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Ford Theatres presents Meshell Ndegeocello

PRECINCT REPORTER GROUP NEWS — Ford Theatres presents visionary vocalist and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello who performs songs from her GRAMMY®-nominated album Ventriloquism, as well as a selection of her favorites, on Saturday, July 13 at 8:00 pm as part of its IGNITE @ the FORD! series.

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By Precinct Reporter News

Ford Theatres presents visionary vocalist and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello who performs songs from her GRAMMY®-nominated album Ventriloquism, as well as a selection of her favorites, on Saturday, July 13 at 8:00 pm as part of its IGNITE @ the FORD! series.

Musically, Ventriloquism has the hallmarks of all of Ndegeocello’s work — lush and investigative, subversive and sublime. As always, she pays tribute to her diverse influences and in these cover songs, listeners hear them layered over one another. The reimagining deconstructs and comments on the narrow expectation of sound and structure for black artists and black music, while offering a musical refuge during these uncertain times. Ventriloquism is released 25 years after her GRAMMY®-nominated debut album Plantation Lullabies.

In awarding Ndegeocello the 2019 Herb Alpert Award in the Arts prize for music, Vijay Iyer called her, “a rare constellation in the artistic firmament, whose generosity of spirit defies the confines of genre and whose work dwells in both darkness and deliverance.”

Chuck Arnold in The New York Post said of Ventriloquism, “She arrived at the concept for the LP — on which she radically reinvents such classics as Sade’s ‘Smooth Operator’ and George Clinton’s ‘Atomic Dog’ — during a difficult period about two and a half years ago when her father, saxophonist Jacques Johnson, passed away . . . this is a record about, and full of, transformation. These are well-loved songs that Ndegeocello loves a little bit more, singing them with a rich, warm tone (she’s never sounded better) and backed by a band who know how to anticipate every bob and weave she might make. It’s one of her best.”

Ndegeocello herself said, “I would go to my parents’ house, and my mother’s car radio only played the oldies station.  So I just was listening to all the songs I grew up with. I’d be awash in memories . . . those are all the songs I would listen to at my parents’ house to make me feel better.”

She said a Billboard interview, “The covers idea was more so the result of a very intense year I experienced with the death of a parent and the dementia of another. And it was nice to just sit with tunes that you love and you know in and out in an emotional way. It was cathartic for me to try to give them another life, these songs.”

Charlotte Richardson Andrews said in The Guardian said, “These are bold offerings – creative, unpredictable and rich with Ndegeocello’s sensual contralto. There is intention here, a subtle, transformative magic . . . there’s no denying the originality on offer here, from this rightly revered music game outlier.”

Brad Nelson of Pitchfork said, “A cover is an act of scholarship, an act of criticism, an act of intimacy. An act of love. Tackling a range of R&B radio hits from the 1980s and 1990s, Meshell Ndegeocello treats the practice of covering another’s songs as an act of intimacy and empathy. She doesn’t perform these songs as much as she renovates them from surface to center, peeling away wallpaper, pushing furniture around, crumpling and discarding any unnecessary dimensional space until she figures out what kind of room the song is.”

Thomas Inskeep in Spin said, “Prince’s ‘Sometimes It Snows in April’ is the centerpiece of the album, a fitting tribute as we approach the second anniversary of his death. Ndegeocello’s take is . . . hushed, almost religious — you know the line in ‘Maria,’ from West Side Story, ‘Say it soft, and it’s almost like praying’? That’s the impact here: it sounds like a prayer to and for Prince.”

Ventriloquism is a place, like its process, to take refuge from one storm too many. “The year around the recording of this album was so disorienting and dispiriting for me personally and for so many people I know and spoke to all the time,” she said. “I looked for a way to make something that was light while things around me were so dark, a musical place to go that reminded me of another, brighter time.”

“Early on in my career, I was told to make the same kind of album again and again, and when I didn’t do that, I lost support. There isn’t much diversity within genres, which are ghettoizing themselves, and I liked the idea of turning hits I loved into something even just a little less familiar or formulaic. It was an opportunity to pay a new kind of tribute.”

This event is part of IGNITE @ the FORD!, a series comprised of world-renowned contemporary artists whose work is thought provoking and reflects the world in which we live. Proceeds from IGNITE @ the FORD! events benefit the Ford Theatre Foundation. Tickets are available online at FordTheatres.org and by phone (323) 461-3673. Ford Theatres is located at 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood, CA 90068.

This article originally appeared in the Precinct Reporter Group News

Art

Mayor London Breed Announces Over $12 Million In Funding for Arts Organizations

Grants for the Arts funding priorities the City’s commitment to economic recovery and community activation by supporting local parades and festivals

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Female Artist Works on Abstract Oil Painting, Moving Paint Brush Energetically She Creates Modern Masterpiece. Dark Creative Studio where Large Canvas Stands on Easel Illuminated. Low Angle Close-up

Mayor London N. Breed and City Administrator Carmen Chu announced on Monday over $12 million in general operating support grants to fund arts and cultural organizations. This year’s Grants for the Arts (GFTA) funding is primarily dedicated to the general operating support for arts organizations and also aims to support community parades and festivals to help restore the City’s cultural vibrancy and drive its economic recovery.

“We know that the pandemic has been hard on all of us, but it has been especially difficult for our city’s artists and cultural organizations,” said Breed. “The arts are part of what makes San Francisco so special and create an inclusive atmosphere for all who live in and visit our city. During this critical time in our economic recovery, we need to do everything we can to bring back our community festivals that are loved by so many, and support those who contribute to our city’s vibrant culture.”

As president of the Board of Supervisors, Breed spearheaded Proposition E, which was passed by voters in 2018 and allocated 1.5% of hotel tax revenue to the arts. Due to the loss of hotel tax revenues brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, Breed allocated funding from the General Fund to backfill losses during this year’s budget cycle. Breed’s budget for Fiscal Year 2021-2022 also includes $12 million for GFTA to support arts organizations, as well as parades and festivals.

“Cultural festivals and arts have always been an essential part of San Francisco’s vibrant community. They draw people to San Francisco, bring communities together, and in many ways, define our experiences here,” said City Administrator Carmen Chu. “Supporting our arts organizations during these challenging times is key to our City’s recovery.”

The City Administrator manages GFTA, a program that has provided a stable and dependable source for general operating costs to support the City’s arts and cultural organizations since 1961. Since its inception, GFTA has distributed over $400 million to hundreds of arts non-profits and cultural organizations. GFTA funds over 250 arts organizations each fiscal year, including those organizing and supporting parades and festivals throughout the City.

Committed to serving San Francisco’s diverse communities, this is the first year GFTA implemented a funding process that used a strong equity lens to focus on art organizations deeply rooted in and serving diverse populations.

“Having art and cultural events around every corner in the City is why people live here and it’s why people from all over the world visit San Francisco. Art and culture is the soul of San Francisco,” said Vallie Brown, director of Grants for the Arts. “As San Francisco slowly comes out of our long COVID nap, it’s vital that we support our arts organizations and our community’s parades and festivals.”

“Cultural live music and dance has been missing from our community throughout the pandemic,” says Roberto Hernandez, CEO of Carnaval San Francisco. “We appreciate Mayor Breed and Grants for the Arts for providing funding for all communities as we begin to recover and heal.”

In addition to parades and festivals, GFTA funds other essential arts activities, specifically those that capture and reflect the experiences of the City’s diverse communities, including BIPOC and LGBTQ communities and cross-cultural collaborations.

“We are blessed to live in one of the best cities in the world that cares about BIPOC stories, artists, and arts organizations by putting actionable effort into funding them,” says Rodney Earl Jackson Jr., artistic director of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company (SFBATCO). SFBATCO is a Black, Latin, Asian-led non-profit organization producing compelling theater that builds community, fosters cross-cultural dialogue, and promotes social justice.

A complete list of GFTA’s Fiscal Year 2022 grants can be found here.

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Art

Healing Through Art at West Oakland’s Alena Museum

The Alena Museum is a Black-led, 501(c) 3 non-profit that provides services in health and wellness through experience installations, Black sanctuary gardens, community space access, and an Art Residency (mentorship).

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The Alena Museum/Photo Courtesy of Alena Museum Facebook

Development has come at the cost of Black health, land ownership and belonging.

The Alena Museum in Oakland gives African American residents a way to heal through the medium of art “by providing critical, safe spaces for the African diaspora the Black community can express and cultivate their cultural identity in the face of gentrification. 

The Alena Museum is a Black-led, 501(c) 3 non-profit that provides services in health and wellness through experience installations, Black sanctuary gardens, community space access, and an Art Residency (mentorship).

Through the group’s public art activism, they teach cultural preservation and cultivation with an Afrofuturism ownership model to promote cultural equity with the goal to reclaim urban landscape and gain creative control in real estate development. Through restorative justice art, the Alena Museum educates the community on urban planning; how it works and how to become involved. 

The Alena Museum’s most recent project, “Magnolia Street” began in March of 2020. According to the website, “Magnolia Street is an experiential installation following Alena Museum’s land libration journey. From holding space for African Diaspora creatives, to confronting gentrification in practice, the story of Magnolia Street channels the spirit of Oakland’s Black Resistance movement into the present through Alena Museum’s eyes. Our story roots Black Power into any land we activate, including this one.”

The Alena Museum was evicted from their 8th Street site in West Oakland and is now located at 2725 Magnolia St, Oakland, CA 94607. 

If you would like to reach out to the Alena Museum you can email them at info@alenamuseum.org. To check out the latest, visit them on Instagram and Facebook. If you would like to support their vision, visit the support page.

Information in this article was sourced from the Alena Museum website. 

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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David Drake: A Potter Who Inscribed His Work With Poetry

It was August 16, 1857. David Drake (c. 1800– c. 1870s), an enslaved African American, had just completed a 19-inch greenware pot. On it he inscribed: “I wonder where is all my relations / Friendship to all and every nation.”

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A pot created by David Drake. Wikipedia photo.

It was August 16, 1857. David Drake (c. 1800– c. 1870s), an enslaved African American, had just completed a 19-inch greenware pot. On it he inscribed: “I wonder where is all my relations / Friendship to all and every nation.”
According to some collectors and scholars, this message demonstrates “Drake questioning his heritage and personal history … signifies [his] positivity despite facing the many brutalities of slavery, including the loss of personal identity.” Further, by etching what is clearly a personal expression, Drake defied a South Carolina law forbidding Blacks to read and write.
South Carolina’s Negro Act of 1740, prohibited educating enslaved Africans, punishable by a fine of 100 pounds and six months in prison. Most Southern states in the early 1800s restricted Black literacy.
Drake’s date of birth is unclear. It is said that it was during the first half of 1800. The first legal record of him (June 13, 1818) describes “a boy about 17 years old country born … mortgaged to Eldrid Simkins by Harvey Drake.”
The (Harvey) Drake family owned a plantation in Edgefield, S.C. The term “country born” refers to enslaved Blacks born in the United States rather than Africa. David Drake lived and worked in Edgefield’s pottery factories for almost all his life.
David Drake was first enslaved by Harvey Drake, who alongside Abner Landrum, owned a large pottery business. Known to be a religious man, Landrum was the publisher of a local newspaper, The Edgefield Hive. Scholars speculate that he taught Drake to read the Bible, even if doing so was a punishable offense.
After Harvey Drake’s death, David Drake was enslaved by Landrum. In 1846, Landrum passed away. Drake was then purchased and enslaved by Landrum’s son Franklin, who was abusive. While owned by Franklin, Drake never inscribed his works. But Drake’s life, his works, blossomed in 1849, when he was sold to Lewis Miles.
Miles owned the pottery factory, Stony Bluff. There Drake created his best works once again inscribed with poetry. The number of pieces produced increased from one every few years to seven in 1859. Having produced alkaline-glazed stoneware jugs between the 1820s and the 1870s, Drake is recognized as the first enslaved potter to inscribe his work. He became a free man when the Civil War closed (1865).
According to Drake scholar Jill Beute Koverman, Drake created “more than 40,000 pieces over his lifetime.”
When Drake was alive, his pots sold for around 50 cents. Today they fetch as much as $50,000 and have auctioned for as much as $369,000. A butter churn with the inscription “This is a noble churn / fill it up it will never turn,” sold for $130,000.
Various collections including his work can be viewed at museums including the Smithsonian collection of the National Museum of American History in Wash., D.C.
It is thought that Drake died in the 1870s because according to scholars, “he is not found in the 1880 census.”

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