Black ballet dancer stands strong in racism row

BERLIN State Ballet’s first black dancer, Chloe Lopes Gomes, said she has been made to feel different because of her skin color since she first donned ballet shoes as a child.

But after she was again subjected to what she described as “racism” at Germany’s largest dance company, she has launched a fightback that has forced the State Ballet to launch an internal investigation into her complaints.

Lopes Gomes stood by her allegations against the Berlin company, arguing it was time for the classical ballet world to address the issue. Recalling instances where she was made to feel uncomfortable, Lopes Gomes cited a rehearsal for a production of the 19th-century ballet “La Bayadere,” when the company’s ballet mistress was handing around white veils for the dancers to wear.

When she got to Lopes Gomes, she laughed, the 29-year-old dancer said.

“I can’t give you one. The veil is white and you’re black,” she was told.

Another dancer from the company confirmed Lopes Gomes’ account on condition of anonymity. The ballet mistress “said it like it was a joke. I was completely shocked,” she said.

Lopes Gomes, who studied at the renowned Bolshoi ballet in Moscow, felt humiliated — but not surprised. She had been subject to “harassment” at the hands of her boss ever since her arrival in Berlin in 2018, she said.

“In our first rehearsal for ‘Swan Lake,’ six of us were new but all of the corrections were directed at me,” she said.

The remarks continued for months. “She used to say to me, ‘When you’re not in line, you are the only person we see because you are black’” — comments also confirmed by the other dancer.

Lopes Gomes carried on, because she wanted to show “that I deserved my place,” said the dancer, born to a French mother and a Cape Verdean father. But the stress took its toll. She injured her foot, leading to eight months off and a course of anti-depressants.

After her return, last February, she was asked to wear white make-up for a production following the departure of a director who had opposed the idea.

“Lightening my skin felt like denying my identity,” said Lopes Gomes.

When told of the allegations in the autumn, the company, which employs people of 30 different nationalities, responded with shock.

“We didn’t think we could be affected by everyday racism simply because of our diversity. In fact, we never thought about it. But we were wrong,” acting director Christiane Theobald said. “Asking a black artist to wear white make-up is an absolute no-go.”

In December, the Berlin State Ballet launched an internal investigation into discrimination and racism.

“All employees can anonymously report any incidents of discrimination,” Theobald said.

The ballet mistress at the center of the scandal has refused to comment and the company does not wish to speculate on possible disciplinary proceedings against her for legal reasons.

Lopes Gomes will leave the Berlin State Ballet in July as her contract was not renewed. In a world that is “very elitist and exclusive,” she knows she has taken a risk speaking out. But she has the support in the dance world, including her brother Isaac Lopes Gomes, a dancer at the Opera de Paris, and his colleagues.

“I don’t know anyone who hasn’t had racist comments like ‘You have to straighten your hair because you have a lion’s mane, you have to tuck in your black ass, you jump like Kirikou (the African child star of an animated film)’,” Lopes Gomes said.

Since she began dancing as a child, she has been made to feel like an outsider.

“They never had the right make-up for my skin tone, I had to bring my own. And I had to adapt my hairstyles” because the hairdressers didn’t know how to style frizzy hair, she said.

She was always “so desperate” to fit in that she just went along with it. “But these are details that make you feel excluded,” she added.

It’s an uphill battle, given that classical ballet is governed by rules dating back to the 19th century that are designed to create an impression of homogeneity.

“It’s time for that to change, Lopes Gomes said. “I’m tired of hearing that you can’t hire black people because they don’t have the bodies for ballet. It’s just an excuse.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Anebsa rechecks the ‘Credentials’

Reggae singer Emmanuel Anebsa has re-issued his hard-hitting project Check Their Credentials . It was released this month on his Wont Stop Records label.

“The songs are a deep realisation that reggae is under the slave masters’ control,” he said.

“They use money to control us. We have to take control of our own music. I spoke a black/brown truth to the operator of a major European white-owned reggae platform, an observation that the white European artistes are singing culture while practising oppression. How are you going to make a white man sing about black woman to us? The white artistes want to be us, but they don’t want to feel our pain so how is that authentic? I spoke my truth innocently and with love and they banned my music from their platform,” he continued.

He is promoting the lead single, Check Their Credentials, which questions the authenticity of white artistes from Europe who are at the forefront of the industry singing reggae music.

Some of the other tracks include Mash Up Reggae Music Again and They Just Pretend.

“I do reggae music because it comes from the bloodline of his ancestors. I have not come to be famous, you cannot be famous and talk about the true message of freedom as the message of freedom will offend. Once you accept their money as a sponsor or advertiser, they control you,” Anebsa, whose real name is Negus Emmanuel Anebsa, said.

Emmanuel Anebsa is a savvy businessman, who launched Wontstop Records in his hometown, Bristol, in 1998. He has released 39 albums, including the popular St Paul’s Ghetto.

“Reggae foundation artistes set Jamaica on map from the 1960s with ska, rocksteady to reggae…it is a big massive platform. But black artistes still don’t control their destiny. My point is we are not free, all of us are looking for the Billboard chart which is controlled by white supremacy. Why don’t we make our own charts? Build our own structures? Own our own festivals. Our black nation needs to wake up or one day, we will get up and realise that we don’t even control reggae anymore,” he said.

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

What to Stream This Weekend: ‘The White Tiger,’ ‘Search Party,’ and More

No matter what’s going on outside, staying safer at home is always a good idea. Our weekly roundup of what to stream has the shows and movies that will keep you entertained while you flip on the platform of your choice and chill.

What to Stream This Week

Search Party: Season 4

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When the new season of thriller-comedy-satire Search Party starts, Dory Sief (Alia Shawkat) is being held hostage–but her friends are initially a bit too distracted with their own lives and social media accounts to notice. Eventually they catch on and go searching for her.  HBO Max.

Euphoria: Part Two, Jules

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The conclusion of a dramatic mini-arc in between seasons one and two of super-hit series Euphoria finds Jules (Hunter Schafer) on her own, having run away from her family and suburban life, and separated from her girlfriend, Rue (Zendaya), who is struggling with substance abuse. HBO Max.


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A new documentary series focuses on the world of real-life espionage and, in particular, the high-tech gadgets that have helped intelligence agents around the world. Netflix.

The White Tiger

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Based on the award-winning novel of the same title, The White Tiger is a “crime-tinged rags-to-riches parable,” according to The New York Times. The story centers a chauffeur (Adarsh Gourav) who makes his up out of poverty in a complex and often cruel environment. The film is produced by Ava DuVernay, Priynka Chopra Jonas, and Mukul Deora. Netflix.

Other recent recommendations…

Locked Down

Produced entirely during the pandemic, and taking London’s COVID-19 lockdown as its setting, this jewel heist rom-com stars Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anne (sorry, that’s Annie) Hathaway as a troubled couple who attempt to sneak some bling out of an empty Harrods. HBO Max.

Night Hunter: The Hunt for a Serial Killer

The story of Richard Ramirez terrorizing California during the sweltering summer of 1985 may be familiar to many Angelenos who lived through it. For those that weren’t around, or anyone hooked on true-crime docs, this Netflix series may have you checking the locks on your doors. Netflix.


This new series starts where the blockbuster Avengers: Endgame concluded, and finds Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany) dropped into a Nick-at-Nite-era retro sitcom setting with a superhero twist. Disney+.

Some Kind of Heaven

Co-produced by The New York Times and filmmaker Darren Aronofsky, this impressionistic documentary visits with the residents of the largest retirement home in the U.S., The Villages. Billed as “Disneyland for retirees,” the 30-square-mile complex outside of Orlando is home to hundreds of unusual residents. FandangoNow, Google Play, iTunes, Amazon Prime.


This two-part documentary from Alex Gibney–the Oscar-winning filmmaker behind Going Clear–promises a “revealing look” into the life, family, and career of golf phenom Tiger Woods. HBO Max.

Sylvie’s Love

A swoony mid-20th-century period piece, Sylvie’s Love follows the romance of woman striving to build a career and live for herself as individual first, and her jazz musician lover. Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha star.    Amazon Prime.

One Night in Miami

Directed by Regina King and riding a wave of awards buzz, One Night in Miami is a fictional story based on a real historical event: the February, 1964 evening when Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), and football player Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) met up to celebrate an Ali win.  Amazon Prime.

I’m Your Woman

Set in the 1970s, filmmaker Julia Hart’s mafia drama focuses the attention on a character who is often a side-note in the genre: the mobster’s wife. Here, that wife is played by Rachel Brosnahan (Marvelous Mrs. Maisel), a woman on the run after a betrayal.  Amazon Prime.

On Pointe

It’s been a big season for youth ballet content: Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker, the new Tiny Pretty Things debuting on Netflix this week, and this original documentary series landing on Disney+. On Pointe‘s six episodes follow students at the elite School of American Ballet in New York City, as they prepare to dance The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center.  Disney +

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Adapted from the August Wilson play about real-life blues legend Ma Rainey, the story grapples with the friction between Black artists and white capitalists who seek to control them. This lush Netflix original features Viola Davis in the title role, and Chadwick Boseman giving his final performance as an ambitious trumpet player in the band. Netflix.

A Suitable Boy

The first primetime drama from the BBC to ever feature a primarily Indian cast, this adaptation of a 1993 novel about India in the 1950s was helmed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Mira Nair (Salaam Bombay, Monsoon Wedding). It sparked some controversy when it aired in the UK; members of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist party even called for a boycott because an interfaith love story. Acorn TV.

Giving Voice

While you’re waiting to watch Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, dive into August Wilson’s other works with this documentary, which captures talented young actors as they prepare for a monologue competition based on the playwright’s powerful work, and catches up with stars who have played his iconic characters, including Viola Davis and Denzel Washington. Netflix.

Let Them All Talk

Largely improvised, the Steven Soderbergh-directed Let Them All Talk puts the audience aboard a luxury cruise (for real: the film was largely shot aboard a Cunard Lines passage across the Atlantic), spending time with bantering frenemies played by Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen, and Dianne Wiest.  HBO Max.

Selena: The Series

The life of Selena Quintanilla continues to fascinate, decades after her tragic death. This long-anticipated original series tells her story with greater depth and detail than the iconic 1997 biopic that we’ve all seen hundreds of times.  Netflix.

Sound of Metal

The New York Times declares that “Riz Ahmed gives one of 2020’s best performances” in this intimate indie film about a musician who descends into panic when he discovers he is losing his ability to hear–and eventually finds himself forced to adapt to a new reality. Amazon Prime.

Great British Baking Show: Holidays

A third mini-season of Great British Baking Show‘s festive spin-off hits Netflix on December 4. This edition, aired last year in the U.K. but just now getting a U.S. release, features a guest appearance by the cast of Derry Girls.  Netflix.

The Hardy Boys

Poised to be this year’s Riverdale, this original series based on the classic teen brother detectives finds the titular boys hunting down a dark mystery in their new suburban town.  Hulu.

Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker

This new documentary captures choreographer Debbie Allen as she prepares the young dancers at her Los Angeles conservatory for their annual Hot Chocolate Nutcracker holiday show. “She was one of the women, one of the female forces in the world out there who made me feel like I could be whatever I wanted to be,” producer Shonda Rhimes told People. “I hope that when people watch the documentary, they will see the power and the force and the magic that is Debbie.” Netflix.

Happiest Season

This holiday rom-com is packed with star power, including Kristen Stewart, Alison Brie, Aubrey Plaza, and Dan Levy. The plot centers on Stewart’s character planning to propose while visiting her girlfriend’s parents for Christmas–only to find out her girlfriend hasn’t come out to her conservative family, causing hijinks to ensue. Hulu.

Between the World and Me

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2015 best-seller is structured a kind of long-form letter to his own son about his lived experience as a Black man in contemporary America. This film version, filmed over the summer of 2020, incorporates dozens of voices, Angela Bassett, Mahershala Ali, Phylicia Rashad, Mj Rodriguez, Angela Davis, and Oprah Winfrey. HBO will make the film available for free to non-subscribers November 25 to 30. HBO Max.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

A Charlie Brown Christmas might be the iconic Peanuts movie of the season, but before you go full-steam into Vince Guaraldi territory, take a moment to enjoy this charming chestnut from 1973. Amazon, PBS SoCal.

Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square

If there is one person who can bring this country together, it’s Dolly Parton. The musical icon, theme park mogul, philanthropist, and biotech investor (she’s a financial backer of promising COVID-19 vaccine research!) will drop her first holiday album in 30 years for this strange season, and is accompanying the release with this all-new movie musical, choreographed by Debbie Allen.  Netflix

No Man’s Land

In this eight-episode drama co-created by Ron Leshem of Euphoria, a French man travels to Syria to search for his sister, whom he believes has joined the YPJ, an all-female, mostly Kurdish paramilitary organization.  Hulu

Small Axe

Originally produced for the BBC, this anthology series from artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen highlights “little known stories of Black pride and resilience” from British history, particularly the West Indian community in London. The ensemble cast includes John Boyega (Star Wars), Letitia Wright (Black Panther), and Robbie Gee (Snatch). Amazon Prime

The Right Stuff

Based on the same 1979 nonfiction book by Tom Wolfe about the early days of the U.S. Space Program that inspired a 1983 film of the same title, this new version spins the Mercury 7 mission out into an eight-part series.  Disney+


This 2019 film about the inner workings of Fox News in the era of Roger Ailes earned Oscar noms for Charlize Theron and Margot Robbie, playing two of the three women–Megyn Kelly, Gretchen Carlson, and a fictional female producer–at the center of the story.  Amazon Prime

The Crown

Season four of The Crown picks up with the British royal family in the late 1970s. Gillian Anderson appears as Margaret Thatcher and Emma Corrin as Princess Di in what some critics are calling the best season of the show so far.  Netflix

RELATED: Inside Guide: What to Watch, Play, and Do Now

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Compassionate Certification Centers Recognized as Top Certification Company in US by GHP Commercial Cannabis Awards 2020

Compassionate Certification Centers Recognized as Top Certification Company in US by GHP Commercial Cannabis Awards 2020 – African American News Today – EIN Presswire

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Remai Modern’s incoming chief curator dedicated to breaking down systemic barriers in museums

The Remai Modern’s incoming chief curator, Michelle Jacques, has been working in mainstream public art museums since the mid-’90s, and in those early days, she was one of the only Black curators working in Canadian public art museums.

“I’ve always thought a lot about how to shift the structures of the museum to make them equitable and accessible to everybody, because often I didn’t feel like I belonged in the museum even though I was working there,” Jacques told CBC’s Saskatoon Morning, as she discussed taking the reins of the museum of modern and contemporary art in Saskatoon.

Jacques was one of several Black curators who signed an open letter last fall calling for Black inclusion and the dismantling of racism in artistic spaces.

She said Black curators have knowledge and understanding about the systemic barriers that exist in museums.

“We come with a lot of skill about how to open up museums and make them accessible, not just for Black communities, but for all communities.”

There’s a long history of Black artists working in Canada, she said, and museums haven’t always been responsive to that work.

“There were times in the ’80s and ’90s in particular, when there was a real proliferation of Black artists working in Canada and, really, it seems as though for some of those artists, things became so difficult and there was so little uptake for their work that a lot of them don’t work anymore or they’re working in isolation and with little recognition of their work.”

An outsider’s perspective

Originally from Toronto, Jacques has spent the past eight years as the chief curator at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria. 

She said she’s aware that bringing someone in from the outside can be a challenge.

“It can often raise eyebrows and raise ire to hire outsiders,” she said.

But she said she’s also worked in Toronto and Halifax as well as Victoria, and in all of those places she was committed to artists in the region where she was working.

“[I] really ground myself in finding out what is relevant to local audiences,” Jacques said. “So I think the balancing being from away and having a kind of outsider’s perspective, with an ability to situate myself in where I am, should be a positive thing for the way I approach my work at the Remai.”

She said she’s heard the arts community in Saskatchewan and Saskatoon is tight-knit and active — comparing it to the community in Toronto — and she said Saskatoon feels like a young city that’s growing and evolving.

“I’m really excited about that and understanding how the Remai and the work that I do there can contribute to that change and growth.”

She starts the position in Saskatoon in February.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

They wanted to bring a sneaker shop to South L.A. Then their dream got bigger

Sole Folks was just going to be a sneaker boutique in Leimert Park.

Founders Akil West, Taz Arnold and Nika King wanted to bring a specialty sneaker store that would sell exclusive kicks to South Los Angeles where they grew up and where there aren’t many streetwear stores.

When they were approved for a larger retail space, their vision for what Sole Folks could be instinctively expanded as well. It has since become a creative oasis for aspiring local designers and talent.

“This place is bigger than just a sneaker store,” said West, 47, who has been involved in the L.A. streetwear community since the late 1990s. “This is somewhere I can actually create an economic resource for a lot of entrepreneurs who have suffered through COVID-19.”


A customer with a crew cap

A customer with a crew cap by designer Manny J Style of Thread Haus at the grand opening of Sole Folks in Leimert Park in August.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Despite the coronavirus pandemic, which has forced businesses throughout the city to permanently close their doors, retail shops within the Leimert Park Village, a popular stomping ground for Black people to celebrate their culture through fashion, art and music, experienced record-breaking sales particularly during the summer months, according to business owners in the area. Sole Folks, which opened in August, is among the newest shops in the Village.

Almost everything sold at Sole Folks was made by a Black designer, and prices are generally $25 to $350. As visitors walk into the two-story space, there’s a broad arrangement of merchandise ranging from screen-pressed tees that promote sartorial statements to Leimert Park baseball jerseys and bomber jackets that pay homage to Black icons such as the late former Laker Kobe Bryant and civil rights activist Angela Davis.

A wall in the space is dedicated to eccentric accessories and home goods including Afrocentric-printed hats, fitted beanies, decorative face masks and scented candles. Customers can thumb through a rare vinyl collection and get their sneakers rejuvenated or uniquely customized at Kicks “B” Clean, a shoe cleaning service that operates in the back of the store.


A merchandise display

A display of merchandise at the grand opening of Sole Folks in Leimert Park on Aug. 1.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Upstairs in the Sole Folks Lab is where West, Arnold and King plan to host a fashion incubator program beginning this summer for aspiring fashion designers between the ages of 16 to 25, and across the hallway is where they will host podcasts and other media shows. A workshop room is located on the outdoor patio where students can sew and take photos of their work.

There’s a lot going on inside and outside of Sole Folks on a daily basis, but what makes the boutique stand out from other stores in Los Angeles is its ability to attract an intergenerational crowd of fashion lovers through its undeniable celebration of Black history and contemporary take on streetwear culture.

DJ Earry Hall

DJ Earry Hall spins records at the grand opening of the store Sole Folks.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)


On a typical day, it’s not uncommon to catch a DJ spinning hip-hop records while people gather in a seating area in front of the shop to safely socialize or dance. The boutique also hosts a weekly food giveaway of organic produce.

“We want to inspire other designers and entrepreneurs to come” to Leimert Park, said West, adding that he envisions the community becoming a Black arts district in the near future. “The best way to do it is through fashion. We can do what Supreme did to Fairfax.”

As of early January, nearly 40 designers were selling their goods at Sole Folks through its consignment program. Because the shop is under West’s nonprofit, Black Owned and Operated Community Land Trust, the owners don’t have to rely on the sales of the merchandise to keep the business going. This allows them to give a large percentage of sales revenue — nearly 80% — to brand owners, West said.

Customers look through racks

Syheim Banks, center, with brother Naheim Banks, right, of Bellflower, look through merchandise at Sole Folks.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)


Brand owners who would like to sell their products at the shop can submit applications via the Sole Folks website.

The idea to create a retail co-op space to help other entrepreneurs start businesses came to West while he was serving 14 years in prison for burglary.

While in prison, West, who opened a vintage hip-hop clothing store in the late 1990s and a coffee shop in 2000, often fielded questions from other inmates who were curious about his previous business ventures. A common thread he found in their stories was a lack of positive mentorship and resources to build their own brands. He began writing books and building programs to teach people in underserved communities about financial literacy.

Akil West, cofounder of Sole Folks

Sole Folks cofounder Akil West reflects on the purpose of the boutique, which is as a Black marketplace and incubator program for aspiring designers.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)


“I vowed when I got home to create a resource space for young adults who are artists and wanting to be entrepreneurs or have that get up and go [mentality],” said West.

Shortly after being released nearly two years ago, West tapped his longtime friends, Arnold, musician and founder of fashion brand TISA, and King, an actor on HBO’s “Euphoria,” to assist him with building Sole Folks.

For Arnold, a self-proclaimed artisan who has worked in the fashion and music industries for more than a decade, it was important for his next business venture to have a social influence in the neighborhood in which he grew up.


“One of the things that I think Sole Folks brings to the community is the experience and some of our wisdom in regards to the arts like fashion and music in particular,” Arnold said. “It’s a really unique perspective that’s sought out from other creatives and professionals who live all around.

Taz Arnold, cofounder of Sole Folks.

Taz Arnold, cofounder of Sole Folks, at the boutique in Leimert Park Village.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

“So to offer that here for free to the community … and then to keep passing it along, maybe we can bring some type of solidarity … and financial circulation amongst the people in our neighborhoods,” he added.

When Arnold’s musical group Sa-Ra scored the soundtrack for a short film created by Louis Vuitton men’s artistic director Virgil Abloh in lieu of the brand’s traditional fashion show, Arnold brought the virtual experience to Sole Folks. During a soft opening event in July, a truck was parked in front of the boutique for passersby to watch the animated film. (Leimert Park was the first stop on the virtual tour in L.A., Arnold said.)


Sole Folks has received other nods from bellwethers in the entertainment industry as well.

Shortly after opening its doors in August, the boutique became one of multiple Leimert Park businesses to be highlighted in Jay-Z and Pharrell’s “Entrepreneur” music video, which was released in August and directed by South L.A. native Calmatic.

Idris Muhammad purchases sneakers with help from Montage Taylor.

Idris Muhammad, left, purchases Puma BMW collaboration sneakers with help from Sole Folks partner Montage Taylor.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Elijah Simmons, a rap artist, fashion designer and community activist in Leimert Park, said Sole Folks has brought new energy to the already bustling community of Black creatives.


“Their connections to the music, fashion industry and community have made them a reliable source and their collaborative efforts have brought opportunities to artists from Leimert including myself,” said Simmons, who goes by Six Sev. He was a moderator for a panel discussion about sneaker culture at Sole Folks in October.

“Akil has been a helping hand since the store opened, and Taz Arnold was always someone I looked up to, so to know [that] I can access them right on Degnan [Boulevard] is wonderful,” Simmons added.

Guests sit on a panel

Sole Folks co-owner Akil West moderated a panel about sneaker culture in October at the boutique in Leimert Park.

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Gamel Zakoul, who started his brand Head Attire Trendsetter about a year ago, didn’t expect to be selling his products, which range from fedora hats to unisex apparel, at a bricks-and-mortar store so soon. He has been vending at Sole Folks for nearly five months.


“It’s mind-blowing,” said Zakoul, 42, of Los Angeles. “It just gives me a chance to expand and I’m constantly finding myself designing more and more things because now I have to. I feel like I have to meet deadlines now.”

It’s also the first time that Ontario-based designer JaVonnie Bryant has sold her products, which include colorful pre-wrapped turbans, Afrocentric-patterned hats and luxurious dusters. Since Bryant started vending at Sole Folks about four months ago, she’s seen a slight increase in her brand’s sales.

“For me, it’s crucial at this time” to be in a physical store, said Bryant, owner of Zevelyn Jean. “I feel like my biggest hindrance is visibility. I still feel like, for the most part, I’m somewhat invisible, and so this is just creating more exposure.


“Despite the times that we’re going through, it’s been advantageous for me,” she added.

To get more creatives involved, West plans to start a 10-week fashion incubator program this summer, which will mentor aspiring young designers on how to make products and how to start their fashion brands. West said the program will also feature guest lectures from industry giants such as Fear of God founder Jerry Lorenzo and Union L.A. co-owner Chris Gibbs, who led a discussion in October about his latest Jordan shoe collaboration.

Union L.A. owner Chris Gibbs speaks

Inside the Sole Folks Lab, about 50 people listened to Union L.A. owner Chris Gibbs speak at Sole Folks.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

West hopes to collaborate with an e-commerce platform such as Shopify to sponsor students for the incubator program and other efforts he plans to bring to Sole Folks in the near future. Sole Folks also started a GoFundMe page to raise funds for the program and to redesign the retail space.


As the Sole Folks team builds an army of young entrepreneurs through its workshops, West said it’s critical for each designer to continue the work that he and his partners started.

“More than anything, what have you done to reinvest into your community and hire people in your community?” he said. “That’s the biggest part of our cohort.”

Sole Folks, 4317 Degnan Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 407-9929,

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Portraits of Strength

In each installment of The Artists, T highlights a recent or little-seen work by a Black artist, along with a few words from that artist putting the work in context. This week, we’re looking at a painting by Pierre Mukeba, who is inspired by the African diaspora in Australia, that is currently on view at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne as part of its 2020 Triennial, on through April 18.

Name: Pierre Mukeba

Age: 25

Based in: Adelaide, Australia

Originally from: Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo

When and where did you make this work? March 14, 2018. It was created in my bedroom at the time, at my mum’s house.

Can you describe what is going on in it? I was moved by the strength and power portrayed in Picasso’s “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon” (1907), but couldn’t fully relate to it as all of the subjects are of one race. And so I wanted to depict African women in a similar light — at their most beautiful and powerful. I focused on the strength that these women hold, regardless of the situations that have been inflicted on them. The subjects are at different stages in their lives and journeys, but all project strength in their demeanor. This is reflective of the African woman and how she, no matter her age, is often the backbone of our families. I come from a family with four sisters, and have seen how women like them are underrepresented in society and in art. You can see in the work differences in the women, including the fact that one of them is pregnant, and this shows that the shape or appearance of a woman also does not change or minimize her power or beauty. The painting is done with brush pen (ink) and African fabric appliqué on cotton canvas. This produced unexpected tones on the women’s bodies. Experimenting throughout the process of making the work allowed me to think about the dimensions and spacing of their figures, and about the effect and illusions of negative space as I tried to balance multiple components of the piece. In stitching fabric on the painting, I wanted to give depth and structure to the work and add an overflowing, triangular form of color.

What is an artwork in any medium that has changed your life? I admire a lot of amazing artists’ works and constantly observe and consume art, but I was mesmerized when I got to see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I was so impressed at the understanding Michelangelo had in painting the bright colors and broad, cleanly defined outlines that make each subject easily seen from the floor. The human bodies depicted are perfectly in proportion and so lifelike, and his overall concept is so well developed. As I left, I told myself I need to be able to express how I feel. It gave me the desire to challenge myself as an artist, to develop my techniques and ideas further, making works with different pigments, fabrics, paints. It also evolved my understanding of the subject matter, thus forcing me to grow as a person and be more resilient in overcoming challenges.

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Rep. James Clyburn Proposes To Make ‘Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing’ The National Hymn

For more than 100 years “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” has been known as the Black national anthem. Rep. James Clyburn says it’s time for it to be honored as the national hymn, and on Jan. 13, he filed a bill to try to make that official.

Clyburn told USA Today that making it a national hymn would help unite Americans.

To make it a national hymn, I think, would be an act of bringing the country together. It would say to people, ‘You aren’t singing a separate national anthem, you are singing the country’s national hymn,'” said Clyburn, the highest-ranking Black American in Congress. “The gesture itself would be an act of healing. Everybody can identify with that song.”

Adopted by the NAACP as its official song back in 1919, “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” started off as a poem by James Weldon Johnson, a writer and activist from Jacksonville, Fla. His brother, John, set it to music, and it was then performed in 1900 to commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.

The hymn, steeped in over a century’s worth of history, is a powerful ode to Black pride and liberation.

Historian Lloyd Washington — who is, like the Johnson brothers, from Jacksonville — tells NPR’s Morning Edition that many people in his hometown do not know the actual origins of the song. He says he’s made it a part of his life’s work to preserve the brothers’ legacy.

But it’s been hard at times to get people to care. Then recently, he says, the Black Lives Matter movement embraced the song, and Black pop stars once again reinvented the hymn for a new generation.

“One person I must give credit to is Beyoncé Knowles,” he says. “A few years back, she did a concert, and for a lot of young Black people, that’s the first time they ever heard the song.”

Numerous other Black artists have also performed their own renditions of the hymn over the years. In recent months, it was covered by musicians Chloe x Halle and Alicia Keys.

Washington says making “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing” the national hymn would be a small but significant step toward recognizing the Johnson brothers’ contributions to American history.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

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An eye-opening show at Minnesota Center for Book Arts; Lyra Baroque’s Jacques Ogg streams a concert from the Netherlands

On Wednesday, Jan. 6, white supremacists were among those who attacked the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. By the following Monday, 148 letterpress posters were displayed in the windows of Minnesota Center for Book Arts on Washington Ave. S. in Minneapolis, facing out into the street.

Black print on white paper, the posters have a theme: white supremacy. “White Supremacy Is All the Rage,” they say. And “White Supremacy Is Asinine,” “White Supremacy Is Calculated,” “White Supremacy Is Devastating,” “Exhausting,” “Idiotic,” “Insidious,” “Intentional,” and ultimately “White Supremacy Is Wack.” There’s a poster printed with “White Supremacy Is,” the rest left blank for observers to complete.

The timing, so close to the insurrection, was a coincidence. The posters are an installation by Ben Blount. An artist, designer and letterpress printer born in Detroit, now based in Evanston, Ill., Blount was part of a 2007 show at MCBA called “We, Too, are Book Artists,” which featured work by Black artists using book arts to communicate humanistic responsibility, social justice, cultural consciousness and spirituality. His artists’ books and prints are in collections including the Newberry Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“Ben was on our radar,” said Torey Erin, MCBA’s director of exhibitions and artist programs, speaking by phone on Thursday afternoon. “He was scheduled for a live letterpress demo in December, and after we saw ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ on his website, and after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, we felt it was necessary to show Ben’s work and amplify his voice as a printer. We first talked about October, then that moved to January to align with the inauguration and Martin Luther King Day.”

In an earlier version in Evanston, Blount’s “White Supremacy” posters filled the walls of a 10′ x 10′ room. An exterior window was covered over with black paper, but people could peer through a horizontal opening into the room. Once inside, they were surrounded.

MCBA originally planned a similar approach for its small, street-facing Outlook Gallery, but “things started to unfold,” Erin said. “There was a lot of anticipation during the election. We changed the exhibition so it was directly on the Outlook Gallery windows, then expanded it onto our paper studio windows and shop windows.”

There’s a poster printed with “White Supremacy Is,” the rest left blank for observers to complete.

Photo by Seth Dahlseid

There’s a poster printed with “White Supremacy Is,” the rest left blank for observers to complete.

Extending halfway up 18 street-level windows on the Open Book building, “Eyes Wide Shut” makes a powerful pandemic-era statement. We can’t go inside Open Book, but we can’t miss the message when we walk past or drive by.

“As we were installing the exhibition, people were taking photos, giving us a thumbs-up, pulling over in their cars and stepping out to see it,” Erin said. “We had no idea that it would be quite so timely. But we’re all reeling from what happened [on Jan. 6], and it’s been heartening to see the positive response.”

The picks

V is for virtual, L is for live and in person.

Lynn Cohen in “Ruth.”

Courtesy of Alex Rollins Berg

Lynn Cohen in “Ruth.”

V Tonight (Friday, Jan. 22), 7 p.m.: Twin Cities Film Fest Short Film Showcase. A one-time streaming of six short films with Minnesota connections, plus a virtual Q&A with some of the filmmakers. The program includes the Twin Cities premiere of “Ruth,” a film by Alex Rollins Berg that reunites former Guthrie actors Lynn Cohen and Barbara Tirrell, who played mother and daughter in Chekhov’s “The Seagull” at the Guthrie in 1983. They’re mother and daughter in “Ruth” as well. This was one of Cohen’s final performances; she died in February 2020. FMI and tickets ($9; free to TCFF members).

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V Starts tonight (Friday, Jan. 22): The U’s Lifelong Learning and Park Square Theatre: Jeffrey Hatcher: “Riddle Puzzle Plot.” When COVID kept Park Square from presenting its summer 2020 play, a Sherlock Holmes mystery by Jeffrey Hatcher, the theater did something still new at the time. It presented a four-part play, also by Hatcher, performed on Zoom. Back to distract us from winter, “Riddle Puzzle Plot” is a witty, engaging tale of a theater company stuck on an island during a pandemic. One by one, the members turn up dead. But who’s the killer? Directed by Warren C. Bowles, the cast is brilliant: Shanan Custer, Rudolfo Nieto, Aimee K. Bryant, Sun Mee Chomet, E.J. Subkoviak, Pearce Bunting and Alesandra Bongiardina. And Hatcher delights in language. Each recorded episode closes with conversations with theater people and mystery experts; during the fifth episode, Hatcher and others discuss the production. The episodes will be released on Fridays through Feb. 19. FMI and registration ($20 for the series).

V Streaming now: American Masters: Five arts-and-culture documentary films. “How It Feels to Be Free” spotlights six African American women entertainers – Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier – who challenged an entertainment industry that perpetuated racist stereotypes. “Laura Ingalls Wilder: Prairie to Page,” produced by TPT and WNET, is an updated and unvarnished look at the “Little House” author. “Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise” profiles the fierce and prolific poet, memoirist and civil rights activist (who, incidentally, wrote the poem for Bill Clinton’s 1993 inauguration). “Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable” explores the life and work of the street photographer who influenced so many others, including Wing Young Huie. “Celebrating Bird: The Triumph of Charlie Parker” tells the story of the jazz saxophonist and composer who changed the course of music. Find them all here. Free.

Jacques Ogg at the harpsichord.

Courtesy of Lyra Baroque

Jacques Ogg at the harpsichord.

V Saturday, Jan. 23, 11 a.m.: Lyra Baroque: Jacques Ogg from Home: Cellebroederskapel in Maastricht, The Netherlands. Lyra’s artistic director gives a livestreamed solo performance on harpsichord from a 16th-century chapel where he practiced the organ in his youth. With music by Peter Philips, Frescobaldi, Froberger and Muffat. FMI and tickets ($15 adults/seniors, $5 students). The concert will be available to watch until June 30.

Baroque violinist and historical performance specialist Chloe Fedor curated “Beauty in Chaos, Hope in Order.”

Courtesy of Lakes Area Music Festival

Baroque violinist and historical performance specialist Chloe Fedor curated “Beauty in Chaos, Hope in Order.”

V Saturday, Jan. 23, 7 p.m.: Lakes Area Music Festival: “Beauty in Chaos, Hope in Order.” “Wild, fantastical music” from the 17th century, performed on period instruments. Baroque violinist and historical performance specialist Chloe Fedor curated the concert, a performance with Kieran Campbell (cello), Adam Cockerham (theorbo and baroque guitar) and Elliot Figg (harpsichord). With selections by Biber, Kapsberger, Mealli, Fiore, Matteis, Corelli and Orlando Gibbons. Prerecorded and free on Facebook. FMI including program, a link to a lecture on historical performance, and a link to a coffee Q&A with Fedor at 10 a.m. that day.

V Tuesday, Jan. 26, 5:30 p.m.: Rain Taxi: Translator Damion Searls discusses Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet.” Beloved by poets and creatives from all disciplines, Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet” was first published in 1929 and remains one of his most popular works. Searls’ latest book is a new translation that also includes the letters the young poet, Franz Xaver Kappus, wrote to Rilke. Searls will be in conversation with Eric Lorberer, editor of Rain Taxi Review of Books. Free, with registration required.

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Spotlight: Jane Franklin Dance’s ‘Sense of Place Rhythm and Sound’

jane franklin dance, dance, athenaeum

Jane Franklin Dance: Sense of Place, Rhythm and Sound

Last week, the Athenaeum in Old Town Alexandria opened Michael Spears — Visual Music: Rhythm and Melody, an exhibition featuring abstract works that the local Black artist created with the intent of evoking a sense of the music that largely inspired them — whether that be the jazz reflected in “Kind of Black,” a recent work that also incorporates his reflections on the Black Lives Matter movement, or the R&B of an earlier series of works titled “The Influence of Religion in Rhythm and Blues of the ’60s and ’70s.”

Next weekend, the Athenaeum’s exhibition of Spears’ mixed-media works will be further complemented by a virtual program of choreographed movement from Jane Franklin Dance. The innovative Virginia-based dance company’s Sense of Place Rhythm and Sound is a timely series with dance pieces both conveying the limitations of the gallery’s physical boundaries and our era’s social distancing protocols while also taking inspiration from the rather loosely defined, vibrant nature of Spears’ art, and also from what will be heard accompanying the movement.

Jane Franklin Dance: Sense of Place, Rhythm and Sound

Specifically, the thoughtful, healing music of Luna, a singer-songwriter duo of Valeria Stewart and Kathleen Huber, plus a sound score that weaves Spears’ spoken-word descriptions about his creative process into original music from the band Future Prospect featuring saxophonist Trey Sorrells.

“I want to visually create what the sound of music accomplishes — an emotional grandness, a magic that connects,” Spears writes in his official Artist Statement. He further elaborates on his creative process: “Listening incalculable times to a select piece of music while using oil or mixed-media, my resulting abstracts are rooted in intuitive marks and shapes from the spontaneous interpretation of a piece’s rhythm and melody.”

Saturday, Jan. 30, at 7 p.m. Suggested donation of $10, with registration required to obtain Zoom link. Donations of $20 and above will also grant a VIP code for a free Vimeo on Demand performance. Visit

Michael Spears — Visual Music: Rhythm and Melody runs to Feb. 21 at the Athenaeum, located at 201 Prince St., in Alexandria, and open Thursdays through Sundays from noon to 4 p.m.. Call 703-548-0035 or visit

Read More:

Spotlight: Shriver Hall Concert Series

Spotlight: Sixth and I’s Virtual Book Talks

Cory Stewart ‘TOV’ review: An album of catchy, soul-baring dancepop

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @ruleonwriting.

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