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‘Don’t Be Late for Poetry’

THE AFRO — Baltimore has some of the most talented, raw, award winning poets in the nation. In acknowledgement of National Poetry Month. The AFRO kicked off our celebration at “Don’t Be Late for Poetry,” a collaborative event hosted by one of Baltimore’s most popular poetry event curators APoetNamedNate and Dew More Baltimore, an organization that uses art as tool to increase civic engagement.

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Interview by Betty Harvin

Baltimore has some of the most talented, raw, award winning poets in the nation. In acknowledgement of National Poetry Month. The AFRO kicked off our celebration at “Don’t Be Late for Poetry,” a collaborative event hosted by one of Baltimore’s most popular poetry event curators APoetNamedNate and Dew More Baltimore, an organization that uses art as tool to increase civic engagement.

The AFRO caught up with one of Charm City’s most prolific young artists, Nia June, at the historic Arenas Players Theatre to give them a platform to share some of the thoughts and experience behind their spoken words.

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In season with Nia June

AFRO: What made you name yourself Nia June?

Nia June: Nia means purpose in Swahili and that was a big process for me because my whole life I had grown up studying dance and I thought that that was my purpose because that’s what I spent most of my time doing, but then I found poetry and that completely changed my life, so I felt like with PURPOSE NIA was the best name, and then June. So, you know the process after April, what we’re in right now, where there’s a lot of rain and the struggle to get back? I feel like June is that first month where we finally see..

AFRO: THE HARVEST….

NJ: YEAH! Like we finally see all of this hard work and growth and change that we just went through, and that’s a big part of me and I feel like that’s another thing that happened with the poetry, I did all of this transformation just to find my voice. So yeah, that’s what Nia June means.

AFRO: So on stage I was captured by all of your words and most of it was the system and not only that but the school, politics, poverty, and plagues that reign in our city. What I want to know is what inspired you? Those things seem like they inspire you the most, but what made you want to come out of your shell and talk about those the most?

NJ: I would say the passing of my father. We all assumed he was clean so it was very rough, it was unexpected and I think finding out that he had been dealing with that and so many mental illnesses. He was living in a very poor community in Baltimore and he was deprived of a lot of things he deserved like basic necessities, you know, food, just nurturing, you know, energy and things like that. I realized that within that community there are a lot of people who have this exact same story, whose voices are not being heard so that was my biggest inspiration. That piece about my dad was the first piece that I wrote and then it all just came flowing from there and that’s my biggest inspiration and now I actually teach kids in Baltimore City, so hearing their stories as well as another layer of inspiration there and stories that need to be heard.

AFRO: The end of your segment, the poem that was about the Baltimore City Schools City system, the poem that was about the biggot, I love the way that you shared that that poem would be entered into the seventh grade curriculum, can you tell us a little bit about that?

NJ: Yeah so, that was an amazing experience, so it started off with a teacher,he heard the poem and really liked it, his name is Mr. O. He works at City Springs and he had his class do a socratic seminar through poem and the kids loved it They dissected it and from the poem, they came to the conclusion that the school system was kinda set up to lead the kids to prison; the School to Prison pipeline. They actually wrote policy changes in a paragraph quoting my poem and presented it to their principal.

AFRO: Wow, that is the power of one voice, with the intention to inspire the masses of the children and you got to see what that turned out to look like. For you to be inspired by those same children and for them to be inspired by you and to identify with your words and see that in their own stories is amazing.

NJ: Yeah, they pulled out the policies that were similar to prison like the bathrooms being locked, the uniforms, not being able to travel places on your own. They had to have their cell phones locked up, so all of these things they felt were restricting them and that manifested into him ultimately submitting the poem to the district to be included into the curriculum.

This article originally appeared in The Afro

Art

Four Seasons Announces Artists for 2022-23 Season

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport, violinist, launches Four Seasons Arts Season on Saturday, October 8, at 3:00, with a program entitled: “Around the World in 70 Minutes.” She will be joined by pianist Elena Cholakova. The program includes works by Florence Price, Juan Antonio Cuellar, Igor Frolov, Jennifer Higdon, and Robert Aldridge.

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The Kanari Saxophone Quartet returns to the Bay Area on Jan. 26, 2023, to deliver a performance that transforms the perception of the saxophone.
The Kanari Saxophone Quartet returns to the Bay Area on Jan. 26, 2023, to deliver a performance that transforms the perception of the saxophone.

By Mary Jo Hudgel

Four Seasons Arts announces its 2022-2023 annual series of music. Programming emphasizes classical music compositions with contemporary works incorporated. The series intentionally offers an inclusive roster of artists that reflects racial, ethnic, and musical diversity.

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport

Violinist Angango Yarbo-Davenport, launches Four Seasons Arts Season on Saturday, October 8, at 3:00, with a program entitled: “Around the World in 70 Minutes.” She will be joined by pianist Elena Cholakova. The program includes works by Florence Price, Juan Antonio Cuellar, Igor Frolov, Jennifer Higdon, and Robert Aldridge.

The Kanari Saxophone Quartet returns to the Bay Area on Jan. 26, 2023, to deliver a performance that transforms the perception of the saxophone. The quartet aims to highlight the instrument’s remarkable versatility by presenting meticulously crafted repertoire from all periods of classical and contemporary music.

Both concerts will be held at: St. John’s Presbyterian Church, 2727 College Ave., in Berkeley.

Four Seasons has scheduled other chamber music events with the Viano String Quartet; the Park Brothers Guitar Duo; Piano Duo Beaux Arts; Thomas Mesa and Ilya Yakushev Piano/Cello Duo; and solo artists Jennifer Ellis, Harp, Amadi Azikiwe, Viola, and Thomas Buckner, a pioneer in performing and commissioning New Music.

A complete listing of Four Seasons Arts concerts can be viewed at www.fsarts.org. Concerts are presented in Berkeley at St. John’s Presbyterian Church and the Berkeley Piano Club.

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Art

Oakland Featured in Film “Bottled Spirits” at Oregon Shakespeare, Premiering Sept. 2 on Live Stream

With an almost all-Black cast and crew, “Bottled Spirits” tells the story of 50-something Louise, a native of West Oakland, a community once known as the Harlem of the West. Gentrification has turned her beloved community into unfriendly and unrecognizable territory, and the weight of being Black in America now threatens to crush her.

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Oakland is featured in a powerful new film, “Bottled Spirits,” premiering at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on Sept. 2. (Pictured: Cat Brooks and Margo Hall)
Oakland is featured in a powerful new film, “Bottled Spirits,” premiering at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on Sept. 2. (Pictured: Cat Brooks and Margo Hall)

By Post Staff

Oakland is featured in a powerful new film, “Bottled Spirits,” premiering at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival on Sept. 2.

Three Black artists who live and work in Oakland — actress Margo Hall, writer Cat Brooks, and director Elizabeth Carter — teamed up with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and International Production Company Black Lives Black Words to bring to life this tale of Oakland’s soul.

With an almost all-Black cast and crew, “Bottled Spirits” tells the story of 50-something Louise, a native of West Oakland, a community once known as the Harlem of the West. Gentrification has turned her beloved community into unfriendly and unrecognizable territory, and the weight of being Black in America now threatens to crush her.

She straps on the daily armor of alcohol, cigarettes, and a sharp tongue to block out the constant ache of losing everything that ever mattered. On this day, however, a door she has been banging on for years magically opens, an ancestor arrives to help, and Louise battles her demons — and herself — in a desperate attempt to find the courage to walk the difficult path toward redemption.

The film is the first installment of the Black Lives, Black Words’ Films for the People series.

Said lead actress Margo Hall, “Working on Bottled Spirits allowed me to channel all of the souls of West Oakland. To be inside Esther’s Orbit, and to sit on 7th street where the Panthers marched-ignited something inside of me, that was familiar, frightening, and exalting. I was transported and transformed. Louise is now in me.”

Cat Brooks, writer, said: “This is my love letter to Oakland. I am so grateful to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Black Lives Black Words for this opportunity.  Most importantly, I am grateful to this town for embracing me, sharing its stories and struggles with me and allowing me the privilege of calling Oakland home.”

Director Elizabeth Carter said: “I am beyond thrilled to be directing “Bottled Spirits” for Films for the People. This effort conceived by Black Lives Black Words International Project (Simellia Hodge-Dalloway and Reginald Edmunds) and co-produced with Oregon Shakespeare Festival (Nataki Garrett) is a dream come true.

You can watch a live steam showing of the film, Friday 2, Sept. 2, at 6 p.m. at

https://www.stellartickets.com/…/films-for-the-people. Tickets are $20.

After the screening, VIP ticket-holders (cost $40 for all access) can hear from Cat Brooks and director Elizabeth Carter, and more.Lives, Black Word

For more information: www.osfashland.org/productions/2022-digital/films-for-the-people

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Exhibit by Renowned Black Photographer David Johnson Opens at S.F. City Hall

“David Johnson: In the Zone (1945-1965),” is an exhibition that is being displayed through January 6, 2023, at San Francisco City Hall. It will feature 65 photographic works on loan from UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, which houses David Johnson’s vast archive of over 5,000 photographic prints and negatives, according to the SFAC news release.

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From top left: “We Demand” San Francisco City Hall, 1963 (pinterest.com), “Dancing at a Joint,” 1950 (sfgate.com), “Rhythm Records, 1890 Sutter Street,” 1947 (library.ucmerced.edu), “Camille Howard,” 1947 (www.apogeephoto.com), “Boys and Flag,” Hunters Point, 1947 (kqed.org), David Johnson in 2010 (www.wikiwand.com)
From top left: “We Demand” San Francisco City Hall, 1963 (pinterest.com), “Dancing at a Joint,” 1950 (sfgate.com), “Rhythm Records, 1890 Sutter Street,” 1947 (library.ucmerced.edu), “Camille Howard,” 1947 (www.apogeephoto.com), “Boys and Flag,” Hunters Point, 1947 (kqed.org), David Johnson in 2010 (www.wikiwand.com)

By Godfrey Lee

The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) Galleries is presenting “David Johnson: In the Zone (1945-1965),” an exhibition that is being displayed through January 6, 2023, at San Francisco City Hall.

It will feature 65 photographic works on loan from UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library, which houses David Johnson’s vast archive of over 5,000 photographic prints and negatives, according to the SFAC news release.

The exhibition will be on display on the Ground Floor and in the North Light Court, and will be free and open to the public, Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m., City Hall, located at 1 Dr Carlton B Goodlett Place, is closed on Saturday, Sunday, and legal holidays.

“At this stage in my life, it is truly an honor to have this inaugural retrospective of my life’s work shown in the city’s most iconic building, SF City Hall. The SFAC Galleries’ recognition that my historic point of view remains relevant even in today’s cultural and political landscape deeply warms my heart and gives meaning to the sacrifice it took to achieve it,” said Johnson, who lives in Greenbrae with his wife, Jacqueline Annette Sue.

Johnson was born on Aug. 3, 1926, near Jacksonville, FL. After serving in the Navy during World War II, he moved to San Francisco to study at the California School of Fine Arts (later renamed the San Francisco Art Institute) in its newly formed Photography Department led by renowned photographer Ansel Adams. Johnson was the first Black artist to graduate during what is now known as the program’s “Golden Decade” from 1945 to 1955.

Johnson, 95, is recognized as one of the most important photographers to document the joys and struggles of formative decades in San Francisco’s storied history, focusing his camera on day-to-day life, with special emphasis on the Black community in his Fillmore District neighborhood from 1945 into the 1960s, before redevelopment in the 1970s changed the demographic of the community forever.

He photographed passers-by as well as friends, gathering spots like churches and barbershops, children playing and teens hanging out, dance halls and jazz clubs, and the fight for civil rights.

“David Johnson is a pioneer, not only for his work behind the camera lens, but for his advocacy and leadership,” said Ralph Remington, SFAC’s director of Cultural Affairs. “Thanks to David, we have these beautiful images to look back on and learn from, showing us how far we’ve come, how much has changed and how much more we still have to fight for.”

Johnson opened a photography studio on Divisadero Street in 1949, and worked as a post office clerk, and as a reporter for the Sun Reporter. Johnson was also an organizer and civic leader who worked to unionize postal service workers, co-found UCSF’s Black Caucus, and photograph the March on Washington for the NAACP. He ran for San Francisco County Sheriff and later become a social worker for foster families.

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