From Bed-Ins to first releases: Music author Ritchie Yorke’s life never had a B-side

The late Ritchie Yorke introduced Stevie Wonder to Australian audiences, was instrumental in John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s 1969 Bed-Ins and wrote the book on Led Zeppelin — literally.

Now, the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia (NFSA) will dive into the life of the Brisbane music journalist, author and broadcaster to celebrate his contribution to the local and international music industry. 

As a young radio DJ in Toowoomba in 1960, Yorke’s passion for emerging talent and sounds actually got him sacked.

A woman with long red hair sits in a chair in her home, smiling.A woman with long red hair sits in a chair in her home, smiling.
Ms Yorke is working to ensure her husband’s career as a music journalist is documented and recognised.(

ABC Radio Brisbane: Edwina Seselja

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Yorke had been campaigning to bring R’n’B to Australia and immediately “fell in love” with the work of a 12-year-old blind boy from America after receiving his album through the Motown mailing list.

“Stevie Wonder’s very first number one hit … Fingertips Part II,” Yorke’s widow Minnie said, as she recalled the song that had Yorke so excited.

“So on his Toowoomba radio show, he played that song, and in playing that song, Monday morning he was called down to their office and he was told never to play that N-word music again. 

“For Ritchie, [that was a] red rag to a bull.

Speaking about the incident in an interview later in life, Yorke told the Canadian Museum of Recorded Music and Culture (CMRMC): “I felt it was time to draw a line.” 

“That was when I realised, early in the piece, if I wanted to pursue rhythm and blues music by Afro-American artists, I was probably in the wrong country,” he said.

A framed photo of Ritchie Yorke, in 1969, holding a War Is Over poster.A framed photo of Ritchie Yorke, in 1969, holding a War Is Over poster.
Yorke travelled around the world spreading John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s message of peace.(

ABC Radio Brisbane: Edwina Seselja

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In 1966, Yorke moved to England where he worked for Island Records before relocating to Canada where he wrote and edited articles for Rolling Stone, Billboard and The Globe and Mail.

With an ear for talent, it wasn’t long before Yorke was working alongside industry giants like John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Van Morrison and Aretha Franklin, many of whom became his close friends.

Yorke championed Led Zeppelin in the early days, at a time when the English rock band’s first album was not well received. 

And he was in the studio when Aretha Franklin recorded Natural Woman in one take — a story Ms Yorke said always brought tears to his eyes when he retold it. 

A framed photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Bed-In for Peace protest in 1969.A framed photo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Bed-In for Peace protest in 1969.
Yorke threw his support behind Lennon and Ono’s Bed-In and helped bring it to the attention of the press.(

ABC Radio Brisbane: Edwina Seselja

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Yorke was also instrumental in bringing the world’s attention to Lennon and Ono’s famous Bed-Ins for Peace in Amsterdam and Montreal in 1969. 

“I just thought it was amazing that John and Yoko were using their fame for something very positive, rather than just glorifying their own egos, which so many rock artists did in that day,” Yorke told CMRMC.

‘They’ve found an archeological dig’

Yorke didn’t throw out much, if anything, keeping almost every article, letter, press pass, photograph, vinyl record, concert ticket and item of clothing he’d collected throughout his career. 

When he died in 2017, his wife Minnie had the colossal task of cataloguing and preserving those memories, and now the NFSA has stepped in to help, with Yorke’s possessions now in Canberra.

Minnie Yorke surrounded by walls of vinyl and music memorabilia.Minnie Yorke surrounded by walls of vinyl and music memorabilia.
Ms Yorke says her husband’s music collection and memorabilia are now with the NFSA in Canberra.(

ABC Radio Brisbane: Edwina Seselja

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In a statement, the NFSA said Yorke was one of Australia’s most significant music critics.

“The NFSA is delighted to be working together with Minnie Yorke to help celebrate Ritchie’s life and career,” the NFSA said.

But the NFSA actually came across Yorke by chance when hosting a monthly event called the Vinyl Lounge in Canberra earlier this year, Ms Yorke said. 

“The people who came along a month or so ago asked for the Beatles,” Ms Yorke said.

“They went looking through the archive, found a white label from a donation that was given to them from a radio station, a white label vinyl that had ‘John Lennon’ written on it.

A photograph of Yoko Ono, taken by Ritchie Yorke and an original War Is Over handbill on a couch.A photograph of Yoko Ono, taken by Ritchie Yorke and an original War Is Over handbill on a couch.
A photograph of Yoko Ono, taken by Ritchie Yorke, and an original War Is Over handbill.(

ABC Radio Brisbane: Edwina Seselja

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“Then they researched the words that John was saying and discovered it was Ritchie talking to him. 

“Then they wrote to me … so of course I was delighted to say, ‘Yes, I can tell you more about this and there’s lots more’.

Hendrix’s hat and Lennon’s jumpsuit

Among Yorke’s collection is a hat, gifted to him by Jimi Hendrix in May 1969, when the musician was at the height of his career.

“There’s a great story behind this hat,” Ms Yorke said.

A woman holds a black felt hat with a red band and trim.A woman holds a black felt hat with a red band and trim.
Jimi Hendrix’s hat, which he gave to Yorke after the journalist appeared as a character witness for him in court. (

ABC Radio Brisbane: Edwina Seselja

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“Jimi Hendrix was busted at Toronto airport for drugs, there was a very big sold-out show waiting to go ahead that night … but the court had to go ahead. 

Other pieces from the time include a small black jumpsuit that belonged to John Lennon and was worn by Yorke as a uniform during the War Is Over campaign. 

A retro black jumpsuits hands on a mannequin in a sun room. A retro black jumpsuits hands on a mannequin in a sun room.
John Lennon gifted this black jumpsuit to Yorke to wear during the War Is Over campaign.(

ABC Radio Brisbane: Edwina Seselja

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One of the countries Yorke and Canadian rocker Ronnie Hawkins travelled to to spread Lennon and Ono’s message was China, where they brandished cardboard handbills on the Lok Ma Chau border point.

“We managed to get through the borders, held up our posters towards China and got back in the van just as the soldiers came pouring out of their building,” Yorke said once. 

It wasn’t the only item Lennon gifted Yorke. He also gave him the first acetate press of the Beatles song Let It Be.

The first acetate press of Let it Be by the Beatles.The first acetate press of Let it Be by the Beatles.
The first acetate press of Let it Be by the Beatles.(

ABC Radio Brisbane: Edwina Seselja

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The journalist, who later worked at the ABC and was chief music writer for Brisbane’s Sunday Mail for two decades, also wrote a number of books, including biographies on Led Zeppelin, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and on Van Morrison.

Many of the artists Yorke worked with remained loyal friends until they or he reached the end of their long and winding roads. 

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Didn’t Hear It Through the Grapevine – by Paula & Terry Erdmann

The Unfettered Critic – August 2021

We watched a movie at a theater for the first time in eighteen months.

Really.

And yes, it felt like a big deal, because post-vaccinations, with the pandammit looking a little less fearsome, we felt an itch to go where we didn’t have to pop our own corn. Hollywood, finally, was releasing films they’d cautiously been hoarding. But which would be right for our first cinematic outing?

We decided on Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised), a lovingly-crafted documentary about The Harlem Cultural Festival, a series of long-forgotten concerts held in Mount Morris (now Marcus Garvey) Park during the summer of 1969.

Wait: 1969?

Why, we wondered, were they long-forgotten? They certainly carried enough star power, with the likes of Stevie Wonder, B.B. King, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Fifth Dimension, Sly and the Family Stone, Mahalia Jackson, Mavis Staples, and many more. How could these concerts have left no footprint in history? Particularly since they occurred the same summer that, a mere hundred miles to the north, a little thing called Woodstock would soon take place. Everybody knows about Woodstock! Jimi Hendrix! Crosby, Stills, and Nash! The Who! Santana! Joan Baez! Jefferson Airplane! And Sly and the Family Stone. Woodstock gave rise to a major motion picture. But of this so-called “Black Woodstock,” there was no movie, nor memory.

Why? What happened?

Too few attendees? Nope. 300,000 excited fans attended the Harlem Cultural Festival. Woodstock pulled in only a third more.

Unfamiliar songs? Nope. “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” “Oh Happy Day,” “Heard it Through the Grapevine,” “Grazing in the Grass,” and even “Everyday People,” which Sly and the Family Stone shortly would reprise at Woodstock. That’s plenty of Top 40 hits, all performed by the original artists, with a spectacular assemblage of backup bands.

The answer is sadly obvious, and socially resonant. In 1969, television director/producer Hal Tuchin (whose resume included specials about Sammy Davis Jr., Bobby Goldsboro, and Wayne Newton) daringly filmed the concerts on spec. But Tuchin couldn’t convince anyone—and he approached every major network—to finance a film about Black artists performing in Black Harlem. And so, with the exception of those 300,000 attendees, the Festival faded from memory.

Thankfully, Tuchin didn’t destroy his bounty in a fit of pique. He stored it in his basement, knowing that someday, someone would recognize its value.

Eventually, two astute producers—David Dinerstein and Robert Fyvolent—approached Tuchin and acquired the rights. It had taken only forty-five-plus years!

But who could create a spectacular film? Dinerstein and Fyvolent chose Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, co-founder of the Roots hip-hop group and leader of the current Tonight Show Band. Questlove almost dismissed the producers when they told him what they had. He doubted that an event like the Harlem Festival could have happened without him ever hearing about it. But once they showed him footage, he was in.

The result is in theaters now, and streaming simultaneously on Hulu. It’s a joyous celebration of major talent making major music. (Just the duet between Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples on “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” is worth the price of admission.)

A sidenote: when a New York Times reporter covered the concerts, she referred to the event and the majority of the performers as “Black” (as opposed to the standard term, “Negro”). The editor agreed, and the term quickly became widely adopted, not only by the Times, but also as common usage.

Several weeks ago, Summer of Soul won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, forgotten no more.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Post-Pandemic Resurgence

With a new executive director, the Delaware Art Museum is emphasizing diversity and First State talent while undergoing a major reinstallation

Appropriately for the director of an art museum, Molly Giordano grew up surrounded by art and the tools to create it.

“Our whole house was full of art supplies,” she says of her childhood home in Morgantown, W. Va. “You’d open the silverware drawer and there might not be any forks, but there would be paint brushes in there.”

Delaware Art Museum’s Exeuctive Director Molly Giordano. Photo by Joe del Tufo.

That was thanks largely to her mother. Susan Keresztury was an artist and art history professor who also managed the programs at the community art center in Morgantown.

Naturally, young Molly tried her hand at painting, but she and her brother gravitated to other art forms. She was interested in writing, and from an early age dreamed of getting her MFA (Master of Fine Arts). Nick, 18 months older, went into the theater. Meanwhile, her father, Jim, gave her a view into the nonprofit world through his career as a social worker specializing in cancer prevention and care among rural West Virginians.

Giordano came to Delaware in 2004 to attend UD, where she majored in political science and journalism, thinking she might become a political reporter. After graduation, she skipped the reporting part and went right into politics in 2008 by becoming a key member of Jack Markell’s first of two successful campaigns for governor.

Working on his communications team, she accompanied Markell in his journey up and down the state, including a “55 towns in 55 hours” marathon over the Fourth of July weekend. After the election, thinking she might want to follow in her dad’s footsteps, Giordano spent a year-and-a-half at West End Neighborhood House.

Then, in 2010, having decided neither politics nor social work was her future, she  became manager of Marketing and Public Relations for the Delaware Art Museum.

Emerging from COVID

She then began a steady climb up the museum’s executive ladder (finding time along the way to achieve her childhood dream by earning a master’s degree in creative writing), and in February was named executive director after serving as interim director for 13 months. She succeeds Sam Sweet, whose four-year tenure ended last year.

Giordano steps into the job at a pivotal time in the history of the 109-year-old institution as it emerges from the impact of COVID-19, which necessitated a three-month shutdown. In addition to rebuilding visitation and in-person programming, the museum is in the midst of a major reinstallation of the main floor galleries, a project that will continue through the summer, with all eight reimagined galleries open by Saturday, Sept. 11. The project was shaped through input from focus groups that included more than 100 Delawareans.

This marks the first comprehensive DelArt rehanging since 2005. Since then, the collections have grown to include significant pieces by women and Black artists that tell a more inclusive story of the visual arts. The reinstallation also emphasizes the role of local artists and collectors in the history of art.

Fresh Eyes

Amelia Wiggins, assistant director of Learning and Engagement, says the focus groups, conducted in the winter of 2019, have been instrumental in determining the museum’s path forward.

“We invited representatives from a range of Wilmington communities and asked them to bring someone who had never been to the museum,” she says. “So we heard from those who understood our work and were involved in our work for a long time, but also from some first-time users who were coming with fresh eyes.

“We heard that Delawareans love local stories, and we heard quite a bit that some Delawareans didn’t feel they were represented in the galleries. So we worked hard to add stories that were previously untold. We tried to create a more relevant experience for them.” (For more on one of the exhibits, see sidebar on adjacent page.)

Contemporary Art Curator Margaret Winslow says the museum is “committed to diversity, committed to equity, committed to inclusion. And that means incorporating all of those voices and creating platforms for all of those voices to be heard.”

“Pool Room 11th & Walnut” by Wilmington’s Edward Loper, Jr., another of the works that will be on display in a special exhibit opening Oct. 23.

That has led to widening the scope of programs and content. “We have focused specifically on collecting work by women artists and artists of color, and filled major holes in the museum’s collection,” says Winslow. She says this is part of the museum’s role “as a leader in supporting systemic change in our communities, in Wilmington and Delaware, and expanding outward.”

The emphasis on diversity extends to membership as well: The museum is in the midst of a “100 Days of Summer” campaign whose goal is to add 100 members to the list that now totals about 1,400.

Meanwhile, the building and grounds on Wilmington’s Kentmere Parkways are a post-pandemic beehive of activity. Much of it is taking place outside on the Terrace or in the sprawling and impressive Sculpture Garden.

The popular Happy Hours, featuring live music, local brews, wine, cocktails, and food, are back on Thursdays from 4 to 8 p.m. DelArt Drive-In movies on the lawn of the Sculpture Garden began in July and continue through August and the first two weeks of September. The Friday movies are free, and typical movie concessions are available. Patrons only need to bring a chair.

There also are workshops and multi-week courses in painting, drawing, printmaking, photography, metalsmithing, ceramics, and writing, some of them virtual. Both children and adults — defined as age 15 and older — of any skill level are welcome.

Next spring, as part of its mission to spotlight Delaware talent, the museum will present two distinguished artists exhibitions: e. jean lanyon, an artist and writer who served as the state’s Poet Laureate for 22 years, and Stan Smokler, a metal sculptor and teacher.

A Moment to Reflect

While the pandemic caused the museum to close and suffer the ensuing loss of revenue, Giordano says it had at least one positive: “Closing gave us a good moment to pause and reflect. I think we’re going to be a better, healthier organization coming out of this than we were before.”

Looking ahead, she sees two major missions for the institution. The first is to create ongoing, not limited, relationships with other institutions, such as DCAD (Delaware College of Art and Design) and the University of Delaware. The second is an innovative effort aimed at what she calls “the creative economy.”

“Where are the jobs,” she asks, “and what are we doing to support people in our community in terms of things like creative workforce development?”

Though it’s not a done deal yet, Giordano says the museum is pursuing funding for a project that will train and pay Wilmington residents to clean, conserve, and document the public works of art in Wilmington.

“It’s all planned out and we are negotiating funding, so I don’t know exactly when it will start,” she says. “We are calling it the Sculpture Conservation/Workforce Training Program.”

The native West Virginian gained a deep appreciation for the First State and its people during the arduous 2008 gubernatorial campaign, and she has even persuaded her parents and brother to move here. That appreciation was reflected in her comments after she was named director six months ago:  “I’m honored to lead the Museum into its next chapter. I consider art to be a public service, and it has been my great pleasure to help deliver that service to Delawareans — especially this year, when creativity, inspiration, and human connection are so needed.”


Afro-American Images 1971: The Vision of Percy Ricks

Aesthetic Dynamics founder Percy Ricks.

This exhibit, scheduled to open Oct. 23 and run through Jan. 23, 2022, “is a really deep look at an important historical moment and one that needs to be more thoroughly documented, explored and celebrated,” says Contemporary Art Curator Margaret Winslow.

The exhibit celebrates the 50th anniversary of the first major undertaking of Aesthetic Dynamics, Inc., a Delaware organization founded by Percy Ricks, a Wilmington artist and educator who died in 2008. The 1971 exhibition included more than 130 works of art — drawings, prints, photographs, paintings, and sculpture — by 66 African American artists.

Numerous factors led to Ricks’ founding of Aesthetic Dynamics and the ambitious inaugural exhibition, most notably the trauma suffered from the 1968 assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the subsequent nine-month National Guard occupation of Wilmington, along with Ricks’ desire to emphasize the influence of African American artists in Wilmington.

“Waiting” by Ernest Crichlow.

The exhibition is a collaboration between Aesthetic Dynamics and the Delaware Art Museum. “This aligns with the museum’s commitment to serving as an inclusive artistic hub in the city and working collaboratively with organizations throughout greater Wilmington, like Aesthetic Dynamics, Inc., to support creativity and access to the arts for all,” Winslow says.

“Afro-American Images 1971: The Vision of Percy Ricks” will include most of the artists who participated in the 1971 show. Many are known locally — Humbert Howard, Simmie Knox, Edward Loper Sr., and Edward Loper Jr. Some are recognized nationally, including Romare Bearden, Sam Gilliam, Loïs Mailou Jones, Faith Ringgold, Alma Thomas, and Hale Woodruff. By rehanging the show as accurately as possible, the partnering organizations hope to examine the exhibition’s role in the Black Arts Movement as well as question why this seemingly successful event was largely neglected by historians in the decades that followed.

The exhibit is free with admission to the museum.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

A Conversation With Bloomington’s Own Durand Jones And The Indications

Durand Jones & The IndicationsPhoto by Ebru Yildiz

In recent years Durand Jones and the Indications have appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live, landed songs in TV ads, and toured around the world. But even while racking up one achievement after the next, the dynamic soul band goes out of its ways to acknowledge its Hoosier roots.

“I feel really proud to have that be the musical community we emerged from,” says drummer/vocalist Aaron Frazer. “Of course, the conservatory is world-class, but so is the community of bands, musicians and show-goers that all revolve around the basements of Bloomington.”

Fresh off the release of their third album, Private Space, on July 30, we caught up with Frazer, vocalist Durand Jones and guitarist Blake Rhein for a phone interview, discussing the band’s Indiana origins and what inspired their latest release.

How did the band initially come together in Bloomington?

Durand Jones: I got to Bloomington in the fall of 2012 to pursue a degree in classical music. My saxophone professor got me an assistantship with the African American Arts Institute, which is where I met Dr. Charles Sykes, a Motown specialist who put me in the IU Soul Revue. I was there to coach horns, arrange horn parts and all that jazz.

It’s just by chance that the band was short on male singers that year. I sang with this really beautiful person, Ariel. We did the Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell song, “Your Precious Love.” Blake was the audio engineer, and he heard me. He handed me some CDs and was like, “Hey. I like to write soul stuff. If you ever want to hang out and write some songs, I’d totally be down.” So I was like, “Alright, cool man. That sounds like fun.”

Through that, I met [founding Indications members] Aaron, Justin and Kyle. I got to see their band Charlie Patton’s War, which I was super impressed by. I didn’t expect to see such a vibrant music scene outside of the school. It was unexpected but also a godsend. It wasn’t just the music school that was flourishing — the city was flourishing with art, too. So it was really dope seeing Charlie Patton’s War, which got me out to see other people and meet other musicians. That’s how the band started.

Before the Indications were even a thought, I know Charlie Patton’s War invited Durand to sing at a basement show. What do you remember from that first time you all performed together?

Blake Rhein: The first time the three of us all hung out together was in the studio working on a song. Aaron and I recorded instrumentals and had some vocal ideas. Durand came up to the studio, and we just spent a few hours hammering out a song. That’s what ended up becoming “Giving Up.”

Throughout the rest of that semester, we did one or two more songs. Durand was a really busy dude, and we were all kind of doing our school stuff. But as Charlie Patton’s War, we played all these shows in unfinished Bloomington basements, and I remember having Durand come and jump on a song. We did “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay” with him, and it was very lit. People were so into it, and that was a really good feeling.

Once the band started getting out on the road and gaining traction, what were some of the more surreal moments you experienced?

DJ: Well, I live in San Antonio now for a reason. [laughs] I will never forget doing our first tour and stopping in San Antonio. We played this [San Antonio native] Sunny Ozuna tune. I don’t know if we were expecting to get the reaction we did when we did that tune, but it was absolutely amazing. It was the first time I’ve ever experienced something like that where you start singing a tune, get to the chorus and you don’t even have to sing a word because the crowd’s got it on lock. That was a really beautiful moment for me, and I immediately fell in love with San Antonio after that. They really do love soul music, and they love the people that keep it alive. So I guess that first show in San Antonio was just the start of me realizing the legacy we have given ourselves the task of upholding and pushing forward.

Your last record, American Love Call, had a ‘70s soul leaning to it. How would you characterize the sound of your latest album, Private Space, and what inspired you to go down that route?

BR: Every time we do a record, the sound of it is very intuitive. We’ve been gravitating to this disco/modern soul-type sound. But then, once we started making that type of music, outer space imagery came about. There are a lot of albums from the era with that retrofuturism, and we tried to embody that with some of the imagery on the album cover and in some of the lyrics on songs.

Overall, this past couple year’s we’ve been listening to more disco and modern soul than we have the late ‘60s soul stuff that the band was built on. So it was less of a conscious decision and more just like, “This is what we listen to now. Let’s try to make something that sounds like it.”

Were any songs on the album inspired by the tumultuous times in which they were created?

DJ: “Love Will Work It Out” was definitely one that I was writing in reflection of what was going on before the pandemic hit and then what happened during it. We edited the lyrics down a good bit in the second verse. I was writing shit about the fires in California and the storms that kept hitting Louisiana. It all just felt really crazy and almost apocalyptic in a way, with all the natural disasters that were hitting us along with the systemic racism and health disparities that the world was facing.

That song really stands out to me as one that reflects what we were going through, but I didn’t want to just keep it desolate. I wanted to make it something uplifting and something that people could hopefully empathize with.

Your next tour starts up in September. What do you look forward to most about taking these songs on the road?

Aaron Frazer: I think these songs are partially a product of being on the road. Even though they were written during the pandemic, we have now spent years getting very real-time feedback about what moves a crowd, whether we’re playing a show or Blake and I are DJing after a show with our 45s. So I think these songs are a product of just figuring out what’s really fun to do live. I think the shows are just going to feel like a giant party. I’m excited to give that energy and give that energy back.

An Indianapolis native, I love all things music, especially of the local variety. My other passions also include comedy, social justice, and the Indiana Pacers.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Prince’s ‘Welcome 2 America’ continues late icon’s socio-political musical legacy






The Prince Estate Prince in concert at Madison Square Garden, Photo Date: Feb 8, 2011.

Since the announcement in April that Prince’s estate was planning its release of the previously unheard “Welcome 2 America” album, there has been a lot made in the press of the album’s political underpinnings and overtures toward racial and social justice.

At retail outlets and on streaming platforms starting July 30, “Welcome 2 America” includes provocative titles such as “Born 2 Die,” “One Day We Will All B Free,” and “Running Game (Son of A Slave Master),” accompanied by a multitude of discerning and—as many have suggested—hauntingly prescient observations.

When speaking about the record around the time of its recording (2010), Prince famously even made reference to Orwell’s dystopian classic “1984.”

Singer Shelby Johnson, one of several contributors to “Welcome 2 America,” recently told London-based Uncut that she thinks Prince “knew this album needed to wait. He knew we’d need it later.”

Likewise, in an interview with Rolling Stone, keyboardist and longtime Prince confidant, Morris Hayes, notes that the album “further solidifies” Prince’s status as “a vanguard artist always looking forward,” adding that in the wake of George Floyd’s death and America’s racial reckoning, this record could have just as fitting been made “right now” were Prince still here.

Perhaps, as is the case with most Prince projects that heretofore have never seen the light of day, we’ll never truly know why “Welcome 2 America” was shelved a little more than 10 years ago. Nevertheless, the sentiment expressed by both Johnson and Hayes is spot on.

 Moreover, in addition, to properly positioning their former boss as both “in the moment” and “ahead of his time,” their musings also reaffirm something many in the media seem to have either disregarded, misunderstood, or somehow just missed: Prince was always political, even radically so.

A decade or so after Prince’s debut release “For You” and his eponymous sophomore effort, renowned author and cultural critic Nelson George said he initially considered Prince to be sort of “Stevie Wonderesque,” if you will. Or, in other words, he was in the mold of “Black music’s reigning musical genius at the time.”

Not for political reasons per se, as Wonder was long-established as one of the most socially conscious artists around, but in that Prince produced the records himself, wrote all his material, played all the instruments, sang all vocal parts, and so on.

To be sure, with guitar-driven tracks like “I’m Yours” and “Bambi,” Prince was already hinting that he wouldn’t allow himself to be consigned to the segregated status of what the music industry prescribed a Black artist to be.

Then, with 1980’s “Dirty Mind,” Prince blew all convention out of the water, so to speak. Not only did he shock the senses of those who dared to listen, tackling any number of societal taboos along the way, he blended funk, punk, rock, and new wave, not only embracing seemingly disparate musical forms but also the renegade ethos in each of these genres.

“Dirty Mind” is also when Prince starts to get political, as evidenced in the anti-war anthem “Party Up” and the declaration and utopian vision he sets forth in the album’s lead single, “Uptown.” And, with his next record, Prince further expounds on race, class, gender, sexuality, and theology, while addressing real-time topics the likes of which included the nation’s gun culture, government corruption, cold war politics, nuclear annihilation, and the Atlanta child murders.

Then came the “Controversy” album. Its second cut, “Sexuality,” yields yet another manifesto, with a stylistic nod to Marx and Engels, where Prince calls for the “Reproduction of a new breed—leaders, stand up, organize,” while inserting a bit of parental advice and the following commentary on America:

Don’t let your children watch television until they know how to read. Or else all they’ll know how to do is cuss, fight, and breed. No child is bad from the beginning, they only imitate their atmosphere.
If they’re in the company of tourists, alcohol, and U.S. history, what’s to be expected is three minus three. Absolutely nothing.  

Zuma Press/MGN Prince in concert at Madison Square Garden, Photo Date: Feb 8, 2011.

Although Prince continued to explore similar themes a year later in the breakthrough double album “1999,” it’s not as if he introduced politics into music. To be fair, Prince inherited the tradition crafted by the legends that preceded him: from Billie Holiday to Gil Scott-Heron, Nina Simone to Sam Cooke, Mahalia Jackson to Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield to Bob Marley, James Brown to Jimi Hendrix, Fela Kuti to Funkadelic, and Sly and the Family Stone to the Staples Singers, among a myriad of others.

 After all, one could easily make the case that Black protest music in America is every bit as old as America itself.

But Prince still deserves a great deal of credit as, for the better part of a decade, he was the bridge between the protest music he’d grown up with and the politically conscious rap of Public Enemy, KRS-One, and Michael Franti, the musical activism of Black rock-and-rollers like Living Colour, Fishbone, and Lenny Kravitz, and of course, singer-songwriters such as Tracy Chapman and Ben Harper.

Along with 1987’s masterstroke of social commentary, “Sign O’ The Times,” which addressed mounting global destruction and the epidemics of AIDS, drugs, and gangs, the rest of Prince’s ’80s output touched on subjects from apartheid to poverty, militarism to materialism, and death to despair. The song “Crystal Ball” warns of hate advancing “on the right,” while 1989’s “The Future” contemplates the ploys of the ruling class as “Hollywood conjures images of the past.”

It was more of the same in the ’90s as Prince ushered in the decade with the politically charged “New Power Generation,” while tunes like “Money Don’t Matter 2 Night,” “The Sacrifice of Victor,” “Race,” “We March,” “Right the Wrong,” and “The Same December” would follow. Prince would also share explicitly political compositions with artists that included Mavis Staples (“You Will Be Moved”) and Tevin Campbell (“Uncle Sam”).

Essentially, it could be argued that the radical musical atmosphere Prince-inspired in the ’80s helped to lead the way for bands like Rage Against the Machine, Nine Inch Nails, and hip hop radicals The Coup, not to mention the emerging alternative scene in Seattle where both Layne Staley of Alice in Chains and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell counted Prince among their biggest influences.

And, without question, Prince continued down the same path in the 21st century. For instance, there were the tracks, “2045: Radical Man,” “United States of Division,” “Cinnamon Girl,” “Dr. Mr. Man,” and “Act of God” among literally dozens more.

In fact, save for “Purple Rain,” you cannot find a Prince album dating back to 1980 that doesn’t contain at least one overtly political message, with the issues of race and class often at the forefront. Prior to recording “Welcome 2 America,” Prince’s 2009 “Dreamer” declares:

​I was born, raised on a slave plantation
In the United States, of the red, white, and blue
Never knew that I was different
‘Til Dr. King was on a balcony
Lyin’ in a bloody pool

The same song later summons Du Bois’ prophetic notion of the “color line” set forth in “The Souls of Black Folk,” as Prince bemoans America’s shame that more than a century later, “race still matters.” And, that same year, “Old Skool Company,” from the “MPLSoundalbum quips:

Everybody’s talkin’ about hard times
Like they just started yesterday
People I know they’ve been strugglin’
At least it seems that way
Fat cats on Wall Street
They got a bailout
While somebody else got 2 wait
$700 billion but my old neighborhood
Ain’t nothing changed but the date

In the spring of 2015, just a year or so before his own passing, Prince made a very public statement on the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody, with the release of “Baltimore,” a song that also coincided with his Rally 4 Peace benefit show at the city’s Royal Farms Arena.

At the time, as is the case today with “Welcome 2 America,” some music journalists pointed to this as if it was something new, an anomaly even. But again, this was anything but new—Prince has always taken into account the world around him in his music.

For a good part of the 2000s, fans and critics alike deliberated as to whether Prince’s changing views on faith may have undermined some of his previously progressive leanings, and if these views still held sway over him in his final years. Whatever side one might fall in that debate, one thing remains clear, Prince was remarkably consistent when it came to such things as race, class, and gender equity, in spite of the accusations leveled against him from some circles.

Prince’s philanthropic efforts, most of which remained anonymous during his lifetime, are still being advanced today by the work of many former employees through the PRN Alumni Foundation. Prince’s support for the arts, animal rights, the environment, and educational institutions such as the West Side Preparatory School in Chicago, the Harlem Children’s Zone, and the Harvest Network of Schools in the same North Side neighborhood he came of age in, has indeed, become legend.

Furthermore, Prince, perhaps more than any male figure in the history of popular music, championed the empowerment and equality of women in the industry, be it in the studio, on stage, or management positions inside the purple universe. And finally, although intensely ridiculed at the time, Prince challenged the racist and parasitic practices of the music industry, becoming a mentor and a model to his peers as well as to up-and-coming musicians seeking control of both their destiny and their artistry.

So, as we celebrate and sift through the wisdom and the warnings Prince shares in “Welcome 2 America,” let us neither underestimate nor overlook the four-decade legacy he’s already left us. No… Prince wasn’t perfect… but he was a revolutionary.              

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Critical race theory mutilates centuries-old legacy of interracial cooperation

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Critical Race Theory is a religion without forgiveness. CRT promotes the evil, despicable Big Lie that whites are — everywhere and forever — the permanent oppressors of Black people. No matter how much some Caucasians try to do right by Blacks, whites just can’t stop being cruel bigots, much as fish can’t stop breathing underwater.

For Blacks, conversely, CRT is a prison without parole: It preaches that Blacks are permanent, benighted victims of white hate, not victors who can and do succeed — however they choose to excel.

Because it judges people solely on skin color, CRT epitomizes racial prejudice.

Far more than a mere slap in the face, CRT is a brass-knuckled beat down of white and Black Americans who bravely have battled slavery, Jim Crow, and other forms of anti-Black racism. Since Democrat-fueled, state-mandated segregation ended in 1964, even more white and Black Americans have labored to advance the latter’s freedom, prosperity, and life prospects. CRT dismisses and defames these priceless efforts. As such, CRT has earned an icy, windswept spot atop the ash heap of history.

MIKE GONZALEZ: CRITICAL RACE THEORY, TEAM BIDEN AND OUR SCHOOLS – 2 BIG LESSONS CONSERVATIVES MUST LEARN

•In the 1850s, William Lloyd Garrison and Thomas Garett were among the white abolitionists who helped former slave Harriet Tubman guide 300-plus Southern Blacks north to freedom via the Underground Railroad.

•Inspired, in part, by former slave Frederick Douglass’ moral case for abolition, Republican President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The Union Army crushed the Confederacy and slayed slavery in 1865. Human cost: 364,511 Northern fatalities, predominantly white. Southern deaths: 260,000. 

•In 1901, Republican President Theodore Roosevelt invited to dinner in the White House former slave and Tuskegee University founder Booker T. Washington, the first Black man so honored. That era’s Republicans pushed a federal anti-lynching law. Alas, filibustering Democrats defeated them.

•In the mid-1930s, white impresario John Hammond promoted Count Basie, Fletcher Henderson, and other Black jazz greats among white audiences. “I heard no color line in the music,” Hammond wrote. “To bring recognition to the Negro’s supremacy in jazz was the most effective and constructive form of social protest I could think of.” Benny Goodman integrated his band when he hired pianist Teddy Wilson and vibraphonist Lionel Hampton, both Black. 

CRITICAL RACE THEORY TO FACE FIRST MAJOR POLITICAL TEST IN VIRGINIA

•Branch Rickey, the Brooklyn Dodgers’ white co-owner, signed Jackie Robinson in April 1948 as Major League Baseball’s first Black player. Rickey admired Robinson’s stoicism, which helped him endure the abuse of racists on and off the field. His calm, elegance, and athletic prowess turned foes into fans.

•Walter F. White, the NAACP’s Black chief, was among those who persuaded white Democrat President Harry Truman to integrate the U.S. Armed Forces in July 1948.

•In 1954’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, GOP-nominated Chief Justice Earl Warren and eight other white jurists endorsed Black civil rights attorney Thurgood Marshall’s argument that racially segregated schools were unconstitutional.

•The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and other Black civil-rights pioneers encouraged white senators Everett Dirksen, R-Ill. and Hubert Humphrey, D-Minn. to foil a filibuster by Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia and other Democrat segregationists and pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Democrat President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law. Jews worked especially closely with King on this and other triumphs for equal justice under law. 

•Richard Loving, a white husband, and Mildred, his Black wife, sued to scrap the law against interracial marriage. In 1967, the Supreme Court’s Loving v. Virginia ruling unanimously shredded anti-miscegenation statutes in that commonwealth and beyond.

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•Republican President Richard Milhous Nixon worked with Black civil rights leaders to initiate the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Philadelphia Plan, and other affirmative-action initiatives in the early 1970s.

•Coretta Scott King, Dr. King’s widow, peered over Republican President Ronald Wilson Reagan’s shoulder as he signed the MLK national holiday into law in 1983. Reagan also reauthorized the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for 25 years and made Colin Powell America’s first Black National Security Advisor.

•Legendary white music executive Clive Davis made multi-millionaires of Miles Davis; Earth, Wind & Fire, Whitney Houston, and numerous other Black artists. They, in turn, made millions for his record labels. Worldwide, fans cheered.

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•Early this millennium, Republican President George W. Bush, appointed Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as America’s first two Black secretaries of state, launched Washington, D.C.’s school voucher program, and reauthorized the Voting Rights Act through 2031.

•Manhattan real-estate magnate Daniel Rose and his wife Joanna founded the Harlem Educational Activities Fund in 1990. This privately run after-school program tutors, mentors, counsels, and otherwise enriches low-income students. HEAF participants are 90 percent Black or Hispanic. Among them, 100 percent graduate high school on time (versus 67 percent of Gotham’s typical Black students), 98 percent enter college (57 percent in NYC), 83 percent earn baccalaureates within six years (26 percent among U.S. Blacks), and 35 percent advance to graduate school (9.4 percent for U.S. Blacks). HEAF alumni practice law, medicine, manage businesses, and serve America in uniform — never mind the poverty that most escaped.

•Manhattan real-estate magnate Donald J. Trump worked as president with the heads of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to secure a steady stream of federal aid for those campuses. He reauthorized and guaranteed $45 million in fresh funds for D.C. vouchers. President Trump worked with Black activists to enact the First Step Act criminal justice reform measure and huddled with Sen. Tim Scott, R-S. C., who is Black, to revitalize 8,764 low-income Opportunity Zones, whose residents are 57 percent non-white, including 23 percent who are Black.

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Beyond these high-profile examples, tens of millions of unsung whites and Blacks work, play, worship, and live together — if not in pristine harmony then at least in sincere attempts to achieve that ideal.

These centuries of white-Black cooperation confirm that CRT is a gargantuan, nauseating lie. America’s rich, unfolding history of interracial collaboration for freedom, justice, and opportunity affirmatively answers the late Rodney King’s immortal question: “Can we all get along?”

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Sarasota Leaders Will Make Their Pitch For The City’s First Black Cultural Center And Museum

The historic Leonard Reid house will be moved from the Rosemary District to Newtown and will serve as the starter facility of Sarasota’s first Black History and Cultural Center. Daniel Perales

Sarasota has a rich legacy when it comes to African American history. The actions and accomplishments of black activists during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s are listed on the U.S. Civil Rights Trail right along with important historical destinations like Selma and Birmingham.

In 2015, the City of Sarasota funded the Newtown Conservation Historic District project now known as “Newtown Alive.” A team documented the African American community’s history in two phases, a research report and multi-media products.

On Monday, stakeholders will make a pitch for a permanent cultural center and history museum before Sarasota City Commissioners.

WUSF’s Cathy Carter spoke with Vickie Oldham, president of the Sarasota African American Cultural Coalition about the proposed facility.

Vickie, can you give us a preview of what you and your colleagues will be presenting to Sarasota City Commissioners on Monday?

We will be describing the sites that we looked at for the establishment of this facility, and we vetted about 20. But we’ve come up with one site that fits the bill. It’s located in the community so that it’s accessible to the people who live in the community. And so, on Monday night, we will be asking for permission to go ahead and develop that African American Art Center and History Museum on city land, that’s an extension of the Leonard Reid house.

The Leonard Reid house, and a permanent facility would be located in Newtown, a very historic black neighborhood in Sarasota. You grew up in Newtown, can you just share with us one story about some of the history that unfolded while you were growing up?

Gosh, you’re talking about some fierce civil rights pioneers, who were in our community. They asserted their rights. I’m remembering our big story and that is about beach integration, and how it all came about. You know, one little lady by the name of Mary Emma Jones marched up to the county commission and asked for a colored beach. That was the term at the time, and Sarasota County Commissioners blew her off. The next year, Neil Humphrey, the first NAACP president, he organized a wade-in. And after church on Sunday afternoons, people would pile into cars and make a ride out to the beach, Lido, in a car caravan. They would go out there and wade in the water, and then drive back to their community. They faced jeers and shouting and so forth. But they kept going, and they never stopped. That is a big story for me. And that is what does my heart so good. And so, I’m wanting to tell that story in that African American Art Center and History Museum and tourists will be coming through as well and they’ll understand why these beaches are open to everyone as a result of African American pioneers in the Newtown community.

Well, can you talk about the significance of the effort to bring this center to the community at this point in history?

The timing could not be better. And to think that we started this project in 2015, and developed all of these resources. And then now, the interest level is through the roof. You can’t turn the TV on, or listen to radio shows, without hearing stories about what’s going on in our country. But you know what, we’ll have a place for lectures where we can discuss some of the difficult topics that America is having today, around this racial reckoning that we’re experiencing. We need to get together and talk to one another.

So, it sounds like the vision is for this is to be a real community center and more than just a museum.

Absolutely. And you hit it right on the nail. We want our residents to get a better understanding about how African Americans built the infrastructure of Sarasota. They built the roads, the bridges, the rail roads and everyone needs to know that, not just residents, but our tourists who visit. And so, I’m so glad that Sarasota began its work early on, and so we’re ready now. It’s time for this facility.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Book World: An all-Black musical was a Broadway smash – and…

Sourcebooks. 448 pp. $26.99

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The backstage trials and tribulations of the 1921 Broadway musical comedy “Shuffle Along” would have made for a surefire screenplay in the Golden Age of Hollywood, yet no studio executive would ever have put it into production. It’s not that the story was missing anything – the saga had compelling personalities, catchy tunes, a perilous opening night, the snatching of critical victory from the jaws of financial defeat – the problem was with what it had: It was an all-Black show put together by an all-Black creative team.

“Shuffle Along” is an outlier in American pop culture: a history-making show that was largely forgotten by history. Educator and popular-culture historian Caseen Gaines seeks to redress this paradoxical imbalance with “Footnotes: The Black Artists Who Rewrote the Rules of the Great White Way,” a deeply researched and thoughtful framing of this pioneering musical, its time and its influence. Although there had been musical entertainments with Black performers and Black material in New York’s Theater District earlier in the 20th century, “Shuffle Along” was the first hit of its kind, a unique “crossover” project that brought White and Black audiences together (though still physically separated) in the Broadway theater. The alchemy that ignited the show’s success came almost exclusively from its four idiosyncratic creators.

Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles – former students at Fisk University – had been playing the Black vaudeville circuit as blackface comedians.James Hubert “Eubie” Blake had graduated from playing the piano in Baltimore brothels to form an elegant vaudeville act with vocalist and World War I veteran Noble Sissle. The four men cobbled together a show called “Shuffle Along,” which evolved from a thin scenario about the comic complications of a three-way mayoral race into a full narrative, with songs that artfully juxtaposed the threadbare minstrelsy traditions of the 19th century with the debonair jazz stylings that presaged the Harlem Renaissance. A few musical numbers were written just to suit some extra costumes that came the producer’s way at bargain prices. When the show shuffled its way into New York after some desperate tryouts, it was kept at arm’s length from Broadway’s crown jewels, opening at the 63rd Street Theatre, near Columbus Circle. To make matters worse, the show was thousands of dollars in the red before the opening night curtain went up in May 1921.

But Miller and Lyles were gifted comedians, the chorus girls were chic and sassy, and best of all, “Shuffle Along” had a score of charm and modernity. One song, “I’m Just Wild About Harry,” about one of the mayoral candidates, would become a standard (and would be used for another Harry – Truman – as a campaign song when he ran for president in 1948). Another, “Love Will Find a Way,” was a romantic ballad in a slowed-down tempo – the first time on a New York stage that a Black couple expressed their mutual ardor in a serious fashion. And the musical was a hit, running more than 500 performances, something nearly unheard of for any Broadway show back then. Its greatest success, however, may have been how it advanced the cause of Black artists at a critical time: “The proudest day of my life,” said Blake later, “was when Shuffle Along opened. At the intermission, all these white people kept saying, ‘I would like to touch him, the man who wrote the music.’ At last, I’m a human being.”

But the show’s creators were unable to draw down creative lightning and make it strike twice in their careers. Over the next four decades, as Gaines chronicles in each disheartening iteration, “Shuffle Along” would be reduced, revised and revived countless times without success; at one point, the two respective teams – Sissle and Blake, Miller and Lyles – would perform in competing versions of shows derived from the same exhausted material. Was racism the cause, or was it the dizzying shifts in popular taste of the period, especially sensitive among material written for and by Black entertainers? Or was it, perhaps, that “Shuffle Along” was less than the sum of its many compelling parts? On this crucial question, Gaines hedges his bets, but he provides a telling quote from the Baltimore Afro-American from 1933, which details the high caliber of contemporary Black entertainers: “These advances of Negro artists mark milestones on the road of progress for the theater, but they all combine to make ‘Shuffle Along of 1933’ [a later iteration] just another colored show.”

Gaines places the show within the broader American political and racial culture, making the book not only resonant but relevant. In addition to providing background on Jim Crow and the Great Migration, the author points out that the Tulsa Race Massacre occurred a week after “Shuffle Along” opened in 1921. The show raised concerns back in the 1920s about colorism (chorus girls who were deemed too dark-skinned weren’t cast – a teenage Josephine Baker was rejected several times for that reason) and cultural appropriation (many of the show’s innovations, such as its idiosyncratic dance moves and the double-act repartee of Miller and Lyles, were absorbed and denatured by White showbiz entities). Gaines is at his best when sourcing the wide-ranging voices of what at the time was called “the Negro press”; editorials and opinions from around the country zigzagged between approbation and disgust over the performative images of Blackness in “Shuffle Along.” That the show became a lightning rod for how Blacks saw themselves – or aspired to be seen by a nation undergoing tectonic shifts in racial identity – is a tribute to both its timelessness and its timeliness.

“Footnotes” could have gone deeper in conveying the offstage or onstage theatrical magic of the show itself. Gaines doesn’t really spend enough time walking the reader through how “Shuffle Along” played onstage. He also glosses over discussion of integrated shows of the period, such as “Show Boat.” A passing sentence asserting that in the late 1940s “Black musical theater in Manhattan had become virtually nonexistent” utterly dismisses all-Black musicals of the decade such as a successful revival of “Porgy and Bess,” plus “Carmen Jones,” “St. Louis Woman” (with an integrated writing team) and “Lost in the Stars,” as well as progressive integrated musicals such as “Bloomer Girl” and “Finian’s Rainbow”; their cumulative influence did a lot to push dated material like “Shuffle Along” off the boards.

“Shuffle Along” would eventually get its valedictory moment in the spotlight when, in 2016, George C. Wolfe (who recently directed the film version of August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) mounted an extravagant Broadway revival/re-examination titled “Shuffle Along, or the Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed,” with a cast that included Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell and Billy Porter – superstars of the Broadway stage in any decade.

But it seems to be the fate of Blake, Sissle, Miller and Lyles to be marginalized even when celebrated. Wolfe’s star-studded extravaganza, which lasted only 100 performances, didn’t even produce an original cast album; to this date, the effervescent score to “Shuffle Along” has never had a proper recording that reflects its historical stature. Although “Footnotes” raises a detailed embroidered curtain on “Shuffle Along” and its elegant, ambitious Black pioneers, posterity is still keeping the show’s full achievement waiting in the wings.

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Laurence Maslon is an arts professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts and a co-author of “Broadway: The American Musical.” He hosts the weekly NPR broadcast “Broadway to Main Street.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Janel Young emerging as an artist locally, nationally

Created art for popular Pittsburgh bus stop, Arts Festival, U.S. Tennis Association

by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer

The most popular bus stop in Pittsburgh has become a sight to see.

On the corner of Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue, Downtown, Pittsburgh-born artist Janel Young transformed the “P1” (or to the seasoned generation, “EBA”) “East Busway All Stops” bus stop into a colorful, space galaxy-themed piece of art entitled, “RESPECT.” Using a blend of the colors blue, purple, magenta and others, the artwork is meant to convey that each person should show respect for another at all times.

“The artwork is supposed to reflect COVID challenges and how Pittsburgh is dealing with them,” Young told the New Pittsburgh Courier as she was working on her design, June 20. “Things keep changing (with the COVID restrictions or non-restrictions), so I wanted to do something that would be a little more evergreen. The concept is, respect is more important than the (COVID) rules. Wearing a mask or staying six feet apart, even if those things keep changing, the respect for each other should stay the same.”

JANEL YOUNG, who grew up in Beltzhoover and attended Schenley High School, was commissioned to create a painting at the popular bus stop at Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue, Downtown…one of her many artistic creations around town. (Photo by Rob Taylor Jr.)

Port Authority of Allegheny County halted all buses and riders from using the bus stop for five days in June so that Young could create the piece. Port Authority and Smart Growth America commissioned the artwork.

Young said she held an online survey of local PAT bus riders, and they wanted to see art and complex imagery, so they have something to look at while they wait” at bus stops, she learned. “Also, bright colors is uplifting, and I want my work to be fun and also tie in the (COVID) safety messaging as well.”

JANEL YOUNG’S “RESPECT” mural being created at Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue, Downtown, where the P1 East Busway All Stops bus picks up passengers. The Schenley High School graduate worked on the creation in June. (Photos by Rob Taylor Jr.)

Not surprisingly, the arts is celebrated and appreciated here in Pittsburgh. Of course, Andy Warhol comes to mind. So does the Carnegie Museum of Art. Black artists in Pittsburgh are increasingly getting more attention—and funding via grants. Philanthropic organizations such as The Pittsburgh Foundation, RK Mellon Foundation and The Heinz Endowments are major financial supporters of local artists of color.

Earlier this year, Young was one of four Black artists who designed a Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh library cards to commemorate the library’s 125th anniversary. She also curated a piece called “Pathway To Joy,” which stretches along Fort Duquesne Boulevard between Sixth Avenue and Stanwix Street, something she made just in time for last month’s Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival.

Young, 29, grew up in Beltzhoover and attended CAPA for middle school, Schenley for high school. She studied business marketing at Penn State University and relocated to New York City to work in public relations. Now, she has returned to Pittsburgh, looking to take the art world by storm.

Other artistic creations credited to Young include “The Home Court Advantage Project,” where she painted an entire basketball court at a place she’s oh so familiar with, McKinley Park, in Beltzhoover. She told the online website Very Local Pittsburgh that she was very fond of seeing her artwork shown on ESPN last year at the U.S. Open (tennis), in New York City. Her painting, entitled “Be Open To…”, was pictured behind tennis legend Serena Williams courtside at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Young has also made history as the first artist ever commissioned to design Yahoo!’s Black History Month logo, which she did this past February.

PICTURED ABOVE IS PART OF JANEL YOUNG’S “RESPECT” mural created at Smithfield Street and Sixth Avenue, Downtown, where the P1 East Busway All Stops bus picks up passengers.

“Port Authority is proud to have a one-of-a-kind piece by Janel Young, an extremely talented local artist,” voiced Adam Brandolph, spokesman for the Port Authority. “Her piece, ‘RESPECT’…reminds us all to be a bit more mindful to others, particularly during difficult times. We are honored to be able to have her work at the busiest bus stop in the region, and thankful to Janel and everyone else who helped make it happen.”

Sarah Aziz, director of festival management for the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, called Young’s “Pathway To Joy” mural “the perfect tentpole public art piece” for the 2021 Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival. “The colors, shapes and message of ‘Pathway To Joy’ brought our festival-goers together in a truly special way and we are so grateful to Janel for sharing her gift with us.”

“I believe my work is important, but it’s difficult to say how important,” Young told Very Local Pittsburgh. “I think it’s important for me to be able to represent myself, as an individual, but also Black people, women, and Black women. To create work that represents us, especially in a place like Pittsburgh where we may feel unseen or unheard.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment