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

URBAN RENEWAL COMING TO SALISBURY MD.

NATIONAL FOLK FESTIVAL COMING TO SALISBURY MD. SEPTEMBER 6 TO 8, 2019

SALISBURY, is considered the capital of the Eastern shore, with a 60 % white population, and 32 % Black. As the youth mature they leave for brighter lights and to a more integrated city. Mayor Jake Day (34) is one who has returned to his city of birth. With Degrees in Urban Design and Environmental Policy, he is padded up to hit home runs as well as make touchdowns. His focus is Salisbury’s urbanization, and not necessarily gentrification. New buildings, bridges, redesigned streets, and focus on the simple but vitally important people: the arts and crafts folk.

This young and aggressive, imaginative mayor made a bid to host the 79th NATIONAL FOLK FESTIVAL, and won!

This festival will have on display some 35 different musical groups, 7 outdoor stages, 350 musical groups, dancers, storytellers and crafts people. It will present a historic milestone of celebration of roots richness and variety of the American culture.

With emphasis the local press release reads “this will present the arts of many nations, races and languages on an equal footing”

Baseball and the Orioles Organization are playing a major part  in making this September event quite memorable. At Camden Yards (Orioles Ballpark), journalists had a preview:

THE AMBASSADOR PLAYS THE SITAR

HUNGARY’S AMBASSADOR to the United States, Dr. Laszlo Szabo, playing the Sitar.

What does the average person think of, when the country of Hungry comes up? That it was once part of the Soviet Union, and their most famous person of interest was ZSA ZSA GABOR.

Then someone whispered to me, that I should go see, one of Hungary’s top Jazz bands performing in Baltimore. Hungarians playing African American music. Yes, Jazz?

This I had to see. On further enquiry, I found out, that each Spring, the Capital city Budapest hosts a festival for three and a half weeks. In the midst of opera, piano concerts, theatre, circus and exhibitions, is JAZZ, with awards to top performers.

So here I am on my way to see DJABE, named Hungary’s top jazz group, at An die Musik, Baltimore. I now share with you a sample of what I saw and heard.

Cheers from Hungary to Baltimore!

Baltimore Needs A Black High Priestess

A collection of works by Oletha Devane, now on display at the Baltimore Museum of Art, through October, 2019

The headline has come to the forefront of some thought processors, because of the unbelievable amount of murders in one of the country’s major cities, Baltimore, Md. We were at 60, as of March, 2019. What can bring this to a screeching halt ? I have answered this question in previous comments, and it is not “LOCK THEM UP”.

Could it be a black priestess ? Is it because the disproportionate number is black, African American ? Blacks are unique; that accounted for their enslavement, thus their physical components required especial attention. We see this in medicine, i.e. melanin. Which race handles the sun better ? A black doctor may understand that exception that much better, than one who has not lived that experience.

The English in the 18th century called the African doctor, a WITCH DOCTOR. It was a pejorative to the African, because he had not attended a western school to obtain “their” certification. Low and behold, modern medicine uses an abundant number of ingredients harvested in Africa, (Dr. John AO Ojewole).

Medicine can be spiritual. the African has taken to this with great enthusiasm. Today the black church in America, is like a barber shop, one on almost every corner. The male pastors like the “witch doctors” have fattened themselves off the believing population, this has opened the door for the “black priestess”? Maybe, just maybe, her motherly instincts can reach the young perpetrators of crime in Baltimore and Chicago.

Oletha DeVane

OLETHA DEVANE, wants a spiritual awakening for Baltimore. As an artist she is wishing for a “priestess”. Her traces of the African American experience from Africa to America, are now at the BMA’s remodeled Spring House, where slaves were once housed.

Here’s our conversation:

TO BE CALLED, “EMBRACEABLE,IRRESISTIBLE, YOU!”

Top: IMANI GRACE COOPER
BOTTOM: WARREN WOLF

It is instant, magical, lack of pretense. It is what every human is looking to be called sometime in life. Can that be achieved through an embrace or a hug ? More the former than the latter.

It is when that light bulb instantly turns on, and one is thrown into that helpless state. Henry Ford the legendary car maker, commented on a path to that exuberance, “most people spend more time and energy going around problems, than trying to solve them”. EUREKA !!!

Another consideration for one to becoming embraceable, “is attitude” (Captain Jack Sparrow, Pirates of the Caribbean).

When Frank Sinatra sang Embraceable You, probably for his second wife, Ava Gardner, history showed it was magical between them, so much so they reincarnated each other.

WARREN WOLF is a vibraphonist, with a vocalist that replicates this mind-blowing experience, fall into the trance. It’s an evening of jazz, at THE WESTMINSTER CHURCH, 400 “I” Street, S/W Washington D.C.

When a TABLA UNITES WITH AN UPRIGHT BASE and SAXOPHONE

3 of 4 women of the jazz group RAJAS

The tabla is a membranophone percussion instrument, used in Hindustani classical music and in popular and devotional music of the Indian subcontinent. The instrument consists of a pair of hand drums of contrasting sizes and timbres. The term tabla is derived from an Arabic word, tabla, which simply means “drum.” The tabla is used in some other Asian musical traditions outside of India, such as in the Indonesian dangdut genre. Playing technique involves extensive use of the fingers and palms in various configurations to create a wide variety of different sounds, reflected in the mnemonic syllables. The heel of the hand is used to apply pressure or in a sliding motion on the larger drum so that the pitch is changed during the sound’s decay.”

The above is an online definition of an essential instrument found primarily in East Indian music. Add to this, the slow melodious sounds of a violin, synced to a high pitched female singing voice uttering love and religious devotion, we get IndoJazz

Somewhere along this musical journey, there is the sound of what the listening ear would say to the brain, “that’s cello”. You are then jerked out of that trance to realize, it is not a cello, but an upright bass. That is not all, an alto sax ascends atop, then fades to the superiority of the violin, voice, bass and tabla, (called mrudangam in Southern India), in no specific order, albeit by accurate timing via the purveyors of those  instruments.

At times you hear the call and response between the tabla and the bass; fingers are moving rapidly; it’s like watching jump rope! Is someone going to get tired and be at fault?

No. It’s RAJAS, a musical ensemble exploring the resonances of creative jazz music. Here’s a montage of the group’s performance at Creative Alliance, in East Baltimore.

The group is led by RAJA SWAMINATHAN (Tabla {mrudangam), PhD. Candidate, music, Harvard); GANAVYA DORAISWAMY (vocals); ANJNA SWAMINATHAN (Raja’s sister, violin); MARIA GRAND (tenor sax); and STEPHEN CRUMP (Bass).I talked with Rajas:

Boo’d Up in Bowie Md.

AL CARTER, “ANOTHER DAY BAND

That simple but magical combination of two words in the Urban language, has made some people millionaires. “You got me boo’d up!” “Fallen and can’t get up!”

Even though the latter is line from the First Alert commercial, the results are the same. We can add “kiss the girls and make them cry!”

None of this works unless music is added to this delightful “mess” of love and unbridled affection.

As the population ages, the limbs go, surgical stockings, pain killers, walking canes and walkers, cry “lean on me!!”I travelled to Bowie Maryland one weekend night to see for myself the affect and effect of music on the human body. On stage was ANOTHER DAY BAND


A SUITE TO TRAYVON MARTIN, TAMIR RICE and OTHERS

VIJAY LYER, AN AMERICAN COMPOSER, on a visit to Baltimore, Md.

In recap Trayvon Martin, was 17 when gunned down by vigilante George Zimmerman, Florida 2012. Tamir Rice was 12, shot dead by a police officer, Ohio, 2014.

Children are dying with their parents crossing the Mexican border to the United States.  Boats travelled from Africa to North America (the Middle Passage) with humans chained, the WHITES ONLY signs of American history seem to be in repeat mode in 2019.

Modern William Wilberforces (Wilberforce, British Abolitionist, 1780) are making their voices heard; the question is, how do you do that, using music with no words?

This year he will be as old as my older son (Lincoln), born in 1971, a New Yorker of East Indian parents. He showed his prowess at age 3 with the violin, with genius speed he was at Yale University, trying to perhaps rewrite Einstein’s theory of relativity, but gave all that up to theories of musical composition, i.e. JAZZ

This now, professor of music at Harvard University, with 22 musical accomplishments, has identified himself with people of color and their struggles for parity. He has engulfed himself with West African and American music. He is the flagpole, and his piano is attached to his chest like a flag.

Among his many compositions is A SUITE TO TRAYVON and OTHERS.

He made a stop at the Baltimore Museum of Art, where we spoke:

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