“Keepers of the Culture” celebrates Black leaders shaping the cultural landscape

S1: It’s time for Midday Edition on Kpbs. Today we’re talking about gardening and how to grow your own food here in San Diego. I’m Jade Hindman. Here’s to conversations that keep you informed , inspired , and make you think. One of San Diego’s gardening gurus , Nancy Sterman , joins us with advice on when to plant fruits and vegetables.

S2: To grow vegetables , spring and summer vegetables. Outside temperatures have to be consistently 50 degrees or warmer overnight.

S1: Plus and will answer your gardening questions and we’ll talk about how recent flooding may impact what you can harvest. That’s ahead on Midday Edition. The annual keepers of the culture event returns to the San Diego History Center on Saturday. Organized in collaboration with the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art. It’s a celebration of prominent black leaders in the community who are shaping culture. Here to talk more about this event and its importance to the community is Getty Phinney. He’s the executive director of the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art. Getty. Welcome back to midday.

S3: I know it’s been a while since we talked , but , you know , we’re both busy doing things , you know , so it’s always good to hear your voice and also to be interviewed by you.

S1: Likewise , it’s great to have you on. So , I mean , it’s been six years since the first ever keepers of the culture.

S3: And we don’t want those people who are doing things to be forgotten. So what we’ve what we’ve decided to do was to get those people who are still alive that are doing things to contribute to the culture and honor them while they are alive. We are honored to Harold Brown and Chuck Ambers , Willie Morrow , doctor Jack Kimbro. We’ve honored on Blevins , Manuelita Brown , Michaela Dread Keenum and Kamal Kenyatta. We’ve also honored Common Ground Theater starlet Louis , Doctor Robert and Mrs. Ardell Matthews. He’s also honored Alice Cooper Smith , Nathan East , Calvin Manson and Andrea Rushing , and also Ken Anderson , Jeanne Corbo , Eliot Lawrence , Doctor John Warren , and Honorable Leon Williams. And guess what ? This year we’re honoring Supervisor Monica Montgomery step , and also Vernon Sakuma and also the R&B singing group satisfaction , which , I mean , they have such a following because they’ve not been together in years. And so when they come out , people are there. So it is a packed house , a wonderful event that’s coming. Yeah.

S1: The museum has worked with the San Diego History Center to organize this tribute , like you said.

S3: We have worked with all the major museums in San Diego , because we try to bring art to places where it can be held. For instance , you know , if you have expensive art , million dollar art , you just can’t put it anywhere. So we work with a lot of the major museums and the most , the most fun and the most , I don’t know , easy one to work with , if you will. The most compatible one with us is the San Diego History Center. Why that is , I think it has to do with Bill and his staff. But , you know , I’ve worked with MCA and CMA and and man , all of them , the Veterans Museum and all of those. But I really do love working with that , that staff , they’re very , very unstable and work with us so well that I like doing it. So , you know , we and we do so much , you know , that we’ve got also the black arts and cultural district. The city designated us as the managers of that. So that’s also something that we’ve been doing in the last couple of years. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Well , you know , I mean , I remember I actually moderated the the event a couple of years ago during that event , the honorees were mostly artists. And this year you’re celebrating people who do various work in the community. So before we get into each honoree , what’s the process behind selecting them each year ? Yeah , that’s the board.

S3: The board gets together and talks about who it is we want to honor. And then we have a vote and pick the people we want to honor. Yeah.

S1:

S3: But we look at all the different aspects of culture and what people have done. And there’s quite a few people. So we’ve been doing this six years and it’s just how we do it with our board. We we bring it a number of people and everybody gets to recommend. And then we choose what , 3 or 4 people we want to do each year because it’s , you know , we do a nice honor , a trophy that goes with it to honor them. And it takes a lot of work to do this thing. So I’m proud of what we do , and I’m happy to honor these folks.

S1: And I want to talk more about the honorees. And I’ll start with Monica Montgomery. Step. Two years ago , she’s secured the unanimous vote by the city to create the San Diego Black Arts and Culture district in Encanto. Um , as you mentioned , the museum was designated to really look over the district.

S3: We wanted someplace called , as they call it , the spot where black people could go because as even as a resident here , when when guests come , I just don’t know where to take them. I used to like , no , where do we take black people in this town ? And it’s been that way for 30 years. People have wanted it , really wanted it. And so when we were designated to do this , we began the work of making this a possibility. And right now , I could tell you right now , with all confidence , you can talk. And people say to you , have you been in the Black Arts District or we have the Black Arts District is there’s a black artist district that so it does exist now. And I owe it to the Black Arts and Cultural Committee , who has been spearheading that and advising the museum on how to make this work so that Black Arts and Culture committee that sits every Tuesday , every third Tuesday and meet with members of the community , artists , business people , all of that. I think we were we’ve got a lot of ways to go. It’s not that’s no question. We have a long ways to go to do this because it’s because , you know , it’s an art led project. Right ? But it’s also an economic development project because you need lighting , you need wider streets , and you need housing. You want people to buy in and bring in other arts organizations and dance and music and theater and all that. We want to bring that into the community. So we got ways to go. And thank you , Monica Montgomery , for establishing that with us so we can keep it going. So I’m really I’m really grateful to her.

S1:

S3: No , no it’s do. She’s she’s been a stalwart in the community. I’ll tell you one day I was going to do an event at once at the Malcolm X library , and I pulled up in my car and it was there. She was cleaning up the the area by herself on a Saturday morning. I said , look at that now. I was , I mean , made me a believer just by herself cleaning up. This is I got to do this stuff. I said , man , you know , probably nobody knows you do that sort of thing , but I saw it with my own eyes. She’s really special. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. And going back to the Black Arts and Culture district over the past few weeks , we’ve talked a lot about the flooding impacts there.

S3: I mean , Sandy Eagle , like I said , some community said it did something crazy in San Diego , San Diego. What they do is sit in rain because it never does. I don’t I mean , it was a shock to everybody. So my heart goes out to all those people. And also this the San Diego Black Arts and Cultural District did get affected. The park where we have Marine Whitman Park has had a lot of problems with some of the housing. Second chance had issues , but we’ve got a lot of help and people are pulling together to help us. We’ve had to pivot a little bit on some of the events that we have to to take them out of the park , that we’re going to be in the cultural district until it gets right , but it’s coming back. It’ll be there. But right now we just have to stay together and work together and get that community back.

S1: Yeah , that’s that’s something. And we hope to have the community back to where it was soon. Uh , you’re also honoring rhythm and blues group satisfaction.

S3: I know a couple of them just throughout history , Floyd Smith and that. And he’s with the fifth Dimension as well. Um , but they when they come out , the people who have heard of them come to support them. The last time I think they did a concert maybe eight years ago , it was sold out. You couldn’t even get in the door. So I don’t know much about them. I’m not a a resident. I mean , a lifelong resident of San Diego. But from what I hear , they bring the people. It should be a fun event. And I really and because of who they are and all , and they have lots of people from the community in the band itself , in the group. So it should be exciting to see them and have them being honored. And they’re going to sing and play , so that should be wonderful.

S1: And Vernon Sakuma is a long time activist , one of your personal heroes , too. He’s being honored.

S3: I studied about him in Minnesota and came here , uh , and met him. And , you know the story ? I was coming out here to take the , uh , professional responsibility bar exam , and this was on a Friday. Um , and so when I saw him , he said , well , we have I’ve got these books by Rosa Parks. And when you go up and hang out with her and she’ll sign , and she signed books for me and I did that thinking , man , oh my God , that was the greatest day of my life , right ? The next day , I got back to take the professional exam exam and guess what ? It was Friday and I missed it. But. But I missed it by spending the day with Rosa Parks. So come on , come on.

S4: It made it. It made the trip worth it.

S3: And it made it. I mean , I mean , who do you tell that story to ? Professional responsibility test that you missed. You would get it wrong. Oops.

S5: Oops.

S3: But , um. Yeah , but I had a chance to spend a day with Vernon and , uh , Rosa Parks that day. She signed a book for my son , and he. He protects it like his gold. Takes it everywhere he goes.

S1: Now , with Sukumar , he , you know , as I mentioned , he’s a long time activist. But what kind of activist is he ? He’s human. Right ? He’s he’s so many things.

S3: He was part of that group of people. And as was I , by the way , back in the late 60s , believe it or not. So this these organizations that created Kwanzaa were nationwide. And so they taught us a lot of the same doctrine , if you will. So we all studied this around the country during the black national movement back in the late 60s. And I’m sure Vernon Sakuma was part of that movement. I think he was he was a big leader here during that that torrid time of the 60s. Yeah.

S1: Yeah. Okay.

S3: It seemed to have much more black culture. It was black radio stations , and I think even the community in southeastern San Diego was more black. And that has gentrified quite a bit , as has San Diego. Being a military town , black people really are all over the place. There’s not that really black community , if you will , whereas it used to be. And the result of this not having a black community is there’s a loss in terms of how you relate to each other , how when you see each other , whether you eat together , whether you you can go to a black church and see a lot of black people. But many times , uh , because we’re so spread out , you don’t you don’t have a feeling of black community. And that’s one of the things that the black cultural district does is give us a better sense of community. Now we’re looking forward to to effect that change was what San Diego would be like in the future. We’re trying to affect that by what we do with the black cultural District and with the African American Museum of Fine Arts. So whereas it has changed , we’re trying to make sure that as it changes , the black folks in San Diego have a way to communicate , to entertain and to enjoy their culture.

S1: Well what happened ? I mean , where did the , you know , the black radio , black nightclubs ? Um , you know what happened ? No.

S5:

S3: I don’t I don’t know , I don’t know. I mean , the population just moved around and there’s those things. They don’t exist anymore , but they need leadership like us to bring it back. So whatever happened to them ? I can’t tell you. I don’t know , but I know one thing. We’re bringing it. Back.

S5: Back. There you. Go.

S1: Go.

S3: We have we both we have the two websites. We have our website , CAA , MFA , org , that’s the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art. And also the San Diego Black Arts and Cultural District has its own website as well. So you can follow those there and and participate. And so coming up soon we have the Her lens celebrating the black women in filmmaking on March 22nd. We have the power of poetry and and mixer. On April 19th , we have the stop and listen music of the diaspora. On May 18th , we have our big celebration of black music in June , June 29th. And that’s what lyrical Groove Jimenez , Deneen Wilburn , Rebecca Jade and the musical students of the Heartbeat Academy , all that’s coming up this year. Yeah. So we we’re smoking.

S5: I see lots to.

S1: Get plugged into. You know , before I go , I gotta ask , you know , the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art celebrating black history 365 days a year. Talk to me about why it’s important to honor black history , not just during this month , but really every day.

S3: Because if you don’t know your past , you can’t relate to your future. It really is. It’s like one of those things that , you know , we live in. It seems to be we live in a time when a lot of these things are just being taken off the education , they’re not teaching about it. Um , you see a lot of racist activity. The Black Lives movement had had to come about to change things. All this stuff. You know , that Black Lives movement , I think is kind of waning now , believe it or not , it’s just not the same kind of interest in it. Right ? But we won’t stop. We will keep our black culture alive 365 days a year , just as you said. And that’s what the San Diego Black Cultural Arts and Black Cultural District would do. And that’s what the museum will do as well. We will keep it alive knowing of its importance.

S1: I’ve been speaking with Katie Finney , executive director of the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art. Keepers of the culture will take place at the San Diego History Center this Saturday at 6 p.m. , doors open at five and the event is free. Katie , thank you so much for joining us.

S3: You are so welcome and I miss talking to you. So let’s stay in touch.

S1: Sounds like a plan. Coming up , Beth Accomando explores bugs and the culinary arts.

S5:

S6:

S1: Welcome back.

S6: You’re listening to Kpbs Midday Edition.

S1: I’m Jade Hindman. A question for you. Would you eat scorpion kimchi ? How about cricket hummus ? While you have an opportunity to try out both with a bug banquet happening on San Diego State University’s campus tomorrow. Kpbs arts and culture reporter Beth Accomando is actually a fan of edible insects. She spoke with chef Joseph Yoon of Brooklyn Bugs and food scientist Xiang Liu , associate professor at Sdsu , about the event and the benefits of eating bugs. Take a listen.

S7: So there is going to be a bug banquet at San Diego State. And this is a really fascinating thing to me.

S8: But truth be told , it may actually be the the agave worm at the bottle of a tequila bottle perhaps as well.

S9: I also don’t remember the exact age , but when I grew up as a kid , I was from China. So my hometown is a Sichuan province in the southwest of China , and we do have a few , like edible insects in the region , like a bamboo weevil. I think the silkworm pupae as well as the cicada nymphs. So I did have experiences growing up eating insects.

S7: And when did both of you kind of become interested in this as like a bigger issue , as something that you really wanted to focus on and try to raise awareness about.

S8:

S9: I’m always kind of interested in entomology. I actually wanted to become an entomologist. It didn’t happen , so I ended up becoming a food scientist , which is also a passion for me. Then I also started interested in this food sustainability issues. So I actually get to combine my two inches bugs and the food science and actually use them as a , you know , a more sustainable way of getting high quality proteins.

S8: My interest with insects , or rather cooking and eating with insects , started from an art project when I was approached to cook insects to help conquer a fear of insects. And then I went down the wormhole. I did my research and found the UN , FAO , the food and agricultural organizations report Edible insects future prospects for Food and Food security. And when I began to realize that edible insects and insect agriculture can have an impact on food security , on environmental sustainability , health and nutrition , workforce activation and livelihoods , this gave me a tremendous sense of inspiration and motivation. And ever since I started , uh , it has actually entirely changed my life. And I’m now on this path for a little over six years now.

S7: So here in the US , the idea of eating bugs is probably it’s probably a hurdle you have to overcome a bit. I mean , I think there are other countries where it’s much more commonplace.

S8: And so being able to take these negative ideas and then somehow try to get people to consider these insects , these pests as food , is yet another hurdle. And one of the really big ways that I have utilize to help change the perception and hopefully create the behavioral change is not to focus on the science with great respect to my scientists , colleagues and counterparts , but I focus on the culinary and gastronomical properties to think of insects as something delicious. Over 2000 species of edible insects with wildly different flavor profiles , textures , and functionality that we can prepare absolutely deliciously if we have the culinary acumen and the knowhow , and it’s sustainable and nutrient dense. And then I follow up with the science. And so that’s largely been my approach with with how I introduce people to edible insects.

S9: This is exactly why we are trying to do this event. So we did a survey before , and we found that the willingness in the US to eat insect is not that great. And we identified unfamiliarity with edible insects and the disgust factor to be some of the biggest hurdles. But at the same time , in 2019 , when we first hosted the event , we did a pre-event and post-event survey , and we found that through this kind of cooking and tasting demonstrations , it really changes people’s perceptions on edible insects and promoted their willingness to try them. And also , we are also going to be talking about why should we eat insects , address their environmental benefits , the nutritional values , the opportunities they can bring to the culinary art. So I think that can probably also help people accept it instead as a food.

S7: Give us a little bit of that science as to what are the benefits of using insects for food.

S9: For example , they require much less feed , water and land to farm , and during the process they produce much less greenhouse gases. At the same time , they have a really good nutritional values , for example , the high protein content and the unsaturated fatty acids , vitamins , minerals , minerals with great bioavailability. There are studies showing that the bioavailability of iron in some of the mealworms is actually higher than the sirloin beef , and also , like I would say , insects , is probably the only animal source food that can provide dietary fibers because of their exoskeleton. So there are many , many health benefits associated with , uh , insect consumption as well. So it’s really a superfood if we think about it. Yeah.

S8: Yeah. I think one of the great potentials and innovation around insect agriculture is that it represents the potential to have a regenerative circular ag system , and so we can address organic waste management and feed organic waste to black soldier fly larvae , mitigating it from going into our landfills. And then we have also passed legislation in America and the EU to feed the black soldier fly larvae , as livestock feed for pet food and aquaculture. And so again , we’re decreasing the deforestation of the Amazon that’s being utilized for animal feed and for pet food. And then to close this loop , if we’re creating metric tons of this larvae , a byproduct is something called frass or the excrement of the insects. And it’s mixed together with the SUV , which is the exoskeletons. And this is incredible as a bio organic fertilizer. So there’s so much potential and innovation happening around insect agriculture. And the idea of eating insects really helps to spark the curiosity and interest. But there’s a wide world of potential that exists as well.

S7: So for you as a chef , what are kind of the challenges that you see and talk a little bit just about kind of the different kinds of insects and how they inspire you to different meals or plates of food.

S8: What’s been really amazing is just to see people’s reaction and their initial thought of what they expect insects to be. And for a lot of people that don’t have a lot of knowledge or the culture behind it , they expect insects to taste horrible. So that actually works in my favor because as a chef , I take great pride in making food taste delicious. And so one of the things that I try to employ when introducing people to edible insects is thinking about what food do you really love ? And then I think about how I can bug ify that dish by incorporating insect protein into your favorite meals. When people think about what insects might look like , they might think like , oh , am I going to eat like a whole bowl full of crickets ? And it’s like , no , how about if we were to make a cricket bolognaise ? And make a delicious gravy. This sauce incorporating cricket powder. We don’t even have to see it. And if you’re a big fan of burgers , what if we were to make like a black bean burger with crickets both chopped up and the powder ? What a great possibility and potential to be so inspired to find all these new ingredients and think about how we can reimagine it into familiar foods. The only limitations that we have with insect protein is really our own imagination. And typically , it’s been fascinating to find a person who’s like , my friend dragged me to your event. I didn’t think I would eat it , and I tried the cricket gusher. So French cheese puff and they have this look of surprise. It tastes like food. It actually tastes good. And then something really fascinating happens. As a result of that. They want to try something. Bugger. So I’m luring them in and they’re like okay chef. Let me try something with where I could see the bugs. And maybe they’ll try the black ants with guacamole. And black ants have formic acid as a defense mechanism which gives it an acidic flavor profile. So it pairs perfectly with something like guacamole. And so I think that’s what we really love to do , is just giving people the opportunity , but never shaming anyone or pressuring people to do it. Like , I’m not a bug pusher. I’m not out there like trying to push people to eat them. I’m an educator and advocate and activist who’s actively just trying to give people the option and the knowledge so that they can make the decision themselves.

S7: And chunky , what can people expect from these two events that are happening this week.

S9: This afternoon from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. , we will have the Edible Insect Symposium , in which we’ll have several speakers talking about different aspects of edible insects , talking about their nutritional values , their environmental benefits , and their potentials in the culinary world. Then on Friday , we’ll have the banquet in which we’ll be like offering people delicious food that features edible insects.

S7:

S8: The black ants , which I mentioned because of their their delicious flavor and surprising pop. But all in all , I would have to say my hands down , unequivocal grand champion insect for me to cook and eat is the cicada. And this year presents an incredible opportunity because we have the convergence of the brood 13 and 19 cicadas that come out every 17 and 13 years. And this occurrence is happening for the first time in 221 years. And so I’m really excited to to be able to go out into the field and continue my field research and culinary research around around these periodical cicadas.

S7: And , Joseph , people shouldn’t just go out in their backyard and grab a bug out of their garden and pop it in their mouth. Right ? What what do you recommend to people who are curious about this and want to maybe try cooking with insects ? Correct.

S8: One should not go in their backyard and just pick an insect because of the risk of pathogens and contaminants. And so I think like really being responsible and where you get them from. And so we’re very happy to to work with incredible vendors who responsibly source the insects. And there’s one very obvious website who’s a great supporter. Edible insects.com has a great reliable resource for a lot of different insects. And then also , uh , entomology farms that are based up in Ontario , Canada , and three cricketers in Minnesota are some of our favorite and most reliable vendors.

S7: All right. Well , I want to thank you both very much for talking about bugs.

S10: Wait wait wait wait wait wait wait. Beth.

S8: Will you join. Us.

S5: Us.

S8: For either of the events ? But really , for the bug tasting on Friday , I would love absolutely.

S7: Of course. Absolutely.

S5: I am so.

S8: Happy to hear that you will join us.

S1: That was Beth Accomando speaking with Brooklyn Bugs , Chef Joseph Yoon and Sdsu associate professor of nutrition and food scientist Xiang Liu. The bug banquet is tomorrow at noon , but you need to register first information for that. Is at Kpbs. Org. Coming up , we’ll hear from author Susan Orlean about her writing and our relationship to animals.

S11: You’re almost more human when you are relating to a creature than when you’re relating to other people. It’s very unselfconscious. You just are who you are.

S1: You’re listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. Welcome back. You’re listening to Kpbs Midday Edition. I’m Jade Hindman. Writer Susan Orlean has been writing for The New Yorker for more than three decades , and rose to fame when her book , The Orchid Thief inspired the Spike Jones movie adaptation. She’s the author of more than a dozen nonfiction books , including The Library Book about the 1986 fire and the Los Angeles Central Library , and On Animals , a collection of her essays about creatures of all kinds and our relationship with them. She’s part of the Writers Symposium by the sea this week , and will be interviewed with Nick Hornby on Friday. She spoke with Kpbs Arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. Here’s their conversation.

S12: So in the book on animals , we have a collection of long form essays about animals. But I wanted to start at the very beginning with your introduction. You give us this little taste of your own fascination with animals. And not just pets , but definitely pets.

S11: I think it’s since the beginning of time , there’s been this curiosity about what would it be like if people from another planet landed here , and would we be able to talk to them ? And what if they were like us but not quite like us ? And what if we could communicate , but not in the conventional ways that we’re used to communicating ? Well , we already have that , since animals sort of provide us with. This life form that you certainly know you can communicate with , but not in the traditional way that you communicate with humans. It’s also invariably a reflection when I write about animals , but I think from the very beginning it it brings out something very human in our interaction with animals. And you’re almost more human when you are relating to a creature than when you’re relating to other people. It’s very unselfconscious. You just are who you are. So from the time I was a kid , I just always loved every kind of animal , both the typical pets of dogs and cats and hamsters and mice. But also I love livestock and I loved wild animals. So this was the entire range. I love the way animals look. I love the way they feel when you touch them. I love them on that totally sensory level. I just think it tells you a lot about being a person when you relate to animals.

S12: This book spans decades of work , and I’m wondering if there’s a story that over time , you’ve had the most questions or comments about.

S11: The big surprise for me probably was the story I wrote about having chickens , and I wasn’t even convinced that I should do the story. I had chickens , I loved them , I thought about them a lot. I talked about them a lot , but I didn’t imagine writing a story about it. And my editor convinced me that this was a great subject. The rise of backyard chickens , and what seemed to be a bit of a newfound passion for keeping chickens , which is pretty funny when you think about it. So I wrote the story about my experience , why I ended up with chickens , what it was like having them , and the reaction was a complete surprise. Namely , it was as if I had tapped in to some massive desire on the part of everyone I knew to have chickens , and people simply couldn’t get enough about having chickens and how I got them. And what was it like , and how would they have them , and where could they keep them ? But it also fit. The whole point of the story , which was that there was a very particular reason that at this moment in time , people were yearning to have small livestock. I don’t think it morphed into people wanting cattle or a big herd of sheep. It was very specific to chickens , and there was a fascinating kind of history connected to it.

S12: Now , this one is a very different story. The lady and her Tigers. This is a story about a woman who lived in this otherwise quiet town in America , with a large collection of actual tigers.

S11: There was a little news report that I happened across one day that in this suburb in new Jersey , which is sort of between Newark and Trenton , that in the middle of the day , a tiger was seen walking through the middle of the town. That in itself was , of course , pretty amazing. But more strangely , no one could identify who the tiger belonged to. And you kind of feel like. There wouldn’t be that many places tigers might come from and end up in the middle of a suburb. Lo and behold , it is revealed that there’s a woman in the town who has 27 tigers that she keeps as pets. She didn’t have permits for them , and you would never be able to get permits for them. It’s 100% illegal. And it was an insane story. It was both , you know , just an absurd notion that there’s a woman living in suburbia with almost 30 tigers. It was also fascinating because I began looking into how would you acquire tigers ? And in my shock and dismay , it’s incredibly easy to get tigers. Arguably easier to get a tiger than a French bulldog these days. Wow. So it was just it was just an endlessly interesting story to me. And and talking about , you know , our relationship to these exotic animals that really no one should have even one , let alone 27.

S12: I want to shift gears and talk just a little bit about the library book. This is an astonishing book that’s about the massive 1986 fire in the Los Angeles Central Library , but it’s also about the history of the library system in LA and the very strange characters who’ve passed through the ranks , but also about other lost archives. It struck me as a massive undertaking of research.

S11: Why do we feel so affected in such a deep way at the destruction of a library ? More than we would feel about City Hall burning or , you know , many other parallel institutions that we might imagine being destroyed ? I don’t think you have the same feeling that you have when you imagine books being destroyed , a library being destroyed , and that’s what propelled me from the beginning. Why do books mean so much to us ? Why do libraries mean so much ? And as a consequence , why did this fire affect people so deeply , including me ? And ultimately it was a book about memory and what memory means to us both the collective memory , which is what a library really is , and the act of creating a book , which is to make a permanent record of thought process. So you’re you’re sort of outsourcing memory into this form of paper and ink. Uh , and we’ve been doing this literally since the beginning of time. So there’s something really , really , really human about the act of creating books and the act of creating libraries.

S12: I’m wondering if over the last 25 , 30 years , throughout your career , if you have felt the media landscape change for the kind of long narrative essays that you write , the kind of books you write , um , you’ve likely seen magazine culture changed dramatically since the internet.

S11: It really is. Sometimes I’m writing a memoir right now , and when I’m writing about the early days of my career and thinking about even the like , the fact that I used to write on a typewriter and we would literally cut and paste stories , and then desktop publishing came. And , you know , now , obviously the internet has completely changed the media landscape. I feel like the interest in longform narrative absolutely is there. I don’t see anything suggesting that people aren’t interested in stories that unfold in a , a a really. Expansive way. We’re all used to the idea of the attention economy and people wanting things quick and short and flashed up on a screen and scrollable and all of that. But I think that the counterpoint actually is that. You get a certain amount of stuff now telegraphed to very , very quickly. It’s almost means that you look forward to that chance to really think into a story.

S12: I have one more question about craft , and you’re talking about these expansive stories and most of these things you dive into because there’s an element of mystery to them. I’m wondering how you know when a story is finished , especially when sometimes there’s not a tidy resolution or an endpoint.

S11: Actually , it’s it’s I won’t say it’s a big problem. It’s a big part of the writing process that really matters , especially because. Is so rare that you truly have a conclusion or a neat , tidy end to your story. Um , and most of my stories , most of my books really don’t have a definitive conclusion. Um , I didn’t solve the mystery of the library fire. I never saw a ghost orchid. All of these events that were meant to be the kind of culmination of my work didn’t happen. How I knew I was done , though , was that it’s more of an internal clock of. Feeling that I’ve learned my subject well and I’m ready to tell it to readers. I’m not looking for that tidy end , because life isn’t like that , and most stories don’t. Have that packaging where every loose end is tied up. It’s really more , um , on the writer’s side , that sensation of thinking , I’m ready to tell the story. And that is just a gut feeling. It’s a moment of thinking , I’m ready. I’m ready to tell this. And I see the narrative coming. To its conclusion , even though it’s not with a neat ending.

S1: That was writer Susan Orlean , author of The Orchid Thief and on animals. Speaking with Kpbs Arts producer and editor Julia Dixon Evans. Orlean will appear at Point Loma Nazarene University Friday at 7 p.m..

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Cincinnati Opera Announces $5 Million Black Opera Project

<a href="https://media1.citybeat.com/citybeat/imager/u/original/16932032/day_kevin_credit_sara_bill_photography.jpg" rel="contentImg_gal-16932004" title="Kevin Day, the composer of Afro-futurist story Lalovavi, the first work funded by the Cincinnati Opera's Black Opera Project. – Photo: Sara Bill Photography" data-caption="Kevin Day, the composer of Afro-futurist story Lalovavi, the first work funded by the Cincinnati Opera’s Black Opera Project.   Photo: Sara Bill Photography” class=”uk-display-block uk-position-relative uk-visible-toggle”> click to enlarge Kevin Day, the composer of Afro-futurist story Lalovavi, the first work funded by the Cincinnati Opera's Black Opera Project. - Photo: Sara Bill Photography

Photo: Sara Bill Photography

Kevin Day, the composer of Afro-futurist story Lalovavi, the first work funded by the Cincinnati Opera’s Black Opera Project.

Cincinnati Opera announced today a new initiative that will underwrite the creation and production of three operas by Black creators celebrating the resilience and vibrant facets of Black cultural experiences.

According to the press release, the Black Opera Project is the first of its kind, rooted in an earlier project funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation to fund new works by Black composers.

The BOP’s first work, Lalovavi, will have its world premiere in the 2025 Cincinnati Opera season and is an Afro-futurist story composed by Kevin Day with libretto by writer, performance poet and activist Tifara Brown. 

Day is a composer, conductor and jazz pianist with over 250 works that have been performed by soloists, ensembles and orchestras throughout the world. Brown is known for her poetry as well as her role as an advocate for community engagement, serving in that capacity in the U.S. after George Floyd’s murder in 2020.

Lalovavi is a grand opera of three acts for soloists, chorus and orchestra. It will have two performances at Music Hall in a production directed by Kimille Howard, an acclaimed New York-based director who served as assistant director for the Metropolitan’s acclaimed productions of Terence Blanchard’s Champion and Mozart’s The Magic Flute.

Morris Robinson, renowned bass and artistic advisor to Cincinnati Opera, was part of the early discussions that led to the Black Opera Project.

“The launch of The Black Opera Project marks the fruition of dreams long held by Black artists like me…My colleagues and I expressed concern that there were no operas that truly represented the African American culture in a positive, modern, realistic and contemporaneously relatable way.

“I asked, ‘When is there going to be an opera that has the same impact on the operatic stage that the movie Black Panther had on the big screen?’…Cincinnati Opera bought into this vision, fully dedicating themselves to bringing The Black Opera Project to life. I’m excited about what this initiative means both for people of color and for opera fans everywhere who’ll get a chance to see what Black joy looks like on the opera stage.”

Cincinnati Opera’s artistic director Evans Mirageas added, “We’re thankful for the visionary artists and supporters who challenged us to think differently about the types of narratives we present onstage. Kevin and Tifara have created a fantastical new world filled with vividly drawn characters, a thrilling journey, and at its heart, a relatable sense of yearning and optimism for the future.”

The second opera is based on the life of Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, with a score by Maria Thompson Corley and libretto by Diana Solomon Glover. It will premiere during the 2026 season.

Cincinnati Opera’s overall financial commitment to the Black Opera Project is $5 million. The lead funder for Lalovavi is the David C. Herriman Fund of the Greater Cincinnati Foundation. Additional funding for the Black Opera Project was provided by the Mellon Foundation and partial support from the Ohio Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts.

For more information about the Black Opera Project, visit cincinnatiopera.org.

Subscribe to CityBeat newsletters.

Follow us: Apple News | Google News | NewsBreak | Reddit | Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | Or sign up for our RSS Feed


RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Swizz Beatz & Alicia Keys Display Private Art Collection at the Brooklyn Museum

In early 2015, Swiss Beatz was studying the wall texts for Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic, Brooklyn Museum’s retrospective of the portraitist’s career. As he has told the story multiple times before, Beatz noticed that no Black collectors were listed as owners of the pieces on exhibit. So he asked Wiley about it.

“He was already over it,” Beatz recalls. According to him, while Wiley would have loved for his work to be owned by more Black collectors, he had resigned himself to the fact that “our culture wasn’t messing with him.”

The interaction led Beatz, who had been buying art for about 15 years at that point, to purchase one of the largest pieces in the show. Now that work, Wiley’s Femme pique par un serpent, an eight-foot mural featuring a sitter in a zip-up hoodie, fitted cap, gold Adidas sneakers, and low-slung baggy jeans that reveal the top of his Hanes briefs as he lies, twisted in an almost sensual position, sits as a centerpiece of sorts for a new Brooklyn Museum show. In Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys, the Deans display the collection that is, in part, a result of that conversation with Wiley (Beatz’ given last name is Dean).

Femme piquée par un serpent by Kehinde Wiley. 2008, oil on canvas.

The Dean Collection

Femme piquée par un serpent by Kehinde Wiley. 2008, oil on canvas.

“Giants was always going to be the major thesis of the show, that was really important to the Deans,” show curator Kimberly Gant tells W of the exhibit which contains work by Derrick Adams, Mickalene Thomas, Nick Cave, Jamel Shabazz and more culled from the larger Dean Collection, which boasts the latest private holding of Gordon Parks imagery. It’s a concept that the Deans dive into in a video interview that runs on a loop in the show.

“The artists are giants,” they say. In another section of the video, Beatz recounts the Wiley acquisition, which he says was the beginning of the collection’s journey. “The people are giants, and the works they are going to see are these giant, oversized works.”

Soundsuit by Nick Cave. 2016, mixed media including buttons, wire, bugle beads, metal, mannequin.

Dean Collection

With about 100 pieces, Giants sings mostly in its large-scale work. Those pieces include the Wiley mural, which is inspired by an 1847 Auguste Clésinger marble sculpture of the same name, as well as Arthur Jafa’s “Big Wheel 1,” an eight-foot-tall sculpture crafted from a monster truck wheel wrapped in chains. The design of the ornate colossal structure, covered in chains, gives the illusion of a medallion, or possibly an oversized gong, but the work itself contends with slavery, the automobile industry, and the general subjugation of Black people in Jafa’s native Mississippi.

Big Wheel I by Arthur Jafa. 2018, chains, rim, hubcap, tire.

The Dean Collection

Big Wheel I by Arthur Jafa. 2018, chains, rim, hubcap, tire.

Another piece, the 21-panel mural from Botswana-born artist Meleko Mokgosi titled “Bread, Butter, and Power” envelops an entire room, depicting a series of painted scenes: school girls outside of a classroom, possibly posing for a picture, someone reclining on a couch, an older woman sitting on a piece of cardboard while a man sits, feet away from her in a chair.

Dean Collection

“That work has so much in it that it would take me a long time to go through things, but overall he is thinking about knowledge, history and culture and the incredible nuances that we think we know and that we ultimately never know completely,” Gant says. “Bread, Butter, and Power” opens a section of the show titled “Giant Conversations,” which addresses issues faced by Black people throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. “It’s an incredibly powerful depiction, and I think people want to spend some time there. It’s about gender relations, intergenerational knowledge, fantasy and reality, history, language, economies—there’s just so much in every panel.”

But the show’s true power is in its intention. In one corner, hung salon-style, is a series of beach and quarry landscapes from contemporary American painter Barkley Hendricks. They are lesser-known works than his large-scale portraits. But, according to Hendricks’ wife, they were some of his personal favorites.

Barkley Hendricks, oil on linen.

Barkley Hendricks, oil on linen.

Barkley Hendricks, oil on linen.

Instillation view of Barkley Hendricks, oil on linen.

“It goes to remind us how the commercial world can set a path for how they want an artist’s career to go, even though the artist themselves may want it to go differently,” Gant says.

In Giants, you find a collection of art amassed by artists (an opening section outlines the historical backdrop for the Grammy-winning pair) intent on change. They are purchasers of large-scale pieces which are known to be more difficult to sell. They are Black collectors buying pieces from Black artists, something that has not been historically common. With this exhibit, Beatz and Keys encourage viewers to consider what it is to not only see themselves reflected in these spaces but to live with the work—throughout the gallery, pieces are staged opposite rugs and couches for crowds to take the time to get comfortable enough to spend time with them. The hope is to allow viewers to imagine having similar artworks in their own homes, possibly soundtracked to some Marvin Gaye-heavy playlist like that of the Beatz-curated one that plays in the exhibit.

From the Dean Collection, Installation view, Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys, February 10, 2024 – July 7, 2024.

Photo: Danny Perez

From the Dean Collection, Installation view, Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys, February 10, 2024 – July 7, 2024.

Photo: Danny Perez

“I think there’s been a lot of discussion on the Deans and who they are and their collection, but also it’s a show where we just want you to enjoy yourself too,” Gant says. “I hope people take that with them. [If] you have a problem with it being a show of a celebrity’s private collection, I can’t control that. But what I can control is whether or not we selected good work and put it together in a narrative that people have access to. I think we did that and did it in a way that isn’t so serious. “

“You can really enjoy yourself,” she adds.

Giants: Art from the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and Alicia Keys is on display at the Brooklyn Museum from February 10, 2024 – July 7, 2024.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Places to Educate Yourself About Black History in the Hudson Valley and the Berkshires

American history books and common societal narratives tend to center around the Colonialist and white settler perspective, while Black history is treated as a separate, niche topic. But locally in the Hudson Valley and the Berkshires, a handful of organizations are working to change this by spotlighting the history, legacy, and struggles of Black residents in the region, from slavery to present day. Let Black History Month be your inspiration to get to know these rich community cultural resources, which are open for visiting and programming all year round.

The Library at the A.J. Williams-Myers African Roots Center | Kingston

In February 2017, the A.J. Williams- Myers African Roots Center opened its doors at 43 Gill Street in Kingston’s Ponckhockie district. Named for the retired chairman of SUNY New Paltz’s Black Studies Department, the library is a repository of books, movies, art, cultural artifacts, oral histories, and other resources to encourage literacy in the Black experience, culture, history, and contributions. The Center’s vision statement proposes that “knowledge of the diverse cultural roots of people in our community needs to be understood and spread through sharing and learning from one another.” With this at its core, the library is available as a meeting place for local community groups and cultural organizations that share the goal of advancing historical literacy, cultural enrichment, civic engagement, and social justice. The Library also runs programs for children, teens, and adults as well as cultural events and celebrations. The library collection is also available online. The library is a sister institution to the Sadie Peterson Delaney African Roots Library in Poughkeepsie.

Sadie Peterson Delaney African Roots Library | Poughkeepsie

The building houses the Sadie Peterson Delaney African Roots Library has had many lives. Now dubbed the Family Partnership Center, it was formerly the Poughkeepsie High School and later Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic High School. In a stroke of elegant continuity, the African Roots Library, which opened in 2022, occupies the same space that housed the schools’ libraries. The collection is curated in collaboration with the Library Action Committee and the Poughkeepsie Public Library District.

The Black Library | Monticello

<a href="https://media1.chronogram.com/chronogram/imager/u/original/20141396/dsc-9739.jpeg" rel="contentImg_gal-20141387" title="Michael Davis and Douglas (DJ) Shindler outside the bank building that now houses the Black Library in Monticello." data-caption="Michael Davis and Douglas (DJ) Shindler outside the bank building that now houses the Black Library in Monticello.   ” class=”uk-display-block uk-position-relative uk-visible-toggle”> click to enlarge Places to Educate Yourself About Black History in the Hudson Valley and the Berkshires

Michael Davis and Douglas (DJ) Shindler outside the bank building that now houses the Black Library in Monticello.

In August 2023, artists Michael Davis and Douglas Shindler inaugurated the Black Library in the old National Bank Building in Monticello. The nonprofit project, funded in part by the Hurleyville Arts Center, aims to celebrate Black culture with a community arts space, library, and programming. Recipient of a $408,000 grant from Creatives Rebuild New York’s Artist Employment Program, the Black Library has expanded from its humble beginnings as a Black book club in a one-room studio into a large space with weekly and monthly programming including exhibits by Black artists, talks, and community discussions.. Browse through the collection of books Black authors, view the art on display, or attend an event like February 24’s Poets and Painters event, an iterative, collaborative art exchange. There’s also an open mic night every second and fourth Thursday of the month.

Hudson Area Library | Hudson

In the late 1980s, Columbia County’s Retired Senior Volunteer Program collaborated with other local organizations to launch the Black Legacy Association of Columbia County (BLACC) with the purpose of documenting the history of Black community members in the region and their contributions and struggles from slavery through the present day. The resulting BLACC Collection is a compilation of photographs, documents, and oral histories that offers a rich, humanized, and local lens on Civil Rights activism and Black heritage in Columbia County. The collection is housed in the Hudson Area Library’s History Room. You can also view the photos and read the resulting curriculum online. The BLACC Exhibition will have its opening reception with a panel discussion on Thursday, March 7. There will also be a youth Workshop on Saturday, March 9 and an event for educators on Saturday, March 23.

The Du Bois Freedom Center | Great Barrington

Just as the Hudson Area Library and the Black Library of Monticello seek to offer insight into the Black experience in the Hudson Valley, the Du Bois Center for Freedom and Democracy shines a light on the vibrant African American heritage of the Berkshires. Head to this Great Barrington destination to educate yourself on the remarkable life and enduring legacy of civil rights trailblazer W.E.B. Du Bois and the broader context of Black history, social movements, and intellectual and artistic contributions. Nestled within the former Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church on Elm Court in Great Barrington, where Du Bois was born and raised, the center is still under construction. Upon its completion, the Du Bois Freedom Center will be the first museum and living memorial in North America dedicated to Du Bois’s life and legacy. The center’s 2024 event calendar will be published online soon.

Margaret Wade-Lewis Center | New Paltz

This last one will be a future beacon for Black history and culture, though renovation and fundraising is still underway. Constructed in 1885 by Jacob Wynkoop, one of the first Black landowners in the Village of New Paltz, for another free Black man: Richard Oliver, the Ann Oliver House on Broadhead Avenue is an important monument in local Black history. Today the house bears the name of Oliver’s widow. The property that the house was built on had been acquired by Stewart’s Shops and was slated for demolition. But when the village mayor petitioned the company to acquire the House for the public trust, Stewart’s responded by selling the lot and house to the Village of New Paltz for $1. It is now the future home of the Margaret Wade-Lewis Center, which will be a cultural center and local resource providing a regional lens on Black history. The organization’s stated mission is “to engage, empower, educate, and heal the community through history and culture.” Although there is no onsite programming yet, the MWL Center is accepting donations to restore the house and build the center, and you can also register to volunteer.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Albany County Legislative Black Caucus holds Artist Panel to commemorate Black History Month

ALBANY – The Albany County Legislative Black Caucus presented African Americans and the Arts, a panel discussion celebrating Albany African American artists,Thursday, Feb. 1.

The discussion was led by moderator and board member of Black Dimensions in Art, Inc. Jacqueline A. Lake-Sample. Guest speakers included Coach Bree Hassell, director of the Albany Rock Project, photographer Fred Moody, Albany Barn artist Paula Drysdale Frazell, and Lacey Wilson, public historian for African American History and Art Project at the Albany Institute of History & Art.

Guests also viewed a mini exhibit featuring the panelists’ art and took part in a Q & A session.

This is the sixth year that the Legislature held an art exhibition and discussion during Black History Month.

The panel requested financial stability for full-time artists, showing support of local artists at exhibit openings, and funding the arts and music programs in schools to the Legislature.     

Carolyn McLaughlin, an Albany County Legislator, asked the panel what can the Legislature do to support all artists and help advance the art in Albany County.

“It’s showing up to events so we can see that you’re there. “It’s knowing how to reach you, knowing how to send the flyers of the events,” Hassell said. “It starts with building the bridges between the people who are influenced, people who are working on the ground, and the regular people who need us.”

Art and music programs are lessening and are the programs that are being cut first due to lack of funding. Students must be able to study art like they study math and science since art is a vital part of a person’s life, Drysdale Frazell said.

“It’s not enough to give programs art supplies. We need culturally confident people in front of our students to help support the art,” Hassell added. “We need culturally confident facilitators in front of our children and in front of our community to help them facilitate that art out of them.”

One thing that the Legislature can do is to listen to the artists, ask them what they need, and give them money to help create more art, Wilson said.

Wilson also encouraged the Legislature to give the artists space to show their art and go to places to learn about new artists and art that they have not seen before.   

“One thing that can be done is to support our local artists right now and that’s one of the things that we can do to support each other.” Mooney said.

Regardless of how art is funded, artists are continuing to dream big, be more creative, and advocate for the things that they would like to change for the better for themselves and their community as a whole.

“My hope is that there will be more funding and patronage available for all people but for Black artists, I think that people have the opportunity and anything is possible.” Drysdale Frazell said.

This story was featured on page 5 of the February 21, 2024 edition of The Spot518. 

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Remembering Sydney King, a pioneering dance teacher who helped Black girls reach their ballet dreams

As a child growing up in the 1940s, I was mesmerized by dance. So one day, when a ballet company performed at my mostly white elementary school in Philadelphia, it was like a dream come true.

I was fascinated by these young dancers, up on their toes, spinning, leaping, and gliding across the stage. Instantly, I knew ballet was something I yearned to partake in, but — and there was a big but — none of the dancers looked like me.

They were pink. Their toe shoes were pink, their tights were pink, their tutus were pink, and, of course, their skin was pink.

That evening, I told my mother about the incredible performance I had seen. She picked up on my disappointment that not one of the dancers was “a colored child,” which was the term most Americans used to describe Black people then. My mother sensed I had found my passion, but didn’t know how to navigate what I thought was the “pink” barrier.

Advertisement

Within a few weeks, my mother, who was trained as a classical pianist, took me to a recital of the Sydney King School of Dance at the old Town Hall performance venue on North Broad Street. I remember walking into the darkened theater and seeing a stage full of “unpink” people who were spinning, leaping, and gliding — and some even had toe shoes on their brown feet. Suddenly, I realized I didn’t have to be pink to be part of this seemingly magical art form.

Within a relatively short time, I was enrolled at the Sydney King School of Dance, located at 711 S. Broad St. As a child, I didn’t realize Black people were barred from attending white dancing schools in Philadelphia at that time.

Nor could I know then that my time with Mrs. King — who died earlier this month at the age of 104 — would allow me and scores of other Black girls to pursue our ballet dreams in a segregated world. What we learned from Mrs. King was much more than ballet. She helped us cultivate an appreciation of Black arts, Black culture, and the unlimited potential of our beautiful Black selves.

Sydney King was born in Jamaica; when she was 6, her family moved to Southwest Philadelphia. She was introduced to ballet by Essie Marie Dorsey, a Black woman who had studied with ballet masters but never had the opportunity to join a white ballet company.

Dorsey had opened a dance studio in her home and was handing out flyers in the neighborhood that offered dance instruction for 50 cents a class. Mrs. King’s mother enrolled her in the Dorsey studio, and there she met fellow students Marion Cuyjet and John Hines — each of whom would become dance luminaries in Philadelphia and beyond.

As Mrs. King told me in a series of conversations and interviews over the years, she continued at the Dorsey school and, while she was a student at West Philadelphia High School, she was accepted into the school’s all-white ballet club, which was rehearsing for a performance as part of the Philadelphia School District’s Schools on Parade event. She was selected because she had been trained by Dorsey to dance en pointe — on the tips of her toes.

What we learned from Mrs. King was much more than ballet.

Mrs. King’s school opened in 1946 and helped collaborate and produce sophisticated ballet performances at the annual Philadelphia Cotillion Society galas. It offered ballet, tap, acrobatics, jazz, and interpretive dance.

Mrs. King and a few of her teachers periodically traveled to New York to take classes at the school of dance pioneer Katherine Dunham. They then offered their interpretation of the Dunham technique, which infused African, Caribbean, and modern dance movements and rhythms. Mrs. King showed her students that they could excel at both mainstream Eurocentric dance and in the rhythms rooted in the richness of our African American ancestors.

I remember one Saturday waiting in the dance studio for my mother to pick me up after my ballet class when I saw a group of Black men coming in carrying huge bags. They sat down, took huge drums from the bags, and started playing rhythms in preparation for an interpretive dance class. In that moment, I realized I was no longer “a colored girl.” I had roots that extended far beyond America.

The exposure to non-European dance opened my path to cultural self-discovery. Possibly because of Mrs. King’s Jamaican heritage, she dared to step beyond the cultural parameters that had effectively severed the connection between Black people in America and their African roots, traditions, and aesthetics.

When I started taking African/Caribbean dance instruction at the school, I was forever changed. Working with Mrs. King fostered my love for the motherland’s culture. I began studying everyday phrases in African languages like Yoruba: pẹlẹ o bawo ni (hello, how are you?), o dabọ (goodbye), and mo dúpé (thank you).

Mrs. King helped her students see that they could excel at both mainstream Eurocentric dance and in the rhythms rooted in the richness of our ancestors. Pioneering dancer and choreographer Arthur Hall found his artistic footing at the school and founded the Afro-American Dance Ensemble while he was a teacher at the school. Scores of former King students are recognized as nationally and internationally celebrated artists, including the late Billy Wilson, a soloist with the Dutch National Ballet and an award-winning Broadway director and choreographer; Carole Johnson, a former lead dancer with the Eleo Pomare Dance Co. and a cofounder of Bangarra, an Australian Aboriginal dance company; Joan Myers Brown, the founder of Philadanco, an internationally respected dance company; Betsy Ann Dickerson, one of the first African American dancers in Radio City Ballet; actress and singer Lola Falana;and dancer and choreographer Richard Moten.

Mrs. King was progressive. She hired instructors from New York to teach advanced classes, and she also offered classes in labanotation — a system for analyzing and recording human movement, invented by choreographer and dancer Rudolf Laban in the 1920s.

At the age of 90, “Miss Sydney” — as we called her — could still be found at the school’s front desk, often clad in a leotard and ballet slippers, signing in students and sharing words of encouragement.

» READ MORE: At 90, dance master still en pointe | Opinion

After a lifetime in the U.S., Mrs. King remained a Jamaican citizen — until 2008, that is, when she decided to apply for U.S. citizenship in order to vote for Barack Obama, who was campaigning to be the nation’s first African American president.

The school closed in 2010, after a series of struggles. Not one to rely on grants, the King school was tuition-based and suffered as the economy tightened in 2008; it had suffered over the years as a result of major renovations of SEPTA’s Market-Frankford El, which reduced access to the school and enrollment. Eventually, changing times, the economy, and Mrs. King’s advanced age overtook the school.

Even without the dance studio, Mrs. King’s passion for dance and arts persisted until she breathed her last breath on Feb. 3.

In her embrace of dance traditions beyond European ballet, Mrs. King made an incalculable artistic and cultural impact on the city — and beyond. She also made an impact on so many little Black girls like me, because — as much as she taught us pliés and pique turns — Mrs. King also put us on a path of cultural self-discovery. Mo dúpé, Miss Sydney.

Karen Warrington, a broadcast journalist and veteran communications professional, is a former lead dancer and choreographer with the Arthur Hall Afro-American Dance Ensemble.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

‘Roots of Love’ film in Surrey focuses on hair fashion, turban traditions among Sikh men

At Surrey Art Gallery, film screenings and conversations untangle hair as a cultural symbol for beauty and belonging, followed by a “Braiding Stories”-themed Family Art Party.

Next up is an afternoon of “Roots of Love,” Harjant Gill’s 27-minute documentary about the changing significance of hair and turbans among Sikhs in India, on Saturday, March 2, starting at 2 p.m. Admission is free.

“We see younger Sikh men abandoning their hair and turban to follow the current fashion trends, while the older generation struggles to retain the visible symbols of their religious identity,” says a synopsis of the 2011 film on the director’s website, where it can be viewed.

The film, told from the perspectives of six Sikh men aged 14 to 86, is in Punjabi and English with subtitles.

It’s described as “a timely and relevant exploration of these inherent conflicts between tradition and modernity, between pragmatism and faith. The choice of cutting one’s hair is one that not only concerns the individual and his family, but an entire community.”

The screening March 2 will be followed by a conversation involving director Gill, artist Kiranjot Kaur and Suvi Bains, SAG’s associate curator.

Bains assembled the gallery’s current group show “un/tangling, un/covering, un/doing,” which explores the rituals, traditions and politics of hair, closing March 17.

The multimedia art show features the work of Audie Murray, Rebecca Bair, Wally Dion, Clare Yow, Sharon Norwood, Sarindar Dhaliwal, Karin Jones, Baljit Singh, Kiranjot Kaur and Natasha Kianipour. The artists have a variety of cultural backgrounds including Indigenous, Black, South Asian and Chinese.

“They have their own complex histories with hair and their own personal experiences with it,” Bains noted.

At SAG on Feb. 21, Surrey-based Black Arts Centre co-hosted a screening of Spike Lee’s R-rated “School Daze” film, in celebration of Black History Month.

Also planned is a “Braiding Stories”-themed Family Art Party on Sunday, March 10, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. with artmaking, storytelling and interactive dance performances. Children must be accompanied by an adult at the free drop-in event.

Sculpt, make art and play with poetry “to share complex stories that reflect on hair,” says an event advisory. Create a sculpture in the art studio using fibre braiding techniques, hear stories by Kiranjot Kaur and settle in the gallery’s current reading nook. Also, join a 30-minute interactive “Interweave” performance with contemporary dancer-choreographers, Kaili Che and Carla Alcántara. Pick up free tickets on arrival to reserve a spot at noon or 1:30 p.m.

The gallery is at 13750 88 Ave., at Bear Creek Park, Surrey. Visit surrey.ca/artgallery for details, or call 604-501-5566.

Also on view there, until April 21, is “Art by Surrey Elementary School Students,” a biennial exhibit showcasing “the variety and depth of art education in Surrey School District.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

STEAM heat

Here’s what Cook County treasurer Maria Pappas told the Chicago Sun-Times when 800,000 tax bills she recently sent to property owners understated the city’s unfunded pension debt by 37 billion dollars: “S— happens.” 

Not precisely her words, but that’s how the Sun-Times reported it, confident that no one would be puzzled by the missing letters, wondering if Pappas said “salt” or “sand” or “snow” happens.

They wouldn’t, because “S— happens” is the go-to explanation for events of minor but mind-blowing folly like that one, which the city explained as a “keypunch error” and not as proof that officials in our tax and budget offices can’t tell the difference between a million dollars and a billion.

I mention this because “S— happens” was the phrase that popped into my head when I got to the Museum of Science and Industry to see the 2024 Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition during our polar vortex deep freeze last month and was met by warning signs in part of the expansive gallery set up in the museum’s West Pavilion event space: “Wet Carpet Ahead . . . proceed with caution!”

Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition
Through 4/21: daily 9:30 AM–4 PM; 3/16-4/7, 9:30 AM–5:30 PM; Museum of Science and Industry, 5700 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive, msichicago.org, $25.95, children 3-11 $14.95, free for members

There was no water in sight, but the museum had suffered a curator’s nightmare in an adjacent area—a pipe that froze and burst, discovered at the start of the exhibit’s opening week. Seepage into the gallery was minimal: Angela Williams, the museum’s director of design and creative services, told me, “None of the art was damaged.”

So, no big deal. 

The Black Creativity event, on the other hand, is a very big deal, with a 54-year history. In 1970, when museum and gallery exhibition opportunities for Black artists were severely limited, a group that included artists and the leadership of the legendary Chicago Defender newspaper organized an art show and cultural celebration called Black Esthetics that MSI agreed to host. It was renamed Black Creativity in 1984 and broadened to cover achievements in the sciences, with a mission of encouraging Black kids to become STEM professionals.

But the Juried Art Exhibition remained its centerpiece. And STEM was expanded to STEAM, to include an introduction to careers in the arts. According to MSI, this annual event is now “the longest-running exhibit of African American art in the nation.”   

This year there are 143 artworks on display, chosen from over 800 submissions by a trio of jurors: Block Museum curator Janet Dees; scholar and curator Gervais Marsh; and artist and educator Daria McMeans. Forty-seven of the artworks were created by teens (ages 14–17) from the greater Chicagoland area, who participate in their own category. 

It’s a varied (though largely figurative) show, handsomely hung on mostly charcoal walls, dramatically lit, and spread over two levels. The teen artists are showcased on the upper floor, while the lower level offers a sweeping look at work by a wide range of Black artists from all over the country.

There’s a competition: the 2024 Best in Show award in the adult category this year went to Kaima Akarue’s historical and kinetic collage, It took a long time to get here. Kenwood Academy student Zabrina Seals’s photo, Unity in Youth, took the same award for the teen group, and Evanston Township High School’s Joseph Williams-Salgado won second place for his moving and personal but very professional video, Disability is a challenge not a burden.   

Artist Keith Conner, a Black man with a graying beard and hair, wearing a checked gray jacket, black shirt, and red tie, stands next to his painting Baldwin at St. Germain Paris
Artist Keith Conner stands next to his painting Baldwin at St. Germain Paris, winner of honorable mention in the Museum of Science and Industry’s Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition. Credit: Stephen Koch (Courtesy Museum of Science and Industry)

All the winning works are worth seeking out, but there’s much more to linger over: Desirae Brown’s spectacular bed foam and rhinestone gown, The Queen, for example, or Keith Conner’s luscious portrait Baldwin at St. Germain Paris (which did receive honorable mention). Or, in the teen category, Overwhelmed—a perfect visual embodiment of its title—by Kenwood Academy student Livi Williams, just to mention a few.

Most of the art is for sale (prices are posted in the catalog), and the show can be a launch pad, Angela Williams says, as it has been for emerging and entrepreneurial artist Raven Smith, who was back to conduct a workshop this year. She won Best in Show in 2017, when she was a junior at ChiArts, and went on to graduate from SAIC in 2022, the same year that MSI showed her work at their booth at EXPO Chicago. 

That pipe-cracking polar vortex was also to blame for the folly that befell me after my visit to Black Creativity. I wish I could say it happened while I was attempting something noble—say, whisking a toddler out of the path of a massive truck. But here’s the inglorious truth: I slipped on ice while taking out the garbage and landed on my wrist, resulting in my hand separating from its usual perch at the end of my arm. Stuff happens.

That’s why it’s taken me so long to report on this beautiful show. But there’s still time to see it—the Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition runs through April 21. If you can’t get to the MSI, you can view the art online here, which is an OK substitute but not the same experience. A Career Showcase, with opportunities for youngsters to meet and talk with STEAM professionals, is coming up at the museum on Saturday, February 24, and February 22 and 26–29 are MSI free entry days.

.wpnbha article .entry-title{font-size: 1.2em;}.wpnbha .entry-meta{display: flex;flex-wrap: wrap;align-items: center;margin-top: 0.5em;}.wpnbha article .entry-meta{font-size: 0.8em;}.wpnbha article .avatar{height: 25px;width: 25px;}.wpnbha .post-thumbnail{margin: 0;margin-bottom: 0.25em;}.wpnbha .post-thumbnail img{height: auto;width: 100%;}.wpnbha .post-thumbnail figcaption{margin-bottom: 0.5em;}.wpnbha p{margin: 0.5em 0;}.newspack-post-subtitle–in-homepage-block{margin-top: 0.3em;margin-bottom: 0;line-height: 1.4;font-style: italic;}

Related Stories

The legacy of the Museum of Science and Industry exhibition is built on cultural representation and innovation.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Anacostia Community Museum prepares to unveil ‘A Bold and Beautiful Vision’

By Michayla Maxwell,
Special to the AFRO

Just weeks into the new year, the Anacostia Community Museum is ready to celebrate the opening of its new 2024 exhibition. 

The Anacostia Community Museum will be opening “A Bold and Beautiful Vision: A Century of Black Arts Education in Washington D.C.,1900-2000” on March 23. This exhibit will run through the spring of 2025 and celebrates some of Washington, D.C.’s most gifted artists. 

Samir Meghelli is the curator of “A Bold and Beautiful Vision” and hopes to tell the story of the teachers and students who made Washington, D.C., a genuinely unparalleled center for Black arts education. He was able to feature both known and not so well known artists including Elizabeth Catlett, Alma Thomas, James A. Porter, Loïs Mailou Jones, David Driskell, Hilda Wilkinson Brown, Sam Gilliam, Thomas Hunster and Georgette Seabrooke Powell.

“Rarely has it been acknowledged that some of the twentieth century’s most gifted artists taught and were educated in Washington, D.C. schools. The city is home to a long line of African American artist-educators who dedicated their lives to inspiring a love of the arts in young people despite the challenges of a longtime segregated, underfunded education system,” Meghelli said. 

Meghelli sees this year’s exhibit as an opportunity to share “rich history” and “international mentorship” with the rest of the D.C. community. The exhibit will include a wide array of arts and artifacts that can showcase the “little-known, but rich history” of black artist educators. 

Included in the showcase are original prints from Elizabeth Catlett’s first-ever solo exhibit which was previously at D.C.’s own Barnett-Aden Gallery, one of the first Black-owned commercial art galleries in the nation. They were a fixture for many years at her alma mater, D.C.’s Dunbar High School. The exhibit will also include a painting Sam Gilliam made while he was a teacher at McKinley Tech High School in the 1960s, a marionette that William Buckner made with his Armstrong High School students in the late 1930s, and silkscreen concert posters that Lou Stovall and Lloyd McNeill made in the late 1960s for the Adams Morgan-based youth arts organization.

Due to so much artistic history in D.C., one of the biggest challenges Meghelli faced was choosing what pieces to include. 

“The exhibition covers over a century of history and the stories of inimitable artists and educational institutions. Knowing we have the limitations of time and space, we hope that this exhibition will open up space for more and future exhibitions that explore the topics and which can include the work and stories of even more artists,” Meghelli said.

“We began conceptualizing the exhibition by diving into our museum’s archives and art collection, which contain incredible stories of local Black Washington arts communities dating back to our museum’s founding in 1967 and even much further back than that,” he said.

“Inspired by the deeply-rooted and intergenerational relationships among artist educators and their students over so many years, we set out to begin telling the story of that lineage—almost a family tree, in a way—of Washington’s African American art teachers and their influence across the generations.” 

Meghelli was able to break down the exhibition into four major sections, which include different hands-on art activities, artwork, artifacts, photographs and videos to create the theme throughout the exhibit. 

The exhibition starts by tracing the rise of art education in Washington’s segregated public school system in the late 19th and early 20th century and the pioneering work of educators at the city’s first two high schools for Black students: M Street High School (later known as Dunbar High) and Armstrong Manual Training School. 

 Next comes the work reflecting Howard University’s Art Department and its faculty and distinguished alumni. 

The third section examines the impact of school desegregation and the rise of Black power on arts education in Washington. 

The final section features the story of Duke Ellington School of the Arts, which Peggy Cooper Cafritz and Mike Malone began as a small program called Workshops for Careers in the Arts in the late 1960s but which has grown into a prestigious pre-professional arts school that has now graduated generations of talented artists of all disciplines. 

“The exhibition includes prints, objects and art materials used by artists and teachers throughout this period,” said Shanita Brackett, acting director of the museum. Once an object that intrigues me demonstrates the lineage and connection between art teachers and students, it’s presented as a lineage or bubble map.”

She believes once someone can understand “the impact of each teacher and the artists they taught, as well as the collaboration between those artists, their genres and art forms, and their geographic base and work, then they can discover a rich history of reach and influence.”

The Anacostia Community Museum is the first federally funded community museum in the nation, United States. Brackett said she hopes, “visitors will leave the exhibition with a new appreciation for black arts education, and generations of artists, educational institutions, and communities will look back and appreciate the profound specialties and skills shared with so many others on various platforms.”

Brackett said community programming is crucial.  

“We will host various community-based and family-friendly programs,” she said, “including Earth Day on April 20, which will also be the launch of our Farm Stand for the season, and Juneteenth on June 19, which will showcase local artists and musicians.” 

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Detroiter becomes youngest Black artist to have solo exhibition

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Tiff Massey is a multi-faceted, interdisplinary artist in the city of Detroit.

Tiff Massey
Tiff Massey

Massey uses wood, metal, fabric and music as a form of expression and communication.

“If you show me how to do something once, I can replicate it. I can build it. I can make it,” Massey said.

Massey has been making masterpieces in the city and beyond for more than a decade.

Her latest work will be unveiled at the DIA in May — making her the youngest Black artist to have their own exhibition.

The name, ‘7 Mile and Livernois,’ which is where she grew up.

Also known as the “Avenue of Fashion,” Livernois represents Detroit’s unique style and is a constant feed of inspiration.

“Everything we do is a lot of beauty in it. How we adorn ourselves, our language, our food,” she said. “And, our history. “

With stories woven into each piece, like Massey’s series called ‘Some Fabrics Hold Weight.’

“Gingham was originally utilized as a pattern to clothe the enslaved on plantations so they can be seen in the fields,” Massey said.

Now, reclaiming the material, Massey replaces the white squares with Kente fabric, a traditional fabric of the Ashanti from present-day Ghana.

“This is about paying homage to little Black girls and when we get our hair done this is our first adornment,” Massey said.

The installation is called ‘I Remember Way Back When.’

Fula/Fulani earring piece

Part of the beauty of Massey’s work is that it triggers nostalgia as it pushes the needle forward while highlighting significant cultural references.

“A sista has been working hard,” Massey proclaimed.

And it’s paying off.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment