American artist Arthur Jafa presents his first solo exhibition at OGR Torino in Italy

Arthur Jafa isn’t particularly interested in making ‘good’ art. “When you look at Mount Fuji, is it a good mountain or a bad mountain?” He challenges the journalists at the press preview of his new exhibition at OGR Torino, a multipurpose cultural centre in a former train repair facility in the heart of Turin, Italy. “I don’t care if it has a meaning,” he says, referring to the work inside the space. “I don’t even care if people like it or not.”

Installation view of RHAMESJAFACOSEYJAFADRAYTON| RHAMESJAFACOSEYJAFADRAYTON| Arthur Jafa | STIRworld
Installation view of RHAMESJAFACOSEYJAFADRAYTON Image: Andrea Rossetti

Jafa’s attitude towards the way his work is received and the emotional impact it has on its viewers has pushed his artistic output in new directions, following the enormous success of his 2016 videoLove Is the Message, The Message Is Death. The overwhelmingly affirmative responses to the work, a rapid-fire barrage of images of Black life in the United States, set to an emotive soundtrack featuring then-named Kanye West, has forced Jafa to reassess his method. His pairing of images and music offered viewers a cathartic experience that, ironically, recreated the very issue he had set out to unpack. The American artist has an ongoing preoccupation with how to make art that has the “power, beauty, and alienation“ embedded in the experience of Black music, while asking what it would be like if the Black people were loved as much as Black music. The questioning of his work’s impact was the driving force behind the creation of his 2018 piece The White Album, for which he was awarded the Golden Lion at the 2019 Venice Biennale. The 30-minute video-collage-slash-radical-mixtape homes in on the fragility of white self-conception in the United States.

Billboard Arthur Jafa: Live Evil | RHAMESJAFACOSEYJAFADRAYTON| Arthur Jafa | STIRworld
Billboard Arthur Jafa: Live Evil Image: Andrea Rossetti; © Arthur Jafa, Courtesy of LUMA Arles and Gladstone Gallery

The Turin art exhibition, titled RHAMESJAFACOSEYJAFADRAYTON, is Jafa’s first solo exhibition in an Italian institution. It continues the contemporary artist’s engrossment with Black music, this time shifting the focus to a larger narrative, told through the lives of some of its protagonists. It’s part of a touring exhibition, initially titled A Series of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions, that was presented at London’s Serpentine Gallery. Jafa reconceived this iteration of the show for specific viewing conditions, in the colossal space and its architectural style of post-industrial rejuvenation.

Entering a dark, cavernous exhibition hall, the visitor is lured in the direction of light and sound emanating from a video work installed somewhere out of view. But in order to reach the source of the foreboding sonic scape that vibrates throughout the space, visitors must pass through a tunnel-like installation, just wide enough for comfort, when turning some of its corners. With walls a couple of metres high, it is hardly spacious enough to allow one to step back and take in the large-scale, blown up found images that cover the full length of the installation’s maze-like structure.

But that’s not the only reason the imagery is hard to process. A sense of violence permeates the art installation, even before the shock of being confronted with a life-size archival image of a lynched body. The grainy, black-and-white picture is shown alongside images of Jimi Hendrix, Jean-Michel Basquiat, a scene from the 1936 black-and-white sci-fi film Flash Gordon, an image of Raw Power-era Iggy Pop (wearing the iconic metallic silver pants that fetched more than $70,000 at auction in 2020), and images of the three Black guitarists that the exhibition’s title pays tribute to—Arthur Rhames, Pete Cosey, and Ronny Drayton.

Billboard Arthur Jafa: LIVE EVIL, LUMA Arles, France,2022 | RHAMESJAFACOSEYJAFADRAYTON| Arthur Jafa | STIRworld
Billboard Arthur Jafa: Live Evil, Luma Arles, France, 2022 Image: Andrea Rossetti; © Arthur Jafa, Courtesy of LUMA Arles and Gladstone Gallery

At the end of the tunnel, visitors spill out to a massive hall where an 85-minute video work AGHDRA (2021) is projected. Here, too, Jafa eschews the aesthetics he has become most known for. The work’s pace is hypnotically slow, and with its bass-heavy droning soundtrack the effect is more mesmerising than heart-rending. Using computer generated rather than found imagery, Jafa creates a black ocean with undulating waves, the texture of which coalesces into a substance that looks like chunks of slate. The sun moves through both day and night in a toxic haze and the black waves get alarmingly high. The Isley Brothers’ 1974 version of Hello It’s Me, which already stretches out Todd Rundgren’s 1972 track considerably, is slowed down even more, sounding pitched down and slightly distorted.

“Thinking is often times overrated,” Jafa tells STIR, when asked about the physical experience he sought to achieve with this immersive exhibition. “A big part of my interest in Black music is how, despite this being an anti-Black environment, Black music supersedes that. And I am really curious as to how people can hate Black people but love Black music? I think a lot of that actually has to do with how it operates on your nervous system.”

The exhibition is a continuation of the artist's engrossment with Black music, shifting the focus to a larger narrative, told through the lives of some of its protagonists| RHAMESJAFACOSEYJAFADRAYTON| Arthur Jafa | STIRworld
The exhibition is a continuation of the artist’s engrossment with Black music, shifting the focus to a larger narrative, told through the lives of some of its protagonists Image: Andrea Rossetti

The sequence of images in the tunnel-like sculpture, as it turns out, are also meticulously thought-out to imprint on our senses or, as Jafa puts it, “is intuitive but super-considered.” Here, Jafa charts the history of Black “potention,” a term he coined to express what he describes as “the inherent tension between actualised and unactualised potential or capacity. And how that’s a fundamental aspect of Black life.”

“You have a certain capacity, but are you allowed to actualise it?” he explains. “This is true for women as well; it’s true for anybody who’s not—The Citizen.”

Arthur Jafa, Portrait image | RHAMESJAFACOSEYJAFADRAYTON|Arthur Jafa | STIRworld
Arthur JafaImage: Giorgio Perottino; Courtesy of OGR Torino

The Black “potention” Jafa address in RHAMESJAFACOSEYJAFADRAYTON has to do with Black geniuses such as Basquiat and Hendrix, who have written and changed art and music history, in ways few Black artists were able or allowed to. But it came at a price—both died aged 27. “We don’t know what a 30, 40, or 50-year-old Hendrix would have done,” says Jafa. “It’s almost like there’s a pact that’s been made that if you are allowed to actualise in a way that is atypical for Black people, your lifespan is shortened to almost nothing.”

Inside Arthur Jafa's solo exhibition, RHAMESJAFACOSEYJAFADRAYTON, 2022 | RHAMESJAFACOSEYJAFADRAYTON|Arthur Jafa | STIRworld
Inside Arthur Jafa’s solo exhibition, RHAMESJAFACOSEYJAFADRAYTON, 2022 Image: Andrea Rossetti

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Arthur Jafa speaking about his workVideo: Courtesy of OGR Torino

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Many Canadians welcomed virtual health care. Where does it fit in the system now?

White Coat Black Art26:30Virtual Care

Having the option to speak with her doctor over the phone for basic check-ins and requests has freed up Shawna Ford’s energy for tasks she’d prefer doing.

“Normally, to go into the city, I don’t do anything the day before. I don’t do anything a few days after because it totally drains me. So having those phone appointments is amazing,” the Alberta woman, 62, told White Coat, Black Art.

“The Zoom appointments with a psychiatrist have also just freed up so much of my energy that I can use, you know, on things that I want to do,” she added. “Functional energy, I guess.”

Ford, who has diagnoses of major depressive disorder and myalgic encephalomyelitis, the latter causing extreme fatigue, still visits her doctor in person when necessary. But the pandemic-driven shift toward virtual health care has opened doors that Ford says she doesn’t want to see closed — and she’s not alone in raising concerns about access to quality virtual health care.

While British Columbia and Alberta have embraced access to virtual health care, Ontario and Manitoba have scaled back funding for services not paired with in-person doctor visits. 

“I don’t think the system has their finger on the pulse of what patients need and want, because if it did, we wouldn’t be in this predicament,” said Dr. Aviva Lowe, a Toronto-based pediatrician and lactation consultant.

‘Two classes of Ontarians’

Until December, when a new billing framework came into effect in Ontario and lowered what health-care professionals can get paid for some virtual appointments, Lowe saw patients on KixCare, a virtual, app-based health-care service for children and teens. KixCare, Lowe argues, offers a way to address health inequities by making doctors more accessible for those without a family physician or pediatrician.

“These changes have really created two classes of Ontarians when it comes to accessing virtual care,” Lowe told White Coat, Black Art host Dr. Brian Goldman.

A blonde, smiling woman looking directly at the camera poses in front of a grey backdrop.
Dr. Aviva Lowe is a pediatrician and lactation consultant. Until December, she was also a doctor with KixCare, a virtual health-care platform offering on-demand services for children, teens and their parents. (Doug Sturgeon)

“By that I mean there’s the group of patients who can continue to access it, and those are patients who can access it with their own doctor or with a consultation to another doctor.”

The other group are those without a regular family doctor who may now be limited in accessing health care virtually, she said.

Changes to provincial billing schemes

When the pandemic began, doctors across the country rapidly shifted their practices to phone and video calls, rather than in-person appointments. 

For many patients, it was a welcome change. A recent Western University study found that the shift reduced barriers to accessing care, particularly for people who rely on public transit, and others who may be unable to take time off work.

Governments across the country quickly implemented emergency billing codes for virtual appointments — often paid at parity with in-person appointments. 

But when the Ontario government introduced permanent billing codes for virtual appointments last year, rates paid to doctors for virtual appointments dropped in some circumstances, leading to outcry from providers.

In Ontario, doctors with an ongoing relationship to their patient — a family physician who provides regular, follow-up care, for example — can bill virtual appointments at the same rate as in-person ones, provided they see the patient in-person once every 24 months.

For services where doctors have a one-off interaction with a patient — as is the case with some virtual “walk-in” services, like Lowe’s KixCare — the rate is much lower: $15 for a phone call, or $20 when it’s over video, compared to $67 or more previously.

WATCH | Virtual emergency service to launch in Manitoba:

New virtual emergency care service coming to Manitoba in spring 2023

2 months ago

Duration 1:46

The service was initially announced as part of the provincial government’s $200-million plan to retain, train and recruit more than 2,000 health-care workers. VECTRS is a centralized emergency care service that will provide clinical guidance and patient transport to health-care staff.

“I would conduct a thorough, comprehensive assessment for whatever the matter would be, which would include taking a detailed history, physical examination through a virtual platform,” said Lowe.

“It’s different than in person but, in pediatrics, observation and interaction can give us a lot of important information as to how well or how unwell a child is.”

She added that the “vast majority” of patients did not require a follow-up appointment, and she rarely referred patients to an emergency department.

Since the changes to Ontario’s doctors billing schedule came into effect, KixCare has stopped offering publicly funded appointments and instead are promoting a $29 per month subscription to access its services.

Virtual walk-in services double ER visits: study

An Ontario-based study published last month in the Canadian Medical Association Journal reported that even though in-person appointments with primary-care physicians dropped by 79 per cent in the first year of the pandemic, visits to hospital ERs did not increase due to an increase in virtual appointments.

“We did not find evidence that enrolled patients substituted emergency department visits because of less availability of in-person care,” the study’s authors wrote.

However, a separate study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) — also published last month and based in Ontario — found that patients who used virtual walk-in services for one-time appointments were twice as likely to visit an ER.

Dr. Tara Kiran, a family doctor and researcher at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, says while virtual appointments are convenient, having a long-term relationship with your doctor can improve survival rates while reducing costs on the health-care system. Kiran, who is also Fidani Chair in Improvement and Innovation at the University of Toronto, was a co-author of the JMIR study.

“Virtual care has its place … but I think the place in an ideal world is within a continuous relationship with the family doctor,” she said.

“That, of course, gets us to the point that many people don’t have a family doctor, nurse practitioner or a primary care team, and we need to address that.”

Dr. Tara Kiran is a family physician at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. Her research has found that many Canadians are concerned about for-profit businesses in health care. (Ed Middleton/CBC)

Virtual walk-in clinics may offer convenience for patients, but Kiran says that comes at a cost to the overall system as family doctors working with those clinics are not setting up practices that provide comprehensive care.

“Why I worry about the growth of [virtual] walk-in clinic, urgent-care type of medicine is that I feel like it is a Band-Aid that is growing the wound,” said Kiran.

It’s estimated that approximately six million Canadian adults — or in in five — do not have a family doctor

Survey finds Canadian wary of for-profit services

A cross-country survey led by Kiran gathered information from Canadians last September and October about their experiences accessing health care, and their thoughts on virtual health care. 

When asked how willing they would be to pay for services offered by new, virtual health-care services that they would otherwise get for free, more than half of respondents said they were not at all willing, while a quarter said they aren’t very willing.

Similarly, more than half of respondents said they were not at all, or not very willing, to use a service operated by a for-profit company. When asked if they would use a service that receives payments from a pharmaceutical company, 70 per cent responded negatively.

The web-based survey was conducted by VoxPop Labs and over 9,200 completed responses were analyzed. 

WATCH | Ontario government to cover certain procedures at private clinics:

Ontario moves more medical procedures to private clinics in bid to reduce wait times

19 days ago

Duration 2:48

Ontario is moving more medical procedures into privately run health clinics. The province says the move will cut down on surgical waitlists, but critics argue it will poach staff from already under-staffed public hospitals.

While the results can’t be generalized to the overall population, Kiran says they signal a problem with the existing system — many of the virtual care services now being promoted are for-profit.

The government of Alberta, for example, has contracted with Telus Health and covers the cost of Albertans’ appointments on the virtual platform Babylon.

“They’re not being transparent, fully transparent with people in a way that people can understand about what is happening,” Kiran said.

Virtual a ‘patient-centred’ approach to health care

Lowe says that it shouldn’t be a surprise that patients who rely on a virtual service like KixCare because they don’t have a family doctor would use the emergency room more frequently. 

“The patients who had care with their doctor are, in general, in a better medical situation because they have the luxury of having a doctor,” she told Goldman.

But for those patients — children who otherwise didn’t have regular access to a pediatrician for assessments, or teens without a family doctor to speak with mental health challenges — Lowe argues services like KixCare fill a crucial gap.

“These are families that, you know, mid-weekend or late at night or all alone without access to any other doctor would otherwise be going to the emergency room,” she said.

For Ford, whose conditions mean she relies on disability support payments, ensuring access to virtual care is crucial — especially for people with disabilities who may find it challenging to access services outside the home.

“A lot of disability is made more disabling due to poverty, and having virtual appointments reduces my costs,” she said.

“It’s sensible and it’s very sensitive to a patient-centred approach to health care.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Harlem’ puts a new spin on a Shakespeare classic

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Whether on stage or screen, the works of William Shakespeare have long been retrofitted for different times, places and audiences.

“The Merchant of Venice” has had cellphones and suits. “Macbeth” has been set in the world of organized crime. “Richard III” has been shifted from the 15th century to a fascist universe resembling Nazi Germany. Name a Shakespeare play, and someone somewhere has probably tried to give it a fresh spin and a new twist.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Harlem,” which is being presented by Pittsburgh Public Theater through Sunday, Feb. 19, plants Shakespeare’s comic fairy tale of marriage and magic in ancient Athens into a more contemporary Black world. The art and music of Harlem are highlighted, including dance, jazz and hip-hop, along with African spiritual traditions and other aspects of Black culture. First unveiled in New York in 2013, it was adapted and is being directed by Justin Emeka, who is also Pittsburgh Public Theater’s resident director.

In Emeka’s estimation, Shakespeare was not a rigid adherent to historical accuracy and, in the same way, “my production re-imagines Athens as an African or Black cultural melting pot — essentially a modern version of the Harlem Renaissance.”

He added, “In this production, audiences will recognize Shakespeare’s classic text, while also being introduced to African and African-American traditions of dance, music, fashion, spirituality and design.”

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Harlem” first came to the world’s attention in 2013, when it was presented by the Classical Theater of Harlem. A reviewer for The New York Times called it “as fresh as country lemonade.” The production being presented by Pittsburgh Public Theater at the downtown O’Reilly Theater has an entirely different design than the production presented a decade ago, according to Roya Kousari, a spokeswoman for the company, and a different vision.

Emeka is an associate professor of theater and Africana studies at Oberlin College in Ohio. He received his bachelor’s degree from Oberlin in 1995, and in the years since has developed a varied resume, directing or appearing in productions of “The Glass Menagerie,” “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Death of a Salesman,” and “Two Trains Running.” For his master’s thesis, he created a version of “Macbeth” set in the American South just after the Civil War. He has also reworked Moliere’s “The Would-Be Gentleman” into “The Boougie Gentleman.”

“There is a long, long history of Black people performing Shakespeare that dates back hundreds of years, and yet still many questions about how to do so effectively and what it means to his plays,” Emeka said. “Ultimately, we are Black artists who are unapologetically claiming our place as Black people inside Shakespeare’s imaginary worlds. And I think it will excite and inspire audiences who have never seen the play as well as those who have seen it many times.”

Information on showtimes and tickets is available at ppt.org.

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

African masks and sculptures displayed in original context in ‘Africa in Context’ exhibition at Mesa College

As a young girl growing up in southeastern San Diego’s Shelltown neighborhood, Denise Rogers spent time flipping through the pages of Time and Life magazines her mother kept on their coffee table. At the time, she just enjoyed the pictures from galleries in New York, Paris, and Italy. Later, after an introductory art course prompted her to change her major from fashion design to art history, she found a career path that allowed her to pair her love of both history and art.

“Despite being an introvert, my work has taught me that I love teaching and studying art and history, and I enjoy sharing my knowledge about art,” said Rogers, a professor of art history at San Diego Mesa College, where she also manages the college’s World Art collection. “I’ve made many connections over the years with arts organizations in the city. … I couldn’t have made a better career choice.”

That choice has also placed her in the position of curating this month’s “Africa in Context” exhibition at the Mesa College art gallery, through Feb. 23. A reception is being held from 4 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the gallery, to celebrate this presentation of African cultural art while also recognizing Black History Month.

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Rogers, 57, lives in Paradise Hills with her partner, David Hunter, and she has two children, three dogs, and two cats. In addition to her work at Mesa College, she is also a lecturer at the University of San Diego, and serves on the boards and committees of numerous arts organizations and museums in the county, including the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art, the San Diego Museum of Art, and the San Diego Black Arts + Culture District. She took some time to talk about the “Africa in Context” exhibit and the significance of the cultures and themes presented in it.

Q: Can you start by talking a bit about what is meant by the title of this exhibit, “Africa in Context”?

A: “Africa in Context” was chosen to emphasize the importance of displaying pieces from the Mesa College World Art collection in a manner that will help viewers understand the original context/purpose. When a mask or shrine sculpture is displayed on a pedestal, it doesn’t truly capture the original purpose of the mask. Displaying a mask with the full costume attached gives the viewer a better understanding and appreciation of the performer under the costume, the colors, layers of fabric and, in some cases, symbolism incorporated into the fabric. For shrine pieces or diviner pieces, by placing them on an altar in the space resembling a diviner’s structure, the viewer can better imagine placing an offering on a shrine, or sitting with a diviner for a consultation.

Q: Can you talk about the significance of some of the pieces you selected?

A: Each of the pieces is significant, but a couple that stand out are the Ere Ibeji pieces from the Yoruba peoples of Nigeria. Ere Ibeji serve as vessels for the spirits of deceased twins prescribed by a ritual specialist. There is a high level of twin births amongst the Yoruba people, a phenomena they trace back to their ancestors. The creation of Ere Ibeji occurs with the unfortunate death of a twin. The figures are meant to activate the spirit of the deceased twin, thus turning the figure into a human. The twins are then clothed, fed, and adorned to placate the spirit of the deceased. Without proper nurturing and care, the deceased will feel neglected and this may lead to the death of the living twin, bringing anxiety and misfortune to the family. The twins have idealized forms of beauty: conical heads, columnar torsos, long arms, convex chests, geometric patterning of the elaborate hairstyles, protruding eyes and full, smiling mouths. The cowrie shells represent fertility and prosperity. These figures were rubbed with cam wood and ritually washed to maintain their spiritual power.

What I love about San Diego…

I grew up in the South Bay, in the Shelltown neighborhood adjacent to National City. San Diego has always been my home and there is a comfort level here that I appreciate. I live among working-class people of all ages and ethnicities, and I appreciate the diversity in my neighborhood. What is especially ideal is the quick drive to local beaches, mountains, parks, and all that San Diego has to offer artistically. San Diego is a great place to live.

Q: What was your process for conceptualizing the layout for displaying the works in this exhibition?

A: Originally, I wanted to create environments to simulate people traveling throughout the continent, like a walking tour; however, there were limitations in terms of materials and space, and also time constraints. Ultimately, I settled on placing the figures where the viewer could best conceptualize movement, entering a larger structure, or walking along a road. The fertility wall is meant to simulate a rock outcropping. Many groups construct shrines within rock outcroppings or mounds within their communities. The fertility figures are then placed on/within the shrine, along with other items, such as beads, cowrie shells, palm or kola nuts, candles, and liquid offerings.

For the larger Gelede and Maiden Spirit Masks, I chose to place them on dress forms to simulate a performance through the layering of fabric. The forms are static; however, by placing them in the center of the gallery, viewers can move around the figures, which will get them closer to that real-life experience. There are videos of the actual performances playing in the gallery, so visitors will be able to see the performance and make those connections to the masks. The central figure displays a Gitenga mask from the Minganji, the Eastern Pende peoples of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The costume and mask are both authentic pieces, with the exception of the raffia skirt, arm, and leg attachments. The placement of the Gitenga mask in the center of the gallery allows viewers to see the vibrant turaco feathers radiating from the mask. Viewing the blue, black, and purple colors from the rear is an amazing visual. There is a video showing the dynamic movements of the performers, which enhances the visitor’s experience. The Kuba and Kongo facades were placed to best simulate community structures where visitors could imagine walking into these spaces.

Q: In this decolonized approach to sharing and presenting these works from African cultures, what were some of the questions you and your team wrestled with? And what were some of the results of those conversations that can be seen in “Africa in Context”?

A: Ensuring that the items were mounted securely and all staff and students followed appropriate protocol when handling the artwork was always forefront. However, there were two questions that I frequently returned to while installing the exhibition: I tried to avoid reconstructing environments that resembled ethnographic displays, and I also limited the number of descriptive placards on the wall. Ethnographic displays tend to present groups as objects of study rather than active cultural groups. The inclusion of the videos to activate the space support this goal and provided enhanced visual context. Limiting the descriptive placards helps to keep the focus on the distinct features of each of the environments. Visitors will have access to printed handouts and a website containing information outlining the cultural meaning, design, materials, and symbolism, so they leave the exhibition better informed about the cultural practices that accompany each piece.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: My first San Diego & Imperial Counties Community Colleges Association mentor, Susan Delaney, told me to always be authentic in my role as an instructor. Her advice was to be myself with students and to share personal stories to connect with them because students will see right through inauthentic behavior.

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?

A: If I tell you, it wouldn’t be a surprise. Maybe that I am a private person, which is why I avoid events with large crowds, unless I feel it’s beneficial for me to attend. I typically like to go to galleries and museums when they first open or when they are almost empty, and in my favorite sweatpants. Opening receptions, parties, etc., are a bit overwhelming.

Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.

A: Spending time with my partner and my kids. I also like small get-togethers with my colleagues at Mesa, playing with my pets, and working in the yard (I love pulling weeds). My partner and I like our long lunches or dinners where we reflect on our week. There are many fine dining establishments in San Diego that we enjoy. My kids, especially, love amusement parks and watching them ride roller coasters is a thrill. My son loves that the city voted to raise the height restriction near Sea World — he’s waiting for the next roller coaster.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Wendy Pomerantz, Top Baking Expert, Says Brownie Mixes Can’t Hold a Candle to Her Homemade Recipe

Wendy Pomerantz, Top Baking Expert, Says Brownie Mixes Can’t Hold a Candle to Her Homemade Recipe – African American News Today – EIN Presswire

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Black History Month celebration kicks off February with art and poetry

The event saw collaboration between Black artists and organizations to commemorate Black love

In Gainesville, Black love doesn’t have one definition. Spoken word artists have given it several.

The City of Gainesville, in partnership with the Bailey Learning and Arts Collective (BLAAC), kicked off its Black History Month schedule with a celebration of Black love, poetry and arts at the Historic Thomas Center Friday night. The event marked the third time the city and BLAAC have come together to voice Black artists through their spoken words and paintings, according to BLAAC founder Terri Bailey.

As a poet herself, Bailey created BLAAC as a grassroots nonprofit organization to not only promote the arts, but to empower historically Black communities in Gainesville with newfound knowledge. For example, the organization has led workshops on building generational wealth through the values of heirs and wells;  Bailey also leads the Queen’s Room, a women’s empowerment group that emphasizes facets of health such as self-care and safe sex practices.

The event first served up music from DJ Double A and food with help from BLAAC members such as intern Janet Ali. Ali, a University of Florida sociology senior, joined the nonprofit this year through the Active Learning Program which pairs students with community-based programs for a semester.

“As a student you live in your little UF bubble and you don’t really have much awareness of what goes on around you,” she said. “Working with Ms. Bailey has given me the insight on the local community and what they need.”

Terri Bailey, the founder of the Bailey Learning and Arts Collective, reads her poetry. “I’m going to continue to do events like this to make sure we are celebrated, that we celebrate ourselves and that we love upon ourselves,” she said. (Manny Rea/WUFT News)

One of those needs is financial support for Gainesville artists — a gap Bailey sought to fill with BLAAC. The organization fundraises to pay for expenses as well as compensation for local activists and artists who participate in events. Bailey, and her husband, muralist Turbado Marabou, understand the struggles artists go through.

“People tend to think that all we need is exposure, but we can’t pay rent with exposure,” Bailey said.

The celebration featured painted works for sale from artists Kenneth Keith and Alyne Harris, a Gainesville folk artist in attendance.

Bailey kicked off the night with a reaffirmation of the celebration’s purpose; she would recount current events that have troubled the Black community such as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ disavowment of “wokeness” in state education which recently included the rejection of an Advanced Placement African American studies course for high schoolers.

“I’m going to continue to do events like this to make sure we are celebrated, that we celebrate ourselves and that we love upon ourselves,” she said.

Bailey and Marabou exchanged poetry about familial love followed by Ray Ali, a UF psychology senior and the president of the UF Living Poets Society, who performed her poem about her work with afterschool programs in Duvall. The poem reflected her adoration for the students she watches over. It also conveyed the concern she feels for these young Black children who are pitted against a system of racism highlighted most recently by the killing of Tyre Nichols.

Ali took her first poetry workshop her first semester of college and has since sustained the passion.

“Poetry is just one way for us to connect to each other and share a wide variety of emotions,” Ali added.

Other poems expressed feelings of positivity through Black love. 20-year-old Daniel White took the open mic opportunity to share his poem, “Formula” and its messages on success, unity and love.

“A lot of people separate themselves based off how they grew up, their surroundings,” he said. “I would love to see more people share that love that Black people have for each other with everybody.”

White began writing down his own poems about two years ago and finds fulfillment through his creative process and that of others. He hosts the “Lettuce Get Creative” podcast where he reaches out to other artists about their processes.

“Whenever you’re doing something you really enjoy, it doesn’t feel like it’s coming from you,” White said. “It feels like it’s coming from a place of experience.”

Friday’s celebration is just the start for Black History Month in Gainesville, according to Carol Richardson, the acting cultural affairs manager for the City of Gainesville Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs.

“It is always important to honor Black voices,” Richardson said. “But [this month] particularly gives our neighbors an opportunity to come together, who normally may not, to learn and listen and hear from another and share the culture.”

Carol Richardson, the acting cultural affairs manager for the City of Gainesville Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, thanks the turnout of community members for supporting the arts. “It is always important to honor Black voices,” she said. (Manny Rea/WUFT News)

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Clack: Life devoted to art of medicine, artistry of…

As it is for most families, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a special time for Dr. Harmon Kelley’s family. But it’s one that has been shadowed with dread in recent years.

“Martin Luther King Day is a wonderful holiday,” Dr. Margaret Kelley, his daughter and partner in Southeast OB-GYN Associates, said. “But he got sick on Martin Luther King Day in 2020 and had to have an emergency pacemaker inserted. And so there’s been a little anxiety every Martin Luther King holiday since.”

This year’s holiday passed, but 10 days later, on Jan. 26, Kelley died of a heart attack. He was 77.

Kelley was gentle, gracious and gregarious. He offered encouragement. If he admired something you did, he would send notes scratched out on manila stationery cards.

Beyond his family legacy — his wife of 53 years, Harriet, his daughters Margaret and Jennifer R. Kelley, a licensed clinical social worker with an MBA — he leaves indelible stamps in medicine and, with Harriet, in Black art.

Born in Cameron, Kelley went to Prairie View A&M University, where he met Harriet, a science major whose father had developed the school’s science program.

A commissioned officer in the Army, Kelley served as chief of the obstetrics and gynecology at Darnall Army Medical Center in Fort Hood before moving to San Antonio and founding Southeast OB-GYN Associates, where he practiced for 44 years, the past 20 with Margaret.

“He devoted his whole life to the better obstetrical and gynecological care for his patients, and that was his devotion,” Margaret said. “He mentored me and so many other really young obstetrician-gynecologists, and in this world, they’re mostly women.”

But it was as curators of Black art that Harmon and Harriet Kelly became internationally known.

During the mid-1980s, realizing how little they knew about Black art, they were inspired to study, reach out to experts and begin collecting.

“It was a labor of love for them, something they could do together,” Margaret said. “They were proud to be Black, and art was another way to preserve our heritage.”

Before art is collected, it is born from the gathering of an artist’s life, interests, dreams and fears.

It’s Jacob Lawrence collecting memories and images from the Great Migration and painting them into 60 magnificent panels.

It’s Elizabeth Catlett scooping up the rich clay of African American heritage and Mexican culture, and molding them into tributes to those she called “my two people.”

It’s Mary Lee Bendolph collecting scraps of cloth and sewing them into majestic quilts.

And it’s the collectors who see their genius and allow others to bear witness to their gifts.

Few have done this grander for Black artists than the Kelleys.

“The Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art: Works on Paper” exhibition is on a national museum tour through 2024.

Aïssatou Sidimé-Blanton, vice president of the San Antonio Ethnic Art Society and a passionate collector of Black art, said, “Before moving to Texas, there were just two things I associated with San Antonio — the Alamo, and the Harmon and Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art. Theirs was the first private collection of African American art ever shown at a Smithsonian Institution. It was sparked by being flummoxed at not recognizing the artists in a major 1986 art exhibition hosted by San Antonio Museum of Art.

“So, their answer? Apply their joint scientific minds to researching and seeking out the very best African American art.”

Sidimé-Blanton called the Kelleys “royalty” among African American collectors.

“Their collection,” she said, “remains the measuring stick against which we assess our own progress at showcasing and sharing images that capture the full spectrum of our community, and its role in, and contributions, to this country.”

Margaret Kelley said her parents advocated for Black artists whose work was undervalued.

“I’m glad he lived long enough to see this change and the recognition and appreciation of those who documented our history,” she said.

The artistry of Harmon Kelley’s life will always be appreciated.

cary.clack@express-news.net

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

AASEG signs with Oakland for $5B Coliseum makeover

AASEG's Ray Bobbitt and the RingCentral Coliseum
AASEG’s Ray Bobbitt and the RingCentral Coliseum (Getty, AASEG)

The City of Oakland and African American Sports and Entertainment Group have cut a deal on a $5 billion plan to redevelop the 100-acre Oakland Coliseum.

The agreement could revitalize RingCentral Coliseum at 7000 Joe Morgan Way and draw a new sports team to the East Oakland stadium, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Under the agreement, the city transfers 50 percent interest in the Coliseum to AASEG, making it the largest transfer of public land to an African American-owned business in Oakland’s history, according to a post on the city’s website. The Coliseum is currently home to the A’s baseball team.

The deal includes an exclusive negotiating agreement with the Oakland-based developer to revamp the 57-year-old Coliseum complex with homes, a convention center, hotel, restaurants, museums and an outdoor amphitheater for youth sports.

AASEG has two years to negotiate and bring a plan to the City Council for the project. The company formed in 2020 to utilize sports and entertainment to enhance economic equity, according to its website.
Plans call for a renovated Coliseum that could host a WNBA team, concerts and Disney on Ice events. AASEG has priced the cost of development at more than $5 billion.

The agreement with AASEG requires the developer to pay the city a fee of $200,000 a year and $2.5 million in one-time funds to cover staff time.

The group, which is offering city $115 million to buy the city’s half-interest in the site, includes former Oakland City Manager Robert Bobb, Oakland developer Alan Dones, former chair of the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce Shonda Scott, former NBA player and sports agent Bill Duffy, and Loop Capital, an African American-owned investment firm.

The other half of the Coliseum is owned by the A’s. The team is negotiating with the city to build a $12 billion upgraded ballpark and 3,000-unit retail village at Howard Terminal, with the team also considering a relocation to Las Vegas.

AASEG has expressed interest in bringing Black-owned NFL and WNBA teams to the city. Oakland has recently lost the Warriors to San Francisco and the Raiders to Las Vegas, making the A’s the last professional franchise in the city.

A new WNBA team for the city seems more realistic than attracting an NFL team. The league has recently expressed intentions for expansion in 2023 and vice mayor Rebecca Kaplan led a resolution in September to publicly support bringing a WNBA team to the city. AASEG is also working on completing and submitting a proposal to bring a WNBA team to Oakland.

As for redevelopment, Ray Bobbitt, an East Oakland native who is leading AASEG, said his team wants to build an undetermined number of homes — 35 percent of which would be affordable.

Also, the group wants to create a hotel and a “restaurant row” that features Oakland Black-owned businesses, plus a Black business district and a Black-owned bank. It envisions two museums, one focused on African American arts, culture and sports and another to honor Native American and Latino culture.

— Dana Bartholomew and Naidu Pawan

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment