A New Drumline Doc Keeps Things Positive and Wholesome

River City Drumbeat

All throughout River City Drumbeat, the subjects of the new documentary constantly present their hometown, Louisville, Ky., as a danger zone. It’s characterized as an unforgiving city — people can have their lives wiped out if they veer into the wrong neighborhood. For young boys and girls looking to get out and make something of themselves, it’s indeed an uphill journey, over ground usually covered with shell casings — if you don’t end up dead or in jail, you might have a shot. Based on how folks talk, Louisville — “The Ville” or “Da Ville” to the locals — is hell on earth.

But filmmakers Anne Flatté and Marlon Johnson present a wildly different depiction of this hope-crushing hamlet. Employing everything from clean overhead drone shots to a folksy jazz score, the directors make Louisville look like a sleepy, communal, pleasantly urban spot — the kind of place you’d like to retire to when you’re done with the big-city rat race. Even when we visit the most poverty-stricken parts of the city — filled with boarded-up homes, myriad liquor stores and Black and white people alike stuck in the same lower-class rut — it’s still a quiet change of pace from your average overpopulated metropolis. (Worth noting: The documentary was filmed well before Breonna Taylor was fatally shot by members of the Louisville Metro Police Department and protests overtook the city.)

Something tells me Flatté and Johnson wanted to keep their narrative positive, and blowuptuate the sparkling things Louisville has to offer. Chief among them is the River City Drum Corp, a three-decade-old drumming program for kids and teens led by Ed “Nardie” White, an older dude with dreadlocks and a flamboyant fashion sense — I swear there’s a section of the film in which he’s rocking leather (or maybe pleather?) overalls. Teaching kids about African drumming and drumline has been a mission of White’s ever since he got together with his late wife Zambia (she passed away from breast cancer a decade ago) and began showing inner-city youth they can do artistic stuff and actually be good at it.

When it comes to drums, White helps these youngsters take pride in performing and representing Black art to its fullest. He even has them make their own pipe drums out of scrap metal and cowhide. You might get the sense that White harbors a grudge against those who told him when he was younger that the arts weren’t a proper way for a Black man to make a living and instead urged him to get into sports. (Jailen, a headed-for-college teen drummer, divulges that White told him he had to choose between the arts and sports, even though the kid would’ve liked to do both.) But White isn’t out to mold these youngsters into drumming champions — he often holds a showcase that, even though it ends in a battle, is noncompetitive — as much as turn them into African-Americans who don’t think art is “gay.” You can’t blame him for wanting to show Black kids that they can do more than rap or dribble.

As Drumbeat progresses, White, who would like to get back into photojournalism and visual art, slowly but surely passes the baton over to Albert Shumake, a longtime pupil who has grown to be a DJ and a family man. This respectful passing of the torch is yet another example of how River City Drumbeat quaintly makes the case that things in Louisville can be handled with class, gracefulness and not an ounce of bloodshed. This movie lets people know that, with the right mentorship and focus, the kids are definitely gonna be all right.

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Best Virtual Bets: LED Lights, Quarantined Actors, and Sensitive Guys

This week, our socially distant and socially responsible suggestions include classical masterworks, virtual theater performances, and art films. Below, you’ll find enough to keep you happily indoors for another week.

Starting Friday, August 14, second chances abound when DACAMERA continues its Home Delivery series with the release of a 2016 recital with violinist Christian Tetzlaff and pianist Lars Vogt. The program includes works from Bartok, Beethoven, Mozart, and Schubert, and the release will include a pre-concert discussion between Tetzlaff, Vogt, and DACAMERA artistic director Sarah Rothenberg. The performance and conversation will be available on the DACAMERA website, where you can also find prior releases, including performances, commentary, artist conversations, and essays from Rothenberg, in the Home Delivery archive.

Over at Catastrophic Theatre, the second episode of Tamarie Cooper’s 2020: Quarantine Edition! will drop this Friday, August 14. As a reminder, Cooper’s three-part online series is scheduled to run six weeks, with new episodes dropping every other week. If you’ve already got a ticket, you’ll get an email with a link to access the next episode. If not, what are you waiting for? Get your ticket now; one ticket gets you access to the first show, the second, and the third which will be released on August 28. Ticket price, you ask? It’s pay-what-you-can, as it always is over at Catastrophic.

If you’ve visited Rice University, you’ve probably noticed that they love LED light master Leo Villareal. His immersive installation, Particle Chamber, was featured inside the Moody Center for the Arts back in 2018, and his Radiant Pathway installation adorns the school’s BioScience Research Collaborative (BRC) Café and Lounge. On Wednesday, August 19, at 2 p.m. the Moody’s summer film series, which highlights three of the artists in the school’s Public Art collection, continues with director Jeremy Ambers’ 2014 Impossible Light, about that time Villareal used 25,000 LED lights to turn San Francisco’s Bay Bridge into the world’s biggest LED light sculpture. The film will be available through August 26 on the Moody’s YouTube page. And if you’re impressed – and why wouldn’t you be – you can join in on an Instagram Live Q&A the following day, August 20, at 2 p.m. when Ambers talks to Ylinka Barotto, Moody Center for the Arts Associate Curator, about Villareal and the film.

Virtual programming for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston exhibit “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” continues this Saturday, August 15, at 3 p.m. with its final online panel, Black Cultural Organizations in Houston. The discussion about the city’s Black arts-and-culture scene will be moderated by the Houston Museum of African American Culture’s John Guess and feature panelists including Ensemble Theatre Artistic Director Eileen Morris, Urban Souls Dance Company Artistic Director Harrison Guy, and artist Vicki Meek (whose work you can explore online here). If you’ve missed any of the previous panels, they’re available on Vimeo (links here). And after catching up on those, you’ll also want to check out the final film of the “Soul of a Nation” film series, Losing Ground. The film, along with the six other films of the series, will only be available through August 30.

Stages takes to ZOOM with MJ Kaufman’s Sensitive Guys, opening on August 15.EXPAND

Stages takes to ZOOM with MJ Kaufman’s Sensitive Guys, opening on August 15.

Screen shot courtesy of Stages

Bright spots continue to emerge despite the past few months of postponements and cancellations, and this one is over at Stages, where their originally planned production of MJ Kaufman’s Sensitive Guys was just one week away from opening when COVID-19 forced a shutdown. Instead, the Leslie Swackhamer-directed show, about two groups at a fictitious college – one a Men’s Peer Education group and the other a Women’s Survivor Support group – and what happens when an allegation is made against one of those “sensitive guys,” pivoted to ZOOM. Five women make up the cast, playing across genders, in the 90-minute-long, intermission-less captured performance, which will open online and on-demand on YouTube on August 15 along with a “making of” documentary. Sensitive Guys will run through August 23, and though the streaming performance is free, you must register here to receive access.

While we can appreciate the efforts of Disney+, their release of the #Hamilfilm this summer didn’t completely erase the disappointment of knowing the musical juggernaut wouldn’t be swinging by the Bayou City this year. If you’re one of the disappointed masses, have we got a heck of a consolation prize for you: On Saturday, August 15, at 7 p.m. the original George Washington himself, Christopher Jackson, will take to New World Stages in New York City for Christopher Jackson: Live From the West Side. The Hamilton star (with a Drama Desk Award, an Emmy, and a Grammy in his back pocket), will regale the digital audience with stories, take some real-time questions, and treat everyone’s ears with a mix of show tunes, pop songs, and even some originals during the one-night-only concert. The $40 family pass gets you the livestream and 72 hours of on-demand access, and proceeds from the show will go to a selection of worthy nonprofits, including our very own Theater Under the Stars. And the best part of watching from your couch? No one around to shush you if you want to sing along.

If you’re a fan of Houston theater and the great performers who comprise the city’s talent pool (it’s an embarrassment of riches), and you’re not watching Actors Quarantine Corner, then what are you doing with your life? Every Monday night, three of those great performers – Kendrick “Kayb” Brown, Brandon J. Morgan, and Joseph “Joe “P” Palmore – get together and do monologues you know and original works you should, tell all kinds of stories, and talk about just about anything, from blockbuster films to the current movement for racial justice. This past Monday, they kicked off a four-part “State of the Theatre” series with a wellness check with local theaters. Representatives from the Alley Theatre, 4th Wall Theatre Company, Catastrophic Theatre, Rec Room, Ensemble Theatre and Stages joined the show to take stock of where the community is and how it got there. Theater folk, you’re definitely going to want to join them on this deep dive into the local theater community on Monday, August 17, and while you’re at it, catch up on what you missed on Facebook.

On August 19, DiverseWorks will look back at Jefferson Pinder’s 2019 site-specific piece inspired by the 1917 Camp Logan Uprising during Fire and Movement Revisited, pictured here.EXPAND

On August 19, DiverseWorks will look back at Jefferson Pinder’s 2019 site-specific piece inspired by the 1917 Camp Logan Uprising during Fire and Movement Revisited, pictured here.

Photo by Dabfoto Creative/David A. Brown

In 1917, African American soldiers, members of the 3rd Battalion of the 24th United States Infantry, mutinied against the continuous abuse they experienced at the hands of Houston citizens, white soldiers and especially the police. Last year, Chicago-based artist Jefferson Pinder and 13 fellow artists recreated the event in Fire and Movement, a public performance piece commissioned by DiverseWorks. In it, the group retraced the four-mile route through the streets before concluding the work at the African American Library at the Gregory School. With the 103rd anniversary of the Camp Logan Uprising on August 23 in mind, DiverseWorks will revisit the piece and welcome back Pinder, who will join a group of Houston artists, including Vinod Hopson, Mekeva McNeil, Mich S, and Anthony Suber, in conversation during Fire and Movement Revisited on August 19 at 6:30 p.m. The free event will be streamed live (but registration is required), and a recording of the event will be released on the actual anniversary on August 23.

In unsurprising but sad news, 4th Wall Theatre Company postponed the opening of their 10th anniversary season earlier this week. Though they are looking to January 2021 as a tentative restart date, fans of the company, and Houston theater in general, can still enjoy their online interview series, Beyond the 4th Wall. On Wednesday, August 19, at 8 p.m. 4th Wall’s Co-Artistic Directors Kim Tobin-Lehl and Philip Lehl will virtually host Rebecca Greene Udden, the artistic director of Main Street Theater. You can register to join the live conversation on Zoom here, or you can check in on 4th Wall’s YouTube or Facebook page on Thursday when the recorded video premieres. And while you’re waiting, you can always check out their previous interviews, including recent conversations with the Alley’s Rob Melrose and Ensemble Theatre’s Eileen Morris.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Up Here presents musical pop-up sessions in Sudbury starting Thursday

As Melanie St-Pierre gears up to release her sophomore record with the force that is Casper Skulls, she has been hard at work on a self-reflective journey. With her new solo project, she shows she knows when to swirl into the echoing beauty of the ambient world and create a powerful yet delicate performance. Supplied

Up Here has been reimagined.

The organizers behind Sudbury’s urban art and music festival have gone back to the drawing board to reimagine a festival that brings together community while respecting the restrictions of COVID-19.

“The sixth edition of Up Here has been reimagined for the ongoing pandemic and will see the creation of murals and painted hydro boxes around the city; intimate musical sessions by local artists; film screenings in collaboration with Sudbury Indie Cinema; a virtual panel discussion about Black art; an interactive, live-streamed game of porketta bingo; and more,” Christian Pelletier, festival co-founder, said Wednesday. “The festival will continue to offer programming throughout the end of the summer and into the fall.”

Up Here will release a series of music video performances featuring six local musicians, beginning Thursday. These pop-up sessions were shot in fun and surprising locations around Greater Sudbury.

They will be released daily from Aug. 13-18 and will feature intimate performances by folk songstress Julie Katrinette; indie-rocker Melanie St-Pierre; Juno-nominated electronic artist Bryden Gwiss; rapper and singer Jor’Del Downz; Peruvian-Canadian powerhouse Patricia Cano; and crust punks Salted Wounds.

“A crusty quartet cobbled together by friendship and laughter, Salted Wounds convenes Rob Seaton (Statues), Andrée St-Onge (The Ape-ettes), and Adam Dempsey and Brady Middaugh from Skin Condition for a brand new project plumbing the depths of love, loss and forgiveness,” Pelletier said. “Taken with a grain of salt, these tunes burn a bit, but help the healing.”

Julie Katrinette is the folk-country solo project of Julie Houle, a songstress and member of The Ape-ettes. Having stockpiled a collection of heartbreak songs, she is ready to offer them up as a musical letting-go of sorts. Her upcoming album is a goodbye to grief gone by and a welcome to growth and to new beginnings.

As St-Pierre gears up to release her sophomore record with the Casper Skulls, she has been hard at work on a self-reflective journey.

“With her new solo project, she shows she knows when to swirl into the echoing beauty of the ambient world and create a powerful, yet delicate performance,” Pelletier said.

Gwiss grew up on the pow-wow trail — learning songs, drum teachings and dancing for more than 30 years. His music fuses traditional pow-wow songs with modern hip-hop production. Gwiss is originally from Neyaashiinigaming (Cape Croker, Ont.) and Sipekne’katik (Indian Brook, Nova Scotia) but he currently lives in Sudbury. Gwiss was nominated for Indigenous music album of the year at the Junos in 2017. His new album, The Forgotten T.R.U.T.H. (The. Real. Un. Told. History), drops Aug. 17.

Cano is a total powerhouse and has won many awards. With a rich, diverse body of work, she has stunned audiences around the world with everything from an 18-member orchestra to a one-woman show.

“If her smile alone doesn’t knock you off your feet, you can bet her voice will,” Pelletier quipped.

Jor’Del Downz seamlessly blends singing, rapping, percussion and beat-making. Born and raised in Sudbury, Downz was totally blind until the age of four, when he gained back 50 per cent of his sight. Through his art and advocacy, Downz raises awareness about different kinds of blindness.

The locations of these performances will be revealed as the sessions are released on the festival’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

“With live events currently on pause, the creative community is in need of support now more than ever,” Scott Simon, regional VP of Royal Bank, said. “This year’s Up Here festival is an amazing example of committed people working to fill that void, to help bring exposure to Sudbury and local talented artists. We’re excited the RBC pop-up sessions featuring emerging northern Ontario musicians will bring us together, even while we’re apart.”

Up Here is also presenting Rock’n’Robics with Ms. Holub. Local gym teacher Jennifer Holub earned some renown when she started releasing hilarious workout videos for kids in April, after the pandemic hit.

Ms. Holub gets physical once again with an exclusive interactive event on Aug. 15 at noon. Livestreamed on Facebook, there is no special equipment required. Just bring a beating heart and a sense of humour.

For more information or to participate in these intimate sessions, go to facebook.com/upherefestival or bit.ly/31JrEXT.

sud.editorial@sunmedia.ca

Twitter: @SudburyStar

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Four classes to consider during drop-add period

Want to add a class to your schedule during drop-add this fall? The Chronicle has compiled a list of four classes from DukeHub, sampled from a variety of subjects, for the curious student to consider.

HISTORY 135: Silk Roads and China

Online course. TuTh Noon-1:15 p.m.; cross-listed AMES, MEDREN, RELIGION; CCI, CZ

The oldest and longest routes connecting Asia, Europe and Africa, the Silk Roads have bridged  the continents since the days of Alexander the Great. This course investigates the many cultures that have lined the storied network, through themes such as Alexander’s empire, medieval cities and the Mongol Empire visited by Marco Polo. 

The course is taught by Associate Professor of History Sucheta Mazumdar. 

PHYSICS 134: Introduction to Astronomy

Online course; MW 3:30-4:45 p.m; NS, QS

“Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’, got me stargazin’.” 

Through this introductory astronomy course, students can go beyond Travis Scott’s hit lyrics to gain deeper insights into the science behind our universe. With only a background in high-school algebra and geometry, students in this course will learn how observation and insight can lead to amazing scientific discoveries.

The course will cover topics such as light and matter, the solar system, the lives of stars, the evolution of the universe, black holes and more. 

The course is taught by Professor of Physics Ronen Plesser.

AAS 227: African American Art

Online course; 10:15-11:30 a.m.; cross-listed ARTHIST; ALP, R, CCI, CZ

This course will be a “flipped classroom”: Students will watch short video lectures and complete assigned readings before attending synchronous meetings to investigate works of art “derived from an Afro-United States cultural perspective,” according to the DukeHub class notes and course description.

The course will focus on major figures such as Henry Ossawa Tanner, Aaron Douglas and Jacob Lawrence. The course aims to help students develop visual analysis and visual literacy skills, covering modern as well as contemporary art. 

This course is taught by Richard Powell, John Spencer Bassett distinguished professor of art and art history.

GERMAN 380: Marx, Nietzsche, Freud

Online course; TuTh 5:15-5:50 p.m. or 5:55-6:30 p.m.; cross-listed PHIL, LIT, POLSCI; CCI, CZ, SS

Three of the most influential thinkers of the modern era are remembered for their work in fields ranging from economics to human existence. This “critical examination and assessment on the thought of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud,” as it’s described in the DukeHub course description, will be taught in English. 

Topics will include “ and the challenge of overcoming it” and “the exploration of the hidden foundations of the self and of culture,” according to the description. 

This course is taught by Henry Pickford, associate professor of Germanic languages and literature, and Hannah Read, a doctoral student in philosophy. 

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Black & Proud: a conversation with Mon-ty

By: KYLE KERSEY

Midway through our discussion, Mon-ty delivers a verse from Notorious B.I.G.’s posthumous release, “Come on.” He matches the beloved Biggie’s flow perfectly, slicing through the line “I got seven Mac-11’s, about eight .38’s / Nine 9’s, ten Mac-10’s, the shits never end / You can’t touch my riches / Even if you had MC Hammer and them 357 bitches”

“I’m a Biggie guy because I love the way he played with words,” he says. “I heard that and said to myself, ‘okay yeah, this is what I want to do.’”

It’s been a busy year for Monty Gantt, who goes by Mon-ty on streaming platforms. It began with his first ever live performance, the penultimate act of a February concert at a Tucson staple, The Rock.

“The rock is more known for playing rock or big band performances,” he says. “But when you’re up there as a hip-hop artist and there’s just you, some microphones, and a DJ, it’s so much bigger than you thought it would be.”

Born and raised in Tucson, Mon-ty has lived his whole life in the same west-side house with his family. It’s where we sat down for three hours to discuss his new EP before devolving into other assorted topics like the brilliance of Metallica’s bassists (don’t sleep on Robert Trujillo and Jason Newsted), how Snoop Dogg created the greatest debut in hip-hop history and that time Vince McMahon kayfabe wrestled god on live TV (and won).

He’s a man of many interests, impossible to pigeonhole into one singular clique. He’s a wrestling fanatic who dreams of one day attending Wrestlemania. He’s a metal head with a supreme appreciation for Motorhead’s now deceased frontman Lemmy and Metallica’s 1984 masterwork, Ride the Lightning. He’s a hip-hop head with a love of wordplay and Kanye. And he’s an NAU-bound journalist who formerly wrote for the Aztec Press.

His new five-track EP, “Black & Proud,” runs a little over 14 minutes in length and is available on the who’s who of streaming services like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music, as well as for purchase through Google Play and iTunes. An evolution on his early work (which can be found on Soundcloud), it’s his foray into politically conscious hip hop, where he lays bare his feelings in the closing seconds of the EP’s first track, “Dear Amerikkka”: “I don’t hate America, man / I’m just so sick of loving a country that don’t love me back.”

Released at the end of July, the EP spawned from an outpouring of emotions following the murder of George Floyd by the knee of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

“It took me less than a week to write the whole thing because I just felt like something was taking over while writing. I felt like I was having an out of body experience,” he says. “I started working with my friend Julian (who goes by the name Jay Cast). He’s been my producer since high school but we’ve been great friends since 6th grade. We go way back like two seats in a Cadillac. I reached out to him and we recorded it in two weeks at the studio in his apartment. We got the mixing and mastering done in two or three days.”

The original plan was different: a project called Thank You 4 the Wait, inspired by Lil Wayne’s 2011 mixtape Sorry 4 the Wait. In the spirit of Wayne, it would’ve acted as an appetizer to supporters asking the proverbial question: “when you dropping?” In the meantime, he would’ve been working on releases for his little brother and cousin. However, the events in Minneapolis, compounded by the killings of unarmed black people like Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, pushed his vision in a different direction.

“I’m hearing about all these beautiful black people being killed by the police or by racists who are open in the streets, and I scrapped everything I had,” he says. “I just started writing some socially conscious songs. I just wrote some songs about being black, about being a black man in America and the experience of others being black in America.”

On June 3, he spoke at a rally hosted by “March for Justice Tucson” at the University of Arizona’s Old Main.

“I feel like it’s important for me to use my voice,” Mon-ty says. “I was 12 or 13 when ‘Black Lives Matter’ started trending as a hashtag. I remember it being just the saying. I remember relating to it so much because it was after Trayvon Martin got killed and George Zimmerman ended up being acquitted. And I remember that was the first trial I ever paid attention to because it just hit so close to home. Trayvon Martin, at the time, was the same age as my older brother. When he got acquitted, it was the first time in my life that I ever felt, as a black person, that my life did not matter.”

Mon-ty’s convictions, both musical and political, are heavily rooted in his faith. A devout Christian, his first Soundcloud release is titled GOD IS GOOD, and his tastes in music are heavily indebted to the steady stream of gospel music his family played while growing up – everything from more modern artists like Fred Hammond and Kirk Franklin to old-school acts like John P. Kee, the Clark Sisters and Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

“Gospel music was a big thing,” he says. “I’ve been going to church since I was in the womb. When I got into music, I told myself I was never going to shy away from who I was and I was never going to talk about things I don’t know about. So what I know is what’s going on in my real life, struggling with faith and trying to fit in but being different. I can’t talk about gang banging, I can’t talk about killing people or making money or getting girls because I literally know nothing about that. But me, and my faith, and my family, and my friends and the things I’ve seen in my life; I know about that.”

His first real introduction into hip-hop was the Texas rapper Lecrae. More specifically, it was a song from his 2006 album After the Music Stops called “Jesus Muzik.”

“I just remember the beginning of it goes ‘riding with my top down / listening to that Jesus Muzik.’ I first heard it when I was like 7 or 8 and that was when Southern hip-hop was a big thing: the bangin’ 808’s and the slang. So when I heard that, that was the first time I thought “you can talk about god in rap? I thought you could only do that in gospel?”

“He was somebody who identified as a Christian,” he says. “It was like hearing gospel music but it had a hip hop sound. It was like what was being played on the radio, but the message wasn’t guns money, drugs, this and that. It was more faith based. It felt more real.”

A short while later, he first heard who he states as his biggest influence: Kanye West. Mon-ty describes hearing “Love Lockdown” off West’s innovative 2008 release 808’s and Heartbreak as something of a revelation.

“I was like, ‘man, this is something different. I don’t know what this is, but I like it,’” he says. “I felt like I could identify with Kanye. Kanye was coming up at a time where drug dealers were rapping and they were telling their war stories about the streets. And Kanye West – other than being from the South side of Chicago – I mean his mother was a college professor. He was a middle class child. He didn’t really grow up as poor as everybody else. So I felt like I could identify with him. I haven’t seen the things a lot of other people have seen. I haven’t experienced them, but I still got a story to tell.”

Like Lecrae and Mr. West (at least for most of his career), Mon-ty wouldn’t classify himself as a “Christian rapper.” He says he doesn’t want to imply that his music is only for those who hold his faith or limit his reach as an artist.

“It’s not a term I throw on myself because I think ‘Christian’ is a great noun, but it’s a terrible adjective,” he says. “That just limits the message I’m trying to spread. It limits who I’m trying to reach. It implies that if you go to church and you identify as a Christian, then my music is just for you. And that’s not who it’s for. My music is for people who are feeling down and doubtful about life. It’s for people who are feeling some type of way about how things are going. It’s to inspire. It’s to uplift. It’s to make people feel good. And if some people get kind of a Christian vibe and go ‘oh, I want to go to church and turn my life around,’ then more power to you. But my music isn’t beating you over the head…I don’t want to alienate people.”

One of the prevailing themes on Black & Proud is unity: “Black & Brown” features Jay Cast, who is of Hispanic descent, and Mon-ty calling for a united front between the Black and Hispanic communities. He says it’s important to remember that both communities were affected by discrimination in Arizona during the Jim Crow era, and continue to feel that discrimination today.

“My great grandmother, who lived in Phoenix, was alive for segregation and Jim Crow,” he says. “Even though it wasn’t as heavy as it was in the south – in states like George, Alabama, the Carolinas – it was still present. She still wasn’t allowed to eat in certain places. She wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom in certain places. She had to take the back door if she wanted to go into certain places. The whole country had some form of Jim Crow, and it may not have been as heavy and it may not have been as documented and it may not be as remembered, but it was present.”

Mon-ty views the Black Lives Matter movement as a positive influence for change in a country with such a long history of racial discrimination against its minority communities. He says that watching it transform from a simple hashtag to something being displayed all across the country is inspiring, especially to a whole generation of young black artists like himself.

“I feel like a lot of people who look like me are very afraid because they don’t know if they walk out of their houses if they’re going to come back. A lot of parents fear that their kids are going to walk out of the house and never come back. I’m sure Tamir Rice’s mother felt that way. Same thing with Trayvon’s Martin’s mother,” he says. “In this time, we fear being black – and rightfully so – but we should also be proud to be black. To get push back from [the black lives matter movement], it just shows what kind of power we have. We should be proud that we carry such power.”

However, he admits that it can still be disheartening to see push back against the movement, mainly in the form of the reactive “All Lives Matter” hashtag that swept across social media in response to Black Lives Matter. He also notes that it’s important to make a distinction between the movement and the organization.

“I think it’s kind of sad that they get the saying Black Lives Matter mixed up with the organization because it’s easy to get the two mixed,” he says. “If you don’t want to support Black Lives Matter as an organization, that’s fine with me, because they may have some views that you don’t agree with…but it shouldn’t shy away from the message that black lives do matter because, of course, all lives are precious, all lives have value to them, but they all don’t matter because, historically, black and brown ones haven’t… The main problem I have with the statement of all lives matter is that it comes from a place of ‘yes, but…’ It’s a protest of our protest. We’re trying to protest equality for black and brown people. When it comes to a message of equality and fairness, there’s no ‘yes, but…’ We’re not arguing for black supremacy, we’re arguing for black equality.”

He believes that one of the solutions to America’s racial divide ultimately starts with accountability and recognition that the country has “done some wrong.”

“It kind of irks me to hear people call America the ‘greatest country in the world.’ It feels like it’s a very arrogant statement. And it goes back to my faith: I believe in keeping myself humble and keeping those around me humble because I’ve always been a believer that if you don’t humble yourself, god will,” he says. “I encourage everyone to research the truth and reconciliation commission. After apartheid ended, Nelson Mandela and South Africa instituted the Truth and Reconciliation commission. It was a court system holding South Africa for things it did to black people…I think America definitely needs its own Truth and Reconciliation Commission or something related to it so that way we hold ourselves as a country accountable for the sins we’ve committed against black people. There’s a million other solutions, but I think that’s a good start.”

His next single, “Spike Lee” is set to release on September 10. Black & Proud is currently available for streaming and purchase.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Artist excited to be a part of Kansas City Black Lives Matter art project

Civic leaders are joining together for a Black Lives Matter art project in September. The goal is to enlist Black artists and create six street murals throughout Kansas City. “It’s one of those things that I feel art speaks to you,” artist Avrion Jackson said.Jackson has a creative eye.”I try to incorporate things that are in my everyday life,” she said.Jackson has painted six murals in Kansas City, but she said the seventh mural might be the most important one.”I feel like this is very important for this to happen for our city,” Jackson said. On Sept. 5, six streets will be closed so artists can participate and create. “I’m going to definitely have like an Afrocentric vibe to it, kind of like a Renaissance feel,” Jackson said.It is called KC Art on The Block: A Black Lives Matter Project, and it will paint the message that’s being shared all over the world.”I’m happy that I’m going to be a part of this, and it’s going to make a difference,” Jackson said.It’s a project that some said is overdue in the community, one that they hope will bring the community a little closer together.”I definitely feel like this is what it takes. We’re right outside the door and they have to face the reality of the things that are going on around them,” Jackson said.She said it usually takes about eight hours to finish a mural, and she is hoping to have it done in five hours. Jackson’s mural will be at 10th and Baltimore streets.Mural locations: 10th and Baltimore 18th and Vine 31st and Troost 63rd and Troost 63rd and Brookside Boulevard NW Briarcliff Parkway and N. Mulberry

Civic leaders are joining together for a Black Lives Matter art project in September. The goal is to enlist Black artists and create six street murals throughout Kansas City.

“It’s one of those things that I feel art speaks to you,” artist Avrion Jackson said.

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Jackson has a creative eye.

“I try to incorporate things that are in my everyday life,” she said.

Jackson has painted six murals in Kansas City, but she said the seventh mural might be the most important one.

“I feel like this is very important for this to happen for our city,” Jackson said.

On Sept. 5, six streets will be closed so artists can participate and create.

“I’m going to definitely have like an Afrocentric vibe to it, kind of like a Renaissance feel,” Jackson said.

It is called KC Art on The Block: A Black Lives Matter Project, and it will paint the message that’s being shared all over the world.

“I’m happy that I’m going to be a part of this, and it’s going to make a difference,” Jackson said.

It’s a project that some said is overdue in the community, one that they hope will bring the community a little closer together.

“I definitely feel like this is what it takes. We’re right outside the door and they have to face the reality of the things that are going on around them,” Jackson said.

She said it usually takes about eight hours to finish a mural, and she is hoping to have it done in five hours.

Jackson’s mural will be at 10th and Baltimore streets.

Mural locations:

  • 10th and Baltimore
  • 18th and Vine
  • 31st and Troost
  • 63rd and Troost
  • 63rd and Brookside Boulevard
  • NW Briarcliff Parkway and N. Mulberry

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

In BET’s ‘No Limit Chronicles,’ a Black-owned record label finally gets its due

In 2016, when Solange released her critically acclaimed “A Seat at the Table,” she anchored the album with snippets of conversations she’d had with famed ‘90s rap mogul Master P. In one, titled “For Us By Us,” the No Limit Records founder spoke of turning down one particular big-money deal: “What do you think I’m worth if this white man offers me a million dollars?” In “No Limit Chronicles, the five-part BET docuseries on his New Orleans-based hip-hop label that concludes on Wednesday, Master P expounds on this, claiming that the white man was former Interscope Records CEO Jimmy Iovine and that the deal wouldn’t have allowed him to retain ownership of his music or name.

Earlier this year, as companies across various industries pledged to make workplaces more equitable for Black employees, the music industry held Blackout Tuesday to reflect on the harm the record industry has done to Black creatives, and to consider a plan of action for moving forward. But in a feature published last week, Rolling Stone noted that proof of change is “hard to find.” “None of the labels have said publicly that they will rethink the types of record deals they offer young black men and women,” wrote Elias Leight. “None of the labels have come forward to say they will write off the unrecouped balances of older black artists that are no longer signed to them.” More than two decades after Master P (born Percy Miller) allegedly told Iovine during a meeting that he was going to go grab lunch and never returned, artists are still fighting for ownership of their work.

In recent years, Master P has talked about rebuffing Iovine in several interviews, proof of his lifelong faith in his own self-worth. But that faith faced some tests. It took No Limit four years before they had their first hit, “I’m Bout It, Bout It,” a family affair with Master P, his wife, Sonia C and his brothers Silkk the Shocker and C-Murder, under the collective name Tru. Iovine, who’d brought gangsta rap into suburban bedrooms, saw that Master P was onto something. Master P, never lacking in self-confidence, thought the same. He Heismaned Iovine, moved his operations from Richmond, Calif. to New Orleans and willed an empire.

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No Limit built its success on utilitarian Southern rap: a steady output of hits from Master P, Silkk the Shocker, Mystikal and Mia X, all produced by in-house team Beats by the Pound. CEO Miller paired a minimalist sound with maximalist output and branding: the label issued albums with assembly-line efficiency; all album art featured a proudly garish, uniform look courtesy of Houston-based graphics firm Pen & Pixel; and booming merchandise sales revolved around the signature No Limit tank, a nod to Miller’s grandfather, who served in the military. The No Limit aesthetic was so popular that Master P eventually issued his own talking action figure, adorned with its own mini No Limit chain.

By 1998, Master P was listed as the 10th highest-paid entertainer, and the top-ranked rapper, by Forbes magazine, with $56.5 million in earnings. That year, No Limit Records had record sales totaling $100 million and the brand expanded to include film, sports management and a phone sex operation.

Barry Hefner, president and co-founder of the Atlanta-based label and management firm Since the 80s, says he has long looked up to Master P. He remembers marveling at the marketing “genius” behind No Limit, from the militant branding to the way the back of every physical CD teased the next album that would be released by the label. “The formula was to build the brand and keep hitting them with products,” he said.

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Knowing well the importance of branding, Master P, who executive produced “No Limit Chronicles,” glosses over some of the less favorable parts of the label’s story in the series. The final episode never mentions the company’s 2003 bankruptcy. Recounting No Limit’s decline, when artists Mia X, Snoop Dogg and Mystikal left the label, Master P downplays their departures. “The artists didn’t leave No Limit,” he said before contradicting himself. “They went and got other deals with other companies.” Artists who lodged business complaints against Master P, such as the production group Beats by the Pound, weren’t interviewed for the docuseries.

Still, “No Limit Chronicles” offers a vivid portrayal of the decade in which the South emerged as hip-hop’s third coast. Labels such as Atlanta’s LaFace and SoSo Def and Houston’s Rap-A-Lot had already released hit records, but the region was still fighting to be taken seriously on a national scale. In the series, Master P recalls looking at the success of Atlanta stars Outkast and Goodie Mob when deciding to take No Limit Records from California back to New Orleans. Today, the South is hip-hop’s cultural and economic engine, led by streaming-dominant artists such as Lil Baby, Da Baby and Megan Thee Stallion. But the foundation for this was laid by executives like Master P, who has since handed the reigns of No Limit to his son, Romeo.

When she released her 2016 album, Solange subverted the standard white gaze by suggesting that the “seat at the table” was being offered by Black people. Whites weren’t the owners of the space, they were invited guests. “No Limit Chronicles” reminds fans that 20 years before that, Master P created his own brand that centered his identity as a Southern Black man and invited the world to sit for a while.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Legacy Day 2020 Goes Virtual

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August 15 was the date selected for Legacy Day 2020 when we had planned to honor Kent County’s Outstanding African American Athletes of the 20th Century with a special exhibition, parade, a genealogy workshop, Gospel concert, food and craft vendors and dancing in the street. However, essential social distancing requirements imposed by the coronavirus pandemic have caused the Legacy Day Committee to make the painful decision to postpone these festivities until August 2021 and make Legacy Day 2020 a virtual experience.

Legacy Day 2020 is upon us!  Tune in – on August 15th and August 16th – to our social media networks and our website (www.sumnerhall.org).   

August 15, 2020

9:00 am – Honoring Legacy Day
      Video by Sumner Hall

11:00 am – Live Online Genealogy Workshop
      Hosted by The National Museum of African American History & Culture

1:30 pm – Black Student Life at Washington College
      Hosted via Zoom by Chesapeake Heartland  

5:30 pm – Online Dance Party
      Hosted by DJ Real 

Ongoing – Black Artists’ Exhibit
      Hosted by RiverArts 

August 16, 2020

5:30pm – Gospel Concert with Perfect Vision
Hosted by Legacy Day Committee

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Jump-Start and Andrea ‘Vocab’ Sanderson Showcase Black Artists in Virtual Performance Series

Posted By on Wed, Aug 12, 2020 at 12:30 PM

click to enlarge Andrea "Vocab" Sanderson - COURTESY OF JUMP-START PERFORMANCE CO.

  • Courtesy of Jump-Start Performance Co.
  • Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson

Jump-Start Performance Co.’s annual 8 X 8 Cabaret du Jump will highlight Black artists in a variety show curated by San Antonio poet-laureate Andrea “Vocab” Sanderson.

The 8 X 8 performance series, which Jump-Start cheekily describes as “theatre for short attention spans,” features eight-minute performances in an eight-by-eight foot cube. This year’s installment, taking place virtually via Zoom, is billed as “8 X 8 Cabaret du Jump en Noir.”

The series’ name alludes to the original stage at the Jump-Start space, which was a mere eight-by-eight foot square. Although initially a canvas for performance experimentation at Jump-Start artist retreats, the 8 X 8 stage performances were transformed into a variety show open to community artists and audiences beginning in 2014.

Held on August 21 and 22, this year’s performances will showcase “an exquisite pairing of palpable artistry combined with awareness of Black identity and culture,” according to a statement. The lineup will include music, monologue, poetry and dance from Sanderson, Aamori Olujimi, Odious Dance, Naomi Sumthin2Say, Brian Drones, Jess Mahogany, Nigel Pierce and Darcell Bios.

Each night will include four pre-recorded acts followed by a discussion between artists and audience members hosted by Sanderson.

Tickets for the event are available online, both at Jump-Start’s website and on Facebook. Jump-Start will email a link and password after purchase.

Choose What You Pay, 8 p.m. Friday, August 21 and Saturday, August 22, Zoom, Jump-Start Performance Co., jump-start.org.

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The dark and biting “Luster,” plus 5 more provocative must-reads for August

Summer is winding down, and even though we’re done with the beach reads (sans actual beach in quarantine), must-read books are still coming. The pandemic hasn’t slowed down publishing, and August has much to show for that.

Continuing the nation’s education is Pulitzer Prize winner Isabel Wilkerson’s essential “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents” (Random House, Aug. 4) that examines America’s racism and finds connections to the outcastes of India and the Third Reich. Meanwhile Morgan Jenkins’ “Wandering in Strange Lands: A Daughter of the Great Migration Reclaims Her Roots” (Harper, Aug. 4) explores how six million Black Americans left the South from 1916-1970 and the result of this displacement.

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Also Salon’s Amanda Marcotte spoke with philosopher Kate Manne about her new book “Entitled” (Crown Publishing Group, Aug. 11) to learn how society’s tolerance of male privilege harms women. In the new book “Tomboy” (Hachette Go, Aug. 11), Lisa Selin Davis’ argues for rejecting gender norms altogether, including with our children as they go back to school. 

Sarah Hendren also wants to shift thought with “What Can a Body Do?: How We Meet the Built World” (Riverhead Books, Aug. 18). In this fascinating set of stories, she looks at familiar objects and environments with new eyes and question what “normalcy” looks like.

On the fiction side, Alice Randall pays tribute to Detroit’s legendary neighborhood with “Black Bottom Saints” (Amistad Press, Aug. 18), in which the author visits legendary Black artists through the lens of a local gossip columnist and jazz club emcee. Over on another continent, Nazanine Hozar’s “Aria” (Pantheon Books, Aug. 25) visits Iran in the 1950s as a young orphan girl is raised by three mother figures and eventually participates in a popular uprising against the shah.

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Back again to the U.S. in the 1950s, the title character in Tiffany McDaniel’s “Betty” (Knopf, Aug. 18) is the daughter of a white mother and Cherokee father and finds her voice as a writer to recount horror from her family’s past. Finally, David Heska Wanbli Weiden blends crime fiction with Native American identity in “Winter Counts” (Ecco Press, Aug. 25), the story of the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

Below, Salon has highlighted six more works of fiction for the month.

“The Death of Vivek Oji: A Novel” by Akwaeke Emezi (Riverhead Books, Aug. 4)

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Akwaeke Emezi’s electrifying novel begins with a one-sentence chapter: “They burned down the market on the day Vivek Oji died.” It establishes a kind of score for the coming-of-age story, a heady percussive beat that underlays the vivid chapters to come. 

As readers, we don’t immediately meet Vivek; we first come to know the people closest to him. His father, Chika, his mother, Kavia and Vivek’s cousin, Osita. We learn how Vivek was born — to a Nigerian father who had “looks that should have lived forever, features he passed down to Vivek” and to an Indian mother, who immigrated to the country for a new start — and how he possessed the same birthmark on his foot that his paternal grandmother had. 

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She died the day he was born, the birthmark a potential sign of reincarnation. It’s there that we establish one of the main themes of the book, which is presented as a question: “If nobody sees you, are you still there?” 

Each chapter is told from a different perspective, allowing Emezi to immediately weave a really textured portrayal of southeastern Nigeria during the 1980s and ’90s. Eventually, there are some chapters narrated by Vivek and his childhood acquaintance-turned-confidant Juju. From them, we hear how Vivek was different from many of his peers and how from early on he longed to break free of the constraints of his middle-class community. 

“Picture: the boy, shirtless, placing necklaces against his chest, draping them over his silver chain, clipping his ears with gold earrings, his hair tumbling over his shoulders,” Osita reveals to readers. “He looks like a bride, half naked, partially undressed…he was so beautiful he made the air around him dull.”

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That’s when the percussive beat established in the first chapter begins to intensify, rapidly propelling the narrative forward. We as readers know the ultimate destination, but Emezi expertly guides us there. 

Vivek starts to slip into fugue states, due largely to the stress of concealing his true gender identity. He loses weight and has a breakdown while at university. Once he begins to wear his hair long, some of his anxiety is alleviated, but it introduces new problems in the forms of an aunt who thinks he’s possessed by a demon and young men who toss broken bottles at him as he walks through town. 

Just as he’s beginning to live openly, the drum beat stops — and the market is burned down. 

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Emezi’s “The Death of Vivek Oji” is a masterful contemplation on gender identity and fluidity, the heavy weight of shame, and the importance of having friends and family who accept you rather than attempt to “fix” you. 

* * *

“All the Right Mistakes” by Laura Jamison (She Writes Press, Aug. 4)

If you enjoyed our July recommendation of “Want: A Novel” by Lynne Streger Strong, Laura Jamison’s “All The Right Mistakes” is a spiritual sequel (though with perhaps a little more “beach read” levity). 

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Both novels center on women who appear to have everything, and are thankfully largely aware of that privilege, but are forced to interrogate whether at their respective stages in life it’s everything they actually wanted. 

“All the Right Mistakes” centers on five 40-year-old women who became fast friends as Dartmouth undergraduates. They’ve stayed close for decades through career changes, births, deaths, marriages and divorces. Their friendship seems like a kind of bland given — that is until self-centered dynamo of the group, Heather Hall, releases her first book. 

It’s an advice book titled, “Four BIG Mistakes of Women Who Will Never Lead or Win.” As her friends read it, they realize that they are the thinly veiled basis for each of the chapters.

There is “Mistake No. 1: Opting Out,” which is based on the life of Carmen Jones, whose career was interrupted by an unplanned pregnancy and subsequent marriage. After her professional plans were so thrown off track, she dreamed of having other children — a wish that never came true. 

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“Mistake No. 2: Ramping Off” is Martha Adams’. She’s a physician with two children and she and her husband, a doctor named Robert, are planning on another. But she isn’t sure she actually wants to return to work after the new baby is born. 

Sara Beck is the basis of “Mistake No. 3: Half-Assing It.” She is frazzled and frustrated trying to manage her household of four young children and her full-time job as an attorney. Sara constantly feels pulled between the responsibilities of both work life and home life, and never feels that either are being attended to correctly. 

Finally “Mistake No. 4: Ignoring the Fertility Cliff,” based on Elizabeth Smith, another “big-firm attorney” with a 3-year-old son and distant stay-at-home husband. She thinks she wants a second child, but keeps pumping the brakes on ultimately making that decision. 

The four friends who were written about are deeply wounded by Heather’s callousness, but the release of the book (which becomes a bestseller) also makes them deeply consider their “mistakes” and whether they are actually as bad as they’re made out to be — and if so, what can be done to remedy them. 

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“All The Right Mistakes” isn’t an incendiary commentary on women’s labor, both seen and unseen; but it also doesn’t set out to be. It succeeds as a story of well-paced and engrossing story friendship with a pleasing dash of ’90s rom-com cattiness.

* * *

“Luster” by Raven Leilani (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Aug. 4)

Since Zadie Smith teased Raven Leilani’s “Luster” in an essay back in February, hailing it as a novel that, “with the lightest of touches, skewers our contemporary moment, and announces a writer of exhilarating freedom and daring” anticipation has been high for this debut. Every minute of the wait for this intimate coming-of-age story about a young Black artist caught up in a middle-aged white couple’s open marriage has been worth it, and then some.

The novel opens with Edie — a painter frustrated in her position as an underemployed editorial coordinator, one of only two Black employees in her division — furtively sexting at her desk, her fear of “yet another disciplinary meeting with HR” overridden by her desire for Eric, a white forty-something Volvo-driving archivist (“a total daddy”) in an open marriage who corrects the typos in her dating profile. Blocked in art and stifled at work, Edie’s life — pest-ridden Bushwick apartment, aching loneliness, and all — is stripped of the adorkable basic-cable gloss typically applied to fictional millennial women working in New York’s creative industries: “My salary is very low. I have trouble making friends, and men lose interest in me when I talk. It always goes well initially, but then I talk too explicitly about my ovarian torsion or my rent.”

On her second date with Eric, at a wine bar — the first is Six Flags, his mortifying choice — he presents a list of rules he must follow when stepping out, written by his wife Rebecca. He later ghosts Edie but she refuses to fade quietly, showing up in his suburban New Jersey house and inadvertently crashing their wedding anniversary party, where she meets their daughter, who is Black and adopted. When Edie loses her job, her precarity juxtaposed mercilessly against their suburban comfort, she becomes even further enmeshed in the family unit; more than a friend, not quite a sister-wife, her relationships with Eric’s wife and daughter, both intriguing characters themselves, become much deeper and more interesting than her affair with him.

The lines blur further as Eric and Rebecca lean on Edie to inject at turns excitement, companionship, and discomfort into their home, demand she bear witness to their lives in a way that is impossible to separate from their whiteness: The feeling never quite shakes that they welcome her only as long as it serves them to, as long as she can fit herself into the corners of their well-appointed rooms.

Sinking into the pleasures of Leilani’s darkly funny and bitingly insightful prose over an aimless shut-down weekend is a treat you deserve. With a highlighter in one hand and “Luster” in the other, chapter one alone becomes a riot of yellow stripes: “I think to myself, you are a desirable woman. You are not a dozen gerbils in a skin casing,” and “Of course, there is still the business of trying to look sexy while hurtling through the sky,” and “The last time I painted, I was twenty-one. The president was black. I had more serotonin and I was less afraid of men,” and this gut-kick of a closer, “It’s that there are gray, anonymous hours like this. Hours when I am desperate, when I am ravenous, when I know how a star becomes a void.” Edie is at times hungry, reckless, unsparing, and aching to be remembered, but always unforgettable. — Erin Keane

* * *

“True Story: A Novel” by Kate Reed Perry (Viking, Aug. 4)

“Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter,” Christine Blasey Ford testified at a Senate hearing during Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court confirmation proceedings, in which she alleged that Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted and humiliated her when they were both teens at a house party in a tony suburb of Washington, D.C. “The uproarious laughter between the two, and their having fun at my expense.”

How much power does a story like that have? Who should get to harness that power? What does it mean to be a reliable narrator? What are the consequences of burying the truth? In “True Story,” Kate Reed Perry’s genre-bending page-turner of a novel about sexual assault, trauma, the disputed events of one evening and its long aftermath, there are no tidy answers.

The callous and cosseted, beer-pounding jocks of “True Story,” with their blunt-force coach worship and dips**t posturing, will certainly sound familiar to those who followed the Kavanaugh hearings, or who grew up in any given sports-thralled American suburb, tony or otherwise. That the novel devotes more than half of its narration to such a flat and boring dude — sidekick Nick, a bystander who seems haunted, or even cursed, by what his teammates did or didn’t do after one fateful high school lacrosse party, “the whole thing with the private school girl” as he so horrifyingly dismisses it — at first seems like a narrative injustice. Seriously, we have to spend how much time with this dim bulb, rather than with Alice, the girl wronged, or Haley, the girl adjacent to the story who pushed for the truth to be known? But what first seems like misplaced attention ripens into something like a revenge tale, before transforming into something else entirely in Perry’s skillful hands.

“True Story” told in a mash-up of genres, Nick’s increasingly paranoid and horrifying tale interspersed with a pastiche of essay drafts, screenplays, and emails written by Alice, “the private school girl” who grew up to be a ghost writer who can’t bring herself to tell the story that changed her life, and almost ended it. It’s an engrossing and provocative meditation on the power of a story to shape, destroy, and even redeem. — E.K.

* * *

“Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear: A Novel” by Matthew Salesses (Little a, Aug. 11)

Matt Kim is disappearing. How else to explain why people are ignoring him or bumping into him? Besides, every night he passes out, and things vanish from his apartment. His family left him, leaving an empty purple bedroom. And his cat also just died, but he can still hear its ghost from between the walls. 

The sense of disappearing is all in his head, his girlfriend Yumi insists. Except she then meets her doppelgänger . . . who once dated someone who was a cooler, more successful version of Matt. But this double actually did disappear. Is this what lies in store for our fading protagonist?

“Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear” is an absurdist work of fiction in which the events feel inspired by the mind of David Lynch . . . if he were Asian American. Both wildly funny and horrific in its observations, the novel is an unsettling examination about identity and one’s place in the world.

As an Asian American, Matt Kim lives in the liminal world of citizen and foreigner. But that’s not his only ambivalent status: he’s also a father and husband but rejected as both by his ex-family; in trying to uncover the mystery of the other Matt, he becomes predator and prey; and in the office “as a hetero Asian male, employment always made me feel sexless and shenanigan-less.” 

Even his daughter Charlotte – who’s hapa and therefore is both white and Asian – is a teenager, neither child nor adult and somehow both simultaneously. And in science fiction, to be Asian is to both possess ancient wisdom but also alien technology. 

Salesses, who also wrote the bestselling novel “The Hundred-Year Flood,” piles on the many ways that Asian Americans are marginalized and Othered, but infuses dark humor into every line as he embraces the absurdity of that imposed dichotomous existence. He even plays with puns, a form of wordplay that embraces duality, and therefore is touted as the “language aof rebellion.” (And yes, our humble author is also a “Matt,” which is no mere coincidence.) 

With sly references to presidential candidates endorsed by the KKK, men wearing red hats, and finding purpose through protest, “Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear” is a novel for our present moment in America, a moment that has been centuries in the making. It’s a story that asks what lengths one must go to in order to be seen. – Hanh Nguyen

* * *

“A House Is a Body: Stories” by Shruti Swamy (Algonquin Books, Aug. 11)

In the title story of Shruti Swamy’s debut, a mother watches as a California wildfire encroaches on her home and muses, “A house is a body, a body houses the soul.”  This is one of the rare times that the author makes the connection of the physical to the spiritual so explicit, but it’s a pervasive presence throughout her work.

Whether it’s a closeted lesbian couple attending a cousin’s wedding or a student who is studying the art of laughter, in the dozen brief but impactful short stories, every moment and every observation has weight, giving a vibrant sense of atmosphere and emotion using an economy of words. 

The settings range from the humid rooftops of India and a cool university town in Germany to the cookie-cutter suburbs of the U.S., but always it’s the unflappable characters who anchor the action. Swamy writes each protagonist (all female except for one) as tackling life with a brisk matter-of-factness that rarely allows for the luxury of slipping into the sentimental, despite an intense yearning for more. Instead, the stories celebrate the sensual – the sluicing of ocean water over one swimmer’s body – and the frankly sexual interactions detailed without flowery romanticism or moral judgment. 

With the exception of one detour into the fantastical when an artist begins a relationship with the god Krishna, the characters are unabashedly mammalian in their needs and experiences. Death makes an appearance almost as much as sex or pregnancy does. What appears to be missing are the motivations, but all the clues are given in the actions.

Swamy is deliberate in her use of words and scenes to capture the essence of anger, mourning, frustration, and anticipation. The tales sometimes end abruptly, on the precipice of revealing all. It’s a testament to Swamy’s writing that the reader knows what comes next, whether it’s hope or bleakness. No matter what, one is left with the sense of having partaken of a precious morsel of life. – H.N.
 

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment