Coffee Rhetoric: Arts and Culture
Showing posts with label Arts and Culture. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Arts and Culture. Show all posts

September 16, 2012

Coffee Buzz: A.R.T. - Going Against Reality's Terms



Considering it's such a small state, Connecticut is brimming with a wide array of artists from the myriad of creative disciplines, which includes Hip-Hop and rap. While most folks scattered across the northeast may consider CT’s rap scene to be nothing more than a fleeting fantasy for inexperienced wannabes, I surmise, that charting a path from the Nutmeg state to universal stardom gives up-and-coming rappers and Hip-Hop artists quite the advantage. Being an underdog that’s often brushed off by its larger than life New York cousins induces a certain degree of famine . . . and that intense hunger has produced an impressive list of lyricists, spoke-word performers, and beat makers, looking to make their mark on the Hip-Hop scene.  Greg “A.R.T.” Moore is among them. 

August 23, 2012

Secret History of the Black Pinup: Drum Magazine and James Barnor


This latest piece on the rare histories of Black pinup models [publications and photographers] led me in a different direction, so I put a story I’d been researching on a noted Black burlesque performer on the back-burner for now, to feature this one. 

My interest in the lives of vintage Black pinup models and the people curating their images has usually been relegated to the stories of people here in the United States. But Drum magazine was an essential part of African politics and growing trends, during a time when seeing a Black model in the 1960s was a rare occurrence in the U.K., just as it was here in the U.S.  Much in the same way John Moorehead had done for Jet magazine and other media platforms of the time, famed Ghanaian fashion photographer and photojournalist James Barnor also served as a pioneer in the world of fashion photography and photojournalism, within the realm of the Diaspora.

June 16, 2012

Conversation with Toni Morrison

"I don't like those either/or scenarios where if you do this, then you can't do that. I think one of the interesting things that certainly, feminine intelligence can bring, is a kind of a look at the world that you can do two things or three things or be ... the personality is more fluid... more receptive; the boundaries are not quite so defined and I think that's part of what modernism is."

June 06, 2012

No Disrespect: In Which Erykah Badu Falls Victim to 'The Male Gaze'

Last week an experimental music video (which has since been yanked from the web, per Erykah's management folk) featuring a collaborative effort from singer/performance artist extraordinaire, Erykah Badu and alternative rock band, The Flaming Lips for their project "Western Esotericism"... was released on the internet.  The video, which featured Erykah’s sister Nayrok in all her full-frontal ‘nakeditity', rubbing various substances— blood-like... stuff and a sticky white mixture that looked like male ejaculate— and glitter all over her body, drizzling the white stuff about her mouth and face, with occasional cut-away shots of Erykah (also naked in a tub of water) singing a staccato rendition of "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" while Wayne Coyne waved some… foil thing around.  The visuals stupefying to say the least, and even outdid Erykah’s other naked, controversial video for her song “Window Seat”… which appeared less opaque once she explained the social message she was trying to convey. 

Her latest effort with The Flaming Lips however, left some fans scrambling for an explanation… while others were put off entirely, vowing never to watch it again. Some folks across the Twitter-verse and Facebook commended Erykah for being fearless and waxed poetic about what Nayrok’s sensual expression symbolized. Granted, some folks sounded as if they were blowing hot, putrid air, but boy did they speculate and try to tie it all together into a cohesive meaning.   
Erykah herself, commended her sister Nayrok for being a good sport for sacrificing her body in the name of artistic expression. While I didn’t even attempt to formulate my own interpretation of the video, I did find it interesting and chalked it up to Erykah and Nayrok embracing their bodies on their termsThose with a keener eye, saw it for what it was and didn’t buy it as art; and so refused to whip out their checkbooks to co-sign for the meat that was being sold. The video was deemed another exploitative piece of work showing Black female bodies on display for male profit and for the male gaze (a notion Black feminist Bell Hooks challenges in her essay “The Oppositional Gaze”). I left the video open to interpretation because I assumed Erykah would eventually offer an explanation. 

According to Black cinema blog Shadow and Act, Erykah has since reached out to her fans via Twitter and asked what they thought about the video. After receiving a wide range of responses, Badu then posed another puzzling question: “What if the video has no meaning at all? Now how do u feel?” 

In a far more interesting chain of events, Erykah's professional relationship with The Flaming Lips' lead singer Wayne Coyne, publicly imploded due to what appeared to be a sinister example of exploitation. In an official statement, Coyne more or less admitted to releasing an unfinished and unedited version of the controversial video to the public, before getting the input of Erykah and her sister and before green-screening away the nudity like he allegedly promised to do, according to the singer. Erykah explained her agitation after Wayne aired her grievance on Twitter. He also released the following statement...
The video link that was erroneously posted on Pitchfork by the Flaming Lips of the Music Video 'The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face', which features Erykah Badu, is unedited and unapproved... Sorry!! We, the Flaming Lips, accept full responsibility for prematurely having Pitchfork post it. It has outraged and upset a segment of fans and we apologize if we offended any viewers!!! This is a Flaming Lips video which features Erykah Badu and her sister Nayrok and is not meant to be considered an Erykah Badu or Nayrok statement, creation, or approved version.
Erykah was none too pleased and fired off a litany of angry words of her own, expressing her dismay and regret for not listening to her initial feelings of apprehension about Wayne's idea...
@waynecoyne then... perhaps, next time u get an occasion to work with an artist who respects your mind/art, you should send at least a ROUGh version of the video u PLAN to release b4 u manipulate or compromise the artist's brand by desperately releasing a poor excuse for shock and nudity that sends a convoluted message that passes as art( to some).Even with Window Seat there was a method and thought process involved. I have not one need for publicity . I just love artistic dialogue . And just because an image is shocking does not make it art. You obviously have a misconception of who I am artistically. I don't mind that but...By the way you are an ass. Yu did everything wrong from the on set .  
First: You showed me a concept of beautiful tasteful imagery( by way of vid text messages) .  
I trusted that. I was mistaken. Then u release an unedited, unapproved version within the next few days.  
That all spells 1 thing , Self Serving . When asked what the concept meant after u explained it , u replied ,"it doesn't mean anything , I just want to make a great video that everyone is going to watch. " I understood , because as an artist we all desire that. But we don't all do it at another artist's expense . I attempted to resolve this respectfully by having conversations with u after the release but that too proved to be a poor excuse for art. From jump, You begged me to sit in a tub of that other shit and I said naw. I refused to sit in any liquid that was not water. But Out of RESPECT for you and the artist you 'appear' to be, I Didn't wanna kill your concept , wanted u to at least get it out of your head . After all, u spent your dough on studio , trip to Dallas etc.. Sooo, I invited Nayrok , my lil sis and artist, who is much more liberal ,to be subject of those other disturbing (to me) scenes. (Read the rest here). 
Needless to say, the video went against all the tenets of 'Baduizm': it harbored no real meaning like people wanted it to, it wasn’t Erykah’s full vision like many of us assumed it to be, contrary to the usual proprietary authority Erykah has over her art, it appears as if she (and her sister) got bamboozled and used… which is unfortunate: “As a sociologist I understand your type. As your fellow artist I am uninspired. As a woman I feel violated and underestimated.”

There are many lessons to be gleaned from these sorts of situations, particularly when you're a Black woman trying to maintain ownership and respect over your image and body within the realm of the arts and media. And while Badu seems philosophical about the jarring experience...  "He’s got a record coming out, so you do what you do. But as artists we don’t do it at each other’s expense. I  adore his art. But not at my expense.”  

... I think Maya Angelou's warning very concisely sums it all up: “The first time someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

May 03, 2012

Coffee Buzz: Introducing, Howa.rd

Every now and again, I run into talent that incites me to chorus and prompts me to wonder why that person isn’t famous or signed to some sort of lucrative contract yet.  While building at the monthly networking event, Tastemakers Soul Hartford, I had the opportunity to see an up-and-coming singer called Howa.rd perform; and his musical prowess commanded attention.  Interest piqued, I tracked down his album “The 1st” online, and found that I’d listened to the entire playlist while working, and without feeling the urge to skip past any tracks.  The music was a stellar amalgamation of horns, drums, and bass over syncopated rhythms… and none of it skimped on soul; which made for a delectable stew.  If you appreciate the likes of D’Angelo, Eric Roberson and/or Raheem DeVaughn, then what Howa.rd is serving will definitely sate your musical palate.
Howa.rd‘s talent isn’t merely incidental however, having been born to a musician mother;  
“My mother was a music major possessing a crazy angelic soprano voice that you couldn’t help but fall in love with.  I remember as a youngster, she was a music and choir director for several churches around town. Being that my mom was a single parent with two kids, I went to a lot of choir rehearsals.  Watching and singing along, I started developing my voice.”  He recalls. “I picked up on song structures and started mimicking them at home.  Soon I developed of completely rewriting my own versions of my favorite songs.  The lyrics started there.” 
Howa.rd would later go on to college where he honed his producing skills and began writing and arranging music for choirs, bands, and stage productions. 

Born in Detroit and raised in Nashville, Howa.rd developed musical tastes that spanned the spectrum; having listened to everything from soul, gospel, folk, blues, jazz and country; to pop and rock… the latter genres, a result of watching MTV.
 “Pop and rock music quickly invaded my home on the daily… let’s not forget the mighty emergence of hip-hop. I soon realized my musical tastes were crazy vast. “
When asked if he gleaned any inspiration from current singers/songwriters, he excitedly suggested that I brace myself as he, unsurprisingly, listed the likes of Stevie [Wonder], Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, Ray Charles, Prince and D’Angelo amongst his musical inspirations… 
“I call that my Mount Rushmore, but I’m also inspired by Lenny Kravitz, Phil Collins, Billy Joel, Michael McDonald, and the great Hall & Oates.” He continued.   
The list was pretty extensive if impressive, and didn't stop there. “Sorry, you asked,” he reminded me.  And indeed I did. As someone who’s equally as passionate about literary giants, I totally get it.   

And while Howa.rd’s list of musical influences is at least a mile long, he’s pretty succinct about who he hopes to be able to actually work with if presented with the opportunity…  “Give me Esperanza Spaulding, Andre 3000, The Roots, Lalah Hathaway, Mint Condition, and lastly to throw you a curveball, I’d say Daughtry.” Right on the cusp of happening if he keeps producing and writing quality music.

**(Blogger’s note: “Lowpoint”, “Whatchyoo Think About That”, and "I Want Me Back" are personal favorites).
“God made me musical. Music is my passion. I live and breathe it and I’ll be doing it until I die and see God.”
Let's hope he keeps up the momentum.
“The 1st” can be downloaded for free at vibedeck.com/howa-rd. For updates, "Like" Howa.rd’s Facebook Artist page www.facebook.com/officialhowa.rd and follow him on tumblr: howardtuniverse.tumblr.com


April 10, 2012

Tastemaking in The HartBeat...

Oh yes… time for another ubiquitous plug for this month's Tastemaker's Soul Hartford event, at Vibz Uptown. I will be a part of the panel discussion portion of the affair along with a lineup of other Connecticut notables, discussing "The Written Word". Read the the official word below... 

April is Jazz and Poetry Appreciation month and Tastemakers Soul Hartford will be hosting an event celebrating both on Sunday, April 22, 2012 at 6pm. This event will be held at Vibz Uptown at 3155 Main Street, Hartford, CT. It will feature a night of panel discussions and live entertainment. The evening begins with artist Jeff Bradshaw's (Hidden Beach Records) "Bone Appetit", a new CD that will be released on April 24th. The first two panels will be a discussion featuring poets and written word artists and they include:

Kevin Harewood- Industry Executive, Edectic Ent/Yeagency, Latoya Bosworth- Founder of K.Y.D.S., & Brenda's Child, Tiff Jones- Freelance writer, Blogger and creator of  Coffee Rhetoric, Lenise "NuNuu" Smith- Publisher of S.L.A.M.M. Magazine, Bradford Howard Jr.- AllBusiness Consulting LLC, Carla Jervey- WQTQ FM, Aja Wilson- Jazz/Soul Singer, Smooth Jazz Artist-  Funkee BoyEsnavi- Soul Singer, and Hartford, CT Singer/Songwriter Janae Smith.

The third panel is a continuation of the DJ Business 101 series. Confirmed panelists are: Herman Ham- King of Clubz, Kingsley Osei- Owner of Catchin Wreck Marketing & Founder/Executive Director of Connecticut Against Violence, DJ Showtime- KISS 95.7 FM, Lamonte Hayes- BWP Marketing, Stephen Richardson- CT Music Pool, and DJ Terrible T.

Following the discussions, R&B singer Rashaan Langley; a native of New Haven and also the host of Tastemakers Soul Hartford, will perform with his band. The event will be recorded by Brian Sams of Headbanger Video, LLC and Tony Bass of City Beat MultiMedia Group.

Additional performers slated to appear are R&B Singer and Musician Heshima from Springfield, MA/NY, Dallas-based Neo-Soul Artist Nuwamba, spoken-word poet, Tarishi "Midnight" Shuler from New Haven, Singer and Hartford’s own Janae Smith, and Frank "Mr. Wonderful" Brady of New Haven.

Vendors will be on-site at the Tastemakers Soul Hartford Marketplace and food will be available for purchase by Rajun Cajun. Admission is $8 or 2/$10. Doors open at 6pm.

Tastemakers Soul Hartford has been New England's longest running networking event. Originally an exclusive function, it is now a monthly affair where independent artists are highlighted and local "tastemakers" network and support one another.

For media inquiries, contact Desiree Primus at 413-221-9857.

Related post(s): Coffee Buzz- Tastemakers Soul Hartford



March 30, 2012

Coffee Buzz: Tastemakers Soul Hartford, The Written Word


Every month, promoter and DJ of the radio show "Reflections", broadcast on 90.7 WTCC in Springfield, Massachusetts, hosts a networking event and industry showcase called Tastemakers Soul Hartford at Vibz Uptown, here in Connecticut. 
A panel of local movers and shakers convene for a panel discussion on the myriad of interesting topics and the opportunity to interact with like-minded individuals, hear great live music by independent and/or up-and-coming artists, and to browse a wonderful collection of handmade wares set up by jewelry makers and other artisans. 

It just so happens that yours truly—(Who? Yes, me! ) – will be featured on an upcoming panel in the company of other talented poets, editors, industry insiders, and writers including Spoken word artist and Publisher of S.L.A.M.M. Magazine Lenise “Nu Nuu” Smith, Carla Jervey of WQTQ FM in Hartford, and Kevin Harewood—Author of "Make Your Move-A Guide to Releasing Your Music Independently" and Industry Executive for boutique agency, Yeagency, discussing “The Written Word”. 

The event happens Sunday, April 22nd, 6pm – 10:30pm at Vibz Uptown at 3155 Main Street, in Hartford. For more information, visit the Tastemakers Soul Events Page on Facebook.  Hope to see you there!

February 20, 2012

Weekend Wrap-up: More Dani Arranka!

Performance artist and Androgynie Extraordinaire, Dani Arranka is back with a new video for his song, "Smoke and Mirrors," directed by Charles Quiles and The Terrible Child-- (which features ID Discovery Channel-worthy vignettes).

 I, honestly, enjoy keeping up with Dani's latest projects and keeping abreast of his various collaborations. He's simply difficult  to ignore and is adamant about who he is and the direction he's headed as he carves out his own niche in The Big Apple by way of the Land of Steady Habits (perhaps the place that was least conducive to his art)...




Also, in an interesting mini-documentary; Dani and a collective of other creatives who've christened themselves the new, more contemporary incarnations of Andy Warhol's Factory denizens (perhaps with Dani as the Edie Sedgwick of the group, to Charles Quiles's Andy Warhol), explain how they came to find each other and gradually live as a unit in New York City. The short feature documents a day in the life of the larger-than-life group as they riff off one another, ride the pulse of NYC's nightlife, and help record Dani's upcoming album. Check it out...





**As an added bonus... check out this excerpt from Andy Warhol's 1965 experimental film-- (based on the novel A Clockwork Orange), Vinyl.



February 16, 2012

HartBeat Ensemble's New Play Institute Presents, Project: Turnpike

Still somewhat fresh off the success and much lauded spring/winter run of their original main-stage play, Flipside-- (a play I had the pleasure of blogging about from behind the scenes)-- which will begin touring around New England in March, Hartford based professional theater group, HartBeat Ensemble is already hard at work on a new stage production  currently in development called Project: Turnpike.

The work is based on the 2007 federal trial of the United States vs. Dennis Paris; a case that unfolded right here in Hartford.  

Project: Turnpike charts 72 hours in the lives of four exploited sex workers in a motel room on the Berlin Turnpike; a busy 4-lane Connecticut highway.
In order to bring this landmark case to the stage, true-to-their art-form, HartBeat Ensemble members interviewed and collected the personal stories of people affected by human trafficking and worked with human rights advocate Raymond Bechard, who wrote the book The Berlin Turnpike: A True Story of Human Trafficking in America. Raymond Bechard explains;
"With a long and sordid history, The Berlin Turnpike serves as a metaphor for the landscape in which human trafficking, commercial sexual exploitation, and all forms of prostitution have existed in the U.S. for centuries, while continuing to flourish today." 
HartBeat Ensemble will workshop and debut a staged production of Project: Turnpike Friday, April 20th at 7:30pm (at a TBD facility), in the first of three planned staged readings as part of HBE's New Play Institute. The two-year project will commence in collaboration with an area college or university, also TBD, where HBE will work in-residence while teaching a master class on "The Creation of Original Work".

The New Play Institute serves to foster an environment of experimentation and creativity for HartBeat Ensemble and college students. It also offers audience members a chance to experience new theatrical work in its early stages.

General admission will be $5 and free for students with proper identification.

HartBeat Ensemble continues to create original professional theater based on stories from the community via main-stage plays, open-air performances, and educational out-reach programs. HartBeat Ensemble makes theatrical arts accessible beyond the barriers of class, race, and gender.

For more information on HartBeat Ensemble and Project: Turnpike, visit the official HartBeat Ensemble website or call: 860.548.9144 ext 115

**Additional Reading--  





February 09, 2012

Coffee Buzz: Ice Cream Man


I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream! That is unless you're lactose intolerant...

One ice cream man however, is providing goods that are capable of being digested; Hartford's own Stephon "Humble" Long. Connecticut is a small state brimming with talent that spans the arts and entertainment spectrum. Stephon, a well-known rapper, has managed to carve out a niche for himself and build a loyal fan base in the process, especially with the release of his single and accompanying video (which uses Hartford-area neighborhood(s) as its backdrop) "Ice Cream Man."

Stephon, who goes by the nickname "Humble" (a moniker he received from a close friend and brother from another mother, Kiandre "Fatal" Gillespie) - first realized his talent for writing lyrics at the age of 13. With the help of friend, Delontay Gordon, he honed his craft and used what he learned to form a rap duo with Gillespie called, Black Aces. “Am I humble? At times! And at other times my arrogance may show face” Humble Lol's, in reference to his nickname. Considering he's been diligent with mastering his craft and paying his dues since the age of fifteen (working fervently for about 9 of those years), perhaps a little self-applied pat on the back on occasion, is permissible.

"I've built up my fan base by performing for open Mics and by being a part of Hartford's own Paperboyz [a collective of Hartford rappers and producers] in the early 2000's," Humble explains. And while Ice Cream Man isn't his first single and video, it does seem to be his most lauded at 29,000 YouTube views and counting.

The video, which was directed by Alonzo Beckett of NE Video Entertainment opens as a nod to Ice Cube's popular urban flick, Friday, before exploding into a thumping version of the ice cream truck song we've all familiarized ourselves with as children. The song, produced by Luis "ChaseBeats" Boria, explains the duality of Humble's role as the purveyor of tasty frozen treats for children and street treats of ... ahem... a different nature.
Humble’s talent is undeniable; "Right now I'm currently working with local producers; but every local producer I'm working with is very goal oriented!" 

When prodded about his dream-list of producers to build with if presented with the opportunity, Humble answers enthusiastically, "Ooh, that's a good question!! I would love the opportunity to work with... I'm gonna have to keep it in the family and say Corron Cole[a Connecticut born, L.A. based songwriter/producer made-good and behind the musical stylings of acts like Justin Bieber, Jesse McCartney, and Jordin Sparks]- I admire his commitment to the music industry; and as for artists I’d love to work with... I'm gonna have to say Eminem and Jay-Z!" 

Perhaps one of the most admirable aspects of Humble's burgeoning rap career, is the passion he seems to have for Hartford... a city that's at times, unfairly judged for being the underdog and is juxtaposed next to New York and Boston. The bias prompts the dearth of talent and the city's offerings go unnoticed... and so it takes naysayers by surprise. 

As he reflects on his music, Humble makes it clear that it will always dictate the mood he's in at the time. "I write from the heart!" He says, "I don't live a fairytale life... It's real. I do it for the people! I do it for my supporters… I hate to use the word fans!"

Stephon "Humble" Long will be performing live at Foxwoods Casino, March 2 at Comix Comedy Club . Ice Cream Man and other singles are available for download on iTunes.

For booking and more information, visit PB Dolla Entertainment and Humble's Facebook page.

January 26, 2012

He's Back! I Hope...

Much to many people's surprised delight, a video of singer-songwriter, D'Angelo performing in Stockholm... apparently today... surfaced and spread across the Internet, creating the equivalent of a social media fist-pump.

After the release of his second album, Voodoo in 2000 (the album that served as my soundtrack during college, and I still listen to 'til this day)- D'Angelo seemed to fall off the radar, much to everyone's disappointment. There were no interviews and no evidence of any performances or new material for a full-album or EP, beyond the collaborative projects he did with other artists... most notably,  Raphael Saadiq and Femi Kuti with Macy Gray for the remake of Fela Kuti's "Water Get No Enemy." Subsequent press found the talented artist plagued by substance abuse and legal issues. Needless to say, I'm beyond excited to see some recent progress from the singer as I'm a huge fan and hopefully this appearance in Stockholm is indicative of there being a new album on the horizon.

In the interim, check out his body of work from previous albums and peep his Stockholm performance below...




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December 09, 2011

Lose It!

Photo by Charles Quiles
I really admire anybody who is unapologetic about being who they are, especially in the name of the arts. It seems that the concept of living and letting live is increasingly becoming extinct in this current climate of bullying, homophobia, race baiting, and woman bashing. It's enough to make me want to lose it...

Like the otherworldly unicorn that he is, enter fearless performance artist, visionary, and singer/songwriter Dani Arranka. This past spring, I wrote about Dani after attending his Born Day party and music video premiere for his catchy tune, Be Like Me. Fabulous and confident about who he is, but never arrogant or ungracious, Dani's popularity was undeniable then, as I watched the packed venue lose their shit when he performed. I definitely see the appeal. There's an intangible quality about his carefully cultivated persona... The French call it a certain je ne sais quoi. Now a New York transplant, Dani Arranka is poised to take over the club scene and capture the hearts of the NYC underground with his sexy new song, Lose It.

I Google+'ed the song to a friend and she immediately fell in love, re-tweeting it on her Twitter timeline. The syncopated beat is indeed, infectious. I picture a packed club, with sweaty revelers touching themselves on the dance floor and thrusting their pelvises in slow motion when I listen to it (I have an active imagination, OK?). The behind-the-scenes promo video/photo shoot, directed by photographer Charles Quiles, shows Dani playfully frolicking with sultry Argentinean male supermodel, Alejandro Salgueiro. And it's hot. It definitely conveys the tone of the song. "Lose It is being remixed for the club scene soon!!" Dani said enthusiastically via email. "Lacorey produced the track, along with all my others!" 


I definitely look forward to hearing a remixed version of the track. In the meantime, lose your chonies listening to --> Lose It and be jealous as you peep the panty leche inducing promo video, featuring Alejandro...






December 02, 2011

Holiday Happenings In the HartBeat- (Say that three times)...


In a flash, the month of November has come and gone. Thanksgiving festivities and events are behind us here in the HartBeat and the Christmas is nigh. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the re-opening of The Bushnell Park skating rink. This year's Winterfest (presented by iQuilt) is now bigger and better, having kicked off this past November 25th. The rink (located on the east side of Bushnell Park by the Pump House) is free as are skate rentals, and is open 7-days a week, 11:00am - 9:00pm (except Christmas, when it closes at 5:00pm and New Year's Eve, when it closes at 1:00am). Winterfest runs through February 20, 2012. Visit here for more info on Winterfest events.

Also, December 8th Greater Hartford Arts Council Welcome Center will be hosting a Holiday Open House. The daylong holiday event will celebrate the Greater Hartford Welcome Center and the Let*s Go! Holiday promotion. Revelers who donate $50 to the United Arts Campaign will automatically be enrolled in the Let*s Go Arts! program, which will entitle them to 2-for-1 and discounted admission to plays, concerts, and museums with the added benefit of 10%-20% off local area restaurants, specialty classes, local services and other events. 
The holiday promotion will also enable current Let*s Go Arts! members to gift an additional membership for $25! Those who donate will also have the option of participating in a drawing for gift certificates to some of Hartford's most popular restaurants and tickets to see stage plays. 

The event takes place Thursday, December 8th, 10am-3pm; 4pm-7pm at the Greater Hartford Arts Council, 100 Pearl Street, First Floor, downtown Hartford. During the earlier part of the event, visitors can enjoy free hot cocoa, cookies, and other tasties. The evening hour’s offerings will include a reception, free light wine, and cheese. For more information, visit: www.LetsGoArts.org/HolidayLGA.

November 11, 2011

Coffee Buzz: Shakespeare in Love- Cindy Martinez's Fundraising Goal!

 I'm a huge believer in the arts... especially the Hartford arts and I love making the masses privy to the creative movers and shakers in my town. My homecity may not be the biggest and it may not be New York City (as many NYC transplants love to pompously remind us, while still partaking in our offerings), but it is home to a LOT of talent and it has a lot of hart, which is why we affectionately refer to Hartford as The HartBeat.

The Hartford arts scene is home to a diverse sub-genre of artists who thrive in the myriad of different disciplines. They include but aren't limited to; writers, poets, spoken-word performers, performance artists, hip-hop lyricists, playwrights, professional theater companies, filmmakers, producers, museums, publishers and the like. Many young people from Hartford and across Connecticut hone their respective crafts via a wide array of different program offerings including Greater Hartford Arts Council's Neighborhood Studios, Hartford Stage Young Company (where they perform an annual, contemporary production from Shakespeare's body of work), the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts, Niro Boutique's Niro Foundation, and HartBeat Ensemble's Youth Play Institute.

Hartford native Cindy Martinez, a Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts alum and HartBeat Ensemble cast member/Community Liaison, is looking to make her mark as an actress. Talented and driven, Cindy has starred in a number of local stage productions and independent films. Looking to sharpen her acting skills, Cindy has taken on an aggressive fundraising goal in hopes of gaining enough funds to attend professional actors training at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, Massachusetts (prompted to action after getting a rejection letter for a scholarship). Cindy has set a lofty fundraising deadline of November 29th for herself and has already managed to raise $2,672!

Having had the opportunity to work with Cindy during my blogging stint with HartBeat Ensemble, I can vouch for her talent and how motivated she is!
"My dream is to be on Highway 91N on December 27th!" Says Cindy. 
If you're interested in helping her reach her goal of $4,000, click her PayPal account to donate! More importantly, peep her appeal in this video...






October 06, 2011

Coffee Buzz: See You BACK on the Flipside!


This past spring, I had the rare pleasure of being invited to document the behind-the-scenes drama that went into building a main-stage play.  Hartford, CT based Theater Company; HartBeat Ensemble extended an opportunity to me to blog their experiences finally bringing their play, Flipside to fruition in its entirety. For about 6 months, the creative undertaking allowed me to be able to tell a "day job" to kick rocks and I got to see what truly makes actors tick; Their methods, their frustrations, their elation when they have a nervous breakthrough... It was like reality television, but with more substance, minus the physical altercations, minimal wig-snatching, and without any dubious, "piecey" editing. Here's the in-depth skinny on Flipside (insert flashback music here)...

Working in tandem with a local filmmaker and video producer named Helder Mira, we caught the Flipside actors and director during some of their most vulnerable moments, as they worked tirelessly to bring their play to bigger main stage, in Hartford, CT. We also saw them take a donated space in the renovated, LEED certified, multipurpose commercial space, The Hollander Building, and make it their own; building a stage, painting, and putting their personal touches on it, turning it into an intimate performing space that would later be used to host fundraising shindigs, jazz concerts, and poetry showcases.  
Sitting in that performance space during rehearsal proved to be some of the coldest days I ever endured. It was in the middle of one of the most horrific winters of my adult life, here in the northeast. However,  it registers as one of my most memorable collaborations to date and I enjoyed it; Cold, dour, and ugly. 
Needless to say, Flipside had a successful spring-summer run. Audiences appreciated its take on the War on Drugs and its effect on the surrounding communities.  

Flipside is based on actual interviews with two real people, and tells the story of a friendship between a Hartford teen named Bo and an undercover narcotics agent named Nick. The show combines original music and spoken-word poetry throughout the play’s narrative on drug use and trafficking in neighborhoods.  Audiences agree that Flipside relays a compelling discourse on the War on Drugs and is interspersed with a little humor and very catchy musical numbers…

Directed by Co-Founding Artistic Director, Greg Tate, Flipside involved two years worth of painstaking research and subsequent workshops in partnership with Central Connecticut State University’s Center for Regional and Municipal Policy, Portland Oregon’s Sojourn Theater and Manchester Community College; HartBeat has lead open dialogues and over 40 individual interviews on the subject in order to create the play.
“We found that no matter what a person believes about drug use and selling, they tend to be very passionate about their feelings on the matter.” says Tate, “Of course that makes for great theater.  It’s tricky, and very fun stuff.”
(Queue back to the present) ...

Now, back by overwhelming demand, Flipside will be making a limited run this October 13th-29th at The Hollander Building in downtown Hartford at 410 Asylum Street! Show times begin at 7:30 pm and will run every Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Tickets are $20 with a discounted price of $15 for all students, seniors, and Let's Go Arts! members. Call 860.548.9144 or visit http://hartbeatensemble.org to purchase tickets. 
 
HartBeat Ensemble recently had a raucously good time celebrating at the Mark Twain House and Museum, in commemoration of their 10 year anniversary. For the past ten years, HartBeat Ensemble has been creating original, professional theater based on stories from the Hartford community. Through Main-stage plays, Open-Air performances and Education programs, HartBeat makes theater accessible beyond the barriers of class, race or gender.
Since it’s founding in 2001, HartBeat has created six full-length original plays. HartBeat’s flagship education program, the Youth Play Institute, works in partnership with five different school districts to bring urban and suburban youth together for intensive month-long play building residencies in which they create and perform original one-act plays. HartBeat also conducts bullying prevention programs in schools called “Startin’ Drama.”


Check out HartBeat Ensemble's behind-the-scenes, Flipside documentary series 
Also, read my behind-the-scenes guest blog posts





September 15, 2011

Black Glah-MOUR

http://vintageblackglamour.tumblr.com/
This is the sort of post I'd usually reserve for my tumblr page, but I absolutely love this vintage ad for Noxema and wanted to provide a little commentary on my fascination with vintage glamour photos featuring women of the African diaspora. 
I've always been curious about any possible vintage ads featuring Black pin-ups, products for afro-textured hair, and various other beauty products. My searches have usually turned up less unfulfilled whenever I Googled information featuring Black women as pin-ups. Recently and much to my surprise, I stumbled across information about a pre-Black Tail, pre-King Magazine periodical called Tan N' Terrific (undoubtedly considered to be exploitative smut back in the day) - via the site Vintage Sleaze, which features a treasure trove of vintage photos showcasing Black women in various stages of photography. Despite the seemingly... sordid nature (and I write "sordid" sans judgment or scorn)- of Tan N' Terrific, I'm even more intrigued and interested in learning about the history of periodicals that predate Black Tail and King, and whether they were Black owned publications. I've a feeling Tan N' Terrific wasn't and the person behind the periodical saw an opportunity to capitalize on this particular brand of adult material, as I'm sure there was a niche that hadn't been filled yet, due to the sign of those times.  
Google Images
I'm quite impressed with the work of prolific Black photographer, Howard Morehead, however; who died in 2003. Morehead was one of the few legitimate Black photographers who did consistent and steady work in the entertainment industry, shooting iconic jazz figures such as Ray Charles. Just as importantly, Morehead set out to capture the beauty of Black women during the 1950's, in a less explicit fashion than Tan N' Terrific, despite proclamations that Negro women weren't attractive enough to be captured on photo or featured as models in reputable publications. Howard Morehead did extensive photography for both Jet and Ebony magazines and was instrumental in promoting the Miss Bronze California pageant, in which Marilyn McCoo of Solid Gold fame (don't act like you didn't watch it) placed first, in 1962 . Unlike Tan N' Terrific, Morehead presented the beauty of the Black female form in a more artistic way, while still managing to maintain the allure of the Black female form. This work was collected in the rare 1964 book of photography, Gentlemen Prefer Bronze, which Jet Magazine described as "a photographic tribute to Negro beauty... featuring a wide range of camera moods, from portraits to figure studies..."  
Howard Morehead's work can also be seen at the California African American Museum
I'm overly excited but per usual, any issue having to do with women of the African diaspora as they relate to our image (good, bad, and ugly), current and past marketing campaigns, beauty regimens, or the arts, is near, dear, and important to me. 
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August 15, 2011

Ousmane Sembène's 'Black Girl'

Since I'm one of the people who has little to no desire to see The Help  and tried (to no avail) to finish Kathryn Stockett's book, I decided to re-visit a 1966 French classic from the New Wave era, called La Noire de... (or Black Girl). Written and directed by Senegalese filmmaker and auteur Ousmane Sembène (christened the Father of African film). 


La Noire de...  charts the tragic story of Diouana, a young woman from Dakar who moves to Antibes, France to work for the wealthy French couple she  nannied for during their time in Dakar. Excited, Diouana looks forward to taking in the sites of the Riviera and living a cosmopolitan life as she cares for her young charges however, upon her arrival to Antibes she finds that her mercurial mistress has other plans for her... Diouana is treated harshly -(much to the indifference of the man of the house)- like a servant; not allowed to leave the confines of the apartment or wear any of the nicer clothes she brought with her. She's not paid in a timely fashion either. Aware of her exploitation in Antibes, a defiant Diouana starts to withdraw and becomes increasingly overwhelmed by homesickness and despair. 
Black girl definitely touches on the effects of colonialism, post-colonialism, and racism within the confines of Europe and Africa. During one scene Diouana is asked to cook a traditional Senegalese dish for her employers- (she mentally notes that she never had to cook for them when she worked as their nanny in Dakar)- and their affluent friends during a gathering. They openly discuss her exoticism. One of the men excitedly jumps up and demands a kiss, as he's "never kissed a Black girl before." 
This film is subtle and the black and white cinematography is simple; yet La Noire de... is hauntingly tragic in its message, commands attention, and is definitely still relevant. 

July 29, 2011

Coffee Buzz: Jendayi "Makingyoulaff" Covington For the Win!

Jendayi w/ Sherri Shepherd
I recently had the opportunity to speak with up-and-coming comedienne and Hartford native, Jendayi Covington, who was fresh from and excited over her official (make or break) debut at Gotham Comedy Club in New York City, where she’d just graduated. Jendayi, who was always keen at making people laugh was prodded into taking the class after a friend (with the help of a Groupon), paid for her to take a course at Gotham... 
“I didn’t really take it seriously when she bought me the course and I also don’t really know my way around New York… I’m not familiar with it. It took me three months to take the course.” Jendayi explained. “Once I decided to call and take the course, I started commuting from Connecticut to New York every week.”
Reluctant at first, Jendayi decided to ease on down the road towards becoming a successful comedienne. It just happened that on her first day, instructor and prolific comedy writer and comedienne in her own right,  Karen Bergreen was out sick. Jendayi hit a wall in the form of a dour substitute instructor who probably had been heckled to death during their attempts at stand-up. Jendayi had entered her first day of class with a routine she hadw ritten on scraps of paper- (still unfamiliar with the standard format for comedy writing) - and stood up to present her set, in hopes of receiving constructive criticism. Instead, Substoot Teecher and possible dream killer, bitingly told Jedayi how terrible her material was, causing her to become conflicted over whether she should return to Gotham or not. 
Having reached an impasse, Jendayi sent an impassioned email to Karen Bergreen, expressing the apprehension the first class had caused her... 
“After Karen responded, I felt so much better!” Jendayi said. “She told me not to flood my mind watching other comedians… to be myself, because all comedians are not the same. That they’re telling stories about their lives. After that email discussion, my faith and passion was restored, because I LOVE to write. That first class and other people’s critiques were giving me writer’s block and I was nervous and in tears, I was so overwhelmed.” 
Determined but still unsure how to redeem herself, Jendayi (who's also a hairstylist) - marched into her next class at Gotham, having decided to perform the very same set that was initially shot down by the Substoot, for Karen Bergreen. 
“I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE THIS!” Bergreen reportedly exclaimed. “Don’t change a thing!”
Jendayi w/ the incomparable Paul Mooney!
Jendayi performed at her class’s graduation at Gotham Comedy Club. With encouragement from her husband to be herself and to “mentally shut down the noise from critics." Jendayi also recalled her class with fondness and a hint of WTF voice, when relaying some of the material her classmates had presented in class... 
"Comedy comes with a certain maturity level... You have to have a thick skin and be a great writer and comedy class has a lot of freedom, of speech, so some people were just saying some random, crazy stuff... making inappropriate comments about natural catastrophes and saying things about other races... you gotta understand timing and flow. You either have it or don't." 
She invited all of her family and friends to make the trip to see her perform during graduation, chartering a bus just  six days prior, selling out seats to family, friends, and her supporters, who rolled deep to her graduation and subsequent performance. Her set elicited major kudos from Gotham Comedy Club producer, Andy Engel... who was floored by Jendayi’s routine and spoke highly of her to The View co-host and comedienne Sherri Shepherd, who she later networked with ... 
“The feedback was tremendous! I got a standing ovation that night! Not just from my supporters who came out to see me… but from the whole audience! Andy, who doesn’t co-sign someone’s unless they’re really good, gave me a hug at the end and so did Karen. It was awesome! I got introduced to Sherri Shepherd as the best student and I got to network with her… it was… just so cool.” Jendayi recalled, seemingly still overcome by the experience. 
“My Facebook wall was filled with feedback from other comedians. DJ Big Man (from Hot 93.7) shouted me out on the radio the next morning and my phone was ringing off the hook. Promoters were calling me… People were Facebook messaging me, offering to be my manager... it was crazy!” she recalled. 
Well-schooled and full of undeniably raw talent, Jendayi is definitely equipped with all the right tools to keep people in stitches. Don't sleep on her... 
Check her out on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jendayi.scott


July 17, 2011

Help Me Understand The Help


Social and Print media has been buzzing about Kathryn Stockett's book The Help. The story takes place in the 1960's during the Civil Rights Movement and is about a young woman named Skeeter... an aspiring writer who returns home to Jackson, Mississippi after having just graduated from Ole Miss (University of Mississippi). Encouraged to write about disturbs her, Skeeter decides to down-low collect stories from Black maids detailing their experiences working for their affluent, White mistresses who while relying on them, also mistrusts them - (A woman won't even let her maid use the family's bathroom in one instance). Skeeter collects these stories with the help of a domestic named Aibileen and Aibileen's friend Minny. Like many bestsellers that pique Hollywood's interest, Stockett's book has been adapted into a film also titled The Help, due for release this August and starring the underrated and prolific Viola Davis, who plays one of the several domestics.
General consensus about the book seems to be positive with most people calling its story "uplifting." One commenter on an article's feedback section patronizingly wrote (perhaps without meaning to): "The best book I've read all year. I would welcome any of the maids in my household... especially Aibileen..." But it definitely isn't without its share of controversy. There're a few people who're skeptical about Kathryn Stockett's intentions (for better or worse), the story's theme, and the upcoming film. Ablene Cooper, a 60-year-old woman who has worked as a domestic for many years, has filed a lawsuit against Kathryn Stockett, claiming the principal character in The Help appropriates her back-story and likeness; and also uses a variant spelling of her name, without her consent and finds it "emotionally distressing." Another interesting twist is that Cooper has worked and currently still does, for Stockett's brother and his wife (who seem to support Ablene in her suit against Stockett). Cooper claims that Kathryn Stockett never approached her prior to the writing and subsequent publishing of The Help
The issue of race, especially as it relates to Black women (particularly in the American south) working for affluent White families... cleaning their homes and raising their children... is still somewhat of a delicate matter, most notably for those who've had to do it for many years for lack of better opportunities and at the risk of their own families. A white person composing these stories about the Black community heightens the skepticism many feel. Stockett herself has acknowledged the book’s cool reception by people (including some of her own family members) in her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi. I understand that most of us writers are very keen about our surroundings and the people that inhabit it, and so may base ideas and characters off of those elements... but sometimes it's a slippery slope and can come with its share of backlash. Particularly if we aren't careful in how we re-configure those characters we base off of real people, places, and things. 
Additionally, most Black people have mentioned being sick and tired of stories and movies featuring somewhat wayward Black people seemingly being rescued by heroic White people. The August 2011 issue of Essence Magazine features two perspectives on The Help by two Black writers, one of whom enjoyed it as she could "picture the homes, hairdos, and even feel the Delta heat" each time she opened the book and didn't think it reinforced stereotypes, while the other commented that the book "glosses over the reality of African-American triumphs we bled and died for, in order to make a feel-good Hollywood story." 
I'd be remis if I didn't mention my own reluctance about books and movies that tell our stories from a third party perspective not similar to my own ... and have actually tried reading The Help myself, but couldn't quite make it past the first two chapters, as it just failed to sustain my interest. I'm also ambivalent about the upcoming movie. So I'll refrain from opining whether I believe it to be a "uplifting" read or whether I think it'll be a great movie. I will say that I do enjoy reading compelling and honest Black stories, written by Black authors and am still reeling from Wench written by Dolan Perkins-Valdez and would love to see more Black films about Black women, made by... well Black women. It has been a while since I've seen a feature film made by Kasi Lemmons or Julie Dash. I'm still a bit... cranky about Tyler Perry's movie adaptation of Ntozake Shange's "For Colored Girls Who've Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Wasn't Enough." but I digress... that's a whole other topic.
It'll be interesting to read the reviews once the movie has hit theaters and people have actually seen it. Either way, please discuss...