An Oakland Film Series Examines the Black Aesthetic

click to enlarge A still from Jehnovah Carlisle’s Day by Day, featuring Carvell Wallace (“Michael”) and Ezra Wallace (“Johnny”) from left to right.

  • A still from Jehnovah Carlisle’s Day by Day, featuring Carvell Wallace (“Michael”) and Ezra Wallace (“Johnny”) from left to right.

Filmmaker Wes Anderson’s oeuvre possesses of one of the most identifiable aesthetics in cinema. With a great respect for color theory, the filmmaker assigns a striking palette to his works. And then there’s his penchant for symmetry and depicting familial life in extremes. Anderson has fashioned an aesthetic so distinct that it’s recognizable, and even imitable, off-screen. Of course, there’s also Quentin Tarantino, Stanley Kubrick, and David Lynch, who’ve also carved out their own movie aesthetics. But where does a Black film aesthetic come in? And, for that matter, is the Black aesthetic even monolithic?

At the beginning of the 20th century, Black actors appeared in prominent films, but were relegated to subservient stereotypes: mammy figures, incompetent butlers, harlots. While Black actors and filmmakers continue in their fight for more screen time today, Arthur Jafa is a cinematographer who’s managed to amass enough of it to make his signature aesthetic known. His work on Julie Dash’s 1991 film, Daughters of the Dust, is marked by a distinct specificity — so much so that Beyoncé’s Lemonade is a palpable homage to the film’s Southern Gothic quality and languid Gullah imagery, replete with specters and West African tradition.

Ryanaustin Dennis, curator of The Black Aesthetic Film Series, recalls watching Jafa’s works and relating to them, but also recognizing his Black aesthetic looked different. “On a deep level, I’m interested in aesthetics,” Dennis said of his curiosity.

Now in its second season, the mission of The Black Aesthetic Film Series is to, perhaps predictably, explore “What is the Black aesthetic?” But Dennis isn’t looking to walk away from this showcase with a cut-and-dry answer. The question, instead, serves as a facilitator for conversation, and a reminder that, for one, the Black aesthetic exists and, two, it contains multitudes.

“It wasn’t a distinction I was thinking about too much, but within the Black aesthetic there’s a multitude of all these different kind of sensibilities,” said Dennis of the difference between the singular aesthetic versus the plural. Essentially, The Black Aesthetic Film Series is a celebration of the infinitude of Black art.

click to enlarge Ryanaustin Dennis, curator of The Black Aesthetic Film Series - HAYDEN BRITTON

  • Hayden Britton
  • Ryanaustin Dennis, curator of The Black Aesthetic Film Series

Its inaugural season kicked off in October 2016, when Dennis and his collaborator, local filmmaker Christian Johnson, became fed up with how Black women filmmakers in particular are so often left out of the larger conversation in cinema, Black or otherwise.

“I’m just over phallocentrism. I don’t buy into it,” Dennis said. “If you are a person who likes to see women in the world define themselves and be in the world, you just do the work,” he added. “How do you use whatever privilege and access you have to be a part of the right part of history? That’s what it really comes down to.”

The 2016 season of the film series boasted an eight-week roster of films, such as the aforementioned Daughters of the Dust and Drylongso by Cauleen Smith, followed by an audience discussion. The discussions weren’t muddled in esoteric film-school jargon, but rather an open forum for considering Black womanhood, and a space to form connections between the audience members and organizers.

The second season of The Black Aesthetic Film Series (which commenced on April 13 and runs through May 25) offers more of the same — provocative films and discourse. For this round, Dennis has curated a roster mostly featuring up-and-coming Black filmmakers from the Bay Area.

Artist and musician Brontez Purnell opened the series with his directorial debut, 100 Boyfriends Mixtape. The semi-autobiographical, experimental film uses Purnell’s punk-rock aesthetic to share his daring perspective on life (Purnell currently fronts the band the Younger Lovers). Other filmmakers in this year’s lineup include Yetunde Olagbaju, Anaiis Cisco, and Alli Logout, whose film Lucid Noon, Sunset Blush will finish off the series.

The idea for the film series came to fruition during Dennis’ residency at E.M. Wolfman, a multi-hyphenate hub of creativity nestled in the thick of high-rises in downtown Oakland. The general interest small bookstore is hosting several of the series’ screenings, and Wolfman’s founder, Justin Carder, told the Express he’s excited to be “building the infrastructure around [the series] to make something lasting.” In fact, Johnson is currently in residency at Wolfman, where he’s working on a short film — a psychological thriller about an interracial couple in Oakland titled A Moment of Truth and Sin.

With this burgeoning partnership, and new projects like Johnson’s on the horizon, there will be no shortage of iterations to add to the ever-growing lexicon of Black aesthetics — and Dennis is eager to showcase them.
“I’m doing a season three, I’m doing a season four, five, six. I’m gonna do as many as I can until people tell me to stop.”

Check out screenings on May 18, 6-9pm, and May 25, 7:30-9:30pm, $5-20, No one will be turned away for the lack of funds, various locations,

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Old Trump friend signs first client

05/19/2017 02:37 PM EDT

Updated 05/19/2017 05:25 PM EDT

With David Beavers and Aubree Eliza Weaver

OLD TRUMP FRIEND SIGNS FIRST LOBBYING CLIENT: Albert J. Pirro Jr., a Westchester lawyer and an old friend of President Donald Trump’s, has signed his first federal lobbying client. He’ll lobby for the Greater New York Hospital Association on “Federal regulations regarding reimbursement of uncompensated medical care pursuant to Medicare,” according to a disclosure filing. (The filing was first spotted by LegiStorm.) Pirro — whose ex-wife, Fox News’ Judge Jeanine Pirro, interviewed Trump days ago — has a checkered past. He spent nearly a year in prison after being convicted of conspiracy and tax evasion in 2000. His firm, the Pirro Group, said he was out of the office and unavailable to comment.

Story Continued Below

MEGUIRE WHITNEY ADDS TROTT AIDE: The lobbying firm Meguire Whitney has added Anna Lake Leieritz as a principal. She was previously legislative director for Rep. Dave Trott (R-Mich.) and will work on “infrastructure and resources issues, including hydropower, endangered species, and water,” according to Elizabeth Whitney, the firm’s managing principal.

LIEBERMAN’S LOBBYING PAST: Former Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is the front-runner to become the next FBI director. He’s also a former lobbyist for a Libyan businessman, as The Wall Street Journal’s Byron Tau (a PI alum) pointed out on Thursday. From the Nov. 27, 2013, edition of PI: “Lieberman will be working for Basit Igtet on a government relations contract. Igtet is a Libyan businessman and activist who is exploring a run for office in his native country. Lieberman’s firm Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman [the firm is now known as Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP] has signed a contract with Igtet that includes ‘government relations services, communication of information to the principal and as well as [communication of] information about the principal to interested persons in the public sector,’ according to public documents posted online this week.”

— Igtet, PI noted at the time, “rose to political prominence in 2010 with his efforts to foster a rebellion against then-Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi. He eventually served as a special envoy to the Libyan National Transitional Council.” Because everything ties back to Donald Trump in one way or another: Igtet’s wife, Sara Bronfman, an heiress to the Seagram’s liquor fortune, reportedly sued the Trump Organization in 2015 for allegedly being forced to pay for damage caused by a broken pipe.

Good afternoon, and welcome to PI. I’ll be on vacation next week, but you’ll be in the capable hands of Mary Lee. Please send tips to, or to PI’s editor, Emily Stephenson, at You can also follow them on Twitter: @maryjylee and @ewstephe.

HOW DETROIT IS BEATING ITS BLIGHT: Land banks are the Swiss Army knives of urban reclamation efforts, wielding an array of powers to make abandoned, tax-foreclosed properties useful again. In the latest installment of POLITICO Magazine’s “What Works” series, we visit the city of Detroit, which went from a robust city of 1.8 million in 1950 to barely a third of that size today. Learn how Mayor Mike Duggan’s administration created the largest land bank in the U.S., taking control of 98,000 properties to help his city rebound from bankruptcy and an unprecedented level of decline. Read more.

REPUBLICANS OUTSPENDING DEMOCRATS 4-TO-1 ON HEALTH CARE ADS: “For the first time in years, Democrats feel like they have the upper hand in the political battles over health care. But one aspect of the fight is the same as ever: Republicans still have a massive spending advantage on health care-related advertising,” POLITICO’s Scott Bland reports. “The Republican push has been led by American Action Network, the big-money GOP nonprofit aligned with House Speaker Paul Ryan. A new round of radio ads launched this week brought the group’s total spending on health care advocacy this year to $13.1 million, it announced Monday. That includes over $8 million on TV and radio advertising targeted toward House districts around the country, according to the group.”

— “By contrast, Save My Care and Patriot Majority USA — the two progressive nonprofit groups running health care issue ads in House districts — have spent less than $2 million on House TV and radio advertising targeting House Republicans, according to a Democratic source tracking media spending,” disheartening some Democratic strategists. Full story.

SENATORS SEEK LIFETIME LOBBYING BAN FOR FORMER MEMBERS: Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Al Franken (D-Minn.) introduced legislation on Thursday that would ban former members of Congress for lobbying for life, ReutersRichard Cowan reports. “‘By banning members of Congress from lobbying when they leave Capitol Hill, we can begin to restore confidence in our national politics,’ Gardner said in a statement. Similar legislation has failed in the past.” Full story.

— Senators are currently banned from lobbying their former colleagues in either chamber for two years after retiring; representatives are banned from doing so for one year. But former members regularly join lobbying firms after leaving and refrain from lobbying Congress until the ban is up. (Former members are allowed to lobby the executive branch immediately.) Four former members who left office in January have headed to K Street so far: Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), who joined Mercury; Rep. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.), who’s at King & Spalding; Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), who joined Capitol Counsel; and Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.), who landed at McDermott Will & Emery.

** A message from the National Confectioners Association – #AlwaysATreat: Leading global chocolate and candy companies are coming together to provide more information, options, and support as consumers enjoy their favorite treats. It’s the first step on our journey to help people manage their sugar intake and ensure that they feel empowered to make informed choices. Learn more at **

BLACK CAUCUS WARNS K STREET ON LACK OF DIVERSITY: “The Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) is pressuring powerful K Street groups in Washington to diversify their workforces,” The Hill’s Megan Wilson reports. “In a letter to industry leaders sent Tuesday, the CBC wrote companies are not doing an adequate job of hiring minorities. They say there should be more African-Americans serving as high-level executives, lobbyists and members of corporate boards. … ‘It is clear corporate America has a long way to go on this front and you will be asked by members of the CBC for data on improvements in this area if you come to do business with our offices,’ [the letter] reads.” Full story.

THE KUSHNER TOUCH: As he tried to convince a Saudi delegation to buy an American-made radar system during a meeting earlier this month, “[Jared] Kushner picked up the phone and called Marillyn A. Hewson — the chief executive of Lockheed Martin, which makes the radar system — and asked her whether she could cut the price,” The New York TimesMark Landler, Eric Schmitt and Matt Apuzzo report. “As his guests watched slack-jawed, Ms. Hewson told him she would look into it, officials said. Mr. Kushner’s personal intervention in the arms sale is further evidence of the Trump White House’s readiness to dispense with custom in favor of informal, hands-on deal making.” Full story.

CONSERVATIVE GROUPS REJECT ‘BUY AMERICAN’ PROVISIONS: “A coalition of free market groups, including Americans for Tax Reform, is urging lawmakers to ensure that any infrastructure plan requires competitive bids for materials used in projects, contravening President Donald Trump‘s pledge to ‘Buy American,’” POLITICO’s Lauren Gardner reports. “By allowing for an open and competitive bidding process, project managers and engineers will be better able to evaluate different options and select materials for infrastructure projects that enhance performance, durability, and reduce costs to taxpayers,” Americans for Tax Reform, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks wrote in an open letter to Congress on Thursday. Full story.


Jennie Derge-Massey has joined Amazon’s Washington office as a senior manager of public policy, working on labor and employment issues. She previously worked for Accenture.

Devin O’Malley started at the Justice Department’s public affairs office on Monday, according to an email announcing the move. He previously worked for i360.

SPOTTED: On the roof of Cassidy & Associates’ offices last night for the closing reception of Infrastructure Week: Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Don Young (R-Alaska) and Garret Graves (R-La.); Kai Anderson, Russ Thomasson, Charles Brittingham, Kaleb Froehlich and Jesse Barba of Cassidy & Associates; Alex Depompolo of Transportation for America; Chris Buki of Rep. Bill Shuster’s office; Ernie Jolly and Jordan Morris of Rep. Gregory Meeks’ office; Yvesner Zamar of Rep. John Conyers’ office; Sam Negatu of Rep. Matt Cartwright’s office; Sarah Pearce of Sen. Rob Portman’s office; Alex Schenck of Sen. Dan Sullivan’s office; and Bruce Newman of Rep. Don Young’s office.

— On another rooftop, this one belonging to Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, which hosted a reception on Wednesday night: Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Chris Murphy (D-Conn.); Reps. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.), Tom Rice (R-S.C.), Bill Keating (D-Mass.), Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.), Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.); Jack Cline of the University of Kansas; Aaron Lowe of the Auto Care Association; Jim Gordon of TransCanada; and Vincent Storimans of the Dutch Embassy.

— At the Hyatt Regency on Wednesday night, where the Women in Government Relations celebrated their 42nd anniversary: Reps. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.); Katie Schubert of CRD Associates, who serves as the president of Women in Government Relations; Kate Shenk of the Biotechnology Industry Organization; Suzanne Swink of BP; Mallika Vastare of the Furman Group; Kailee Tkacz of the Corn Refiners Association; Charla McManus of Winning Strategies Washington; and Jacki Ball of the National PTA.


— Twenty executives from the Large Public Power Council are flying in for meetings with lawmakers and administration officials including Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt on Monday and Tuesday, talking tax reform, infrastructure and cybersecurity.

— Former Rep. Tony Coelho (D-Calif.), a former DCCC chairman, House majority whip and longtime epilepsy research advocate, will celebrate his 75th birthday at Cohen & Gresser on June 5.


Blue Collar Victory Fund (Reps. Carlos Curbelo, Jeff Denham, John Katko, Steve Knight)
Golden Isle Committee 2017 (Reps. Bill Flores, Richard Hudson)


GForce (Leadership PAC: Greg Gianforte)
Voice Of Washington (Super PAC)





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CORRECTION: A previous version of this POLITICO Influence misspelled Meguire Whitney.

Black presences at the Venice Biennale

The politics of the Venice Biennale might best be seen through the spatial geography of pavilions: The well-financed are situated close to the main exhibition in the Arsenale and Giardini sections where Biennale curator Christine Macel’s vision is laid out, while others are scattered in the hinterlands of the city.

In many ways, the location of national pavilions replicates the world’s political and economic power structures: Powerful European and North American nations, which know the value of this platform, maintain permanent pavilions paid for with state funds.

But many other nations do not support their artists and pay for their presence in the biennale. If neither a government nor private funders support a pavilion, it is forced to rent (cheaper) space in the outer neighbourhoods of Venice to which only diehard art professionals and a curious few are willing to venture out to – trekking through mazes of streets, canals, and picturesque bridges.

In using “Viva Arte Viva!” as the theme for the biennale, curator Macel wished to stress the significance of regarding “art for art’s sake”. She wanted to say that art should be representative of more than what it is commercially worth. But even though the biennale is meant to provide a view of cutting-edge practices, it seemed as though black artists, and African artists in particular, were either absent from that picture, or relegated to the peripheries.

Despite the vocal activism of black artists and women of colour in women artists groups such as Guerrilla Girls, the breakdown of the racial demographics of the 2017 Venice Biennale by Artsy’s editorial team revealed that of the 120 artists Macel chose to participate in the central exhibition representing her vision for “Viva Arte Viva!”, a “mere five artists are black”, and of that number, Senga Nengudi, an American, was the only black, female artist.

OPINION: Rethinking the Arab capital through art

If it were not for the handful of African national pavilions, the 57th edition of the Venice Biennale would have looked mostly like a Europe that had closed its borders. Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tunisia, Zimbabwe were the only representatives of Africa in the biennale. 

Scrambling for visas

To make a place for themselves at this edition of the biennale, and to raise the funds necessary for a national pavilion, African pavilion curators had to be adept at networking with politicians and the business community, and persuading powerful people at home that financing art and artists’ passage is a socially, politically and financially lucrative investment.

Each African pavilion’s set of curators and artists have tales of challenges met and surmounted that artists from “first-world” pavilions would not dream of encountering.

For example, after it was revealed that two Malindi-based Italian businessmen and a Chinese property developer hijacked the Kenya pavilion to show a collection of  works by one Italian, six Chinese and just two Kenyan artists at the 2015 Biennale, Kenyan artists and writers attempted to shame their government into taking a stand and funding a “real” Kenyan pavilion in the 2017 biennale.

Unfortunately, their heroic efforts to right this wrong and reclaim the Kenya Pavillion did not translate into funds. This year, Kenyan curators and artists had to do some old-fashioned wrangling to finance flight tickets and visas to be able to come to Venice and participate in the biennale. They were glued to their phones the day before they – and all their artworks – were due to fly, still making calls to the Italian embassy to get visas. By some miracle, they arrived in Venice in time and set up their pavilion the day before the official opening – an unheard-of situation for their first-world counterparts who arrived weeks before to set up.

A view from the National Pavilion of Angola at the 2017 Venice Biennale [Getty images]

Questioning the concept of ‘the nation state’

Artists and pavilions alike questioned this year’s edition’s pretences about the aesthetic not having anything to do with the political, and the Biennale’s ongoing obsession with using the nation state as the singular unit to categorise art and artists and to make sense of the world.

Though the handful of black artists and African Pavilions at the biennale more accurately lived up to the Venice Biennale director’s message about centring our focus on the artists’ beautiful labour, it was not they who received accolades. Yet they created powerful, self-recognising spaces for themselves – without needing acknowledgement from Europe.


Malian artist Abdoulaye Konate’s joyful homage to Brazil, for example, acknowledges the significance of both football and Catholicism for the country, but also gently mocks these obsessions, which were used to manufacture a national identity. There is a tiny, embroidered football and a fiery-feathered parrot in his work made up of carefully layered tiles of cloth.

There is  also an easy-to-miss Christ the Redeemer statue – a massive art-deco statue, which is one of the most easily recognised national symbols of Brazil, designed by the French sculptor Paul Landowski and the Romanian sculptor Gheorghe Leonida, and built by the Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa. Along with Konate’s work, the collaborative effort that went into this iconic statue itself speaks volumes about the fantasy of “the nation”.

Tunisia, which presented a pavilion at the biennale for the first time since 1958, developed a powerful yet simply and elegantly executed political performance. Its curator, Lina Lazaar’s concept, The Absence of Paths, involves “immigration offices” at several locations in the Arsenale section of Venice, where cheery but officious un-bureaucrats (who are “aspirant migrants” rather than artists) process “freesas” within minutes to anyone willing to line up. This “free visa” allows movement based only on one’s human will to be mobile, seek safety and self-betterment, rather than permitting mobility based on one’s existing privileges, class, and/or racial markings. In a time when the Mediterranean border is a location that launches so many dreams and deaths, the Tunisian Pavilion’s performance art was a painfully real and politically astute necessary offering that questioned the concept of national borders. 

Another pavilion that refutes the privileged position that the nation state is given at the Venice Biennale and challenges the depressing number of black artists in Christine Macel’s vision is the Diaspora Pavilion, which is presented by the International Curators Forum and University of the Arts London. A total of 19 artists came together under the banner of the Diaspora Pavilion to create a living testament to what it means to house many nations within one’s body, psyche, and practice as an artist, and to question the trust and loyalty that those with more stable national narratives place on the nation state.

OPINION: Abstracting the savaged body of Emmett Till

This is a pavilion created because artists of complex, multinational backgrounds – and black women artists, especially – find that the doors of high art are closed to them. The Diaspora Pavilion had one of the most ebullient opening ceremonies – and a kicking party afterwards, with a long queue of jostling hopefuls spilling out on to the street, much to the ire of cursing locals who simply wanted to pass through. But when those who are marginalised and excluded create space for themselves in an environment that would otherwise be inhospitable to their persons and their work, the response is bewilderment at first, and then resistance.

I know of at least one person who asked “Is this necessary?” about the Diaspora Pavilion. For them, “this” is black artists taking up too much space, playing music too loudly, being just too much. Perhaps “this” is also creating discomfiture for those who believed, for a minute, that the art world, along with the Millennial generation, had become “colour-blind” – so over race that racism is no longer a real threat. But the fact that Diaspora artists had to create an alternate space for themselves – to counter the erasures that that they encounter – meant that those who purport not to see colour, race, ethnicity, or difference could not support their fantasy. And that is embarrassing.

 I found the small Antigua and Barbuda pavilion only by chance, writes Jayawardane [Courtesy of Barbara Paca]

A chance discovery

In Venice, I also came across the small Antigua and Barbuda pavilion, which presents the narrative of a forgotten local son – the eccentric artist Frank Archibald Wentworth Walter, the self-styled 7th Prince of the West Indies, Lord of Follies and the Ding-a-Ding Nook, born in Antigua in 1926. Many of his enormous body of work were executed on unconventional canvases, including the backs of Polaroid film boxes. His work includes sculptures and an extensive genealogy of his family, which was written by hand using ink.

In the pavilion, among the brilliant colours of his portraits of island life, there was also a map of Walter’s family tree, which traces his lineage from the slaves as well as the European owners of a sugar cane plantation down to himself – the first black man on the island to own a sugar cane plantation.

Walter suffered from mental illness exacerbated by a move in the 1950s from Antigua to London, where – despite his white aristocratic lineage on which he had been taught to invest his identity – he encountered racism so damaging to his psyche that upon his return he retreated to a hermitage above the Antiguan coastline – with no running water or electricity – to paint.

I only found this pavilion by chance. As I was walking along the canals of Venice looking for the Nigerian Pavilion, I saw Frank Walter’s name on a board outside a building. It is in serendipitous moments like this that an unwieldy and inelegant creature like the Venice Biennale becomes memorable.

Appropriating African art

Biennales are supposed to have different goals from commercial art fairs, which are unapologetically driven by sales. But in this year’s Venice biennale the big buzz is around the multimillion-dollar salesof a well-known British artist’s gaudy, and conceptually shaky works, including exact reproductions of Ori Olokun, one of the copper-alloy heads from Ife, Nigeria, which date back to the 14th century.

Qudus Onikeku, the Nigerian choreographer and dance virtuoso, noted, wryly: “When you name things, you invoke them, when you give attention to things, you direct energies towards them, and thus the thing exists, so I have decided not to mention the name of that fraudulent miscreant that appropriated the IFE HEAD at the Venice Biennale.”

Heeding Onikeku’s political and spiritual imperative, I will not name this artist. However, assembly-line copies of historic sculptures that he created – that are as authentic as “antiqued” metal bits purchased at a Restoration Hardware shop – did not bother the horde of collectors stampeding into his exhibition and snapping up all copies of his pieces.

The centrality and popularity of this white star-artist in this biennale and his reductive reproductions reflect more about the art world’s networks of interdependencies between billionaire collectors, big-name galleries, and the handful of favoured star-artists. These “celebrities” do not produce anything that may actually innovate on technique or aesthetics, or be too critical of the demeaning relationships that make it impossible to shout “emperor is not only butt-naked but butt-ugly, too”.

Though the handful of black artists and African Pavilions at the biennale more accurately lived up to the Venice Biennale director’s message about centring our focus on the artists’ beautiful labour, it was not they who received accolades. Yet they created powerful, self-recognising spaces for themselves – without needing acknowledgement from Europe.

M Neelika Jayawardane is Associate Professor of English at the State University of New York-Oswego, and an honorary research associate at the Centre for Indian Studies in Africa, University of the Witwatersrand (South Africa). She is a founding member of the online magazine, Africa is a Country, where she was senior editor and contributor from 2010 to 2016. Among numerous published texts, Jayawardane recently contributed the main essay for the South Africa pavilion’s 57th Venice Biennale catalogue, and essays for The Walther Collection’s publication (2017) and other artists’ catalogues. Her writing is featured in Transitions, Aperture, Contemporary&, Art South Africa, Contemporary Practices: Visual Art from the Middle East, Even, and Research in African Literatures. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.  

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Theater: ‘For Colored Girls ‘ celebrates diversity

Ntozake Shange’s seminal “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf” is her first, and still best-known work. Shange first performed it with four other women in a small bar in Berkeley, Calif., in 1974. By 1976 it was on Broadway, where it ran for nearly two years and was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play.

Celebrating the power of reclaiming one’s voice, the seminal work’s influence is everywhere. One has to look no further than to Basement Poetry, the company producing “For Colored Girls…” at the Ice House in Bethlehem Friday and Saturday.

The company was born of six friends from Northampton Community College who wanted their voices to be heard and grew into a performance art group focusing on slam poetry and movement theater. Dedicated to creating a courageous and safe place to share stories through art, the group presents productions that speak about the silenced voices of their community — women, people of color, mentally ill, LGBTQ and every other marginalized group.

A stated inspiration for the work they do, “For Colored Girls…” is a natural fit as Basement Poetry’s first-ever scripted production.

•”The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey,” Tuesdays-Sundays, through June 4, Philadelphia Theatre Company’s Suzanne Roberts Theatre, 480 S. Broad St., Philadelphia. Tickets: $15-$62. 215-985-0420,

Daniel Friedman is a freelance writer.

Jodi Duckett, editor


RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Enjoy a relaxing retreat close to home at Oakley Hall

One of the many perks of living in such a gorgeous part of the world is that the opportunity for a rejuvenating short break in glorious countryside is always right on our doorstep.

There’s no need to waste your free time with hours of travelling. A case in point is nearby Oakley Hall, a four-star hotel where you can enjoy a perfect country retreat amid luxury surroundings.

It’s no more than a short trip along the M3, coming off at the Basingstoke junction. Pointing your car firmly in the opposite direction of the large town takes you along a long, winding lane, which will transport you into the rural idyll of Oakley village.

The hotel is clearly signposted. Up the sweeping driveway and Oakley Hall stands majestically before you, a grand Georgian Manor House set in a 315 acre estate. It’s an inspiring sight, and reputed to have worked its magic on no less an author than Jane Austin, who was born just up the road in the neighbouring village of Steventon and was a regular visitor to the Hall, as she was close friends with original owners the Bramston family.

Inside, Oakley Hall is no less impressive, a result of a recent £4m refurbishment. A warm welcome at reception took us through to our sizeable room, which felt grand but also so comfortable. A very high standard of contemporary furnishings made for a relaxing environment full of life’s little luxuries, from crisp Egyptian cotton linen to flat-screen TV and Wifi.

When your tea and coffee facilities are kept within an elegant, purpose-built dark wood cabinet, rather than simply sitting on some table, and fresh milk has been placed in the fridge as opposed to little pots of UHT, you know you are staying in an establishment where every detail has been carefully considered.

Our windows overlooked the grounds, where a walking trail will lead you past centuries-old Giant Redwoods, Chinese Junipers and Yews to an avenue of Conifers and the formal garden with its ornate pond – and take you miles away from the day-to-day rush of modern living.

However, we were due to sample some indoor delights – the indulgence of afternoon tea, a very social form of pampering.

As another famous author, Henry James, once said: “There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.” And the team in the Glasshouse Restaurant at Oakley Hall certainly go out of their way to make this an experience for you.

Afternoon tea at Oakley Hall Hotel

The tea is firstly a feast for the eyes, gorgeously presented on a chrome and black, art deco-style cake stand. There are layers of finger sandwiches, cakes and fancies, plus a mass of dainty little scones, all hand-made by the hotel’s pastry chef. Also presented for your delight is a huge dollop of clotted cream and three jams – raspberry, strawberry, plus a mouth-tingling rhubarb and plum concoction that is worth the trip alone.

The variety of tea on offer can take you on a trip around the world, from Assam in the Himalayas to the Russian Caravan blend, although we opted to stay ‘at home’ with a pot of English Breakfast.

If you wanted to indulge yourself further, there is the option to put some fizz into your day with the Champagne Afternoon Tea. The hotel also caters for people seeking vegetarian, gluten or dairy-free alternatives as well, and a children’s afternoon tea is available for their smaller guests.

Back at the room, the haven of the bathroom provides the chance to immerse yourself in the oversized bath and fully unwind. Replete with separate shower unit and large double sink, attention to detail is impressive, with the fittings all highly polished, sleek flowing curves. There’s even an Oakley Hall embossed duck among the eco-friendly toiletries, for those seeking home comforts.

If you’re the lazy sort who likes to top up hot water in the tub with your toes, rather than sit up and do it by hand, my tip is always make sure you don’t turn the tap away from you – otherwise you’ll find you’ve activated the bath’s shower attachment by accident, which is pointing directly at you, and can prove a shock…

In keeping with the weekend’s theme of relaxed indulgence, we paused in the 1795 Bar & Lounge – named for the date when Oakley Hall was built – to savour the civilised atmosphere of bar nibbles and pre-dinner drinks. There’s an extensive list of cocktails and aperitifs, and friendly, attentive service. Unsure what I fancied, I asked for something to pep me up (several nights of teething issues with my young son had eaten into my sleeping pattern, and I was worried about falling asleep halfway through the main course). I was offered an Expresso Martini, an invigorating mix of Grey Goose vodka, expresso liquor, expresso and Cointreau, which certainly did the trick and powered me all the way through to the cheese board.

We were shown through into the Glasshouse for dinner, which was a treat in itself. Oakley Hall has two AA rosettes for its food, using fruit and vegetables from its own kitchen garden and sourcing local organic produce, such as pork from the nearby Laverstoke Park Farm.

Set for dinner, the restaurant looked modern and welcoming, a relaxing environment but operating to the highest standards. Our table, for example, had been laid with care and precision, elegantly fashionable cutlery looking as if it had all been placed with the aid of a ruler.

For our starters, the salmon niçoise salad was beautifully presented, set out in its component parts around the slate plate, rather than being all tossed together. My rabbit and pheasant terrine with quince chutney was wonderfully packed with flavour.

We also enjoyed a plump duck breast with dauphinoise potato, parsnip and vanilla puree with a redcurrant sauce, and a succulent rump of marinated lamb, fondant potato, confit cabbage and a Rosemary jus.

Then there was just about room for the aforementioned cheese board – a selection of local cheeses served with homemade chutney – before the siren’s song of the chance for a good night’s rest (sleep-deprived parents will know what I mean) drew us back to our room.

The weekend had been an indulgence of good food, and breakfast the next day offered more of the same. There were plenty of continental options for those who fancy it, from delicate pastries to coco-pops to fruit bowls with yoghurt, all tastes catered for. But for me, it was all about getting a traditional cooked breakfast. The quality of food was exactly what I’d come to expect from Oakley Hall, but even so, a special mention must be made regarding my order of poached eggs, which arrived as little parcels of egg perfection.

Our stay wasn’t just about the food. Or the drinks, or the luxurious comfort. As well as the walking trail, Oakley Hall offers the opportunity for archery, an entertaining game of croquet, or even to try your hand at clay pigeon shooting, which we found to be hugely enjoyable.

But however you choose to spend your time, you’ll come away refreshed and invigorated – it really is the perfect country break.

Reader offer:

Save over 50% with Oakley Hall Hotel’s Winter Warmer from just £129 per night per room.

The Winter Warmer package for two guests (worth £275) includes the following:

  • 3 Course dinner in our 2 AA Rosette Glasshouse Restaurant
  • Complimentary pre-dinner glass of Prosecco per person
  • Overnight stay in a Luxury Bedroom

  • Full English Breakfast the following morning

The Winter Warmer offer is available from £129.00 per room per night, please contact Oakley Hall Hotel direct for full details or visit the website.

Mark’s trip was provided by Oakley Park Hotel. Various special getaway packages are available – go online for more information.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Her missions journey: from orphan to a doctorate

Mary Ann McMillan never intended to earn a full degree when she enrolled at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). She just needed 20-30 hours of course credit to go back to the mission field full-time.

Mary Ann McMillan, once an orphan, receives her doctorate in Christian education from Southeastern Seminary to undergird her missionary service.

On May 12, McMillan received her doctorate in Christian education, adding on to her master’s degree in intercultural studies that she received in 2013 after deciding it would prove useful for her future.


The Lord was cultivating in McMillan a desire to go overseas to minister in closed countries, so she realized that having a doctorate in education would provide the platform for that goal.


For McMillan, it’s incredible that she received her doctorate, knowing that she came from humble and challenging beginnings. She was an orphan until the age of 7, moved into foster care and then was adopted “into a family that should not have adopted a child at all,” as she recalled.


Her time in college was spiritually transformational as she became involved in a campus ministry and decided to follow Jesus as a junior in college. It was after she became a believer that God began giving her a heart for the mission field.


“Right before I was graduating college I really felt the Lord calling me to do missions full-time. I just didn’t know what that looked like so I actually went overseas with the [International Mission Board] as a Journeyman,” she said of the mission board’s two-year program.


McMillan’s first year in a closed country was difficult stemming from obstacles to her ministry as an African American woman. She remembers times being chased down the street or having items thrown at her due to racial oppression.


“I had a curfew at 4 in the afternoon because it got dark at 4 and the majority of the ministries started at 8 at night, but I had to be in early because of my race,” she recalled. “So that’s why they decided to allow me to switch countries so I ended up in the Czech Republic my second year.”


Even in the midst of spiritual and racial oppression, God proved Himself powerful during that first year as McMillan and her teammates were doing ministry one day. While some women were gathered in a field listening to a translator share his testimony, one of the women spoke up.


“She stopped him and said, ‘I don’t want to hear your story. I want to hear hers,’” McMillan recounted, “and pointed at me. She said that ‘I’ve never seen a person of color before and I want to hear how she became a believer and why the Lord is so important for her.’”


At that moment, McMillan had the opportunity to share the gospel with the group of women.


She had finished her two-year Journeyman term when she stepped onto the campus of SEBTS. Everything was new and the difficulty of reverse culture shock was in full swing. She remembers a professor who noticed she was struggling and encouraged her lovingly but truthfully.


“I can teach you anything you want to know in your classes, but your relationship with the Lord is more important than anything,” he said. “You can get all the schooling you want, you can have the best job, succeed in life, but if you don’t have a good relationship with the Lord you’re not going to make it.“


McMillan eventually became involved at Imago Dei Church, worked for SEBTS and, in April 2016, moved to California to work at Saddleback Church, pastored by Rick Warren. She is the training director for the PEACE Center, a program in which churches in different countries partner together in church planting, leadership development, health care and educational needs.


The PEACE Plan became very personal to McMillan when she took a trip to Rwanda, a country that Saddleback has partnered with for years, where she saw how local churches were caring for orphans. In fact, 35 orphanages had been emptied because children were being given a home through families in local churches.


McMillan was so impacted by the experience that she used this orphan care model within the local church to inspire her dissertation at SEBTS.


Ken Coley, director of Ed.D. studies at SEBTS, said he will never forget the first time he met McMillan “and she shared her dreams of completing her doctorate in preparation for being prepared for God to use her on His mission field. Well, she’s seen two dreams come true – she has earned her doctor of education degree and has a very special base of operations there at Saddleback to reach the world for Christ.”


The Great Commission is still the heartbeat of McMillan’s calling on her life. She hopes to one day either go overseas as a career missionary or stay in the States to train others to go from the classroom to the nations. Graduation is a little surreal for McMillan this time around as she knows that this is the last degree she will receive from SEBTS.


“It’s so weird to think about this whole journey and going to seminary and it’s like, man, [I] started out as an orphan and now I’m becoming a doctor,” she said.


The doctor of education program is a 60-hour degree involving learning through the classroom, mentorship and research to be grounded with a biblical foundation in order to teach the next generation. To learn more about education degrees at SEBTS, email or call 919-761-2490.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Lauren Pratt is the news and information specialist for Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.)


Kaepernick’s jersey, shoes donated to Smithsonian Museum of African American History

Published 4:50 pm, Friday, May 19, 2017

Activist and former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick will soon take his place in history thanks to a sociologist named Harry Edwards, according to USA Today.

Edwards is lending a hand with the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s “game-changers exhibit” which will focus on the impact that famed sports figures make in civil discourse around race issues. 

One such subject, as Edwards and the museum director Lonnie Bunch decided, would be Colin Kaepernick. Late last year, around the time the museum opened, Edwards donated some Kaepernick memorabilia to the museum to display.

“I said, ‘Don’t wait 50 years to try to get some memorabilia and so forth on Kaepernick,'” Edwards told USA TODAY Sports. ” ‘Let me give you a game jersey, some shoes, a picture…and it should be put right there alongside Muhammad Ali. He’s this generation’s Ali.'”

Related: Kaepernick donates custom-made suits in front of a New York parole office
Related: Colin Kaepernick donates $50K to Meals on Wheels after Trump criticism

Kaepernick famously made headlines and ignited a national debate when he first sat and later kneeled during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” before 2016-2017 49ers preseason and season games. At the time, Kaepernick said his protest was meant to draw attention to racial inequalities and oppression in the United States.

“There’s a lot of racism disguised as patriotism in this country,” he said in September. “And people don’t like to address that. And they don’t like to address what the root of this protest is.”

The Kaepernick items won’t be on display immediately. The museum’s sports curator, Damon Thomas, says new items for viewing are rotated into exhibits every one to two years.

Alyssa Pereira is an SFGATE staff writer. Email her at or find her on Twitter at @alyspereira.

How Jean-Michel Basquiat Became The Ultimate American Artist

Jean-Michel Basquiat, hailed as the first black art star to break through New York’s predominantly white gallery world, made history on Thursday when his untitled painting sold for a heart-stopping $110.5 million. After the record Sotheby’s sale, the late Basquiat ― who died at age 27 in August 1998, in the midst of a meteoric career ― officially became the highest selling American artist at auction.

Born in Brooklyn in 1960, Basquiat has often been described in terms of what he was and what he managed to become ― long before he dethroned Andy Warhol as America’s most expensive maker of art. “How did a young graffiti rebel go from selling drawings for $50 in 1980 to having a painting come up for auction this week at a staggering $60 million?” The New York Times asked ahead of the May 17 sale.

Even when he was alive, critics gawked at his rise from homelessness and unemployment to unfathomable celebrity status, selling single paintings for five figures when he was just 24 years old. The artist himself spoke openly of his fractured past, of the domestic abuse he experienced as a child at the hands of his Haitian father or the bouts of mental illness suffered by his Puerto Rican mother. He was exposed to art and foreign languages at a young age (he was famously fluent in French, Spanish and English), excelling at both, but as a teen he ran away from home and dropped out of high school.

He was reportedly selling T-shirts and postcards on the street shortly before he and a friend adopted the shared pseudonym SAMO, spreading their graffiti tag across SoHo ― a neighborhood flush with the galleries and gallerists they needed to take notice. This technique was how Basquiat rose: by making his work impossible to miss.

Basquiat painted his $110.5 million painting when he was just 22 years old. By then, he’d already scrawled “SAMO IS DEAD” on a wall in lower Manhattan, announcing the end of the collaboration that first brought him to New York’s attention. He’d already gone to lengths to rub elbows with artists, writers and other fixtures of the era ― Warhol, “TV Party” host Glenn O’Brien, Blondie, David Bowie, art dealer Larry Gagosian. He’d already brought his explosive body of work ― a punkish blend of Neo-expressionism and primitivism that involved wild colors, manic brushstrokes and skeleton-like faces and bodies ― into galleries for critically acclaimed solo shows. His art (thousands of paintings and drawings), his words, his body, even his hair, soon became part of the very bedrock of pop culture at the time.

O’Brien, who wrote the film, “Downtown 81,” starring Basquiat, put his popularity in perspective: “Basquiat’s got fans like Bob Marley’s got fans.”

His ascent to art stardom was swift, but decades after his death, Basquiat’s legacy is much grander; the undeniable impact he had on the art world is more impressive than his quick ability to infiltrate it. He worked tirelessly in those few years, performing and networking and making art, to ensure that his vision was acknowledged ― a vision that involved bright condemnations of America’s racist past and its history of police brutality, as well as celebrations of black heroes and events otherwise missing from gallery walls. He used reclaimed materials and graffiti techniques to wedge politics into these pristine spaces.

One work in particular, “Defacement (The Death of Michael Stewart),” memorialized the death of a black graffiti artist who was beaten to death by New York City police. “It could have been me,” Basquiat said, in a phrase that reverberates now. “It could have been me.”

DON EMMERT via Getty Images

A Sotheby’s official speaks about an untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat during a media preview May 5, 2017 at Sotheby’s In New York. 

Before he died of a heroin overdose, Basquiat maintained complicated relationships with the segregated art world illuminated in his obituaries. “Ultimately, Basquiat would be the only black artist to survive the graffiti label, and find a permanent place as a black painter in a white art world,” one reads. Today, his place in that world is often used as a prism through which we can view the contemporary art establishment ― how it’s changed and how it hasn’t.

“There was no not seeing Basquiat. He was everywhere and made sure everyone saw him,” Jordan Casteel told The Guardian. “Today it is going to be the same, there is no not seeing. You will see us. We as black artists will continue to fight for that visibility, and we can do that, but, it is also going to mean that the ‘mainstream’ art world has to accept that there are more than a few and there is some true talent out there.”

Nearly 30 years after his death, Basquiat’s work, and his work ethic, are far from being forgotten. He’s bested Warhol, posthumously exceeding the auction prices of other “quintessentially American” (read: white and male) artists like Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Robert Rauschenberg. While Warhol’s pop art embraced the sheen of consumerism, allowing wealthy buyers to feel like they were in on his jokes, Basquiat’s violent canvases critiqued power, colonialism and class conflict, rarely letting viewers who really looked off the hook.

The art market and the institutions that support it have a long way to go in terms of inclusion ― and, in many ways, they provide a fun-house reflection of the U.S. and its slow work toward the same thing. But it the meantime, the market has crowned Basquiat as the ultimate American artist, and for that, we’re thankful. 

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Skepta wins Ivor Novello songwriting award


His track “Man” also won Best Contemporary Song.

Skepta has won the Ivor Norvello award for Songwriter Of The Year.

The award ceremony is one of the most prestigious in UK music, recognizing excellence in songwriting across genres. Previous winners include Adele, Amy Winehouse, Calvin Harris and Lily Allen. Skepta’s win, as reported by The Guardian, signals grime’s increasing prominence in the UK, and it also marks a rare win for a black artist in the Songwriter Of The Year Category.

The grime MC, whose award was presented by his sister (and Beats 1 Radio host) Julie Adenuga, also won Best Contemporary Song for “Man,” from his 2016 album Konnichiwa.

Listen to “Man.”

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

This Week: As Legislature Hits Home Stretch, Dan Patrick Focuses on Bathrooms

A “Donald Trump-style temper tantrum” is how one Democrat described Patrick’s stunt.

Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick  Sam DeGrave

Keep up with the Observer’s sharp reporting on the Legislature and throughout Texas with this weekly newsletter.

Lieutenant Governor and Chief of Bathroom Police Dan Patrick isn’t ready to go home. For the former shock jock, who lives for the public’s attention, leaving the pink dome more or less means leaving the spotlight.

On Wednesday, Patrick called a Capitol press conference to give Speaker Joe Straus and the House an ultimatum: Pass the “bathroom bill” and a property tax reform that limits local governments’ ability to govern, or start a cycle of special sessions until it’s done.

If the measures are blocked, Patrick said he will ask the governor to keep calling special sessions, which can cost taxpayers more than $1 million each, “again and again and again.”

“Nobody is going to get everything they want,” responded Straus, who opposes the “bathroom bill.” House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner equated Patrick’s stunt with a “Donald Trump-style temper tantrum.”

The House has until May 23, a major legislative deadline, to tentatively pass Senate bills. However, its members have been largely focused on other issues, such as privatizing the state’s failing child welfare system. A CPS caseworker compared the proposal to privatizing prisons in an exclusive interview with the Observer.

“I just feel like they’re shifting the blame,” the Houston caseworker said regarding Senate Bill 11, which tentatively passed the House on Thursday. “This isn’t going to benefit anyone.”

The House also passed a long-overdue “reform” package for the Railroad Commission, which regulates — or stays out of the way — of the oil and gas industry in Texas.

But environmental advocates say the bill, now on its way to Governor Greg Abbott, “basically does nothing.” The failure of the Legislature to pass timely or meaningful reforms is proof of the energy industry’s powerful sway with lawmakers, critics say. In fact, 11 cents of every dollar lawmakers raise is from the oil and gas industry.

An elementary student moves through a lunch line.  U.S. Department of Agriculture

Both the House and Senate are in the process of saving legislation to end “lunch shaming,” an all-too-common practice in Texas schools in which poor students are publicly denied meals because they can’t afford them. One in four kids in Texas live in poverty.

A bill to address the issue was killed by the ultraconservative Freedom Caucus last week, but a bipartisan effort to save the measure is promising for child advocates.

Another proposal with bipartisan support would end the controversial Driver Responsibility Program (DRP), which Senator Boris Miles says “entrenches poor people and people of color in debt and in prison.”

The program levies additional civil fines on top of criminal penalties for repeat traffic violators, contributing to a cycle of debt that can result in jail time for minor offenses.

Both the lunch-shaming measure and bill to end the DRP, as well as Patrick’s priority bills, must win approval before next week’s deadlines to reach Abbott’s desk.

Abbott was the target of activists after he participated in for a Univision interview broadcast on Facebook Live. In the video, Abbott attempted to calm fears prompted by the so-called sanctuary cities ban. But immigrant advocates who had met at the Capitol for a pre-planned protest said it was “nothing but lies.”

Outside the Legislature, state health officials are in the process of asking the Trump administration whether they can receive federal money for a low-income women’s health care program that bans Planned Parenthood.

The Obama administration had refused to send federal funds if Texas excluded the provider, but the state hopes a friendly ear in Washington will change that. Women’s health advocates worry that, if granted, the move could greenlight other states to defund Planned Parenthood.

African Americans are less likely than whites to abuse opiates, but doctors profile black patients as addicts or potential addicts and fail to prescribe the appropriate drugs. That’s one of many alarming facts about health care disparities in No Apparent Distress, Rachel Pearson’s new med-school memoir.

Read the excerpt here, and head to Book People in Austin Saturday at 6 p.m. for a reading with Rachel and Observer editor Forrest Wilder.