‘You’re not alone’: Online vigil marks COVID-19 anniversary in Sask.

Karla Combres says the night before the first COVID-19 lockdown last year, her husband was in Nipawin for a meeting with 100 people.

“He came home that night and I said, you know what? I don’t think you should go to work tomorrow,” Combres told CBC’s Saskatchewan Weekend. “It was as quick as that. You know, like, from one day to the next, it was unthinkable to gather with that many people.”

Combres is a life cycle celebrant in Saskatoon and one of the organizers of an online vigil being held this Thursday at 7:00 p.m. CST to mark the one-year anniversary of the pandemic.

The vigil is called Together in Remembrance, Together in Hope, and it was organized by Saskatoon’s multi-faith community, but Combres said everyone is welcome.

“For anybody coming to this, no grief is too big or too small,” she said. “This is really for everyone, no matter what your race or your creed or your colour or your age or where you are in the province.”

Her work centres around gathering people and in the early days of the pandemic, she said she wasn’t sure how she was going to be able to continue doing that in a meaningful way.

“Over the course of the past year, I have found ways through researching and participating in gatherings and then also through just really learning and being creative on my own with the people I work with,” she said.

Saskatchewan Weekend14:51Together in Remembrance, Together in Hope

Thursday marks the one year anniversary since the WHO declared a global pandemic. To mark the occasion, a diverse group of people are hosting a free online vigil. Host Shauna Powers speaks with organizers Blake Sittler and Karla Combres. 14:51

Gatherings are smaller and people join via livestream but it is still possible to connect, she said, and she hopes people will find that with the vigil as well.

Combres had the idea for a vigil but she said it was Blake Sittler who got the ball rolling initially to mark the anniversary. 

Sittler is the executive director of Saskatoon’s Roman Catholic chaplaincy and another organizer of the vigil.

He and his wife were celebrating their 25th anniversary in New York before the pandemic hit, arriving home only a few days before the first case was found there.

“We went back to work for a day or two and on Friday, I grabbed my laptop and I said, you know, I’m going to take this laptop home in case I need to stay home for a few days and a few days turned into a full year working in my basement,” he said.

A person in a face mask walks through an almost empty Times Square in New York City as the COVID-19 outbreak pandemic continues. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

Sittler said the goal of the event was to represent as many of the different communities in the province as possible, echoing the provincial motto, “From many peoples strength.”

“We knew we wanted to mark the day because humans do try to make meaning of their lives through ritual,” Sittler said. 

He said the vigil is not a religious event but instead an opportunity to bring people together so they feel less alone.

“You’re not alone in your mourning, you know, you’re not alone in the jobs you lost, your fear, the loneliness, the isolation.… And at the same time, now that the vaccines are coming out, we also wanted to let them know that they aren’t alone in their hope.”

Sittler said he’ll be thinking of people in special care and long-term care homes who have been isolated throughout the pandemic, as well as the workers in those facilities.

“These are folks who have built up this province and have spent their life serving their community and their kids,” he said. “It’s like being in isolation in a prison. And some of them even asked that question is like, what did we do wrong that this is happening?”

Sittler said he wanted to put an event together where people could gather and say, ‘I’m not crazy for being sad and I’m not crazy for being hopeful.’ (Supplied by Shirley Larkin/White Coat Black Art)

The event will have greetings from representatives from different traditions. A front-line worker will speak about their experience, and there will also be poetry and music. The event also invites everyone to bring a candle to light.

“People know what it means to light a candle in the window, you know, for the weary traveler to just find their way through the darkness,” Sittler said. “And that’s what this is, to light a candle, to give people hope to say that we’re in this together.”

The event is free but you need to register at covidvigil.ca. You can join on Zoom, and it will also be livestreamed to YouTube.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Arts & Science Center generates buzz in city

These are just a few of the positive phrases Google reviewers used when describing their experience at the Arts & Science Center.

Accredited by the American Association of Museums, the ASC is a cultural junction where the arts and sciences collide in a spectacular way to engage, educate and entertain.

The ASC is the hub for fine arts, performing arts, arts and science classes, and hands-on children’s science exhibits for the 10-county area of southeastern Arkansas. Its mission is to provide opportunities for the practice, teaching, performance, enjoyment and understanding of the arts and sciences.

How does the ASC fulfill this mission? One look at its rich and varied schedule will give you your first clue. ASC presents programming exhibits, performances, classes and local partnerships.

Education programming occurs on and off site and area schools are encouraged to visit for free exhibition tours and hands-on activities. Classes are offered for children, youth and adults with scholarships available. Gallery admission, hands-on programming and school field trips are all free — thanks to sponsors, successful grant writing and the generosity of the local community.

How did the ASC come to be? The story starts on March 4, 1968, when two local community arts groups merged by ordinance of the Pine Bluff City Council and assumed the name of Civic Center Arts Museum. Soon afterward, the center grew to include performing arts, science exhibits and educational programming, broadening its reach in southeast Arkansas.

In 1969, Pine Bluff City Council changed the name to Southeast Arkansas Arts & Science Center. In 1971, the center became a commission of the City of Pine Bluff, and in 1987, the center’s name was changed to the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas.

From 1968 to 1986, the center operated out of the Pine Bluff Civic Center with an art gallery, a science education junior gallery, a permanent collection gallery, a theater and administrative offices.

A satellite building — a former fire station — designated for education classes was loaned to the center by the city. In 1986, fire heavily damaged the Civic Center facility. Although the theater was eventually restored, the galleries, offices and collections were moved to a historic home on Martin Street.

The old fire station, known as the Little Firehouse Studio, continued as a classroom and student gallery. Due to this geographic separation, the need arose to have a facility that would house all programs under one roof.

In anticipation of a building project, the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas Endowment Fund Inc. was established in 1986. In 1994, following a fundraising campaign, the current facility was built at 701 Main St. in downtown Pine Bluff.

The 22,000-square-foot facility was built to AAM accreditation standards. The building includes four galleries, a theater, classroom space, administrative offices, a vault, and adequate preparatory and conservation space for the center’s programming efforts.

The center offers several children’s science exhibits on a rotating basis. Exhibits have included Illusion Confusion, Good Vibrations and Grossology. Year-round science classes are also available. As part of its commitment to providing quality children’s science exhibits, the center is a member of a seven-museum consortium in Arkansas, the Arkansas Discovery Network.

Besides exhibiting well-known local, state, regional, national, and international artists, the center offers year-round art classes in sculpture, mixed media and more. Exhibits have included the work of Frederic Remington and Norman Rockwell, as well as a collection of art and artifacts from western Africa ranging from the fifth century to the late 20th century.

The center, as part of its mission, also regularly exhibits works from artists throughout Arkansas and the Delta region. The center’s permanent collection addresses a regional constituency and places emphasis on collecting works by African-American artists, Arkansas artists and artists living and working in the South.

The center hosts regular music events that showcase the music of Arkansas musicians and feature the Delta sounds of jazz, blues, soul, rock and country. The center also hosts community theater productions of nationally famous works and conducts theater classes and camps for adults and children.

In 2018, the Windgate Foundation awarded ASC a $2.5 million grant to expand ASC’s footprint and transform historic commercial space on Main Street into a vibrant community arts and event space.

The ARTSpace on Main, located at 623 S. Main St., with a little more than 11,000 square feet, features a community gallery for area artists to show and sell work; flexible workshop space for art classes, yoga classes, dance and culinary workshops, a tinkering makerspace, a wood shop, scene and costume shop, a small pottery studio and an outside “ART Yard” for large-scale projects and events.

The ARTSpace on Main includes some of the original features of the 1920s commercial building, including an advertising mural inside for O.K. Dairy Creamery.

The ARTworks on Main, located between The ARTSpace and ASC’s main building, includes five apartments for resident artists with accompanying studios that can be used by the residents or rented to local artists.

The jewel of The ARTworks is a 70-seat black box theater for small, community-oriented productions. It will be named in honor of longtime ASC supporter and board member Adam B. Robinson, Jr.

This article is among features at ExplorePineBluff.com, a program of the Pine Bluff Advertising and Promotion Commission. Sources: ASC701.org, EncyclopediaofArkansas.net.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

It’s not just Britney Spears, what about all the other women treated badly by the media?

I

n 2007, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton were apparently fuelling enough of a debate among parents about children and “values” for Newsweek to publish a cover story titled “The Girls Gone Wild Effect.”

The article described the ubiquitous images and stories about these women – their partying, their rehab stints, what they were or weren’t wearing – and how they could be affecting young fans.

I was a junior reporter at Newsweek at the time, just a couple years out of college, around the same age as those so-called train wrecks. I wasn’t quite sure what bothered me so much about the article, but I knew I didn’t like it.

Perhaps it was that the editors of the magazine at that time rarely seemed to put women on the cover, so the fact that it was these women said something. The article claimed, according to a poll, that 77 per cent of Americans believed these women had “too much influence on young girls” — but weren’t these just young women? And then there was the male lens of it all, from the entertainment executives who moulded them to the paparazzi who photographed them to the editors who put them on magazine covers.

More than a decade later, we are once again talking about those women – this time through a modern lens. After years of fans fighting to #FreeBritney from the conservatorship over which her father presides – and now with a popular new documentary on the subject – the rise and fall (and rise again?) of Britney Spears is being viewed with fresh eyes.

At the same time, a litany of other female celebrities of the Nineties and Noughties are being – or perhaps ought to be – re-examined: Lohan, now out of the spotlight and living in Dubai, where for the first time in her life, she has said, she feels safe; Hilton, who in a 2020 documentary detailed emotional and physical abuse she suffered as a teenager; Janet Jackson, who was blacklisted after the 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction” that left her breast exposed, while the man who exposed it, Justin Timberlake, went on to further fame (and was even invited back to perform at the half-time show in 2018).

Singer and Moesha star Brandy has described faking her marriage for fear that being an unwed mother would threaten her career. Anna Nicole Smith, the troubled actress and model, was labelled “white trash” while she was alive and “obtrusively voluptuous” in her obituary when she was dead. And then there’s Whitney Houston, whose marital problems and battle with drug addiction were broadcast to the world in an early-2000s Bravo series.

“I lived through Britney on television, and when she shaved her head, I remember thinking at the time, ‘Why is everybody acting like she’s OK? Like, how is this funny to people? How is this presented as entertainment?’” says Danyel Smith, former editor-in-chief of Vibe magazine and host of the podcast Black Girl Songbook.

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Lindsay Lohan (left) with Paris Hilton in 2005

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Lindsay Lohan (left) with Paris Hilton in 2005

(Getty)

“I felt the same about Whitney,” she says. “It was astonishing to watch the amount of glee being taken in watching her fall apart.”

Such reappraisals have become common over the past several years. In the midst of #MeToo and a reckoning over racial injustice, people have begun to re-examine the art, music, monuments and characters on whom cultural significance has been placed.

But this current wave revolves not around individuals so much as the machine that produced them: the journalists, the photographers and the fans, the latter of whom were reading, watching and buying.

“To me, the question is, what do we do when a whole culture essentially becomes the subjugator?” Monica Lewinsky said in a recent interview. “How do we unpack that, how do we move on?”

‘It was a different time’

In his book The Naughty Nineties, David Friend, an editor at Vanity Fair, described how the market for humiliation thrived in the early Nineties, a trend that can be traced, in part, to the rise of tabloid talk programmes such as The Jerry Springer Show.

Gossip magazines ruled during this time, which meant that the paparazzi did, too. They photographed under skirts and chased cars down winding roads, competing, often dozens at a time, for images that could fetch millions.

This was the time before stars could talk to their fans directly, of course. There was no clapping back on Twitter, no hosting an Instagram Live to tell one’s side of the story

But the race for the most salacious shot was never an equal-opportunity game. It was not young men who appeared in photos with their bra straps showing and their make-up smeared, or had their breasts enlarged in postproduction without their knowledge, as was the case for Spears on a 2000 cover of British GQ, according to the photographer, who recently posted about it on Instagram. While white women were scrutinized on the covers of magazines, Black artists were told, as Beyoncé was, that they’d never get covers at all – “because Black people did not sell.”

“Magazines in that era were driven by damsel-in-distress narratives,” said Ramin Setoodeh, executive editor at Variety and author of Ladies Who Punch. “It was almost like a sport to watch a woman self-destruct.”

This was the time before stars could talk to their fans directly, of course. There was no clapping back on Twitter, no hosting an Instagram Live to tell one’s side of the story.

In a 2013 interview with David Letterman that has recently resurfaced, Lohan was grilled to the point of tears about a looming trip to rehab, for laughs. (“She’s probably deeply troubled and therefore great in bed,” Donald Trump told Howard Stern in 2004, when the actress was 18.) When Hilton’s sex tape was leaked without her consent, nobody was using the phrase “revenge porn” or talking openly about emotional pain as trauma.

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Paris and Britney: ‘It was almost like a sport to watch a woman self-destruct’

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Paris and Britney: ‘It was almost like a sport to watch a woman self-destruct’

(Getty)

Terms such as “accountability,” “consent,” “fat-shaming” and “mental health” weren’t part of the pop lexicon, says Susan Douglas, professor of communication and media at the University of Michigan and co-author of Celebrity: A History of Fame.

For the celebrity media, at least, such framing would have served no useful purpose. Disaster and personal tragedy sold.

As Harvey Levin, founder of TMZ, put it in 2006: “Britney is gold. She is crack to our readers. Her life is a complete train wreck, and I thank God for her every day.”

“It was a different time,” Rosie O’Donnell, who interviewed Spears on her talk show in 1999, said in a phone interview. “You’re a level-headed girl,” she told her back then, “and I hope you stay that way.”

‘We’re all collateral damage’

In recent years, there have been Hollywood reappraisals of Anita Hill, a law professor who now leads the Hollywood Commission on sexual harassment, decades after her own high-profile case was dismissed; Tonya Harding, the former Olympic figure skater whose rivalry with Nancy Kerrigan and its violent climax were cast against a story of childhood abuse; and Lorena Bobbitt, whose physical harm of her husband has been reframed in the context of years of domestic abuse.

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Paris Hilton felt ‘purposefully humiliated’ during a 2007 interview with David Letterman

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Paris Hilton felt ‘purposefully humiliated’ during a 2007 interview with David Letterman

(WireImage/Getty)

Some women have retold their stories themselves. Jessica Simpson published a memoir in 2020 about her time in the spotlight, including her battle with alcoholism. Christina Aguilera described the feeling of being pitted against Spears – “Britney as the good girl and me as the bad” – in a 2018 story in Cosmopolitan.

But Lewinsky was perhaps the first of this era of women to reclaim her story.

After being excoriated in the media for her affair with President Bill Clinton as a 21-year-old intern, she went on to earn a master’s in social psychology. She carefully reemerged in the public eye in 2014, with an essay and TED Talk about public shame. Now she’s producing a documentary on the subject, and how it permeates society.

“We tend to forget the collective experience,” Lewinsky says by phone. “We direct this kind of vitriol and misogyny toward one woman, but it actually reverberates to all women. We’re all collateral damage, whether we’re the object or not.”

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FKA twigs refuses to answer questions about her alleged abusive relationship with Shia LeBeouf

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FKA twigs refuses to answer questions about her alleged abusive relationship with Shia LeBeouf

(Getty for The Recording Academy)

These days, that view is more widely held. Abuse and discrimination are now generally seen as systemic issues, and those who endure it are lent more credibility and sympathy. Contemporary artists speak candidly about mental health; their seeking help tends to be applauded rather than ridiculed. And social media has enabled stars to take back some control (while also opening them up to further scrutiny in other ways).

“The legacy media star has dimmed,” said Allison Yarrow, author of 90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality.

Lizzo, for instance, posts photos on Instagram that align with the body positivity her fans admire. Billie Eilish speaks frequently and frankly about mental health. FKA twigs, when asked about her allegations of abuse against her ex, Shia LaBeouf, and why she didn’t leave, can choose not to answer: “The question should really be to the abuser, ‘Why are you holding someone hostage with abuse?’”

Now, entertainment journalists who worked through the tabloid era are looking back on their coverage through a critical lens; some are expressing regret and even issuing apologies.

Steven Daly, who wrote the infamous 1999 Rolling Stone cover story on Spears, said that in hindsight, having a 17-year-old girl show him, a man in his 30s, around her childhood bedroom was slightly creepy.

But he is more troubled by the photos that appeared alongside his piece: Britney in a bra and hot pants holding a Teletubby; Britney in a pair of white cotton underwear surrounded by her bedroom dolls – photos that the pop star, rather than the photographer or editors, was often asked to defend.

“These were soft-porn pictures of an underage girl,” said Daly, now 60. “If you did that nowadays, you’d be put through a woodchipper.”

© The New York Times

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Will Liverman and Paul Sánchez: ‘Dreams of a New Day: Songs by Black Composers’

Baritone Will Liverman says it better than I could, in the liner notes to his new album with pianist Paul Sánchez: “Right now, it is more important than ever to celebrate the contributions of Black composers.[who] wrote so much more than just spirituals!” On Dreams of a New Day, the new album from Cedille Records, the baritone offers a sparkling survey of art songs spanning most of the 20th century. Many of their composers will be unfamiliar to most listeners of any race or stripe. The album is one small step toward filling that knowledge void.

Liverman has made his name on the opera stage, but he is an ideal messenger for the art song. On these often-impassioned pieces his voice soars, floats, grips tightly, touches gently.

The Five Songs of Laurence Hope (1915) by Henry Burleigh are an early link between spirituals and art songs. In these poems, Laurence Hope, a pen name of the poet Adela Florence Nicolson, explores the textures of the globe, situating the Black American experience in the widest possible earthly context. In contrast, Margaret Bonds’ Three Dream Portraits (1959), settings of poems by Langston Hughes, shine a light inward, to the soul and the intellect, vividly reflecting the learned passions of the mid-century Black Arts Movement.

Margaret Bonds

The most powerful music in the set, to my ear, is actually the newest. Two Black Churches by the young composer Shawn E. Okpebholo recounts the 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where four girls were killed, and the 2015 attack on the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, where nine parishioners died at the hands of a white man they had welcomed into their midst. Sánchez’s pianistic sensitivity and power are both on especial display in the intricate, sometimes angrily dissonant accompaniment, while Liverman makes the words of Dudley Randall’s “Ballad of Birmingham” and Marcus Amaker’s “The Rain” bloom and burst. The latter poem concludes: “And we are still / trying not to / taste the salt / of our surrounding blues / or face the rising tide / of black pain.” (The CD package includes a booklet with all the text.)

As a kind of coda, Liverman returns to 1963, closing the disc with his own plangent arrangement of Richard Fariña’s folk song “Birmingham Sunday.” This reflects again the intimate, naked resonance of that awful day, but the singer’s artistry refutes the inevitability of perpetual tragedy. It’s an almost unbearably powerful performance.

Despite the pain of much of its specific subject matter, the album is no litany of racial grievances. It is above all a celebration of the brilliance of African American composers in a genre we don’t typically associate with Black artists. There’s life-giving electricity in Robert Owens’ Mortal Storm, settings of five short poems by Hughes. Liverman’s technique shines especially brightly in “Genius Child.” Much of the measure and most of the woe of these poems and of this music arise from Black oppression, but the feelings are universal, from the blues of “Little Sky” to the 37 seconds of fury in “Jaime”: “He sits on a hill / And beats a drum / For the great earth spirits / That never come.” This figure is no fool on the hill. He is a cry for peace, belonging, and justice.

Tucked among the song cycles is a theatrical number by H. Leslie Adam called “Amazing Grace,” not the famous hymn/spiritual but a 1992 piece infused with optimism. It ends with a glorious, quiet scale that rises into the upper reaches of the singer’s impressive range. And the disc opens tellingly, with another paean to hope, Damien Sneed’s “I Dream a World,” where the yearning for harmony is expressed, literally, in black and white. In the words (again) of Hughes: “A world I dream where black or white, / Whatever race you be, / Will share the bounties of the earth / And every man is free.”

Dreams of a New Day: Songs by Black Composers is available now.

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Black Artist Showcase

One of the many programs the Black Student Union plans for Black History Month on Cabrini’s campus is the Black Artist Showcase. The showcase takes place on Feb 26.

Black History Month started as black history week. Carter G. Woodson and the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History (ASNLH) created Black history week in 1926 and choose the second week of February to celebrate it. They wanted to recognize the achievements of African-Americans and their role in U.S history. In the decades that followed cities across the country celebrated the week but eventually, the only week-long celebration turned into a month-long celebration on college campuses. In 1976 President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month.

Black History Month“Black History Month” by Enokson is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Black Student Union has been on Cabrini’s campus since 1972. According to their mission statement, the Black Student Union welcomes people of all backgrounds and gains insight and shares experiences while understanding the experience of others. BSU also celebrates the Black culture of their ancestors and people who have made an impact on society to help get rid of stereotypes and viewpoints of racism.

This is the first year of Black Artist Showcase. It features Black Cabrini students showcasing their talents and skills for people on campus to enjoy. They sent out information about Zoom auditions with people getting a 15-minute slot. You have the option of sending video submissions until Feb 19. The showcase takes place on Feb 26. Some of the performances may include comedy, music, dancing, slam poetry, fine art, juggling and so much more. This is one of the many other programs the Black Student Union is hosting for Black History Month. 

“We decided to have a talent show during a meeting with Seal about potential Black history month event ideas last semester,” said Naiser Warren-Robison, president of the Black Student Union.

“We need to show the diversity of the school and showcase everybody’s talents. Everybody has different ways of expressing themselves and this is a way of kicking off Black History Month,” Armani Parker, sophomore graphic design major, said. “We’re not making the showcase all about certain people of color or certain people to participate in. This is for everybody; this is to help showcase everybody’s talent and show Cabrini that this is a very diverse environment for everybody to feel comfortable in.”

“It is important to have the showcase at Cabrini to give out Black students a platform where they can display their talents to the rest of the Cabrini community,” Warren-Robison said. “Too often we do hear stories of students who feel unheard and under-appreciated on this campus, so we want to create a space for Black students particularly to have the opportunity to feel heard.”

When asked about performances for the show both Nasier and Armani didn’t want to spoil it, so you have to attend the show to see it. The Black Artist Showcase, the showcase takes place Feb. 26 look in your email for more information.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Amy Sherald Directs Her Breonna Taylor Painting Toward Justice

Typically, Amy Sherald’s gallery would handle the sale of her artwork to a collector or an institution. But when it came to her portrait of Breonna Taylor — the 26-year-old medical worker who was shot and killed by police officers in Louisville, Ky. — Sherald herself wanted to see that particular painting all the way home.

“I felt like it should live out in the world,” Sherald said. “I started to think about her hometown and how maybe this painting could be a Balm in Gilead for Louisville.”

Sherald believed the painting should be seen by people where Taylor died as well as by a broader audience. And she intended the proceeds from her sale of the painting to advance the cause of social justice.

In an unusual arrangement that has unified two museums and two foundations, Sherald has managed to achieve those goals for the work, which was originally commissioned for the cover of Vanity Fair last September by Ta-Nehisi Coates, who was a guest editor for a special edition on activism.

The 54-inch-tall by 43-inch-wide painting will be jointly owned by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., and by the Speed Museum in Louisville, assuming the artwork passes through both museums’ acquisition process.

The institutions purchased the painting with $1 million donated by the Ford Foundation and the Righteous Persons Foundation, a philanthropy that supports social justice initiatives and is run by the actress Kate Capshaw and her husband, the director Steven Spielberg.

The artwork is expected to be included in the Speed Museum’s Taylor-inspired exhibition — “Promise, Witness, Remembrance,” which opens April 7 and has been organized by Allison Glenn, an associate curator at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., in consultation with Taylor’s family.

Sherald — along with the artists Theaster Gates and Hank Willis Thomas — serves on the Speed’s advisory panel for the exhibition, which will feature prominent Black artists including Sam Gilliam, Lorna Simpson, Kerry James Marshall and Glenn Ligon.

“The killing of Breonna Taylor and a year of protests have really changed the course of Louisville, and we’re struggling,” said Stephen Reily, the Speed’s director. “Our goal and ambition is to use the work of great artists to help process what we’ve been through and collectively find a way forward.”

Lonnie G. Bunch III, the founding director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, who is now the Smithsonian’s secretary, said Sherald’s painting of Taylor “captured both the joy and the pain of this moment.”

“This is a story that needs to be told and needs to be retold,” Bunch added. “If it went into a private collection, it might get a little attention and then disappear. This way, generations are going to understand the story of this woman and the story of this period.”

When Coates asked Sherald to paint Taylor, the artist said she “saw it as an opportunity to codify the moment.” Sherald, 48, who had a heart transplant in 2012, had been unable to participate in last summer’s protests amid the pandemic. The painting gave her the chance “to have a voice and to give Breonna Taylor a voice.”

The commission was only Sherald’s second — the first, which catapulted her to national prominence, was Michelle Obama’s official portrait, which has been drawing crowds at the National Portrait Gallery (and is set to go on a five-city tour with the Kehinde Wiley portrait of Barack Obama, beginning in June).

It was also the first time Sherald had painted someone who was no longer living. So she embarked on an immersive process of research, studying photos of Taylor, and speaking with Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, “so I could get a feel for who she was as a person,” Sherald said, “her sense of style and how she felt beautiful.”

“Her mom shared with me that she loved to get dressed up,” Sherald added, “So I thought it was fitting that she have on a beautiful dress.”

Palmer said her daughter was “definitely a diva.”

“You wouldn’t catch her not together,” she continued, “she definitely took pride in what she looked like and how she carried herself.”

Sherald wanted to find a Black female designer for the dress — she settled on Jasmine Elder of Atlanta-based JIBRI — believing that “a Black woman painting a portrait of a Black woman should be dressed by a Black woman.”

The artist photographed an acquaintance who shared Taylor’s body type and considered what color to make the dress. “I decided to go with turquoise, and then with a background that was the same color, because it really allowed you to focus on her face and look in her eyes,” said Sherald, whose subjects gaze directly at the viewer. “She has this kind of otherworldly feel, kind of ethereal, very peaceful.”

The artist’s connection to Taylor was aided by a video Coates sent of Taylor double-Dutch jump-roping. “I got to hear her giggle,” Sherald said, “and hear her voice.”

The artist LaToya Ruby Frazier shared with Sherald photographs she had taken of the Taylor family for the Vanity Fair issue, including one of the engagement ring with which Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, had planned to propose.

“I realized this was a love story, too,” Sherald said. “I asked permission to paint that ring onto her finger. She didn’t know he had the ring.”

Upon seeing the finished painting, Palmer was overwhelmed. “I could not believe it,” she said. “It definitely showed her character and who she was.”

Sherald could have sold the painting through her gallery, Hauser & Wirth, which on March 20 will open a show of the artist’s latest work at its Los Angeles location, her first West Coast solo exhibition. But she wanted to more directly control the fate of her Breonna canvas, so reached out to her friend, Capshaw.

Capshaw had felt a kinship with Sherald from afar since reading a 2017 interview with her in The New York Times and finding they had passions in common, including the poet David Whyte and the public radio host Krista Tippett.

“I am feeling this is someone I already know,” Capshaw said of that moment. She has since become Sherald’s friend, and said she wanted to help the artist realize her goals for the Taylor painting. “What is it that is needed to make sure that she gets to be the author of the story of this portrait?” Capshaw said. “Whatever it costs to make that happen, I was in.”

“She’s been the architect,” Capshaw added of Sherald. “It will be what it will be because of her. She is serving Breonna as a symbol, as a person, as a story that needs to be told, as a representation of something that is happening in this nation that needs to stop.”

Capshaw called Darren Walker, the president of Ford Foundation, who agreed to share the purchase price and to make an additional $1.2 million grant to fund the Speed’s upcoming Taylor exhibition as well as free admission and community programs there.

“This painting and exhibition embody the idea of art for justice and demonstrate the potential power of art to heal,” said Walker, who in 2017 played a similar role in helping the art collector Agnes Gund sell a 1962 Roy Lichtenstein painting to start a fund that supports criminal justice reform.

The Breonna Taylor work “indicates how an artist can play a transformative role in bringing more equity to a community,” he said.

In the 2017 Times interview, when she was just gaining fame for painting the first lady, Sherald expressed the hope that she would someday be able to give back to struggling youth, after paying off her school loans and affording her heart medication.

“When I look at those people,” Sherald said at the time, “I see myself.”

Talking now, Sherald got emotional realizing that four years later — having skyrocketed in the art world, with one work reaching $4.3 million at auction over an estimate of $150,000 to $200,000 — she is finally able to do that.

She plans to direct the funds from the painting’s sale toward a program she is forming with the guidance of both foundations that will support students pursuing higher education who have an interest in social justice.

“I specifically thought about a young woman I mentor now who wants to go to nursing school but doesn’t have the means to do it,” Sherald said. “I really want the money to give someone an opportunity to do something they might not have been able to do without it.”

Palmer said she is moved by the idea that Sherald’s poignant image will live on in major art institutions for the world to look at and learn from. “Never in a million years would I have thought she’d end up in a museum,” Palmer said of her daughter. “I still can’t even find the words. It’s such a blessing, because people will come from everywhere to see her.”

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Bruno Mars responds to claim he is a ‘cultural thief’: ‘The only reason I’m here is because of James Brown and Prince’

Bruno Mars has responded to claims that he is a “cultural thief” and has appropriated Black culture in his music and performance.

The singer-songwriter was born to a Filipina mother and a Puerto Rican and Ashkenazi Jewish father. Mars was confronted with the claims of cultural appropriation, which have provoked debate on social media for years, during an appearance on The Breakfast Club radio show.

Breakfast Club host Charlamagne Tha God said: “People love to accuse you of being a cultural thief, which I find interesting because you are a person of colour. What would you say to those people?”

Mars responded by crediting several of the Black artists who had influenced his sound and style.

“I would say, you can’t look at an interview, you can’t find an interview where I’m not talking about entertainers that’ve come before me,” he said. “The only reason why I’m here is because of James Brown, is because of Prince, Michael [Jackson], that’s the only reason I’m here.”

“I’m growing up as a kid, watching Bobby Brown, saying ‘Okay, if that’s what it takes to make it, then I’ve got to learn how to do the running man, I’ve got to learn how to do the moonwalk.’ That’s it. And this music comes from love, and if you can’t hear that, then I don’t know what to tell you.”

The “Uptown Funk” artist was asked whether he was affected by the claims.

“It comes with the gig,” he replied. “And there’s real merit to what people are saying about Black entertainers not getting their flowers, and I’m championing with that, I’m with that. I understand, but it’s just Twitter.”

Mars released his first collaborative song with Anderson .Paak earlier this week, under the joint moniker Silk Sonic.

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Consuming Blackness in ‘progressive’ West Virginia Scalawag

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In recent weeks, I watched as my native West Virginia has made national headlines for its seemingly efficient rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine. As I always do, I scoured these articles for references to Black West Virginians. Nary a mention. 

Yes, Black West Virginians are a small population—less than 4 percent of the state’s residents, according to 2019 Census Bureau statistics. But I’ve learned that where there’s a health disparity or social problem in West Virginia, we are likely to be caught prominently in its crosshairs.

The absence of Black people in the discussion of West Virginia’s response to the pandemic—or pretty much any discussion in the state and Appalachia—creates a paradox of visibility, especially in the world of white-run progressive organizations. 

I wandered inside a zebra-patterned tent to find dozens of chuckling white women searching a Black man’s prone shirtless body for California rolls.

We alternate between being unseen and hypervisible. Take the February 26 comments by state Delegate John Kelly (R-Wood County) about a COVID-19 cluster that ravaged a Black church in Everettville; he said those reports were “fairy tales” and about “imaginary communities.”  

When I was for a time the only Black lobbyist working the West Virginia statehouse, I saw Black people trotted out when nonprofits needed a Black body or a Black woman’s story. Then, we were vulnerable, downtrodden, in dire need of help only white people could give, or in trouble. Or, in my case, trouble personified. 

This recent crop of national news stories from West Virginia brought back a memory I haven’t been able to shake. That recollection shows the vast distance between a Black woman’s subjective experience of white, middle-class “anti-racist” events and the smooth façade nonprofits show the world. 

See also: Recovery while Black in Appalachia

Consuming the Black body

In 2009, I went to Charleston, West Virginia’s premier women’s empowerment fundraiser on a donated ticket. My free admission reminded a less-fortunate me that I could not afford my place among hundreds of middle- to-upper-caste white women attending the “Girls’ Night Out” YWCA event. 

The event borrowed Breakfast at Tiffany‘s classic Audrey Hepburn style: black-and-white dress code, elegant decorations, and pearls (of course). But something was off as soon as I walked in. (Later, I would remember how in that movie, actor Mickey Rooney—a white man from the United States—portrays a Japanese man, Mr. Yunioshi, by taping his eyelids, speaking in a sibilant accent, and wearing fake “buck” teeth. He is the only non-white character in the film.)

I wandered inside a zebra-patterned tent to find dozens of chuckling white women searching a Black man’s prone shirtless body for California rolls. 

White women were laughing and grabbing for bites of sushi off a human body.

That imagery doesn’t fade. Instead, it continues to enrage me. It stands as both a metaphor and real evidence of oppression and silence. 

Serving sushi from a body is a Japanese practice called nyotaimori.  I heard event organizers say it was an ancient art form. Google told me nyotaimori is rarely practiced in Japan outside random seedy clubs. And, when it does happen, a woman’s body is usually the “platter.” 

I watched, horrified, as tipsy and cackling women left the zebra tent with their sushi and crossed the front lawn to the live auction in the back of Sunrise Mansion, the 30-room estate that hosted the event. It was built in 1905 by West Virginia’s ninth governor, William A. MacCorkle, son of a Confederate officer.  MacCorkle brought home stones as travel souvenirs and had many cut to fit into the home’s facade. Among them, there was a slave market stone—collected in St. Louis—positioned at the entrance to the house. 

See also: Blocked at Five Points

This is how racism operates in my charming hometown: in plain sight, without question, part of the environment.  Many West Virginians think “West Virginia didn’t believe in slavery” because it seceded from Virginia during the Civil War. This narrative is even taught in most West Virginia classrooms and erases slavery’s presence in West Virginia, though many of Charleston’s own streets bear the names of slave-owning families. Charleston, nestled between mountains and the Kanawha River, developed a salt industry powered by enslaved labor. In 1850, thousands of slaves were employed in the salt works. 

Did the Charleston YWCA sell a stereotypical image of Black men and women to a wealthy, wasted white-girl crowd?

But I didn’t expect these women to stop and ponder the origins of those street names, or why, in the shadow of slavery, an auction felt wrong. I didn’t expect them to consider why no one blinked at grabbing bites off a Black body, nor why The Charleston Gazette newspaper should have thought twice before printing a photo of that Black man’s body being used as a plate. 

Suffering for sale 

As the sun set on the live auction stage, a Black woman, a domestic-violence survivor, stepped on a platform to address an audience of drunk white women. 

Few of the “girls” were listening. They were enjoying their conversations and cocktails. I was struggling to hear through the noise and my emotions. Her story was all too close to home for me. She was the mother of my then-husband’s children. She did not directly name him as her abuser, but I assumed she was reflecting on her life with him. I needed to hear every word she said. Her story spoke to me—literally. 

I wondered if others could see themselves in her story, too. As a Black woman, raised in low-income housing, abused by her “baby daddy,” supported by the YWCA and her faith, she had found success in life. 

I questioned what I had just witnessed. Did the Charleston YWCA sell a stereotypical image of Black men and women to a wealthy, wasted white-girl crowd? 

In West Virginia and beyond, the YWCA and many nonprofits like it are led by white women. They have boards of affluent, mostly white women (and the occasional, approved professional Black woman), white committee leaders, and volunteers. When critics call out racism, these organizations often turn to a Black person on staff, a lone Board member, or perhaps a Black person they call a friend. 

See also: Behind the scenes in Black Appalachia

Accusers are often vilified as waging personal vendettas or “simply wanting to destroy” organizations that offer so much good to the community. I know this personally. In 2009, when I left the event, I wrote an op-ed detailing my experience and was told by several trusted advisors that the Y was just too powerful to critique. Publishing it would harm me, they said. I was burning bridges. 

Back then, I accepted the illusion of being seen in private meetings with “concerned” nonprofit leaders. I shared my concerns about the YWCA and many other white-led nonprofits asking organizations to find internal accountability. I didn’t want to damage the Y because then who would do the good work that it did, even if it so often fell short of its mission of “eliminating racism, empowering women”?

Today, I have years of experience, witness, and know better. In 2016, Carrie Bowe, the YWCA’s volunteer social media coordinator, was fired for reciting racist slogans in a national video. The YWCA quickly severed ties with her. Many meetings later, many private conversations later, I dare to speak publicly and to be seen on my terms. 

Recently, I shared my concerns with a white implicit bias trainer and YWCA supporter. The reply: “That was before my time.” As if history doesn’t matter or these organizations look much different or work much differently than how they did in 2009. Therein lies the problem: The white-liberal code of silence that refuses to recognize the past, “bad cops” among themselves, or that the system itself is bad. 

But those white liberals don’t have time for reflection. They’re busy eating sushi.

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Two Charleston artists lend talents to acclaimed new work about church massacre

Sometimes, a local poetry reading can land you in the No. 1 spot on a Billboard chart. 

Such was the case for Charleston poet laureate Marcus Amaker. One of his events was attended by Paul Sanchez, director of piano studies and the International Piano Series at the College of Charleston. Sanchez then recommended the poet for a project that is now turning ears, reaching hearts and, ideally, driving change.

That project, “Dreams of a New Day: Songs by Black Composers,” recently held the top spot on Billboard’s chart for traditional classical albums. It is also the passion project of operatic baritone Will Liverman, in performance with Sanchez. The album was released by Cedille Records on Feb. 12. 

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Paul Sanchez

Pianist Paul Sanchez collaborated with baritone Will Liverman on “Dreams of a New Day.” File/Provided 

The album shines stirring light on Black composers across generations, from early 20th century pioneers Henry Burleigh, Margaret Bonds and Thomas Kerr to later artists Robert Owens and Leslie Adams. It also showcases contemporary composers Damien Sneed and Shawn E. Okpebholo.

It should be noted that before the recent success of “Dreams of a New Day,” Liverman was already primed to gain new heights in global name recognition.

The baritone, who is known for his versatility in performing both classical repertoire as well as contemporary compositions, is set to star in the Metropolitan Opera’s highly anticipated reopening production of Terence Blanchard’s “Fire Shut Up In My Bones” in the fall. It will be the first time an opera by a Black composer is presented at the Met. 

Thus far, the album has enjoyed an auspicious beginning. In January, it was flagged by NPR music critic Tom Huizenga as one of the releases he most anticipated. Last month, it made a New York Times roundup of three new albums featuring Black composers. In his Washington Post review, music critic Michael Andor Brodeur hailed a performance of the album’s commissioned composition, “Two Black Churches,” as “absolutely devastating, and one of the most beautiful pieces of music I’ve heard all year.” Then, the week of Feb. 27, the album made it to the No. 1 spot of Billboard’s Traditional Classical Albums Chart.

For the album, Liverman assembled a program of songs billed as portraying “the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the African American experience through poignant texts and expressive musical settings.”

And he enlisted a frequent collaborator in Sanchez. The pianist is a very busy man, even in the midst of a pandemic shutdown. In his role at the college, Sanchez places equal priority on teaching and performance to best ready students for careers in the professional music world.

“I love Paul’s beautiful interpretation of Shawn’s music and how he is able to tell a story with the sensitivity in his playing,” said Liverman. “I knew that he would be the perfect collaborator for the repertoire in this album with what he’s able to bring to the table. He elevated everything we did and it was very easy to sing into his playing.”

Sanchez, who moved to Charleston in 2016 with his wife, soprano Kayleen Sanchez, is a sought-after pianist. He regularly performs on classical albums and has around a dozen under his belt.

He’s known Liverman since 2012, when they were introduced by Okpebholo while both in the Chicago area. The two began collaborating, recording an album of reimagined spirituals called “Steal Away,” composed by Okpebholo in 2013. 

In order to move forward with “Dreams of a New Day,” the artists had to negotiate repeated pandemic pivots. 

“I think the fact that the wheels were already in motion was really important,” Sanchez said. The project first played out first as a virtual performance in an empty Studebaker Theater in Chicago, which, for Sanchez, was surreal with no audience.

Dreams of a New Day

“Dreams of a New Day: Songs by Black Composers” features baritone Will Liverman and pianist Paul Sanchez. Cedille Records/Provided 

‘Two Black Churches’

On the album, many artists come together in the creation of the newly-commissioned “Two Black Churches.” 

Liverman asked Okpebholo to create the two-part piece to honor both the 1963 Birmingham bombing (“Ballad of Birmingham”) and the 2015 Emanuel AME Church massacre in Charleston (“The Rain”).  

“He’s a very, very deep thinker and a very deep composer,” Sanchez said of Okpebholo, noting that his works include echoes of a hymn within a spiritual and hidden meanings below the surface. 

Then there are Liverman’s magnificent vocals.

“Of course, the chops are spectacular,” Sanchez said of Liverman’s technique. “But you can have all the technique in the world and not have the sort of soul and spirit behind it. He’s just an intelligent musician on top of it all, so everything he does makes sense.” 

The two have clicked well, possessing a mutual good humor, and aim to keep the sessions friendly and light while also allowing for the emotional depth to be fully inhabited when they perform.

Sanchez recalled in particular the Chicago performance.

“I remember looking at Will during ‘Two Black Churches’ and he was crying. I remember just kind of waiting for him to breathe. … June and July of this year were pretty tumultuous times,” Sanchez said. 

Following the performance, the two met in a studio in Goshen, Ind., the only place in which they could find a recording venue.

200224-MarcusAmaker-204.jpg

Charleston’s poet laureate Marcus Amaker wrote a piece for the composition “Two Black Churches” on the classical album “Dreams of a New Day.” Provided 

The Charleston connection 

After hearing Amaker’s work at a reading, Sanchez recommended him to Okpebholo for the piece honoring the Emanuel AME shooting.

Okpebholo then reached out to the poet as he was beginning to write “Two Black Churches” and asked him if he was willing to write a new piece about the massacre. 

“I was motivated to work on this project because I trust my poetry when it’s in the hands of Black musicians,” said Amaker. “I knew that Shawn and Will would be able to accurately interpret the trauma of ‘The Rain’ because they understand how racism impacts all of our people.”

Amaker said initially he wasn’t enthusiastic about writing another poem about the church shooting, explaining that digging in to that trauma is not an easy task for a Black artist. 

“It’s an energy drainer. And it brings up a lot of emotions that I’m unpacking about my city, and a system that allows for racism to thrive,” he said. “I was hesitant. But when ‘The Rain’ came to me, I didn’t resist.”

According to Amaker, the process was a true partnership, sprung from discussions between the composer and poet about tone, voice and energy.

“I wanted to make sure that what I wrote would match his desire for ‘Two Black Churches.’ He trusts my voice but wanted to put me in the mind frame of a classical composer,” Amaker said. “It was a great collaboration. The original version of the poem, later published in my book ‘The Birth of All Things,’ was revised to fit the composition. I added words to extend syllables of certain lines, and add more breath.”

Amaker said he is happy with the result. He’s not alone.

“While I’ve never met Marcus personally, I was blown away by ‘The Rain’,” said Liverman, adding that the piece was the hardest one to sing through emotionally due to the writing of both poet and composer. ” ‘Two Black Churches’ is the focal point of the album, and Marcus delivered something truly powerful and special for us.”

The deep emotion, resonant power and aching beauty pulled from every mournful note of the work is a testament to its transcendent convergence of composition, lyrics, voice and piano.

“It’s truly a remarkable piece of music,” Amaker said, crediting Liverman’s interpretation of the work. 

According to Amaker, the power of poetry to speak truth is age-old.

“Poetry is the great truth-teller. For centuries, poets have been offering people the opportunity to wake up,” he said. “But we can only do so much. Real change, in the way this society is set up, has to come from a change in power structure.” 

For Sanchez, “Dreams of a New Day” is a dream realized.

“This is the kind of project that I always dream of doing because it’s something that needs to be put out there. To get to be a part of that, it’s really an honor, and to get to work with people that I really respect and admire, that’s also wonderful.” 

Amaker is equally driven to train his artistry on change.

“To quote the poem I wrote for this project, ‘The Lowcountry is a terrain of ancient tears, suffocating through floods of segregation.’ And to quote James Baldwin, ‘Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.’ ” 

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Running crew celebrates Black culture on foot

BALTIMORE (AP) – A little past 8 a.m. on a recent Sunday, a group of Baltimore runners stopped partway through their route, near the intersection of Pennsylvania and North avenues, at the Black Arts District. They posed for a picture at the Arch Social Club, where a mural honors Charm City artists like Billie Holiday and Ta-Nehisi Coates. One of the leaders talked about Baltimore’s famous entertainers and the city’s authors while pointing out Everyone’s Place, a Black-owned mom and pop bookstore.

The team was there to mix some history in with their workout.

Every Sunday in February, the group, called RIOT (Running Is Our Therapy) Squad, has been running to or from a different Black historical landmark in Baltimore. In this, their 2nd annual Black History Month tour, they’ve run all over the campus of Morgan State University, as alumni shared their experiences and pointed out the historically Black university’s architectural history. The squad has looked through the windows at the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum and learned how the place is one of few in the nation dedicated to preserving African American history.

“We’ve been doing that for the last few months, especially in the pandemic, taking pictures in certain places in Baltimore that promote either Black history or Black art or entrepreneurship,” said Jowanna Malone, 30, who joined RIOT Squad in 2019. She grew up in rural Georgia and has lived in Charles Village since 2017.

Malone discovered the sport as an adult and loves the effort the group makes to combine educational city tours with running.

“There is this perception of Baltimore being some type of dangerous, bad kind of place,” Malone said. “I do appreciate the effort that the group makes and having us run through all different parts of Baltimore and showing us all the beauty of the city.”

Founded in 2015, RIOT Squad is among a network of Baltimore-based running crews using social media to coordinate meetups, share routes and uplift community and grassroots activism. This past year, founder Rob Jackson changed up the routes after noticing the crew was running mainly in the Inner Harbor area.

“We have a lot of transplants in the group,” said Jackson, 39. “We run all over the city now. I wanted everybody to get a piece of this history and see parts of Baltimore that they normally wouldn’t see.”

Running routes have highlighted artwork like the Black Lives Matter Mural in front of City Hall, to the Black-owned businesses of RIOT runners like Mess in a Bottle and Good Part & Co., whose founder was featured in this month’s Under Armour campaign.

Jackson turned to running to process anxiety and stress from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after returning home from serving in the U.S. Army. Now a contracting officer, he started inviting his peers for runs, and six years later, the running crew has grown to over 30 members who meet up three times a week.

Jackson said growing up in Northeast Baltimore, the sport was foreign to him. Before he joined the military, he didn’t see distance running or Black-led run groups at all. Others agreed.

“When you’re driving around different places, you may not see as many Black runners, we’re not as represented on television or just internationally in the sport,” said Tuan “Riley” Davis, who is from East Baltimore and joined RIOT Squad in 2019. “When I saw a group of runners that were Black, and they look(ed) around my age, all different shapes and sizes, I (knew) I could fit in with these guys.”

RIOT Squad is sponsored by Under Armour. Between this past October and Election Day, RIOT joined the Run to Vote initiative, where participants were encouraged to log 11.3 miles to show a commitment to civic engagement. Under Armour has also provided product for the Black History Month tour, pre-race tips from their Human Performance team, as well as highlighting RIOT Squad on social media.

Other Baltimore-founded groups like A Tribe Called Run are combining fitness with activism, organizing a three mile run-raiser for residents in Baltimore’s 12th district facing food insecurity. The Black Running Organization, also known as BRO, has combined running with service learning and college access. National groups like Back on My Feet, which uses running to combat homelessness, Black Men Run, and Black Girls Run have local chapters in Baltimore.

RIOT Squad membership has increased during the pandemic.

“People are just looking for a way to get out of the house, a way to still have a sense of community, a way to stay healthy and stay active,” said Alison Staples, 38, a RIOT Squad co-leader, who is from Woodlawn.

Jackson uses the group’s social media platform for conversations on mental health and fitness in addition to sharing the timing and routes for runs. Davis, 33, also says the sport teaches one to be mentally fit.

“Running is more like a mental test,” said Davis, who has run consecutively for over 270 days. “Do I have the mental strength to get up and keep going? Even on days when the weather may not be so nice, or I might not feel like it or I might be short on time.”

Malone says RIOT Squad has been a lifeline.

“That’s probably the only sense of communication that I have with people that’s in real life, on a regular basis, (and) that I feel safe doing,” she said. “It’s been this great feedback loop of positive energy that has sustained me mentally throughout the pandemic.”

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RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment