Tulsa Opera to Broadcast 2021 Performance of ‘Greenwood Overcomes’

On June 4, 2022, the Tulsa Opera will broadcast its 2021 performance “Greenwood Overcomes” which commemorated the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre.

The showcase, which will be presented via public media stations on June 4 and then will stream on-demand on CRB Classical starting on June 5, featured works by 23 living Black composers, performed by Black artists.

Performers included mezzo-sopranos Denyce Graves and Krysty Swann; sopranos Leah Hawkins and Leona Mitchell; tenors Issachah Savage and Noah Stewart; bass Kevin Thompson and bass-baritone Davone Tines. The concert featured works by Anthony Davis, Stewart Goodyear, James Lee III, Nkeiru Okoyo, David Bontemps, H. Leslie Adams, Peter Ashbourne, Jasmine Barnes, Kathryn Bostic, B.E. Boykin, Valerie Capers, Roland Carter, Melanie DeMore, Marques L. A. Garrett, Adolphus Hailstork, Tania León, Quinn Mason, Andre Myers, Rosephanye Powell, Carlos Simon, Damien Sneed, Tyshawn Sorey, and Nolan Williams, Jr..

The event was curated by Tulsa Opera Artistic Director and Composer Tobias Picker and Metropolitan Opera Pianist and Assistant Conductor Howard Watkins. The broadcast will feature interviews and conversations with many of the collaborators of the event.

“To be part of such a significant event was a truly remarkable experience and, as the collaborating pianist, I can say that these performances were charged with emotion, both on the stage and off,” said Watkins, co-curator of the event, in an official press statement. “This was an important concert recognizing and acknowledging the horrific events of 1921 with music as a conduit for grief, anger, healing, and love.”

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Creativity shines at BMoA’s Art After Dark

With four exhibitions to explore, as well as live music and drinks, the Bakersfield Museum of Art hosted its latest after-hours art experience, exploring race, identity and humanity while highlighting community voices. Thursday evening’s event ran from 7-9 p.m. and featured a live DJ set from 4KJ, with Tiki Ko supplying cocktails and mocktails.

In addition to the BMoA’s three spring exhibitions, “Personal to Political: Celebrating the African American Artists of Paulson Fontaine Press,” “Under the Kern County Sky: Prapat Sirinavarat” and “Exploring the Figure: Selections from BMoA’s Permanent Collection,” attendees could also view two new shows — one including senior thesis projects from students in the Department of Art and Art History at Cal State Bakersfield and the other exhibiting works from the BMoA’s ArtWorks program.

Visitors were encouraged to not only enjoy the art visually, but to interact and respond in creative ways by making their own art inspired by the exhibitions.

In the museum’s outdoor event space, willing participants were instructed to create their own cartoon characters using provided paper and drawing utensils.

  • Positive Cases Among Kern Residents: 246,310

  • Deaths: 2,444

  • Recovered and Presumed Recovered Residents: 241,004

  • Percentage of all cases that are unvaccinated: 76.39

  • Percentage of all hospitalizations that are unvaccinated: 83.38

  • Source: Kern County Public Health Services Department

Updated: 5/24/22

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Honorary degrees to be awarded at Commencement

Five individuals will recognized by the University of Delaware with the awarding of honorary degrees at the University’s Commencement ceremony on May 28.

The honorary degree, the University’s highest accolade, is reserved for individuals who reflect, in their personal and professional achievements, the University’s mission and who serve as exemplars for UD’s students, alumni, the University community and the world.

This year’s class, approved by the Board of Trustees at its spring meeting, are Arup K. Chakraborty, alumnus and director of the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science and Robert T. Haslam Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Theresa J. Rebeck, award-winning playwright; Gerret Van S. Copeland, philanthropist and UD instructor; Tatiana B. Copeland, philanthropist; and the late James E. Newton, professor emeritus of Africana studies. Dr. Newton, who died May 24, 2022, will be recognized in a ceremony later.

About the honorees

Arup K. Chakraborty

Chakraborty is receiving an Honorary Doctor of Science. An esteemed multidisciplinary scholar, he earned his doctorate in chemical engineering at UD. After teaching at the University of California at Berkeley, he joined the faculty at MIT, where he is one of just 12 Institute Professors, the highest rank awarded to an MIT faculty member. He is also one of only 25 individuals who are members of all three branches of the U.S. National Academies — the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Medicine and the National Academy of Engineering.

A pioneering researcher, Chakraborty supervises and collaborates with researchers in the Chakraborty Group, which brings together approaches from immunology, physics and engineering. His research focuses on understanding the mechanistic underpinnings of the adaptive immune response to pathogens and harnessing this knowledge to help design better vaccines and therapies, with a focus on HIV and influenza. A hallmark of his research is the close synergy and collaboration between his lab’s theoretical and computational studies and investigations led by experimental and clinical biologists.

Honored as a professor and mentor, he teaches at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and has given lectures throughout the world. Chakraborty has received several teaching awards, including most recently the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award from the MIT Chemical Engineering Department in 2020 and 2021.

Theresa Rebeck

Rebeck, who is receiving an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts, is a prolific playwright whose works have been produced on and off-Broadway, throughout the United States and abroad. When her play Bernhardt/Hamlet premiered on Broadway in 2018, it marked her fourth Broadway production and made her the most Broadway-produced female playwright of our time. A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for her play Omnium Gathering, she has won a National Theater Conference Award and several other playwriting honors.

Four of Rebeck’s works have had their world premieres on campus, presented by UD’s professional theatre training program, the Resident Ensemble Players. Her archives are housed in Special Collections at the University of Delaware Library.

A lauded writer for television and film, Rebeck created and executive produced the television musical series Smash and has written for many series, including Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Third Watch, L.A. Law, Brooklyn Bridge and others. Her writing for NYPD Blue earned her numerous awards, including a Peabody, the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award and the Hispanic Images Imagen Award. Her films credits include Harriet the Spy, Gossip, Catwoman and the recent thriller The 355. She is also the author of three novels and the nonfiction book, Free Fire Zone: A Playwright’s Adventures on the Creative Battlefield of Film, TV and Theater.

Gerret Copeland

Copeland, an accomplished business executive and owner and president of Rokeby Realty Company, is receiving an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

A wine lover, he and his wife, Tatiana, founded the Napa Valley winery Bouchaine Vineyards, for which he serves as chairman. For 14 years, he has been a guest lecturer in the field of wine at the University.

As a passionate conservationist, he and his cousin, the late George “Frolic” Weymouth, formed the Brandywine Conservancy, which has protected nearly 65,000 acres in Delaware and Pennsylvania from development. The Conservancy is a leading local and national advocate for responsible land use, open space preservation and water protection.

Copeland grew up on the property now known as the Mount Cuba Center, and he has long worked with this noted horticultural center. He is also active with Longwood Gardens and serves on its Board of Trustees.

A noted philanthropist, he is a dedicated supporter of the Delaware Art Museum and currently chairs its Board of Trustees. He and his wife are also champions of the performing arts in Delaware.

The Copelands have been honored with the Order of the First State, Delaware’s highest honor, the Delaware History Makers Award from the Delaware Historical Society and the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce’s Josiah Marvel Cup.

Tatiana Copeland

A cosmopolitan businesswoman who speaks five languages, Copeland is receiving an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

She had a successful career in international business and tax at the multinational firm of PricewaterhouseCoopers and later at DuPont and is now owner and president of Tebec Associates Limited and co-owner and president of Bouchaine Vineyards.

As patrons of the arts, she and her husband, Gerret, have supported live musical and theatrical performances. A member of the board of the Grand Opera House, she is a past chairman and president of the Delaware Symphony Association and a past national trustee of the National Symphony Orchestra. She also helped finance the renovation of the Playhouse at Rodney Square.

A champion of the Delaware community, she and her husband have shared their time, money and expertise with dozens of local and regional nonprofits, including the University of Delaware. The Copelands are also great dog lovers and created a fund to help pet owners afford veterinary care.

Her support was key to the state getting its own tall ship, the Kalmar Nyckel, a replica of the ship that brought the original European settlers to Wilmington in 1638. Her likeness graces the prow of that ship, and she was knighted by the king of Sweden with the Royal Order of the Polar Star.

James E. Newton

An award-winning artist and a long-time member of the University of Delaware faculty, Dr. Newton will be awarded the Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters posthumously. Dr. Newton retired from the University in 2005 after a 33-year career that included directing the Department of Black American Studies, now the Department of Africana Studies, and chairing the Commission to Promote Racial and Cultural Diversity. At the University, he was recognized with the Excellence in Teaching Award, the Black Student Union Faculty Award, an award for teaching excellence from the Mortar Board honor society and the Louis L. Redding Diversity Award.

He served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Delaware State Advisory Committee and on the National Board of the Association for the Study of Afro-American Life and History. An active member the community, he served on the board of many organizations, including the Walnut Street YMCA, the Delaware State Arts Council, the Delaware Art Museum, Tatnall School, YMCA of Delaware and Public Allies.

He is the author of The Principles of Diversity: Handbook for a Diversity-Friendly America and A Curriculum Evaluation on Student Knowledge of Afro-American Life and History, as well as several articles on multicultural education, African American art and diversity. He also wrote more than 30 articles on Black Delawareans. In addition, he co-edited The Other Slaves: Mechanics, Artisans and Craftsmen, and he won first-prize awards in sculpture and graphics in the National African American Art Exhibition in Atlanta.

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Why Biden’s new policing policies mean so little on the ground

… invasive, dangerous and disproportionately affecting Black Americans.  But the problem is that … relationship between policing and “systematic racism,” saying that it meant Biden … executive order still mentions systematic racism, which, in combination with … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

15 Essential Works by Photographer Gordon Parks, Who Chronicled African American Life

To call Gordon Parks (1912–2006) a Renaissance man would be a massive understatement.

A photographer, filmmaker, writer, musician/composer, and painter, Parks enjoyed an extraordinary career that landed him everywhere from Hollywood to the front lines in the battle for Civil Rights.

Parks was a freelancer for Glamour and Ebony before becoming the first Black staff photographer at Life magazine, in 1948; later, he shot fashion spreads for Vogue. He was also the first African American to helm a major motion picture—1969’s semi-autobiographical The Learning Tree, which Parks adapted from his own novel of the same name, and for which he co-composed the musical score. His next directorial effort, the 1971 thriller Shaft, starring Richard Roundtree as the eponymous detective, was such a huge hit that it spawned the box-office genre known as “blaxploitation” while also producing an equally famous theme song by Isaac Hayes.

Still, out of all his accomplishments, Parks probably remains best known for producing some of the most powerful photographs of the 20th century. His interest in photography began early. Born in Fort Scott, Kansas, Parks relocated to St. Paul, Minnesota, as a teenager, where, after buying his first camera and teaching himself the craft, he landed his first professional job shooting fashion for a department store.

In 1940 he moved to the South Side of Chicago, where he had a portrait studio at the South Side Community Art Center. Two years later, he went to work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA), which had begun chronicling the nation’s social conditions under the New Deal. Upon arriving in Washington, D.C., he described the city as “bulging” with racism. One of the images taken in response was of a cleaning lady in the FSA building, her pose taken from Grant Wood’s iconic painting, American Gothic.

Parks became particularly noted for capturing subjects from the sports, politics, and entertainment worlds, as well as from everyday life, while on assignment. But more important, he dedicated himself to social justice, noting that he considered the camera “a weapon against poverty [and] racism.”

Recently Howard University acquired a collection of 252 photographs from the Gordon Parks Foundation that cover the entire arc of his career. It focuses on the portraits for which he is rightly celebrated, as you’ll see from the indelible examples below.

African American Roundtable in Milwaukee wants more community say on how federal pandemic relief funds are divvied

Devin Anderson, African American Roundtable membership and coalition manager, speaks during a rally to demand input on how the city of Milwaukee spends American Rescue Plan Act funds at the group's office on Thursday.

A local community group is again calling for federal pandemic relief funding to not go toward city of Milwaukee police coffers.

Instead, the group wants residents’ input on how the next round of American Rescue Plan Act money should be spent through a participatory budget process.

“We believe that these funds should be used to expand and improve the quality of life of people, particularly Black people of Milwaukee,” said Devin Anderson, of the African American Roundtable, a community-based advocacy group. “ …We feel like these are our funds, and we should have a direct say in how these funds are used.”

The city was allocated $394.2 million in ARPA money. The Milwaukee Common Council and then-Mayor Tom Barrett decided last year how to spend the first half of it.

The second half — totaling roughly $197 million — is expected to be in city coffers in June. A portion of that money, the group says, will go to plug budget holes.

Earlier this month, the Common Council recommended $75 million in ARPA funds be used to shore up a shortfall in the 2023 budget to maintain service levels and bolster the city’s pension liabilities, including police and fire. Mayor Cavalier Johnson initially proposed $160 million — $80 million in both 2023 and 2024 — to maintain those services.

AART and several community leaders held a news conference and rally outside the advocacy group’s northwest side office to demand the city enact participatory budgeting. That’s a democratic process allowing community residents to decide how to spend part of a public budget.

Nearly 300 reported and confirmed participatory budgeting initiatives exist at the city and county levels, including districts and wards across the U.S., according to the Participatory Budgeting Project’s website.

More:Milwaukee Common Council targets upgrades to streetlights, sustaining city services in next round of federal ARPA funding

Markasa Tucker-Harris, African American Roundtable executive director, speaks during a news conference and rally held by African-American Roundtable to demand input in how the city of Milwaukee spends American Rescue Plan Act funds, at AART's office in Brown Deer on Thursday.

Enacting participatory budgeting would be a “transformative shift” for the city, said Markasa Tucker-Harris, AART’s executive director. This shift will end the status quo by allowing residents most impacted by the issues the opportunity to be a part of the decision-making process, she said.

“We know the answers to our own problems. But if we don’t have the resources that are rightfully ours to make those things happen, it is hard to address those root cause of violence and poverty,” Tucker-Harris said.

From left, Debra Gillispie and Kejuane Jennings, both of Milwaukee, and Shameka Moore, the African American Roundtable office manager, take part in the rally in Brown Deer on Thursday, May 26, 2022.

The city, Tucker-Harris added, should be better stewards of the taxpayers’ money, instead of using tricky accounting methods to fill budget holes. Continuing to put money into policing doesn’t work and hasn’t worked for centuries because people are still dying, she said.

“But yet we keep putting money into a system that isn’t addressing the reason why these kids are doing the things that they’re doing,” Tucker-Harris said. “Police don’t address the root causes. They never can and they never will.”

The police, Anderson said, take up a sizeable amount of the city’s departmental budget, about 46% and the city’s mushrooming pension problems stem from an overreliance on police. Police and fire, he added, make up 44% of the city’s active workforce, but account for 80% of the city’s pension cost. And in this year’s budget, the city’s police department is getting upwards of $280 million, Anderson said.

“The cost of policing is not allowing up to invest in any other services,” Anderson said, adding that defunding the police and using ARPA funds to invest in people is a way to “avoid austerity budgets.”

The ARPA funds, he said, could be used to address this city’s affordable housing gap, offer down payment or rental assistance, youth employment and activities, and infrastructure improvements including fixing potholes.

The first round of ARPA funding saw $26 million go to lead paint abatement, $3 million for lead abatement workforce development, and $2 million for energy efficiency upgrades to homes undergoing lead remediation.

Richard Diaz of Coalition on Lead Emergency, hopes that happens for the second round. Diaz wants ARPA funds to go toward more health outreach and engagement for children testing with high lead levels, capacity building and training for people of color business owners to do lead abatement work and the elimination of “cost shares” for service lines replacement.

Diaz said the cost to replace lead lines is passed on to the homeowners, who live in areas that have the highest lead levels but are among the poorest.

“They shouldn’t have to pay a dime,” he said.

The AART has been advocating for participatory budgeting since 2019 when it launched its LiberateMKE campaign. It has gained traction in the Common Council when nine members last year signed a resolution to supporting the initiative, but it was unfunded.

Anderson said his group will continue to target those council members. The group will host educational and outreach campaigns among residents to help pressure Common Council members. He said the aldermen must hear and be accountable to the people who elected them.

The group wants the city to allocate a portion of the ARPA dollars for each aldermanic district that will have its own participatory budgeting process.

“We see the mayor answer to downtown. He hasn’t answered to this community in the same way,” Anderson said. “That’s why we are asking district by district. We know neighborhood by neighborhood; district by district there are different priorities on what they want to see funded.”

Allison Dirr of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this report. 

La Risa Lynch is a community affairs reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Email her at llynch@gannett.com.

Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Elvis’ Is Utterly Exhausting

Baz Luhrmann has never been given credit for his cinematic innovation, so let it be said here that with Elvis he has pioneered the first film to consist exclusively of montage from beginning to end. The whole Greatest Hits of montage are here: newspaper headlines by the truckload; a ferris wheel that turns into a spinning record; a succession of screaming audiences from one town to another; concert posters signifying Elvis’s growing fame, in which his name moves up the bill; money and the trappings of fame. Luhrmann’s fondness for this most hackneyed of techniques is but a symptom of a wider disease in his filmmaking, namely his disturbing addiction to hacking and remixing. The director cannot hear a song but he has to chop it up, spin it around, put a donk on it, slow it down, add a breathy vocal, speed it up again, chuck in a gospel choir, hit the echo pedal, and finish it off with an irrelevant rap outro. As in his process, so it is with his storytelling: it’s dispiriting that he doesn’t trust his material to capture our attention off its own bat, but instead gussies it up like Blackpool illuminations. Elvis is a film for babies.

The supposed hook for this new film is that it focuses on the financial abuse of Elvis Presley (Austin Butler, who is not the worst thing in the film) by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks, who might be). This could have been a rich angle from which to tackle the legend of Elvis Presley, whose story is already very well-known, from his debut as a young rockabilly star to his Las Vegas residency, via his purchase of Graceland and his growing dependence on drugs and alcohol. Luhrmann’s movie hits all of these beats, hammering home with wide eyes a series of commonplace observations about Presley, such as the fact that his music meshed white country music with the stylings of Black music. There are doubtless people in the world to whom this incredibly famous fact was not known, and it’s only natural that an Elvis biopic would address it, but it’s the way Luhrmann goes about it that grates. Here, we get a hilarious crash zoom on Tom Hanks realizing that the kid he’s hearing on the radio is white; a languorous scene of child-Elvis witnessing a ridiculous “sexy” blues performance in a tent, and taking part in a gospel revival during which he apparently receives the spirit of Black music; there is also expository dialogue to this effect, newspaper headlines about segregation, and a bankrupt scene in which Elvis, already an established star, draws inspiration from an up-and-comer by the name of Little Richard.

This approach significantly overplays Elvis’s innovation, and is meretricious when it comes to recognizing the way he appropriated music by artists of color such as Little Richard. In reality, Little Richard had been performing for many years by the time Presley got around to recording “That’s All Right,” and “Tutti Frutti” was released not long after Presley’s debut with Sun Records. This matters, because far from being an exemplar of American musical miscegenation, Elvis mostly got his start by stealing from Black artists, and got the chances that they wouldn’t have had because of his whiteness.

Having spent so much time telling this alternative history, Luhrmann then goes on to flunk other aspects of Elvis’s life—for instance, Presley goes from being a promising young upstart with a growing recognition to being a superstar who owns Graceland and sells merchandise. The death of Presley’s adored mother is also hilariously fluffed—one moment she’s alive, and the next second Austin Butler is crying over her blouses in a walk-in wardrobe, with barely any mention of the fact that his ma has conked it in the intervening period. These errors matter, because the film is so extraordinarily long and spends what feels like decades on elements of Presley’s life that are considerably less interesting (such as the Vegas residency), that the film feels cobbled together, a ragbag.

These errors matter, because the film is so extraordinarily long and spends what feels like decades on elements of Presley’s life that are considerably less interesting (such as the Vegas residency), that the film feels cobbled together, a ragbag.

Amongst all this, the familiar problems of biopics emerge—not least the fact that Elvis is an extraordinarily famous icon, and is one of the most imitated people on the planet. Austin Butler does a perfectly creditable job in this regard, particularly during musical performances. During scenes of dialogue, his Elvis voice occasionally sounds strained, but the main thing is that he is not distracting. Late scenes in which we see the real Elvis perform show up the difference in charisma quite painfully, but then again the real Elvis didn’t have to fight against his surroundings in order to convince people. Opposite Butler, Tom Hanks, all prosthetics and creepy voice stylings, plays Colonel Tom Parker as a sort of predatory alien—but for some reason his performance never comes alive. There needed to be so much more villainy, a lot more edge to this controlling character, rather than have him be an unreliable narrator on the sidelines. This failure to get Tom Parker across tanks what could have been the film’s most interesting facet: a grim look at Elvis as a caged plaything might make for a stunning film, perhaps by another director than Luhrmann.

Elvis is such a gaudy, buzzing, relentless object, which for 2.5 hours lurches about flashing its gold like a drunk old millionaire in a strip joint. The overall effect produced by so much frenetic vulgarity, so many shiny effects, is one of utter exhaustion. Luhrmann will doubtless never slow down, but there could still be time for him to marshal his hyperactive cinema into some sort of shape, perhaps with the aid of one stubborn screenwriter (Elvis credits about 192 people on script duties) who can bring something recognizably human to his world.

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