Bartees Strange: Opera Singer, Football Player, Genre Breaker

This is No Cover, a production of KOSU and Oklahoma State University and hosted by Matthew Viriyapah. On this episode is Bartees Strange.

One of Bartees’ fears is just being one thing.

Born in England, Bartees Cox Jr. grew up in a military family that bounced around from place to place until they settled down in Mustang, Oklahoma. His mother is an opera singer and he sang in church choirs and operettas, before taking up football.

He even planned to walk-on at the University of Oklahoma. Things changed, but for most of his life, he’s felt like he has been forced to just do and be one thing at a time.

Now as a musician, he released his debut LP Live Forever, where he wants his songs to be able to continue the conversation started by artists like Tyler, The Creator.

Why do we have these lowkey racist specifications for how we classify art?

On Opera

When people ask, “What’s your first instrument?,” mine would probably be singing. My mom’s a singer. She also sang in churches a lot all over Oklahoma and I sang in all those churches too.

I actually sang at the Cimmaron Circuit Opera company, which is an opera company based in Norman that my mom I think helped found with the late baritone Thomas Carey, who was a Black baritone that taught at OU for a long time that a lot of people don’t talk about.

That was a big chunk of my young life, performing in those. But I definitely wasn’t afraid of singing on stage after that, because I was always performing at a young age and I grew up with so many performers. It was just a part of being alive.

On Mustang, Oklahoma

I feel like race is a huge factor in a lot of spots in Oklahoma. Like at my high school, there were a handful of Black kids… and it was a really tenuous time. I remember, there was a house back behind from where we lived. And there’s this guy… and he had a confederate flag draped over the entirety of the house. And it was like rumored he was a Klansman.

You’re just always surrounded by fear and pressure. And you know, we played football so we were just high visibility people.

I think it’s like really great that the song (“Mustang”) is getting shared. And people like it. And I love that when people see it, they see like Mustang. That’s just where I’m from. That’s who I am.

I always was running from Oklahoma.

I had all of these negative connotations. But as I got older, I realized that the things that kind of separated me from people or made me like shine or do well at something was actually from things I learned from when I was in Oklahoma.

So I thought, how appropriate would it be to lead the first single to be this is who I am and this is where I’m from like proudly.

On ‘genre boxes’

One of my fears is I don’t want to ever be one thing. That’s kind of something I was always forced to do. I’ve always felt like, “Oh I’m going to play football, and that’s just what I’m going to do because I’ll fit in that way and my life is just going to be a lot easier if I keep my head down and do that thing.”

And I feel like people just expect Black people to just do like one thing. I don’t know. I hope there’s a lot of Black people nodding their heads in silence hearing that.

It’s very easy to be pigeonholed as a Black artist. And I don’t want that for my music. I want to stretch my music and put out things that are great and not be like hurt, because it doesn’t fit into a traditional pop white standard.

Kind of like that Tyler, The Creator record, the last two, Igor and Flower Boy. Those are like pop records in a big way. And it started an interesting conversation. I wanted to make something that continued that conversation. Like why do we have these lowkey racist specifications with how we classify art?

We need to rethink how we’re doing it. We’ve got countless examples over in just the last two years of artists breaking genre lines and the exciting future it paints for music.

Music featured in this episode:

  1. Bartees Strange – Jalousy
  2. Thomas Carey – Hold On
  3. D’Oyly Carte Opera Company – For He Is An English Man
  4. Bartees Strange – Going Going
  5. Bartees Strange – Mustang
  6. The Antlers – Epilogue
  7. The National – Fake Empire
  8. The National – Mr. November
  9. Bartees Strange – Mr. November
  10. TV On The Radio – Wolf Like Me
  11. Bartees Strange ft. Lizzie No – Get Over It
  12. Bartees Strange – Boomer
  13. Bartees Strange – Far
  14. Bartees Strange – Fallen For You
  15. Bartees Strange – In A Cab
  16. Bartees Strange – Flagey God
  17. Bartees Strange – Mossblerd
  18. Kelly Rowland ft. Nelly – Dilemma
  19. Bartees Strange – Kelly Rowland
  20. Bartees Strange – Ghostly

Subscribe to the No Cover podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you get podcasts.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

From 2 Artists, 2 Ways to Tell Stories of Black America

This article is part of our latest Fine Arts & Exhibits special report, which focuses on how art endures and inspires, even in the darkest of times.

As museums are reopening this fall, the work of Black artists is prominently on display around the country, one result of a broad-based movement to feature diverse creators in a systemic and lasting way.

A sense that institutions are making up for lost time has added an element of urgency to the push.

As Erica Warren, an associate curator of textiles at the Art Institute of Chicago, put it: “We are overdue.”

Ms. Warren organized “Bisa Butler: Portraits,” opening Nov. 16 at the Art Institute. Ms. Butler, based in New Jersey, works in fabric, creating complex quilted textile portraits of what she calls the Black American story. It’s the museum’s first textile solo show for a Black female artist.

Ms. Butler shares a dealer, Claire Oliver Gallery of Harlem, with the artist Barbara Earl Thomas, who is having the most substantial show of her work yet at the Seattle Art Museum, in her hometown.

“Barbara Earl Thomas: The Geography of Innocence” features her striking and graphic cut paper works and opens Nov. 20, just a week after Ms. Butler’s show. It looks at how race informs our perception of innocence.

Both exhibitions — from artists who examine similar subjects, rendered in very different media — are evidence of how the art world is striving to spotlight diverse voices, and how museums and galleries have come in to alignment to support that goal.

The critical role of a gallery, nurturing and promoting artists and helping to sustain them during lean times so they can keep working, has only gotten more important.

Ms. Warren of the Art Institute said she discovered Ms. Butler’s work at Ms. Oliver’s booth at the Expo Chicago fair in 2018.

“I thought it was by far and away the best work at the fair,” Ms. Warren said.

Ms. Oliver, 56, is the first to say that her gallery is no Gagosian or Hauser & Wirth — the global powerhouses whose artists are frequently featured in museum shows, and who work to make that happen.

Credit…Jovelle Tamayo for The New York Times
Credit…Jovelle Tamayo for The New York Times

“We’re stealthy,” she said. “We fly under the radar.”

She founded her gallery 29 years ago in Philadelphia, and spent two decades in New York’s Chelsea before moving in February to Harlem. From the beginning, Ms. Oliver had a firm idea about whose work she wanted to show.

“When we started, I vowed to have more than 50 percent women,” she said. “And we’re about 75 percent now.”

Ms. Oliver has added to her goals over time. “We’ve also made a concerted effort to bring in more Black voices,” she said, especially since the Black Lives Matter movement has accelerated.

In these priorities, Ms. Oliver finds herself in alignment with prestigious museums that set the tone for the entire art world.

“I’ve talked to so many curators about this,” she said. “We see we have these big gaping voids in the collections, in the canon of art history, and they are trying to remedy that.”

Ms. Thomas, 71, has been featured in many exhibitions over the years and her profile is growing. She has a commission to design a set of windows for the dining hall of Grace Hopper College at Yale University that will go on view next year.

The Seattle Art Museum show is an apotheosis of sorts.

“What’s different is that I’m directing what it’s going to be,” Ms. Thomas said, alluding to the level of input she has had while working with the curator Catharina Manchanda. “I told them: ‘I have an idea and I want you to help me realize it.’”

Credit…via Claire Oliver Gallery; Spike Mafford
Credit…Claire Oliver Gallery; Spike Mafford

The subjects depicted are all Black children and Ms. Thomas knows most of them. The show includes three portraits on sandblasted glass, 10 cut-paper portraits and three handcrafted candelabras. There’s also a hanging sculpture made of hand-cut Tyvek, surrounded by Tyvek panels.

“How do we read faces — and what has culture put into our cup?” Ms. Thomas said of the show’s theme. “My stories are not epic. They are about the everyday.”

She cuts the paper works with a razor and then hand-tints them, and the effect is striking.

“I’m about the dazzle,” Ms. Thomas said. “I want to seduce with the figure. I don’t apologize for being graphic.”

She started working with Ms. Oliver in 2014. Though she was already known to the Seattle Art Museum, having a dealer based in New York, and a forthcoming project at Yale, will help give her “street cred, given that I’m not in the East,” Ms. Thomas said, referring to the art world’s center of gravity.

“Claire saw something in my work that people in my region haven’t always picked up on,” Ms. Thomas said. “She has an eye for people with a power mechanism.”

She added that there was a commonality between her own work and that of other artists that Ms. Oliver shows, including the textile work of Ms. Butler.

“There’s a devotion to materiality, and to really building things,” Ms. Thomas said.

Ms. Butler’s Chicago show, with 22 of her quilts and works by other artists who have influenced her, including the photographer Gordon Parks, is an ode to that city.

“I’m the ultimate Chicago fan,” said Ms. Butler, 47, who is based in West Orange, N.J.

“My heroes are people like Charles White,” she added, referring to the Chicago-born painter who was the subject of a 2018-19 posthumous traveling museum retrospective that many felt was long overdue. “I feel like the granddaughter to these artists.”

Image“The Safety Patrol” (2018) by Bisa Butler. 
Credit…Bisa Butler
Credit…Bisa Butler
Credit…Bisa Butler

Her interest in textiles started early. “I grew up sewing,” said Ms. Butler, who learned from her mother and grandmother during her New Jersey childhood. “My Barbies were decked out.”

After Howard University and a period of making works for friends and family, she became a professional artist around 2003. From the beginning, she wanted a wide audience for her work.

“When you’re in a segregated art world, you don’t realize it right away,” Ms. Butler said. “But I didn’t want to make art exclusively for Black people. My subject matter is Black, but I don’t only want to be in African-American museums or fairs.”

Things broadened for Ms. Butler “only when I met Claire,” she said. “It seems like the years before that didn’t count. Some people were saying, ‘Oh she’s an emerging artist.’ But I had been working for 20 years.”

In the Chicago show, “The Safety Patrol” (2018) — depicting a group of children who could have starred in one of Ms. Thomas’s works — was fashioned from cotton, wool and chiffon that has been quilted and appliquéd.

Ms. Butler’s projects often begin in black and white photographs, where she seeks a compelling image. The origin may be surprising, given how much color is in the finished work, but she said she preferred to begin with pure form, and then to add her own hues.

Ms. Warren of the Art Institute said that the use of textiles — not a dominant medium for contemporary artists, and one associated with women’s work — has additional meaning.

“She interrogates the history of the marginalization of her subjects, and she does it in a medium that has been marginalized, too,” Ms. Warren said.

Like Ms. Thomas, Ms. Butler has a humanistic approach that doesn’t dwell on conflict.

“I want to tell the story of Black America from the inside out,” Ms. Butler said. “My work is like a Black family’s photo album. You’re not going to see images of the worst day of life.”

With the opening of both the Chicago and Seattle shows, Ms. Butler said she recognizes a feeling of things clicking into place. She’s felt that before with Ms. Oliver.

“When Claire moved to Harlem, it just fit right,” Ms. Butler said. “It’s like when I touched a fabric, it felt right. Paint was not for me. Things align in the right time and space.”


RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

ICv2 Insider Talks Livestream – Comics Track

ICv2 White Paper; Adapting Comics to COVID; NPD Insights; Comics, TV, and Racial Justice

An ICv2 Release.  The sessions for the comics track of the ICv2 Insider Talks Livestream, planned for 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, October 29, include the ICv2 White Paper, a conversation on creating and distributing COVID-era comic stories, insights on 2020 from NPD from its vast data resources, and a conversation with Keith Knight, whose comics with racial justice themes were the inspiration for the new Hulu series Woke, which he co-wrote.

ICv2 Insider Talks 2020 – Livestream is an invitation-only event for business professionals from all parts of the business, including retailers, wholesalers and distributors; publishers; creators; librarians and educators; licensees, licensors, and marketers; tech executives; and press.

If you are a business professional and would like to attend the event, email: Conferences@ICv2.com.

If you are press and would like to cover the event, email: Conferences@ICv2.com.

ICv2 Insider Talks Livestream – Comics Track: 2:00 p.m. ET – 4:30 p.m. ET

ICv2 White Paper
ICv2 CEO Milton Griepp will present a special ICv2 White Paper, examining the comics and graphic novel business leading into and during the COVID pandemic, helping to understand how trends were affected by the disruptions of 2020.

Milton Griepp is the founder and CEO of ICv2, which covers the Business of Geek Culture, and consults on geek culture business topics.  He was previously CEO of early geek culture e-commerce retailer NextPlanetOver, and was co-founder and CEO of Capital City Distribution, one of the largest distributors of comics and pop culture products through the formative years of the comic store channel.  He’s served on the boards of directors of comiXology and the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

Creating and Releasing Comics for the COVID Era
ICv2 columnist and author Rob Salkowitz will interview AWA CCO Axel Alonso and comic writer and journalist Ethan Sacks about the real-time comics journalism of Covid Chronicles, a series of webcomics published on the NBC News site beginning in the early days of the pandemic and now about to be collected in book format.

Axel Alonso has taken the creative reins behind AWA Studios’ upcoming launch, as their Chief Creative Officer, working to build a brand new superhero universe built from the ground up for a 21st century audience.  In the face of both extensive praise and an onslaught of conservative backlash, Alonso spearheaded Marvel’s efforts to revitalize and diversify their superhero lineup, including driving the creation of Miles Morales Spider-Man, Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel, Jane Foster Thor, along with publishing a controversial western comic about a gay cowboy, and bringing on National Book Award winner and MacArthur genius Ta-Nehesi Coates to write Black Panther.  Alonso was Executive Editor and Editor-in-Chief at Marvel.

Ethan Sacks is best known in comics as the writer of Marvel’s Old Man Hawkeye, Silver Surfer, Old Man Quill, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, Star Wars: Rise of the Skywalker: Allegiance and Star Wars: Bounty Hunters.  Before his career change to writing comics three years ago, Sacks was a 20-year veteran at the New York Daily News, covering film and geek culture, a role in which he interviewed everyone from Affleck to Zhang Ziyi.

Rob Salkowitz is an author, educator and consultant focused on media, entertainment, comics and pop culture.  He is senior media contributor at Forbes and a long-time columnist for ICv2.  He is author, co-author or editor of six books including Comic Con and the Business of Pop Culture and Comics and Economics: The Shadowy World of Capes, Cowls and Invisible Hands.  He advises clients worldwide on engaging with the pop culture audience and understanding the comics medium.  Salkowitz teaches in the graduate school of communication at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he lives and works.

Consumers, Comics, and COVID-19 – 2020, A Most Unusual Year
On one hand, comic categories, especially Kids’ Comics and Graphic Novels, and Manga, continued to show strong signs of growth in 2020 in the trade book market. At the same time, no sector of the Trade books market is as disrupted during the pandemic crisis, and a holiday season unlike any other is almost upon us.  Join NPD Executive Director of Business Development at the NPD Books practice Kristen McLean as she uses NPD’s POS, streaming data, and wider consumer data to help us understand exactly what happened in 2020, what kinds of trends were accelerated by COVID-19, and what the outlook for 2021 looks like in a cross-platform future.

Kristen McLean is the Executive Director of Business Development at the NPD Books practice, the team behind NPD BookScan.  Kristen is also the primary Books Analyst within NPD’s larger Entertainment practice, and she has been a major driver in expanding NPD BookScan’s coverage of the comic and graphic novel market.  A twenty five year veteran of the publishing industry, Kristen speaks broadly to entertainment industry leaders about trends in books, media, and retail culture, and she is deeply interested in the confluence of emerging consumer behavior, technology, literacy, and generational shift in the Digital Age.

Comics, TV, and Racial Justice in the COVID Year
Harvey Award-winner Keith Knight has been creating his comics for print and online outlets since the early 90s, with collections released from a variety of publishers and self-published.  Now Woke, the TV series he inspired and co-wrote about a Black cartoonist whose life is changed by an encounter with the police has dropped on Hulu, in a year defined by COVID and by the reckoning with racial justice issues brought to a head by the police killing of George Floyd.  The timing of Woke seems tailor-made for 2020, but Knight’s been raising the same issues throughout his career.  PW Senior News Editor Calvin Reid talks to Knight about his comics, the ways he’s reached his audience, how that led to the show, and what he’s planning next.

Keith Knight is many things to many people–rapper, social activist, father and educator among them.  He’s also one of the funniest and most highly regarded cartoonists in America, and the creator of three popular comic strips: the Knight Life, (th)ink, and the K Chronicles. Keith Knight is part of a generation of African-American artists who were raised on hip-hop, and infuse their work with urgency, edge, humor, satire, politics and race. His art has appeared in various publications worldwide, including the Washington Post, Daily KOS, San Francisco Chronicle, Medium.com, Ebony, ESPN the Magazine, L.A. Weekly, MAD Magazine, and the Funny Times.

Calvin Reid is Senior News Editor at Publishers Weekly with responsibility for comics and graphic novel coverage.  He is also co-editor of PW Comics World, the magazine’s e-mail comics newsletter.

This invitation-only event will include two tracks of short talks with Q&A on consecutive days: one on the business of hobby games; and one focused on the business of comics and graphic novels.  For more information, click here.

 If you are a business professional and would like to attend the event, email: Conferences@ICv2.com.

If you are press and would like to cover the event, email: Conferences@ICv2.com.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

‘A tear rolled from my eye’: how it feels to dance for Beyoncé

Choreographer Ivan Blackstock was having a bad day when he got the call. It was from a director he’d worked with, Jenn Nkiru. “She said: ‘I know you’re busy, but I’ve got a little gig that came through, would you be interested?’” he recalls. Blackstock demurred and asked who it was. “She said: ‘It’s Beyoncé.’ And at that moment a tear rolled from my eye and it felt like things made sense. It felt like I’d landed.”

In his early days as a dancer, Blackstock, now 34, performed with plenty of big names – Kylie Minogue, the Pet Shop Boys, Dizzee Rascal – but Beyoncé is next-level stuff. Especially the gig in question, for the visual album Black Is King, which was released in July. In this companion piece to her soundtrack for the Lion King remake, Beyoncé reimagines Simba’s story as one of self-discovery and black pride in the riches of the African diaspora.

Black Is King was filmed across three continents, but you wouldn’t necessarily know there was a UK contingent, led by Nkiru (who hails from Peckham, like Blackstock). They made the video for the song Brown Skin Girl, an inspiring celebration of black beauty sung by Beyoncé and Nigerian singer Wizkid. Blackstock’s joy at being part of the project wasn’t even dampened by the fact he didn’t get to meet the singer herself (her scenes were cut in later). The experience was still clearly transformative for him and the dancers, including BBC Young Dancer winner Nafisah Baba. One of Beyoncé’s intentions for the film was to give a platform to new talent, and these are two of the young artists making the most of the opportunity.

Dancer Nafisah Baba in Our Bodies Back.
Dancer Nafisah Baba in Our Bodies Back

When I speak to Blackstock and Baba, over Zoom, they’re still bubbling with excitement and pride. “In the past couple of years, Beyoncé has been really saying something, showing the black experience in many different ways: who we are and what we can be,” says Blackstock. “When I watched Black Is King, the whole film, I went to another plane of existence.”

“I watched it three or four times,” says Baba, who has been seeking an anchor in this summer of pandemic chaos and Black Lives Matter. “There’s been so much happening in the world. Last week I had a day where I was like: Who am I? What am I doing?! And I just put it on and it was like an affirmation. I think the impact of it is huge. Beyoncé is so powerful and it gave me power.”

Brown Skin Girl features Baba and her fellow dancers as debutantes in pastel ballgowns and long gloves, models of grace and deportment. “We see black excellence,” says Blackstock. “It felt very majestic on the shoot.” The story sees younger girls looking up admiringly at this parade of beautiful women, but Baba herself felt just as awestruck to be there. “I was looking around thinking, these artists are incredible, people I look up to on social media, that’s them! Like [dancer and model] Anna-Kay Gayle. She’s a queen. It was so eye-opening. I’m not always around so many black artists, so to be in a room full of so much magic … it’s amazing, to feel there’s no limit where that can go, it was such an epic job.”

A dancer of sensitivity and focus, Baba, 24, recently featured in the film Our Bodies Back and Kate Prince’s Sting show Message in a Bottle. She started ballet at the age of three and is used to being the only dancer of colour in a room. “I feel like we all know how outdated the ballet world is,” she says. “Anna-Kay added me to a WhatsApp group for female black dancers in the UK and seeing the contacts list, as bad as it sounds, I didn’t even realise there were that many black artists in the UK. I was scrolling through and realising that I’m part of something bigger.”

Ivan Blackstock pictured in 2015.
Ivan Blackstock pictured in 2015. Photograph: Richard Saker/the Observer

It’s long been Blackstock’s mission to bring more underground artists into view. Coming from hip-hop and street dance, he co-founded BirdGang dance company and the street culture festival Crxss Platfxrm and he’s just become artistic director of 180 Studios, part of gallery space 180 The Strand. “I want to platform dance in many different ways and get it seen,” he says. Dancing since he was eight, Blackstock left school without any GCSEs but was booked for a job on MTV at 16 and followed his passion from there. “It hasn’t been an easy journey,” he says. “It’s been very much a state of survival for a long time.” He hasn’t always been able to access rehearsal space. “Sometimes I’m still dancing in the street. Still making work outside in the Olympic Park or hustling for space.” But he’s recently moved into a small studio in Leyton, east London, and wants to share the resource with others. “I want to use it for the community, get other artists in there, hot desking, have some podcasting facilities, space to dance, it’s really exciting.” It’s all about bringing other people up with him.

Blackstock’s next big project is Traplord of the Flyz (a working title), which has been five years in the making and is in the running for the Fedora prize. “It looks at mental health through the black male gaze,” he says. It’s going to be an unconventional piece, he tells me, with references to theology, philosophy, spirituality and transcendence, far from the stereotype of black male life we often see.

Understanding the multiplicity of lives around us, especially when it comes to the black experience, is essential to living in a more just society, Blackstock says, and we have to make an effort to seek out those stories. “Black artists have tried to communicate our pain and our experiences through our art and there’s tons of it out there if you look. We all need to do a bit more research.” Both Blackstock and Baba also talk about wanting to see more black artists in positions of influence, as executive producers and directors and on boards. “Not just making us visible on stage,” says Blackstock. “Or in the learning and engagement department, because ‘Young people like hip-hop don’t they?’”

The arts are, of course, in a dire place right now thanks to the pandemic, but Blackstock remains positive. “I think as artists we shouldn’t get discouraged,” he says. “There are a lot of templates, especially from hip-hop and street culture, where we find ways to do it anyway. I think if we sit here and wait we’re going to be waiting for a very long time,” he says. “Let’s find different ways of coming together and push our art. We need it more than ever now. We need that art to take us out of the darkness that a lot of us are in.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Ray BLK says black female artists are ‘held to a different standard’

Ray BLK thinks black female artists are “held to a different standard” within the music industry.

The 26-year-old star has become “desensitised” to sexualised rap music and has cited the backlash to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s ‘WAP’ hit as an example of the double standard.

She said: “Maybe I’m just desensitised to it but we’ve been hearing music like this for years now. We’ve been hearing men speak about women like this for years.

“The language that’s used might be different but we’ve been hearing pop music, rock music speak about sex for years and I just think it’s sad that black women are held to a different standard or are held way more accountable than our counterparts have been.”

The singer thinks black artists need to work harder in order to receive recognition for their talents.

Asked whether black women are respected in music, she told Metro.co.uk: “Definitely not. The issue is that when there’s not equality, people are held to different standards.

“And I think that’s clear in the music industry where black women have to be extremely excellent, three times as good to be given the same recognition that their counterparts do, that’s number one.

“Number two, the sad thing is when we do the same thing that our counterparts do, it’s not looked at in the same way. I had a discussion with somebody about how black music and black women or female rappers and the sexualisation of us.”

The music star explained that the likes of Madonna have previously been held to a different standard.

She said: “[It’s] looked at as tasteful when Madonna wears a cone bra and nothing else or wears lingerie on-stage, it’s art or fashion.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Zenagun Releases World’s Smallest Massage Gun – Now Available Globally

Zenagun Releases World’s Smallest Massage Gun – Now Available Globally – African American News Today – EIN Presswire

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

About Face Theatre announces 25th season of new work, digital performances

CHICAGO — About Face Theatre is excited to announce plans for its landmark 25th anniversary season. Featuring new and original works, the company will focus on using digital streaming and online tools for most of the year. The season will begin with an extensive partnership with Rebuild Foundation highlighting original commissioned performances from Black LGBTQ+ artists and will conclude with the production of a new play highlighting the resilience of the LGBTQ+ community in the face of hatred. The company will also offer robust online programs and education workshops throughout the year.

About Face’s 2020-2021 season will begin on Dec. 11 with KICKBACK, a virtual festival of short plays and performances conceived and directed by AFT Associate Artistic Director Mikael Burke and featuring About Face Artistic Associate Paul Oakley Stovall, Robert Cornelius, Michael Turrentine, Ben Locke, Dionne Addai, Vic Wynter, Ky Baity, Keyonna Jackson, Cori Wash, ShaZa ( a collaboration between Zahra Baker and Shanta Nurullah ), and Rebuild Foundation resident artists Jenn Freeman and Avery Young. KICKBACK is a joint project with Rebuild Foundation, a non-profit platform for cultural development and neighborhood transformation that supports artists and strengthens communities by providing free arts programming and creating new cultural amenities. For KICKBACK, About Face has commissioned a cohort of Black LGBTQ+ artists in Chicago to create original work inspired by Rebuild’s extensive collections at the Stony island Arts Bank chronicling the diverse experiences of Black Americans. These artists have been granted extensive access to Rebuild’s archives and are using them to inspire original performance pieces. KICKBACK will premiere online on December 11 and will be available to stream throughout the 2020-21 season

The About Face Theatre season will also include AFT’s previously-postponed production of LACED by Samantha Mueller and directed by Lexi Saunders. Set in the aftermath of the vandalism of a beloved queer bar, and featuring a trio of young queer friends, LACED is a timely examination of how we create and protect life-affirming spaces for LGBTQ+ people to fully thrive. The original creative team has been retained for this production in 2021. If public health circumstances permit, this will be a fully staged, in-person production, as originally planned. Dates and venue are to be determined.

Throughout the year, the company will also offer robust online programs. In the summer of 2020, AFT’s touring production of POWER IN PRIDE was adapted into an online video series titled POWER IN PRIDE AT HOME. The project features a combination of short original performances and longer conversations among the cast members focused on themes of LGBTQ history, race, and pride in identity. The series will remain available for free viewing on the AFT website throughout the season.

“I’m deeply inspired by the remarkable artists and projects in our 25th anniversary season”, said Megan Carney, AFT’s Artistic Director. “Our mission to advance dialogue about gender and sexuality takes many forms and we are constantly evolving. By creating new work online and in person, these bold storytellers are not only reflecting the times, they are expanding the reach of everything we do as theatre makers.”

Understanding that the ability to come together for in-person events is uncertain at this point in time, About Face remains committed to the safety and care of both its artists and community. The company’s producing models are being constantly updated to remain agile and adaptable to the changing arts landscape while also delivering the impact and passion audiences have come to expect.

ABOUT FACE THEATRE’S 2020-2021 SEASON

KICKBACK

Conceived and directed by AFT Associate Artistic Director Mikael Burke

Debuting online December 11, 2020, available to stream throughout the 2020-21 season.

KICKBACK is a virtual festival of original plays and performances highlighting the intersection of queerness and Blackness. About Face Theatre has commissioned a cohort of Black LGBTQ+ artists to create new works in conversation with Rebuild Foundation’s extensive collection of African-American art and cultural artifacts. This bold online performance series will be an unapologetic celebration of Black lives now and through the ages.

Led by AFT Associate Artistic Director Mikael Burke, the artists involved in the project include About Face Artistic Associate Paul Oakley Stovall, Robert Cornelius, Michael Turrentine, Ben Locke, Dionne Addai, Vic Wynter, Ky Baity, Keyonna Jackson, Cori Wash, ShaZa ( a collaboration between Zahra Baker and Shanta Nurullah ), and Rebuild Foundation resident artists Jenn Freeman and Avery Young. This project serves as part of Rebuild Foundation’s year-long initiative to raise awareness and provide resources and sanctuary for marginalized communities impacted by the HIV/AIDS crisis, made possible by funding that Rebuild received from the 2018 ( RED ) Auction.

POWER IN PRIDE AT HOME

Written and performed by Aimy Tien, Angelica Grace,, Dionne Addai, Nico Quinn, and Vic Wynter.

Directed by Lexi Saunders

About Face Theatre’s touring production Power in Pride uses humorous and brave stories about gender and sexuality to spark conversations with students, educators, and community members of all ages. Written and performed by artists of color about their true life experiences, this play explores their dreams for the future and how understanding the role of LGBTQ+ people in history can change your life. The POWER IN PRIDE AT HOME video series adapted from the live show can be paired with virtual talkbacks and Q&As for area schools and organizations. For more information on these and other education programs, visit aboutfacetheatre.com/education

LACED

Written by Samantha Mueller

Directed by AFT Artistic Associate Lexi Saunders

Dates and Location TBA

The night after a queer bar outside of Tampa, Florida, is vandalized, three twenty-something bartenders gather to grieve, riot, and above all, piece together the events of the night before. But as these three friends process the violation of their space, they must decide if it is healthier to understand what happened or to just clean up and move on. Fiery, poetic, and up-to-the-minute contemporary, LACED ferociously celebrates the spaces in which we find our truest selves and the spectrum of ways the LGBTQ community comes together in the face of hate.

EDUCATION AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT

Additionally, About Face Theatre continues to produce nationally-recognized educational programming. About Face Youth Theatre is the company’s award-winning program providing rigorous training in devised theatre, lessons about social justice through history, and opportunities for leadership development and activism. AFYT will begin its fall session in October with virtual workshops focusing on the creation of solo performance pieces, led by teaching artist Breon Arzell.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

WBUR hosts discussion highlighting Black leaders in the Boston art community

On Oct.13, WBUR CitySpace brought together a virtual panel of Black leaders and artists to discuss where bias exists in Boston’s arts community, and how the city is elevating and amplifying new Black voices in the arts.

This was the fourth discussion highlighting transformative Black leaders across Greater Boston that has been hosted by Boston University Initiative on Cities, WBUR CitySpace and Boston University Diversity and Inclusion. The talk was originally scheduled for March, but was pushed back because of COVID-19.

The discussion was moderated by Crystal Williams, the associate provost for Diversity and Inclusion at Boston University and an award-winning poet. Panelists included Maurice Emmanuel Parent, the executive director of the Front Porch Arts Collective, Makeeba McCreary, the chief of learning and community engagement at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) and Catherine T. Morris, founder and executive director of BAMS Fest. 

The hour-long event, streamed as a live YouTube video, discussed the history of Black art in Boston, the power structure of Black art, and how the pandemic has impacted this and the panelists’ vision for the future. 

“The Black arts scene in Boston is rich, it’s historical, it’s generational, it’s complex, it’s segregated, but it has the opportunity to shift change and challenge how the city views Black arts,” Morris said.

Parent added that in Boston, Black theatre goes back to the 1920s and 30s, but it is still currently dominated by white institutions and patrons that pose a threat to this rich, diverse city.

“[Boston] also has to fight against national narratives that are not fair to the city,” said Parent, who has lived in Boston for the last 16 years.

Williams even shared a story of when she recently saw a virtual play about Black people and was surprised by the performativity of Blackness. She was also struck that she and her guest seemed to be the only two Black people in attendance, and noted that this is often the case for any show or exhibit she views in Boston. 

There was one moment when even an audience member typed in the event’s live chat that as an employee at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, they don’t see many Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) filling the galleries. 

The panelists added that this can be due to venues and arts spaces not being owned and operated by Black and brown people, and that a lot of the older institutions were all predicated on a certain kind of art that often doesn’t fit Black narratives

“Boston has already had the fundamentals of Black art here, the problem is that the platforms that support it are very few,” Morris said. 

The panelists agreed that where art comes from is important and Black voices need to be prioritized in the arts space. To the panelists, it shouldn’t be about who writes the check, but whose work and perspective is actually valued. 

“We need to privilege the conversation of an audience being Black and brown…because one is not going to make an event, we are so far behind in that sense,” said McCreary about needing to value Black patrons. 

Parent said during the discussion that representation through leadership also matters, and that this is already starting to happen.

He said he is seeing his fellow Black colleagues rising through the ranks of different theatrical institutions and that overall, there is more BIPOC leadership across the board. 

Parent said Dawn Simmons, who is the executive director of StageSource, is an example of this, while McCreary gave a shout out to Edward Greene; the MFA’s first Black board of trustees president in its 150-year history.

To value Black artists, Morris spoke directly to the live audience of mostly higher education institutions on how to prioritize and welcome BIPOC artists, creators and performers. Morris encouraged institutions to change their criteria to be more localized to Black and brown artists, bring in BIPOC guest speakers and pay them for their time, change marketing materials to be more diverse and integrate more local artists in student groups.

Parent, who runs Boston’s first professional Black theatre company, has committed himself to rewriting Black narratives in a positive light and creating a welcoming and inclusive space for BIPOC. Parent did this by hosting #BlackOutBoston, a night that showcased “Choir Boy,” a play that was created by Black people, for Black people.

“It was a curated, performance event to create that atmosphere of seeing your culture on stage and being surrounded by folks that are also from that culture…” Parent said. “The arts are vital and the arts can be healing.”

#BlackOutBoston had a 98% Black audience, Parent said.

The arts industry has changed dramatically as a result of COVID-19. Each of these panelists, who are leaders of Black art in Boston have adapted their programs to Zoom and other streaming platforms, which in turn has increased access for audiences and has created different ways for content to be shared. 

COVID-19 has also given the Boston arts community a chance to support local arts more, since fewer tourists are visiting the city, and to really question who is exactly being represented in the arts scene here.

Parent even worked with his company on Starlight Square in Cambridge, a new outdoor community theatre which was created with social distancing measures in mind. They were the fourth company in the nation to be approved by an actors union to give contracts during the pandemic.

These panelists are looking forward to the future of Black arts in Boston, such as seeing more Black people in leadership roles, increased collaborations among Black artists and greater sustainability and innovation in the arts.

“I’m excited about pushing… and saying that we can do better. It’s not an option if this city is going to heal,” McCreary said.                        

For those who are interested, you can watch the pre-recorded discussion here.

Follow Sarah on Twitter @thesarahdipity.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

What Happens Before College Matters

Higher education is not the root of all equity gaps. But it can be a vehicle to lessen those gaps.

Historically, it has not been. Equity gaps between students based on their race, ethnicity and income persist and thrive at most institutions.

For Black students, simply accessing higher education remains difficult, particularly at four-year colleges. At some institutions, including public flagship and research universities, access has worsened for Black students in recent years.

Until real progress is made on this issue, among others, higher ed leaders’ calls for diversity and inclusion, public statements on societal racism, and decisions to change building names or remove statues with racist legacies will continue to ring hollow.

One of the first steps in closing these gaps is to realize where they begin and why.

Bad Odds From Birth

“As soon as you start measuring differences in any outcomes for Black and white kids, you would find differences, you would find gaps,” said Emma García, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute.

These “opportunity gaps” can be found when comparing any nonwhite, non-Asian American student with their white or Asian American peers, García said. They can also be found when comparing different socioeconomic classes.

Many of these gaps are driven by poverty, she said. And before a Black child is even born, the odds are stacked against them.

For example, maternal mortality rates vary greatly by race. Black, American Indian and Alaska Native women are two to three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. These statistics reflect a “failure of the system,” she said, noting the lack of a policy response to these gaps

“We have a racial caste system in the United States,” said Leila Morsy, an academic lead of teaching and learning in the College of Medicine and Public Health at Flinders University in Australia.

Because of this structure, Black children are far more likely to encounter adverse childhood experiences, also known as ACEs. Research has shown that adults with several ACEs are more likely to face mental and physical health issues later in life than their peers with fewer or no ACEs.

These experiences include any frightening or threatening experiences, such as losing a home to a fire, losing a parent, witnessing violence or having a parent who is incarcerated, Morsy said.

If children have an adult with them who has the time and energy to explain the experiences and help the child make sense of them, they are more likely to have healthy coping mechanisms to deal with toxic stress.

In response to stress, the body will produce hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which affect almost every organ and tissue in the body and trigger the fight-or-flight response. The hormones increase blood pressure and heart rates, dilate blood vessels, and also limit the parts of the brain that control memory and decision making.

If adverse childhood experiences are frequent or sustained over long periods of time, then the child’s physiology fails to return to normal, Morsy said.

“This is a physiological response in your body where you become more prone to certain health and behavioral morbidities,” Morsy said. The result can be stunted brain growth, diminished activity in the prefrontal cortex, disrupted metabolism and blood pressure, and a compromised immune system.

People with more ACEs are more prone to viral infections, more likely to suffer respiratory infections and even more likely to become pregnant as teenagers.

Research has shown that low-income and Black children were more likely to have more adverse experiences than their white and more affluent peers by kindergarten.

Racial discrimination and housing segregation are just two factors that bake in the chances that Black children will experience ACEs early on. Having more ACEs does not determine whether a child will go to college, Morsy said, but it does increase the likelihood they won’t.

Which is why, when looking for solutions to help close equity gaps in higher education, early childhood education and interventions are important.

“I think of children’s educational outcomes and students’ higher education outcomes as symptoms of the conditions in which they are born and live and learn, more than the other way around,” Morsy said. “We should as a country look to remedying the social and racial inequities as a mechanism to improve people’s access and outcomes in higher education, rather than the other way around.”

Enclosures and Hierarchy

The inequities and structural hurdles in society start early on for many Black children, and they continue throughout life.

In the K-12 system, various forces set up challenges for nonwhite students.

“Education itself has been a very, very violent place for Black students,” said Damien Sojoyner, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine.

Black students are held back through various “enclosures,” which Sojoyner describes as ways to corral Black freedom, especially if those freedoms run counter to state desires.

Examples within education include cultural enclosures. The increase in testing in K-12 helps make the case for removing subjects like art from the curriculum.

“Many of the Black schools were once havens for Black cultural expression,” Sojoyner said. From the 1940s to the 1980s, many Black artists were fostered in that setting.

“Increasingly, as standards are set, Black culture is not part of the standard,” he said. “If you understand that Black schools were also sites of rebellion and resistance and these cultural formations were integral to making that happen, then you understand why this happens.”

Another example is the carceral enclosure. Majority-Black high schools were policed before prisons were expanded in California, Sojoyner said. So in this case, what happened in education informed steps taken by the state.

Kevin Clay, an assistant professor of education at Virginia Commonwealth University, believes Black communities need to reclaim their K-12 schools.

“School has become just a place where students are conferred credentials,” he said, but that doesn’t protect Black students from societal inequities or teach them about why they exist.

“Black kids in poor schools have very little understanding of the history of social policy positions that have led to Black poverty,” Clay said. “You see Black youth who typically blame themselves and blame their communities. They think about poverty as this one-to-one effect of hard work.”

In his research, Clay has seen many Black students blame themselves if they realize they were underprepared for college, and that can contribute to mental health issues.

“We have to talk about class as a position from which we can collectively struggle.”

— Kevin Clay

If students learned more history of how society fosters inequities, like the history of redlining or suburbanization, among other things, it could lift some of the burden off their shoulders, Clay said.

“We have to stop talking about poverty as an isolated individual trait,” he said. “We have to talk about class as a position from which we can collectively struggle.”

Sojoyner disagrees. Many Black youth understand how the world works against them, he said.

But the way those in the United States understand poverty can make the situation difficult. For example, if a Black student receives a scholarship for college, they may feel it’s a weight hanging over their head.

The scholarship is a cloud of expectations. It’s also leverage that can be used against them if they speak up.

“Blackness cannot be in the same space with Western modes of being, unless it is in the hierarchal position of being subservient,” he said.

What happens in K-12 can color a student’s perspective of education for the rest of their lives. Priscilla Mayowa, a dual-enrollment student at North Hennepin Community College and Bemidji State University in Minnesota, expects to not feel welcomed in educational environments in this country.

Mayowa moved to the United States from Nigeria for high school. She said she experienced many microaggressions from her teachers because she is Black and an immigrant. She feels that her teachers in high school, and now also in college, assume she doesn’t know things. They also judge her for mistakes more harshly than they do her white peers, she said.

Mayowa struggles with impostor syndrome, the constant feeling of doubt about her skills, talents or accomplishments, and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud,” she said. That insecurity, combined with the different treatment by instructors, has hurt her learning experiences.

“Sometimes I don’t turn in work early because I’m scared that my teacher will judge me for it,” she said, adding that she would sometimes rather not turn in anything at all because at least her teachers expect that.

College advisers also tried to push Mayowa to study nursing, a program that enrolls many Black women, she said, which delayed her progress. She wants to go to law school, so she has been studying accounting.

But a relationship she formed with a Black staff member encouraged Mayowa to ask for help when she needs it and to push back when faculty are unfair.

By now, Mayowa is “used to the fact that this country is racist.”

House on Fire

Beyond the current structural inequities in society are the historical inequities that created a ripple effect — redlining, which led to housing segregation that persists to this day. Policies and racism that prevented many Black soldiers from getting the benefits of the GI Bill. Banks that refused to make loans to Black people, or offered them loans at higher rates.

“Race amplifies the effects of poverty,” said Anthony Abraham Jack, assistant professor of education at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.

Black children are more likely to witness crime or other events that tax their mental bandwidth, he said. Some of his students had to pass through metal detectors every morning in high school. One student equated school with darkness because it couldn’t afford to keep the lights on in the hallways.

“That was their orientation to learning every morning,” he said.

Much of the disparity comes down to the differences in resources between schools. Research has found that predominantly white school districts received $23 billion more in state and local funding in 2016 than predominantly nonwhite school districts. The average nonwhite district receives $2,226 less per enrolled student than a white school district due to community wealth gaps.

“Higher education cannot immediately address these issues,” Jack said. “But they can do two things: account for them in how they do admissions and prepare for those students, as well as lobby for initiatives and policies that aid in the reduction of these equity gaps.”

Colleges have to recognize that students don’t come to them from a bubble, said Dominique Baker, assistant professor of education policy at Southern Methodist University. The root issue of it all is racism.

“It’s part of a structural issue. It permeates all facets of life,” Baker said.

Colleges can improve in various ways, but first they have to be intentional. Often, decisions are driven by public relations, she said.

Fixing these problems requires more than a few changes. It will take returning to why colleges were created in the first place and grappling with whether the fundamental structure needs to change.

“To a certain extent, their reason for being was never to address issues of poverty,” Sojoyner said. “Rather, it was to completely socialize you to ascend your previous station in life or to civilize you — to become a vehicle that understands you shouldn’t be impoverished, and if you are, that’s your own fault.”

Even some historically Black colleges and universities weren’t founded with the best of intentions, he said. When Morehouse and Spelman Colleges were set up by the Rockefellers, they were intended to create a Black working class, which is why students initially received training certificates, not diplomas.

At the same time, the Rockefeller family founded the University of Chicago to create a white, male managerial class, he said.

Now — even before the COVID-19 pandemic — higher education has been facing a “rising tide of mass poverty” driven by shrinking numbers of wealthy, white high school graduates as the country’s population becomes increasingly Black and Latinx, causing a disjuncture between the affluent students who know the hidden language of higher education and lower-income students who seek degrees to get careers.

Many of the solutions touted by colleges are merely stopgaps, Sojoyner said. They don’t address the root issue of for whom these institutions were created.

“It looks weird now, because it’s like there’s a house on fire and someone is like, ‘Let’s send in the painters,’” he said.

It’s important to not look at all of this purely from a deficit perspective, said Tiffany Jones, senior director of higher education policy at the Education Trust, a nonprofit advocacy organization focused on closing opportunity gaps.

“People can draw strength from what they’ve been through and their ability to overcome it,” Jones said. This knowledge has led many students toward activism, but it’s time for higher education to stop relying on that free labor and start making real changes, she said.

Jones and other experts said it’s important to note the effects that racism have on white students as well. While racism isn’t targeted at them, white students often learn in college that much of what they had been taught earlier in life and had taken for granted as truth was not accurate.

“The only emotional breakdowns I ever saw in college were from white people responding to conversations about race,” she said. “Their whole paradigms were being disrupted, and it was traumatizing for them.”

Can Higher Education Change?

Higher education can’t solve racism and societal inequity on its own. But the industry can take steps to be part of the solution.

It could advocate for more support for early childhood and K-12 programs like Head Start, which have been proven to help equity gaps, Morsy said.

Colleges also can better train the teachers who shape students’ minds in K-12.

They can do more to support and help Black students become teachers. Black students are less likely to face the kind of discipline that would take them out of the classroom and disrupt their learning if they have a Black teacher, according to research from Constance Lindsay, an assistant professor of education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“The only emotional breakdowns I ever saw in college were from white people responding to conversations about race.”

— Tiffany Jones

Black students who have at least one Black teacher in elementary school also are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to attend college, Lindsay said.

To attract more Black students to pursue teaching careers, how such careers are promoted may need to change. Some Black students are not attracted to majoring in education because graduate schools of education are not typically diverse, Lindsay said, and they often don’t feature social justice frameworks in their curricula or embedded in campus life.

Ebony McGee, an associate professor of education at Vanderbilt University, said many students of color have an “equity ethic.”

“Many Black students who were marginalized and have experienced racial suffering want to challenge those inequities through their work,” McGee said, adding that money is often not the sole goal.

This shows up in science, technology, engineering and math majors especially, she said. Right now, engineering is advertised to students as a way to beat China or create artificial intelligence. Instead, colleges should teach engineering from an equity-minded perspective. Black students could use STEM degrees to fix the infrastructure or improve the environment in their communities, for example, she said.

“There is a totally different message that I think would attract a more diverse and more morally sound group of folks,” McGee said.

College admissions tests are also barriers to a college education. Only about half of the nation’s high schools offer calculus and physics courses, which many colleges require students to complete, said C. J. Powell, a higher education program analyst at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a large coalition of civil and human rights groups that fights against discrimination.

Powell was a college counselor in rural North Carolina, where he saw low-income and Black students who have to jump many hurdles to get access to college.

Students need better counselors or access to a college prep pipeline so they can be aware of what they need to do to get into college and succeed, he said. High schools also must stop tracking certain students into courses that won’t prepare them for college. And they should stop tracking those students into remedial courses that could delay their graduation.

Once students are in college, institutions need to ensure faculty and leadership are diverse so students are more open to engaging with them, Powell said. They also need to recruit more Black students, perhaps by looking at more and different high schools in their recruiting. Diversity offices or leaders also need better resources so they can “put some teeth behind policies.”

Colleges also need to listen to their Black students.

“A lot of institutions are, all of a sudden, renaming buildings,” Powell said. “Now that they’ve done the thing that was always easy to do, they need to make sure they listen to students about the things that are not easy to do … If they don’t do that, this will all be lip service.”

Jack believes colleges should also use holistic admissions and consider social and economic inequities in students’ background. Black students often don’t have long lists of extracurricular activities in which they participated in high school because they may have had to work to help support their families. And some may not have done well on admissions tests because they couldn’t afford tutoring or to take the test multiple times.

“Race provides privileges and it denies privileges in a very, very real way,” Jack said.

Jack also advocates for doing away with the hidden language of academia. A practice as simple as defining what office hours are can help decode language that more privileged students take for granted. Students also need to understand they can ask for help, which is something Jack has seen many struggle with.

“Race provides privileges and it denies privileges in a very, very real way.”

— Anthony Abraham Jack

If a student went to a high school that was overcrowded, with young teachers and few resources, he said they may be reticent to ask for help because they’ll assume it doesn’t exist.

“You can be extremely motivated, but if you don’t have the opportunities to express that motivation into action, you enter college with an unpracticed hand,” he said.

Several experts said colleges need to invest in mental health services, particularly diverse counselors and ones who are trained to be trauma-informed and culturally responsive.

Cost is also a big factor. College assistance programs that solely cover tuition aren’t helpful because many students need funds to pay basic living and other expenses, Jack said.

Policy solutions include canceling student loan debt and doubling the federal Pell Grant, said Rosa García, director of postsecondary education and work development at the Center for Law and Social Policy, a nonprofit that focuses on policy solutions for low-income people.

Colleges also need to center communities of color and social justice through their curriculums, García said. That can be done through strengthening African American studies departments and requiring all students to take a course on ethnic studies or racial justice.

This will also teach white students about racism and inequity, Jones said, so they can use their positions of power to create more change.

McGee was hesitant to bring up too many solutions. It shouldn’t be the responsibility of Black people to find the answers to this problem, she said.

“White people aren’t stupid. You got us into this mess — why is it our job to get us out?” she said. “Put your minds together and figure out how to make this world more equitable.”

That can seem like a Herculean task, but not because research presenting solutions for society to use doesn’t exist. With all this talk, data and knowledge, how optimistic can one be that things will change in the future when so many problems remain intractable?

“Now is one of the moments to really uncover and realize the potential of what universities could be doing and how to struggle for actual freedom, so that everybody can live in a way that is not utopic, but is a just society,” Sojoyner said.

He’s optimistic, because he’s seen attitudes shift in his lifetime. He researches education in the prison system and remembers going to the inaugural conference of Critical Resistance in 1997. Back then, people looked at you like you were crazy if you mentioned abolishing prison, he said.

“Fast-forward 23 years, and now that is the conversation,” he said. “I can’t even begin to explain what a seismic shift that is.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

5 ‘selfie’ murals to visit in GSO

Over the past few years, Greensboro has been building up to become known as one of the best places to tour cultural street art. Throughout the city, there is a variety of eye-catching graffiti art and murals that decorate the streets and buildings. 

Local artists have been consistently collaborating with one another on beautifying Greensboro with their stunning artwork. Artists like Darlene J. McClinton, Brandi Schmidt, Gina Elizabeth Franco, Raman Bhardwaj, Jenna Rice and Emmanuel Mollette have done some amazing artwork for the community; especially the Black Lives Matter murals from protests this summer.

These artists have also collaborated with Greensboro developers to make the city become recognized as a street art destination. Marty Kotis, a Greensboro developer and entrepreneur, has created many public art projects in a collaboration with local graffiti artists like Jeks One, as well as popular traveling artists like Nathan “SLOKE” Nordstrom from Austin, Texas.

Kotis is the owner of Kotis Street Art, a local-based collection of street art with over 200 curated installations from several critically acclaimed muralists and artists. With Kotis Street Art, he plans to boosts the city’s reputation as a rising community for street artists.

“My goal with Kotis Street Art…is to make Greensboro a top 10 destination in the world for street artists; from the artists’ point of view…,” Kotis said in a statement to Spectrum Local News. 

While there will be many murals to come to the city, there are plenty of murals that have already become popular among the arts and culture community here. These street art paintings have become known as ‘selfie murals’ for locals and visitors, where they will pose in front of the mural using it as a backdrop for their selfie photos.

Listed below are some of the best ‘selfie murals’ to visit in Greensboro:

Photo Courtesy of Woody Marshall/Greensboro News and Record.

1. The Downtown ‘Greensboro’ mural 

The newest art installation by local artist Gina Elizabeth Franco has been named the Greensboro ‘selfie’ mural. The mural was painted in September 2020 and is located on a brick wall at the corner of S. Elm Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Many Instagram posts feature downtown visitors standing in front of the mural taking selfies. The 14-foot by 30-foot mural shows a colorful interpretation of Greensboro’s history, including vibrant images of the city’s civil rights history, in support of the current social climate with the Black Lives Matter movement.

The painting had been in works for about a year and was organized by Jennifer Graf, owner of Vintage to Vogue Boutique, in an effort to add more art and creativity to the southern side of downtown.

Photo Courtesy of Top Street Art on Instagram.

2. The Mac Miller mural

The Mac Miller mural was painted by artist Brian Lewis, otherwise known as Jeks One, after the news of Mac Miller’s tragic death in September 2018. Jeks One is known as one of the most popular graffiti artists in Greensboro’s rising street art scene. 

Jeks wanted the mural to be a tribute to the rapper after Miller passed away due to his long-time struggle with substance abuse. 

The mural has been popular among the local community and Mac Miller fans. Visitors have been seen admiring and paying their respects to Miller at the site, and some have even left shrines at the base of the painting. 

The mural can be located behind the Greensboro Project Space building, near the edge of downtown by Boxcar Bar + Arcade.

Photo Courtesy of Susan Veazey (@skveazey) on Instagram.

3. The Elsewhere ‘butterfly’ mural

The butterfly mural was a collaboration organized by McClinton, N.C. A&T professor and co-owner of The Artist Bloc, with local artists Jamin Guinyard, also known as Jay Squids, N.C. A&T professor Xavier Carrington, Neidy Perdomo, Karena “Kidd” Graves, Quadasia Prescod and Phillip Marsh, lead artist of Rocker’s Print Shop.

The painting shows a transition of a young black girl growing up to develop an awakening consciousness of racism, discrimination and police brutality. The mural starts off with a young black girl reaching for a white flower, which represents innocence, and ends with her as an adult, with her fists raised high in protest for the Black Lives Matter movement.

The artists decided to name the painting, “Inspire Change for a Collaborative Future,” as there is a also butterfly centered in the middle with a small painted stool below that says, “Stand here if BLM.” The expansive mural covers the exterior of the Elsewhere Museum storefront at 606 S. Elm St.

The mural is dedicated to Elsewhere’s mission for “building collaborative futures” with local black artists, and centers black voices in a bright, bold story about liberation and social justice. 

Photo Courtesy of @tsechelovek_graffiti on Instagram.

4. The Nipsey Hussle mural

Jeks One created a mural of L.A rapper and community activist Nipsey Hussle on 807 W Gate City Blvd., located on the side of the Sensuous Scents boutique. 

The mural is painted in memory of Hussle, who was tragically murdered in March 2019 in front of his South Los Angeles store, Marathon Clothing. The mural shows the late rapper with a yellow halo-like figure surrounding him and a shadowed painting of him performing on stage.

Since being completed in April 2019, hundreds of local Hussle fans have gathered in front of the mural to admire as well as hold vigils and conversations about his impact. The East Greensboro painting has also attracted visitors from around the country.

Photo Courtesy of @tsechelovek_graffiti on Instagram.

5. The Dram & Draught mural

The Dram and Draught graffiti art mural was painted by traveling artist Nils Westergard from Richmond, Va. and neo-pop artist BustArt. The painting was completed in October 2018 and was sponsored by Rocker’s Print Shop. 

The first half of the vibrant mural was based on a visual by Selah Marie, a photograph of a black woman with a colorful crown of flowers and butterflies surrounding her. The second half of the mural is graphic pop art of Daffy Duck, Catwoman and Black Dynamite.

The colorful mural is perfect for selfie photos, and can be found behind the Dram and Draught bar on 300 W Gate City Blvd.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment