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Bob Marley Musical Tries to Help Heal an Uneasy Baltimore

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This image released by Center Stage shows Mitchell Brunings during a performance of the musical "Marley." (Richard Anderson/Center Stage via AP)

This image released by Center Stage shows Mitchell Brunings during a performance of the musical “Marley.” (Richard Anderson/Center Stage via AP)

MARK KENNEDY, AP Drama Writer

NEW YORK (AP) — Most theater professionals like to say that whatever they’re working on is very relevant to what’s going on in the real world. That was not possibly more true than in Baltimore this spring.

The city’s flagship theater, Center Stage, debuted a musical about reggae icon and civil rights activist Bob Marley during the city’s spasm of violence and peaceful protests following the death of Freddie Gray in police custody.

Several preview performances for the musical “Marley” were lost amid protests marching near the theater and the actors had to rush to finish rehearsals early on several evenings to accommodate a city-wide curfew.

There were soldiers, horses and armored vehicles in the streets and helicopters in the air as the cast and crew tried to finish a work that highlighted the life of a singer who demanded social justice and freedom for black people.

A new framing scene was added to the play in which two black men watch footage of the Baltimore protests on a smartphone, making the connection between the two movements clear. On May 2, the cast went out into the streets to give a free concert, including singing “One Love” to try to heal the city.

“When real life is happening around you and you’re trying to produce art, you have to submit to real life and have faith,” said Kwame Kwei-Armah, Center Stage’s artistic director who also wrote and directed the Marley musical.

“I’m not sure in my life that I’ll ever feel that connected or ever feel that blessed or ever feel that visceral call that theater is about the here and now.”

The musical focuses on the years 1975 to 1978, when Marley survived an attempted assassination in Jamaica and went into exile in London. It’s the first time a stage musical has used both Marley’s songs and his life story.

The musical features mid-’70s Marley albums as “Exodus,” ”Kaya,” and “Rastaman Vibration,” which include the songs “Jamming,” ”Three Little Birds” and “Roots, Rock, Reggae.” Mitchell Brunings portrays the title character.

Kwei-Armah played Marley’s song “Burnin’ and Lootin'” on his way into work on the night of the first curfew. The song’s lyrics were prescient: This morning I woke up in a curfew/Oh God, I was a prisoner, too/Could not recognize the faces standing over me/They were all dressed in uniforms of brutality.”

“Somebody wrote these lyrics 30 years ago, somebody tapped into something 30, 40 years ago and it’s more applicable than some of the work I’ve done throughout all of my life,” said Kwei-Armah. “It’s humbling and beautiful. It validates for me why I’m doing theater.”

Suzette Newman, an executive producer of “Marley,” said she is working to get the musical on the road after it ends its run in Baltimore on June 14. “We absolutely hope that it will travel and go elsewhere. We’re in the process of those discussions right now,” she said.

Until then, she and Kwei-Armah watch nightly as the audience goes from punching the air with “Get Up, Stand Up” to joining the actors onstage in the show’s emotional climax with “One Love.”

“The power of Bob hits me afresh nearly every night. Suzette and I are standing at the back, seeing the audience as they respond and run onto the stage to sing with the cast ‘One Love’ in a city that needs to be one and healed,” said Kwei-Armah.

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Online: http://centerstage.org

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Business

Mayor Breed, Supervisor Mar Launch Grant to Support Storefronts Impacted by Vandalism

Up to $2,000 in financial relief available to repair storefront vandalism at neighborhood businesses

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SF Storefront Vandalism Grant Program Banner/Photo Courtesy of City of San Francisco Office of Economic and Workforce Development

Mayor London N. Breed and Supervisor Gordon Mar announced Wednesday the launch of the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant program, which provides up to $2,000 in financial relief to restore and repair damages from vandalism at neighborhood storefronts. The program launches during a time when many small businesses are recovering from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Opening and operating a successful small business in San Francisco was becoming increasingly difficult, and the pandemic has made it that much harder,” said Breed. “It has never been more critical for us to provide support to our small businesses in every way that we can, which not only means making it easier to open and operate a small business, but also providing relief when they face challenges. With the launch of the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant, we are letting our small business community know that we have their back and will fight to ensure that they can continue operating for years to come.”

The Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant provides financial relief to restore small businesses impacted by deliberate actions that result in the destruction or damages of storefronts. This program will offer either $1,000 or $2,000, depending on the total cost incurred to repair physical damages. The $1 million program is designed to serve more than 500 small businesses with gross revenue of less than $8 million that can provide proof of damages from vandalism incurred since July 1, 2020.

The fund will directly support small businesses with financial relief in the aftermath of a crime to restore the harm done. The fund will also allow small businesses to make improvements that enhance security and prevent crime. This includes replacement locks, a new security gate, fixing an alarm system, adding new lighting, replacing windows, etchings on windows, and many others. Improvements are available on a first-come-first-serve basis, based on fund availability.

The Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant is one tool in preventing crime and improving safety in neighborhood commercial corridors. The Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) also funds programs to help small businesses and neighborhood organizations improve safety through ambassadors and activations to increase foot traffic and community patrols. The fund is not meant to replace the loss of stolen goods and does not include damage to shared spaces.

“During the pandemic, we’ve seen a surge in burglaries and vandalism in every neighborhood targeting small businesses already struggling with unprecedented economic challenges. As we work to prevent these crimes and strengthen safety on our commercial corridors, we must also respond immediately to provide relief to mom-and-pop businesses with direct and tangible support as they recover from these incidents,” said Mar. 

“Following requests from businesses in the Sunset, I worked with Mayor Breed and the Office of Economic and Workforce Development to create the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant and secured an initial $1 million funding allocation,” said Mar. “The fund will provide financial relief to small businesses in the aftermath of a crime to restore the harm done, including direct costs of property damage or getting a replacement lock or new security measures.”

To apply, eligible businesses are asked to provide receipts, photos of damages and furnish a report from the San Francisco Police Department or from 311 in the case of graffiti. Applications can be found by visiting oewd.org/VandalismRelief.

“On February 26 at 4:00 a.m., a burglar managed to break into my small business without activating the alarm. An hour later an opportunistic looter came into my store and stole additional merchandise. Small businesses are already hurting hard from the pandemic and these crimes are a gut punch to small businesses,” said Michael Hsu, owner of Footprint on Taraval.  

“Since hearing about the Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant, I’ve put in my application to get up to $2,000 to help provide some relief to my business. We need more programs like this to support small businesses in our neighborhood that are struggling from being victims of burglary and vandalism. I’m thankful for our city leaders for initiating this program. Together with the community and leaders, we will get through these tough times.”

“Since the pandemic, I have heard so many stories from small businesses that have been burglarized or vandalized. As a small business owner, myself, I feel and understand their pain and loss,” said Albert Chow, president of People of the Parkside Sunset, a Taraval merchants and residents association. “The Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant is a safety net that is critical to ensuring that our small business owners are able to recover.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, San Francisco has provided immediate and ongoing support for small businesses, including making available more than $52.8 million in grants and loans to support more than 3,000 small businesses, in addition to tens of millions of dollars in fee and tax deferrals, and assistance applying for state and federal funding. This includes legislation introduced and signed by Mayor Breed to waive $5 million in fees and taxes for entertainment and nightlife venues and small restaurants.

“As we reopen and rebuild, many of our small businesses continue to struggle to make ends meet. These challenges can feel almost insurmountable when small businesses also become victims of vandalism” said Kate Sofis, director of the Office of Economic and Workforce Development.  “San Francisco’s Storefront Vandalism Relief Grant will help alleviate the financial hardship caused by deliberate acts of damage to property. It is one of many tools the City has to support our business community and the vibrancy of our neighborhoods as we work together towards economic recovery.”

“The San Francisco Post’s coverage of local news in San Francisco County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.”

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Community

Dr. Kimberly Mayfield Named VP for External Relations at Holy Names University

Holy Names University (HNU) has appointed Dr. Kimberly Mayfield as vice president for External Relations and Strategic Partnerships. 

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Dr. Kimberly Mayfield.

Holy Names University (HNU) has appointed Dr. Kimberly Mayfield as vice president for External Relations and Strategic Partnerships. 

In her new role, Dr. Mayfield will spearhead work to develop partnerships with elected officials and government offices, community-based organizations, businesses, and foundations that provide meaningful opportunities for students and employers while raising the profile of the university.

“We couldn’t have found a more capable leader in the areas of external relations and strategic partnerships than Dr. Mayfield,” said HNU President Mike Groener. “As an educator, administrator, and activist, she lives out our founding mission in her work every day and understands the importance of values-driven, authentic, relationship building.”

Said Mayfield, “I truly look forward to revealing the greatness of Holy Names University to more community members by telling our story, revitalizing relationships, and revolutionizing education by cultivating vibrant, innovative experiences for students.”

Mayfield has a 30-year history with Holy Names University that began as a student in the University’s Multiple-Subject Credential program. After teaching in the Oakland Unified School District for 11 years and earning her Education Specialist Credential, Master of Education degree, and Doctorate in Learning and Instruction from USF, she returned to HNU to teach as an adjunct professor.

She became a full-time professor in 2001 and Dean of the School of Education in 2017. In the summer of 2021, Mayfield was appointed to lead External Relations and Strategic Partnerships in addition to her role as Dean of the School of Education. 

Mayfield’s research interests and activism include creating a permanent diverse teaching force and addressing the disproportionate over-representation of African American males in special education.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Commentary

Biden, Vax Americana, and What the Recall Could Mean in COVID-19 Wars

Masking works. You can see it working. Vaccines work too, but we’re on the honor system for that. And people lie or show a fake vax cards. 

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COVID/Photo Courtesy of Stacy M. Brown NNPA Newswire 

At Oakland’s Stagebridge, I taught a class this year. One of my students couldn’t make the final. The student had COVID.

I don’t know if the student was vaccinated or whether this was a breakthrough case. But the fact remains, the COVID war must be our No. 1 priority—no matter how many people you see on TV at football games and sporting events unmasked. 

Masking works. You can see it working. Vaccines work too, but we’re on the honor system for that. And people lie or show a fake vax cards. 

This is why President Joe Biden’s speech last week, what I call his “Vax Americana” speech was so much more important than people want to admit.

It was his first get tough moment. And it reminded me of the phrase, “Pax Americana,” from post-World War II in 1945 to describe how the U.S. used its dominance to bring peace and prosperity to the world. 

After months of “nice,” Biden was a little less nice ordering federal workers to get vaxed, and OSHA to lean on employers with 100 workers to mandate vaccinations.

But all you need to remember from the speech was the last line, when Biden in a hushed, aggressive whisper said, “Get vaccinated.” 

What are you waiting for—a death bed conversion? 

It’s time to get serious about public health, about caring for our country and each other. 

We can end the war on COVID if we all do our part, masked and vaxed. 

I wonder if Biden knows about a non-profit in Stockton called Little Manila Rising

“Someone Pulled a Gun” 

You know what guns do to a situation. In the COVID wars, the anti-vaxers are insane. 

One of the handful of Filipino American canvassers for Little Manila Rising going door to door to provide the public with good information, got a rude greeting from an anti-vaxer.

“A gun!” said Amy Portello-Nelson, the head of the Get-Out-The-Vaccine drive in Stockton. The canvassers are armed only with information. No one was hurt, but you see how dangerous fighting COVID can be when you’re armed only with facts. 

Here’s what Little Manila Rising’s done in two months on the job. It has knocked on more than 32,000 doors and had 20,000 conversations. The area they’ve worked has gone from a vaccination rate of 32% to more than 50%. 

Talking to people and telling them to get vax works. It’s how we’re going to get back to normal. It’s going to take a “Vax Americana” effort.

The Recall

Of course, whatever happens with this gubernatorial recall will determine how quickly the state gets to the 70%-80% rate that gives us an effective herd immunity. 

My deadline is before any official recall results. And even then, mail-in ballots with a September 16 postmark will take time to be counted. 

The talk of voter fraud is greatly exaggerated. There’s more rhetorical fraud than anything else. 

With more than 8 million ballots in already, unless there’s a strange crossover vote, the Democrats should continue in power. 

But let’s say the recall succeeds and a person with the most votes among 46 also-rans becomes the new governor, it would not bode well for the state.

The Black conservative Larry Elder was leading among those who want to replace Governor Gavin Newsom.

Elder is an anti-vaxxer and has espoused views indicating that – under his leadership– California would look a lot more like Alabama, Texas, Louisiana and Florida on the COVID map. 

That would be the real monumental tragedy for California and for Vax Americana. 

Let’s face it, the political virus unleashed by the Republicans on our democracy is worse than COVID. 

The recall effort needs to die a natural death this week.

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