The Samba Music of ’70s Brazil Did More Than Make People Dance — It Resisted a Dictatorship

Samba Society performs Brasil 70: Samba/Soul/Resistance this Friday at Ford Theatres.

Samba Society performs Brasil 70: Samba/Soul/Resistance this Friday at Ford Theatres.

Courtesy Samba Society

Brazilian-American musician Beto Gonzalez was too young to understand the country around him when his family returned to Brazil in the 1970s. It was only as he grew older, after coming back to the U.S., that he learned of how samba music became an important tool in the struggle against the country’s military dictatorship from 1964 to 1985.

Now, as the founder and artistic leader of Samba Society, Gonzalez hopes to share that history with a local audience during a time when the current political climates in the two countries he calls home have slid towards the types of attitudes that led to Brazil’s dictatorship.

Samba Society’s Brasil 70: Samba/Soul/Resistance, which they’ll perform this Friday at the newly restored Ford Amphitheatre, explores the rise of samba music in a decade marked by political censorship, repression, kidnappings and torture. Samba, forro and other genres of Brazilian music kept the spirit of resistance alive among the masses as the movement against the dictatorship grew, a resistance Gonzalez learned about during his studies at UCLA and in Rio de Janeiro as an ethnomusicology major.

“I had a big rediscovery of Brazilian music and my Brazilian heritage in my 20s when I really started thinking more about Brazilian music,” says Gonzalez, who was born in New York but raised in São Paulo until age 10, when he and his family returned to the U.S. to live in Los Angeles.

“I started playing guitar as a kid but I was into rock and metal as a teenager,” he continues. “Nowadays, most people have a good idea of what Brazilian music is and a part of that is because of bands like ours that are first and second-generation Brazilians who have been here for most of their lives and are doing samba here. That’s how I look at Samba Society. We’re a part of that generation that’s doing samba outside of Brazil even if we’re still drinking from the fountain.”

Samba Society is both a samba band and a collective. The band plays traditional samba music and features members from Gonzalez’s other groups — MôForró, who play a style of music known as forro that was popularized in northeastern Brazil, and Os Zagueiros, who play samba-funk, a style of samba influenced by the funk and soul music of African-American artists such as James Brown and Aretha Franklin. As a collective, Samba Society will bring the three groups together to tell the story of Brazilian musicians who took these influences to push their society into a more open and diverse direction, musically and otherwise.

“The samba of that period was really fertile because a lot of artists were really embracing this Afro-Brazilian identity in the ’70s,” explains Gonzalez. “At the same time, they were being influenced by the post-Civil Rights movement, Black Power and all that from the U.S., which was also happening in the ’70s.

“Samba also had sort of a nationalistic feel, really wanting to establish a firm Brazilian identity. There was a friction between the people that were into a more international- and American-sounding music, soul music and funk from the U.S., and then there were the more traditionalists. The samba camp was more like, ‘We have our own music. Why are we playing this imported stuff?’”

The current political climate in Brazil is tumultuous, to say the least. Only 5 percent of Brazilians gave President Michel Temer’s government a positive rating in a recent survey, which comes weeks after he was charged with corruption, for which he could be tried in court. His predecessor, Dilma Rousseff, was impeached last year by a commission, 37 of whose 65 members had pending corruption cases of their own to deal with. Her predecessor, Luiz Lula da Silva, was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison on corruption and money laundering charges.

Amidst all this, Gonzalez was left to ponder if Brazil’s future would be a step backward into its fascist past.

“In that battle of impeachment, there was a lot of talk about restoring order in the country by bringing back the military dictatorship, which is fucking absurd to me,” he says. “That was what sparked the idea. Are these people nuts? We’re barely a generation out of the dictatorship and people seem to have no recollection about what the country went through as people were tortured or disappeared. There was incredible censorship.

“The flipside that the right tends to only see was that, for a time during the dictatorship, the country did grow economically. I understand that that’s what they want, but to bring back a military dictatorship to get there doesn’t make sense because that eventually all collapses.”

Gonzalez planned the show in three loose parts. The first part, “The Years of Lead,” covers the early years of the ’70s when the military dictatorship began to enforce its will by clamping down on civil rights through martial law, censorship, kidnappings and torture. The second part is “The Resistance,” an era in the mid-’70s when artists decided to be less lyrically oblique and took bolder stances politically. The final segment, “The Opening,” focuses on the final, waning days of the military dictatorship, which ended in 1985.

“I’d always been interested by the differences that we have between the two countries in terms of race relations, politics and poverty,” Gonzalez explains comparing the two nations he’s called home. “There’s similarities but lots of differences and suddenly now here we are with stuff going on all over the world. It got me thinking about that time and it got me thinking about music, which is one of the best barometers of a political climate when you look at the really deep artists that can really talk about a certain period of time [in a way] that feels timeless.”

Brasil 70: Samba/Soul/Resistance, featuring Samba Society, MôForró and Os Zagueiros, happens Friday, Aug. 4 at the John Anson Ford Theatres. Tickets and more info.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Trace the history of music in the South on the Americana Music Trail

Above the door of the “loo” hangs a black toilet seat. Reminiscent of a horseshoe, it brought good luck, as Keith Richards discovered when he scribbled out “Wild Horses” while sitting on the real john at 3614 Jackson Highway. A tour of the newly-reopened home of Muscle Shoals Sound rings with the stories of many famous musicians who brought a piece of sheet music there and left with a hit. The studio was lovingly restored to its 1970s-tacky vibe except for the “ugly orange shag carpet,” according to Judy Hood, chair of the Muscle Shoals Music Foundation.

Apparently, once they found someone who would admit they made the carpet, it was deemed too difficult to keep clean, something any mom of the era could have told them.

With 75 gold and platinum hits for the Swampers, and FAME cranking out a long, prolific and varied stream of hits, at one time, the tiny town of Muscle Shoals owned a good chunk of real estate on the Billboard charts. That’s some big music from a small town.

Muscle Shoals is Alabama’s point on the Americana Music Triangle that also travels through Tennessee, Mississippi, and Louisiana. It begins as far north as Memphis and ends in the jazz halls of New Orleans. Along this route, nine distinct musical genres were birthed out of the culture clash found along the dirt roads of Dixie. Here, Blues, Jazz, Country, Rock ‘N’ Roll, R&B/Soul, Gospel, Southern Gospel, Cajun/Zydeco, and Bluegrass all came to be. If anyone ever says to you that the South has no culture, please set them straight over some soul food and just about any album you could play–every popular musical artist in the past century has been influenced by Southern sounds. 

In Muscle Shoals, it started at FAME, where Rick Hall propelled an elevator operator named Arthur Alexander into a singer/songwriter whose songs were covered by the Beatles and Rolling Stones. You can see the organ where Spooner Oldham found the sound that created the Aretha Franklin we know today. She had been failing as a pop singer and was sent to FAME to find her groove. She did, with “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You.”

To meet a Swamper, take the Swampette Tour with Judy Hood, wife of bassist David Hood, or as she says, “the pick of the litter.” She tells hilarious stories and usually finds David somewhere on her route. Every tour guide is going to ask, “Have you seen the movie?” Pull “Muscle Shoals” up on YouTube and watch Bono, Mick Jagger, Alicia Keys, Percy Sledge, Gregg Allman, and more gush about the music made here.

A fun game to play when hearing live music in Muscle Shoals is to ask the players whom they’ve played with. One night, the answers were: Aretha Franklin, Little Feat, Willie Nelson, and Lyle Lovett. I posed the question to one musician, and he deflected until I pinned him down. The problem? He would have to choose between Elvis, John Lennon, and Bob Dylan–only three of the most iconic artists in rock ‘n’ roll history. We are talking world class musicians here. And we were in a chicken joint, Champy’s Fried Chicken. These same artists play at Swampers, the bar at the Marriott that hosts live music nightly. FloBama, the Wild Lilly, and the Singing River Bar & Grill also fill stages with music. The strangest place to go is the Rattlesnake Saloon, housed in a cave and open seasonally.

In Tennessee, Memphis and Nashville carved out their own niches: blues and country with Elvis Presley crossing both and creating rock ‘n’ roll. Without Elvis, John Lennon said, there would have been no Beatles.

Visiting Graceland is mandatory while in Memphis, if for nothing more than the Jungle Room and the display of costumes and Cadillacs. At Sam Phillips’ Sun Studios, you can sing your heart out on the microphone used to record “That’s All Right,” Elvis’ first hit. For soul music, pay a visit to Stax where Isaac Hayes, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, and even Richard Pryor recorded.

In the segregated late 1800s to early 1900s, Beale Street formed the epicenter for black artists and businesses, perhaps in the whole U.S. As black artists jammed the streets, genres merged, and Alabama’s own W.C. Handy prospered as the “Father of the Blues.” (Tour his birthplace in Florence.) You can still hear the blues along the Beale Street path; however, for some, it has become too touristy. Fear not, the blues are alive and well in places like the Blue Worm, Earnestine & Hazels, Wild Bill’s, and Dad’s Place on Sunday nights, otherwise Dad’s is all Elvis, all the time.

Alabama’s Hank Williams still holds the record for six encores of “Lovesick Blues” at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, known as the temple of country music. While the Grand Ole Opry moved to a bigger venue, you can bow before the altar of country by touring or going to an evening show. True confession: I saw the reunited Monkees there (they had great songwriters, OK?) and the acoustics are still a “Daydream Believer.” The new Opry lost some of the Ryman’s charm, but still packs in the talent. The lineup the night I was there included Alan Jackson and Bobby Osborne, the original artist who recorded “Rocky Top.”

Some call the downtown honky-tonk strip Nashvegas, except the only gambling is choosing which bar to enter, and you can’t lose. Start at Fifth Avenue and work your way to the river. Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge remains just as much fun as when Patsy Cline and Waylon Jennings indulged in its famed “a holler and a swaller.” Doolittle Lynn (think Loretta) put a few back while she performed. Willie Nelson got a songwriting gig after singing here, and Roger Miller wrote his hit “Dang Me” there, too. The late Tootsie allowed pickers and writers to pay in IOU’s and often slipped them $5 or $10. Tootsie’s earns its title of No. 1 Honky Tonk in the World. The Bluebird Cafe holds true to its reputation as well–famous for the show “Nashville,” it pioneered the songwriter-in-the-round concept of putting four writers together to jam. The Listening Room Cafe collects songwriters as well, in an intimate setting. 

A lot of little polyesters died to compile the clothing collection in the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum in Tupelo. The birthplace itself, a shotgun house, will take about four strides to get from end to end. The museum is small and mostly contains the collection of Janelle McComb, a family friend and diehard fan. Take care when you read the letters and such, lest your eyes burn–bad poetry alert! Janelle’s odes are, let’s be charitable here, dated.

To hear music in Tupelo, grab a burger and a cold beer at The Blue Canoe, where original music heats up this five-star dive bar. True Elvis fans make the pilgrimage to Tupelo Hardware. On his 11th birthday, Elvis wanted a rifle from the store, but his cautious mother bought the disappointed boy a guitar instead. The spot where the King stood is marked with duct tape, and a portrait made of buttons sits above the cash register–at least it isn’t in velvet.

Sometimes the good, old places last because they really are good–Preservation Hall in New Orleans never fails to joyfully play Dixieland Jazz. Starting as an art gallery, the owner had a heart for jazz players between gigs (rock ‘n’ roll was casting a long, dark shadow on the art form) and gave them a place to play. It didn’t take long for the musical arts to push out the visual arts, as jazz legends flocked to the store’s stage. For a more authentic feel, head to the Dew Drop Jazz and Social Hall in Mandeville, which dates to 1895–some say the year jazz emerged. This unadulterated jazz hall remains in original condition and serves up music fall through spring.

You can forage for music on legendary Bourbon Street between the gaudy souvenir streets. Only four places will suffice: Maison Bourbon Jazz Club and the lesser known My Bar @ 635. My Bar offers auditory relief in a charming courtyard. Modern jazz artists appear in Fritzel’s European Jazz Pub and Irvin Mayfield’s Jazz Playhouse, including not surprisingly, Irvin Mayfield.

After you walk the Bourbon Street plank, stop at John Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar for a taste of pirate life–it’s considered the oldest structure in the U.S. to house a bar. Then, cross over a couple of streets to Frenchmen Street, where Jelly Roll Morton used to live. He would feel quite comfortable in the row of clubs belting out jazz tunes. Here, you can parade in a second line behind a brass band, bob your head to reggae at Cafe Negril, and swing dance at Spotted Cat. At Snug Harbor, you can catch well-known jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis Jr., on Friday nights.

Complete your visit with a juke joint experience at Tipitina’s, founded to support the golden years of legendary pianist, Professor Longhair. Rub the hair on his bust for good luck before hitting the dance floor. Friday shows are free all summer long, sealing their commitment to preserving New Orleans’ musical traditions.

Along the many stops of the Americana Music Triangle, you can hear the gathering forces that met on Southern soil: Africans, Native Americans, Spanish, French, Celtic, English, and German. Together, they fused into modern music heard and cherished around the globe. The roots remain firm and audible in cities and towns from the mountains to the delta. Tour the trail–the world is listening.

Details
The American Music Triangle website is a powerhouse of information. It details travel routes, stops and music venues. The nonprofit entity has gathered history, facts, trivia, and music events for the complete trail. More at: americanamusictriangle.com.

–By Verna Gates | Photos courtesy of Mark Peavy Photography, Andrea Zucker, Bluebird Cafe, NewOrleansOnline.com, and Tupelo CVB

This story appears in Birmingham magazine’s July 2017 issue. Subscribe today!

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Will the Milestone Relaunch Actually Happen?

I’m Steve Gustafson and thanks for stopping by. Don’t forget to check out 411mania’s Comic Book Review Roundtable, every Thursday! Read up on the best reviews and let us know what you’re reading as well. Click to read the latest Comic Book Review Roundtable! Batman #26, Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man #2, and more!

Now, on with the show!

Last week we asked, “Can DC Save Comic Books?”! Here’s what some of you had to say:

Mark of Excellence: “DC is steering their fans back to the comics by making shit films.”

cheesus rice: “I would love to see that. I am afraid that the bloom is indeed off the rose. Now I can’t speak for every DC fan that resented being alienated by the new 52 but rebirth reignited my love for the characters and for the first time in almost a decade I’m excited for the direction they are going in. It is a bit of a cheat though to blame all the hard feelings on the new 52. ” stellar” concepts like cry for justice and identity crisis certainly didn’t help. I want to see the industry survive but maybe it’s too late. The movies and the cartoons seem to be the dominant medium now.. But I would love to be proven wrong.”

To read ALL the comments from last week’s column, CLICK HERE! As always, thanks for the input!

This week we ask…

Will the Milestone Relaunch Actually Happen?

Some of you reading this may not remember Milestone Comics but they were a pretty big deal back in the day. Founded in 1993 by a coalition of African-American artists and writers, Dwayne McDuffie, Denys Cowan, Michael Davis, and Derek T. Dingle believed that minorities were underrepresented in comics and wanted to change that. Sounds pretty familiar and something that we’re still dealing with.

The comics were set in the “Dakotaverse”, Milestone’s first wave of comics consisted of Hardware, Icon, Blood Syndicate and Static. While DC took care of the distribution and marketing, Milestone existed free from their continuity and were able to focus on a demographic that was largely ignored. Milestone had a number of things going for it but came at a time when the comic book industry was going through fluctuations and Milestone cancelled a number of low-selling titles in 1995 and 1996. Milestone closed down its line completely in 1997.

It didn’t disappear completely though.

Milestone Media was reformed in January 2015 by Reginald Hudlin and two of its co-founders, Denys Cowan and Derek Dingle. DC announced they would once again license the Milestone IP for usage as a comic book line and in other media. Fast forward to this year and DC Entertainment Co-Publisher Jim Lee said that the planned relaunch and reboot of the Milestone line that was announced is still going to happen and hoped to have news in the next few months.

“We couldn’t be more proud and excited about the opportunity to bring the ‘Dakota’ Universe back to DC,” said Lee in 2015. “This is a huge step forward for us in bringing readers a more diversified lineup as part of the new DC Universe, and we’re anxiously looking foward to telling new stories that are socially and culturally impactful and representative of the world in which we live.”

DC’s plans were for a separate line co-existing in the broader DC Multiverse but in a separate dimension, ‘Earth-M’. There was a plan for titles including Static Shock, Icon, Rocket, and Xombi, with creators including Hudlin, Cowan, Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, Bill Sienkiewicz, Ken Lashley, and Christopher Priest. In addition to reviving Milestone characters of the past, Milestone Media said they’ll also be introducing new characters and including new creators in the mix.

It seems like the time is ripe for the relaunch and given the current political and racial climate, the line could find an expanded demographic to enjoy its line of titles.

The big question is if DC can pull all the pieces together to get the launch done. What do you think?

That’s all the time I have. Check out our Comic Book Reviews tomorrow and see you next week!

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Basquiat: a darling of pop culture, but not museums

A Sotheby's expert speaks about an untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, in New York, in May 2017

A Sotheby's expert speaks about an untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, in New York, in May 2017

A Sotheby’s expert speaks about an untitled painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat, in New York, in May 2017

Jean-Michel Basquiat enjoys a stratospheric following — earlier this year, a 1982 oil painting by the late 20th century great became the most expensive work by a US artist ever sold at auction.

But 29 years after his death, his legacy is largely a triumph of popular culture over museums, which have been accused of downplaying his stature.

New York is where the black artist — son of a Haitian father and Puerto Rican mother — was born and raised, spent most of his life and drew most of his inspiration.

On May 18, it was in the Big Apple that one of his paintings fetched $110.5 million at Sotheby’s, jettisoning him into a pantheon of high-selling greats like Picasso.

Yet America’s cultural capital has no public monument to him, no institution named after him and has preserved none of his famous graffiti — signed “SAMO”.

Other than a plaque nailed to his former atelier in a NoHo back street, his simple gravestone in Green-Wood cemetery is perhaps the only place that tourists, admirers and budding artists can visit in tribute.

“There’s a lot of interest,” says Lisa Alpert, vice president of development and programming at Green-Wood. “They leave things on his grave.”

– ‘White privilege’? –

An artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat, 'Untitled', seen on display during a photocall for the Post-War and Contemporary art sale at Christie's in London, in March 2017

An artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat, 'Untitled', seen on display during a photocall for the Post-War and Contemporary art sale at Christie's in London, in March 2017

An artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat, ‘Untitled’, seen on display during a photocall for the Post-War and Contemporary art sale at Christie’s in London, in March 2017

Out of the more than 2,000 works of art that Basquiat produced, New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has just 10 drawings and silkscreens, the Whitney has six, the Metropolitan two, the Brooklyn Museum another two and the Guggenheim one.

Much of his work fused drawing with painting — it was abstract and figurative, offering biting political commentary on social problems such as poverty, segregation, racism and class divides.

Commercially successful in his short life, before his death from an overdose at 27, museums were nonetheless unconvinced that his work had weighty artistic merit.

Friend and artist Michael Holman remembers, for example, an offer by collectors Lenore and Herbert Schorr to donate Basquiats to MoMA and the Whitney in the 1980s, but says the museums declined, not even wanting them for storage.

“There’s a lot of racism and a lot of white privilege in the idea that only white people are important artists,” says Holman.

– Celebrity favorite –

'Jean-Michel Basquiat', a retrospective on Jean-Michel Basquiat's career from graffiti in New York to more complex work, displayed at the Mudec Museum in Milan, in October 2016

'Jean-Michel Basquiat', a retrospective on Jean-Michel Basquiat's career from graffiti in New York to more complex work, displayed at the Mudec Museum in Milan, in October 2016

‘Jean-Michel Basquiat’, a retrospective on Jean-Michel Basquiat’s career from graffiti in New York to more complex work, displayed at the Mudec Museum in Milan, in October 2016

Unlike his contemporaries, Basquiat never received a large solo exhibition at a New York museum during his lifetime, says Jordana Moore Saggese, an associate professor at the California College of the Arts, and the author of the only art history monograph of Basquiat.

“Historically there has also been a lack of representations for non-white artists in mainstream institutions,” says Saggese, who notes that few undergraduates are even taught much about him.

But many critics in the late 1970s and 1980s also championed minimalism and fretted that art in the 80s was too closely aligned to capitalism, she says.

They were “deeply divided over the question of whether an artist could be both commercially successful and critically significant,” she told AFP.

During his lifetime and even more so now, few museums can afford to acquire Basquiat’s work. Instead their best hope is to wait for wealthy collectors to perhaps bequeath his work in the coming decades.

Beyond blockbuster exhibitions in cities such as Basel, Paris, Rio de Janeiro and Toronto, Saggese estimates that 85 to 90 percent of Basquiat’s work is in the hands of private collectors.

Visitors look at a painting owned by late British singer David Bowie, named 'Air Power' (1984) by Jean-Michel Basquiat, at Sotheby's auction house in London, in July 2016

Visitors look at a painting owned by late British singer David Bowie, named 'Air Power' (1984) by Jean-Michel Basquiat, at Sotheby's auction house in London, in July 2016

Visitors look at a painting owned by late British singer David Bowie, named ‘Air Power’ (1984) by Jean-Michel Basquiat, at Sotheby’s auction house in London, in July 2016

Leonardo DiCaprio, Bono, Jay-Z, Johnny Depp and Tommy Hilfiger are just some of the celebrities to own or have owned a Basquiat.

While some New York galleries have bought and sold his work, that is more rare now that his paintings sell for such dizzying sums at auction.

Rick Rounick, owner of New York gallery Soho Contemporary Art, said he had nine paintings just a few months ago, but now has only two left.

Yet Basquiat’s appeal lies far beyond the hallowed institutions of fine art.

“With the rapid circulation of images and ideas via social media networks, artists like Basquiat are no longer as dependent on the traditional image machine of art criticism or art history for visibility,” ventured Saggese.

– Popular culture –

Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo has reproduced Basquiat imagery on T-shirts, sneakers, watches and tote bags in collaboration with MoMA.

Urban Decay has also released a set of makeup and accessories with licensed Basquiat imagery.

Jay-Z, Kanye West and A$AP Rocky rap about him. Canadian singer The Weeknd used to sport his hair in Basquiat-style dreadlocks.

There are movies and documentaries about him including “Downtown 81,” in which the young charismatic artist played himself aged 20.

“One could argue that in the years since his death, Basquiat’s presence is more emphatic in popular culture and mass media than in art museums,” said Saggese.

There’s even a children’s book, written by Javaka Steptoe and called “The Radiant Child,” to introduce him to the next generation.

“Children love him because his artwork and their artwork is similar,” says Steptoe. “He gives them permission to be what they are.”

Holman says his friend changed not only the art world, but street art and fashion.

“He’s given so many young people, especially young people of color, in this city the license to believe that they could be important artists,” he said.

“He’s a hero to young people the way Warhol was to my generation.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The Real Usana Revealed

It appears that once again Wall Street has reacted emotionally and drastically to a “multi-level marketing” company, Usana (USNA) this time, revealing extreme lack of confidence and knowledge about the company and its sector.

Usana’s second quarter disclosure showed a 0.6% decline in revenue for the period, which provoked a near 20% Wall Street sell-off. This equates to a decline of $1.4 million in year-over-year revenue for one quarter producing a $350 million drop in enterprise equity. Obviously, Wall Street sees Usana as a fragile and strange entity whose behavior and economic drivers are not understood. Its previous track of explosive growth was also inexplicable but rapid revenue growth is seldom closely examined. Now a slight dip is treated as evidence of drastic redirection, prompting equity flight.

Apart from the recent sell-off prompted by a twitch in Usana’s “trajectory,” Wall Street would seemingly have plenty of other reasons for being suspicious of Usana. Buying stock in a company presumes a certain level market transparency and fluidity with a public float. But Usana is 51% owned by one person, the founder, Myron Wentz, not only an insider but an “activist investor.” In 2008, Wentz tried to take the company private at a share price of $26, when shares ranged from $18 to the $50’s. At the time, Wentz reportedly stated the motive was to reduce transparency. In an article entitled, “Usana Chief Wants Privacy,” Forbes wrote at the time, “In taking Usana private, the company’s head remarked on the benefits of operating “without the pressures and distractions brought on by the public market.”

Wentz reportedly lives in Mexico where he owns an alternative health clinic. He renounced his US citizenship for tax haven, St. Kitts and Nevis. Wentz recently gained billionaire status from a giant spike in share price this year, rising nearly to $150. Now it is in the mid $50’s, about where it was nine years ago, during the last spike. In 2007, the SEC reportedly looked into an insider trade by Wentz executed at $60.98, Usana’s five-year high in share price, which netted Wentz $51.8 million. Recently, Wentz and other insiders sold company stock valued at $8,371,021. Corporate insiders own 53.20% of the company’s stock.

Loss of Faith

If ignorance of the true nature of Usana and its sector, “multi-level marketing,” is not admitted by the investor class, then loss of trust of the company’s management and the sector must surely play a part. Usana’s modest scale back in expected revenue and its reassurance to investors, “We continue to be confident in the Company’s long-term growth trajectory,” are flat-out not believed, if measured by investor reaction.

And what a trajectory it has been! Revenue and recruits doubled between 2010, when Usana acquired Baby Care, a small China-based company that served as a gateway into licenses to operate in the country, and 2016, when total annual revenue topped a billion, and nearly a half-million souls signed up for Usana’s multi-level marking “business opportunity.” In all, millions of people are or have been “salespeople” for Usana as it exploded in revenue. The vast majority of all these “distributors” mysteriously disappeared during that time and apparently do not even buy the company’s “health” products any more, despite recruiters’ claims of near miraculous benefit to users.

If “miraculous” seems a sarcastic and inappropriate characterization, I invite you to view a 40-minute YouTube video, entitled “Invisible Miracles” in which Usana’s work is compared to a moon-landing with benefits on par with Martin Luther King’s. Dr. Wentz is introduced standing atop a mountain and is portrayed as a peer of Linus Pauling, Mother Teresa, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison (not kidding). The video is narrated by Denis Waitley, a frequent motivation speaker at multi-level marketing rallies and a former board member of Usana. Waitley was forced to resign from the Usana board when it was publicly revealed that he had falsified his academic credentials which were provided to the SEC. The revelation was included as a claim against Usana in a class action lawsuit suit. Waitley was one of four Usana officials who were found to have made false claims on resumés some of which were provided to the SEC. These included the chief financial officer, the vice president of research and development, and a member of Usana’s medical advisory board who claimed he was a licensed medical doctor until the Wall Street Journal reported his medical license had been suspended.

If Wall Street, staffed by Ph.D.’s and critical thinkers, is uncertain about Usana’s business and jittery concerning its future, the experts’ plight is only marginally different from that of ordinary folks of Main Street. The content of Usana’s famously expensive “health” products are protected from disclosure or analysis by the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, DSHEA. Its “business opportunity” solicitations are immune from any financial disclosure requirements under the FTC’s new “Business Opportunity Rule” that exempts “multi-level marketing.” It is impossible for a consumer to do due diligence on Usana’s business opportunity solicitation. The most basic factors of analysis are not provided, e.g., total number of distributors in an area, failure or churn rates, average retail sales, or costs of doing business on average.

Investing in Usana’s “income opportunity” is an act of faith in its viability, just as taking a Usana pill is a leap of faith as to its contents or usefulness. Paying the inflated prices for the Usana pills that are swallowed by consumers is based on faith that the “supplements” are uniquely beneficial. The consumers’ blind and manipulated faith is mirrored in the commercial faith of Wall Street institutions that have bet their clients’ funds on Usana’s perpetual “growth” and its legitimacy as a “direct selling” company.

Wall Street’s recent sell-off response indicates a sudden loss of faith and seems extreme and irrational, but it is only the flip side of its faith-based buy-in. Whether buying or selling the stock, investors must be working without adequate knowledge of the company. The recent sell-off, therefore, corresponds to the millions of consumers who, also in the dark, bought in as “associates” and then quit in droves within a year.

So, if investor and consumer support is so fragile and volatile, how has Usana achieved such remarkable revenue growth? And if the underlying problem with investor support is lack of knowledge or understanding, will this recent sell-off prompt any deeper inquiry, as occurred with Herbalife?

As the data offered in this report indicate, Usana does actually reveal, though in oblique ways, what its business really is all about. Its sales data plainly show its fate in geographical and historical revenue terms. The SEC filings for Wall Street-investors and the “income disclosure” data offered to Main Street-investors reveal how Usana survives and the fate of those on Main Street who are lured to invest. When available data are revealed and clarified, Wall Street investors and Main Street hopefuls perhaps could choose to invest – or not -with greater knowledge and with a perspective rooted in facts, not faith. This article attempts to offer some of that revelation and clarity.

Seen One, Seen Them All

Without being sucked into the Herbalife vortex in this article, it must first be asserted clearly that, based on leadership, business structure, pay plan, marketing model and chronology, Usana is a copy-cat of Nu Skin (NUS), which is a copy-cat of Herbalife (HLF), which is a copy-cat of Amway. What is true for one, on fundamentals, is true for all the others. Many of the early recruiters of each migrated from one to the other as they launched. This is how all MLMs are founded. One begets others, based on the realization among high-level recruiters that the only way to get to the true top of the recruiting chain where all the “commission” money goes is to start out there. Product knowledge is unnecessary and largely irrelevant. The real product of these and all other MLMs is the same, the famous MLM “unlimited income opportunity.” It is now estimated that there are more than 1,000 MLMs operating in the USA, all competing for the same pool of hope-filled recruits.

So, with Amway as the model, Usana’s pathway is in plain sight. Amway’s amazing revenue growth over the last 10 years has been based almost totally on explosive expansion in China; and its precipitous three-year drop in global revenue of 25% is also accounted for by the inevitable declines in China. To speak of Usana’s future, therefore, does not require a Ph.D. or complex analysis. China, following Amway, has been Usana’s “pop” and without it, the company would already have been known for its predictable “drop.”

Without its six-year boom in China, Usana would have met the same fate much earlier of another close MLM relative, Mannatech (MTEX), once a MLM star with rocket-like growth like Usana’s but now an obscure and dwindling MLM peddling its own version of miraculous (Manna) but non-FDA-approved “health” products that officially treat and cure nothing at all. In a lawsuit that was settled with payment by Mannatech of $7 million, the Texas Attorney General described Mannatech as a “scheme to exploit families, including those challenged by cancer, Down’s syndrome, cystic fibrosis and other serious illnesses… and exaggerated claims about the therapeutic benefits of Mannatech’s dietary supplements and nutritional products were unlawfully used to increase sales.” Mannatech also gained dubious distinction for being promoted by former presidential candidate and now Donald Trump cabinet member, Dr. Ben Carson, whom it paid as much as $42,000 for each product-endorsement speech.

Mannatech did not get a foothold in China and only in 2016 announced it would try to enter that market with e-commerce, rather than boots-on-the-ground MLM, which requires political connections and licensing. In the latest 10K, Mannatech described its late-entry sales foray into China as “a cross-border e-commerce model, where consumers in China can buy Mannatech products manufactured overseas directly from the Company’s subsidiary via the internet.” Without the China life-extension, Mannatech’s revenue dropped 20% since 2010 and 34% in the last 10 years. Its P/E ratio is minus-18.

Product or Proposition?

The pop-and-drop phenomenon, universal among “multi-level marketing” companies and pyramid schemes in general, portends Usana’s most recent and future performance. Pop-and-drop is inherent and predestined. Consider. Why do hundreds of thousands of new Usana “salespeople” – who are said to be so loyal and excited about the brand they not only want to buy the goods but also pay additional fees and sign contracts to become eligible to sell them – disappear each year? Shouldn’t, by now, Usana have established brand awareness on Main Street? Shouldn’t its testimonials and endorsements by celebrities already have created a stable customer base that would enable its salespeople to easily take repeat orders? Shouldn’t, after all these years, Usana have an enormous and growing body of regular users in the USA, where it started? Even if millions of the salespeople abandoned the “income opportunity” and are no longer under contract, wouldn’t they at least still be users?

Yet, as Usana’s data show, from 2010 to 2016 “USA” revenue declined 14%. USA is placed in quotes because, just as declines starting being noted, Usana changed its definition of “USA” to include the UK and The Netherlands! It now refers to the USA and Europe as a single market, and it does not disclose actual revenue only from the USA, as all other companies do normally in SEC filings. So, actual USA revenue may have decreased much more.

Meanwhile, from 2010 to 2016 “Greater China” revenue grew 227% and accounted for 72% of all Usana revenue increase.
Usana Revenue Picture

This is the classic pattern of all other MLMs, as exemplified by the grandfather of all MLMs, Amway, that popped and dropped across the entire planet. Amway led all other MLMs on a global recruiting rampage, enabling it to “grow” even as its existing markets languished and declined. The “growth” in new markets was also misleadingly touted to the hapless prospects in older areas that the market in their own saturated towns “has never been better” using the global “growth” data to prove it.

Recruiting, it must be re-emphasized, is the function of the MLM financial promise, having little or nothing to do with demand for consumer products. It is a financial proposition offering income. Indeed, in today’s languishing job world, the MLM income proposition is the most exciting – and deceptive – deal in the Main Street marketplace. It is far more potent that any Madison Avenue ad campaign or new product offering from Apple. To witness a MLM “extravaganza” is to stand in awe that any mundane business enterprise selling commodity goods could evoke such states of ecstasy. A closer examination of the utopian scheme actually being promised helps explain the mass mania.

Only MLMs offer “unlimited” income. Only MLMs offer “extraordinary” income opportunity “for all,” regardless of education and background. Only MLMs offer “financial independence” based on a tiny initial investment. Only MLMs claim success can be achieved “without selling” and by only talking to a few friends and family. Only MLMs can claim that success is determined by attitude, belief and commitment (to recruit) alone. Only MLM can claim (and not be laughed off the stage or be prosecuted for fraud) that the price of its products, the state of the national economy, the role of competitors, the size of markets, the math of saturation and the personal costs of business are totally irrelevant, because the market is “infinite” and only faith and persistence (never quit!) matter. The only reason, prospects are told, for losing in the Usana business opportunity is by quitting, and only “losers” quit. This is a proposition few can refuse, seeing it perhaps as their last best hope for the American Dream. After investing and then losing, few can explain why, other than that it must have been their own fault. They had quit.

With more than 40 years of experience, this MLM financial proposition to Main Street has been honed into a black art involving ritual, spectacle and dogma. Its logic and argument are irrefutable. Resistance or questions are only evidence of negativity, a sure sign of “losers.” The proof of its reality is on the stage, drenched in bling, with a Ferrari parked out front. The lack of alternative opportunities to the MLM proposition, incredible as the MLM promises may seem, is regrettably apparent to all who are solicited – unemployment, outsourcing, loss of job security, low pay, loss of pensions, and ever-rising costs for education, housing and health. To close the deal, MLM’s claims are reinforced by Dr. Oz, Madeleine Albright, Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, Carl Icahn, and Betsy Devos. Who could question them?

Yet, it is the enormous success in selling the bogus MLM financial scheme that also reveals the absurdity and irrelevance of the MLM consumer “products,” and it is the universal failure rates of consumers in that income scheme that explain the absence of repeat “customers” for the “products.” When the magic of the income promise fades, the products are revealed as ordinary, overpriced, unneeded, even ridiculous, and they are quickly forgotten.

Old Time Economics

Regarding those niggling and conventional economic factors of customers, brand equity and consumer demand, Usana does offer some data on what it calls “preferred customers.” Their existence supposedly indicates a conventional external market demand for its products and brand apart from the “associates” whose eligibility for recruiting-based “income” requires personal purchasing of the products.

Usana’s 2016 10K reported, “Sales to Associates account for the majority of our product sales, representing 92% of product sales during 2016.” Whether Usana’s “preferred customers” who account for only 8% of revenue are merely the residue of “associates” quitting each year, a kind of statistical waiting room before totally vanishing from the records, no one knows. What is known is only that Usana claimed there are 93,000 of them, purchasing, at 8% of revenue, a mean average of $865 of Usana goods a year each, about half of what a “salesperson” buys on mean average.

Usana’s data also show that while salespeople, called “associates,” more than doubled in number between 2010 and 2016, “preferred customers” increased just 21%. In 2010 the “customers” accounted for 10% of revenue and now just 8%. The ratio of “Associates” to “Customers” in 2010 was 3 salespeople for every customer. In 2016, there were 5 salespeople for every customer. Usana also reported that “auto-ordering”, the suspicious pattern identified by the FTC in its Herbalife investigation of deceptively induced purchases by contract-distributors (pay-to-play), increased from 41% to 51% of total revenue.

So, as to the first fundamental Usana question that the investor class might ask, whether Usana is a “direct selling” enterprise, based on selling customer-demanded products in the competitive open market or an “endless chain” financial scam with quota-required products serving as currency, the data lean overwhelmingly to pyramid recruiting as Usana’s stock in trade.

As to the future of this recruiting activity as a reliable driver of revenue, regardless of deception or public harm, the recent quarterly figures and the reduced projections seem to have shaken some investors’ faith in the company’s reassurance of “long-term growth trajectory.” Even China, some investors may be concluding, is not “unlimited.”

China Problem

A company’s whose “growth” is accounted for mostly by its newest market while older markets decline and that newest and final market area holds that company’s future hostage is surely in a precarious position. Whether one wants to call Usana a recruiting scheme at its peak stage or not, it is indisputable that its future is based existentially on the money from the “last ones in,” in this case, mostly the people of China. How safe is that revenue source?

Usana has reported grave danger from unnamed Chinese regulators, armed with a recent law that effectively bans the multi-level marketing model. So, how do Usana, Herbalife, Nu Skin, Amway and Mary Kay function in China under this law? It is beyond the scope of this article to offer more than a few unavoidable and disturbing facts, possibilities and scenarios:

  • The anti-pyramid law enacted in China in 2005, which I influenced in some part as a consultant and have studied closely, bans the MLM pay plans that are used everywhere else in the world.
  • Field research in China conducted by short sellers and independent media concerning Herbalife, Amway, Nu Skin and Usana have shown that the same USA-style recruiting and payments are being made by these MLM companies in China, despite the law.
  • Publicity from these MLM companies celebrate new “millionaires” in China, whose only possible means of gaining such incomes are from the standard MLM pyramid pay plan. No one can become a millionaire selling MLM vitamin pills and protein power drinks door-to-door.
  • Chinese authorities, therefore, could swiftly close down or fatally harm any major MLM operating there by merely enforcing existing law. No “complex economical analysis” or parsing of the meaning of “pyramid scheme” is required in China. Investigations and prosecution can equate to a public execution.
  • Chinese officials could, for nefarious or for naïve purposes, favor one MLM company over another. Bloomberg reporters showed how Amway has gained extraordinarily close ties to the Chinese government by funding Chinese provincial officials to travel and study at Harvard University, effectively making Harvard a stand-in for Amway. Can we assume that Amway would not influence its friendly Chinese government patrons to look more critically at MLM competitors like Usana?
  • Chinese officials could even – as the Usana stock volatility has recently demonstrated – move stock values of American-based MLMs up or down suddenly and violently with simple press releases about investigations. Is it beyond imagination to think some officials in China might be tempted to do this for profit?

Income or Scam?

In conclusion, let us return to the initial question about what Usana and MLM really are, separate from the issues of jeopardy and the end-game in China and the prospects for expansion, as existing markets saturate. We have already addressed the question of “direct selling” and revealed that 92% of Usana’s revenue is generated by direct purchases – not sales – made by “salespeople” and most of this is by “auto-order” under the pay plan. Usana offers no evidence or data that the “salespeople” ever sell the goods on a retail basis. If they personally “consume” the same average annual amount as “preferred customers” do, they would have only a few dollars a month of goods to sell! The Usana data show the “salespeople” purchase on average only $38 a week in goods, providing virtually no retail income opportunity worth pursuing.

The other defining question is whether Usana offers a viable “income opportunity.” Beyond retailing, there is also the bonus and commission-based income, tied to “building the business,” otherwise known as recruiting. Many MLM companies do offer some insight into this question with their “income disclosure.” Usana also offers such a document, though it is among the hardest to decipher.

With some patient organizing of the Usana data into a discernible spreadsheet, we can find meaningful answers to the question of how many people in the USA make how much in a one year’s time frame and how the total “commissions” are allocated to each rank on the recruiting chain. We must bear in mind that the one-year time frame is itself perhaps the greatest of sleights of hand used by MLMs. MLMs churn people at a rate of 50-80% annually. They have no significant organic growth and no stable sales force or customer base. Like a shark, they must keep recruiting or collapse within a year. They operate in a state of continuous collapse. In each year, the same small cadre of recruiters is positioned at the top while hundreds of thousands below flow in and out, funding their “commissions” and the company’s profits. Thus, a freeze-frame of single years, one after the other, would count those same recruiters over and over again while excluding the vast numbers that had already passed through in all past years. A longer time frame that counted everyone involved would reduce the “winners” as a percentage of all who invested to an infinitesimal proportion. So, as bad as the data below show for the “income” of recruits in one year, the true picture of the fate of recruits is far worse.

To the consumers being solicited each year, the most relevant piece of information would be the percent of those who join each year that actually gain a net profit, that is, the fate of their peers, the last ones in? That important fact is not disclosed by Usana or any other MLM. My own analysis indicates it is as close to zero as one could get statistically, meaning that Usana’s very existence depends – each year – on getting new revenue from hundreds of thousands of new consumer-investors who gain no financial return. Here is the annual data offered by Usana:

Payout Data

These data show:

  • The top 1% (1.21%) received 68% of all commissions paid by the company.
  • The next group, constituting 7% of the sales network, receives 21% of all commissions. That group has a mean average “income” of $57 a week.
  • 93% of sales network at the bottom received 10% of all commissions and gained a mean average income of $2 a week.
  • 60% of all Associates earned Zero.
  • Usana reports in its 2014 10K that it expended 45% in net revenue for “Associate Incentives.”
  • The total payout in the USA was $55,711,597 in 2014, based on calculating the disclosure’s data.

Without making a “complex economic analysis” that the FTC claims is required to sort out whether an individual multi-level marketing enterprise is an illegal pyramid scheme or not, I would direct investors to take note of one stark data point gleaned with calculation from the Usana income disclosure. It is that 31% of Usana’s total net revenue is transferred to the top 1% of Usana’s recruiters each year. This calculation is based on 45% of annual revenue expended for “incentives” and the top one-percent getting 68% of those incentives. This is a massive monetary transfer occurring every year, in which those making the financial contributions gain no net financial gain.

The company expends only 18% of its revenue to make or source its fabled “health” products and then only another 23% to run the whole business. The largest single expenditure – 45% – is for recruiting and that recruiting model transfers over 2/3rds of all the “incentives” to pay the top 1% to relentlessly recruit using testimonials, extravaganzas and sweeping promises of wealth and security. That ought to settle any question about what Usana’s mission is and what it chiefly invests in – endless chain recruiting for its so-called “income opportunity.”
IncentivesUsana survives and “grows” on revenue gained from its latest markets – now China, which is the last stop and where regulators are menacingly examining how Usana is operating. It also survives on revenue from “last ones in” to join its “income opportunity.” That ever-churning unfortunate mass of humanity gains virtually nothing, but their investments are critical to prevent Usana’s collapse. These “last ones in” (the losers who soon become quitters) increasingly translate to Chinese recruits, but they also include the unlucky ones lured from within the saturated old markets, such as the “USA.”

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The Tacoma artist who is reframing how we see Black bodies

Sitting on a faded sofa in his downtown Tacoma studio, Jordan doesn’t come across like a revolutionary. Genial and thoughtful, he seems much older than 26, especially when you look at his CV: multiple awards; upcoming residencies in Vermont and at the Museum of Glass; nearly a decade of making public art and teaching; several commissions and exhibitions.

"Untitled 2," a mural painted by Chris Jordan for "Out of Sight" in 2016 at King St. Station, Seattle.
“Untitled 2,” a mural painted by Christopher Paul Jordan for “Out of Sight” in 2016 at King St. Station, Seattle.

But as he flips through images on a paint-spattered laptop, he speaks passionately about what drives him: community, belonging and the need to rethink the way we see Black bodies.

“Like this,” he says, pulling up a shot of a mural done for Art Basel Miami in 2015. Three Black schoolchildren sit in a classroom looking intently at each other. The image features Jordan’s signature style of abstract color fields and overlapping shadows.

“People go to so many different places as to what this is about: it’s about the education system, it’s about government,” Jordan says.

Actually, it’s just three kids painting each other in a class Jordan taught in St. Augustine, Trinidad. But like his 2016 mural for King Street Station of a similar group of Tacoma kids, it triggered a wealth of interpretations—and misinterpretations. (Jen Graves, former art critic for The Stranger, initially wrote that the boy reclining as a model represented a corpse.)

“People project narratives onto bodies, especially Black bodies,” Jordan says. “White and Black people. And some people don’t have enough exposure to counter what they see.”

So, Jordan is setting out to provide a counter-narrative—insisting, simply, that Black bodies be seen. In late 2015, he was among those who protested the lack of Black artists in Tacoma Art Museum’s “Art AIDS America” show. In response to the TAM show, Jordan painted a Black female body obscured inside a painted resin collage.

Last December he organized “#COLORED2017,” a huge Tacoma show that included Black artists from across the country and Caribbean. It drew the Black community together in a way that enabled both artist dialogue and community understanding.

“The community is really pleased to have someone of color listening to them and representing them,” says Virginia Hankins, a 71-year-old Hilltop resident who helped organize the People’s Community Center mural Jordan designed last year.

But maybe Jordan’s most innovative technique is color inversion, which is devastatingly simple: he changes the color of photographs using the color inversion setting on his iPhone. He paints what he sees in a visual language that combines the figurative with the abstract; visitors can best appreciate the artwork by viewing it through their iPhones. He first used this technique for “#COLORED2017” and he’s using it for “High Jump,” the mural he’s painting on the SODO Track in Seattle.

Artist Christopher Paul Jordan at work on a mural at the SODO Track just south of Safeco Field. Photo by Chloe Collyer for Crosscut.
Artist Christopher Paul Jordan at work on a mural at the SODO Track just south of Safeco Field. Photo by Chloe Collyer for Crosscut.

The color inversion artwork is stunning. On a huge SODO wall,  a radioactive-blue figure is poised, leaping over a high jump bar against a pumpkin-colored background. Seen through an inverted-color phone camera, the art emerges as a Black athlete soaring through a blue sky.

“With phone inversion, you become aware of multiple ways of seeing,” says Jordan. “It’s not about having the right image, but having the humility to rethink.”

Merging art worlds

The other surprise from Jordan’s CV is the fact that until three years ago, he didn’t even paint with a brush.  Most Neddy winners are established artists with at least a decade of professional work behind them. A decade ago, Jordan was a high schooler at Tacoma’s School of the Arts. He’d gone there fascinated by digital art, which he’d discovered while designing websites. He also reunited with middle-school friend Kenji Stoll, a graffiti artist who taught him how to spray paint.

They began collaborating on murals around Puget Sound and teaching art to underserved youth via the nonprofit Fab-5, which Jordan now co-directs.

“Suddenly I could put art in the physical, real world,” Jordan says with a smile. “It took over!”

Jordan started to merge digital art with photography and murals, exploring how public art could connect a community. He studied digital art and sculpture at Pacific Lutheran University.

“He’s a very sophisticated artist with a lot of ideas,” says Bea Geller, assistant art professor at PLU. “I was impressed by his unorthodox solutions and thinking.”

Jordan never finished his degree. But the experience afforded him something else –a study-abroad trip to the University of the West Indies in Trinidad. He became aware of how Afro-Carribeans and Indo-Carribeans see the world. He also learned how to paint with a brush and not just with a computer.

“They didn’t have that much technology,” explains Jordan. “So, I had to learn.”

Jordan began to develop a self-taught painting style that merges the portraiture of photography with the layers of digital collage and the ambiguity of paint.

“Painting is like an incredible moment in a library where you take all the fiction and nonfiction books and take off all the labels,” he says. “With a photo, you have (certain) questions. When I paint, I want to ask a different set of questions that I don’t fully know how to answer yet.”

"Untitled 5," one of Christopher Paul Jordan's color inversion murals at "#COLORED2017," Tacoma.
“Untitled 5,” one of Christopher Paul Jordan’s color inversion murals at “#COLORED2017,” Tacoma.

The art of belonging

But the third driver of Jordan’s art, after black identity and merging media, is exploring the theme of belonging.

Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park houses one of Jordan’s most recent works. “Latent Home Zero” looks like one of those old-school tower viewers, the sort you might encounter at a national park. It points out toward Puget Sound. You look through it to suddenly find a rotating carousel of 3-D photographic collages that have nothing and everything to do with the Puget Sound landscape in front of you. Water, trees and grass frame a Black woman clad in flowing white; there’s also a deep-blue cloth and a full moon.

Inspired by African Yoruba rituals, it is a response to the African-American history of forced migration that began with slavery and continues with gentrification.

“(Black people) have been everywhere in this country and never belonged anywhere,” says Jordan. “What does it mean to belong?”

Jordan grew up one of six children on Tacoma’s Hilltop after his father, a pastor, moved the family from Florida to take over a tiny Tacoma church in the ’80s.

“I grew up in an ultra-conservative home in a liberal state, in a very black neighborhood that was in a very white region,” Jordan says.

Now, because Tacoma is becoming increasingly more expensive to live, Jordan is the last one of his family left in town.

“It’s…poignant, enigmatic,” says Carrie Dedon, assistant curator of contemporary art at Seattle Art Museum, about Jordan’s Olympic Sculpture Park installation. “His work is so rooted in community. It’s unique, and important for our city right now.”

Jordan’s collaboration with Kenji Stoll—“Home Court” at Tacoma’s Bay Terrace low-income housing complex—is an actual basketball court painted with bright animal patterns and lit with LEDs. It’s functional but fun.

“The phrase ‘home court’ has implications of advantage, of belonging,” the artist says.  “In all of this structural and cultural displacement, it’s making a statement about who we’re invested in.”

Art as game-changer. Which is very Chris Jordan.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Jim McGuinness: Kerry not quite yet the complete package

Since the league final the consensus has been that Dublin and Kerry have moved away from the pack and that the All-Ireland is a matter of waiting for them to get to September.

Of all the weekend’s games I was interested in particular in Kerry’s quarter-final with Galway. As things stand I’m not entirely sure about Kerry. I sat down to unravel their credentials as the race for Sam enters its last weeks.

The first thing I noticed was Galway gave them the first kick-out, which I thought was a mistake. In order to beat the big guns you have to disrupt their aim and their routine and have to ask serious questions – force them to think.

For me, you have to take them on on every level if you’re going to jolt them off target. That’s why I felt it was a bad idea to give them the first kick-out. Galway also seemed to give up the first and middle third by setting up defensively and overloading the 45 with a lot of bodies to get pressure on there. Then they went plus-one at the back with a sweeper, depending how many forwards were up.

There was a lot of attention on the decision to play David Walsh on Kieran Donaghy. I think they’d have been better served by a natural, aggressive defender with the likes of a big man like Walsh in front to double up naturally. In Donegal we would always have used Neil McGee, our hardest and tightest marker, to do the job of picking up the key man, no matter who he was. You’d also have a taller player to provide height for the aerial battle. David Walsh got caught trying to do two jobs.

Galway’s Eoghan Kerin tussles with Paul Geaney of Kerry. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho
Galway’s Eoghan Kerin tussles with Paul Geaney of Kerry. Photograph: Tommy Grealy/Inpho

That said, that isn’t where the problem lay. For me, the problem lay in there being no pressure out the pitch and the ball going into the full-forward line came from players able to lift their head, look up and play the pass they were looking to play.

The game was 0-3 to 0-2, good and lively, when Paul Geaney gets a score to make it 0-4 to 0-2. If you look back at that score there’s zero pressure on Kerry in the middle third of the pitch. They’re allowed to build the play and for a player of Geaney’s quality it ends up being a handy score.

A few moments later Galway concede a goal – again, no pressure in the middle third. David Moran is for me the best long passer in the game and probably the best midfielder. He picks out Donaghy over the defender and the ball ends up in the back of the net.

Shortly afterwards Peter Crowley is in the same position: middle third, looks up, gets the ball in and when he kicks the ball there wasn’t a Galway player within 20 metres. Again Donaghy gets a well-measured pass and now it’s 1-5 to 0-3 and the game is over. The question is, would those scores have come if the intensity had been there in the middle of the pitch?

Defensive structures

People talk about defensive structures but they count for nothing without that intensity. Dessie Dolan said on commentary that it’s almost an innate thing for Kerry players to slide the ball into the net.

I would suggest it’s innate for most players at this level and stage of competition to do the same under little or no pressure. You have to ask would it be the same dynamic if two or three players had been diving on David Moran’s boot, as he was getting ready to play the ball inside?

And if there were defenders inside hungry and aggressive and fired-up, looking Kerry players in the eye and ready to contest every ball – are we saying then that it would be ‘innate’ for the ball to end up in the back of the net? Would it have moved from 0-3 to 0-2 to 1-5 to 0-3 in the blink of an eye? I don’t think so.

It was just so easy for Kerry to move up the pitch. The game was framed as being between two traditional counties but is that true? If let play, Kerry will be Kerry but they’re also ready to match any team in the country with different tactical formations and indeed, the black arts. If teams want to go there, they’ll follow.

For Shane Enright’s yellow card, the ball was in Seán Armstrong’s hands when Enright decided to go through the player, Johnny Heaney. It was a stonewall black card and the same thing happened the night before to an Armagh player and there was no black card there, either.

Johnny Buckley and Donnacha Walsh put pressure on Galway’s Liam Silke at Croke Park. “There is undoubtedly a lot of quality in the full-forward line but the half forwards? It doesn’t jump out at you.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho
Johnny Buckley and Donnacha Walsh put pressure on Galway’s Liam Silke at Croke Park. “There is undoubtedly a lot of quality in the full-forward line but the half forwards? It doesn’t jump out at you.” Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

We’re living a lie with the black card, pretending that everything’s okay. Everything is not okay because in those two situations – at the business end of the championship – either the officials don’t know the rule or they don’t know how to detect and enforce it. Either way, it’s a very bad situation.

If you look at the Enright foul, Peter Crowley comes over and taps referee David Coldrick on the back, a wee bit of moral support. Enright gets the yellow and he taps the ref on the back because both the players knew it was a black card but the referee didn’t? It’s incredible!

Eamonn Fitzmaurice is a very good manager and a thinking manager, who can analyse a game and set his team up accordingly. They are very good and have some excellent players at the top end of the pitch but I feel in their overall game there are chinks in the armour.

If you look at Kerry on Sunday they dropped off time and again to squeeze the pitch into 100 metres rather than 145. In the eighth minute they forced a turnover along their own 45 with 13 men behind the ball. They pushed up consistently on the Galway kick-out, forcing them to go long and picking up a huge amount of breaking ball. This is coaching: a game plan for every phase of play. These are details that make sense to the players because a coach gives them instruction on the training pitch in terms of how to execute. That’s what I mean about him being a thinking manager.

Competitive province

Do they suffer from not having a competitive province and a recent history of undemanding All-Ireland quarter-finals? For me, that’s an absolute gift! You’re walking into a quarter-final and getting to work in training every single night without the black cloud of Tyrone coming down the track in six weeks and tapering preparations and making sure players are in the right place and that you don’t overcook them.

Without that you can just go hammer and tongs: Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday – go and go and go, refine your processes over and again in training. Then you get the chance to run that out on game day. People say, ‘oh, they haven’t had a proper game’, but if you get that opportunity in training, your internal games can supersede that.

You can train for an hour or an hour-and-a-half and then play a 70-minute game with 30 or 40 players, who should be ravenous to play. So you’ve situations two or three times a week where your sessions are two-and-a-half to three hours long and they’re tearing strips off each other to get the jersey. There’s no taper and no black cloud hanging over you. It would be like the constant building of a pre-season and then, boom!

You’re saying to the fellas that we have a quarter-final that’s maybe not that difficult and then a semi-final – two games to get to an All-Ireland. That’s a far cry from a preliminary round and thinking, ‘we’ve got to win seven games to win the All-Ireland’.

I still feel there are areas where Kerry can be challenged. Question marks remain over their full-back line. Mark Griffin is probably one of the best full backs in the country at the moment in terms of the transition to attack but he hasn’t been tested going in the other direction.

Same with Tadhg Morley. Teams with hard, aggressive runners going in straight lines hasn’t happened to them on a sustained basis and I think that can cause problems. Galway managed to make incisions but we’ve yet to see Kerry deal with top-quality forwards consistently over 70 minutes. The half-forward line is very hard-working but maybe slightly lacking in intensity – I’m thinking of Mayo, Tyrone and Dublin.

Dublin are probably still a notch ahead of everybody, based on the weekend’s games

Donnchadh Walsh is the most honest player in the country and he’ll run all day for you but I felt at times the intensity wasn’t there. I know it wasn’t that kind of match but you’d wonder is the intensity still there – I’m not so sure. Johnny Buckley is a brilliant player, a great man to field, pick out a pass and kick a score but you get the feeling that the open expanses aren’t his favourite battleground.

So if you get a team that’s aerobically very strong and very powerful and using the breadth of the pitch to play with a high tempo, for me there are questions to be answered. There is undoubtedly a lot of quality in the full-forward line but the half forwards? It doesn’t jump out at you.

Lateral passes

Are managers fretting about how to handle the Kerry half forwards? If you go back a few years it was an incredible line: Declan and Darran O’Sullivan and Paul Galvin. David Moran is a top player, probably the best there is in the position, but I thought Jack Barry played very conservatively.

There was a lot of lateral passes, not taking the ball to the gainline. It was very safe. Fitzmaurice has built a good squad, though.

Looking at the game you’d have to say the team that finished – Jack Savage, Stephen O’Brien, Killian Young, Anthony Maher and Barry John Keane – was debatably stronger than the team that started. When you weigh it all up, how far are they ahead of the chasing pack? Looking at the personnel, how do you assess them: inside attack, yes; half forwards, not sure; middle of the park, one of them; half backs, untested against consistently direct attacks; full-back line, question marks?

That’s not a complete package where you’d say there are no gaps. They were worthy winners of the league but is the distance between them and the chasing pack that pronounced? If you look at the above and try to match it against teams with legs and intensity and power and directness – Tyrone bring that and Mayo, for all their struggles, can bring that. They have conditioning and run straight lines and ask questions physically.

Dublin are probably still a notch ahead of everybody, based on the weekend’s games. But maybe there’s hope for the chasing pack.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Female Ex-Offender Turns Inmates into Authors

From Inmate, to Author, View Tanner George Cummings The Cell Chef Cookbook

Over 120 recipes, from the dips to pizza to burritos in your cell

Diane E. Schindelwig of Freebird Publishers has published over 50 titles for inmate authors since 2013.

NORTH DIGHTON, MA, UNITED STATES, July 31, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ — In a recent NBC interview Diane said: “I had no idea inmates were so content deprived until I became one in 2008. By 2012 I knew my new life would include publishing specialty content for inmates and their families. Only one problem, I knew nothing about publishing except how to push “print” on a computer.

“This whole entrepreneurial adventure has been on-the-job training, but we made it. With no knowledge of how to create a book exactly, I used my past business experience and practices to guide my way.

There’s definitely an abundance of talented people in prison, knowledgeable writers creating content from their first-hand experiences. All they needed was a publisher that understood their niche.”

Diane E. Schindelwig
Freebird Publishers
774-406-8682
email us here

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Poetry: Claudia Rankine on the Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks

Photo

Gwendolyn Brooks in her home in Chicago. Credit Associated Press

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

REVISE THE PSALM
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.

Photo

“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.

Photo

“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:
b
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.

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

Claudia Rankine on the Legacy of Gwendolyn Brooks

Photo

Gwendolyn Brooks in her home in Chicago. Credit Associated Press

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

REVISE THE PSALM
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.

Photo

“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.

Photo

“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:
b
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.

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