Jim Vance Gets Place in African American Museum

National Museum of African American History and Culture founding Director Lonnie Bunch explains why Jim Vance earned a spot in the museum. News4’s Barbara Harrison talked to Bunch.

‘Rumble’ Celebrates Rock ‘N’ Roll’s Native American Roots

Rock musician and Native American music pioneer Stevie Salas performing in Germany in 2010. Salas served as executive producer on Rumble, which he was also featured in. Thomas von der Heiden/Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Thomas von der Heiden/Courtesy of the artist

Rock musician and Native American music pioneer Stevie Salas performing in Germany in 2010. Salas served as executive producer on Rumble, which he was also featured in.

Thomas von der Heiden/Courtesy of the artist

In 1958, the guitar riff known as “Rumble” shocked audiences. Its use of distortion and bass made it sound dangerous and transgressive to audiences at the time — and its influence is still heard today. Behind that song was a Native American musician named Link Wray, who went on to inspire legions of rock ‘n’ roll greats. He’s featured in a new documentary called Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked The World, which aims to finally give Native American musicians their due.

Another rock legend featured in the film is Stevie Salas, who has played with Justin Timberlake, Rod Stewart, George Clinton, Mick Jagger and others. He also helped curate an exhibition about Native Americans in rock ‘n’ roll at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, and served as Rumble‘s executive producer.

For Salas, the project of spotlighting Native American musicians is personal: He’s Apache, and when he was starting out in rock, he saw little visibility for other Native American musicians.

“[Music] really started as hobby when I got out of high school in San Diego,” he says. “I moved to L.A., and I was discovered by George Clinton and started to work with him and Bootsy Collins and Was (Not Was). Then I got this huge gig with Rod Stewart — that’s when, all of a sudden, I was playing arenas and Madison Square Garden and all these places. I just started looking around and wondering — to me, I looked like everybody else. But then I realized I didn’t, and I just started to wonder: Were there any other people out there doing what I was doing that were like me? And at first, it really seemed like there weren’t, but as I started to talk to people and gig, I realized there were a bunch.”

In a conversation with NPR’s Lulu Garcia-Navarro, Salas explains what it was like to research rock ‘n’ roll’s Native American heritage. Hear their conversation at the audio link, and read on for highlights.

Interview Highlights

On Jimi Hendrix’s Native American identity

Jimi Hendrix is one of the musicians whose Native American heritage is discussed in the documentary Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World. Evening Standard/Getty Images hide caption

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Evening Standard/Getty Images

Jimi Hendrix is one of the musicians whose Native American heritage is discussed in the documentary Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World.

Evening Standard/Getty Images

When I started at the Smithsonian with Tim [Johnson], to do the exhibit on this, Janie Hendrix — Jimi’s sister — she goes, “Jimi has to be in this. Because my grandmother was Cherokee. It was super important to him.” But then when we went to make the film later on with Rezolution Pictures, PBS — who was one of our distributors with Independent Lens — was like, “Come on. You guys expect me to believe this? Jimi Hendrix?” And I secretly arranged for Janie Hendrix to call my cellphone while we were having this discussion. She called me, and I go [to PBS], “Well, you know what? Why don’t you ask Jimi’s sister, personally?” And she just let him have it. And then PBS did the deal with us — and that’s how we got the film going, in a lot of ways.

On the shared history between African-American music and Native American music

I always assumed the Delta blues was a black art form, because that’s what I was always taught. But as a kid, I was always taught that Columbus discovered America too. What we realized was happening was: When you watch Rumble, and you see the development of North America, music was just a by-product of what was going on with the repressed people. So you had the slaves and you had the Native Americans — all were outcasts.

On balancing anger and optimism in the film

I found really hard with my producer-partners, and the directors who I worked with, because there’s a lot of anger there. In the corner of the room, you have this big blob of nothingness called racism that you just want to reach for and use. And it’s so easy to use, and it’s so satisfying to use, because you’re so angry. But I said, “No. We’re making a film about heroes. We’re making a film about people who did incredible things, against incredible odds, and it should inspire people.” I didn’t want to say, “We got screwed again! You stole our land, you stole our music.” I didn’t want that. Neither did a lot of my Native American friends who are working towards really feeling great and doing greater things in life. We didn’t want to go backwards. We wanted to go forwards with this, and I’m really proud that we were able to do that.

You can hear songs from the artists featured in Rumble in the Spotify playlist below, created by Studio 360.

Web editor Marissa Lorusso contributed to this story.

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Mentoring Black youth part of province’s action plan

When Mariama Barrie was starting her career, she received guidance and advice from a mentor at Toronto’s Nia Centre for the Arts.

And once she started her own event planning business, she began sharing her expertise with youth in the community as part of a program that was recently chosen for expansion under the Ontario government’s $47 million Ontario Black Youth Action Plan.

The plan, a provincial first, will fund agencies that support youth, aiming to help more than 10,000 Black children across the province in their communities.

Michael Coteau, minister of children and youth services, recently announced that $9 million of the funding will be spent on mentorship programs in Greater Toronto, Hamilton, Ottawa and Windsor, over the next four years — programs that include everything from arts activities to academic help to boosting job skills.

Coteau, who is also responsible for the province’s anti-racism initiatives, said the mentoring programs are “a great example of an on-the-ground solution to help improve the futures of Black children, youth and their families.”

The province’s action plan was created in response to statistics that show Black youth are overrepresented in the care of children’s aid, are more likely to drop out of high school and face high unemployment rates.

Dwayne Dixon, executive director of the Nia Centre near Oakwood Ave. and Vaughan Rd., said “very early in my artistic journey, when I was coming up, there were very limited opportunities — financial or otherwise — for young Black artists to make the arts a viable career choice,” and he’s confident “experiences like mine will be the exception and not the rule.”

Nia not only runs programs like the one Barrie volunteered for, called the “Follow Your Instinct” internship, but also a larger program that helps budding artists job shadow professionals, take on apprenticeships and find internships.

Barrie said her connection to the Nia centre “goes way back,” after she graduated from the University of Guelph-Humber, the then-executive director helped her learn to develop her career. She said she didn’t just receive help, but also honest evaluations of her work, “critiquing it when I needed feedback,” she said.

“It was very valuable to me … it helped me develop into the professional that I am today, the entrepreneur I am today. I see the difference it makes in young people, especially in our communities.”

She later went on to found her own company, Premium Events, and also began working with four youths at Nia — the youngest about 17 — on a daily basis for eight weeks. “The group was small,” she said, and the help “very specific to their needs.”

In Peel, Marlon Pompey said he at first mentored a different groups of youth for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Peel, but a year ago began one-on-one, feeling he could have a bigger impact that way.

His “little,” who is 12, lives in his old neighbourhood, said Pompey.

“I came from that neighbourhood, I made something of myself … I got a scholarship,” said Pompey, who played basketball at university. “ … I wanted to give back.”

The two go carting, play paintball, golf and have plans to go mountain biking, added Pompey, who works in Peel Region.

“He’s a really good kid.”

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Jay-Z releases all African American cast version of F.R.I.E.N.D.S. for ‘Moonlight’ music video

Screengrab from the clip of Jay-Z ‘Moonlight’ music video, shared by director Alan Yang via his Twitter handle.

LONDON: ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S.’ is BACK! But, in a music video and without the original cast.

According to The Independent, Jay-Z has released his very own version of beloved sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S. featuring an all African-American cast.

The brand new video for ‘4:44’ track ‘Moonlight,’ which was exclusively unveiled on Tidal, also references the Best Picture error which rocked this year’s Academy Awards when ‘La La Land’ was incorrectly named as the evening’s biggest winner in place of the song’s namesake, Barry Jenkins drama ‘Moonlight’.

The ‘F.R.I.E.N.D.S.’ re-imagining was directed by Alan Yang – co-creator and star of Netflix series ‘Master of None’ – and it features Jerrod Carmichael, ‘Get Out’ star Lil Rel Howery and Issa Rae (U.S. series Insecure) in the roles of Ross, Joey and Rachel.

Making up the rest of the collection is Emmy-nominated Atlanta star Lakeith Stanfield as Chandler, Tessa Thompson (Westworld, Thor Ragnarok) as Monica and Tiffany Haddish, who can currently be seen in new film ‘Girls Trip,’ playing Phoebe.

Yang also shared a 15-second clip from the music video on his Twitter handle.

Sunday Book Review: Poetry: Claudia Rankine on the Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks


Gwendolyn Brooks in her home in Chicago. Credit Associated Press

New Poems Honoring Gwendolyn Brooks
Edited by Peter Kahn, Ravi Shankar and Patricia Smith
278 pp. The University of Arkansas Press. Paper, $29.95.

Work Celebrating the Writing of Gwendolyn Brooks
Edited by Quraysh Ali Lansana and Sandra Jackson-Opoku
Illustrated. 416 pp. Curbside Splendor Publishing. Paper, $24.95.

Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks was born in Topeka, Kan., at 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 7, 1917.

But her family moved to Chicago shortly after her birth, and she was a Chicagoan until her death, in 2000. The author of more than 20 volumes of poetry, Brooks holds the distinction of being the first African-American to win a Pulitzer Prize (in 1950, for her second book of poems, “Annie Allen”), and she received numerous accolades, including the National Medal of Arts and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award. In honor of the centennial year of her birth, two anthologies have arrived: “Revise the Psalm,” edited by Quraysh Ali Lansana and Sandra Jackson-Opoku; and “The Golden Shovel Anthology,” edited by Peter Kahn, Ravi Shankar and Patricia Smith.

In their shared mission, these books complement each other without too much overlap. The novelist Richard Wright, in a reader’s report for Harper & Brothers in the early 1940s, declared Brooks essential: “America needs a voice like hers.” Confirming Wright’s claim are the hundreds of artists represented in these two new anthologies, poets who have used her work as a prompt or a point of engagement.


“The Golden Shovel Anthology” structures itself around the form developed by the prodigious poet Terrance Hayes, whose own poem “The Golden Shovel” opens the book. A Golden Shovel poem sneaks an existing poem into the end words of each line. That way, the new poem always remains in conversation with its precursor. In his introduction, Shankar writes that the anthology is “an inherently collaborative effort, a dialogue, a response,” and the same description works for Hayes’s form, which unites all of the poems here. Read their end words, and you’ll find a Brooks poem. In the foreword, Hayes says he came up with the idea when he was helping his 5-year-old son memorize Brooks’s “We Real Cool,” which starts with a sort of subtitle or epigraph: “The Pool Players. / Seven at the Golden Shovel.” The words of Brooks’s poem moved into Hayes’s head space and became a lyric to push against or engage:

When I am so small Da’s sock covers my arm, we
cruise at twilight until we find the place the real

men lean, bloodshot and translucent with cool.
His smile is a gold-plated incantation as we

drift by women on bar stools, with nothing left
in them but approachlessness. This is a school

I do not know yet. But the cue sticks mean we
are rubbed by light, smooth as wood, the lurk

of smoke thinned to song. We won’t be out late.
Standing in the middle of the street last night we

watched the moonlit lawns and a neighbor strike
his son in the face. A shadow knocked straight

Da promised to leave me everything: the shovel we
used to bury the dog, the words he loved to sing

his rusted pistol, his squeaky Bible, his sin.
The boy’s sneakers were light on the road. We

watched him run to us looking wounded and thin.
He’d been caught lying or drinking his father’s gin.

He’d been defending his ma, trying to be a man. We
stood in the road, and my father talked about jazz,

how sometimes a tune is born of outrage. By June
the boy would be locked upstate. That night we

got down on our knees in my room. If I should die
before I wake. Da said to me, it will be too soon.

Nestled into the last word of each line is Brooks’s canonical poem: “We real cool. We/ Left school. …” Throughout this anthology, more than 60 other well-known Brooks poems can be read the same way, with lines from “The Mother” and “The Bean Eaters” tripping down the right-hand side of the page. The anthology ends with “Non-Brooks Golden Shovels” and “Variations and Expansions on the Form.” The cross-section of poets with varying poetics and styles gathered here is only one of the many admirable achievements of this volume.


“Revise the Psalm” brings a more expansive response to Brooks. The editors have included poetry, prose, photographs and paintings created in recognition of both Brooks and her work. Essays speak back to individual poems like “The Mother,” or reflect on Brooks’s impact or on personal encounters with her. We get a keen sense of the poet and her fierce commitment to community engagement. For example, Adrian Matejka writes about attending a reading where Brooks spent more time reading poems by elementary school children than reading her own work.

The portraits represent Brooks at different points in her 83 years. Most notable is the author’s photo by Roy Lewis, for her 1969 book “Riot,” with Brooks wearing the Afro that signified her break with her mainstream publisher as she joined the voices of the Black Arts Movement. Lansana and Jackson-Opoku, the editors of “Revise the Psalm,” use the phrase “‘Gwendolynian’ influences,” describing their anthology as “a project of literary and artistic revision, the process of ‘talking back’ to works that inspire, teach, challenge and engage.” Not surprisingly, given this endeavor, the book includes some Golden Shovel poems.

More often than not, however, the poems in “Revise the Psalm” are more loosely inspired by Brooks’s subjects. Consider “Daystar,” by Rita Dove. (She is one of a handful of poets who appear in both volumes.) Though written for Dove’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Thomas and Beulah,” “Daystar” takes on a subject that was of central importance to Brooks — the quotidian outer life and the rich inner life of African-American mothers:

She wanted a little room for thinking:
ut she saw diapers steaming on the line,
a doll slumped behind the door.
So she lugged a chair behind the garage
to sit out the children’s naps.

Sometimes there were things to watch:
the pinched armor of a vanished cricket,
a floating maple leaf. Other days
she stared until she was assured
when she closed her eyes
she’d see only her vivid own blood.

She had an hour, at best, before Liza appeared
pouting from the top of the stairs.
And just what was mother doing
out back with the field mice? Why,
building a palace. Later
that night when Thomas rolled over and
lurched into her, she would open her eyes
and think of the place that was hers
for an hour — where
she was nothing,
pure nothing, in the middle of the day.

Whether one considers the breadth of writing inspired by Gwendolyn Brooks or drops down into the possibilities of the Golden Shovel form, Richard Wright was not wrong about her importance: She has served her readers across a century.

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College’s reckoning stirs memories of nooses, hazing, pain

… first-year students. Morton, an African American, was two weeks into … school glossing over recent racism on campus. School leaders … South. A group of African-American students, known as the “ … ’ Marcia Fears, who is African American and lives in Smyrna, … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

Music, dance, art and more: 6 Out & About Things to Do

Help downtown Johnson City celebrate First Friday, a monthly event bringing focus on the vibrant and growing downtown area. Explore the shops and events, listen to the music, try something new to eat or drink. (downtownjc.com)

2. Jerry Garcia tribute at Acoustic Coffeehouse

The Acoustic Coffeehouse, 415 W. Walnut St. will host a Jerry Garcia tribute this week with an acoustic jam on Wednesday beginning at 7 p.m. and an electric jam on Thursday at 10 p.m. For more information, call 434-9872 or visit the website: www.acousticcoffeehouse.net.

3. Border Bash in Bristol

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The 18th annual Border Bash continues tonight in downtown Bristol at the Piedmont intersection of State Street. Music provided by My New Favorites at 7 p.m. and Adam Graybeal’s Hillbilly Soul at 8:30. Children’s activities, arts and crafts, food vendors and more will be on-site. Set up at 6:30 p.m. Free admission. (believeinbristol.org)

4. “Black Appalachia” exhibit

“Black Appalachia: African American Art in Northeast Tennessee,” will open tonight at Tipton Gallery, 126 Spring St. with a reception from 6-8. Gallery hours, First Fridays 6-8 p.m. and by appointment; additional viewing Aug. 11-12 during Little Chicago Festival, 3-7 p.m.; exhibit through Aug. 28. (423-483-3179, www.etsu.edu)

5. Contra in Jonesborough

The Historic Jonesborough Dance Society will host a “Skirts and Shirts” contra dance from 7:30-10:30 p.m. Saturday. Beginners’ class 7 p.m., Klondike Bar and waltz break 9 p.m., $7 regular, $5 members, $5 full-time students; wear a “twirl-able” skirt and/or a colorful shirt. (534-8879, www.historicjonesboroughdancesociety.org)

6. Senior dance at MPCC

Senior Services will host its bi-monthly Friday Night Dance tonight at Memorial Park Community Center, 510 Bert St. Limited Edition will play music from 7-10 to dance the night away. Tickets are $5, with a discount for Silver Sneakers members. Beverages will be available; pre-register and pay in person at the MPCC Senior Services desk. (423-434-6237)

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Pat Buchanan: America’s Race Expert

… church? The classic indicator for racism has been the double standard … subjects. "The infringement of black Americans' rights to their own … right. The few Asian-Americans, Hispanics, African Americans, and Native American journalists remaining … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

5 Review An artist who summons black faces and bodies at ease in the world

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. “Vigil For a Horseman,” 2017. (Lynette Yiadom-Boakye/Corvi-Mora and Jack Shainman Gallery)

One can’t call Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings of people portraits, because the young men and women in these images don’t actually exist. They are composite figures, worked up from her imagination and from files of images — photographs, clippings, drawings — that she has gathered. They are, perhaps, invented characters, but she doesn’t tell us of what kind, what motivates them or what they are about. The titles of her paintings are poetic and suggestive — “Ropes for a Clairvoyant” and “Of All the Seasons,” for example — but they bear no identifying traces, no clues to the people she has summoned. Stand in a room full of her work, and you have the sense that you have been dropped into the middle of something, in media res. It isn’t like being in the middle of a crowd, teeming with energy — rather, you feel yourself surrounded by a collection of quietly thoughtful and thoroughly self-contained individuals who are taking a moment from the stream of life to do nothing at all.

The work of Yiadom-Boakye, a London-based artist born in 1977 and a finalist for the prestigious Turner Prize in 2013, is on view at the New Museum, filling the midsize fourth-floor gallery, which has been painted a deep burgundy. The rich color of the background walls contrasts sharply with the standard institutional white favored by most contemporary art galleries, and it flatters the generally earthy tones and deep shadows of the artist’s oil-on-linen medium. The lights are also kept lower than is often the case in contemporary galleries, and everything seems to have a warm glow. An effort has been made to banish the bustle of New York and allow visitors to exist in a space that is backward-looking, to indulge nostalgic fantasies of the hushed art museums of the 19th century, which were also richly painted and architecturally removed from the everyday world.

Installation view of the New Museum’s exhibit of works titled, “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-Song for a Cipher.” (Lynette Yiadom-Boakye/Maris Hutchinson/EPW Studio)

Yiadom-Boakye paints most of her works in one day, and this exhibition includes 17 new ones. Several of the figures appear to be dancers (one young woman is seen in a ballet pose wearing a white leotard), and all of them have a casual, lean, athletic grace. The speed with which she paints yields broad, almost sketchy brushwork, paint that is drawn quickly and proximately over the surface of the linen, with streaks and rough edges rather than fine lines and polish. The virtuosity of her work, as well as the physicality of her mostly young subjects, gives a sense that there is something precipitous about the people she has imagined, as though they are about to tip out of the picture space and into the room.

The artist, born in London to Ghanaian parents, focuses on subjects who are of African descent, and her work is often seen as part of a larger project of restitution, shared among other artists who are seemingly working outside the mostly white, Western tradition of figure painting, to people the world of art with new faces, new figures and new subjects who aren’t uniformly white and European. Western painters only occasionally painted non-Western faces and bodies over the past half-millennium, and often when they did, it was to underscore the supposed exoticism or otherness of African or Asian subjects. They were represented as servants, objects of sexual desire or emissaries of far-flung and deeply foreign worlds that only occasionally encroached on European lands, as in the depiction of Balthazar, one of the three Magi, who was often depicted as a Moor in Renaissance paintings.

“8am Cadiz,” 2017, oil on linen. (Lynette Yiadom-Boakye/Corvi-Mora and Jack Shainman Gallery)

But compare Yiadom-Boakye with another artist, Kehinde Wiley, who deliberately inserts black faces and bodies into some of the most mannered tropes of Western art, and it’s clear something very different is going on. Wiley’s highly finished images use not just the medium of painting but often the poses and trappings of European elites to create a satire on the exclusion and whiteness of the art world. He inserts a young African American into a heroic and imperial context borrowed from the Napoleonic-era works of Jacques-Louis David or renders the rapper Ice-T as Napoleon, and the resulting work is as bombastically colorful and richly finished as Yiadom-Boakye’s work is earthy and improvised. Wiley is creating an ironic indictment of exclusion, whereas Yiadom-Boakye is quietly and steadily remedying the problem. There is something endearingly pragmatic about her work and her method, as if to say: The way one deals with exclusion is to open the doors and let people in.

But the more you look at it, the more you realize this isn’t just a matter of increasing the sum total of people with dark skin represented in art galleries or museums. Bodies and faces aren’t sufficient to get at the idea of race or identity; one also needs poses, gestures and expressions, characteristic ways of standing and leaning and lounging, that have also been excluded from the way people of color have been represented in Western art.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, “In Lieu of Keen Virtue,” 2017. (Lynette Yiadom-Boakye/Corvi-Mora and Jack Shainman Gallery)

“The Matters,” 2016. (Lynette Yiadom-Boakye/Corvi-Mora and Jack Shainman Gallery)

So at least as important as the skin color of these imagined people is the fact that they are so profoundly, even extravagantly, at ease. Perhaps more important than the simple fact that people of color are represented in a traditionally white or European space is that they are entirely comfortable being there.

One might do this with snapshots of people at ease, reproduced, framed and introduced into the art space. Photographic representation captures ease and grace and the lounging frame of mind, but it also introduces real people into the equation and so sends the mind down different paths. Who are they? What do they do?

By painting people who don’t, in fact, have real existence, Yiadom-Boakye keeps the focus on their physicality and on the paint and the process whereby they have been created. Sometimes, these things intersect in delightful ways. “In Lieu of Keen Virtue,” for example, shows a man casually dressed in an orange turtleneck while a cat lounges on his left shoulder. But the left arm isn’t quite right and doesn’t seem to meet his torso in a natural way. It’s tempting to think the cat may have been a painterly inspiration, to divert attention from the slightly awkward arm with the introduction of a draping feline. In summoning the man in a quick and provisional way, the painter has by necessity also summoned the cat, who does indeed help fix the problem.

The kitty isn’t the only interloper in these works. Sometimes birds appear, as well, and often, there is a dark, assertive shadow cast by the human figures, a shadow that takes on more personality and presence than a mere play of light. In creating a character, or painting an imaginary being, the artist may well ask a question we often ask ourselves: What completes us? What makes us whole? When are we ever pulled together as a being? Almost certainly, we experience this coming together as a real being in moments of reflection, inwardness and ease and not when we do our best (as in a grand oil painting) to project a sense of ourselves to the outside world. But does it ever happen? Only the shadow knows.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Under-Song for a Cipher is on view at the New Museum in New York through Sept. 3. For information, visit NewMuseum.org.

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