Art of Cool Fest offers mix of free programming

— The Art of Cool Project’s fourth annual festival is poised to be its biggest yet. Taking over downtown Durham this weekend, the event will feature headliners Common, George Clinton and Revive Big Band.

You don’t necessarily need a ticket to enjoy this celebration of progressive jazz and alternative soul music. A plethora of free programming is also offered Thursday through Sunday.

Here are some of the free events you should check out:

Thursday

Durham A-Z: J is for Jazz Opening Party at Museum of Durham History – J is for Jazz, the tenth installment in Durham: A-Z, explores a piece of the rich history of jazz in Durham. These local jazz studies programs at North Carolina Central University and Duke University, coupled with an enthusiastic community, provided students with performance opportunities and experience both in and out of the classroom.

The President’s Party with Empire Strikes Brass at The Blue Note Grill – The force is strong with Empire Strikes Brass. With the capability to perform as a full 10-piece stage band or 6-7 piece combo lineup, add DJ Push/Pull for an electronic set or take you to New Orleans by transforming into a true second line parade, ESB’s versatility allows them to adapt to virtually any party setting imaginable.

Friday

Black on Black Art Exhibit Reception at American Tobacco Campus’ Reed Building – “Black On Black” is an exhibition where curators of color asked artists of color to share their thoughts on identity in their own voice. Black on Black features 10 North Carolina-based artists of color and includes paintings, video and mixed media.

Saturday

30 years “Paid in Full” at American Underground – A fireside chat on the impact and creative process of the classic hip hop album “Paid In Full” by Rakim and Eric B.

The Science of Cool at American Tobacco Campus – The North Carolina Science Festival will present live science shows on a stage in the Cage at ATC. Come see some amazing feats of science, try volunteering for an experiment and learn about some truly “cool” science involving liquid nitrogen. On top of watching a live show, you will have the rare opportunity to ask scientists any questions you can think up. Bee Downtown will also host a show.

Parents Just Don’t Understand at American Underground – Whether you are looking to hire a younger workforce or just trying to get your kid to take out the trash, this session is for you. Branding specialist Tru Pettigrew offers millennial insights.

F.A.M.E. at American Underground – This panel discussion will celebrate the intersection of fashion, art, music and entertainment. Domo Jones, chief strategy officer at Medium PR, and Raleigh Denim’s Sarah Yarborough are among the speakers.

Who Sampled? at American Underground – Take a journey with the lessons in jazz crew as you revisit classic records of yesteryear and their contributions to today’s hits. Kevin “The Moose” Anderson and Montez “The Whiz” Martin of Lessons in Jazz/WHOV-FM host.

Equity and Entrepreneurship at American Underground – Sherrel Dorsey, the founder of The PLUG, a daily tech newsletter, and Tia Bethea, the community impact manager at Google Fiber, are among the panelists who will be discussing the important roles organizations play in ensuring that access to opportunities are equally distributed.

Jus Once Band at The Stack at American Tobacco – The Jus Once Band was formed in 2003 through the vision and leadership of Santonio Parker. The band has become one of the hottest and most demanding in the area. Jus Once has performed with national artists such as Chrissette Michele, Mint Condition, Con funk shun, Dougie Fresh, Next, 112, Dej Loaf, Arrested Development, Zapp, Sunshine Anderson, Carl Thomas and Atlantic Starr just to name a few.

VR Vault at American Underground – This is an interactive demo of the latest 360 and virtual reality platforms in sports, music and culture. Speakers include LEVR Studios’ creative director and producer Mike Cuales and Lucid Dream CEO Johsua Setzer.

Sunday

The Beats Dusk ‘Til Durham at The Durham Hotel rooftop – Now in its ninth year, The Beast is an innovative and electrifying hip hop and jazz ensemble known for pushing creative boundaries and dynamic collaborations.

Get the full schedule for Art of Cool 2017

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Dion Waiters’ “Damn” Article Is Winning The Internet And Turning Haters Into Fans

Dion Waiters has always been loved [and hated] for his on-court attitude, but now everyone is cheering for him.

Today, Waiters became the latest athlete to pen an article for Derek Jeter’s The Players Tribune where professional and retired athletes get to tell their own stories in their own words.

His piece, “The NBA Is Lucky I’m At Home Doing Damn Articles,” talks about the time he spoke with Miami Heat general manager and Hall of Fame coach Pat Riley. Before joining the team, he had a sitdown with Riley in his office where they had an in-depth talk. Some of it was about a basketball, but most if it was about life. In the heartfelt essay, Waiters talked about growing up in Philadelphia and dealing with the type of stuff his friend and fellow Philly representer Meek Mill raps about.

Both of Waiters’ parents had been shot by the time he turned 12. He lost one of his best friends, Rhamik, to gun violence while he was away flourishing as a basketball player at a Connecticut boarding school. In addition to the darker stories, Waiters also spoke about how playing alongside LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook earlier in his career has motivated him to want to get on their level. He also spoke at length about his friendship with Durant and the time he hit a game-winning shot against the Golden State Warriors and hit his now classic pose.

The thing people are loving most about the piece is how it sounds like it’s really his voice, Philly swag and all.

We gave ’em everything they could handle. We weren’t scared. I saw right away how Kev was playing me, like he was daring me to shoot the ball. I told him, “Bro, I’m feeling good. You see the last four games? Y’all in for a long night.”

We’re talking trash like we’re playing 1-on-1 back in OKC.

Fourth quarter, 10 seconds left. Tie game. I got the ball in my hands with the game on the line, and I already knew what was gonna happen. F*** an overtime, let’s get up outta here.

What’s the analytics on that?

That’s a W.

Then I hit ’em with the pose.

Waiters’ wrote an equally emotional piece last year when his younger brother was shot and killed.

Here’s how people are reacting.

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Stealth sisterhood: I look white, but I’m also black. And I don’t hate Rachel Dolezal

On a hot, humid New York City morning in 1980, I stood with my mother in the checkout line of an A&P supermarket near our home. As she pushed our groceries along the cashier’s belt with me trailing behind, mom realized she had forgotten her wallet at home, but she had her checkbook. Leaving me standing alone in the line for a moment while she saw the manager to have her check approved, the clerk refused to bag our groceries and hand them to me. She was black, and I was white. “These groceries belong to that woman over there,” the woman nodded towards my mother. “They ain’t yours.” Confused, I said, “But that’s my mother. I’ll take them for her.” She looked me up and down. “No,” she said, her voice cold.

The clerk refused to believe that indeed I belonged to, and came from, my black mother, until mom returned to find me choking back tears. She gave the clerk a tongue lashing, which was not her style, and we left the market.  Later, mixed Native American and black children threw stones at me near my home on the Shinnecock Indian Reservation as I rode my bike. They yelled, “Get off our land, white girl!” These painful and strange experiences gave me my first taste of racial prejudice, and they have stayed with me all these years.

I am a child of many nations. I am white, I am black, I am Native American. I am West Indian, German, Irish. Brown and light together — integrated, not inter-racial, because race means nothing when you come from everywhere.

This Sunday’s New York Times Race-Related section ran a fascinating piece on DNA and racial identity by West Chester University professor Anita Foeman. For the past decade, she has asked hundreds of people to take part in ancestry DNA tests, and to date, over 2,000 have participated. “But first,” she wrote, “I ask people how they identify themselves racially. It has been very interesting to explore their feelings about the differences between how they define themselves and what their DNA makeup shows when the test results come in.”

Those results are often startling to the subjects and rife with racial stereotypes, Foeman found. According to her studies, some who came up with surprise Asian heritage in spite of looking white or brown noted, “That’s why my son is good at math!” Others who explored African heritage responded, “I thought my biological father might be black; I heard he liked basketball.”  Many of us harbor deeply-rooted prejudices that we aren’t even aware of, until it matters to us.

I don’t remember what mom said that day in the supermarket, but I can tell you that while she had been the object of many, many racist remarks and challenging situations in her life, she was not entirely prepared for what happened that day. That’s not to say she didn’t talk about the reality of how our family was different from others. To try to address the dearth of literary references to kids who looked like me, my mother physically altered my childhood books, using markers to make one parent brown and other other white, while the child originally drawn remained white-appearing, like me. But the scene in the supermarket still took her by surprise.

Confrontations over race can still catch Americans unprepared, such as when Rachel Dolezal, the now-former head of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP, appeared on the media radar. Dolezal, who stopped by Salon recently to talk with me on her book tour, was born white but identifies as black and calls herself “transracial.”

Dolezal was “outed” two years ago by her biological parents for not being black as she had claimed, and subsequently resigned from the NAACP. She became a polarizing figure under heavy media scrutiny as she appeared to dodge questions about her unconventional chosen identity. She has been unable to continue to work as a university instructor of African and African American art history, and to this day is despised by many observers, black and white, for posing as a black person.

My Salon colleague D. Watkins, an African American writer from Baltimore, wondered why Dolezal couldn’t just “use her whiteness to advocate for black people,” rather than making up and living in her own fantasy world where race and ethnicity no longer cause any social or political delineations. He is one of many to hold this opinion, and it’s one I agree with.

Rebecca Carroll wrote for Dame in 2015 about what she calls Dolezal’s “apocalyptic, White privilege on steroids” with a palpable anger shared by many people of color. When I talked to my childhood writing mentor Barbara Campbell, a former New York Times reporter who is African American and has two multiracial sons, she wondered about Dolezal with a mix of anger and genuine confusion. “What is wrong with that woman? I feel empathy for her, because she is clearly delusional, but she can step out into the world as a white woman any time she wants to stop being ‘black.’ Black women don’t have that luxury.”

Campbell explained that growing up in St. Louis, she had many light-skinned relatives who resembled Dolezal and could “pass” for white, but otherwise lived their lives as people of color. “They would go to ‘work white,’ because they could earn more money and get better-paying jobs, but then they would go home and be black.”

Why, wondered many, would someone white want to live within the very real challenges of being black in America, when she had a choice? Dolezal’s explanation? She doesn’t define herself by race, just a feeling of affinity with the black culture she’s always had.

As one might expect, the last few years have been tough since her exposure, she told me, noting her newly adopted legal name, Nkechi Amare Diallo, which she claimed was a “gift” to her by a Nigerian man. When she arrived at our offices, it was hard to know what to think, or believe. Frankly, it was hard to feel any animosity at all, despite the vitriolic sentiments many of my dark and light-skinned family, friends and colleagues had for Dolezal. She arrived carrying her beautiful, light brown baby son, Langston Hughes (Yes. Stop. That’s his name. What can you do?), who was cared for by her adopted black sister, Esther. Dolezal appeared like any other tired, working mom. I offered her coffee, and empathy, rather than taking an adversarial approach.

I did suggest, however, that some of the passages in her new book, “In Full Color: Finding My Place in a Black and White World,” were outrageous and possibly specious. Dolezal shrugged. “I don’t expect everyone to agree with or believe me,” she said. Among her claims: she grew up living in a tee pee in Montana (my Native American percentage shudders). She was beaten by her parents and forced to weave and wear a coat loomed from dog hair. She identified with people of color from an early age, after reading her grandmother’s National Geographic magazines, and spread mud on her face to try to feel what it was like to have brown skin. Dolezal has said some very polemical things, some — dare I say — dumb things, that do not make her a sympathetic figure. Comparing her white Montana childhood to what chattel slaves experienced, even if indeed she was miserable, is a stretch by any measure, and engendered rightful animus from real black folks.

Juggling Langston with one hand as he fussed after our interview, she inscribed a copy of her book to me with a careful and thoughtful note. Esther, sitting nearby, kept a watchful eye on the baby, and me. She was adopted by Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal in May 1995 at three months old (according to an interview their father Larry Dolezal gave People Magazine in 2015), and has sided with Rachel consistently, in the face of dissension between the other adopted siblings.  They — and Dolezal’s parents — say both Esther and Rachel are guilty of flights of invention, and in 2015, Ruthanne Dolezal told People, “Esther suffers from reactive attachment disorder and she seeks to cause trouble in the family. She is a chronic liar.”

In a 2014 blog post, Esther wrote: “I grew up in a pretty messed up family. And by messed up, I don’t necessarily mean dysfunctional (we were that too), but just plain strange.”

Whatever the reality, some mad funky stuff must have been going on in the Dolezal family to cause Rachel to want to be someone else.  Any person in an abusive situation can relate to the desire to be somewhere, or someone else, so much so that the brain does funny things to make it so in one’s own mind. Or maybe she made it up. We’ll never really know, as it’s her word against her parents’. But that isn’t the point, really.

The majority of the world may see Rachel Dolezal as a perma-tanned, African-braided town crazy, tone-deaf around the realities of white privilege and the acknowledgement of others’ lack thereof.  Some may feel sorry for her. And yet she says she has many quiet supporters, people who themselves feel different and unaccepted in their ethnicity because they look a certain way.

Sitting here in my white skin, with my half-brown black and Native American family, I felt a sadness for Dolezal. I waited for anger. But I found I couldn’t — didn’t want to — hate her, because though I’m a bonafide part-person of color — what I fondly refer to as a “stealth sister” — I am also a sort-of Zelig myself. I think anyone who wants to work for positive change deserves a chance to try. But the first of many differences between Rachel and me is that instead of trying to be different, I learned to be myself and to stand up for others, no matter their skin tone — but especially if they were brown. Because I watched racism happen to my beloved, smart, eloquent, beautiful, capable, passionate, kind, PhD-bearing brown-skinned mother, and so I know what it means to have limited choices, even as I have been blessed with many. And because I know that while Dolezal could choose at any moment to resume — not “pass” for — being white at her convenience, this is a privilege no person of color will ever enjoy.

Steven W Thrasher, a journalist who is half white and half black, wrote in the Guardian in June 2015 about the Dolezal phenomenon, when the story broke. “Many are, and may remain, put off by the sight of a seemingly fair-skinned white woman who passed herself off as a light-skinned African American woman and became a local leader in one of the nation’s most venerable black civil rights group,” he noted. “But like it or not, she’s exposed how shaky and ridiculous the whole centuries-old construct of individual “race” is.”

Even UNESCO, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, issued its “Statement on Race” in 1950.  In it, the social scientists declared that there was no scientific basis or justification for racial bias, according to a piece published July 18, 1950 in The New York Times.  It asserted that humans were equal based on four premises, as summarized by encyclopedia.com: “(1) the mental capacities of all races are similar, (2) no evidence exists for biological deterioration as a result of hybridization, (3) there is no correlation between national or religious groups and any particular race, and (4) “race was less a biological fact than a social myth”. Ultimately, it said, biology was the “universal brotherhood of man.”  The controversy around the UNESCO statement and some of these ideas clearly remains to this day.

And race and color, or ideas about where we come from and what that means, are fraught with challenges. Sometimes we discover, upon reflection, that we don’t look like what’s in our past, or how we feel about this make-up. Professor Foeman, having researched her own DNA and that of thousands of others who didn’t “look” like everything in their makeup, notes a change in thinking. “Today I look at faces, even my own, with new recognition,” she wrote. “I see that people regularly share narratives that miss something their physical features suggest, and sometimes we find ancestry that we would not have imagined. It is a new twist on an old narrative made possible by cutting-edge science.”

Checking the “other” box on my college applications years ago was a metaphor for fitting in everywhere and nowhere, always realizing the “gift” of light skin, trying never to take it for granted, and also remembering how kids threw stones at me for being white in the wrong place. Will kids throw stones a generation later at my own children? Maybe so. And what you see on paper is often not what you get, professor Foeman’s study highlights: When I arrived as a freshman at Vassar College, having checked said “other” box, I was assigned a “big sister” by the African American Association of students. The young woman tried to appear nonchalant when I met with her, but of course I was not what she expected. Nevertheless, she was kind and welcoming, but we both ultimately determined that the African American Club was not a natural home for me. I was too different, and I didn’t fit in. But what matters is that they would have had me.

When someone tells a racist joke, I flinch on so many counts, for all my people. I, like Rachel (and, it’s worth noting, many sociologists), support the notion of race as a social construct, as did my mother. I also hope that collectively we can move forward with a humanity that embraces identity choices without brazenly appropriating the harrowing experiences of others, like slavery. But I do not forget that we aren’t there yet. And I do not create fables around difference, and dissonance. No one should.

From her death bed, my mother and I discussed many things, and one of them was that she insisted I be an agent for change. She also reaffirmed that no matter what people thought of my heritage, it was most important to be a humanist — that is, to consider and respect all parts of my heritage, especially because I look white.

I don’t care that Dolezal lied, personally. I’m just not that invested in anything about her. I don’t feel betrayed. But I do understand the ire she engenders, and why many feel how they do about her.  Some will argue that writing this article feeds her delusions and gives them more of a platform. Maybe, but it also affirms Dolezal’s — and my own — thinking that a greater, ongoing discourse is important around identity and color discrimination. Not just her identity — everyone’s.  “I’m trying to move forward,” said Dolezal. “And, I really hope that . . . if people don’t agree with my identity, we can agree to disagree; we can rally around our shared ideals of justice and equality and freedom and work together.”  I agree with that. Do you?

We’ve closed comments on this post. If you’d like to respond to the story or share your own, send a note to lifeletters@salon.com, and we may publish it in a future follow-up post.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

African children’s tale is parable for our time

The Handful Players, a children’s company that performs at the African American Art & Culture Complex in the Western Addition, are giving a free performance of Chinaka Hodge’s play “Who’s in Rabbit’s House?” at 1 p.m. May 13. It’s based on Verna Aardema’s book of the same name, from an African Maasai folktale called “The Long One,” about a bullying caterpillar. But the playwright has made the work relevant for our time.

After the bully caterpillar takes over a rabbit’s hut, it says, “I’m going to build a fence around it and make you pay for it. You’ll never get me out. The Long One is huge, I tell you! Tremendous! Be very afraid.”

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He also threatens other animals: “I eat trees and trample on elephants and dismantle health care. Go away or I will trample on you!”

Finally, the animals get to together to oppose the Long One, and with their help, the rabbit gets the Long One out of his hut.

“We do have a lot of children of immigrant families in our program,” says executive director Judith Cohen, “so this story about getting kicked out of your home and a community standing up to a bully is very personal.”

P.S. In Los Angeles, Mark Share was struck by a sign on a vacated space: “The National Center for the Preservation of Democracy is closed.”



The latest in J.A.’s series of “In Memoriam” tributes to people who stood up for their convictions is to Gordon Hirabayashi, who was born April 23, 1918, and died in 2012. Hirabayashi defied Executive Order 9066, refusing to be rounded up and sent to an internment camp. His imprisonment was upheld unanimously by the Supreme Court in 1943 (finally overturned in 1986).

“If you think the Constitution protects you,” said Hirabayashi, “you better make sure that (it) is actively operating. … Otherwise, it’s a scrap of paper.”

J.A. pays tribute to “Hirabayashi and conscientious objectors everywhere. Be Brave. Stay Strong. Live your values.”



•In honor of Rainbow Flag designer Gilbert Baker , who died on the last day of March, the New York LGBT Film and Media nonprofit Newfest, NYC Pride, and a team from Ogilvy & Mather created a rainbow-hued typeface. The free and downloadable typeface, created with the use of Fontself, is called Gilbert. Its designers hope it will be used on banners for protests and marches.

Jerry Barrish, who was busy as a bail bondsman during the Summer of Love, attended the de Young exhibition on the era, and found himself locked up — in traffic. Barrish was there on 4/20. After the museum closed at 5:15 p.m., he says, it took him an hour and 15 minutes to get out of the garage.

•Sign carried by artist Gyöngy Laky in the March for Science: “The White House is celebrating Flat Earth Day. … All six of America’s 2016 Nobel Prize winners are immigrants.”



The Bay Area Longshoremen’s Memorial Association had a rededication event on Wednesday, April 19, for the restored mini-park at Taylor and Beach, whereupon stands Benjamin Bufano’s 18-foot-tall statue of St. Francis. The park was created in 1962 by the Teamsters Union.

The provenance: After its first unveiling in Paris, Bufano’s 13-ton granite sculpture was shipped in 1955 to San Francisco to be installed at the St. Francis Church in North Beach. The church didn’t like it, says association treasurer Mike Villeggiante, and the statue was sent to Oakland for installation at a restaurant. Then Bufano, well known in San Francisco, “reached out to his longshoremen friends,” including Harry Bridges and Jimmy Herman, “to see if they could provide a new home.”



A Mill Valley man was surprised that a friend of his who was being prepared for surgery was asked in a phone interview: “Is anybody in your house abusing you verbally or physically?”

And on Monday, April 24, the day the Frisky Scale appeared in this column, Mac McCarthy was struck by the Peanuts cartoon of the day: Snoopy notes that it is National Secretaries’ Week and recommends, “Give your secretary a hug.”

P.S. Jim Schock informs us that Tucker Carlson, who is replacing Bill O’Reilly on Fox News, is the son of Dick Carlson, who was a KGO-TV reporter here in the ’60s.

Leah Garchik is open for business in San Francisco, (415) 777-8426. Email: lgarchik@sfchronicle.com; Twitter: @leahgarchik


Public Eavesdropping

“I fell in love with butter in Denver.”

Man dining at Sausage Factory on Castro, overheard by Troy Arnold

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

An Exhibition Dedicated To Black Women Artists Is Now On View In Brooklyn

The first exhibition featuring the work of exclusively black women artists took place in New York in 1971 ― it was titled “Where We At.”

Artists Vivian E. Browne, Dindga McCannon and Faith Ringgold organized the grassroots show, which featured the work of 14 artists at a Greenwich Village gallery run by artist and dealer Nigel Jackson. The exhibition’s success inspired the participating artists to form a collective, called WWA for short, who together went on to orchestrate other exhibitions, panel discussions, seminars and art workshops for local youth and incarcerated individuals. The cooperative went on to coordinate shows, publications and community events well into the 1980s. 

While the WWA artists adhered to many of the dominant ideologies of second-wave feminism ― equal pay for women, equal representation for women artists, equal respect for women’s work ― they aligned themselves with the black arts movement above the women’s liberation movement, which was led, for the most part, by white middle-class women.

Almost 50 years later, an exhibition devoted to the revolutionary impact of black female artists is now on view at The Brooklyn Museum. Titled “We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” the exhibition picks up six years before WWA and concludes 14 years after, including the work of 40 artists who grappled with the political, social and aesthetic implications of making art as a woman of color.

The show guides viewers through the black women artists who, without artistic antecedent or support from white male-dominated artistic institutions, went on to create work that is avant-garde, fearless, joyful, radical, angry and invigorating ― and often all at once. The exhibition is radically diverse in terms of the techniques and media included, which include performance, film, video art, conceptual art, photography, painting, sculpture and printmaking. The styles too run the gamut, from Barbara Chase-Riboud’s abstract sculpture ― which resembles an inky ballgown as much as an impenetrable shield ― to Emma Amos’ earth-toned painting of a couple slow dancing in their living room. 

The discrimination women artists of color face is not something of the past. In a climate where it is still difficult for most people to name five women artists, black women continue to be under-represented on museum walls, auction blocks and in history books. Today collectives like Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter and Black Art Incubator rigorously hold the art world accountable for its prejudices and blind spots.

This exhibition honors the black women who laid the groundwork for such contemporary artists, activists and artist-activists, whose influence on contemporary feminism and contemporary art is nothing less than cosmic. 

1. Senga Nengudi (American, b. 1943)

Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Burt Aaron, the Council for Feminist Art, and the Alfred T. White Fund // Photo: Sarah DeSantis

Senga Nengudi (American, born 1943), “Inside/Outside,” 1977, nylon, mesh, rubber, approximately 60 x 24 inches. 

2. Jae Jarrell (American, b. 1935)

Brooklyn Museum, Gift of R.M. Atwater, Anna Wolfrom Dove, Alice Fiebiger, Joseph Fiebiger, Belle Campbell Harriss, and Emma L. Hyde, by exchange, Designated Purchase Fund, Mary Smith Dorward Fund, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, and Carll H. de Silver Fund // Photo: Sarah DeSantis

Jae Jarrell (American, born 1935), “Ebony Family,” circa 1968, velvet dress with velvet collage.

3. Dindga McCannon (American, b. 1947)

Brooklyn Museum, Gift of R. M. Atwater, Anna Wolfrom Dove, Alice Fiebiger, Joseph Fiebiger, Belle Campbell Harriss, and Emma L. Hyde, by exchange, Designated Purchase Fund, Mary Smith Dorward Fund, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, and Carll H. de Silver Fund // Photo: Jonathan Dorado

Dindga McCannon (American, born 1947). “Revolutionary  Sister,” 1971, mixed media construction on wood, 62 x 27 inches. 

4. Faith Ringgold (American, b. 1930)

Brooklyn Museum, Gift of Elizabeth A. Sackler // Photo: Sarah DeSantis

Faith Ringgold (American, b. 1930), “Early Works #25: Self-Portrait,” 1965, oil on canvas, 50 x 40 inches. 

5. Beverly Buchanan (American, 1940–2015)

Estate of Beverly Buchanan, courtesy of Jane Bridges

Beverly Buchanan (American, 1940-2015), “Untitled (Frustula Series),” circa 1978, cast concrete.

6. Emma Amos (American, b. 1938)

Courtesy of the artist and RYAN LEE New York, Licensed by VAGA New York

Emma Amos (America, born 1938), “Sandy and Her Husband,” 1973, oil on canvas, 44.25 x 50.25 inches.

7.  Barbara Chase-Riboud (American, b. 1939)

University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, purchased with funds from the H. W. Anderson Charitable Foundation, Courtesy of representative Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

Barbara Chase-Riboud (American, born 1939), “Confessions for Myself,” 1972, black patinated bronze with wool, 120 x 40 x  12 inches. 

8. Maren Hassinger (American, b. 1947)

Courtesy of the artist Maren Hassinger // Photo: Adam Avila

Maren Hassinger (American, born 1947), “Leaning,” 1980, wire and wire rope,16 inches x variable width and depth.

9. Lorraine O’Grady (American, b. 1934)

Courtesy of Alexander Gray Associates / Artists Rights Society ARS New York

Lorraine O’Grady (American, born 1934), “Mlle Bourgeoise Noire Goes to the New Museum,” 1981, oerformed at the New Museum, New York, gelatin silver print, 9.25 x 7 inches.

10. Howardena Pindell (American, b. 1930)

Howardena Pindell. Courtesy of the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery New York.

Howardena Pindell (American, born 1930), “Still from Free, White and 21,” 1980, video, 12 minutes and 15 seconds.

11. Betye Saar (American, b. 1926)

Betye Saar courtesy the artist and Roberts Tilton. Culver City, California. Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum

Betye Saar (American, born 1926), “Liberation of Aunt Jemima: Cocktail,” 1973, mixed-media assemblage, 12 x 18 inches. 

12. Carrie Mae Weems (American, b. 1953)

Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery New York

Carrie Mae Weems (American, born 1953), “Mirror Mirror,” 1987-88, silver print, 24.75 x 20.75 inches.

13. Lona Foote (American, 1948–1993)

Estate of Lona Foote courtesy of Howard Mandel, Special Collections and University Archives, Rutgers University Libraries.

Lona Foote (American, 1948-1993), “Blondell Cummings performing Blind Dates at Just Above Midtown Gallery, November 1982,” 1982, photograph, 10 x 8 inches.

14. Lorna Simpson (American, b. 1960)

Courtesy of Lorna Simpson

Lorna Simpson (American, born 1960), “Rodeo Caldonia” (Left to Right: Alva Rogers, Sandye Wilson, Candace Hamilton, Derin Young, Lisa Jones), 1986, photographic print, 8 x 10 inches.

“We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965–85” runs until Sept. 17 at The Brooklyn Museum as part of the institution’s “Year of Yes.”

Welcome to Battleground, where art and activism meet.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The Research Argument For NYC’s Preschool Plan For 3-Year-Olds

preschool
LA Johnson/NPR
preschool

LA Johnson/NPR

Mayor Bill de Blasio this week pushed ahead with plans to make New York City one of nation’s few big cities to offer free, full-day preschool for all 3-year-olds­­.

The plan would serve, when fully rolled out over several years, more than 60,000 children a year. It builds on one of de Blasio’s signature accomplishments of his first term – universal pre-K for 4-year-olds.

A few places, including Washington, D.C., have made a serious effort to fund preschool for 3-year-olds. New York City’s plan, when fully realized, would be the most ambitious such effort to date.

To achieve this goal the mayor says he’ll need significant help from the state and federal government: upwards of $700 million dollars. And he faces the political tussles that will surely accompany his financing challenges. The mayor is running for re-election.

But his proposal builds on widespread consensus that high-quality pre-K programs can have a huge positive impact on the lives of children – especially low-income ones – as well as on the parents and family.

That’s the crux of the study The Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program, co-authored by Nobel laureate James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the director of the Center for the Economics of Human Development.

There’s a growing body of research on the value and importance of high-quality early education programs — especially for disadvantaged kids.

But there’s surprisingly little research on its impact over time. This paper helps change that. Heckman and his co-authors examine the many ways in which high-quality programs helped participants thrive throughout life.

The paper analyzes two North Carolina programs founded in the 1970s that worked with infants from 8 weeks old through age 5. The rub for researchers: The programs included data collection from birth through age 8 on a wide range of school and home life factors as well as long-term follow-ups through age 35.

Quality early education programs are expensive upfront. But as Heckman argues, the returns are enormous; the investment well worth it.

Your study found enduring positive effects of quality pre-K on a lot of things, including future earnings, health, IQ and crime reduction. Is the bottom line here stronger, fuller, richer lives?

Yes it is, but it’s more than just stronger, richer, fuller lives for the children. It’s also stronger, richer, fuller lives for the mothers of the children. Let me explain why. In America today we have a lot of single-parent families. We have a lot of mothers who are working.

What we’ve done is shown the benefits across two generations of the study of these enriched early child care programs. Not only providing child care for working mothers — allowing them to get more education — but primarily to get more work experience, higher earnings gains through participating in the workforce, but also getting high-quality child care environments that turn out to be developmentally rich. It promotes social mobility within — and across — generations. That I think is an important finding of this study.

Tell us about the two programs you’ve studied, serving mostly lower-income, predominantly African-American families.

The program starts very early. The children are 8 weeks old. It stays with the children until they’re age 5.

It’s a program that runs nine hours a day, so it’s very child care-friendly in the sense that women could leave their children at the child care center and then go on to work. They provide these disadvantaged children with enriched family environments: more verbal attention, more enrichment and parenting resources available to disadvantaged, predominantly African-American women, as you say, and single-parent women. It supplements the early lives.

In addition, it gives health care screenings for children 0 to 5. The pediatrician has access to the treatment group. The pediatrician then would suggest what health indications should be taken. What kind of steps, what kind of treatment might be taken. Doesn’t pay for the treatment but it does essentially screen the children and alert parents to the need for treatment.

This is true wrap-around service and personalized attention?

Yes. Turns out one of the most effective ingredients for these early child care programs is interacting with the child. What I mean by interacting is a give-and-take. The term that’s used by the child development specialist is scaffolding, like building a sculpture — in this case of a human being. Staying with the child, taking the child to the next step, challenging the child. In that sense it’s very personalized education.

It’s very time-intensive education, but it’s education that stays with the child. It also has another effect, which is that it engages, through the enhanced stimulation of the child, the parent. Parents themselves visit the center, so that there is also stimulation of the parent-child relationship that lasts long after the program itself is formally ended at age 5.

This kind of comprehensive program is more costly upfront?

For sure. The main benefit of this study is, if you count all of the benefits that accrue from this program in terms of reduced health care costs, reduced crime, greater earnings, more education, higher IQ — the list is quite long. Those all are monetized. We can compute a rate of return, the dividend would be from the investment. You get about 13 percent per annum. Much higher than the annual return on equities in the U.S. stock market post-Second World War through the 2008 meltdown.

Yeah I’d like 13 percent on my 401(k) every year.

Exactly. This is a huge, huge investment return. It competes favorably with almost any other public program.

What was the (annual) per-pupil spending while these children were in the program?

Per-year it’s probably about $16,000 to $18,000. It depends on what (year) dollars you use. It’s expensive.

That is pretty high. You’re saying you get what you pay for?

Well, yes, it’s a lot. But what are you getting in return? You’re getting hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars. Seven to eight hundred thousand dollars back for what is essentially an $80,000 to $85,000 expenditure. Yes, it costs more but we can go back and think: In its time the transcontinental railroad that Abraham Lincoln launched, the Hoover Dam, the transcontinental highway system that Eisenhower launched. These all were very costly, but they also led to enormous social benefits.

These programs have enormous social benefit. They help to solve a lot of social problems. The way public policy is discussed frequently in this country is through silos. People say, “We want to reduce crime. We want to promote health.” We do what is, I think, a very limited kind of notion: looking at one problem at a time and one solution very closely linked to that problem. I would encourage people who see the price tag to also look at the benefit tag. They’re well-documented.

You followed these young people well into adulthood?

That’s the benefit of the study. The children in the study essentially are much healthier than their counterparts who did not participate in the study. That came as a surprise to some people, but it shouldn’t be a surprise. Not only did they get the health screening, but they also developed these social and emotional skills: self-control, the ability to monitor. They had more education, therefore they had more information. In a number of ways these children became more engaged, control their own lives better, and that shows up in their adult health.

What is turning out from this body of research is that promoting engagement of children, their cognitive and noncognitive skills, boosting their IQs, at the same time boosting their social engagement, their willingness to participate in society, monitoring their health from an early age, is having huge benefits downstream for the rest of their lives.

You mentioned the return on investment. But you’ve also documented health benefits, crime reduction and parental benefits including boosted income and lower obesity rates. Talk about that a little.

That’s folded into what we have for a measure of the rate of return. You can actually monetize the cost of the criminal justice system, the cost of incarcerating people and so forth. You can also talk about the benefits of reduced health care expenditures, higher-quality of life and so forth. All of that’s incorporated into our rates of return and benefit-cost ratio. Breaking out these components, one of the most surprising findings from a study that we did published in Science magazine a couple of years ago. We showed that children who are in this program were much less likely to be obese, to have hypertension, to have precursor environments that would promote diabetes.

You mentioned the poisonous effect of the silofication — if we could call it that — in combating poverty. Looking at social challenges largely in isolation. This is also a hyper-partisan age. What do you think policymakers and politicians are missing when it comes to looking at early childhood education?

Some leading politicians both Republicans and Democrats are not missing. They’re well aware of it. What’s really interesting is that if you go out to those red states that were called fly-over states in the last election, the ones in the Midwest and the ones that people frequently ignore. It’s states like Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, that have been some of the most vigorous in promoting early childhood development.

The reason is that it’s based on an economic efficiency argument and it also promotes what is an agenda that’s frequently very common in some of those states about family values. It’s really about helping bolster the American family, which I think is under attack, it’s under transformation. It’s simply that we have many more single-parent families. We have many more mothers who are working because they have to support their families.

You’ve said the ultimate risk factor in the complex poverty equation is lack of parental engagement. Talk about that and what these programs you studied did in terms of parental engagement?

It’s not about getting toys that rotate or getting a particular program online to stimulate the kid. That can’t hurt, but it’s not the story. It’s the engagement. It’s “Johnny or Sally, here let’s look at this together, let’s go to the zoo, let’s look at this book, let’s see what we’re doing.” It’s that engagement. When you engage the parent in that process, you help them bolster their arrangement, then I think you actually will keep in place over the life of the child a very strong very beneficial environment. The center core is engagement. That’s what good teaching’s about too when you think about it.

I don’t think I’m saying anything that’s revolutionary, but I do think I’m saying something that is frequently ignored in public policy. We think about a bricks-and-mortar approach to what education is about. That’s exactly the wrong way to think about it. It’s not a teacher lecturing to a student, it’s basically the teachers or child care workers engaging students or engaging these young children and making age-adapted, person-adjusted interventions. I think that’s the key.

What do these programs have that helps foster that engagement?

It turns out that many of the disadvantaged families have a mode of discouraging the child. Saying, “Don’t do this, don’t do that,” and on and on. The alternative is to actually have a family that encourages the child and supports the child in making mistakes and learning from mistakes, but also in engaging the child to explore the world. It’s this attachment and this support that really plays a fundamental role I think in the structure of essential programs. That’s an example where you would literally take the child, read to the child, engage the child, and then you would show the parent, bring the parent into the center. Show how successful the child has been and then send the child home. When the child goes home the child is more engaged and also therefore engaging the parent. We found that. We found that as a byproduct: much more parental engagement among those who got the treatment compared to those who were randomized out into the control group. And these were lifetime effects.

If you look at disadvantaged children you’ll find that they’re getting about a third or a fourth as many words per hour as more advantaged children. The environments are fundamentally different. Over the lifetime, their young childhood — a period of say 0 to 5 — you’re getting a millions of words deficit between those who are advantaged and those who aren’t advantaged. That essentially is one way to close the gap. By literally reading to the child, by encouraging the child.

As you know there’s been a big emphasis on what constitutes high-quality child care centers. What elements are vital to create these great early learning centers?

There’s this enormous body of evidence talking about parent-child interaction. The structure of a successful [center] would be one that encourages those interactions, that fostered those.

Are we talking about empathy?

Well, yes, we’re talking about empathy, and we’re talking about the structure of engagement with the child, and at the core of successful programs is parenting. It’s not so much having a pretty building. There’s a whole mentality out there that says, “We have a textbook notion about what constitutes a good school. The teachers must have a certain level of educational attainment.” There have been a lot of studies, serious studies, that show that many of these so-called guides to what makes a good teacher — in terms of things like number of degrees or number of teacher credits and on and on and on — are really worthless in terms of predicting who’s a good teacher. What is important is finding this empathy, this ability to work with people, the engagement.

By empathy all I really mean is, you work with a child, you stay with a child, a child asks questions, you answer the questions. You don’t discourage the questions and you promote them. At the same time you have a firm line where you say, “Yeah that’s a mistake. You could go do a little better,” and so forth.

We need a national empathy project, Professor Heckman.

Probably could use it across the board and not just in early childhood!

An earlier version of this story ran on NPR Ed in December, 2016.

High Museum Gets Major Gift of African-American Artworks

Photo

The acquisition includes Thornton Dial’s “Crossing Waters” (2006-2011), which refers the trans-Atlantic slave trade and was the largest painting he ever made. Credit High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio

The High Museum of Art in Atlanta has the largest collection of Thornton Dial works in the world. It’s now about to get bigger, thanks to a major acquisition of artworks courtesy of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation.

A total of 54 works by contemporary African-American artists from the South make up the gift and purchase. Thirteen of those are by Mr. Dial, a self-taught artist who used scavenged materials to depict black struggle in the South. The acquisition includes “Crossing Waters” (2006-11), which refers to the trans-Atlantic slave trade and was the largest painting ever made by Mr. Dial, who died last year.

With the acquisition, the museum will also receive 11 quilts by the women of Gee’s Bend, a remote community in Alabama renowned for its beautiful quilting. In a 2002 review in The New York Times of a Gee’s Bend collection at the Whitney Museum, Michael Kimmelman called them “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced.”

The collection also includes works by Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett and Sam Doyle. To showcase the new pieces, the museum will increase the space in its folk and self-taught art galleries by 30 percent, as part of a permanent collection reinstallation planned for 2018.

“We’re thrilled to death. It’s a collection that fits hands in glove with our existing collection,” said Randall Suffolk, the museum’s director. “It deepens the number of works we have in relation to these artists, but also fills in some gaps for us.”

The Souls Grown Deep Foundation was created by the scholar and collector William S. Arnett to raise the profile of art by self-taught African-Americans. The foundation has been donating works to major arts organizations around the country, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2014.

Correction: April 25, 2017

An earlier version of this article about the High Museum of Art in Atlanta’s acquisition of 54 artworks from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation referred imprecisely to the type of acquisition. The works are part of a gift and purchase; they are not simply a gift.

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

High Museum Acquires 54 African-American Artworks

Photo

The acquisition includes Thornton Dial’s “Crossing Waters” (2006-2011), which refers the trans-Atlantic slave trade and was the largest painting he ever made. Credit High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio

The High Museum of Art in Atlanta has the largest collection of Thornton Dial works in the world. It’s now about to get bigger, thanks to a major acquisition of artworks courtesy of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation.

A total of 54 works by contemporary African-American artists from the South make up the gift and purchase. Thirteen of those are by Mr. Dial, a self-taught artist who used scavenged materials to depict black struggle in the South. The acquisition includes “Crossing Waters” (2006-11), which refers to the trans-Atlantic slave trade and was the largest painting ever made by Mr. Dial, who died last year.

With the acquisition, the museum will also receive 11 quilts by the women of Gee’s Bend, a remote community in Alabama renowned for its beautiful quilting. In a 2002 review in The New York Times of a Gee’s Bend collection at the Whitney Museum, Michael Kimmelman called them “some of the most miraculous works of modern art America has produced.”

The collection also includes works by Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett and Sam Doyle. To showcase the new pieces, the museum will increase the space in its folk and self-taught art galleries by 30 percent, as part of a permanent collection reinstallation planned for 2018.

“We’re thrilled to death. It’s a collection that fits hands in glove with our existing collection,” said Randall Suffolk, the museum’s director. “It deepens the number of works we have in relation to these artists, but also fills in some gaps for us.”

The Souls Grown Deep Foundation was created by the scholar and collector William S. Arnett to raise the profile of art by self-taught African-Americans. The foundation has been donating works to major arts organizations around the country, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2014.

Correction: April 25, 2017

An earlier version of this article about the High Museum of Art in Atlanta’s acquisition of 54 artworks from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation referred imprecisely to the type of acquisition. The works are part of a gift and purchase; they are not simply a gift.

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

First Lady of Jazz: Ella Fitzgerald’s 100th anniversary of birth

It all began with her voice. Everyone who heard it was immediately entranced. Her soft, crystal-clear tones would swing through dance halls, gliding up and down the scale.

As a performer, Ella Fitzgerald combined a certain childish naiveté and playfulness with feminine charm. With her unique talent, she first conquered audiences in New York, and later the whole world. One of the greatest jazz singers ever, she remains immortal.

Humble beginnings

It all began quite modestly, in the town of Newport News, Virginia, where Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born on April 25, 1917. Her father left the family shortly after her birth, so Ella’s mother Tempie bought her up alone.

At the time, millions of African-Americans were moving from rural areas to big cities as part of the Great Migration movement. The small Fitzgerald family also moved to New York in the early 1920s, where they settled in the suburb of Yonkers, near Tempie’s sister.

The house was apparently always filled with music. Little Ella soon discovered a passion for pop music, especially by Arthur “The Street Singer” Tracy and the Boswell Sisters.

Ella Fitzgerald (Getty Images)She suffered from stage fright throughout her career

Tempie encouraged Ella’s musical talent with a few piano lessons, despite not having much money available to afford them. However, Ella Fitzgerald never had any formal music education.

The girl next door

The young Ella actually wanted to become a dancer.

In the early 1930s, she and her friends would watch street performers in Harlem. The girls also discovered the most popular Black musicians playing in larger clubs during the weekend. On weekdays, these concert halls, such as the Apollo Theater and the Harlem Opera House, invited amateurs to take the stage. During those amateur nights, musicians, singers and dancers could compete for the favor of the audience and win prize money, along with the hope of being discovered one day.

Ella dreamed of this, too, when she signed up to take part in one of those amateur nights as a dancer. It was quite a risk for the shy girl, as audiences wouldn’t hesitate to boo a performance they didn’t like.

When the curtain rose for her number, she was paralyzed by stage fright. She couldn’t dance, and her knees were like pudding. The audience was growing restless and Ella spontaneously decided to sing a song by the Boswell Sisters. As the orchestra started accompanying her, she became more and more confident and completed the song to the enthusiastic applause of the crowd.

The 16-year-old Ella Fitzgerald had found her destiny.

First steps

From then on, she regularly participated in such amateur nights and began attracting the attention of people in the music industry.

One evening she was offered the chance to sing for the drummer Chick Webb. He needed some convincing at first, because he didn’t want a singer in his band. Yet Webb was so impressed by Ella’s voice that he hired her. He quickly became her mentor; when Ella’s mother suddenly died, he took over the guardianship for the still minor singer.

Webb only progressively introduced his protégé to the music world, as he knew that sudden success could be just as quickly forgotten. At first, he restricted her repertoire to pop songs. In March 1936, Ella demonstrated she was capable of more when she replaced the already successful Billie Holiday to record a ballad with Teddy Wilson. From then on, her mentor agreed to let her sing ballads as well.

Becoming a jazz icon

When Chick Webb died in 1939, Ella Fitzgerald took over the direction of his orchestra for a while. She then started her solo career in 1941. During World War II, she recorded with several musicians, among which the Ink Spots.

Her career only really took off after the war. In 1951, she had the opportunity to record with her great idol Louis Armstrong, and her collaboration with one of the initiators of bebop, Dizzie Gillespie, was extremely successful.

In the 1950s, she found a new mentor and supporter: Norman Granz, the founder of the famous Jazz at the Philharmonic concert series. He became her manager and founded the record label Verve especially for Ella.

CD cover of The Complete Song Books by Ella Fitzgerald (Verve)CD cover of “The Complete Song Books”

That’s where Fitzgerald finally wrote music history by recording through the mid-1960s her Great American Song Books, a series of eight studio albums in which she interpreted the classics of the American musical canon, with songs by Cole Porter, Irving Berlin and the Gershwin brothers, among others. Ella Fitzgerald thereby contributed to intercultural exchange during the Civil Rights era.

A living legend

In the 1970s and 80s, the aging diva’s popularity was a strong as ever and she was showered with awards and honors. Fans also rediscovered her early works through new re-releases.

Health problems, however, imposed longer recovery phases in her otherwise tightly scheduled tours. Still, even a heart bypass surgery in 1986 couldn’t keep her away from the stage for too long: Her fans’ love was like medicine, she once said.

She gave her last concert in New York in 1991, in the city where it all began. On June 15, 1996, Ella Fitzgerald died at the age of 79 in her house in Beverly Hills.

‘It’s still a miracle, and it always will be’

Sylvester McRae has delivered about 10,000 babies, most of them here in Columbus.

As a career OB/GYN physician, he sees life from the very beginning. He recently sat down with Ledger-Enquirer senior reporter Chuck Williams and photographer Robin Trimarchi to talk about it — and a lot of other things.

At 63, he can begin to see retirement. As a doctor, he understands the Affordable Care Act in a way many don’t.

He moved to Columbus in 1985 and has grown found of the city.

Here are excerpts from the interview, edited for length and clarity:

Q: Your last name’s McRae, you grew up in McRae, Ga. What’s going on there?

A: Oh, do I have a history! My people are actually from South Carolina: my grandfather William McRae, who interestingly enough was born approximately 1854, and his wife was born in 1863. So those years, of course, have significance. So …

Q: So your grandparents were born slaves?

A: Absolutely. So, my grandfather was actually a slave, my grandmother was actually a slave. Around the turn of the century they moved to Telfair County. So, when my father left the farm and went to Philadelphia and came back, he and my mom settled in Helena, which is contiguous with McRae, but he had brothers who lived in McRae and when my brothers went to school, even though they were actually from Helena, they got a kick out of being McRae from McRae.

Q: How do you get from there to med school over two generations?

A: Well, somehow, growing up in Helena and McRae, it was always “be the best that you can be and, of course, make an honest living.” Now, my dad was very smart. He made us do manual labor, we’d pick cotton, pick the watermelons, get construction work. He said you need to see what the other side is like should you choose not to get an education. It was not looking down on those but, he said, these are the kinds of work you do.

Q: So, you obviously were a pretty smart guy.

A: I’m all right.

Q: OK. How did you decide on Fort Valley State?

A: That’s interesting. I had an older sister who was actually 17 years older than me — and now she was smart!

Q: Were you the youngest?

A: No, there was one younger than I. There was no genetic counseling about what age you should stop having kids. It was about having kids when the Good Lord saw fit. So, she was 17 years older than me. She went to Fort Valley and she was an educator and ended up getting an educational doctorate before she expired. Then I have an older brother who is now a dentist, who went to college and didn’t have a clue as to what he wanted to do. Initially thought, “Man, perhaps teaching,” and then … we had a good pre-med program, had great advisers at Fort Valley. He and one other young man were the first African-Americans to be accepted to the Medical College of Georgia, Dental School. Yeah, Matthew. Matthew went to dental school, and then …

Q: So, you were seeing higher education modeled, right?

A: Yeah, that’s a good way to put it. Well, whether it was modeled or not, I knew what hard work was like, so I wanted to see what was on the other side. I went there with an idea of, I knew I’m not going to teach, but I knew I didn’t have the patience to teach and I thought perhaps I’ll work in the lab somewhere. The brother who’s three years older— who’s actually smart, a genius — went to med school at the Medical College of Georgia and he just interestingly enough happened to be No. 2 in his class. He was the first to do medicine and I said, “I don’t think I want to work in anybody’s mouth, I’ll do the medicine thing.” And that’s how I got into medicine.

Q: So, your parents raised two dentists, two physicians, and an educator with a doctorate?

A: Yup.

Q: That’s 5 for 5 where I come from.

A: Yep, wish I could do as well.

Q: I mean, in two generations that is a phenomenal change.

A: Absolutely.

Q: Is it something you think about sometimes?

A: We do, and the interesting thing is there’s a book written by Dr. Russell Mootry called “Diamonds.” In that little town, in that little area that was challenged economically, there’s probably, let’s see … six or eight doctors, and maybe five to seven dentists that came out of that environment. Russell Mootry realized that this is exceptional and actually wrote a book that basically highlighted the accomplishments of these poor kids from this challenged background.

Q: Sounds like the dirt was good there.

A: The dirt was good. And the teachers were your foster parents. They made sure you stayed on track.

Q: As somebody who delivers babies for a living, how do you describe the wonder of life?

A: Well, it’s still a miracle. Now, the tort systems and the courts have tainted it, but it’s still a miracle every time one comes, and sometimes we make a difference — you know, we stick a hand in and help in some way, form or fashion — but it’s still a miracle, and it always will be.

Q: What do you think when you hear that first cry?

A: Again, I mean … in a quiet moment, you realize that you are allowed to participate in something special.

Q: Obviously it’s more than participating. In a good situation, everything’s normal, but things can get out of line in a hurry, right?

A: That’s why we’re trained, and that’s why we try to deliver in a controlled environment for those rare times when it doesn’t. You know, usually we are able to intervene and make a difference, and that’s what the training is about, and that’s why we’re here.

Q: When you started, where it was essentially you and a nurse and maybe the father in there, now there’s birth photographers — I mean, it’s all changed, hasn’t it?

A: It has changed.

Q: For the better or worse?

A: It’s good. It’s good, yeah. The dads need to be there, the family needs to be there. But, I mean, you don’t need to have half the town, you know — so many folk you need bleachers.

Q: You are 63. Can start to see the end of your career now?

A: Absolutely.

Q: How much longer can you deliver babies?

A: As long as I feel good. You know, I just had my knees replaced in November, I took eight weeks off. I call it my maternity leave. … As long as the work environment is good and the Good Lord is giving me the strength and ability, you know, I might not deliver 30 babies a month but I might do five or 10.

Q: So how many are you doing now?

A: Probably, I’d say … 12 or 15.

Q: How many kids have you delivered over the years?

A: Oh, over 10,000. I started delivering babies in my junior year which would have been around ’77, so ’77 to 2017, that’s about 40. …

Q: Do you consider it a privilege to be able to be in on the most intimate part of somebody’s life?

A: Absolutely, yeah. But this is, I think, what I was put here to do. In time of frustration I would joke and tell my buddies, “You know, I would have made a great forest ranger.” I love the outdoors, I love the animals, and here I am. I think, this is my calling.

Q: Let me ask you about St. Francis. The hospital obviously went through tremendous financial issues, ended up being sold. How difficult was it going through what St. Francis went through when the financial situation reached what it did?

A: It was difficult, and it sounds mushy, but I feel probably more for the folks who dedicated their lives, the families here, that … this place means so much to them.

Q: The philanthropic side, right?

A: Yeah, yeah, I really have been impressed. They’ve given it their all — I mean, their time, their money. They love this place. They love it. Now, I hate it for them, that even though they are still involved, that bond, that brand … and LifePoint (Health) was great in coming to rescue the institution, but those folks … long before I came here, this was their baby. And I admire that.

Q: This was a community asset, owned by the community.

A: Absolutely.

Q: How has that changed in the last year-and-a-half with LifePoint in here?

A: There are services that were once the highlight of St. Francis. … The cardiovascular-thoracic program, I mean, it’s probably second-to-none, so that has had to undergo some retooling. You know, some of the guys just got older and just didn’t feel like doing the intense operations anymore, and there were people who came, and when things started to change, they left. So the cardiothoracic program, which was kind of like a branding for this hospital, is getting back up to where it needs to be, but there was a time when it really suffered.

Q: Is the short-term pain of what happened over?

A: There are still challenges, even with LifePoint being in place, and for the financial resources that is poured into it, there are still challenges. In today’s economic situation, it is difficult for hospitals to break even, let alone generate income, so you have to look at every service, and it’s recognized that some services will never make money, you just try to control how much they lose. There are other services that you hope will do well enough that will offset the losses from our other services, but it’s a slippery slope.

Q: Where’s obstetrics fall in that matrix?

A: Now, typically obstetrics, with young people short-staying in the hospital, typically obstetrics is a money-maker, for lack of better terms.

Q: How has medicine changed since 1985, in the 40 years you’ve been doing it?

A: Oh man, by leaps and bounds. When I was in training, one of the things that gynecologists were starting to do was something called laparoscopy, where they would, under general anesthesia, put a tube in a lady’s abdomen and look around to try to determine what the abnormality might be. If women had surgery, if they didn’t have vaginal surgery, most of it was done open. Tubal ligations would stay in the hospital. I remember one of my attendants, who was an excellent surgeon, he said, “You might have damaged a bowel and didn’t recognize it, so you have to keep them overnight.” Now my hysterectomies go home on the same day.

Q: That was unheard of 30 years ago, right?

A: Yep. So, most of the surgery that we do, the majority of what I do — probably 95, 90 percent of them — go home the same day.

Q: Is the doctor still in charge?

A: No. No. The financial entities are in charge. You know that colleague who will probably say, “Why did you stay like that?” But we’re employed. We have a boss. Now, it might not be as stringent as working on some other jobs, and you could try to dress it up and say we are affiliated, or we have an association, but at the end of the day you have a contract, and you have some entity to which you have some … I still applaud the guys who are in private practice. Up until 2010, I was in private practice, so I know the challenges, and I feel for those guys who are still out there battling. The things that have occurred, sometimes I wonder if it was not done to push us out of private practice. And I don’t mind telling you this, when I was paying my malpractice premium, as a solo practitioner I was paying $66,000 per year. As I am affiliated with St. Francis, my premium went to $16,000 a year. So that’s $50,000, and my question is, “How do you explain it?” Well, it’s because you’re part of a larger group. I said, “I’m still practicing the same medicine, and I’m still doing these complex things; how can you insure me for $50,000 less than when I was in private practice?” Why is it that?

Q: Did you get a good answer to that?

A: Oh, no. As an individual in private practice my supplies cost one thing, where if I’m a part of a big entity, we’re group buying, and I guess if a big enough group got together and went to Winn-Dixie, or Publix, or whatever, you could get discounts. The groups get the discounts. I’m limited as a solo person as to how much input, or how much bartering, for lack of a better term, I could do in terms of contracting with some entity, but as a group, that’s power.

Q: That’s real money.

A: Even for Donald Trump.

Q: You brought it up. You did it to yourself. What do you think about the debate over the Affordable Care Act?

A: Well, I’m going to say some things that you might have to come help guard me. In America, we do well enough that everybody ought to to have access to some type of health care. Now what disturbs people is that not everybody is going to get the same level of care. Some people have difficulty with that, so how do you design a system where, if not everybody, but most folk have access, but you have tiered care? Some people go to work and make $200,000 a year, some make $20,000 a year. So if you’re offering a service, should the person who makes $200,000 a year be limited to what the person that makes $20,000 a year (gets)? So let’s have a basic service, and if you want to go above and beyond, then if that person’s willing to pay, let them pay. I don’t know how you build that into a system. Now, affordable care. … And I say that to say that Obamacare was a step in the right direction. Does it need work? Yes, it needs a lot of work. Do you need to pull it off the table? Probably not. Fix it. You know, you Democrats and Republicans, all y’all do is go up there and fight. Come together and fix this thing, because we got, what, 20 million folks who now have insurance who didn’t have it before.

Q: Are some of those your patients?

A: Some. But the interesting thing, I was in a meeting this past weekend with a physician who said, “I had Obamacare and I had to give it up.” And this was a physician. She said, “My premiums, my co-pays were just going through the roof.” She said, “I couldn’t afford it anymore.” So, let’s insure as many people as possible, but let’s make sure that it really is affordable. So, what needs to happen? They need to stop the bickering and figure out how to fix it. They could do some things to make it work, I think — I think.

Q: What is it about Columbus you really like, and what is it about Columbus that frustrates the heck out of you?

A: Well, I still think of Columbus, you know, metro Columbus is, what 250, 275 (thousand)? Columbus is a big country town, and all the ills that you find in a great metropolitan area we may have to a degree, but nowhere near that magnitude. So when I left Florida, I was looking for a place that had diversification and industry, and there were a significant number of physicians that suggested to me that they might be returning in five or 10 years. And if it was Georgia, you know, start around Columbus. I had no idea what Columbus was like — even in Fort Valley with the way the road system was and limited transportation, I didn’t have a clue until I visited back in, oh, what was that, maybe ’83, ’84. I’d never been to Columbus.

Q: Are you glad you found it?

A: Oh, man, best thing that could have ever happened.

Q: What is it you like about Columbus?

A: I don’t know, it’s a country town. I fish, I hunt. …

Q: So, you’re a country boy?

A: Oh, I’m a country boy. Yeah, yeah, when I moved to Florida, the black guys used to tease me because I had a truck. Within the next week or so they were all wanting to borrow it.

Q: So, I asked you earlier, and I’ll kind of ask you again in a little different way, so you see yourself doing this for a few more years then, huh?

A: Absolutely.

Q: What’s retirement look like for you?

A: When I had my first knee surgery, I was down for about nine days, and I learned something about me. I don’t sit at home well. You know, after a few days I’m only going to read so much, I’m only going to watch so much Netflix, and the same thing, I was out two months this time. I’m not a stay-at-home person, and I can’t see myself gardening. I love golf, I’m going to play golf everyday, and I love fishing. …

Sylvester McRae

Age: 63

Hometown: Helena/McRae, Ga.

Residence: Columbus

Job: Physician, OB/GYN Physician Partners

Education: Telfair County High School, 1971; Fort Valley State University, degree in zoology, 1975; Medical College of Georgia, 1978.

Family: Rose, wife of 40 years; children Sylvester II, Kevin, Joe and Kimberly; one grandchild, Sylvester III.