Doug McDurham: After 100 years, time has come for Jules Bledsoe statue

April 20 marks the 100th anniversary of the debut professional performance of the legendary baritone and Waco native Jules Bledsoe. It was Easter Sunday when Bledsoe took the stage at Aeolian Hall on 42nd Street in New York City and changed history.

Brazos Past: Memories of Jules Bledsoe (copy)

Bledsoe

Earlier that same year, George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” had premiered at the same venue in a performance that is now considered a landmark event for introducing “lowly” jazz to an elite audience. Aeolian Hall must have had progressive programmers; featuring an unknown Black artist like Bledsoe on a classical stage was a bold move, but one that paid off. Bledsoe’s performance that Sunday afternoon captivated the audience and launched him onto the international stage.

Bledsoe’s subsequent career was meteoric. He became one of the first Black artists to gain regular employment on Broadway. Bledsoe performed in multiple languages in the great opera halls of Europe. He composed several spirituals, patriotic songs, and an opera based on Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” He even had small parts in a few Hollywood films towards the end of his too-short life.

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Bledsoe was a trailblazing artist who made significant contributions to opera, musical theater, and classical music. He inspired countless other Black artists to follow their dreams.

Born and raised in Waco, Bledsoe first performed publicly as a 5-year-old at New Hope Baptist Church, which was founded by his grandfather in 1866. Nearly four decades later, his funeral was held in the same sacred space. The world was Bledsoe’s stage, but Waco was his home, and he should be better acknowledged here. A permanent public monument would serve as a lasting tribute to his story and impact.

Jules Bledsoe

A young Jules Bledsoe, circa 1920, on the cusp of fame.

AT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY, PROVIDED

Our community has taken several steps to honor Bledsoe. In the past year alone, his work has been highlighted by the Waco Symphony Orchestra, the Levitt AMP Waco Music Series and the Waco Independent Film Festival. Bledsoe’s papers are housed at Baylor University’s Texas Collection; the city of Waco’s Bledsoe-Miller Community Center shares his name with U.S. Navy hero Doris Miller (who has an on-site statue). Baylor’s Horace Maxile and David Smith have worked for years to cement Bledsoe’s place in history, including Smith’s ongoing call for a statue.

Of all his accomplishments, Bledsoe is most recognized as the original singer of “Ol’ Man River” on stage in the original production of the musical “Show Boat.” He sang it again in the part-talkie film adaptation, and an even later version was recorded for posterity. Overlooking our own Brazos River that “just keeps rollin’ along” would be a fitting location for his statue.

In a time of renewed calls for racial justice and equity, a Jules Bledsoe statue would serve as a powerful symbol of Waco’s pride in its diverse history and its commitment to honoring the trailblazers who have shaped its cultural landscape. After 100 years, it is time.

Longtime Waco civic leader Doug McDurham was formerly a member of the McLennan Community College Board of Trustees, CEO of Art Center Waco and executive director of Communities in Schools of the Heart of Texas, among other community roles. He is currently the director of advancement for the nonprofit Hunger Free Oklahoma.

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Six Northwestern faculty named 2024 Guggenheim Fellows

Six Northwestern University faculty are among the 2024 Guggenheim Fellows recently named by the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. The faculty members are Mike Cloud, Nina Kraus, Chad Mirkin, Teri Odom, Krista Thompson and Petia Vlahovska.

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This year, six Northwestern faculty members have been named Guggenheim Fellows. They are, from top left: Mike Cloud, Nina Kraus, Chad Mirkin, Teri Odom, Krista Thompson and Petia Vlahovska.

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This year, six Northwestern faculty members have been named Guggenheim Fellows. They are, from top left: Mike Cloud, Nina Kraus, Chad Mirkin, Teri Odom, Krista Thompson and Petia Vlahovska. Credit: Northwestern University

This year, the foundation awarded 188 Guggenheim Fellowships to a diverse group of culture-creators working across 52 disciplines. Chosen through a rigorous application and peer review process from a pool of almost 3,000 applicants, the Class of 2024 Guggenheim Fellows was tapped on the basis of prior career achievement and exceptional promise. As established in 1925 by founder U.S. Senator Simon Guggenheim, each fellow receives a monetary stipend to pursue independent work at the highest level under “the freest possible conditions.”

Since its establishment, the foundation has awarded more than $400 million in fellowships to more than 19,000 fellows.

“Humanity faces some profound existential challenges,” said Edward Hirsch, award-winning poet and president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. “The Guggenheim Fellowship is a life-changing recognition. It’s a celebrated investment into the lives and careers of distinguished artists, scholars, scientists, writers and other cultural visionaries who are meeting these challenges head-on and generating new possibilities and pathways across the broader culture as they do so.”

Mike Cloud

Mike Cloud is a painter and an associate professor of art, theory and practice in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

His artistic practice encompasses an expanded field of painting and image-making. He dissects photographic and painterly form, scrambling text and re-aligning content in a way that produces new breaks in legibility and new understandings.

A focus of his work is to examine paintings as objects within a system of objects. He uses marks, symbols, motifs, palettes and forms in an expressive technique that blurs and blends elements together into aesthetic compositions, while also interrogating the politics, contrivances and language of painting to locate his complicity in its system of functions.

His solo exhibitions include “Called Ahead” (2024) at Fahrenheit Madrid, Spain; “Tears in Abstraction” (2019) and “Bad Faith and Universal Technique” (2014) at Thomas Erben Gallery, New York; “The Myth of Education” (2018) at the Logan Center for the Arts in Chicago; and “Special Projects: Mike Cloud” (2005), MoMA PS1, New York.

He will use his Guggenheim Fellowship to develop “Holistic Abstraction,” a new body of research, writing and paintings inspired by ancient, classical and religious diagrams of the universe that present modes of abstraction that take a holistic view of artistic ambition.

Nina Kraus

Nina Kraus is a professor of neurobiology and otolaryngology and holds the Hugh Knowles Chair of communication sciences and disorders in the School of Communication and is the director of the Auditory Neuroscience Lab “Brainvolts” at Northwestern.

A scientist, inventor and amateur musician, her research is focused on the biology of auditory learning. She was among the first to discover that individual neurons change their firing patterns when sound-to meaning connections are made. Through auditory neuroscience, Kraus shows how our lives in sound impact our neurological health, changing the brain and affecting our interactions with others. 

An author of over 400 scientific publications, she also seeks to engage a broader audience through public lectures and writing. She is the author of the book “Of Sound Mind: How Our Brain Constructs a Meaningful Sonic World” (MIT Press, 2022). Pursuing connections across disciplines in science and the humanities, Kraus’ research is conducted beyond the laboratory and inside schools, community centers, athletic facilities and clinics to advocate for best practices in education, health and social policy. 

Kraus will use her Guggenheim Fellowship to write a book that asks what music can teach us about our biology.

Chad Mirkin

Chad A. Mirkin is the director of the International Institute for Nanotechnology and the George B. Rathmann Professor of Chemistry, Chemical and Biological Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Materials Science and Engineering, and Medicine at Northwestern. He is a chemist and a world-renowned nanoscience expert, who is known for his discovery and development of spherical nucleic acids (SNAs) and SNA-based biodetection and therapeutic schemes, dip-pen nanolithography (and related cantilever-free nanopatterning and materials discovery methodologies), on-wire lithography and co-axial lithography and high-area rapid printing and contributions to supramolecular chemistry and nanoparticle synthesis.

He has authored over 870 manuscripts and over 1,200 patent applications worldwide (over 430 issued) and founded multiple companies. Mirkin has been recognized with over 250 national and international awards and served for eight years on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology and is one of a few scientists to be elected to all three U.S. National Academies and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Mirkin will use the award to pursue groundbreaking research that will use nanotechnology to transform how vaccines are developed for treating deadly forms of cancer.

Teri W. Odom

Teri W. Odom is the Joan Husting Madden and William H. Madden, Jr. Professor of Chemistry and the chair of the department of chemistry in Weinberg College. She also is a member of the International Institute for Nanotechnology and Chemistry of Life Processes Institute.

A member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Odom is an expert in designing structured nanoscale materials with exceptional optical and physical properties. By controlling materials architectures over multiple length scales, Odom’s research group can transform ordinary materials into extraordinary ones. For example, her team has demonstrated that precious metals can be made even more precious by tuning their size and shape at the nanoscale.

Among her many achievements, Odom has pioneered a suite of multi-scale nanofabrication tools, which have resulted in flat optics capable of manipulating light at the nanoscale and beating the diffraction limit, plasmon-based nanoscale lasers that exhibit tunable color, and hierarchical substrates that show controlled wetting and super-hydrophobicity.

Odom will use her Guggenheim Fellowship in chemistry to design and develop structured color materials that can be used as nanoscale coatings for cooling surfaces, such as those on city buildings.

Krista Thompson

Krista Thompson is an art historian, curator and the Mary Jane Crowe Professor in Art History and director of graduate studies in art history in Weinberg, where she is a faculty affiliate in the department of Black studies. Thompson also is a faculty affiliate in the department of performance studies in the School of Communication.

Thompson’s research focuses on modern and contemporary art and visual culture of the African diaspora and Caribbean, with an emphasis on photography, photographic archives and lens-based practices. She is the author of “An Eye for the Tropics” (Duke University Press, 2006) and “Shine: The Visual Economy of Light in African Diasporic Aesthetic Practice” (Duke University Press, 2015). Thompson is the co-editor (with Claire Tancons) of “En Mas’: Carnival and Performance Art of the Caribbean” (2015) and co-editor (with Huey Copeland) of a series of articles on afrotropes published by Art Journal.

She will use her Guggenheim Fellowship to complete a book on Tom Lloyd, an African American artist who was among a wave of artists working with light and electronic technologies in the 1960s. 

Petia Vlahovska

Petia Vlahovska is a professor of engineering sciences and applied mathematics in the McCormick School of Engineering, where she directs the Complex Fluids and Soft Interfaces Lab.

An expert in fluid dynamics and soft matter, Vlahovska integrates theory and experiments in mathematical modeling of physical and biological systems leading to cutting-edge work on blood flow, biomembrane mechanics, electrohydrodynamics and active matter. In her studies of active fluids, Vlahovska was the first to examine the collective dynamics of “microrotors,” or dense suspensions of self-propelled, tiny rotating spheres.

Vlahovska also is interested in the membranes that encapsulate cells and play a central role in all living systems. Her work examines membranes’ non-equilibrium behavior, an emerging topic at the forefront of biophysics research.

The Guggenheim Fellowship will support Vlahovska’s efforts to harness active fluids for the engineering of micro-robotic systems mimicking the autonomous motility and responsivity of biological cells.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Urgent Advocacy and Unyielding Efforts: Amplifying Black Maternal Health in the Biden-Harris Era.

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(ThyBlackMan.com) As the maternal mortality rate in America continues to spike, Black Maternal Health Week is an urgent call to action. American women are dying at a higher rate from pregnancy-related causes than in any other developed nation, and Black women are three times more likely to die of complications than their white counterparts.

Urgent Advocacy and Unyielding Efforts: Amplifying Black Maternal Health in the Biden-Harris Era.

The CDC reports that 85% of US maternal deaths are preventable, and the deaths that do occur tend to reflect a systemic issue rather than a pathology on the part of Black women.

As a women’s health advocate and co-director of the documentary film Aftershock, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with thousands of women, families, health care practitioners, and general maternal health stakeholders. I’ve learned that with evidenced-based solutions focused on supporting women and listening to them, we can improve outcomes for Black mothers, which will ultimately improve birthing for all American families.

As the seventh annual Black Maternal Health Week comes to a close, let’s pay homage to the unparalleled work that President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are doing to center the voices of Black women and the Black maternal mortality crisis.

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS HAS BEEN AT THE FOREFRONT OF THESE UNPRECEDENTED EFFORTS.

Since taking office, President Biden and Vice President Harris have remained steadfast in their commitment to tackle this crisis head-on and have made it their priority to promote improved maternal outcomes for Black women. Never before has Black maternal health been at the forefront of an administration’s health care initiatives, proving how essential and historic it is to have a Black woman like Vice President Harris helping to lead the executive branch. Vice President Harris has been at the forefront of these unprecedented efforts, raising awareness about the maternal mortality crisis for decades and calling for increased safety standards and funding long even before she took office in the White House.

Vice President Harris launched the first-ever White House Maternal Health Day of Action in 2021 and introduced the administration’s Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, which lays out more than 50 actions that over a dozen federal agencies can take to improve maternal health.

The Biden-Harris administration also enabled states to provide a full year of postpartum coverage to new mothers on Medicaid and protected and built upon the Affordable Care Act, which requires insurers to cover pregnancy care, childbirth, and newborn care. They also launched the Maternal Mental Health Hotline, a confidential, 24-hour, toll-free line where new and expecting moms can connect with professional counselors.

THERE’S NO QUESTION THAT A SECOND TRUMP TERM WOULD MAKE BLACK MATERNAL HEALTH CARE OUTCOMES MUCH WORSE.

Meanwhile, Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans have been hellbent on doing everything in their power to enact or repeal laws that worsen outcomes for Black mothers and Black lives. Trump has bragged about being the one responsible for overturning Roe, which led to a reproductive health crisis that is disproportionately hurting Black women and allowed cruel abortion bans across the country to go into effect.

There are few scares in life more terrifying than having a pregnancy-related emergency, and since Trump helped to overturn Roe68% of OBGYNs say they struggle significantly more when trying to save mothers’ lives.

While president, Trump sabotaged Medicaid expansion, which is significantly tied to a decrease in Black maternal mortality; gutted resources for clinics providing life-saving reproductive health care to Black communities; and tried to slash funding for Health and Human Services maternal and child health program — a move that would have completely eliminated funding for maternal depression screening and treatment.

300,000 Black Americans lost health insurance under Trump, and he was one vote away from repealing the Affordable Care Act, which has helped to reduce racial health care disparities nationwide.

There’s no question that a second Trump term would make Black maternal health care outcomes much worse. If re-elected, he would sign a national abortion ban — which his allies are pushing him to do with or without the help of Congress — gut Medicaid, and “terminate” the ACA — ripping away insurance coverage from over three million Black Americans. Think candidly about everything you know about Donald Trump. He never centered on combating the health disparities Black women face when he had the chance, and he wouldn’t if he gets another.

Black voters, particularly Black women, were a crucial part of the coalition that helped elect President Biden and Vice President Harris to the White House. We know that our voices and votes will once again be critical in helping them win a second term and build upon all of the progress they have made. Despite the tremendous pressure of working with one of the slimmest majorities in Congress, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have accomplished so much, including centering Black maternal equity at the forefront of their agenda.

For so long, Black women have constantly had to advocate for ourselves in every space we occupy, but with the Biden-Harris administration, we have champions in the highest office in the world fighting alongside us. The choice is clear this November: We must reelect President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Democrats to Congress so they can finish the job!

Written by Tonya Lewis Lee

Official website; https://twitter.com/tlewislee

Who Are the Most Famous Black Poets?

… of the black American experience. 19. Phillis Wheatley As the first African American woman … book “Magical Negro” examines everyday racism and black identity, using pop … his works often explored the African American spirit against adversities. His poetry … RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News

FESTAC ‘77… Somi And Her Fabric of Courage

By  Chinonso Ihekire 

20 April 2024   |   4:00 am

The music at the opening day of The Fabric of Courage, Somi’s week-long exhibition of the remarkable archives of the World Black Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC), which held for the second time it occurred, back in 1977, was a marvel to listen to.

Somi

Her allure swept across the room like a new broom. Draped in a monochrome jumpsuit, her enigma stuck out like the knotted braids she wore. Silence engulfed the air in that humid room at the Old Printing Press in Broad Street, Lagos, where Somi Kakoma stood with her band, her courage and an archive begging for awareness. 

The music at the opening day of The Fabric of Courage, Somi’s week-long exhibition of the remarkable archives of the World Black Festival of Arts and Culture (FESTAC), which held for the second time it occurred, back in 1977, was a marvel to listen to. It marked the debut Lagos performance of the Grammy-nominated jazzist and her band on her tributary work on the late South African songbird Miriam Makeba, dubbed, Zenzile: Reimagination of Miriam Makeba. 

The exhibition featured photographs from Marilyn Nance, the official photographer for the North American zone at FESTAC ‘77, as well as a feature of Tam Fiofori’s iconic crowd shots at the festival, and other salient records kept by the Centre for Black and African Arts and Civilization (CBAAC). And, ultimately, it casted a spotlight on one of the biggest ever global cultural activities held in Africa. 

Somi, who thrives as a scholar, activist, musician and multi-racial personality, has been a ‘native’ of Lagos suburbs despite originally being from Uganda and Rwanda. Her 2014 opus, The Lagos Music Salon, was a quintessential toast to the erratic megacity that shaped that jazz album. And, her fascination with Miriam Makeba, the only female African musician to perform at FESTAC ‘77, led her to the building blocks of the exhibition. 

At the Fabric of Courage, Somi and her band’s intriguing stagecraft lit up hearts as she channels her enigma in vibrant footwork, ululated bursts, and sharp tempo transitions that coloured her hour long performance. Her desire to champion Pan-Africanism across all generations of her listeners charged the exhibition, and notable stakeholders including veteran culture curator Jahman Anikulapo, theatre scholar, Professor Duro Oni; Marilyn Nance; and CBAAC Director-General, Aisha Augie; already passed the baton with a thought-provoking roundtable on the festival’s past and future. 

In a special sit-down with Guardian Music, the 42-year-old chanteuse peels back her experience researching FESTAC ‘77 and organising the exhibition; her thoughts on building cultural consciousness and working with non-Jazzists; as well as her forthcoming projects and her effervescent lore for cultural storytelling. 

What are you up to right now?
Well, I’m working on a new album. I’m also working on a, you know, well, people have been expressing interest in touring the exhibition and in other parts of Nigeria, which is cool, which wasn’t the plan necessarily, but I’m thrilled about the possibility but yeah, I’m working on my new album. I’ve got some other shows in America and Europe. And performances, I guess, just touring. I’m a writer. I’m a playwright. So, I’m working on two new plays as well.
Your own organisation, Salon Africana, produced the exhibition. Tell us about this your creative engine room

Salon Africana was a boutique cultural agency and record label before the pandemic. It was established in 2019. Initially, we were focused on bringing over African musicians, African artists on the continent or in Europe, who are kind of operating outside of pop, mainstream African music space, but we’re doing really beautiful work in jazz in alternative, alte as they refer to it in Lagos, just a different kind of music, right? They aren’t necessarily as visible to the Western music industries as, say, Afrobeats are. So, initially it was about holding space for those African jazz musicians, African art musicians, and African Alte musicians. And bringing them to do these more intimate salons in New York and then have an opportunity to talk about the work and so that’s where it originally that’s what I was originally doing. But with the plan of expanding of course, music is always sort of the marquee discipline, because I’m a musician, but understands holding space for the literary arts and various performing arts, dance and theater. So, initially, and we started doing these events, and we were in partnership with the Africa Centre here in New York. And then the pandemic happened, and obviously, live performances changed.

And we decided to lean into the record label side of it. Through which I released my last two albums. And now that we’ve had a chance to kind of regroup and want to re-engage in terms of curating live experiences that really still hold space. We decided to start doing things that work on the continent. I’m personally very interested in the archive you know, how we think about, how we care for or don’t care for, or engage with the archive of our cultural heritage on the continent and how that might inspire contemporary culture today. I had been doing some research on FESTAC, which really came out of what I’m doing on Miriam Makeba, because it was by looking at her history around the continent that I realised she was the only woman named at first and I was like, Well, why is that there were other women and then it kind of grew from there. So this was the first activation and we’re thrilled and the goal is to continue to do work or create experiences in historic sites of cultural production across the continent. So this was the first being real printing press and obviously, responding to the archive of FESTAC as a Pan African space.

How did you manage to meet up with Marilyn Nance and conceive the idea for the exhibition in Lagos?
So, 2022 was when her book, Last Day In Lagos, came out. I first read about the book in the New York Times, there was an article about Marilyn Nan’s and of course, her editor Remi Onabanjo, I was curious and said I’d always known about FESTAC and would hear older people speaking about how amazing it was, and I would always be like, why isn’t there more? Like what are the stories, why is it that we don’t really celebrate, I was just curious and fascinated by FESTAC and I ordered the book based on that article I read. About a week after I received it, I got an email from an organisation called Center for Art Research and Alliances also known as CARA, in New York, they are partly a gallery, partly a performance exhibition space. It’s also a bookstore and, and a publisher.  It was just a very new space. It’s only been here since 2022. But it was sort of an interesting kind of interdisciplinary, multi-hyphenate cultural space and endeavor.

And they reached out to me, because at the time they were hosting an exhibition by a South African artist, Naomi Younga, who had some part of his exhibition about Mariam Makeba. And because my play had been running in New York, many came to see the show. Many people who were passing through the exhibition were like, oh, you guys, should you guys should think about Sony coming here to do something because they were having, I guess, monthly performances in response to his work. And so when they reached out to me, I was like, , I’d never heard of them. I started researching them. And then I saw in this book that they were also a publisher, which I thought was very interesting, that they were doing multiple things in that way. And so anyhow, I ended up collaborating with them doing the performance in their space. They had invited Marilyn Nance, because I mentioned that I was a fan of the book. They invited her and then that’s how she and I first came into community with each other.

And so it was only a few months later that I actually started really researching FESTAC. It was probably seven months later actually, but I was in Nigeria that I came specifically to look at that history, which was December of 2022. And that’s when I started discovering this, the archive even in Nigeria. At the Center for Black and African Art and Civilization, also known as CBAAC in Lagos, many people weren’t even aware that CBAAC existed. I certainly wasn’t. And so then I discovered this whole archive they have there and I was like, let me lean into this because I just realized it was so vast. Anyhow, so the more I started thinking about the site you know, then you look at all the infrastructure that was made, FESTAC town or National theater or national stadium or even like a hotel and all these things were built because of FESTAC or it is to host all of the people who are coming from 50 to 15,000 black artists from around the world.

So I just also became interested in this idea of place, this idea of absence and presence, like how you have these like, you know, glorious structures who had this very weighted presence and history. But there’s a very profound sense of absence because these places aren’t being used anymore. And I just thought, what would it be to try to activate or respond to these spaces or respond to the archive? A friend of mine pointed me to the printing press as an interesting venue, because it also sort of suffers the same fate as many of those venues: Even Tafawa Balewa Square as well, which wasn’t built for FESTAC obviously, but because of its relationship to the history of that festival. So the printing press to me, you know, what is it to reactivate this space that was about original narratives, old narratives old stories that were first printed in Nigeria, and to then have the machines there as witnesses of these new stories and the ways that we’re kind of re-engaging with the archives. It is all very interesting and exciting to think about. So excuse me. So that’s how that sort of came about. And of course, I reached out to Marilyn Nance and her team, and they were thrilled about the idea of actually bringing the work back to Nigeria, as you know, she hadn’t been in Lagos since 1977, when she took the photos.

So to actually think about the fabric of courage as a way to show the work and also sort of as an official book launch for the book itself In Nigeria. You know, I had the Jazzhole store in Lagos. I was carrying it when it first came out, but I think most people didn’t really know about it here in Nigeria. So, it was great to be able to bring that the book and Marilyn and the and the images here and of course in conversation with Tam Fiofori with his iconic image of the crowd, and as well as bringing the book that Chimurenga in South Africa made which really was the first kind of anthology of literature from FESTAC. And then of course, bringing my own band to share my performance of Miriam Makeba and my reflections on her. I would like to believe people felt a very profound Pan-African space, you know, for people from all over the continent to be a part of it, from the diaspora and of course, Nigeria.

What else are you researching or planning to research?
Well, I think that my work has always been very invested in ideas of the archive of cultural memory and a place. Even if you go back to the year 2014 when I released my album, The Lagos Music Salon, which was inspired by my living in Nigeria, living in Lagos for almost two years, which is why I always have a tote till today, because it’s one of my homes. For me, the archive in that project was about the archive I was gathering, you know, t I feel like my work has become, in some way merged into like ethnographic surveys- contemporary ethnographic surveys and not in an old kind of anthropological way of thinking about things but in the sense of like, how do I be a witness of where I am, and a sense of place, and then how do I evoke the place? So gathering an archive of my time in Lagos, writing music that is in response to that archive, writing music that is in response to that place, my next record after that was Pity Deftly, which is about the African immigrant community in Harlem. New York City, and how they’re being displaced in the face of gentrification.

So what does it mean to witness their stories? I started collecting a lot of their personal stories of the African immigrant community here in Harlem and then writing music in response to that and then hoping to invite conversations around the contribution of that community over the last 4050 years to New York. In doing so, that evokes the archive immediately, and it also insists that we begin to look more closely at the archive, both the past and the actively made one and then think about Miriam Makeba, it’s the same kind of journey of thinking about her as a place as a site of knowledge, a site of information, and thinking about the ways in which her dislocation from her own archive has then you know, obviously inspired me as an artist, and, also as an activist in some way. Then to think about her archive and like, how do we reconstitute that into storytelling, both in music and theater, so you know my focus right now. I mean, I still am deep inside of FESTAC. I think other projects are emerging from that archive. But I’m also interested in looking at again, these historic sites of cultural production, what is it to look at, you know, all of the places in which looking at like, the history of the African Union, Haile Selassie, the history of Rumble in the Jungle, the famous boxing match in 1974 in Kinshasa. I mean, I’m just very interested in them, and for me, when I talk about those spaces; I’m talking about the performances and the art that happened as a part of those spaces. I’m not saying I want to understand this, you know, of course, I’m always interested in the political and economic and social context that frame those things, but I’m very interested in the actual art that was invited to take place there or that was made as a result of being there. And I think to me, we talk a lot about tuition for the visual arts in postcolonial spaces. We talk about what is it to bring stolen art of art and masks and various things that are of real value in during colonialism, what is it to return those things to the continent and to their cultural, origins, but then, it makes me think about what is the question around the performing arts.

Surely, we’ve sustained a certain type of the same kind of cultural violence, right? I think the difference is visual arts if there’s a tangible thing, whereas performing arts we’re operating from a place of the ephemeral, the fleeting, you know, it’s like what’s happening right now and then suddenly, it’s gone. And so our only recourse is actually the archive, the ways in which it’s documented and the ways in which it is preserved that history and the stories and those performances and that contribution is preserved. So, that’s my interest in the archive right now. It’s like how we have it across the continent. What is the archive of the African performing art of the performing arts in the African context? And how do we safeguard its history? And how do we become true custodians of that archive as a way of remedying the cultural violence that these artists of the past and present have sustained as a result of colonialism?  

Are you willing to work with non-Jazz singers in promoting your cause?
It’s not that these projects are not meant to be nobler than anybody else’s art-making practice. You know, I don’t see it as such. I think that kind of suggests some sort of hierarchy to the value of what everybody is doing and just I, value so much of what people are doing. We can sit here and it sounds very heavy and cerebral and maybe intellectual or academic, right? But the real thing is, it’s only because you’re asking me to unpack some of the things that are in my mind, but there are ways that I think about how this might reverberate in other ways. However, for me, I am just interested in a certain type of storytelling and truth. And I hope that you feel that in the performance that it doesn’t feel like all I mean, yes, it can open up these other conversations, but I’m just interested in truth-telling from myself and others. And so, I guess then the straight answer is always being interested in collaboration with people who are working around or outside of and completely opposite from what I’m doing. You know, I think collaboration is an opportunity to learn. It’s an opportunity to grow. And I’m always open to that, and I’m always interested in that. And I always enjoy that. So yeah, I think the short answer is absolutely yes.

What’s your rehearsal process like with your band?
Well, I guess my rehearsal process. I mean, the band that I performed with in Lagos that’s my band. They’re based in New York and LA and, of course, it had a friend and longtime collaborator from Lagos, Phillip Uzor. The thing about jazz, like, yes, there’s a stretch of time where we’re really rehearsing the music, and then there’s a stretch, you start touring it around the world. And at some point, the process is about what you discover on stage. You know, once everybody understands the structure and the form and the changes, the chord changes, then it’s about how do we lean into the form and still kind of slow and find surrender. For me, I am always interested in a certain type of surrender, you know. And, when we are in a conversation on stage, it’s about what are the new things I can find in the music? Right, because if we’re doing shows, you know, every night stretches, weeks in Europe or in the US or wherever you want to find something new not seeing it the exact same way. Every single time. Of course, as I said, there’s the structure that we all understand but that particular performance you saw, I invited them to come and meet me in Lagos, that’s what brought them to Lagos. I shared the music with Philip who was also an incredible musician. And then there’s just a way that we understand the language, you know, we touch base, make sure everybody’s clear again, since it’s somehow a slightly modified group of musicians. And then we try to get at it. I don’t know if that’s a good answer. But basically, it’s the rehearsal process. The rehearsals happened so long ago. And then the touring is where it gets deeper and I think about it as getting juicy or really, it just gets juicy and juicy. Every time we have a chance to perform the music, it’s like a muscle.

Finally, tell us your deepest motivation. As an artist, what essentially do you want people to experience from everything you do?
Firstly, I’m going to go back and just tell you one other thing about my preparation process that I should maybe have mentioned, which is meditation. I tried to make sure I am centred, calm, and still before I enter the stage, that’s number one. But that also connects to this other thing about my inspiration that you just asked, which is, for me, there are two things that are happening- I want to be connected to something larger than myself. So, spirit, universe, God, you know, whatever that means, ancestors, for yourself, for readers, and myself. You know, I think it means a lot of different things to different people. So, just being connected to something larger because that’s what reminds me that the gift of music, of art is really that it’s something that comes from somewhere else. Everybody has different gifts and I’m grateful that music, storytelling and performance are some of my gifts. I also understand that these are things that were, as I said, as gifts, they were given to me and so I tried to be in service of the larger thing. That inspires me to share those gifts right and that larger essence is, Spirit, it is God that’s a driving part of my process and my profession. I would say specifically in African performance, and in the creation of a right of making art, and also in terms of what inspires me I’m inspired to be a witness. I’m inspired to tell stories that are obscured, that are forgotten, that are underserved, so I’m inspired to lift up the voices of people who feel voiceless. I’m inspired to witness myself as a human being, as a woman, as an African, as a Black person in the world. I think about how my voice and my way of telling stories might empower people from my community and people from outside of our communities, to have a keen sense of our humanity. I think I’m in-depth. That’s what inspires me to be a witness, to tell the truth and to connect to spirit.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Greeley Central senior earns $1,000 National Youth Service Day Award for community service 

An 18-year-old Greeley Central High School senior who recently became a Boettcher scholar has another $1,000 scholarship to put toward her college career.

On Tuesday, Luluya Tekle received the 2024 National Youth Service Day Award, presented by Mayor John Gates, at the Greeley City Council meeting. The National Youth Services Day Awards “recognize the power of youth service,” reinforcing the importance of helping others to young Americans, according to a city news release.

The Greeley Youth Commission, which receives nominations each year, provided Tekle with a plaque and check for her community service and volunteer efforts.

Hannah Woerner, an academic advisor for the Greeley Dream Team, nominated Tekle, calling her one of the “most involved and passionate students” Woerner has ever met, according to the release. Tekle, the daughter of immigrants, completed 658 hours of community service during her senior year.

“In these activities and volunteer experiences, Tekle gives her all,” Woerner said. “She has already worked to create massive change in her community.”

Tekle found a real love for serving her community and enjoyed all the rich experiences of giving back this past year.

Luluya Tekle, a senior at Greeley Central High School. (Courtesy/Greeley-Evans District 6)
Luluya Tekle, a senior at Greeley Central High School. (Courtesy/Greeley-Evans District 6)

Although she appreciates the award, wrapping up her senior year with or without it wouldn’t have changed how she felt about the valuable service she committed over the years.

“It’s fun to be able to do something that is bigger than yourself,” Tekle said. “You had communities who built you, and now you have the chance to give back to those communities.”

Her involvement this past year includes volunteering for the Student Health Advisory Council, Key Club, Best Buddies, Student Council, National Honors Society, HerStory, Future Business Leaders of America, Student Equity Team, Youth Leadership, Council of Student Representatives, FoodBytes for Weld County School District 6, Upward Bound and the Mural Bike Lane.

She also spent 40 hours volunteering at the Greeley Central cultural assembly that took place last semester and 72 hours at the Colorado Association of School Boards Conference. She has taken on several roles in her school, such as serving as a social media manager for the boys’ basketball team and working for the yearbook, according to the release.

She completed volunteer work on a handful of projects such as the Make Kindness a Habit project and a Black History Month project — her favorite undertaking throughout high school.

Tekle wanted to bring a Black History Month celebration to her school while making a difference in Black lives. Throughout February, she hosted a blood drive and fundraiser for sickle cell anemia since the Black community has significantly higher rates of contracting the condition than other groups.

The project raised just under $1,000 for Denver’s Colorado Sickle Cell Association. On the school front, Tekle focused on integrating Black culture and music in America by interviewing Black students about their experiences and influences.

Throughout the month, she asked those she interviewed to provide her with a song made by a Black artist to play during the morning announcements.

Tekle also has a passion for photography, started her own business and takes free photos for seniors who can’t afford to pay for them, Woerner shared.

“In addition to her service through external sources, Tekle has also generated her circumstances for service,” Woerner said. “Tekle learned a second language and understands feeling left out of the mainstream. She met with the secretary of education and board members from around Colorado to learn how she could improve her school.”

The Boettcher Foundation also selected Tekle as the recipient of its scholarship, which offers an annual fixed amount of $20,000 per year for four years to use at a Colorado college or university.

Tekle, who wants to focus on giving Black writers a voice, plans to pursue her love of writing by majoring in journalism and communications. In the future, she hopes to own a publishing company.

Earning the National Youth Services Day Award has only fueled her desire to continue her community service work, she said.

“Getting those scholarships and those awards really meant so much to me because it just furthered my passion for service,” Tekle said. “It feels a lot like getting back what you gave, but the giving part was so much more enjoyable.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Yale professor of African American studies attacks Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess as “white supremacist” and “misogynist”

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On April 5, Daphne Brooks, professor of African American studies, American Studies, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies and Music at Yale University, delivered a lecture to the Musicology Department of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

Given the title of Professor Brooks’ lecture, “Rhapsody & Ruin: Porgy and Bess and the Story of America,” it was a safe assumption that the 40 or so music students, professors and administrators in attendance would be on the receiving end of yet another racialist take-down of the great American opera. The professor did not disappoint.

George Gershwin, director Rouben Mamoulian and the cast of Porgy and Bess take their bows after the first preview in Boston, 1935. [Photo: Lawrence and Lee Theatre Research Institute, Ohio State University]

In academia in the US, attacks on the musically exquisite and dramatically moving portrayal of the struggles and sufferings of the impoverished African American inhabitants of “Catfish Row” in early 20th-century Charleston, South Carolina have become something of a cottage industry. Exposing the alleged racism of the opera and its creators—George and Ira Gershwin and Dubose Heyward—has become a preoccupation of the postmodernist proponents of “critical race theory” and related obsessions with gender, sexual preference and other aspects of personal identity.

The University of Michigan has long been a bastion of racialist ideology, no doubt linked to its close ties to the Democratic Party, which increasingly since the 1960s has made black nationalism a centerpiece of its politics. Another factor is U-M’s geographical location in the center of the US auto industry, whose corporate interests are bound up with sowing divisions within one of the most militant sections, historically, of the American working class.

Harold Cruse, the author of 1967 book The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual, became the initial head at the University of Michigan of what was then among the first African American studies departments in the country. Cruse advocated a boycott of Porgy and Bess on the grounds of its supposed racist portrayal of blacks in the Jim Crow South.

Six years ago, the U-M School of Music, Theatre and Dance’s “Gershwin Initiative” sponsored a concert performance of the authoritative critical edition of the score of Gershwin’s opera. This landmark performance was, however, accompanied by a symposium that featured denunciations of Porgy’s white creators for their “cultural appropriation” of “black” music.

Yale Professor Daphne Brooks at the University of Michigan, April 5, 2024

As deplorable as those attacks were—essentially advocating the balkanization of music and culture on the basis of nationality, skin color and ethnicity, a project closer to the Nazis’ Aryan art than to genuine art—they seem in retrospect timid in comparison to Professor Brooks’ broadside.

Brooks is the author of several books, the most recent being Liner Notes for the Revolution: The Intellectual Life of Black Feminist Sound, published in 2021 by Harvard University Press. She considers herself, and is considered within academic circles, to be an expert on black women singers and performers, having written articles and CD liner notes about Aretha Franklin, Motown’s Tammi Terrell, and Nina Simone, among others.

Beyoncé as the apotheosis of black female liberation

She currently champions Beyoncé, the mass-marketed, billionaire pop star who is the darling of music critics and academics immersed in racialist and feminist politics. They hail her as an apotheosis of black female liberation and expression. Brooks’ 445-page Liner Notes concludes with this ecstatic tribute:

Watch her then, as she rides this revolution out of the basement, out of that shadowy New Orleans garage, and into the center of our consciousness. Her Lemonade [an album released by Beyoncé in 2016] kicks down the door between Black past and Black futures, pulling us toward the light and willing us to come up for air. Take a deep breath.

Album cover for Cowboy Carter

At the University of Michigan, Brooks began her attack on Porgy and Bess with a power-point slide of Beyoncé’s new album, Carter Country, and audio from the CD. This was presumably meant to counterpose the “real thing” to the allegedly racist and demeaning depiction of black women in Porgy.

Brooks’ approach to the opera, as is typical among the purveyors of “critical race theory,” proceeds entirely from the premise that all history, art, culture and politics in America is determined by categories of personal identity—first and foremost race, and secondly gender—and that the source of racism is the ingrained and ineradicable hatred of white people for black people. According to this subjective idealist and irrationalist ideology, there are no objective laws of historical or social development, and socio-economic class is, at most, just another form of personal identity (”classism”) rather than the fundamental driving force of society and history.

From this it follows that, notwithstanding the radical-sounding jargon of postmodernist “discourse,” including the occasional use of Marxist phraseology, the conclusions are entirely compatible with the capitalist market, class exploitation, social inequality and the imperialist interests of the ruling class. Hence the glorification of backward and musically impoverished corporate-made and -marketed kitsch à la Beyoncé.

Critical race theory

Brooks’ “excavation” of the opera and its creators adheres to the basic methodology outlined by Tom Carter in his essay The Ideological Foundations of Critical Race Theory:

Accordingly, for the adherents of critical race theory, it is not a question of whether racism is expressed in any given social phenomenon, but a question of how racism is expressing itself in that phenomenon, given that generalized racism on the part of all white people is supposedly the organizing principle of the whole society.

Brook’s specific focus is on the supposedly “white supremacist,” “misogynist” and “violent” treatment of black women in the figure of Bess, and in the overall work of both Gershwin and Heyward. She argues, with virtually no substantiation, that the black female artists who have sung the role of Bess have rebelled against the supposedly white chauvinist and exploitative nature of the opera, and thereby to some extent redeemed it.

Todd Duncan and Anne Brown, the original Porgy and Bess. [Photo: “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, a 75th Anniversary Celebration” by Robin Thompson, Amadeus Press]

Her exposition begins with a clip from a 2012 television interview with Audra McDonald, who sang the role of Bess in a 2012 Broadway production of Porgy and Bess. In the interview, McDonald speaks of the vocal challenges of the part. Citing the high note with which Bess concludes the duet with Crown, Bess’ former lover (“What you want wid Bess?”), McDonald notes that some have called the technical demands of the score a “voice killer.”

Brooks seizes on this statement to inject a meaning that is nowhere implied in the interview with McDonald: That Gershwin and Heyward authored an opera which perpetuated the violence of “white” society on black women, including treating them as nothing more than sex objects. This is presented as damning evidence in the professor’s indictment of the work and its creators.

The following excerpt from the lecture provides a sense of the tendentious, one-sided and false arguments marshaled against the opera, as well as the bombastic postmodernist jargon in which they are packaged:

It is a story of what cultural domination sounds like if we will just listen out for it. It is the exemplification of white supremacy and misogyny as form and aesthetic as it traveled across repertoires and genres of influence and ended up in mouths of black actors. To listen in this way to the history of Porgy and Bess is to tell the story of white artistic rhapsodic effusion in relation to ideas about black life, is to tell the story of white interest in dramatization of black suffering as extravagant and rapturous… it means telling a story of colonial wonder and anti-black repulsion… it means telling the story of disaster and destruction…

For Brooks, taking a racialist hatchet to the opera itself is not sufficient. She feels the need to attribute to Gershwin and Heyward personally the most sordid and mercenary motives. She accuses the two of conspiring to “capitalize on blackness as the wished-for realization of their own avant-gardism.” At another point she speaks of “their investment in the creation and capital expenditure in Bess,” and describes them as “pursuing their own self-aggrandizing innovation…”

In her attempt to denigrate George Gershwin, Brooks reveals her own ignorance about the great composer’s biography and career. Speaking of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, which premiered in 1924 when Gershwin was 25, she states:

Gershwin imagined that the production of classical masterworks might elevate him from his humble song plugger-turned vaudeville hustling roots to become America’s foremost composer.

In fact, Gershwin had little connection to the vaudeville circuit, and by the time of the Rhapsody’s premiere he had already written the music to several Broadway shows, including La La Lucille (1919) and the 1920-1923 annual editions of the popular Broadway review George White’s Scandals.

At another point Brooks refers to Gershwin as the son of “rich Russian Jewish immigrant parents.” Gershwin’s parents, Rose and Morris, were not the poorest of the poor residents of Jewish ghettos, moving the household frequently from Brooklyn to the Lower East Side of Manhattan to the Upper West Side bordering Harlem. But the household was anything but rich. Morris was a lower-middle-class owner of a succession of businesses, most of which failed.

Porgy and Bess: Racialist falsification vs. reality

More importantly, Brooks’ presentation of the opera, its characters and plot line are so distorted as to belie the very universal and democratic spirit of the work. And, one might add, despite its tragedies, the humane and optimistic ethos it projects.

Thus, she chooses to focus on a lesser musical number, the duet between Crown and Bess on Kitiwah Island, while downplaying the opera’s better known pieces, such as the beautiful lullaby Summertime, Porgy’s banjo song I Got Plenty o’ Nuttin, the drug dealer Sportin’ Life’s irreligious It Ain’t Necessarily So, and the love songs between Porgy and Bess, Bess, You Is My Woman Now and I Loves You, Porgy.

The latter two arias, sung during the opera’s second act, signify the redemption of both the crippled beggar Porgy and the drug addicted outcast Bess through their love for one another.

At the beginning of Act Three, Bess cradles the orphaned infant of Clara, who has drowned in the hurricane that also killed her husband, the fisherman Jake. Bess reprises Clara’s haunting lullaby Summertime, revealing the full depth of her humanity.

It is only the intervention of the state, in the form of the local authorities, who come and take Porgy to jail as a material witness in the deaths of Robbins and Crown, that leaves Bess feeling abandoned and thus prey to Sportin’ Life’s “happy dust.” But in the end, when Porgy returns from jail, he affirms his unbroken love for Bess and determination to find her in New York in the concluding aria, “Oh Lawd, I’m On My Way.”

(left to right) George Gershwin, DuBose Heyward, Ira Gershwin

In his 1990 book The Life and Times of Porgy and Bess: The Story of an American Classic, the late film critic and author Hollis Alpert recounts an episode that bespeaks the opera’s universal appeal and democratic spirit. He writes that the opera made its first appearance “across the ocean” in 1943 in Copenhagen, when Denmark was under Nazi occupation:

In spite of white actors playing black roles, the opera was an extraordinary success, so much so that the Nazi occupiers suggested strongly to the opera managers that an American work of any kind was not to its liking and that this one be withdrawn from the repertory.

Nevertheless, the opera was given and sold out twenty-one more times, with the theatre surrounded on each occasion by a cordon of Danish police. Finally, the Gestapo lost patience and said if Porgy and Bess were given one more time the opera house would be bombed. The opera’s managers decided to end the run.

But the banning of Porgy and Bess had the unlooked-for-effect of stimulating the Danish spirit of resistance to its occupiers and soon became a symbol of this spirit. When the Nazis broadcast communiqués over Danish radio citing their victories, the Danish underground would cut in with a recording of “It Ain’t Necessarily So.” When the war ended, Porgy and Bess was quickly reinstalled in the repertory.

In the question and answer period following Brooks’ lecture, I asked the following:

If, as you contend, Porgy and Bess is a white supremacist, brutal, violent, misogynist attack on black people, how do you explain the fact that it is a beloved opera all over the world? It has lasted since its premiere in 1935, it has been recorded and sung by Miles Davis, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holliday. It was championed by Anne Brown, the original Bess, who explicitly rejected attacks on Porgy and Bess as a white man’s cultural appropriation.

It has touched millions of people, many races, many ethnicities, who see in it a very universal and human story of struggle against oppression. By the way, the opera concludes with Porgy singing ‘Oh Lord, I’m On My Way,’ because despite his horrific conditions and oppression, the human soul is capable of immense dignity and achievement.

(left) Poster for Porgy and Bess in Athens, 1954. (right) Poster for Porgy and Bess in Warsaw, 1956. [Photo: Institute on the Federal Theatre Project and New Deal Culture, George Mason University]

Six years ago, the University of Michigan did a performance of a critical edition of Porgy and Bess, which was an immense achievement. Unfortunately, there was a symposium at which this type of racialist attack was very prevalent. I wrote an article about that for my publication, the World Socialist Web Site, which believes that human culture and humanity are capable of overcoming things like race through the unification of the oppressed and working people all over the world.

I would also warn that the type of racialism you and much of academia are promoting—you can see the end logic of that in what Netanyahu and Israel are doing in the name of defending the Jewish people against the masses of Gaza, which is genocide. The logic is the same. This is very dangerous and very false.

There ensued an exchange that included the following:

Daphne Brooks: The excavation of the documentary record of racial domination in this country, you’re comparing it to Netanyahu’s settler colonialism?

Barry Grey: I don’t agree with what you claim to be an excavation of racial domination. Of course there is racial prejudice. It is used to oppose the unification of working and oppressed people against the system that does it. It’s not done by “white people.” It’s done by capitalism.

Brooks: “It requires a little more nuanced way of thinking about history…

Grey: Your presentation is nuanced?

Brooks: I think it is. There is a whole study of thought, of trying to think about many complex ideas together that’s called intersectionality. So rather than arguing for class struggle in lieu of thinking about race and gender, we should be thinking about all of these things at once. You aren’t well versed in that.

Grey: I’m very well versed, thank you.

Brooks: You’re well versed in intersectionality? Would you like to tell me something about intersectionality?

Grey: This is one of the postmodernist catchwords that’s been developed to raise the question of race or gender to the level of the fundamental division in society, which, in fact, is class. That’s what intersectionality is.

Brooks: The very fact that you think there is a hierarchy…

Grey: Yes, there is a hierarchy. Beyoncé is not the same as a woman, white or black, working for $15 an hour in an auto plant.

World renowned black operatic tenor George Shirley on Porgy and Bess: “A great work”

The last person to speak in the discussion was George Shirley, who called Porgy and Bess “a great work” and stressed its universal appeal. Shirley, now 90, is a major figure in the world of opera in the US and internationally. He is the first African American tenor and the second black male to sing leading roles at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. He sang there for 11 seasons.

He performed for opera companies across the US, throughout Europe and in Latin America. He has sung more than 80 roles, including Rodolfo in Puccini’s La bohème, Ferrando in Mozart’s Così fan tutte (for which he won a Grammy Award), and Tamino in Mozart’s The Magic Flute [Die Zauberflöte]. For many years he was the director of vocal arts at the U-M School of Music, Theatre and Dance, where he continues to serve as a professor of music.

George I. Shirley [Photo: U-M School of Music]

He said:

I refused to do Sportin’ Life in the ’60s because I knew that even though I was singing at the Met, I would probably be shunted—OK, that’s the only thing I can do. I did it later and I had one of the best times of my life.

One of the things that’s powerful about Porgy is that it’s true. I grew up in Detroit. I’ve seen it…

I will say I don’t accept the opera being done by non-blacks until we have the right to do any opera that we can sing and perform. Till that happens, that should stay in place. But I can see this opera being done by any ethnicity, because it’s human. I can see it being done in an Irish town, back in the day. In Italy, Germany, you name it. Wherever human beings exist, this kind of violence and disrespect exists…

So Porgy is a great work. And why did Gershwin choose the black community? Because of what is there in the music and the fact that this was happening in the black community, it was happening in the Italian community in the United States, the Irish community. Under the conditions poor people are made to live in, these things happen…

In conclusion, I would like to quote a very perceptive and relevant section of the Foreword written by David North to The New York Times’ 1619 Project and the Racialist Falsification of History, coedited by North and Thomas Mackaman and published by Mehring Books in 2021:

History is not the only discipline assaulted by the race specialists. In an essay titled “Music Theory and the White Racial Frame,” Professor Philip A. Ewell of Hunter College in New York declares, “I posit that there exists a ‘white racial frame’ in music theory that is structural and institutionalized, and that only through a reframing of this white racial frame will we begin to see positive racial changes in music theory.”

This degradation of music theory divests the discipline of its scientific and historically developed character. The complex principles and elements of composition, counterpoint, tonality, consonance, dissonance, timbre, rhythm, notation, etc. are derived, Ewell claims, from racial characteristics. Professor Ewell is loitering in the ideological territory of the Third Reich.

There is more than a passing resemblance between his call for the liberation of music from “whiteness” and the efforts of Nazi academics in the Germany of the 1930s and 1940s to liberate music from “Jewishness.” The Nazis denounced Mendelssohn as a mediocrity whose popularity was the insidious manifestation of Jewish efforts to dominate Aryan culture.

In similar fashion, Ewell proclaims that Beethoven was merely “above average as a composer,” and that he “occupies the place he does because he has been propped up by whiteness and maleness for two hundred years.”

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Beyoncés Cowboy Carter album the focus of new documentary

Beyoncé‘s Cowboy Carter album is the focus of a CNN FlashDocs documentary about the history of Black artists in the world of country music.

Call Me Country: Beyoncé & Nashville’s Renaissance “examines the impact of how high-profile artists like Lil Nas X and Beyoncé are challenging the country music status quo and how Black artists in Nashville have been laying the foundation for this transformation for some time.”

It features prominent Black voices in the country music scene, like banjo player Rhiannon Giddens; interviews with the likes of Brothers Osborne, Rissi Palmer, Aaron Vance and Denitia; and analysis from Touré, Keith Hill and more.

Call Me Country: Beyoncé & Nashville’s Renaissance will hit Max on April 26.

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