inkwells of 20th century women like Eudora Welty, Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Walker, and Kate Chopin. Hurston and Walker were some of the first writers to give representation to women of color in literature, insisting that human value is more than skin deep. Their writing laid the foundation for writers like Finney who grew up in South Carolina in the midst of the civil rights, black power, and black arts movements. As stated on her website, Finney’s poetry addresses, “Black girl genius unrecognized, Black history misplaced and forgotten, and the stories of women who prefer to jump instead of ride the traditional tracks of polite and acceptable society.” Finney also takes a deep dive into the limitations placed on women’s sexuality and relationships.

Writers like Chopin and Welty grappled with traditional notions of white Southern womanhood. The antebellum South placed white women on a pedestal, prized for their femininity, delicate nature, and physical beauty. Chopin and Welty refused to view femininity through such a narrow lens. “These were writers who are inviting us to rethink what female identity means, looking beyond some of the social roles that were provided for women, and seeing that there’s a human being in there who may have inhabited that role but that there’s so much more to the person than that,” says Eichelberger. By rejecting this idealized version of womanhood, these women were also rejecting traditional Southern values and the notion of the Lost Cause, a mindset used to perpetuate slavery and racism in the South.

Welty, says Eichelberger, “was a forerunner for someone like Michele Moore because Welty was interested in giving voice to a lot of different characters and sort of getting inside their heads and letting readers see the fullness of their lives.” Moore’s novel, set in 1950s Charleston, tells the story of women who worked in the cigar factory, segregated by skin color on different floors but living parallel lives. The novel breaks the popular historical narrative by acknowledging the presence of a working middle class, much less the story of women within this group.

“We still haven’t really made up our minds as a culture regarding what it means to be a woman, or a man for that matter, and female identity is something that continues to be problematic for a lot of people,” says Eichelberger.

Attendees are welcome to view Central to Their Lives before or after the program. The Gibbes will be selling the exhibition catalogue and Itinerant Literate will be selling copies of The Cigar Factory, publications by Finney, and other relevant titles. Finney and Moore will also hold book signings.

She Persisted: Women of Letters and the American South

@ Gibbes Museum of Art

135 Meeting St.


Charleston, SC

When: Wed., Feb. 19, 6 p.m.

Price: $15/Members, $25/Non-Members, $10/Students and Faculty with Valid ID

Buy Tickets

Books + Poetry

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Cultural appropriation: don’t be an invader

Elvis Presley is a cultural icon known as “the King of Rock and Roll,” but upon his death in 1977, the African-American newspaper Chicago Defender contested that legacy: “Naw he ain’t… [African-American singer and songwriter] Chuck Berry is the King of Rock. Presley was merely a Prince who profited from the royal talent of a sovereign ruler vested with tremendous creativity. Had Berry been white, he could have rightly taken [Presley’s] throne and worn his crown well.”

The newspaper and others since have accused Presley and some of his peers of taking forms of black music – which were sidelined in a segregated US – passing it off as their own, and profiting from it. Presley is just one glaring example of something that has happened throughout history, but which has only recently been named: cultural appropriation. 

Today, the fault line found in Presley’s catalogue runs through every form of culture, from music to fashion to advertising. In the last of those sectors, the past year alone was rife with brands guilty of cultural appropriation. Marks & Spencer labelled a vegan wrap as biryani, while disregarding key elements of the Indian dish and even misspelling it as “biriyani”. Dior’s “Sauvage” fragrance and campaign were slammed for perpetuating harmful stereotypes of Native Americans. Gucci fell foul when it sold an “Indy Turban” headwrap for more than £600, ripping off the Sikh article of faith. 

These and numerous other errors have shone a spotlight on the problem of cultural appropriation in marketing and advertising. “We’ve reached a critical point where it’s on the radar, but sadly people are still getting it wrong,” Shelina Janmohamed, an author and vice-president for Islamic marketing at Ogilvy UK, says. Yet many brands are still misdiagnosing the issue, while failing to recognise the root causes in the creative industries. 

The term “cultural appropriation” first came into use in the late 20th century, amid discussions about multiculturalism and globalism, but the problem was identified decades earlier, when Harlem Renaissance writers in the US criticised the caricature of African-American voices and traditions in entertainment such as minstrel shows. 

Simply put, cultural appropriation is “when you take some elements of other cultures, you try to pass them off as your own, and you try to derive commercial benefit from it – without crediting the people who created that culture or letting them be at the forefront”, Janmohamed explains. “This is particularly exacerbated when the cultures that created it are denigrated for those same traits that are then celebrated.”

More of these clashes are arising in a globalised age and with the dominance of digital platforms, where ideas and content are sometimes shared without acknowledgement of the primary source. “We live in a time where nothing is original and nothing is being done for the first time,” Tarik Fontenelle, co-founder and chief research officer of strategic insight agency On Road, says. “We’re seeing more conflicts within that space day to day, but there’s a line here we need to acknowledge.”

While Presley and early 20th-century US entertainers may have escaped a backlash in their time, the world has changed, and it is now more difficult for perpetrators of cultural appropriation to go unnoticed. 

“The consumer has much more power. We call this generation the ‘call-out generation’ because we are very quick to be able to spot when that line’s been crossed,” Ollie Olanipekun, co-founder and creative director of creative agency Superimpose, says. “People who have been marginalised are now in positions to fight back. Now we have the platforms where our voices can be heard and we have influence.”

Olanipekun points to the popularity of social-media platforms such as Diet Prada, an Instagram account that exposes copycats and other failings in the fashion industry, including instances of cultural appropriation. 

This issue can become difficult to navigate in creative departments, which naturally seek inspiration from a wide array of sources. “We accept that someone has a great idea and you build on that, and that’s how advertising develops. The industry we work in is about creativity and that does mean adopting cultures and ideas that come from all around the world, and being on the cutting edge of trends,” Janmohamed says. “It’s reasonable for us to look at trends in cultures and how they develop.”

Roshni Goyate, co-founder and head of communications at The Other Box, an organisation aimed at increasing diversity in the creative industries, uses this analogy to understand how cultures can influence each other: “Culture is not Tetris blocks. It doesn’t have boundaries around it where we can say this belongs to me, therefore you can’t touch it. It’s more like a lava lamp – it’s moving and blending.”

However, the danger comes when money or profit enter the equation, and one cultural group tries to capitalise on another. That means advertisers, in the business of selling products and growing brands, should be on higher alert. “You’re making money off somebody else’s creative idea,” Janmohamed warns.

‘We call this generation the ‘call-out generation’ because we are very quick to be able to spot when that line’s been crossed’
— Ollie Olanipekun, Superimpose

The writer Nisi Shawl, in a 2004 essay about cultural appropriation, shared useful guidelines to steer clear of this. While she was addressing writers who wished to borrow others’ cultural tropes in literature, the same framework could be applied to brand marketing: are you acting as an invader, a tourist or a guest? 

Shawl explained: “Invaders arrive without warning, take whatever they want for use in whatever way they see fit. They destroy without thinking anything that appears to them to be valueless. They stay as long as they like, leave at their own convenience. Theirs is a position of entitlement without allegiance.”

M&S, Dior and Gucci are among the many brands that could be viewed by some as acting as invaders. One example from outside advertising illustrates the thornier aspects of cultural appropriation. Last year, the Russian electronic DJ Nina Kraviz faced an outcry after posting photos on social media of her hair in cornrows, which also drew attention to the name of her 2011 track Ghetto Kraviz; “ghetto” has been widely used as a derogatory term towards black people. Kraviz defended her choices but failed to acknowledge her privilege as a white woman. Also last year, a school in north London banned its female students, many of whom are black, from wearing cornrows, but quickly reversed the decision after a wave of criticism. 

“When those things are applied to black artists, you don’t get the same praise – you don’t get the luxury. When something is demonised when applied to one culture and then celebrated when used by a more dominant one, that’s the main crux of it,” Jumi Akinfenwa, music supervisor at music and sound agency Pitch & Sync, says. 

In Shawl’s explanation, “tourists” may be less destructive but come with their own pitfalls, just as travellers to a foreign country can be careless and annoying: “They’re generally a nuisance, but at least they pay their way. They can be accommodated. Tourists may be ignorant, but they can be intelligent as well, and are therefore educable.

“When first learning about and incorporating aspects of another’s culture, then, we ought to act like the best of all possible tourists: to stay alert and to be observant, watch for the ways our own background influences how we interpret our surroundings. We ought to remember that we have baggage. We ought to be prepared to pay for what we receive. We ought to be honest about the fact that we’re outsiders. And since we’re in an unfamiliar setting, we shouldn’t be ashamed of occasionally feeling lost. We ought to swallow our pride at such times and ask for help, ask for directions.”

Some brands have shown themselves to be decent tourists. O2 was one, when it launched a 2019 Rugby World Cup campaign that paid tribute to samurai culture. The theme made sense for the England Rugby sponsor, because of the tournament’s location in Japan and the fact that England’s coach, Eddie Jones, is half-Japanese and adheres to principles from the Bushido samurai code. But the campaign could easily have gone wrong if O2 and its agency VCCP had “aped stereotypes, which tends to perpetuate inaccuracies”, Julian Douglas, vice-chairman of VCCP, says.  

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The creative team consulted samurai experts during the making of the ad, down to every detail including the warriors’ armour. “Often where brands get it wrong is if they don’t involve people from whichever culture and if they’re not paying respect,” Douglas says. “There’s a difference between paying respect and homage to the culture, rather than trading off the back of it.”

More recently, Ikea stood out last year with a Christmas ad set to a track by grime MC D Double E. The campaign came soon after the Swedish retailer apologised for adding jerk chicken with rice and peas to its menu while failing to meet the basic qualifications of the Caribbean dish, by using garden peas instead of beans. But at Christmas, it did better, building cred by enlisting a pioneer of grime and handing him the reins to create a song in his original style. Ikea was conscious that the ad should not “make a mockery” of the genre, Kemi Anthony, the retailer’s UK and Ireland advertising manager, says. 

When D Double E first headed into the recording studio, “we agreed that he was still not being as true to himself as he could be. We thought, we brought you on for a reason so we want you to do what you do,” Anthony recalls. Ikea and its agency Mother collaborated with the MC by bringing in producers he knew, letting him freestyle and “making sure he wasn’t compromising anything”, she adds. 

Not “watering it down” actually gave the ad mass appeal, and it was celebrated by members of the public, press and grime fans alike, Anthony says. D Double E went on to debut the full-length track on BBC Radio 1 and make an accompanying music video. “An unsung hero came from this unlikely partnership not only intact but with a bigger platform than he had before,” Mother partner Hermeti Balarin says. 

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The lesson for other marketers, Anthony says, is to stay brave and authentic: “We had to do it properly and not be scared to embrace what grime is, or not do it at all. I didn’t want that halfway house.”

However, Fontenelle takes a contrarian view of Ikea’s ad, which shows a couple fixing up their flat after household objects come to life and mock them for its shabbiness. He applauds the music and craft but worries that “it drives home the politics of comparison, making you look at yourself and say: ‘I don’t have as nice stuff as my mates.’ That’s where culture can be used as a dangerous weapon against people who are engaging with it.”

Anthony contends: “‘Home shame’ is a thing; people do experience it. We were saying, actually your home is not as bad as you think it is, and with some easy fixes, it’s fine.” Yet the concern raised by Fontenelle shows how a brand acting as a cultural “tourist” can easily be misunderstood. 

According to Shawl, a tourist has the potential to turn into a guest, which is the best part to play: “Guests are invited. Their relationships with their hosts can become long-term commitments and are often reciprocal.”

In marketing, Nike epitomises the role of a good guest. Realising that it had lost touch with London’s youth culture, three years ago the brand turned to Fontenelle’s company On Road to conduct research. “They came to us and said: ‘We just want to learn.’ They set up five or six hypotheses and not a single one was right. They were, like: ‘Yay, we’re wrong,’” Fontenelle says. “That’s a real lesson: you need to learn when someone’s telling you you’re wrong about something.”

What resulted from that lesson is one of the most lauded UK campaigns in recent years: Nike’s “Nothing beats a Londoner”. A big reason that the ad was so loved and able to speak to the heart of London’s youth was that it involved many of those same kids in the creative process. “You can see it in the trueness of the campaign and the way people reacted to it and connected with it. It really reflects them and is in their voice,” Fontenelle says.

In fact, the ad in 2018 was just the beginning of a five-year commitment that Nike made to support young Londoners. Since then, it has signed multi-year partnerships with youth sports organisations such as London Youth Games and Virgin Sport in Hackney, and it is transforming retail spaces, including its Shoreditch shop, into community centres. At a time when many young people in the capital are being vilified in the media, Nike is championing their entrepreneurship and creativity. 

“I want that to be the standard for all companies – working naturally within culture and finding a true exchange of cultures,” Fontenelle says.

But Nike is still an exception among brands, not the rule. Cultural appropriation missteps expose a deeper problem in advertising and marketing. “Our industry has a woeful underrepresentation of people from diverse backgrounds,” Janmohamed says. “Even when they are there, there isn’t a culture where those views can be properly heard and addressed.”

When attempting to borrow from other cultures, Janmohamed warns against “wandering down the corridor and picking your local woman of colour or your nearby Muslim man, thrusting something in front of them and saying: ‘Is this alright?’. That disrespects the professional expertise that is needed.”

‘When something is demonised when applied to one culture and then celebrated when used by a more dominant one, that’s the main crux of it’
— Jumi Akinfenwa, Pitch & Sync

Before starting his own agency, Olanipekun was put in that position numerous times. “I was wheeled out as the cultural guy, the guy who was ‘down’. Sometimes it would be a topic on the West Indian community, and I’m, like, my parents are from Africa, that’s quite far from Jamaica. That was very prevalent,” he recalls. “But when it came to celebrating me internally and giving me those promotions, they were not interested.”

Through her work with The Other Box, Goyate has found that the “emotional labour is still falling on minority communities to do the vocalising. It shouldn’t be that way.”

She adds: “All you can do is say, that Indian or black person we’ve hired, are we giving them opportunities across all of the projects, accounts and briefs? That adds a level of nuance rather than just reductive stereotyping and borrowing. Companies should be looking at this from a holistic point of view – it needs to be about long-term behaviours. What are they doing to help the communities in which they operate or make sure their company culture is inclusive?” 

As long as a lack of diversity persists, so will cultural appropriation. “It’s always going to be an issue as long as the world is out of tilt. That’s the harsh reality,” Olanipekun says. 

Yet there is a hunger for new cultural icons and stories – it is evident everywhere from the reception of an underground grime MC to the London kids who became the beloved stars of a Nike ad. 

“For far too long we’ve had our stories whitewashed or not been able to tell our own stories,” Olanipekun says. “Now all of these marginalised groups are saying: ‘Why are you talking for me?’”  

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

A Democrat to ‘make the trains run on time’?: Don Pittis

Whether in a business bureaucracy or in government, there are few higher compliments than saying someone is a safe pair of hands.

The characterization does not imply that the person so described is perfect; it simply means they have proven themselves to be one of that rare and valuable group in any organization that tends to not drop the ball.

As U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg heads into his first chance to debate tonight, he has many strikes against him. Like the current U.S. president, he is a plutocrat — an even richer multibillionaire who has run in the past as a Republican.

But as the U.S. seems mired in confusion under the unpredictable stewardship of U.S. President Donald Trump, it may be that Bloomberg’s greatest political asset will be the public impression that, by whatever means, he will bring order to the chaos, particularly when it comes to economic growth.

Tyrannical efficiency?

The prospect of some kind of tyrannical efficiency to ensure the U.S. economy is on stable footing going forward might not persuade supporters of current Democratic front-runner Bernie Sanders. He has called the stop-and-frisk policies Bloomberg defended during his tenure as New York mayor racist, saying they caused “African Americans and Latinos to live in fear and humiliation.” 

Bloomberg’s candidacy has unleashed a storm of outrage from the left of the Democratic Party, which declares he is using his personal wealth to buy power.

There are also self-described moderates who reject him. Among some who have said they will support whichever Democratic candidate wins the nomination, Bloomberg remains a deal-breaker.

“I have given it very serious thought, and while I would happily vote for Elizabeth Warren, grudgingly vote for Joe Biden or Amy Klobuchar, or secure an entire bottle of Southern Comfort to get sufficiently hammered to vote for Pete Buttigieg, I will not vote for Mike Bloomberg in November if he is nominated,” wrote Ryan Cooper in an article in The Week titled “Mike Bloomberg is Not the Lesser of Two Evils.”

To those who feel the U.S. is now so close to the kind of social transformation proposed by candidates like Warren and Sanders that they can taste it, Bloomberg — who previously killed a hike in minimum wage despite currently running in favour of one  — is a would-be destroyer of dreams.

A recent New York Times commentary saying “Bloomberg Is Right About the 2008 Financial Crash” threw the candidate into the middle of a ferocious debate that highlighted how he blamed the government’s liberalized mortgage rules for the 2008 credit crisis, rather than predatory lending and absurd derivatives created by irresponsible financial institutions.

Pile-on in Vegas

Perhaps at tonight’s Democratic debate he will try to extricate himself.

No one will be surprised if the Las Vegas bun fight — for which Bloomberg just qualified after a rule change to allow self-financed candidates to participate — is a pile-on by all the other candidates, pointing out not just his similarities to Trump, but the idea that the presidency is not for sale to the highest bidder.

Bloomberg is joining fellow 2020 candidates on the debate circuit, including from left: former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former vice-president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Seen as a candidate ultimately in favour of the existing system that made people like him rich, Bloomberg clearly identifies with the markets chronicled by the Bloomberg News agency that he forged to dominate other leading business-information services.

There is no question that in business, he was a success.

Stable genius

Despite the fact that unemployment has reached some historic lows and markets have risen from peak to peak under Trump, for some, the feeling persists that all is not well in the United States — a place where a book titled with the Trump self-description A Very Stable Genius is understood to mean the exact opposite.

There is a theory that at times of uncertainty what the electorate wants are not specific solutions to its specific problems, but rather a leader with a strong hand.

“It looks for the man on the horse — the strong man,” pollster Frank Graves once told me.

That was the theory that brought rightist governments, including Italy’s Benito Mussolini, to power. Amidst the chaos of the 1920s, popular lore now has it that Mussolini was seen as the leader with a firm hand who could “make the trains run on time.”

Despite many articles in which the authors are falling over themselves to deny that fascism was a success in making Italian trains efficient, the term persists in the collective imagination as the idea that strong leaders create efficiency and success.

But as with the title of that Stable Genius book, the expression comes with a second meaning, reminding us to beware what we wish for.

For those who have watched Trump and his administration dismantle the structure of global trade, discredit venerable U.S. institutions, such as the FBI, the foreign service and the Justice Department, and generally disrupt the conventions of the White House, it is tempting to imagine a new pair of safe, business-proven hands on the tiller.

Then New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg with New York Police Department Commissioner Ray Kelly at an Aug. 12, 2013, press conference in the wake of a court ruling declaring the ‘stop and frisk’ policy unconstitutional. The controversial policing practice was brought in under Bloomberg’s predecessor, Rudy Giuliani, but he defended it during his tenure as an effective way to drive down the crime rate. (Brendan McDermid/Reuters)

Those hands have built up a giant corporation from scratch. As a three-term mayor, they brought increased order to the pandemonium of New York City, including its transit system — although some say at too high a cost for the city’s minorities. And they have conjured support for an economic green transition to fight climate change.

But should the power of the U.S. presidency end up in such seemingly safe hands, Democrats may feel they will not get many important changes that they thought were finally within their grasp, from health care to greater equality and fairness.

So the fear remains that they might instead end up with a candidate more concerned with business efficiency and the welfare of people like himself than someone worried about the hopes of ordinary voters.

And perhaps right on schedule, tonight’s debate will reveal more.

Follow Don on Twitter @don_pittis

African American her-story: Author talks new book on history of black women in America


Author and historian Daina Ramey Berry came to Pitt to discuss her new book, “A Black Woman’s History of the United States,” on Tuesday.

Author and historian Daina Ramey Berry came to Pitt to discuss her new book, “A Black Woman’s History of the United States,” on Tuesday.

Image via University of Pittsburgh

Author and historian Daina Ramey Berry came to Pitt to discuss her new book, “A Black Woman’s History of the United States,” on Tuesday.

Image via University of Pittsburgh

Image via University of Pittsburgh

Author and historian Daina Ramey Berry came to Pitt to discuss her new book, “A Black Woman’s History of the United States,” on Tuesday.

The conference room fell silent as Aliya Durham spoke an African proverb before introducing author and historian Daina Ramey Berry.

“Until the lions have their historians, tales of the hunt will always glorify the hunter,” Durham said, hinting at the motivation for Berry’s newest work. 

Faculty, students and community members gathered on Tuesday afternoon to hear Berry discuss her new book, “A Black Woman’s History of the United States. The event was held in the Cathedral of Learning as a part of Pitt’s ongoing K. Leroy Irvis Black History Month celebration’s series of events.

The event drew more than 50 attendees and was also livestreamed to Pitt’s Bradford campus simultaneously. Pitt is the first school to host Berry to talk about her new book, which she co-authored with Wesleyan professor Kali Nicole Gross, since its publication in early February. As such, Durham, an assistant professor and director of community engagement for Pitt’s School of Social Work, began the event by discussing Berry’s many accolades as well as the cultural and historical significance of Berry’s newest book.

Berry currently holds the George W. Littlefield Professorship in American History at the University of Texas at Austin as well as serving as the associate dean of the UT Austin Graduate School. She has authored four other books and is a specialist on slavery, gender and the history of black women in the United States.

“A Black Woman’s History of the United States”  is a collection of stories from the lives of black women throughout U.S. history that have overcome injustices and helped to shape the history of our country. The book primarily focuses on women whose stories have been largely forgotten or ignored by historians and seeks to make these women’s voices heard.

Berry explained why she thinks many of these historical stories have been largely overlooked by popular history.

“People have not really cared about black women’s stories, and don’t realize that we were visible and a part of many historical movements, not just the ones in the 1960s,” Berry said.

In the book, Berry and Gross retell the history of the United States through the experiences of black women in different time periods and analyze how these stories have been documented throughout history, ranging from the 17th to 21st centuries.

Berry, Gross and a team of scholars carefully read through the manuscript to fact-check and provide feedback to make sure the stories included in the book were as accurate as possible.

Berry read some select passages from the book at the event, as well as some extra stories that were not included in the final manuscript. One of the stories she discussed was of Isabel de Olvera, who is thought to be the first black woman to step foot on U.S. soil. Olvera was a free woman of African and Indian descent living in Mexico who in the late 1500s petitioned to join an expedition to the “New World” but, suspecting she might face prejudice for her race, boldly stated in her petition — “I demand justice.” However, Berry and her team were unable to confirm whether she successfully joined the expedition — they only knew she made the petition.

“Just like most of the stories here, sometimes black women appear as a flash in the historical record, and then have nothing else after that,” Berry said. “I don’t know whether or not she made it, we assume she made it, but this is just part of the challenge of doing African American women’s history.”

Another story Berry shared was of Millie and Christine McCoy, a pair of black conjoined twins born in America in 1851 to an enslaved mother. Because of the twins’ condition, they were stolen away and sent to Europe to be put on display. Following the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, their mother traveled to Europe to find them. After three years, she was successfully reunited with her daughters after spotting them at one of their shows. Berry wanted this story to convey the struggles of a black mother who was powerless to prevent being separated from her children.

“We tried to tell their story from the mother’s perspective, so the reader can think about what it’s like to have a child that’s taken away from you that has a physical body that is much different from most,” Berry said.

Berry emphasized the importance of telling these stories because of the lack of societal acknowledgement of the impact that black women have had on U.S. history.

“Telling these stories is important because you’ll learn about aspects of American history that you would not have learned about otherwise,” Berry said. “We add character and shape and sometimes the story before the story — black women were there and present, but they did not get their accolades for doing the things they were doing historically.”

Edoukou Aka-Ezoua, a project support coordinator for the Child Welfare Workforce Excellence Fellows Program in the School of Social Work, shared her thoughts on the importance of telling these stories of black women whose voices have not been previously heard.

“I think it’s important because history has always been told in a certain way, by certain people,” Aka-Ezoua said. “In order for us to understand history and understand these systems of oppression, it’s important to center the voices of those who have always been pushed to the margins. Black women’s history is a good example of what it looks like to center the experiences of individuals who have been fighting to have a voice and share their experiences for a very long time.”

After discussing several passages from her book, Berry answered the audience’s questions about different aspects of the history of black women and how their stories have been told. After the short Q&A, she gave out copies of the book to attendees and did a book signing.

Berry shared what she ultimately wants readers to take away from her book after reading it.

“First, that African American women have contributed to American history in ways that have been previously overlooked and ignored,” Berry said. “And second, that the women we write about just want to be respected and to be acknowledged. That’s it.”

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Brit Awards 2020: main winners of the night

The build-up to the Brit Awards was overshadowed by criticism of the lack of female nominees

Rapper Dave took home the most coveted prize from the Brit Awards, but singer Lewis Capaldi totted up the most gongs.

The build-up to the annual awards show was overshadowed by criticism of the lack of female nominees in mixed gender categories, with just four women named in 25 spots — all loosing out to men.

Twenty-one year-old Dave took home best album for his first offering Psychodrama, which addresses black identity and institutional racism, and topped the country’s music charts last year.

Here are the main winners of the night:

  • Album of the year — Psychodrama by Dave
  • Best British male — Stormzy
  • Best British female — Mabel
  • Best new artist — Lewis Capaldi
  • Best song — Someone I Loved by Lewis Capaldi
  • Best British group — Foals
  • International female — Billie Eilish
  • International male — Tyler the Creator

The Brit Awards have recognised the cream of British music since they were first held in 1977, but have often been peppered with scandal and farce.

The disproportionately male shortlists come despite the Brits’ voting academy undergoing a major overhaul in 2017 to make it more gender balanced and diverse, with hundreds of new members joining the nominating pool.

But while women were under-represented in the awards, black artists dominated the nominations in ‘best album’ and ‘best male’.

British artists account for an eighth of album sales worldwide, according to figures from BPI, which represents the British music industry.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

London rapper Dave wins big at male-dominated Brit Awards

Twenty-one year-old Dave took home best album for his first offering
Twenty-one year-old Dave took home best album for his first offering “Psychodrama”, which addresses black identity and institutional racism and topped the UK music charts last year.

LONDON: Breakthrough London rapper Dave won the top gong at a male-dominated Brit Awards on Tuesday after delivering a politically-charged performance at British pop’s biggest night.

The build-up to the annual awards show was overshadowed by criticism of the lack of female nominees in mixed gender categories, with just four women named in 25 spots — all loosing out to men.

Twenty-one year-old Dave took home best album for his first offering “Psychodrama”, which addresses black identity and institutional racism, and topped the country’s music charts last year.

He earned a standing ovation at London’s O2 Arena for his performance of the album’s standout track ‘Black’, to which he added a new verse accusing prime minister, Boris Johnson, of being a “real racist” and calling out the press treatment of Prince Harry’s wife Meghan Markle.

Dave’s rival in the nominations, indie newcomer Lewis Capaldi, beat him to the awards for best new artist and best song for “Someone You Loved”

Glasgow-born Capaldi is riding high after his debut album, “Divinely Uninspired To A Hellish Extent,” became Britain’s best-selling album of 2019.

But both Capaldi and Dave lost out on the best British male award to leading grime artist Stormzy, who delivered an explosive set that involved rain, firecrackers and more than fifty people on stage.

Collecting his award, he paid tribute to the women he works with.

“To be the best male, I have got the most incredible females in my team,” he said.

Billie Eilish has licence to thrill

Other winners included teenage sensation Billie Eilish, who won best international female solo artist and performed her new James Bond soundtrack during the ceremony.

The 18-year-old had been up against Lizzo, Ariana Grande, Camila Cabello and Lana del Rey.

“I felt very hated recently,” she told the audience, after having revealed she no longer reads social media comments.

“When I was on stage and I saw you guys all smiling at me it genuinely made me want to cry and I want to cry now.”

“No Time To Die” has already racked up nearly 26 million views on her YouTube channel, capping a remarkable few weeks for the singer who is the youngest artist to record a Bond track.

The Brit Awards have recognised the cream of British music since they were first held in 1977, but have often been peppered with scandal and farce.

The disproportionately male shortlists come despite the Brits’ voting academy undergoing a major overhaul in 2017 to make it more gender balanced and diverse, with hundreds of new members joining the nominating pool.

But while women were under-represented in the awards, black artists dominated the nominations in ‘best album’ and ‘best male’.

British artists account for an eighth of album sales worldwide, according to figures from BPI, which represents the British music industry.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment