Preview and form for Vodacom Durban July meeting at Greyville

Preview and form for Gold Circle’s Vodacom Durban July meeting at Greyville on Saturday. Selections by Andrew Harrison.

Race 1

Preview: Wide open. POOL PARTY has some consistent Highveld form and has gone close in some good company. She was a beaten favourite last start but can do better on the poly. SILVER CLASS came good on the poly last time out and has the benefit of a good draw. LEISURE TRIP is coming t hand again. She has shown some smart form in the Cape. ABOUND WEST has won both starts on the poly and with a claiming apprentice up from a good draw she rates a strong chance. Stable companion COSMIC BURST finished ahead of Abound West last start and must have a chance on that showing. (Andrew Harrison: 2-4-8-6).

Race 2

Preview: Wide open. HEAD HONCHO has shown up well in two local starts and makes his poly debut. He has a good draw and Marcus up so should be thereabouts. SCARRABEAST has been up against stronger at his last two. He goes well this course and distance. ARAMOUSE is no stranger to Greyville. His last win came on the Kimberley sand and that could hold him in good stead here. ARCHILLES is better than his last effort. He has gone close in useful company and another in with a winning chance in a very open affair. (Andrew Harrison: 2-4-6-8).

Race 3

Preview: CROWD PLEASER was caught on the line by Vodacom Durban July runner Elusive Silva last time out and prior to that beat July favourite Edict Of Nantes. He only got a one-pound penalty for his last win and looks the part here. ZODIAC RULER continues to flatter to deceive but his time will come and it could be here. He is smart on his day. TROPHY WIFE has been struggling for her next win but has smart form in top company. She does have a fair weight. MY WORD may prefer it a touch further but is in good form and has a light weight. (Andrew Harrison: 7-4-2-8).

Race 4

Preview: Wide open. BANNER HILL is back over what looks to be his best trip after missing out on a lace in the July. He goes well on this course and rates a strong chance. SON ON AFRICA ran a tremendous race in the T&B Derby when only going down late. He is in good form and should see out the trip. HERMOSO MUNDO was a very easy winner of the Gold Bow. He obviously enjoyed the extra and can go in again off this weight. ROCKETBALL showed signs of a return to form last time out after a spell in the wilderness. He goes this trip for the first time but has a handy weight. (Andrew Harrison: 3-6-7-8).

Race 5

Preview: Difficult. LET IT FLOW was a narrow maiden winner last start but had gone close in two previous outings. She can do better this trip. DESERT RHYTHM has good form in a tongue-tie and has won over the distance which helps. She does have a wide draw but looks capable. GREEN TOP won well on debut and looks to have more to come. Draw a concern but rates a strong chance. NEPTUNE’S RAIN has a coffin draw but has smart form over shorter. If she stays the trip she will be a big runner. (Andrew Harrison: 5-2-4-9).

Race 6

Preview: HAKEEM was a very easy maiden winner over the distance last time out and made smart improvement on a good debut effort. He has a fair draw here and is a strong contender. ANCESTRY is a smart looker and won as he liked last time out. He has done well on this course and is on the up. VARALLO has the best of the draw in pole position. He has smart sprint form to his credit and the extra will suit. TROJAN HARBOUR was an upset winner last run but enjoyed the extra after his maiden sprint win. He does have a difficult draw to overcome, one that has been the downfall of many a top horse. (6-1-11-10).

Race 7 Gr1 Vodacom Durban July


Marinaresco – small horse with a big weight. Faces a tough task

French Navy – struggling to find best form but capable on his day.

Master Sabina – twice a Summer Cup winner. Capable on his day.

Brazuca – in a tough one at these weights.

Krambambuli – good form over further. Could find this too short.

The Conglomerate – last year’s winner. Has been campaigned carefully and can win again.

Saratoga Dancer – close-up fifth last year and better in at the weights this time around.

It’s My Turn – Derby winner and to hand at the right time. Good warm-up in 1900.

Ten Gun Salute – smart winner of 1900. Big chance on that showing.

Nightingale – smart warm-up in Tibouchina but will be tested here.

Black Arthur – improving and will be at his peak. Looks well weighted.

Edict Of Nantes – stable in hot form. Won Daily News and Cape Derby. Be right there.

Al Sahem – SA Derby winner. Form hard to fault. Top runner.

Mr Winsome – game Derby win and consistent but in a tough one.

Elusive Silva – in good form. Should be thereabouts.

Pagoda – looks held at these weights but stays the trip well.

Tilbury Fort – stayed on well in 1900. Better this trip.

Safe Harbour – always game. Light weight and can feature.

Horizon – not well weighted and does look held by other three-year-olds.

Nebula – disappointing last run. Can surprise if he runs.

Preview: The weights for this year’s race go pretty much according to the handicapping structure that automatically makes this more difficult as in theory all have an equal chance. EDICT OF NANTES comes from a red-hot stable and has had the perfect build-up and along with AL SAHEM appear to be the main three-year-old protagonists. However, a sneaker could be the filly SAFE HARBOUR. She has had a busy season but never runs a bad race and has bottom weight. The older horses are well in this year so one needs to look at their individual preparations. BLACK ARTHUR and IT’S MY TURN have both been shrewdly placed to get in with the best possible weight and both have top riders. TEN GUN SALUTE is over all his problems and his smashing win in the Betting World 1900 shows that he is in the form of his life. Last year’s winner, THE CONGLOMERATE, is also relatively well in and cannot be written off. Pressed into a corner, Ten Gun Salute is taken to beat home Back Arthur from Safe Harbour, Edict Of Nantes and Al Sahem. (Andrew Harrison: 9-11-18-12)

Race 8

Preview: HORSE GUARDS has his third run after a break and has shown signs of coming to hand at his last two. He has a light weight and a plum draw. ANGEL’S POWER has some smart Highveld form and was a close-up second to the smart and consistent Romi’s Boy last time out. He has done well on the poly. At the other end of the scale, ATTENBOROUGH makes his poly debut under a big weight but tries blinkers for the first time. At best he will go close. VARBRATION has had his fair share of problems but appears to be regaining his best form. Light weight and good draw are in his favour. (Andrew Harrison: 11-5-1-12)

Race 9

Preview: THE DAZZLER came from nowhere to beat a useful field of winners when winning at long odds on debut. A repeat showing will see him close again. AL MARIACHI comes from an in-form stable and was close-up to the highly rated Sand And Sea last time out. He does have a tricky draw but looks good enough to overcome. SNIPER SHOT is much better than his last effort and he will prefer the extra from a good draw. WELL CONNECTED was an impressive winner on debut against winners but he does have a tricky draw to contend with at only his second outing. (Andrew Harrison: 8-1-7-9).

Race 10

Preview: JUST SENSUAL is a top filly and could prove too strong even for a high-class bunch of older contenders. She has a top draw and has prepped well for this race. BELA-BELA is arguably over her best trip and ran an excellent race behind Captain America in the Gold Challenge. She will be a big runner. CHEVAUCHEE has shown up well over two shorter races since arriving in KZN and looks primed for this one from a plum draw. GIMME SIX won the Daisy Fillies Guineas over course and distance and has the best of the draw which puts her in with a strong chance. (Andrew Harrison: 10-1-6-11).

Race 11

Preview: DOOSRA is showing signs of returning to his best form over what looks to be his best trip. The poly could suit. LLOYD’S LEGACY was just in need of his last start and does show some promise. He has a handy weight and looks to have a strong chance. MY PAL AL loves the poly and can do much better than his last two. BISHOP’S BOUNTY has a fair weight from a wide draw but was a beaten favourite at his last two and can make amends. (Andrew Harrison: 2-9-3-1).

Race 12

Preview: SECRET CAPTAIN and CARBON OFFSET have shown smart three-year-old form and with their light weights look to have a strong chance in this field. NEBULA is back over his best distance. He does have a tricky draw to contend with but should go well. BARITONE is starting to find his best form. He has a big weight but will go close on his best effort. (Andrew Harrison: 13-14-5-1)

Form for Gold Circle’s Vodacom Durban July meeting at Greyville on Saturday.

The 11 race broadcast commences at 7.25pm AEST on Sky Racing2 and from 10.25pm AEST on Sky Racing1. The feature R4.25, Group 1 Vodacom Durban July (2200m) is Race 7 at 0020 AEST/4.20pm ACT.

Form includes Racing And Sports complete form service, neurals, worksheet and customised form guide.

Click on the logo and select race.

Greyville finish, picture ThoroughbredNEWS

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Names in the sky: who to see at the 2017 Essence Festival

Performing her biggest concert yet in her new home, New Orleans resident Solange is among the closing acts scheduled for the final night of Essence 2017, joining headliners Diana Ross, Chance the Rapper, Mary J. Blige and John Legend. Now making its 23rd entry, the festival has cemented itself as a celebratory weekend offering multiple forums for empowerment and reflection with free speeches and seminars in addition to performances by black artists inside the Superdome.

Solange’s critically acclaimed, Grammy Award-winning 2016 album A Seat at the Table is massive, her third full-length entry in a career spanning Motown-inspired dance pop and Blood Orange-produced R&B. A Seat at the Table, released on her New Orleans-based imprint Saint Records, examines blackness, prejudice and identity, burrowed deep into her unique vision of funk, soul and R&B, guided by narrator Master P. She performs at 7:30 p.m. July 2 on the main stage. Here are several other performance highlights.


Moses Sumney
7:20 p.m., Hot Right Now Superlounge
The singer-songwriter dribbled out his space-age falsetto on singles like “Lonely World” before releasing 2016’s ethereal Lamentations, floating in the space between Kanye West’s auto-tune echoes and Radiohead’s cinematic tendencies.

Ro James
8:30 p.m., Now Playing Superlounge
2016’s between-the-sheets anthem “Permission” previewed Ro James’ follow-up full-length Eldorado, a breezy debut riding on spare trap beats and washed-out keyboards.

PJ Morton
8:35 p.m., Essence Superlounge
The New Orleans songwriter — a St. Augustine High School grad who later joined arena-pop band Maroon 5 — released his 2017 album Gumbo on his own Morton Records. The album’s funk guitar slaps, classic rhythm section, upbeat keyboard licks and Morton’s versatile voice spike his Stevie Wonder-inspired, pop-inflected R&B. (Morton also joined Wonder onstage at this year’s New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, comfortably slipping into a verse on “I Wish.”)

John Legend
9:20 p.m., Mainstage
After advocating for prison sentencing reform in the Louisiana Legislature, the multiple Grammy Award-winning singer-songwriter returns to New Orleans for his first performance since the 2017 NBA All-Star Game halftime show and a showstopping Jazz Fest appearance in 2015.

Diana Ross
10:40 p.m., Mainstage
The Motown legend — from Supreme to Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient — closes out the first night of Essence 2017.


The Jones Girls feat. Shirley Jones
7:50 p.m., For the Love of R&B Superlounge
Following the death of Brenda and Valorie Jones, Shirley Jones carries the torch for the ’80s R&B group, which landed hits like “Who Can I Run To” and “You Gonna Make Me Love Somebody Else.”

8 p.m., Now Playing Superlounge
“Good as Hell,” the irresistible 2016 anthem from singer and rapper Lizzo, glimpsed her genre-blending, body-positive and joke-filled debut EP Coconut Oil, on which she sings “I don’t need a crown to know that I’m a queen.”

Remy Ma
8:50 p.m., Essence Superlounge
Likely known for her ongoing feuds with Foxy Brown and Nicki Minaj, Bronx rapper Remy Ma has appeared on classic tracks like “Ante Up” and “Lean Back,” a collaboration with Fat Joe that spans her Terror Squad beginnings with late MC Big Pun and 2016’s Grammy Award-nominated banger “All the Way Up.”

Jhene Aiko
9:15 p.m., Now Playing Superlounge
The singer is among a new wave of contemporary R&B artists cutting through narcotic beats and hazy keyboard washes with near-whispered, meandering vocal lines delivering vulnerable, melancholic takes on emotional crises. Aiko repeats the success of unavoidable megahits like “The Worst” on her latest single “Hello Ego.”

Mary J. Blige
10:15 p.m., Mainstage
Inarguably titled the “queen of hip-hop soul” with landmark albums What’s the 411? and My Life, the distinction undermines her success beyond the genre, with a career spanning 13 studio albums and acclaimed film and TV appearances. Her latest album is 2017’s Strength of a Woman, on which she embraces a personal purging with her take on slow jams.


7:30 p.m., Mainstage
The New Orleans resident enlisted local musicians to join her live band following the release of A Seat at the Table, including Jeremy Phipps and Khris Royal appearing alongside the singer on her acclaimed Saturday Night Live performance.

Sir the Baptist
7:40 p.m., Hot Right Now Superlounge
2017’s Saint or Sinner immediately transports you to the here and now on church-like opener “Prayers on a Picket Sign”: “I hear Trump treating everyone like black folks / Welcome to the march, with police horses and gas smoke.” What follows are ecstatic hymns, gospel-sized rap and a preacher with a message of love in Sir the Baptist’s view of a damned world.

BJ the Chicago Kid
7:45 p.m., Essence Superlounge
BJ the Chicago Kid’s meditative neo-soul meets powerhouse MCs Chance the Rapper, Kendrick Lamar and Big K.R.I.T. on BJ’s 2016 major-label debut In My Mind.

Master P feat. Mystikal, Silkk and Mia X
9:30 p.m., Mainstage
Master P presides over a No Limit Records reunion, bringing together some of the legendary label’s biggest names from its heyday.

Chance the Rapper
11:20 p.m., Mainstage
After releasing one of the greatest rap albums of the decade, 2016’s jubilant Coloring Book, Chance the Rapper secured Best Rap Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards, the first self-released, streaming-only album ever to win a Grammy.

Essence conferences

Ernest N. Morial Convention Center
10 a.m-6 p.m Friday-Sunday
Free admission

Essence hosts several celebrity guest speakers at its Path to Power conference, Essence Empowerment seminars and Beauty and Style expo. All are free with online registration. Here are a few schedule highlights.


“Strength of a Woman”: Mary J Blige, Niecy Nash and others join a discussion moderated by Tamron Hall
Empowerment Stage
4:25 p.m.-5:15 p.m.


Mayors Panel: Mitch Landrieu, Sharon Broome of Baton Rouge and Catherine E. Push of Baltimore speak
Empowerment Stage
12:05 p.m.-12:35 p.m.

Michael Eric Dyson: Keynote address
Empowerment Stage
1:40 p.m.-2 p.m.

Iyanla Vanzant: Keynote address
Empowerment Stage
4:25 p.m.-5:25 p.m.


“Songversation”: India.Arie
Empowerment Stage
11:35 p.m.-11:55 p.m.

Mercedes-Benz Superdome

Friday, June 30

6:50 p.m. Rhonda Ross
7:40 p.m. Afrika Mamas
8 p.m. Junior
8:15 p.m. India.Arie
9:20 p.m. John Legend
10:40 p.m. Diana Ross

Hot Right Now Superlounge
7:20 p.m. Moses Sumney
8:30 p.m. Gallant
9:45 p.m. Goldlink

Now Playing Superlounge
7:25 p.m. Yuna
8:30 p.m. Ro James
9:40 p.m. Heels Over Head
10:40 p.m. Afrosoul

Essence Superlounge
7:30 p.m. Emily Estefan
8:35 p.m. PJ Morton
9:45 p.m. Doug E. Fresh

For the Love of R&B Superlounge
7:30 p.m. Coline Creuzot
8:05 p.m. MC Lyte
9:10 p.m. Kelly Price

Saturday, July 1

6:50 p.m. Ari Lennox
7:30 p.m. Monica
8:20 p.m. Jazmine Sullivan
9:10 p.m. Jill Scott
10:15 p.m. Mary J. Blige
11:30 p.m. Chaka Khan

Hot Right Now Superlounge
7:30 p.m. Miche’le
8:55 p.m. Teyana Taylor

Now Playing Superlounge
8 p.m. Lizzo
9:15 p.m. Jhene Aiko

Essence Superlounge
7:40 p.m. PJ
8:50 Remy Ma

For the Love of R&B Superlounge
7:50 p.m. The Jones Girls featuring Shirley Jones
9 p.m. Lalah Hathaway

Sunday, July 2

6:50 p.m. Ithwasa Lekhansela
7:30 p.m. Solange
8:20 p.m. Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue
9:30 p.m. Master P featuring Mystikal, Silkk and Mia X
11:20 p.m. Chance the Rapper

Hot Right Now Superlounge
7:40 p.m. Sir the Baptist
8:35 p.m. June’s Diary
9:45 p.m. Elle Varner

Now Playing Superlounge
7:35 p.m. Mayah Dyson
8:20 p.m. Daley
9:25 p.m. Shaggy

Essence Superlounge
7:45 p.m. BJ the Chicago Kid
9 p.m. Xscape

For the Love of R&B Superlounge
7:30 p.m. Chloe X Halle
8:15 p.m. Tweet
9:40 p.m. Leela James

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Get ready! The Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Washington is Aug. 19

Wanda Sabir interviews Robert King, Albert Woodfox and Malik Rahim on Wanda’s Picks radio show

Wanda Sabir: Good morning and welcome to Wanda’s Picks, a Black arts and culture program with the African Sister’s Media Network. We are joined in the studio by Robert King, Albert Woodfox and Malik Rahim. Welcome to the show.

Today we are going to be talking about the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Washington. We can talk about solitary confinement, political prisoners, the 13th Amendment. We can talk about what the need is for having such an event.

Robert King: You basically outlined it – this is what this Millions for Prisoners March is about. Annabelle (Parker, an intrepid advocate for U.S. prisoners who lives in The Netherlands) contacted us last year with regards to a Million for Prisoners March on behalf of political prisoners. Prior to that time, this has been our quest, to develop a format for political prisoners, those brothers and sisters who remain in prison from those yesteryears because of their affiliation with the Black Panther Party.

And this is where the 13th Amendment comes in. We want to get Congress to eliminate that clause which allows slavery. In order to do this, Albert and I have been trying to educate people along the way because we live in a world that is operated on a legal basis.

But when morality has been disregarded in favor of legality, when we deify legality and make it holy, somebody will be demoralized. And this is what has been happening over the years. Legality in America, in the courts, has been deified and made holy and we want to make the connection that it was legal to own slaves and it wasn’t until people saw it as being really morally reprehensible that there was an outcry.

Slavery as we knew it was compromised by the Emancipation Proclamation that eliminated slavery for those rebelling states, but this emancipation got erased with the 13th Amendment and that clause about slavery. This is the new Jim Crow, the new slavery.

The 13th Amendment allows slavery in the sense that it legalizes slavery fully. It could have left the Emancipation Proclamation intact and we would not be in this shape. There wouldn’t be any basis for legal slavery, but now there is because we live in a system of legality.

We’ve got to point out that just because something is legal, if it is morally corrupt, we can challenge it. It may be legal and the system may deify it, but we don’t have to accept that immorality. Because of a clause in the 13th Amendment, a person could be given a life sentence and could remain in prison and be exploited for the remainder of his or her life underneath a system of slavery.

This is where the 13th Amendment comes in. We want to get Congress to eliminate that clause which allows slavery.

We have to let people know that there is a connection between prison slavery and chattel slavery way back then. And the fact is that we have a platform now, the platform that is being given to us in D.C. on Aug. 19, and we want to use this platform.

Albert and I have been doing this since he’s been out, and our platform is just broadening. We are outlining this perpetual form of slavery, police brutality in whichever form, but the most important thing, and really our main goal, is to focus on those political prisoners, those brothers and sisters who have been incarcerated for years and years based on this system of illegality that has been deified and made holy.

Robert King walks out of Angola Feb. 8, 2001, free after 31 years in prison, 29 of them in solitary, punishment for the Angola Three’s “Black Pantherism,” in the words of longtime former warden Burl Cain. The Louisiana State Prison in Angola is an 18,000-acre former plantation, still worked by enslaved Africans.

We want to challenge this immorality. Political prisoners don’t have a legal right to go back in court because of laws that restrict them and restrain them, that have put blocks on them. The only way we can get back into court with their cases is from a moral standpoint.

We want to rouse folks and let people know that this is a moral issue, just like during slavery. So basically, this is what we are doing in D.C. This is our program; this is our platform.

Wanda Sabir: I also want to let you know that Sister Laila Halima Aziz from I Am We Ubuntu (principle organizers of the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Washington) has joined us as well. We’re talking about the 13th Amendment initially as well as some of the other issues around the Millions for Prisoners March.

Albert Woodfox: King has done a wonderful job of giving historical context to the 13th Amendment, which was a result of the Southern traders being defeated in the Civil War. I would like to add that the 13th Amendment was a good piece of legislation but then, to appease the Southern politicians who had been defeated in the Civil War, the clause saying no one should be held in slavery or solitude unless it’s due to conviction for a felony.

Well, what that really did mean is that you went from individual ownership of slaves to the state owning slaves. And first of all, what is a slave? A slave is an individual who, by virtue of his captivity, whatever means are used, by virtue of being held as a slave, has lost all human rights and all legal rights. So a slave, whether enslaved by an individual or the state, is at the mercy of those individuals.

So this march is an attempt by comrades around the world to raise the level of consciousness. As King said, there is a lot of stuff going on in this country in the name of the people, and the people have no idea what it is or why it even exists. So we are trying to raise the level of consciousness, trying to put some things on the minds of the people of America and around the world about what constitutes prisoners.

What bothers me is that the Prison Industrial Complex has found a way to exploit the legal slave status of prisoners in America by signing these lucrative contracts. So now you have a direct attack on the working class men and women in this country and around the world, because you have industries using slave labor to produce their products.

For every legal slave of the state who is producing a product for an industry, there is a working class man or woman who can’t get a job. So under our president and our system, working class people are being pitted against each other – pitted against legal slaves of the states across America.

This 13th Amendment, as King said, is raised to the status of God, and we’re here to say that just as people saw the moral reprehensions of chattel slavery, we have to raise a moral issue of what is going on in America and around the world now with modern day prison slavery. The state is guaranteed to exploit their labor.

The average prisoner is a slave of the state and makes anywhere from less than 2 cents an hour to maybe 10-15 cents an hour to produce products that these corporations are making billions and trillions of dollars off of. So this march is to raise the level of awareness, the level of consciousness of the American people and people around the world to the danger and immorality of this clause in the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Malik Rahim welcomes Albert Woodfox to his 69th birthday party on Feb. 19, 2016. Malik and other close friends and supporters of Albert held a party on his birthday, the same day they hoped he’d be released. Though they had to start without him, the joy was incalculable when he arrived. From left are Malik Rahim, Albert’s brother, Michael Mable, Albert Woodfox, and his childhood friend, Parnell Herbert, aka Panther Herb, the playwright who wrote “Angola 3, the Play” that was instrumental in freeing Albert. – Photo: Max Becherer, AP

Wanda Sabir: Thank you, Albert. Malik, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself and tell us about the 13th Amendment. What you have in common is that you are all from New Orleans and you’re all members of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense. Albert and King, you all were founders of one of the only chapters if not the only official chapter – San Quentin had one too if I’m not mistaken – of the Black Panther Party behind bars.

Albert Woodfox: Yeah, Herman as well. Our fallen comrade, Herman Wallace, he was also instrumental in founding the prison chapter of the Black Panther Party.

Wanda Sabir: Certainly. I was thinking about Herman, definitely want to pour Ashay for him verbally, now that he’s an ancestor. The three of you, Herman Wallace, Robert King and yourself, Albert Woodfox, were known as the Angola Three. The Angola Three is more than just three people, but you all were the symbols – as King liked to say, the poster children for solitary confinement and its inhumanity toward people.

So Malik, you are known for a lot of things, like being of the first responders with Common Ground Relief during Hurricane Katrina, when the levees were breached. And you’ve been doing a lot of work around environmental justice and you seem to always have your finger on the pulse.

By Sept. 3, 2005, when still no help had come to the poor of New Orleans after Katrina hit on Aug. 29, Malik Rahim had leapt into action, recruiting volunteers – he eventually brought 25,000 to help with the emergency and later with recovery – and gathering and distributing tons of donations through his organization, Common Ground Relief, which received no government or corporate funds.

So talk to us about the Millions for Prisoners March, because – as a member of the Black Panther Party, wow – there have been books written about what happened to you with that incident at Desire [housing project], when your headquarters was shot out by the New Orleans Police Department. So anyway, go ahead.

Malik Rahim: Well, as you said, all three of us is from New Orleans. Where we live has the dubious distinction of being the number one state in the world for incarceration. No one incarcerates more people than America. No state in America incarcerates more people than Louisiana. And no city in Louisiana incarcerates more people than the city of New Orleans.

So we are directly impacted by the criminal justice system – a system that has shown that for almost 300 years that we have been in Louisiana, and by that I mean African people, that justice just don’t get fulfilled for us. Right now, we have about half the prison population incarcerated for over 20 years. And we still have the highest murder rate of any city in America.

So it shows that just locking people up isn’t making no difference. I equate this to what we are doing because I truly believe that outside of war, the most violent environment facing man is incarceration. And we cannot continue to take dogs and put them in an environment that only transforms them into wolves.

And then we put them back out on the street without no rehabilitation and expect them not to be violent. I’m hoping that’d be one of the main things addressed on August the 19th: One, that we can come together. We can come together not just as a people, but as incarcerated people. Not just as African people, but as incarcerated people. That we can understand the plight that we are all facing – and the power that we hold.

Outside of war, the most violent environment facing man is incarceration.

In the early 1970s, I was blessed to be part of a prison movement in California called Prisoners Union. Prisoners Union became the Prisoners Rights Union, a crystallization for women prisoners with children in California that later became Critical Resistance. So I’ve seen the transformation. I’ve seen how prisoners’ rights have gone up and down. And I know now it’s time for us to come together, to put our petty differences aside and start working for the abolition of incarceration as we know it today.

Wanda Sabir: Sister Laila, you are joining us to talk about the organization that is coordinating and sponsoring the March, I Am We Prison Advocacy Network. And I was wondering if you can talk about who is the team and that you can visit on the website, and you can read about the 13th Amendment, you can read about the March, which again is Saturday, Aug. 19. From 11:30 a.m. to noon is the march, and then from noon to 5 p.m., there’s a rally at the White House, in the capital of this country, Lafayette Park, Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest and 16th Street.

Laila Halima Aziz: Thank you so much, Sister. I Am We was actually created and given birth through our comrades who are currently incarcerated in the depths of slavery. First I want to thank the elder who spoke before me; I was really moved. And all the other elders.

These are the Angola Three: Herman Wallace, Robert King and Albert Woodfox.

We can no longer stand by and say what we would have done if we were slaves in the 1800s or the 1700s, because slavery, specifically for the Afrikan community, is just as prevalent – actually, there are more slaves now than during the chattel slavery. Socialized slavery, legalized by the 13th Amendment, has affected millions upon millions.

It has wreaked poverty in our communities, and the direct correlation of poverty is violence. And that’s what we’re seeing. And that’s why when the elder was speaking of Louisiana being more violent than ever, even though it has the highest incarceration rate, it makes sense.

And it’s strategic. And no one who’s making these policies, who’s building these prisons, none of them are without knowledge of how it’s going to have a domino effect on our communities. You have young boys raising themselves, with no men around, because of slavery.

So for Aug. 19, this call was created by the prisoners. We will be in Washington, D.C., and we will be demanding that the loophole is closed and that slavery, for once and for all, is eliminated and abolished from the United States of America.

We will be in Washington, D.C., and we will be demanding that the loophole is closed and that slavery, for once and for all, is eliminated and abolished from the United States of America.

We’re looking at the language from the United Nations human rights articles on what the abolishment of slavery will look like. And then there’s going to be a big push after that. That’s the beginning, that’s the call. But we’re all going to have to work very hard within our states and on a national level to make sure that these policy writers, these legislators, are working on the behalf of our communities. And we’re going to have to be ready to oust them.

Wanda Sabir: Could you talk a little bit about how people are organizing throughout the country for this Millions for Prisoners March, Sister Laila? And how people can help mobilize in their areas to be able to get buses, try to link up to organizations that are supporting the march so that everyone who wants to be there physically can be there?

Laila Aziz: Yes, ma’am. There are local organizing committees in numerous states, from Louisiana to Florida, Texas, New York, D.C., California, all over the United States. And you can join one of those local organizing committees. I would start at either or on Facebook, the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March.

There are also numerous organizations that have stepped up and are part of what’s going on. The newest one is the National Lawyers Guild, and there’s Jailhouse Lawyers, George Jackson University, the US Human Rights Network, Amend the 13th, Jericho Amnesty Project, Release Aging People in Prison (RAPP), IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), the San Francisco Bay View National Black newspaper, the Provisional Government of the Republic of New Afrika, the Human Rights Coalition Fed-Up, Black Lives Matter, Free Tone The Movement, Amwalk Quaker Meeting, the Green Party – there’s actually a Green Party gentleman running for Congress who’s an abolitionist. There’s about 70 to 80 organizations who’ve come in solidarity with this movement.

Herman Wallace did not die in prison, as his captors tried to ensure, but he died only days after his court-ordered release on Oct. 1, 2013. The judge had threatened to go get Herman himself if prison officials continued to stall. –– Photo: Democracy Now

I know for a fact, and my twins are 8 years old, that our children will not live in a country where slavery is legalized when they grow up. And that’s the call we’re making. And so if you want to be a part of it, please sign up. Go to We would love to have you.

We already have the buses. In two areas, Texas and California, we’re working strategically to see how we’re going to do our rally buses, because we’re so far from D.C. But all of the other areas already have their rally buses and they’re ready to go. All you need to do is jump on one.

Wanda Sabir: That’s excellent. With regard to solitary confinement, Albert, you served 43 years in solitary confinement and King served 29 years; that’s not including the other years that you weren’t in solitary confinement but were confined. And Malik, you’re also a political prisoner, a prisoner of war.

So, Albert, can you talk about solitary confinement and the need for its elimination because it violates human rights. I’m sure you are all aware of the Folsom prisoners’ hunger strike presently, because of the horrible conditions that they are subjected to, despite the laws that were passed after the series of three hunger strikes organized by prisoners in longterm solitary confinement at Pelican Bay that peaked at 30,000 prisoners around the state starving themselves in solidarity.

The CDCR (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation) is still not extending the Pelican Bay settlement, won in the Security Housing Unit, or SHU, to other categories of solitary confinement. So it’s back again because those particular victories have been limited, that quickly; it hasn’t been two years since that happened.

Albert Woodfox: Well, one thing that the listening audience has to be aware of is, prison administration and security forces are some of the most arrogant and sometimes sadistic people alive. They have unchecked power. There is no oversight by any government organization that I’m aware of. There is no oversight by any community organization that I’m aware of, of the prison systems, both the state and the federal systems.

Solitary confinement has evolved from what was once a form of punishment to now it is a form of imprisonment. Now you have people, they go to prison, they don’t have to do anything to go into solitary confinement, they don’t have to break any rules, they don’t have to be violent because solitary confinement is fast becoming a means of imprisonment, not a punishment, not a period of adjustment for someone who may break prison rules or regulations.

I can’t tell you how many men, when I was in Angola prison, that I’ve seen the infamous warden Burl Cain place directly in solitary confinement. Because in Louisiana, and in other states in America, solitary confinement is no longer a means of punishment; it is a means of imprisonment.

Angry that Herman was allowed only a few days of freedom before the prison system’s murder by medical neglect took effect, Robert King and Malik Rahim organized a big funeral for Herman at the Treme Center in New Orleans on Oct. 12, 2013. – Photo: Ann Harkness

I hear people say, what’s so bad about solitary confinement? Solitary confinement is the most brutal non-physical form of torture that ever existed. It takes an extraordinary amount of courage and determination and strength not to broken by solitary confinement, not to be driven insane and in some cases driven to suicide.

So, solitary confinement is not this innocent form of imprisonment that the prison industrial complex through their various lobbyists and bald politicians are putting out there. Solitary confinement is brutal. The fact that King and myself and Herman Wallace – Herman spent 41 years and he refused to be broken. He gave his life for what we are talking about now, and I’m so heartbroken that he will not be there on the 19th of August to see the fruits of the sacrifice that we’ve all made. And with King and I, he will be there.

You hear people are put inside solitary confinement because they’re violent or because they’re defiant; well, that’s no longer the case. The American prison system is becoming a solitary form of imprisonment. You don’t have to break any rules. All you have to do is become a legal slave of the state by being convicted of a felony.

Most of these prisons they are building now are built for the solitary confinement housing. Housing in dormitories is becoming antiquated.

And let’s be clear on one thing: The men and women, and children in some cases, who are being held in solitary, these are not aliens; they don’t come from another planet. These are your family, your aunts, your uncles, your grandparents, your sons, your daughters.

You should be concerned about what is being done. The prison administration and security forces and DAs and judges and attorney generals are always famous for saying, “in the name of the people,” “we represent the people.”

Well no, they don’t represent the people and what they are doing is not in the name of the people. I can’t imagine any mother wanting her son to be held in solitary confinement for decades. I can’t imagine any father wanting his son to be beaten to a bloody pulp because he would not allow his manhood to be compromised by being treated like a slave. I just don’t believe it.

So they are not speaking for the people; they do not represent the people. They represent themselves. They have accumulated a power base, a system where their power is unchecked. There is no oversight. So they do what the hell they want.

And we are here and on the 19th of August, our voices will say it loud and clear: This comes to an end, no more.

Wanda Sabir: Wow, excellent. Yeah, I was wondering, also speaking about solitary confinement, if you could also talk about the prisoners of war, because there are so many people who have been behind bars for 20, 30 or 40 years for their political beliefs, and this country talks about First Amendment rights, freedom of speech, but that’s not the case for a lot of people that others have forgotten about.

Robert King: Yes, I can speak to prisoners of war. But what I want to do is also elaborate and make a connection between common prison labor and being held in solitary confinement. Both are like a form of slavery, especially with today’s assessment of solitary confinement and its impacts.

At the 2017 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, when it announced its opposition to solitary confinement due to the brain damage it causes, Robert King of the Angola Three held forth on a panel that also featured Jules Lobel, Huda Akil, Craig Haney and Peter Scharff Smith. The meeting was held Feb. 16-20, 2017, in Boston. – Photo: Janel Kiley

Both Albert and I have appeared on panels where the American Association for the Advancement of Science came out against solitary confinement and against incarceration. They’ve shown that being held in solitary confinement causes brain damage.

During the ‘70s, under Ronald Reagan, they closed all the mental institutions down, and many of those people who came out of mental institutions ended up in prison. So, what you see today is, as Albert has pointed out, with regards to solitary confinement and the 13th Amendment, solitary confinement seems to have taken the place of mental institutions.

Psychologists had to know that if you were placed in solitary confinement for a period of time, you’d become a psychiatric ward. They dope you up with pills – they try to give everyone pills – that’s the way they try to keep you broken if you allow yourself to get broken.

The point is that yes, those brothers and sisters who are being held in solitary confinement are very much a part of this entire scheme of things along with the prisoners of war, the POW, the former members of the Black Panther Party, immigrants and so forth.

We want to talk about how it impacts everybody, but we also want to point specifically, we want to call out names, we want to call Rap Brown’s name – we can call him Imam Jamil if we want to – we want to call Russell Maroon Shoats, we want to call the names of Mumia Abu Jamal, Leonard Peltier, we want to call the names of these people – and we want to show that they are being held under slavery because they dared to struggle.

If you want to assert your God-given right to fight by any means necessary when you are downtrodden and oppressed for years and years and years, and when you decide to take it upon yourself to act out against this in some form or fashion, and whether you were the originator, the perpetrator or a part of it to some degree, you are held responsible for the remainder of your life. These are connections that we need to make in regards to POWs and political prisoners and we have to also raise the bar for everyone.

See, if you are not a political prisoner in America, you are a political victim. And so when we raise the bar for everyone, we say that the way America’s prisons are run today, we’re all a victim. Anyone who goes to prison becomes a victim.

There are political prisoners who went to prison because they were targeted by the system. The system has laws that allow them to enslave you perpetually.

Yes, there are prisoners of war. We don’t want to say that everyone is a “political prisoner,” but we will say that we are all political victims of a system that is unjust. Being a political victim is almost like being a slave in the system because you are a victim of a system that demoralizes.

Ruchell Magee lies gravely injured on a stretcher in the Marin Courthouse parking lot after the rebellion led by Jonathan Jackson, 17, who had hoped to free his big brother, George, who was not in the courtroom that day, Aug. 7, 1970.

Ruchell Magee has been in his prison cell for 52 years. He was unfortunate enough to be in the Marin County Courthouse at the time Jonathan (Jackson) went in to make his statement and sentiments known, and Ruchell Magee happened to be in court. He did not pull the trigger, he did not do anything and the man has been held in some of the worst prisons in California for over 50 years.

I hear from him periodically; he shouldn’t have to beg for help. We should embrace him and say, “Look, he’s coming home.” And whatever they say about Imam Jamil, or Rap Brown, we can bet that the lies that they told in order to perpetrate his incarceration could have been exposed if he’d had the resources of the FBI.

We can defend people like Imam Jamil and Ruchell Magee. We can raise the issue and keep it to a moral level. We can show the 13th Amendment was a moral document and that it should be rewritten; it should be declawed.

Albert Woodfox: First of all, these comrades, they need good attorneys. Because when you go into a system of institutionalized racism, when you walk into a courtroom, the color of your skin or your ethnicity, the texture of your hair, your physical features – these are really why you are there. That’s something seriously wrong; there’s something morally reprehensible about that.

It’s institutional racism. And that’s what Aug. 19 is about, raising our voices against that. Saying enough is enough. We are not slaves, and we will no longer sit silent and allow you to continue to devalue us as human beings.

And to all the mothers and fathers and grandparents and uncles and aunts and sisters and brothers and children who have the misfortunate to have someone in prison, it is time for you to stand up. It is time for you to show that this is my family. Though they may have made a mistake, they are still human beings, they are still entitled to be treated as human, they are still entitled to dignity and self-respect.

So Aug. 19 is a date where incarcerated men and women who were lucky enough to win their freedom, their families and people who empathize with human dignity, human treatment, can raise their voices and put their bodies behind what they say out of their mouths. I have a famous saying that I always tell people: “The mouth can say anything, but the ass is the proof.”

True to his word, Albert Woodfox campaigns to free other prisoners, here a famously innocent man on California’s death row, Kevin Cooper. Albert wore the shirt at a reception in his honor at ANSWER on Sept. 7, 2016. – Photo: Carole Seligman

So now if you’re saying that you’re against what is going on in the judicial system in this country, whether it’s institutional racism, brutality, mass incarceration, I expect to see you in Washington, D.C., on August the 19th.

Wanda Sabir: There was a big, big meeting in Oakland on the – was it the 40th or 50th anniversary of the Attica uprising? – of the formerly incarcerated and convicted people and families movement. I was wondering if you could tie in any of those platforms to the Millions for Prisoners March on Washington. And I have another one. Since you all are right now in New Orleans, I’m thinking about the Underground Railroad, I’m thinking about safe houses, and I’m also thinking about a translation of that in 2017 language.

Albert Woodfox: For me it was an honor to be there. It was an honor to be acknowledged for withstanding the horror and the brutality of solitary confinement. And for maintaining, first of all, my sanity, my dignity, pride, self-respect, my integrity. And at the same time to never give up, to get up and continue to fight and not be broken. I always say, if I stand for nothing else, I hope it would be the strength and determination of the human spirit.

And Robert and Herman – Herman made the ultimate sacrifice. At some point in time some of this will come out, but it is my personal opinion that the state of Louisiana murdered Herman. They knew he had cancer, and they failed to give him the proper treatment.

And it was only after our lawyers intervened and were bringing in a doctor that they rushed him to a facility and diagnosed him with liver cancer. And prior to that, they were telling him that he was allergic to some damn mice or something. I’m sorry, I get angry just thinking about it.

A wonderful man like Herman who in stature was as great as Mr. Mandela, and we allowed the state of Louisiana to kill him. And that’s going on all across this country. When we fail to get engaged, whether we’re members of the community or whether we’re family members, this is the end result.

At the Black Panther Party 50th Anniversary Gala on Oct. 22, 2016, former Panthers Robert King, Eddie Conway, Albert Woodfox, Gail Shaw and Billie X Jennings take a bow. The first three are former political prisoners. – Photo: Billy X Jennings

Wanda Sabir: King, Malik, comments about the idea of the Underground Railroad today and safe houses today, in light of the attack on Black people, Black bodies, specifically by the civilian army or police force? And I know, Laila, you have direct experience with that, with regards to losing a loved one to police violence.

If we’re talking about imprisonment as being the new form of slavery, that really never ended, people just didn’t know that the 13th Amendment did not completely eliminate slavery, but people don’t necessarily know the language. So if we’re looking at that as an analogy, then what about the Underground Railroad. You escaped, Albert, for a little bit.

Albert Woodfox: Yeah.

Wanda Sabir: Yeah. And so, do we break people out? I’m just wondering how do we get our people out of here, out of the prison system. How do we break them out, how do we make it so that people are not captured? Because they’ve got slave catchers, capturers, as well, just sitting in wait at the public schools to catch our young people. And then they lock them up and throw away the key and we don’t ever get them back anymore.

Laila Aziz: First and foremost, the elders who are on this telephone who have given their lives to us so that we can breathe, all they need to do right now is what they’re doing. We ask of nothing else from them. They’ve given it all.

And as for us who are down on this pavement trying to live their legacy and stand up to what these elders on the phone stood up to, by any means necessary, now we are trying to work on policies and legislative things that are going to stop a lot of this stuff, but we already understand what we’re up against.

America is not going to release its love for slavery easily. We’re seeing a lot of the undocumented families have to go underground, because they have ICE and these other slave catchers out here, pulling them out of their families. I live in San Diego, California, right on the border. So I don’t just see the police in my neighborhood, I see the immigration, I see border patrols; all of these people are coming into our homes, banging on our doors and snatching mothers out, leaving children there while they take them to immigration centers and deport them.

So we need to do whatever we need to do to keep our people safe. We do want people to get involved, though. Get involved and understand these laws and what’s going on with these laws and how they’re there.

America is not going to release its love for slavery easily.

Right now we can’t even get bail reform in California. It makes no sense why there’s bail. But it shows you, this is all about money and the powers that be. They don’t care about us.

Albert Woodfox: You know, there are many ways of struggle. I wish we could have employed “by any means necessary” 40 years ago. We didn’t do it. Yet we didn’t draw other means or alternative means. I almost gave my life up many times for the revolution.

I have written my folks out here and said, “I’m giving myself to the struggle.” But you know what I did? I made attempts to do so, by any means necessary. Which didn’t happen. And as a result, I don’t regret that, because I could have done it that way and could have still been talking – probably would have died in prison.

So I had to employ different means for different people. My point is this: Some people at certain points in their life, they throw pebbles in the pond, some throw rocks in the pond, some throw mountains. Struggle by any means necessary is good, but some people can’t – so in the meantime what do we do.

We’ve got people in prison now, been in prison 40 years, and “by any means necessary” hasn’t been employed. And they ain’t got much more time for “by any means necessary.” What do we do? We have to be rational, we have to understand where we are and how we have to do this. And no, we don’t deny anyone the right to struggle in whichever way they want to.

I wish we could collectively struggle by any means necessary. We’ve been trying to do it for years and years. But because we haven’t been able to do it by any means necessary, not collectively, we can dismantle the legal system; we can try to dismantle it while we wait.

We can struggle on many different levels. Let’s struggle on all levels. But don’t forsake one in lieu of the other. If you can’t do it by any means necessary, don’t allow yourself to be derailed from other means. That’s the point that I wanted to make.

I think about what I could have done. I thought about George (Jackson) in ‘71. Had I been in the streets, I’d have flowers growing over my grave right now. And that was my inclination at that time. I would have been willing to go with him. But I didn’t.

Wanda Sabir: I certainly want to thank all of you for joining us this morning to talk about the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March on Saturday, Aug. 19. From 11:30 to 12 is going to be the march, and from 12 to 5 p.m., there’s a rally at the White House, in Lafayette Park, Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest to 16th Street Northwest, Washington, D.C. You can visit And there’s also a Facebook site; Sister Laila, what’s the Facebook?

Laila Aziz: It’s the Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March.

Wanda Sabir: There are rally buses being organized all across the country. And so if there’s not one happening in your area, you can be the one to organize. And folks respond really quickly when you email them on the website, I’m witness to that.

Hopefully we’ll have another conversation closer to the actual march, but in the meantime, thank you all so much for joining us. Thank you for this important event and for your important work, all of you.

Bay View Arts Editor Wanda Sabir can be reached at Visit her website at throughout the month for updates to Wanda’s Picks, her blog, photos and Wanda’s Picks Radio. Her shows are streamed live Wednesdays at 7 a.m. and Fridays at 8 a.m., can be heard by phone at 347-237-4610 and are archived at This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Where to watch 4th of July fireworks

Watching fireworks remains the favorite way of celebrating America’s independence. Some of the biggest star-spangled bashes in the state take place in Minneapolis, including Red, White and Boom. Taking place near the Stone Arch Bridge, this Park Board-hosted display is jam-packed with more colorful explosions per minute than just about any in Minnesota, attracting more than 75,000 to the shores of the Mississippi River. The full day of festivities also includes a half-marathon, relay and 5K, live music and family activities.

When: 6:30 a.m. races, 6 p.m.–10 p.m. live music and family activities, 10 p.m. fireworks

Where: 100 6th Ave. SE

Cost: Free


  • Stone Arch and Central Avenue bridges: There’s no better place to watch fireworks than right over the river. Bring a lawn chair and arrive early — the bridges fill up quickly.
  • Gold Medal Park: One of the most underrated spots in downtown Minneapolis, Gold Medal Park at 11th & 2nd offers a more traditional viewing experience. Throw a blanket on the grass, toss a ball around and gaze up at the fireworks while you lie down and relax.
  • Boom Island: Slightly upriver from where the fireworks are set off, Boom Island Park (724 Sibley St. NE) offers ample space to set up a blanket and picnic and is less likely to be crowded than other areas while still offering a great view of the fireworks.
  • St. Anthony Main: Several spots along St. Anthony Main (Main St. SE, located northeast of downtown on the east side of the Mississippi River) make for prime viewing locations, including the area’s many restaurant patios.

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“The Shop”

The barbershop has long been a cultural touchstone for African-American communities, acting not simply as a place to get a haircut but as a meeting space to discuss ideas and the news of the day and a respite from the outside world. Public Functionary, a boundary-pushing contemporary art gallery in the Northeast arts district, is celebrating the iconography and culture that grew out of the black barbershop with “The Shop,” an exhibition in collaboration with Minneapolis artist Crice Khalil. Khalil’s work takes inspiration from the worlds of hip-hop and graffiti to document the issues and motifs of the pan-African and African-American experience, using them as a lens in which to view race, class and the “American dream.” For “The Shop,” he’s curated works from a broad, multi-generational array of African-American artists from varying artistic disciplines, including paintings, photography, screen prints, drawings and digital art that relate to the barbershop’s importance to the black community.

When: July 1–15; opening reception Saturday, July 1 at 7 p.m.; artist conversation Thursday, July 13 at 7 p.m.

Where: Public Functionary, 1400 12th Ave. NE

Cost: Free


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Submitted image

Artcrank: 10th Anniversary

For the past decade, Artcrank has transformed bike poster art into an art form all its own, expanding from its original Minneapolis show to pop up in eight more cities across the U.S., plus London and Paris. Attended by art lovers, poster collectors, hardcore cyclists and craft beer drinkers alike, the Minneapolis version of the popular poster art show features prints by 50 local artists in limited-edition runs of 30 at $40 a pop. In honor of its 10th anniversary, this year’s event will showcase the greatest hits from previous shows from artists including Adam Turman, Jennifer Davis and Amy Jo, plus food trucks and free valet bike parking.

When: Saturday, July 8 from 4 p.m.–10 p.m.

Where: Fulton Production Brewery, 2540 2nd St. NE

Cost: Free


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“Motown the Musical”

Following a national tour that landed in Minneapolis a year after its Broadway debut in 2013, “Motown the Musical” is making a triumphant return to the Twin Cities. Based on the autobiography of Motown record label founder Berry Gordy, the musical follows the personal and professional highs and lows of the hit-maker and his label, and his relationships with Motown artists Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and a Jacksons 5-era Michael Jackson. Bursting with 55 classics from the Motown catalog with a book composed by Gordy himself, the crowd-pleasing, high-gloss production transcends the “jukebox musical” genre thanks to director Charles Randolph-Wright’s excellent production, Patricia Wilcox’s energetic choreography and a powerhouse cast, whose live vocals are said to rival that of the hits’ original singers.

When: July 11–16

Where: Orpheum Theatre, 910 Hennepin Ave.

Cost: $39–$134

Info: 800-982-2787 or

Lamar Collins. Submitted image
Lamar Collins. Submitted image

The New Griots Festival

To get at the heart of the New Griots Festival, one needs simply to look up the definition of the word “griots”: a class of traveling poets, musicians and storytellers who maintain a tradition of oral history in parts of West Africa. Founded in 2015 by Josh Wilder and Jamil Jude, two Twin Cities transplants who felt isolated as young black theater artists in a predominantly white theater community, the New Griots Festival is dedicated to celebrating, advocating and advancing the careers of emerging black performing artists in the Twin Cities. Building off the success of the 2015 festival, the festival has been invited into the Guthrie Theater’s 9th Floor Initiative, a program that transforms its entire ninth floor into a community hub offering affordably priced productions and impactful, relevant new works. This year’s New Griots Festival expands from three to ten days, doubling the number of performances and community classes and adding a live in-studio component as well as networking events and panel discussions about the importance of the work of black artists.

When: July 6–17

Where: Guthrie Theater, 818 S. 2nd St.

Cost: $9


X Games Minneapolis

With the upcoming 2018 Super Bowl and the 2019 NCAA Final Four for men’s basketball, the U.S. Bank Stadium is quickly becoming being one of the hottest sports venues in the country. This month, the excitement continues when it hosts the 2017 Summer X Games, which features some of the best skateboarders, BMX bikers and motocross racers in the world. (It’s also slated to host the 2018 edition.) Annually, the games draw more than 100,000 fans and around 250 athletes over the course of the four-day event. Each night is capped off with a concert, which are included with the admission passes for the games. Performers include A Day to Remember (Friday), Flume (Saturday) and Atmosphere (Sunday), plus an off-site concert at the music venue First Avenue on Thursday featuring rappers Prof, Aesop Rock and deM atlaS.

When: July 13–16

Where: US Bank Stadium, 401 Chicago Ave.

Cost: $40–$60 daily; packages range from $100–$750


RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The Secret History of the Off CenterLooking back at the former home of the Rude Mechs and why it mattered

(l-r) Hannah Kenah, Jude Hickey, Heather Hanna, Lana Lesley, and Thomas Gravesin The Method Gun (2009) (Photo by Bret Brookshire)

Oh, no mistake, there was plenty about the Off Center not to like. A rumbling old HVAC system that perpetually threatened to drown out actors’ voices but that no one dared to leave off lest the audience melt in summer or freeze in winter. That bathroom with the odd step up that felt like being on floor 7½ in Being John Malkovich. The plumbing that wasn’t for shit (and that’s not being figurative). The vermin skittering over head and under feet, brazenly eyeballing you as if they were the ones paying rent on the building and you were the squatter.

And yet, as Luther Vandross oft reminded us, a house is not a home. It isn’t the structure itself that defines a dwelling’s worth or meaning or significance; it’s the people who inhabit it and what happens while they’re there that determines that. Take the measure of the Off Center by the Rude Mechs, the venue’s stewards from the fall of 1999 through the spring of 2017, and how they made use of it – what they created there as well as what they encouraged and enabled others to create – and you will find a home, one to love, to prize, to treasure.

Start by seeing the Off Center as a formative site in the Rudes’ origin story. You know how we hold on to the William Sydney Porter House on East Fifth? It isn’t because the four-room cottage is a striking example of Victorian architecture’s Eastlake Style. It’s because it was in there that Porter was in the process of becoming O. Henry, where the news hack with a knack for satire began morphing into the master of the short story. The space was part of the artist’s evolution. So it is with the Off Center and the Rudes. Even before the old Eastside warehouse was repurposed for performance by Morgan Knicely and Steve Bernard Jones in 1998, the group had made a name for itself (ambitious young theatre collective whose members work hard and play hard), but it was in the Off Center that the Rudes came into their own, where they launched their take on Greil Marcus’ Lipstick Traces and it propelled them onto the national scene; where they took on Bush 43’s Iraq War policies in Get Your War On and it took them across the nation; where they birthed the legend of acting guru Stella Burden in The Method Gun and introduced American theatre to the wonders of the queso fountain in Stop Hitting Yourself. The Rudes entered the Off Center as a young troupe making bold original work in Austin and left it as a company that theatre makers across the globe looked to for innovation and inspiration.

The space itself contributed to the Rudes becoming the Rudes. Its rawness suited a collective that took its name from the rough laborers of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Oh, sure, the group has at times cultivated a rep for being brash and offensive, leading many to interpret their “rudeness” in that sense, but these Rude Mechanicals also share much with their Shakespearean namesakes: honesty, loyalty, big hearts, an unshakable belief in the power of play, and pride in being craftsmen – Austin’s Rudes, like Athens’, make things with their hands. For them, the Off Center was a space they could build by hand, tear apart, and rebuild over and over again. Consider the multiplicity of configurations: the Alamo Drafthouse-like tiered seating with tables (for bread and wine!) in Decameron Day 7: Revenge!; the county fair midway accompanying I’ve Never Been So Happy; the escape room and runway-length table flanked by dioramas in Now Now Oh Now; the intricate cardboard tectonics of Perverse Results: Not Every Mountain, to name but a few from 18 years. Each time the Off Center was remade in a new and totally different way, it seemed to spur the group to be even more inventive in reimagining the space, to push further in making the next iteration more “Rude.”

And the more these artists played with this space, the more they seemed to give other artists the opportunity to play with it. It was as though having a home of their own heightened the Rude Mechs’ awareness of how many arts groups didn’t have one, so they made theirs available to as many as they could. And oh, what a rich assortment of artists got to play in the Rudes’ rumpus room: Physical Plant, Deborah Hay, Salvage Vanguard Theater, 33 Fainting Spells, Terry Galloway, Rubber Repertory, dirigo group, Deb Margolin, Andrea Ariel Dance Theatre, Forklift Danceworks, Black Arts Movement Festival, Theatre en Bloc, Capital T Theatre, Teatro Vivo, paper chairs, Bedlam Faction, Breaking String Theatre … so many more. Sometimes the Rudes cut rates so groups could afford the space or partnered with them in co-productions called Rude Fusion. It was a way of sharing the space that came from a sense of community and generosity, and it was born of running the Off Center.

I can’t pretend to be a dispassionate observer here; I and my family were recipients of the Rudes’ largesse there and got to work with them on multiple occasions. But my experiences up close only confirmed what I’d already noticed before I ever worked in the Off Center myself: that it was more than just a warehouse being used for plays and more than a venue for one company or one audience; it was a home where all were welcome to take risks and taste adventure.

Rest in peace, Off Center. Austin will miss you, more than it knows.

A version of this article appeared in print on June 30, 2017 with the headline: Lipstick Graces

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

The Radical Poetic Triumphs of Anastacia-Reneé’s (v.)

Anastacia-Reneé welcomes this new book baby to the world on July 8th at Generations. Youll want to be there.

Meet the new Black fire, not the same as the old Black fire. Gramma Press

Radical and rooted in Black cultural history, experimental yet never losing a responsibility to language, Anastacia-Reneé’s (v.) deserves every stage poetry can give it.

Accurately described in Rezina Habtemariam’s afterword as “a raw meditation on the politics brutally imposed on the bodies of Black girls and women,” the book both challenges poetic traditions in African-American literature and affirms the best humanistic and spiritual traditions that come from it. The dexterity of her pen—the way she fuses styles and brings experimental poetics together with fundamentals from the oral tradition—gives her poetic experiments a complex beauty and power. In short: she says things that direly need to be said, and she says them in the way that only great art can.

A hefty book in terms of forms and sheer mass, (v.) is packaged as a summation of a writer’s career and her introduction to a bigger audience. But as a Black woman living in America, she is denied the privilege of the hero journey formulas black men have used when using this kind of book. By flipping the patriarchal clichés they have used in this genre on their backside, however, she expands the language of those journeys and helps perfect the form.

There are no flat-dada nihilist victories here, no globetrotting-cad behaviors passed off personal growth. Instead, the collection’s power lies both in the speaker’s joy and in her thorough accounting of the price she and so many other black women pay for being human in America. Her style thus extends that rarest of poetic forms: radical honesty.

There is no “Anastacia-Reneé” poem in (v.). She employs prose, experimental lists, call-and-response pieces that use biblical language, and metaphorical African roots work initiated by the Black Arts Movement, just to name a few of the traditions she’s drawing on. Her startlingly original formats serve each piece well, and they all serve commendably in the good war against cliché. Take the beginning of “Curious,” a poem about the exhilaration and peril of developing an inquisitive mind.

do you feel a wormless bird is a better bird than a bird with a (worm) in it’s mouth
you think that maybe having more heart is not a good thing you decide
No      no        no    it isn’t

there is a page with an elephant, pig & human fetus you wonder which of those
is the most innocent and which has shed the most blood the human one is sealed

Here, Anastacia-Reneé organically switches from free verse to open field composition without losing a sense of the design with which she begins the poem.

You can also see her radicalism in “Dragon,” interweaving African call-and-response, kinetic beats, and accent-driven experiments to breathe new life into the prose poem and the nature poem all at once:

one of them. anisozgotptera never use your six legs. never run
when you should never hop anisozgotptera never jump ship.
let yourself be all forward, backward & side to side time you
use more dragon and less fly.

But the poems in (v.) that move me most are the ones where she uses “&” in such far out ways that you almost forget how church they are. Check out “As Told By a Child,” for instance. Nothing in the book, and few poems overall, hit my heart harder than the ending to that poem, wherein Anastacia-Reneé pulls off the high-wire act of describing the Dylan Roof shootings through a child’s eyes. The effect is devastating:  

you decide you will trust—you will lay your little hands
on your community
& make change
& that is the only thing
that make sense when 9 people woke up
& prayed
& 9 people are now being prayed (for)
God bless the child that has his own
& you want your own answers
you want to ask dylan roof
if he ever sang in a church choir
if he sang so loud god could see his heart

Reading (v.), my mind went back to the aesthetics of the Black Arts Movement and to the course corrective focus readers and artists have demonstrated in recent memory. With a documentary on Sonia Sanchez and several books commemorating Gwendolyn Brooks’s centennial birthday, there has been a turn away from the machismo-pop poetics that have characterized BAM’s brand to artists who have done deep roots work in experimenting with the language in order to make it healthier for black people and everyone else. Who knows if Anastacia-Reneé’s book will resonate with a large enough audience to effect that level of change, but dear god it deserves its chance.

Go help her give it that chance at her book launch on July 8th at Generations.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Paving the Way: WBTT show celebrates black Broadway stars

Nate Jacobs fell in love with Broadway without seeing a single show.

It wasn’t a magical trip to New York City or the show-stopping voice of Jennifer Holliday commanding the radio that ignited the love affair. Jacobs, artistic director and founder of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, fell hard for Broadway by listening to his brother’s rave reviews of “Dreamgirls” and other shows he saw on the Great White Way.

“I didn’t know I had a theater company living inside me at the time,” Jacobs says. “Of course, now it’s really clear why those reports from my brother’s phone calls excited me the way they did.”

Michael Mendez practices a musical number during rehearsal on June 14 at The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe.

Michael Mendez practices a musical number during rehearsal on June 14 at The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. Photo by Niki Kottmann

Now, more than three decades later, Jacobs is sharing his love for America’s most beloved theater district with his latest original WBTT production, “Broadway in Black.”

The show was inspired by a children’s theater piece of the same name that he created some 15 years ago. That show was a youth revue, but this time around, he wanted to create a full-fledged professional production that honored the award-winning shows and performers who opened the door for black artists on Broadway.

What resulted is a cast of 13 and a three-piece band that will work together to perform nearly 50 songs — some in their entirety, some in snippets, and others in medleys — that are considered legendary pieces performed by black Broadway stars.

Jacobs says this show carries a meaning that is deeply personal for him and his cast. He notes that black characters on Broadway were played by white performers in blackface until the early 1900s. It wasn’t until 1910 that the first black performer was considered an equal alongside his white counterparts. That’s when Bert Williams took the stage on Broadway in “The Ziegfeld Follies.”

He says because they’re paying homage to the artists who paved the way for black performers on Broadway and elsewhere, he expects excellence from his cast.

“All these artists studied and worked hard and prayed and cried and scratched and crawled to get up the ladder, so you step out and represent them well,” he tells his cast. “I’m not going to accept anything less than that. I want your best.”

This production is different than past Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe shows because the cast learned the choreography and music at the same time. Photo by Niki Kottmann

This production is different than past Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe shows because the cast learned the choreography and music at the same time. Photo by Niki Kottmann

Not only are cast members expected to represent their predecessors with honor and integrity, they’re expected to do so by performing some of the most difficult songs they’ve ever been assigned.

Jacobs says he could see many cast members “shaking their knees” when he handed them their music, but he’s proud of his cast for committing to the challenge of giving audiences a dynamic theater experience that he calls a “show within a show.”

“We go from deeply moving moments to high spirited, over-the-top moments to hot and sizzling moments, and it’s like watching the whole strip of Broadway in one evening,” Jacobs says.

Audience members can expect to hear some of their favorite songs from older classic musicals such as “Cabin in the Sky,” “Porgy and Bess” and “The Wiz” as well as more recent favorites from shows such as “Ragtime,” “Dreamgirls” and “Once on this Island.”

Cherise James, JoAnna Ford and Syreeta Banks rehearse a song from “Dreamgirls” on June 14 at The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. Photo by Niki Kottmann

Cherise James, JoAnna Ford and Syreeta Banks rehearse a song from “Dreamgirls” on June 14 at The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe. Photo by Niki Kottmann

Cast member Michael Mendez has been with WBTT for six years, but he says this show has a different feel than the others he’s been in.

Usually the performers learn the music before they begin choreography, but for “Broadway in Black,” they’ve learned both simultaneously, which Mendez says has taken them to a “different level in the show process.”

He also feels a sense of responsibility to pay respects to the black performers who helped him get to where he is today.

“Being the only black theater in a large radius, we are stewards of black history in a sense, whether we want to be or not,” he says. “So we have to keep our history alive by not only paying homage to what was done but also what will be done for future playwrights.”

Jacobs says the goal is not only to honor these Broadway idols, but to honor the larger narrative of black people in the United States.

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe Founder and Artistic Director Nate Jacobs directs a rehearsal of the “Dreamgirls” portion of the show. Photo by Niki Kottmann

“The purpose of the theater, especially the black theater, is to keep history and stories alive,” Jacobs says. “If we don’t keep our history — our stories, our culture, our uniqueness — alive and propagate it throughout the generations, then it dies.”

For Jacobs, this purpose is particularly personal. Part of his heart will always be on Broadway.

Teresa Stanley, an original member of WBTT who Jacobs mentored from childhood, left the troupe in 2007 to perform in “The Color Purple” on Broadway. When Jacobs’ friend flew him to New York City to see her perform, he cried the entire show.

Stanley took him behind the curtain after the show and pulled him onstage. They looked out into the empty theater and she uttered three words so powerful, they’ve stayed with him.

“You’re on Broadway,” she said.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Derek Hyra and the Trouble With the Trouble With Gentrification

The first thing Derek S. Hyra does when we meet at the corner of Seventh and O streets, in the heart of Shaw, is point to a Capital Bikeshare station across the street. Most people would see a row of bikes waiting to be rented. To Hyra, it’s something more sinister—an upscale amenity atop what used to be a gathering spot for older, working-class, black residents.

“It was a whole group of people congregating,” he says. “Now no one’s there. You can see the drastic change and inequality.”

Hyra, a professor at American University, is the author of Race, Class, and Politics in the Cappuccino City, this year’s buzzy treatise on the economic and demographic shifts that have hit Washing-ton in recent years. His basic argument: The waves of younger, often white newcomers who have moved to DC in the 21st century are the frothy milk foam floating on what used to be “Chocolate City.” To chronicle the phenomenon, he immersed himself in Shaw, once the beating heart of the District’s black culture. On a recent morning, I asked him to give me a walking tour to show off the stories hidden behind today’s trendy bars and glittering apartments.

First stop: Compass Coffee, one of the new businesses that, according to Hyra, leave longtime residents feeling exiled in their own home. “You see the inequality across race and class right on the block, and you see it through just sitting in Compass,” he says. “I just feel that most of the people in the coffee shop seem to be middle-, upper-income and can afford a $2,000 computer. When you compare who’s inside the Kennedy Recreation Center, it’s night and day.”

Heading north, we pass a few older people milling around on Seventh Street. The blocks are a mix of old convenience stores and housing that stick out among the new residential buildings, pet-grooming stores, and bars such as Dacha, a beer garden popular with the happy-hour and day-drinking set.

Inside Wanda’s on 7th. Photo by Yodith Dammlash.

Rather than stop at any of those places, Hyra wants to check in on a beauty salon called Wanda’s on 7th. “Is Wanda around?” Hyra asks the receptionist. Wanda Henderson and her salon play a large role in Hyra’s book. Opened in 1997, the business operated until 2010, when developer Roy “Chip” Ellis—who also revived the historic Howard Theatre around the corner—bought up most of the block and started transforming it into a glassy new project featuring apartments that start at nearly $1,800 a month. Henderson eventually moved her shop up Georgia Avenue.

While we wait for Henderson to emerge, Hyra rehashes how her salon wound up back in its original location, thanks to an agreement with ONE DC, a neighborhood activist group that promotes affordable housing. Hyra isn’t exactly a neutral party when it comes to the organization—he was a volunteer there around the time he started researching his book.

Henderson gives Hyra a big hug when she appears. “The book’s finally out,” he tells her. “Hey, can we get a picture? I’d love to do a reading here.”

Gentrification may be DC’s most fraught local subject, and Hyra has made it something of a professional specialty—he previously studied the phenomenon in Harlem and the South Side of Chicago. The author traces his interest to his days playing high-school basketball. Though he lived in leafy Westchester County, New York, he made a team in Harlem’s Rucker Park, the famed court that nurtured future stars such as Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Being the suburban white guy on a roster filled with players from Harlem and the Bronx made an impact. “My coach asked how many people had gotten over 700 [on the SATs], and I was the only one on the team who had,” Hyra recalls. “It undergirds my whole trajectory.”

His competitive-basketball days might have ended after he graduated from Colgate University. But Hyra, who’s blond, scruffy, and built like a former point guard, still leans on his game. A Falls Church resident, he made inroads with his DC subjects by sinking three-pointers at Kennedy Rec Center, just a block south of Compass Coffee.

Midway through our tour, As we round onto Florida Avenue, we see the gay nightclub Town, and the more cynical part of Hyra’s theory comes into focus. In his book, he recounts attending a fundraiser there in 2010 and overhearing people joking about carjackings, shootings, and robberies.

Hyra believes that one of the reasons so many millennials are moving to previously distressed neighborhoods is because they want to “live The Wire”—as in the acclaimed HBO drama about crime, addiction, poverty, and corruption in Baltimore.

“Except now it’s the gilded ghetto,” he says when we stop in front of the Shay, a hulking development at the corner of Florida and Eighth that features modern, high-rent apartments stacked above trendy retailers including Warby Parker.

Another bit of evidence for Hyra’s sweeping theory comes when we pass a nearby liquor store with bars on the door and, inside, glass separating customers from the clerk: an anecdote relayed to him by the owner of a now-closed Fifth Street liquor store, who told Hyra he once dismissed a young white customer who had come in looking for lottery tickets and 40-ounce bottles of malt liquor for a “hood party.”

I have to wonder—is that really a trend or just one episode of exceptionally poor taste? Couldn’t it be that wealthier newcomers started moving to Shaw because they couldn’t afford Dupont Circle, because a new Metro station made it convenient, and because a series of technocratic DC mayors had helped make the city friendlier to the kinds of businesses those people frequent?

Hyra gets defensive. “It is a real phenomenon,” he says. “It does not apply to all. But University of Virginia students have [those parties], and millennials who went to UVA are moving to DC. They think The Wire is the coolest, hippest show. When you think crime is cool, that is very problematic.”

Shaw’s new restaurant and retail scenes have excited boosters, but Hyra says they cover over longstanding divisions—like foam on a cappuccino. Photo by Yodith Dammlash.

Hyra is on a bit firmer ground when he talks about pricey developers selling Shaw and U Street by tapping into the neighborhood’s history as the so-called Black Broadway. Among the upscale new dwellings to mine that legacy for marketing are the Ellington apartment building and Langston Lofts condominium. “It’s one thing to name a high school in a predominantly black area after a figure in black history,” Hyra says, mentioning Dunbar High School, about a mile from the Shay. “But it’s another thing to market an upper-income luxury development that is being marketed to mainly white millennials.”

Again, it demands a question: How would people feel if developers refused to name things after African-American artists and instead erected buildings named for, say, Billy Joel and Jon Bon Jovi?

As Florida turns into U Street, Hyra starts pointing out the businesses he does like. Lee’s Flower and Card Shop, which opened in 1945. Ben’s Chili Bowl, one of the few places to survive the 1968 riots and easily the busiest scene on an otherwise sleepy early afternoon. Industrial Bank, Washington’s last black-owned financial institution.

We trundle along. Hyra explains that what he’d really like to see is more effort from the city to make its neighborhoods’ evolution less jarring for longtime residents.

“DC has really good affordable-housing policies,” he says. “If it didn’t, Shaw and U Street would be 90 percent white by now. But the city has not done a good job at helping small businesses that are minority-owned stay in the gentrified corridor. Some people say, ‘Hyra, you’re trying to do social engineering.’ I’m not. I’m just trying to alleviate some of the tensions we’ve had in this country.”

Like many people who write about gentrification, Hyra frames it almost as a tragedy. In his case, he pegs it to the fall of officials such as Marion Barry and Frank Smith.

“There was this black political machine that came out of home rule,” he says, skipping over the fact that Barry and Smith became mediocre public servants. He also laments former Shaw advisory neighborhood commissioner Leroy Thorpe’s 2006 ouster by a recently arrived challenger. But Thorpe’s loss came after he gained a reputation for harassing the neighborhood’s gay population. He was toppled by a candidate recruited by Alexander Padro, a gay Latino who had moved to the neighborhood in 1997.

“Alex just wants development everywhere,” Hyra says.

“But he’s been here 20 years,” I say. “He’s not exactly a newcomer.”

“He’s still a newcomer to the longtime residents.”

Hyra’s tour ends at his favorite spot—Busboys and Poets, the restaurant/bookstore/performance space outfitted with colorful murals and paintings that either venerate U Street’s history as a hub for black artists or celebrate progressive activism. Hyra admires the six-location chain and its owner, Andy Shallal, for running an establishment that serves up socially conscious programming in addition to food, coffee, and cocktails. To Hyra, that’s a more “inclusive” business model than something like Compass, which is just selling coffee. “If you spend hours in Compass versus hours in Busboys,” he says, “you’re going to hear different people and different conversations that range the diverse backgrounds that live in Shaw and U Street.”

Hyra asks the host if Shallal is around. He’s not, and we proceed to a table in a room whose clientele—mostly millennial and white—wouldn’t look out of place at Compass Coffee, where we began our tour. Hyra orders a $14 chicken Caesar salad. My steak salad is $1 more. We talk on about the past and future of a neighborhood he’s come to love. Nearly everyone around us has a laptop out.

This article appears in the July 2017 issue of Washingtonian. 

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David Leggett has the last laugh

David Leggett in his studio - FELTON KIZER

  • David Leggett in his studio

A circumcised penis with breasts and wings perches on a pencil above the words “2017 the year you decided to become a political artist.” Made to resemble an eagle, with skin the color of raw chicken, this strange, amusing creation figures in the square-foot drawing titled Reporting Live From the Trenches, by the artist David Leggett. The piece sums up Leggett’s output and attitude: keenly aware of the world and quick with a punch line. And his work is finally finding a wider audience—people hungry for a smart, fresh take on our trying times.

“I wouldn’t outright call myself a political artist, but there are some very political things that go on in my work,” Leggett says. “It’s just the climate—people are responding to that more now. I’ve seen other artists after Trump won, saying, ‘We need to get back to work.’ I’m like, ‘What were you doing before?’ ” He laughs. “Whatever you make, it’s still your duty to be involved in some sort of way.”

Leggett, 36, is a striking presence. He’s six-foot-four and solidly built, with an easygoing and affable demeanor. The sense of humor that comes across in his work is palpable in interactions with him—it’s not a put-on. The same is true of his pop culture references: he repeatedly uses the likeness of characters like black Bart Simpson or Fat Albert because they’re part of his personal history; he grew up with them. Leggett mines everything for inspiration, from art history books to racist Americana to social media. He readily embraces the lowbrow as well as the dark corners of the Internet, frequently taking screenshots or making notes in his phone of phrases that stick out to him. Beth Marrier, his partner of five and a half years, says he loves to read the comments section of articles. “He reads the trash that everyone says to avoid,” she says. “When it’s dark out, he’ll start reading just the scum of the Internet.”

Leggett has a knack for bringing to light that specific kind of murkiness, the things people say when they think no one’s listening. He was recently the subject of a solo exhibition, “Their Funeral, Our Dance Floor,” at Shane Campbell’s downtown gallery; a follow-up show, “David Leggett: Drawings,” is currently on display until July 15 at the same location. “He has his finger on all sorts of problematic relationships, without passing easy, direct judgment on anything,” says Eric Ruschman, Shane Campbell’s director. “He uses humor to draw you in, so you’re laughing, and then you’re sort of implicated.”

David Leggett, Reporting Live From the Trenches, 2017 - EVAN JENKINS/SHANE CAMPBELL GALLERY

  • David Leggett, Reporting Live From the Trenches, 2017
  • Evan Jenkins/Shane Campbell Gallery

Leggett is from Springfield, Massachusetts, and attended Sacred Heart, a private Catholic school, but says he “lived in a really bad neighborhood.” That socioeconomic disparity left a deep impression. As a kid, the sunny side of life, such as Disney movies and Sesame Street, felt “kind of forced,” he says. “I had that contrast of this wholesome world that doesn’t exist anywhere where I live.”

His neighborhood, though much changed today, was affected by the crack epidemic of the 1980s and ’90s. Leggett remembers daily violence and drug dealing. His parents countered that by sending him to a comic book illustration class at the Art Institute of Boston; his high school, Springfield Central High, also had a decent arts curriculum. Leggett knows he’s lucky. “There’s so many people who I grew up with, or played Little League with, went to Sunday school with, who are dead or in jail,” he says.

After high school, Leggett pursued his early interest in art and earned his BFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design. In college, he discovered and was inspired by the work of the Imagists and Kerry James Marshall. “The Internet was much different from what it is today,” Leggett says. The library had just one book on Jim Nutt, and a dated one at that. As an illustration major, Leggett found the surrealist, subversive work of the Imagists appealing. “It was stuff that I really related to because it was pop art, but clearly they were into popular culture,” Leggett says. “It wasn’t a cold read like Warhol. I was like, ‘I really want to go out here [to Chicago] and meet them.’ ” It was easier than he thought—shortly after graduating, in the summer of 2003, he moved to Chicago. “LA or New York artists, there’s no chance you’re going to meet them,” he says. “I think Ed Paschke still had his telephone number in the phone book.”

David Leggett, Their Funeral, Our Dance Floor, 2017 - EVAN JENKINS/SHANE CAMPBELL GALLERY

  • David Leggett, Their Funeral, Our Dance Floor, 2017
  • Evan Jenkins/Shane Campbell Gallery

Leggett began taking classes at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and eventually enrolled in a master’s program there in painting and drawing. At the time, he was mostly drawing; for years he was skeptical of painting, never feeling successful when working on canvas. “Every time I tried to paint it just seemed like . . . failure,” he says. He finished the program in 2007, and about a year after that his practice started to change. He was invited to participate in a group show at the Hyde Park Art Center, “Disinhibition: Black Art and Blue Humor,” and impulsively decided to make paintings for it. The positive response to these pieces encouraged him to concentrate more seriously on the medium.

These days some of Leggett’s most poignant works are paintings. In “Their Funeral, Our Dance Floor” the vast main gallery was filled with them, mostly done on squares or circles, some as wide as seven feet. In Get in the House Once the Streetlights Come On, one of the pieces on display, three disembodied faces take up most of the orange and green canvas. A white man who distinctly resembles Darren Wilson, the cop who shot and killed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, floats on the right side; next to him is a black man’s face made of felt; and above them both is a cartoonish black man whose mouth is open, as if in shock. Felt letters spell out good cop bad cop at the top in red, green, and black, the colors of the pan-
African flag.

David Leggett, Get in the House Once the Streetlights Come On, 2017 - EVAN JENKINS/SHANE CAMPBELL GALLERY

  • David Leggett, Get in the House Once the Streetlights Come On, 2017
  • Evan Jenkins/Shane Campbell Gallery

This past January, Leggett quit a part-time gig teaching classes for the Art Institute online and began working as an artist full-time. His success has helped his parents, whom he describes as very religious, understand his decision to be an artist. “The fact that I went off to college, I got a master’s degree, that alone is impressive to them,” he says. Leggett still seems impressed by this, calling the work “a luxury.” “I almost want to click my heels together,” he says. “It’s very exciting. I don’t think it will ever not be exciting to do this stuff.”

Marrier says that although Leggett’s only recently been able to work on his art full-time, it’s been a priority for him as long as she’s known him. “Art is like taking your vitamins or brushing your teeth,” she says of his practice. “It happens every single day in some capacity.” In fact, it was this devotion to his craft that initially sparked her interest. The couple met online, and though they were both eager to meet in person for the first time, he scheduled the date a few weeks away, she says, because he’d already planned to be in the studio. “David won’t compromise his art practice for anyone,” Marrier says. “That was really attractive.”

Always pushing himself to try new things, Leggett’s practice has expanded to include more craft materials, and he sometimes works with ceramics. In “Black Drawls,” a solo exhibition that opened in November at Gallery 400, he and gallery director Lorelei Stewart decided to include an assortment of materials that inspired him, including cultural ephemera and works by other artists, like Kara Walker and Jim Nutt. An original 90s-era black Bart Simpson T-shirt, purchased from eBay, hung on one wall. Also included were selections from Leggett’s personal collection of pop culture memorabilia, like a McDonald’s Hamburglar figurine, and racist Americana, such as a set of Aunt Jemima and Uncle Moses salt-and-pepper shakers. He frequently scours flea markets and thrift stores for such items. Leggett’s interested in their lineage. “Things never really go away,” he says. “They’ll just get cleaned up and made more polished.”

On a recent trip to Pasadena’s Rose Bowl Flea Market, he picked up a COLORED ONLY placard and a few other artifacts for his collection. “When you go to flea markets, there’s going to be the racist booth full of stuff,” he says, laughing. At one booth, he saw something he’d never before encountered at a flea market: shackles. “With the Americana stuff, you can see how, through history, it’s been changed,” he continues. “But you see something that was bondage and torture . . . ” He trails off. By and large, white people in America get to choose whether or not they want to confront our country’s racist past and present. Black people don’t get such a choice. “For me, I don’t want to forget that this happened,” he says of his Americana collection. By expertly weaving this history into his work, he makes sure his viewers won’t forget it either.

David Leggett, You'll Be Alright, 2015 - EVAN JENKINS/SHANE CAMPBELL GALLERY

  • David Leggett, You’ll Be Alright, 2015
  • Evan Jenkins/Shane Campbell Gallery

“Niggas get shot everyday, B.” Leggett wrote these words with spray paint and an oil bar, in alternating colors of the rainbow, on a shiny gold canvas. Circular smudges at the bottom of the painting resemble sloppily covered-up graffiti. The words in the piece and the title, You’ll Be Alright (Elementary), echo each other, like two friends undercutting news of yet another shooting. The bright colors of the letters, the cheap gold finish, and the simple presentation could all be thought of as contradictory to the content, but for Leggett everything is calculated.

“If you’re going to make something that’s politically charged or has maybe a deeper message—having color, having humor, also craft materials, having these things is like sugar helping the medicine go down,” he says. “It makes people come closer. And sometimes people are laughing at something they probably shouldn’t have laughed at because it’s almost like camouflage.”

The importance of humor is apparent in Leggett’s work and life. He often tries to find the joke in any given situation. He told me that criticisms barely register for him. “Keep it moving,” he tells himself. Leggett frequently cites his appreciation of classic stand-up comedians like Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy, whom he’ll often listen to in the studio. Pryor notably never shied away from politics, or the horrors of his own life, including being sexually molested as a child and becoming addicted to crack cocaine. Nothing was off-limits; and yet he always had his audience laughing. “That’s what I basically hope I can do with my work,” Leggett says. “I’m not sure if I always accomplish that, but I hope.”  v


“David Leggett: Drawings” Through 7/15: Tue-Sat 11 AM-6 PM, Shane Campbell Gallery, 2021 S. Wabash, 312-226-2223,, free.

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