WHITES ONLY…NOT ANYMORE

Ever wondered why black art is primarily limited to portraits. Very often, collectors prize their wooden or clay sculptures of black figures, often highlighted with prodigious lips, large busts, butts, overhanging guts and barefooted.

Black Gold Nude, courtesy Canvas Insider

The white male did not anticipate the ferocious appetite, his woman would have for the black lover, (Jack Johnson) and neither did he for the black female, e.g. DIRK NOWITZKI (NBA star) President Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings. Portrait artists: Rembrandt, Rockwell, Picasso, dominated the art world. Sophia Lauren changed all that, with luscious lips reminiscent of the black woman, “hello!” Kim Kardashian!

Sophia Lauren (Camelback flower shop Pinterest)

Then the art of Surrealism splashed on the world scene. Salvador Dali with his half moon mustache, pirouetted a taste for the provocateur, forced viewers to “think agonizingly” what his work was saying. Art was no longer obvious, it became abstract.

What black artists could join the portfolio of Renaissance Masters? Black thought was not intriguing enough to be sculpted, painted, and be placed in museums of world renown.

However, black artists continued to work, to produce work to be seen in private homes, running parallel to the “juke joints” and “speak eases” where struggling musicians honed their craft, waiting for that one day!

That day came in the 1990’s. Today, the Baltimore Museum of Art has put on display, a take a deep breath exhibition of Black Abstract Art, entitled, GENERATIONS. Works that are 20 feet wide, by 18 feet high.

FRANK BOWLING, is from BARTICA, GUYANA (my birth country), where he has replaced his mother’s portrait with colors to reflect “emotions, truth and clarity”, his words.

Leonardo Drew, Number 525, will occupy two of your standard bedrooms. This piece is menacing, imposing, and extremely delicate. He says it is a “metaphor of birth, life, death and regeneration”

There are over 70 such pieces, but you cannot tour this exhibition without the booklet, and spend at least an hour.

But where did all this art come from? If they were not in museums until now, did someone have the means, not only to buy these works, but to house them in some massive warehouse, with 50 feet ceilings ?

Pamela Joyner and her husband Alfred J.Giuffrida, are the procurers, of these works. Ms. Joyner travelled to the BMA, for the presentation. We talked:

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“the little lady is dope”. (La petite femme est dynamique!)

Works by Mirlande Jean-gilles

You are an artist, more specifically a collage artist, when one of the most prominent playhouses in the city comes knocking.

Set decorations in stage plays can enhance the overall concept, and magnifying the entire production. When Leonardo da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa, there was no idea it would be in musicals, handkerchiefs and tattoos.

Mirlande Jean-Gilles

Da Vinci, an Italian had moved to France where he finished that painting. Napoleon treated it as his own treasure. It is a premier showpiece on the wall of the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. The Mona Lisa is “dope” for many, she even smiled in an American commercial. I can hear the African American super balladeer, Nat King Cole sing the lines, “Do you smile to tempt a lover, Mona Lisa,..Or is it your way to hide a broken heart”?

Baltimore Maryland has a little lady that is likewise “dope”. MIRLANDE JEAN-GILLES, is Haitian, French, an artist with a bigger smile than Mona Lisa, and much more talented.

When Center Stage’s newly installed artistic director, Stephanie Ybarra, knocked on Jean-Gilles door, she was not asking her to paint a backdrop for one play, but six. Jean-Gilles smile and scream  bellowed across the room.

And here are the names of the plays: MISS YOU LIKE HELL,… THOUGHTS OF A COLORED MAN,… MEN ON BOATS,… RICHARD & JANE & DICK & SALLY, WHERE WE STAND,… BAKKHAI.

HOLD ON I’M COMING!

Picture from Reuters Marco Bello.

No, this is not the “middle passage” where slaves from Africa were forced into ships to travel against their will, heading to North America (the 13 colonies, in the 1600’s).

Abaco island, in the Bahamas, is one of many that some considered paradise. Now that paradise is lost, demolished by hurricane Dorian, what to do? Thousands for years, have reaped the sweetness of paradise, served by people like those in the above picture. There they  are, in the “belly of the whale”.

The Grand Bahamas ABACO Islands (Baltimore Md.) relief Committee, for the help of our brethren in the Bahamas. Of the 12 members, present today from (L-R) Laughton Sargeant, Reynold Small, Senator Larry Young, Owen Charles, Travis Winkey, and Dr. Elaine C Simon .

Here in Baltimore Md., the Grand Bahamas Committee has been formed, chaired by Dr. Elaine Simon (Caribbean Festival); Larry Young (former senator of MD.); Rick Nugent (Jamaica association of MD.); Delegate, MD. House: Regina Boyce; Dr. Joy Bramble, Baltimore Times; Owen Charles (Trinidad & Tobago Association); Reynold Small (a.k.a. Golden Touch, promoter); Kevin Wallace (Printworks MD.) George Mitchell (Langston Hughes Community Center); Patricia Harracksingh (Peace in America); Travis Winkey (Premier Fashion Consultant);Angelo Carter (Island Code); Laughton Sargeant (Image Band).

Folks are holding on, let’s get in line, forming that step ladder to revitalization.

Billie Holiday! Meet THa MuthaFunkahoIX!

Pennsylvania and North Avenues, Baltimore Maryland. Go North on Pennsylvania, there exists Baltimore City’s biggest Mall, MONDAWMIN; head South, University of Maryland Hospital, home of the famous SHOCK TRAUMA wing.

The pivot of these two sides is THE ARCH SOCIAL CLUB, which continues to represent black or African American entertainment, surviving segregation and integration.

“Back in the day” the famous frequented “the Avenue”, RED FOXX, CAB CALLOWAY,  and later, the adult, BILLIE HOLIDAY, whose mother had a restaurant in the area, Billie, a teenager at the time.

Her interest in the blues, jazz, and comedy reached heights in New York, where her mother moved to; but her cognitive years were here in Baltimore, Md.

To revive history and create an African American Arts District, what better place to start, than Penn/North!

Arch Social Club, Pennsylvania at North, Baltimore Md.

This area is frequented with the fist  of the African American population. Baltimore is competing for that trophy, MURDER CAPITAL OF THE WORLD! It is time to bestir the population’s pride, and one of many projects has emerged, the BILLIE HOLIDAY MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL! August 31, 2019, became the inaugural.  

Sadly, the surrounding population, Upton, Sandtown, did not attend the festival in significant numbers, why?

I think “what we have here, is a failure to communicate”. Authorities have to answer the question, how do you give the common man his pride back? Certainly not, by giving him cotton candy.

Baltimore’s AFRAM, 2019

(L-R) Alysha January, artist;Brandon Scott, President, Baltimore City Council;Harold Rollins, famous Baltimore Actor, 2006 inductee, Great Blacks in Wax Museum

It’s  going on 43 years, since the inception of AFRAM, the African American festival for Baltimore Maryland, highlighting the essence and achievements of the culture.

When this was conceived, the Mayor was not of African American descent. From 1987 to now, over  three decades, the Mayor has been African American. The home of the  festival has been nomadic moving from place to place, and finally,  the last three years, DRUID HILL PARK. I went to the festival this year to see what progress this new “platform”, (the organizers word) has produced as a “lift off!” for today’s African American community.

Have the youth been inspired to be more conscious of legacy ? Would I see more diversity of skills? Has the new political entourage of Mayor Young and associates bestir the underbelly to use their hands and heads to be less pugilistic? Would I see more engineers, architects, builders, black budding “Henry Ford’s”, App creators, like Bill Gates ? Tired of the escape artistes, like “PUFF DADDY

It’s BACK TO SCHOOL! Are our teenagers displaying any creative designs, that can be locally admired, and perhaps prep for market someday?

Or am I in a fool’s paradise ? “Wishing and hoping”, like Dusty Springfield.

ZAKIYYAH MAKINI, has been a continuous vendor at AFRAM, we had a conversation:

In the music arena, none of our students from the Baltimore School for the Arts, were on the program. None of our students attending or who graduated from the elite Peabody Conservatory was in performance. I know they are around, I’ve seen them, and have interviewed many African American graduates. They were MIA, (Missing In Action) at AFRAM. I had to settle for what was served. I chose the following for you:

ACKNOWLEDGING THE GENIUSES AMONG US

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds!
Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/marcus_garvey_385052

Marcus Garvey, was a notable black politician from Jamaica, who championed self worth, and inspired many, with some of his quotes, many  incorporated into major Jamaican Reggae hits.

Africans, in the mainland, and throughout the world have had a problem in recognizing their own. The “crabs in a barrel” idiom continues to plague the race no matter where it is found, including here in the United States and the Caribbean.

In a move to shed that cloak of misguidedness, freeing their minds of, “I got mine, you get yours” , an offspring group of African and Caribbean descendants, who live in what is called the DMV (District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia), held their first cultural awards ceremony this year (2019). Some recipients have been working at this effort for over 50 years.

Marcus Garvey,
Courtesy, Caribbean Apparel

Here’s a look at what took place:

THE WEATHER REPORT by WENDELL PATRICK

Baltimore Hip-Hop, artists, JPope and Salim, part of Wendell Patrick’s Weather Report.

It’s Saturday in Baltimore. The weather as most of the country, has suffered from hails of uncertainty: rain, tornados, tree fallings, sink holes, and traffic accidents. This particular Saturday, the temperature hovered between 85 and 90 degrees, no wind to speak of, and low humidity.

As evening dawned, the dissipation can be felt, a soft breeze came over the city, the flowers in the garden, gave nods, and instantly like out of a cannon, a flock of black mini birds graced the sky with excitement.

Perhaps, it was because down below on earth, in the said garden, musical melodies were ” vaping” skyward. Wendell Patrick is black musical artist! The black birds in the sky? Uhhhm. I agree, I am stretching. However, once you get to the end of this commentary, you and I may be doing the “two finger” signal for “we agree”.

WENDELL PATRICK is a gift to his parents, and Peabody Conservatory of Baltimore Md.; gave him a spaceship to demonstrate certifiably his musical genius.

Come with me to the garden of the Baltimore Museum of Art, where Wendell, his quartet, and guests, deliver the weather report:

BLACK SUBURBAN LIFE

What happens when a black child was raised in the white suburbs in the 1980’s ? It became a struggle. A male who was not picked for the football team, ended up probable playing LACROSSE… WHAT???His interests were jazz, R&B, but he is asked to rap. The nearest Popeye’s  Chicken, was not nearby

Artwork by Alex Holyoake

The black girl wanting to fit in, began copying her white counterparts: purple hair, purple and green; fake eyelashes.

The Asian beauty shops saw the trend, and began importing Brazilian, and Asian hair in different textures and lengths.

The suburban black kids had money to spend on these makeovers, not so with the urban residents. However, they found ways to get that money.

The suburban black kid got labeled, “OREO”, when among his or her peers, who were not suburbanized.

As part of ARTSCAPE, a financial scholarship of $25,000 was awarded to an outstanding artist for his/her work concerning the life of the Greater Baltimore Region. The ceremony was under the auspices of the Janet & Walter Sondheim portfolio of the Walters Art Galleries.

From the seven finalists, emerged AKEA BRIONNE BROWN, who grew up in Howard County, one of the top three counties in Maryland. Here’s a copy of her postcard:

PUNKING OUT

She’ A Brick House!… In 1977, when the COMMODORES, released that hit, young men were driven into intimidation, biting their nails in thinking of ideas of how to entrap such a female and call her “mine”.

This song had exclusive application to women in the urban community; thus began the evolution and the ogling of some black women that had the look and “pull” of the Pied Piper.

“How can I get such a phenom?” They cried within themselves; that gave rise to the metamorphosis  of the  phrase “bait and switch”, now, “THE TRICK”.

In standard English, it means to strategize, “Trick or Treat!” (Halloween!).

People of color, have watched how others get their women: buy flowers; take them to the movies; tickets to the opera; expensive gifts; clothing; sitting near her in the same room but afraid to say “Hi”. (Punk!).

This fear of the heartthrob is measured differently in the urban community, similarly the use of the word, “trick”.

LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, is a non African American play/musical, about punking out, about Seymour and his “wish bone” Audrey. Just imagine this musical from a totally BLACK perspective, with an all black cast!…It is wild, it is crazy, and you will be drained riding this roller coaster. Presented by ArtsCentric, in Baltimore Md. through August 17, 2019: MOTOR HOUSE, on North Avenue.

NAKED and UNAFRAID

CARNIVAL IN BALTIMORE MD. JULY 2019

It is perhaps one of the few times, one can witness women almost all their naked glory in public. It is the kind of event where old men sit alongside the road in folding chairs, to watch bodies of all sizes and disproportions, flouncing in the hot sun. It is carnival time.

This festival which began in Egypt, then to Europe, as the Catholics brought religion and slavery to the New World, represents the subsequent cessation from all things fleshly, thus embarking on a new way of life.; before that, celebrate, for after this period “I” would be different.

The lower echelon took to this celebration with gusto, for it allowed them to be free, to drink alcohol, eat anything, paint their faces, curse their oppressors, even use vulgar gestures. Since this festival had been introduced by religious men with authority, the upper class, even though offended, could do very little, especially when their kids wanted to engage in the frolicking.

Brazil’s carnival is the biggest, with some 2 million people per day (Guinness Book of Records). Baltimore Md., this year (July, 2019) had it’s biggest, despite the 90 degree weather. Here’s a look:

A PICTURESQUE REPRESENTATION OF CARNIVAL IN BALTIMORE MD. JULY 2019