A WHO DUNNIT AT ARENA

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Coming out of the pandemic, amidst an economic and health slump combined, African Americans in Baltimore are trying to laugh again.

Although the 68-year-old black owned and operated theatre, never closed, it is welcoming to see seats being filled, and the sound of cheers heard aloud.

THE BUTLER DID IT AGAIN, is currently being staged at the Arena; and of special interest, the cast is primarily of senior citizens. This, is a push to show that “age is just a number”.

I saw this on the plays’ third night, which makes it a work in progress, that will only get better before its end on May 8th, 2022.

Support Black Theatre.

THE MISEDUCATION OF THE AMERICAN NEGRO

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BRIA JONES (Taylor) Stick Fly

If you are born other than white, it has been drummed in your head from all angles, “get an education”, for this makes you, “competitive”.

You probably studied history, absorbed the horror of the slave trade, and perhaps attended schools with those of the white race.

If you have lived and travelled in various parts of the world, you’ve come face to face with the evolution of the negro, from black to Afro-American, Afro Caribbean, Afro whatever, once you acknowledged “I have original, African/black blood in me”.

As you grew up, you began to see the growth of the hybrids, the mix-breeds, and the better options they received because of the “one drop blood” rule in reverse.

Were you shocked when you found out that Ghanian black revolutionary Kwame Nkrumah was married to an Arab from Egypt (she looked white to me)? How about African American Justice Clarence Thomas, and his marital alliance, who is deeply associated with the Trump administration, that looked for token “negroes” like Dr. Benjamin Carson to suppress negroes, blacks, African Americans and some of the hybrids, also known as “people of color”.

In 2011, an African American professor wrote a play entitled STICK FLY. The leading character is a budding female black entomologist. (Taylor). If one tries to understand why such a name, one would be lost on the subterranean themes therein.

Privileged negroes, who were raised in the privileged community of Martha’s Vineyard in the revolutionary state of Massachusetts. (Boston Tea Party) This family of the “Jack and Jill” crème de la crème” of higher education separates, was as sexually wanton as the “ghetto” kid who graduated from high school with a middle school education.

The theory is that, that the negro when pushed to the standard of an “Ivy leaguer”, will, upon graduation and assimilation, have a disdain for what he came from, and thus uphold and promulgate those taught precepts to the admiration of his/her white professors.

The moral ineptitude was practiced in the bedroom, behind close doors.

This play should be studied and analyzed in sociology classes in colleges and universities, when the hormonal experimentation is at its peak.

I saw this play last week at the CLARICE CENTER, university of Maryland, Adelphi.

I came out bruised. There were many “white folk” in the audience, who I am sure felt the insults, and know what it is like to be shot dead and resurrected, for they walked out of the theatre alive!

For us Negroes, Blacks, African Americans, “get an education”, is crucial, but parse and analyze the ingredients, there could be arsenic subtly hidden in it somewhere.

IT’S GOSPEL SUNDAY AT THE MYERHOFF

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FRED HAMMOND (Gospel singer/composer at the Meyerhoff)

What denominations are they placed in? Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal? Blacks, African Americans fall into all the aforementioned categories; and believe it or not, the slave trade is responsible.

No need for me to rehash the Atlantic Slave Trade, Africans singing out to God to save their lives. The slave owner at times was also the Sunday morning preacher. I call it the double enslavement: in the field, and in the church.

In a white Baptist church, the congregation looks tired when it sings, not nearly the same as in a black Baptist church. Why? The remnants of those horrible days and nights crossing the Atlantic, with chains on their feet and hands, have followed the succeeding generations to today.

Most African Americans in church, can be heard shouting out loud, MAKE A JOYFUL NOISE! Based on Psalm 100. “Come before his presence with singing”.

This singing enabled many slaves to look beyond the running blood, and large wounds inflicted upon their bodies, as they crossed the Ocean, to the so-called New World.

Black Gospel in association with World Vision to save African babies.

It was at the Meyerhoff Concert Hall in downtown Baltimore MD., that I had a look and feel of the power of the Gospel. It was a three-hour concert, where patrons wanted to stand rather than sit. Where part of the musical impact turned the audience into a congregation with raised hands, and shouts along with whispers of praise. The Meyerhoff felt like a slave ship (HOPE), [one of the American ships that brought slaves to Rhode Island]. Black bodies swaying with eyes closed, clenched fists, and voices trying to sing in unison with the choir leaders, FRED HAMMOND and HEZEKIAH WALKER.

IT MEANS THE WORLD TO ME

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Brazilian Guards for Picasso (A/P) (Alexander Meneghini)

The more reputable museums of the world have eyes watching you, as you look at pieces of art several hundred years old. Among the millions of visitors, are some who will “by any means necessary” conjure up a heist and wait for the highest buyer.

The stocking faces, ropes, crowbars, teargas; all have been used to steal art. So much so, armed guards have been placed in certain museums, for example in Brazil, where a crowbar and hydraulic jack were used to steal a Picasso.

BMA Guard Maurice Jones with Medusa, the door-knocker

At the Baltimore Museum of Art, the guards are not “strapped”, but their eyes are like radar guns, with faces that often say, “don’t you dare!”. “Did you not see that rope?”

What if though, BMA, were to change the psychology of the guard to a curator? Now the role is no longer a “nine to five” but a sleepless obsession: pieces must be acquired, faults repaired, a theme to be developed, and the collection has to be presented for the public’s acceptance or ridicule. Depending on how extensive the collection, some pieces are at times borrowed from other museums, involving financial compensation to the lenders.

The BMA decided to offer their guards an opportunity to be just that, CURATORS, this post pandemic Spring of 2022. To jump from Guards to Curators. I talked to a few:

CULTIVATING EDEN

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Adam’s new Outdoor Eden.

It is March 2022, and despite the topsy turvy weather, the landscapers, gardeners are out making preparation for Spring.

Why is man so eager to get his hands in soil, dirt, transport his seedlings from the hot house to the outhouse?

Believe it or not, soil has to do with climate change, the foundation of the eco system, and the colossal factor in reversing how we breathe and eat.

Kiss me now and live forever.

During this pandemic, we found out how weak our bodies are to combat COVID-19. Vaccines became the panacea of sorts, and right behind comes the surviving and undefeated statement, “good health to you!”; i.e., Nutrition. Two years ago, we were forced indoors, by a strain of Sars. (Covid-19). A few months after March of 2020, Climatologists measured the atmosphere, and saw how azure blue the sky was; the freshness of the air! Ahhhh!!! Pollution was down. EDEN (man’s first garden) was on its way back.

Symbols of love and diversity: the hummingbirds.

With contaminated air, for some it was difficult to breathe, severe pneumonia resulting in deaths. So, Marylanders are eagerly participating in this Edenic rebirth, getting into soil, ready to plant trees, flowers, and use solar, and kiss blissfully a new epoch.

Where would I find a collection of pioneers and stalwarts with shovels, dirt, seeds and all the paraphernalia to rebuild EDEN? At the Maryland Home and Garden Show.

king frog in his garden

Making Brush Strokes Rhyme with Raindrops

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Joan Mitchell (painter)

Can you imagine making this a reality, so much so that it would gain the applause and grand admiration of great minds of the world?

It is perhaps astonishing as when Mahatma Gandhi exchanged his English tailored suit and tie, for a simple Dhoti and Shawl.

People with such mental transformations, see a world that most of us cannot. Even though our society is not based on a caste system, our society is divided by heritage and power.

Joan Mitchell in her studio (mural size paintings) photos by Robert Freson)

How the various levels of us handle the complexities of living, can be documented with closer examination.

Frustration with lovelessness or unrequited love is exhibited by indulgence in alcohol and drugs. During the renaissance, snuff and alcohol was a choice of the few. (In the privacy of their homes or country clubs) (Dorian Gray)

The poor imbibed in public and were arrested.

In another enclave are those who found solace in nature, they became poets, writers, painters.

So, if you were a socialite and privileged person, born into wealth, and became frustrated with life, nothing could stop you from choice. You set out to be one of the first women to be admired as much as Van Gough.

The Chicago American spirit of adventure attracted you to the art world. Your lovers frustrated you, for your prowess was shackled. Hence plunging yourself into nature became your thrust.

Painting raindrops on a canvas pushed your creativity. “SUNFLOWERS ARE WONDERFUL WHEN THEY ARE YOUNG and MOVING WHEN THEY ARE DYING”.

SUNFLOWERS, by Joan Mitchell

JOAN MITCHELL made drafts 14 by 11, then expanded them to 110 inches tall. With a painter’s brush in the air, she like Mahatma wanted to create a new planet.

Love of nature drove her to take up residence in Seine France, a town of notoriety the birthplace of Monet, the famous French painter, who died in 1926. (86years old).

From the 1950’s to her death over 200 paintings, with a portion making a stop at the Baltimore Museum of Art, before moving on to Paris in the Fall, this year. (2022)

Perhaps JOAN MITCHELL wanted to be JAON of ARC, with a paint brush. (1926-1992)

Dr. Patrice Rushen Makes a House Call

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Patrice Rushen and friends (Baltimore MD.)

The pandemic has abated some, where the population can heed the call “YOU CAN COME OUT NOW!

Hence doctors have begun to resume house or home visits.

DR. PATRICE RUSHEN is one of the Chairs at the University of Southern California and was granted ambassadorial status as of 2005.

A child prodigy from the age of 3, with a birthdate the same as mine, September 30, it is no small wonder the achievement studs attached to her name, are described as “a mile long”.

In 1992, “FORGET ME NOTS” received a Grammy Award nomination. Over 15 million have seen this video. Her name is associated with spectacular works in Soul, R&B, disco, funk, film, music composition, and the only true American music, JAZZ.

So, when I heard the doctor was making a house call at Baltimore’s, KEYSTONE JAZZ CLUB, I secured an appointment. This is what she said to me:

THIS BITTER EARTH

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Tamieka Chavis (Mama) and Gerrard Taylor (son Walter Lee) star in ARAISIN IN THE SUN (Pics. by J. Lopez)

It is more like this “bitter world”. It is a “dream deferred”. In the 1970’s and 80’s, the babies of post-world war 2 had come of age, we were ready to rule the world, that our parents could not. Equality, affirmative action, education, equality, black power, afro’s, dashikis, the black handshake: open palms, up high low, elbows, slaps on the back.

It is unbelievable, that the events of the prejudicial America are being repeated in 2022. As a former President of the United States said, it is where the verb “is” in the sentence. African Americans are victims of understanding the construction of English language in its many contexts, especially when it comes to the construction and interpretation of law.

“Should we or should we not ?”; the Younger household consider the consequences.

The subtle interpretation of the 14th Amendment of the US constitution. It has become the same ploy used, when the commercials say, FREE, and in fine print, “for 30 days”. After 6 months there is this big bill you cannot pay, the interest rate skyrocketed, and you have credit card debt.

It is why Lorraine Hansberry’s play A RAISIN IN THE SUN, still has relevance; now playing at the CHESAPEAKE SHAKESPEARE THEATRE in downtown Baltimore MD.

African Americans are still “tanking” for money than principles. So few, are martyrs for “GOOD”.

See the play, written in the 1960’s, and be awakened to steadfastness, purpose and careful examination. An hour for some men to consider their legacies.

THE COLOR OF NOISE

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Picture, Courtesy of STUDIO THEATRE, of Washington D.C.

There is noise all around us. What kind depends on where you live, and in the broader scope of things where you work.

Noise can affect your income, your love life, your bank account.

This month (February 2022) there is a play staged in Washington D.C., entitled WHITE NOISE.

Question, can noise be in color? Strangely, Yes! Beethoven is classical music (white). Dizzy Gillespie (black). Different styles, different sound, different noise.

What if one is bi-racial ? the noise is PINK. ..SERIOUS!!!

White Noise was written by Suzan-Lori Parks, a black playwright, who looks multiracial. Grew up in Germany, and the United States, her dad career military. Strangely, she graduated from John Carroll High School, while her dad was stationed in Aberdeen MD.

SUZZAN LORI-PARKS (Picture by Ruth Freemason, N.Y. Times)

How then does she attack white racism (white noise) in this play? A black man is accosted by the Police, who slammed his face to the sidewalk. He is outraged, and wants revenge, and possibly call for “defunding” the police. Finally, the black victim decides that the best way to gain respect from law enforcement is to have white protection; make himself a slave to his rich white friend, therefore, the Police will not bully him, for the law will know he is a slave for the white man. He wore a white shirt with the name SLAVE written across the chest…. WHITE NOISE

There are several words for such an idea in 2022. And in Ebonics said with black noise, the charge would be vulgarity in a public place.

Ms. Parks was born in 1963 and is a Pulitzer Prize winner! “You think?!!!”

I will not comment any further about this play, except to ask, will Ms. Parks ever be nominated for the NAACP Image Awards?

NOT YOUR AUNT JEMIMA

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GON 2 Painted by Ernest Shaw Jr.

“THERE IS NO OTHER SUBJECT AS COMPLEX, MISREPRESENTED AND MISUNDERSTOOD AS HER OWN”

Part of the opening remarks embracing the brochure for Baltimore Md. Artist, ERNEST SHAW JR.

Entitled MASKED, by Ernest Shaw Jr

It is said his art is the “anthesis to whiteness”, as well as a response to racialized subjugation.

Aunt Jemima was the depiction of “subjugation” the “enslaved nanny” in the slaveowner’s kitchen, good for making pancakes, and eating them too!

Millions of bottles of pancake syrup with Jemima label, made the owners millionaires. Last year, when Pepsi Cola bought the company, they freed Jemima. Her picture with white apron, bulging cheeks, and overweight body, has been replaced with a simple label, Pearl Milling Company.

SENUFO 2020

Ernest Shaw Jr. has taken her out of the kitchen and turned her into a mural to be admired. The apron and head scarf have been thrashed, and she is now a sexual provocateur.

This liberated view went on display, this Black History Month, (Feb. 2022) at the WORLD TRADE CENTER, the INNER HARBOR, Baltimore MD.

SELF PORTRAIT, by Ernest Shaw Jr.
Nina Simone, legendary activist, and artiste par excellence, made an appearance on a T-Shit worn by DORA CARROLL

And now ,

And now the artist in his own words: