SOUTH CAROLINA AWAITS JUSTICE
STORIES OF SLAVERY PLAYED OUT IN DANCE
HAYNE’S LIFE IN MUSIC CELEBRATED WITH LOVE
FULLER PRESENTS “CRAFTS IN AMERICA”
NATIONAL CENTER EXHIBITS ISLAND WORK
SOUTH CAROLINA AWAITS JUSTICE
by Kay Bourne
(pictured: Judy Richardson interviewing Cleveland Sellers)
The Black citizens of Orangeburg, South
Carolina still wait for justice.
In a powerful retelling of the events that led up to the unprovoked deaths of three Black youth, shot to death by a barrage of bullets from a phalynx of policemen from the national guard and state police in 1968, a film documentary methodically details the events that led to what became known as “The Orangeburg Massacre.”
The documentary continues with the aftermath of cover-ups and political double talk that has obscured the true story of that awful night on the campus of South Carolina State College. Told in an even-handed manner, through interviews and reenactment, “SCARRED JUSTICE: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968″ never harranges or over dramatizes, and is all the more emotionally moving because of its even-handedness.
The premiere of the latest Northern Light Production incisively produced and directed by BESTOR CRAM and JUDY RICHARDSON (and presented in association with Color of Film Collaborative, Inc.) will be screened Saturday afternoon, MARCH 21, at 3 pm, followed by Q & A with the directors. The event, which is free and open to the public, is on the Harvard University campus, at the Carpenter Center – Harvard Film Archive, 24 Quincy Street, Cambridge.
An intense viewing experience, “Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968″ gives solid evidence on behalf of a state investigation into the cover up of a tragic event.
STORIES OF SLAVERY PLAYED OUT IN DANCE
by Kay Bourne
(photo credit: Christopher Pierce)
In the age of terrorism, with its murmurings of impeding dangers, there is a new reason for even more people to connect with JEAN TOOMER’s 1923 impressionistic stories of African Americans who are sharecroppers or one generation out of the fields living in small towns in the South, “CANE.” These portraits are from the past, a time before civil liberties and the election of a Black president, but even so, the specter they raise, of living with constant fear, has yet to be laid to rest.
The haunted terrain is mesmerizingly reconceived and performed by M.I.T. professor in the music and theater arts department, dance scholar THOMAS F. DeFRANZ, as a dance concert made unusual by its use of electronics. The technologists give a facsimile brake of sugar cane itself a foreboding life; the six or seven foot tall sheaves whisper lines from the stories, such as “wind is in the cane. . . cane leaves swaying, rusty with talk,” while film footage of men, women, children from the era of abject poverty and unending toil shimmers on the stalks.
Much of the electronics is performance art with visual designer, polymedia artist ETO ORA at the board, working in real time, assisted by M.I.T. undergraduate CANKUTAN HASAR. Frantz himself danced the taxing 40-minute piece partnered with the extraordinary REGINA ROCKE, who is a visiting artist at M.I.T. The hypnotic “Cane” with music that subtly transported the action to the historical period by Me’Shell Ndegeocello was presented by DeFrantz’s experimental dance company ‘Slippage’ at M.I.T.’s Kresge Little Theater for two nights, March 13 and 14.
The Harlem Renaissance avant garde poet and short story writer, Toomer, was born in Washington, D.C., the son of educated Blacks, and had little acquaintance with the hardships of agrarian Negro life in the South until he taught school in rural Georgia. “Cane” powerfully evokes the inner lives of a deeply feeling and spiritual people who had previously been seen in literature largely as landscape. Written as a combination of prose and poetry, the short profiles are often about exceptionally beautiful women and obsessive love and sometimes take place in urban settings, yet manage to imply the trap of slavery and Jim Crow that has mired these people so effectively their horizons have slammed down on them like a window on your fingers.
DeFrantz has said these stories have tormented his imagination for years and there is an element to his unease akin to the story told by Haile Gerima‘s film “Sankofa” in which Mona, a contemporary fashion model, is hurled back in time to a cane plantation as one of the enslaved Africans working the fields.
The engaging program was pieced together from five of the exquisitely written stories, beginning with “Karintha,“ a woman who from the age of 12 was lusted after by men and who moved through life like a flash, “her sudden darting past you was a bit of vivid color, like a black bird that flashes in light.” The story is of a ripening that happens too soon. Rocke‘s surprise appearances from behind a screen and rapid dashing suggested Karintha’s way of being and how she held her own council admidst the adoration, while DeFrantz was her many admirers, perhaps, but their dancing like Toomer‘s writing was impressionistic rather than narrative.
The other stories explored were “Avey,” “Carma,” Kabnis,” (the longest segment and the one with a male focus) and “Fern,” with the dance concert culminating with DeFrantz and Rocke dancing a duo.
HAYNE’S LIFE IN MUSIC CELEBRATED WITH LOVE
by Kay Bourne
(photo credit: Lolita Parker, Jr.)
Master drummer ROY HAYNES, a robust octogenarian who travels the world for gigs to this day, celebrated his 84th birthday back home. He was front and center at “SNAP/CRACKLE,” enjoying a tribute concert taking its title from a nickname given Haynes in the 50′s connoting his highly personal, expressive style of playing.
The event appropriately featured two drum driven bands famous in their own right: “THE ALVIN TERRY QUARTET” and “YORON ISREAL HIGH STANDARD.” Special guest performer was Mr. Haynes’ son GRAHAM HAYNES, a cornetist who performed with both groups.
Some 300 people crowded the sanctuary for the Saturday night, March 14 concert at the South End’s Union United Methodist Church, 485 Columbus Avenue. The event was produced by T. BROOKS SHEPARD. In the audience were Mr. Haynes’ brother, the REVEREND MICHAEL HAYNES, and many cousins, nieces, and nephews. Mr. Haynes seemed delighted with the event, and with having attained his 84th, saying that he used to be in the fast lane but now he is in the slow lane. A large birthday cake was decorated with a drum and drum sticks. State Rep. BYRON RUSHING read a congratulatory citation which he referred to as a birthday card.
Mr. Haynes, born March 13, 1925, picked up his first drum sticks at home in Roxbury, a pair that “was in the house on Hawkins Street,” belonging to his older brother DOUGLAS who most notably played in the BLANCHE CALLOWAY AND HER JOY BOYS BAND (an all-male group in the 30′s led by the older sister of CAB CALLOWAY).
There are two other brothers well known in Boston. The late VINNIE HAYNES was a social worker and fine arts photographer, who specialized in taking shots of the Roxbury neighborhood where he grew up and musicians from Tina Turner to Charlie “Bird” Parker not to forget his brother, especially in the hey day of jazz clubs at the corner of Mass. and Columbus Avenue. The Reverend Michael Haynes is celebrated for his social work with youth particularly during his four decades as minister at Twelfth Baptist Church. He also served as a state representative and was a close associate of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“I have never put the sticks back down,” said Haynes, who drummed at home, at school, and along the streets of Roxbury where-ever there was a surface that attracted him. “Along Ruggles Street there were tin signs advertising Coca Cola; I loved the sound of strumming on those billboards.” Haynes adds that another sound, one he has always had in his head, is that of the trains clacking along on their tracks.
Haynes, now with more than 30 albums as a leader to his credit and many, many more as a main ingredient in important contingents, was still a teenager, in fact, too young to play in clubs legally, when he got his first gig at a club on Washington Street, although he didn’t yet have a complete drum set.
“At that time it was an Italian area and the club was called The Paradise. I played drums for two dollars a night. Since I was too young to be in the club, the owner would look to see if the cops were coming before I played. But I kept doing it and I was good.”
The drum, above all the musical instruments, provides a link with the African past for Black Americans. Haynes says there is still a message delivered, which was accentuated for him when he was playing in a club in Paris. “I was playing, dum, dum de dum dum when this African guy stood up, and when he stood up, I could see he was tall, and he started to do that dance. A lot of drumming is related to the spiritual and it feels good. They can feel what you’re saying if it’s true.”
In April, Haynes will be feted at Harvard University as this year’s jazz master in residence, the 29th year of the program. Notes TOM EVERETT, director of Harvard bands, “Roy Haynes has played with practically all the jazz masters: Lester Young, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Miles Davis, Thelonius Monk, John Coltrane. In each instance, he was able to integrate his own unique voice into the ensemble while fostering the musical intent and design of the leader. His tightly tuned drums create a crispness and clarity that is his signature sound.”
Between the concerts at Union United and Harvard, Mr. Haynes travels to Paris to pick up another prestigious French Chavelier des l’Ordres Artes et des Lettres; “a second level of the prize,” guesses Haynes about the honor.
FULLER PRESENTS “CRAFTS IN AMERICA”
by Jessica Kerry
Craft is an open-ended category. Historically associated with skilled labor and indigenous folk traditions, and passed down through oral customs rather than academic disciplines, it is more often defined by its position outside canonical art and industrial design than by any specific formal criteria.
“CRAFT IN AMERICA – EXPANDING TRADITIONS,” a touring exhibition that makes its last stop at Brockton’s FULLER CRAFT MUSEUM through MAY 25, takes full advantage of that flexibility, elevating it to a cultural value on par with that of fine art. Works on display range from the utilitarian to the purely decorative, employing some methods that have been handed down through hundreds of years and others that could only exist in the Information Age. The sum is an array of jewelry, abstract sculpture, vessels, furniture and more, in a variety of materials from wood to silver to plastic, that demonstrate the range and depth of American creativity.
The exhibition spun off from a PBS documentary of the same name, which won a Peabody award and was nominated for an Emmy in 2007; many of the works featured in the documentary are on display in the exhibition, which encompasses a period from the early 20th century to the present.
It’s hard to find a single common thread linking all the pieces in “Craft in America” because many of them play with traditional craft techniques and trouble the boundaries between craft, art and design. They are utilitarian and purely aesthetic, handmade and generated from prototypes, representational and completely abstract. The one universal element is tactility, whether it’s in a quilted wall hanging or an acid-finished glass sculpture.
Many of the pieces in the exhibition incorporate indigenous techniques from all over the world, from Japanese shibori dyes to Roman mosaics, that evoke America’s complex heritage. Not surprisingly, the bulk of these works refer to diverse American Indian cultures, whether demonstrating the resilience of pre-colonial craft traditions or updating them for a 21st-century context.
Some of the more recent works synthesize antique technique and contemporary precision. BILLIE RUTH SUDDUTH’s “Fibonacci Rising” (2006), a patterned basket, sets American Indian and Appalachian materials to mathematical proportions, combining folk tradition with modern standardization. STANLEY LECHTZIN’s “PusHere Bracelet” (2006) and LIA COOK’s “Traces: Intent” (2002) both used computer programs to produce artifacts ordinarily created by human hand; Lechtzin sculpted his jewelry using 3-D modeling, while Cook programmed her loom to weave a digital image into a tapestry.
Several pieces in the show map political messages onto conventional artifacts. DAVID CLEMONS’ installation “Chitlin Service” (2006), for example, describes slavery using silverware and salt and pepper shakers. The title, and the silverware’s decorative pigs’ heads refer to chitterlings, the leftover pig intestines that white slave-owners would feed to their slaves, while the functional parts of the fork and spoon are shaped like a pitchfork and a shovel, common plantation tools. The white porcelain salt and pepper shakers are each figured as a “mammy,” the stereotypically rotund, loudmouthed black female domestic servant. Clemons’ work weaves together several of the exhibition’s disparate threads: it turns practical utensils into aesthetic objects; it evokes a specific cultural heritage, that of American slaves; and it does this from a distinctly contemporary perspective.
The lack of a single definition of “craft” to unify the works in this exhibition can be exhausting. The sense that anything other than conventional painting could be thrown in actually starts to undermine the exhibition’s implicit argument, that craft has as much cultural significance as fine art. The chronological organization doesn’t help. Thematic groupings would paint a more coherent picture of the historic trends and individual traditions that comprise craft, helping museum-goers who haven’t seen the PBS documentary make sense of the rich variety on display.
The Fuller Craft Museum will host programming in conjunction with “Craft in America” throughout the spring. Most notable, its Annual Benefit Gala on MAY 17 will honor SAM MALOOF, the celebrated furniture designer whose “Double Rocker” (1996) is featured in the exhibition and was recently gifted to the museum, and JONATHAN LEO FAIRBANKS, artist and Curator Emeritus of American Decorative Arts and Sculpture at the Museum of Fine Arts.
NATIONAL CENTER EXHIBITS ISLAND WORK
(Freddie Cabral – Small Animal Series, 2008a)
A pair of artists, one from Haiti, the other from the Dominican Republic, share the galleries at the MUSEUM OF THE NATIONAL CENTER OF AFRO AMERICAN ARTISTS, as their homelands do the island of Hispaniola. A reception to celebrate “HAITI: PAINTINGS BY MARILENE PHIPPS” and “GENESIS: WORKS BY FREDDI CABRAL” will be held this weekend Sunday, MARCH 22 beginning at 3 pm which will include remarks on these prominent artists at 4:15pm. The Museum of the NCAAA is located at 300 Walnut Avenue in Roxbury. For more info, you can call 617-442-8614 or visit the NCAAA website. The exhibit continues through APRIL 12.
(TRE’ WILLIAMS & THE REVELATIONS)
Friday, MARCH 27 ORGANIX SOUL Boston invites you to their monthly, LIVE music showcase of independent up & coming Soul, R&B, Jazz and Spoken Word artists from across the country, held at The Holiday Inn, 1374 North Main Street, Randolph, MA. (next to Lombardo’s). This month’s 2 hour showcase starting promptly at 9pm features NY heavy hitters THE REVELATIONS featuring TRE’ WILLIAMS (a 9 piece SOUL band) plus KAFELE a jazz fusion trumpeter, as well as MELIKA MILLER and TIM DILLINGER. Networking & prize giveaways 8:30 – 9 pm. LIVE Music Showcase 9 – 11pm, followed by DJ BRUNO spinning the best in classic and current hits till 1am. For details click HERE. KBAR READERS RECEIVE $5 off: the $25 ticket price, just enter “KBAR” as the discount code when ordering tickets on line HERE.
SUFFOLK UNIVERSITY presents a 3-day scholarly conference on author and activist JAMES BALDWIN this weekend, with 2 presentations, free and open to the public: a dramatic performance by CALVIN LEVELS in “James Baldwin: Down From the Mountaintop” at the Walsh Theater, MARCH 20, at 6 pm, and a poetry reading by Poets MAJOR JACKSON and AFAA MICHAEL WEAVER on Saturday, MARCH 21 at 6pm in the Amenities Conference Room at 73 Tremont Street. For more info call the College of Arts and Science at 617-573-8000.
FORD HALL FORUM at SUFFOLK UNIVERSITY in collaboration with THE BOSTON ATHENAEUM presents the film “NAT TURNER: TROUBLESOME PROPERTY” followed by a discussion with CHARLES BURNETT, MacArthur Award-winning American filmmaker, FRANK CHRISTOPHER, award-winning producer, director, writer and editor and KENNETH S. GREENBERG, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Suffolk University and Distinguished Professor of History as they explore the significance of Nat Turner today and the relavence of their film on Thursday, APRIL 2, in the C. Walsh Theatre, 55 Temple Street, 6 – 8pm. Admission is free and open to all but reservations are required by calling 617-720-7600. What are the distinctions between a freedom fighter and a terrorist? The debate over the meaning of Nat Turner’s slave rebellion has been at the heart of race relations in the United States for the past 178 years.
“CELL PHONE BLUES,” new play by ROBERT JOHNSON, JR.Professor of Africana Studies at UMass Boston, gets a one night performance, Thursday, APRIL 2 in UMASS McCormack Theatre, 100 Morrissey Blvd. at 7pm. Set at the time of Barack Obama’s primary Presidential bid in North Carolina, the drama about an African American family set upon by unforeseen and debilitating events is directed by JACKIE DAVIS and produced by ROXBURY CROSSROADS THEATER. For info call 617-287-6794.
The INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART Boston (ICA) presents a reading by poet KEVIN YOUNG, as part of “WORDS FROM THE WALK,” a series organized in conjunction with the Creative Writing Program at UMass Boston, on Thursday, APRIL 16, at 6:30 pm. The program is free, but space is limited. Admission to the ICA is always free on Target Free Thursdays from 5 – 9 p.m. For more information, call (617) 478-3103. Kevin Young is widely regarded as one of the leading poets of his generation, finding meaning and inspiration in African-American music, particularly the blues, and in the bittersweet history of Black America. Young’s poem, “New England Ode,” will be installed on the ICA’s Hassenfeld Harborway, just outside the museum, on APRIL 1. He is currently a professor of poetry at Emory University, and lives in Atlanta and Boston.
Beginners SABAR DRUM classes, 3 – 4 :30pm every Sunday taught by dynamic master Sabar drummer Babacar Moha Seck, $10 per class, at the YWCA, 7 Temple Street, Central Square, Cambridge, MA. For Info call 617-602-7320. If you have your own sabar or djembe drum, bring it.
Roxbury Community College’s Summer Arts Intensive Program is currently holding auditions in both Dance and Theatre for young people ages 8-16. If interested in growing as a performer and meeting other young people in the area with common interests, we’d love to meet you! The fee is $200.00 plus $25.00 (non-refundable) registration fee. Please contact Pamela Green at 617-541-5380 to set up a half-hour audition appointment.
CURTIS HENDERSON releases a new jazz cd, “MAGIC OF THE NIGHT”, and appears at Scullers Jazz Club in the DoubleTree Guest Suites Boston, 400 Soldiers Field Road, Allston, on Tuesday, MARCH 24 at 8pm. Tickets are $18 at 617-562-4111. Featured musicians with Henderson at Scullers: Athene Wilson, guest vocalist, Joseph Davis, Jr. on drums, Anthony Grant on sax and keyboards, Edward Lee on keyboards, Webster Roach on bass, Milton McCarthy on percussion, Ryan Brown on keyboards, Wayne Jones on guitar and Elise and Leslie Jones singing background.
Tickets on sale now for the 30th Anniversary Tour of the 1978 Tony Award-winning Best Musical AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’ starring 2003 American Idol Winner Ruben Studdard at the Strand Theatre, 543 Columbia Road, Dorchester, APRIL 10 – 12. For info call 617-635-1403.
Oprah Winfrey presents THE COLOR PURPLE, a soul-stirring musical based on the classic Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Alice Walker and the Oscar-nominated film by Steven Spielberg. Tickets on Sale now for THE COLOR PURPLE at the CitiCenter (formerly the Wang Center) JUNE 16-28. For info call 617-532-1116.
Ralph Beach, a long time member of the Boston Afro-American Artists Association (and a resident artist at AAMARP, the African American Master Artists Residency Program at Northeastern University) is reviving BAAA, a 43 year old professional organization that holds exhibits and provides helpful information to its members. Interested in becoming a member of this important affiliation for artists of color? Click here to find more info.