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Psalmayene 24 Tackles Complex Issues with Pieces Inspired by “Native Son”

THE AFRO — The Mosaic Theater, at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE, is tackling complex subjects and complicated work with the arrival of “Native Son” written by playwright Nambi E. Kelley, and adapted for the stage from Richard Wright’s classic source material, the novel “Native Son.”

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By George Kevin Jordan

The Mosaic Theater, at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE, is tackling complex subjects and complicated work with the arrival of “Native Son” written by playwright Nambi E. Kelley, and adapted for the stage from Richard Wright’s classic source material, the novel “Native Son.”

The website describes the play like so: “Richard Wright’s iconic novel about oppression, freedom, and justice comes to life on stage in this ground-breaking adaptation. Suffocating in rat-infested poverty on the South Side of Chicago in the 1930s, 20-year-old Bigger Thomas struggles to find a place for himself in a world whose prejudice has shut him out. After taking a job in a wealthy white man’s house, Bigger unwittingly unleashes a series of events that violently and irrevocably seal his fate. Adapted with theatrical ingenuity by Chicago’s own Nambi E. Kelley, this Native Son captures the power of Richard Wright’s novel for a whole new generation.”

For renowned playwright, director and actor Psalmayene 24, who will direct “Native Son,” the production had some interesting creative twists and turns. Originally he was tapped by the Mosaic’s founding artistic director Ari Roth to direct a workshop reading of “Native Son” about a year and a half ago. But because of timing of the original play and concerns the source material, particularly the way some characters are portrayed, Psalmayene 24 was asked to write a response play inspired by the criticism author/playwright James Baldwin had for Wright’s “Native Son.”

Since the original play was not quite ready yet, Psalmayene 24’s piece was also bumped up to full production. Hence “Les Deux Noirs: Notes on Notes of a Native Son” emerged as the companion play.

The Mosaic Theater describes Les Deux this way: “Set in the legendary Parisian café Les Deux Magots in 1953, Les Deux Noirs: Notes on Notes of A Native Son reimagines the meeting between Native Son author Richard Wright and essayist/activist James Baldwin. It explores the tension between Baldwin’s searing critiques of Native Son and Wright’s unbridled indignation in response—a confrontation between two mighty African-American artists, with echoes of a present-day rap battle.”

Psalmayene 24 said he understand why some people may have been troubled with Wright’s work.

“Part of the reason why I think people have challenges with the source material is because Richard Wright wrote a piece that people would be forced to grapple with until societal circumstances had changed,” he said. “I feel his uncompromising willingness to tell the truth about the African-American experience is something a lot of people can’t face even today.”

“Unfortunately as time moves on “Native Son seems more relevant today than it did when it came out in 1940.”

For Psalmayene 24, his journey to become one of the District’s premiere writers and directors, has been informative and transformational. His resume shows someone embedded in the DMV theater scene. His directing credits include ”Word Becomes Flesh,” (Helen Hayes Award winner for Outstanding Direction,Play), “TheShipment,” “ NotEnufLifetimes,” and “Read: White and Blue.” He is the recipient of an Individual Artist Award in Playwriting from the Maryland State Arts Council and has received grants from the D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities and the Boomerang Fund for Artists Inc. He is currently the Master Teaching Artist at Arena Stage and is the Artist-in-Residence at Bowie State University.

But the Brooklyn native he came to D.C., like many before him, by way attending an HBCU – namely Howard University. He admits to having one vision that developed into the career we see now.

His original plan was to be a revolutionary in the vein of Malcolm X and Huey P. Newton but says, “I fell in love with the arts and I feel like as an artist I still have that desire for revolution particularly when it comes to uplifting the black community and particularly when it comes to uniting people across color lines as well.”

He pivoted from film production, to dance and finally leaving as an acting major. The rational is a revolutionary and traditional as they come.

“To be honest I’ve always loved to act but then one day I was walking in front of the Fine Arts Building and I saw the most beautiful women coming in an out of the building and I said that’s where I need to be,” he said with a laugh.

The ladies may have brought him into that fine arts building, but he didn’t squander the artistic opportunities. He founded a dance company with friends, experimenting with hip-hop, club and street dance mixed with African dance. His group started performing around the area. And then he began to take theater more seriously, more acting and writing jobs began to materialize. “So it’s been sort of this organic journey that i’ve been taken through arts and entertainment,” Psalmayene 24 said.

And what is his secret with listening to his gut instincts and moving so seamlessly through the arts?

“Keeping your eyes and ears open and being conscious about where you are in your life and being responsive to opportunities that come your way,” he said. “Also having a vision for where you’re going. You may have a plan but God’s plan may trump your plan. So there’s this orchestration that seems to be happening that is honestly bigger than me.”

“Native Son” runs through April 28, while “Les Deux Noirs” runs through April 27. For more information on both plays and to purchase tickets please go to: https://www.mosaictheater.org/native-son.

This article originally appeared in The Afro

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Art

Marin Fair Competitive Exhibits Open for Entry

“We are thrilled to provide an array of online competitions for our community during our outdoor only 2022 Fair,” said Director of Cultural Services Gabriella Calicchio. “The Competitive Exhibits program is the heart and soul of the Fair and we’re excited to bring our talented community together again to participate.”

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Marin County Fair “So Happy Together!” returns June 30-July 4

Courtesy of Marin County

2022 Marin County Fair Poster depicting a variety of farm animals with the Marin County Civic Center and Marin Fairgrounds property in the background. San Rafael, California — With Marin County Fair’s June 30 opening day just around the corner, the Competitive Exhibits categories for the 2022 Fair are now available on the Fair’s website MarinFair.org.

The competitive exhibit program, which usually takes place indoors, will remain online for one more year and will include competitions such as fine art and photography, decorated cakes and cookies, wine and beer label design, clothing and textiles, cartoon art, exceptional art, poetry and creative writing, hobbies and crafts, and more. The Plein Air painting competition on the first day of the Fair will take place outdoors. The agriculture competitions will remain outdoors and will include poultry, rabbits, sheep dog trials, pocket pets, dog care and training, and small animal round robin showmanship, to name a few.

“We are thrilled to provide an array of online competitions for our community during our outdoor only 2022 Fair,” said Director of Cultural Services Gabriella Calicchio. “The Competitive Exhibits program is the heart and soul of the Fair and we’re excited to bring our talented community together again to participate.”

The full list of categories and entry guidelines is available online at MarinFair.org. Submissions will be accepted from May 6 to May 31 and winners will be announced online during Fair time.

The 2022 fair will also focus on outdoor entertainment including the headline concerts, performers roaming the grounds such as jugglers, unicyclists, and stilt walkers, and interactive art experiences for fans of all ages. Returning fair favorites will include traditional carnival rides, the Global Marketplace, the Barnyard, food and drinks, and fireworks every night over the Civic Center’s Lagoon Park.

Early bird tickets sold out within one day of release. Discounted Fair tickets are still available for adults and teens through June 29. The Fair is a one-price gate featuring 28 carnival rides, exciting exhibits, spectacular firework displays, first-rate concerts and exciting attractions are FREE with gate admission. Tickets are available online only at MarinFair.org.

Headline concerts will soon be announced, and reserved gold circle tickets will go on sale May 16. Reserved concert seating in a special section is $60 per person and includes Fair admission.

Special Admission Days:
Kids Day at the Fair – Thursday, June 30
Children 12 and under are FREE on Thursday, June 30.
Senior Day at the Fair – Thursday, June 30
Seniors 65+ are admitted FREE

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Activism

Installation Invoking Black Struggle for Justice in Opens May 14 at Oakland City Hall

Society’s Cage is an open air, accessible pavilion featuring 500 hanging steel bars that form a cavernous cube with a habitable void allowing visitors to experience the symbolic weight of institutional racism. This immersive experience offers the opportunity to consider the severity of racial biases within our institutional structures of justice and allows for moments of reflection and healing. 

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Support Oakland Artists Executive Director Randolph Belle atop the installation called ‘Society’s Cage’ as it was being assembled. Photo courtesy of Facebook.
View of ‘Society’s Cage,’ an immersive exhibit at Oakland City Hall. Photo courtesy of the organizers.

By Randolph Belle

A traveling exhibit that invokes the history of repression of Blacks in the United States arrived in Oakland for installation this week at Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Support Oakland Artists, an Oakland based 501(C)3, partnered with Society’s Cage to bring the acclaimed social justice art installation as a feature in front of Oakland City Hall from May 9-30, 2022.

Society’s Cage is an open air, accessible pavilion featuring 500 hanging steel bars that form a cavernous cube with a habitable void allowing visitors to experience the symbolic weight of institutional racism.

This immersive experience offers the opportunity to consider the severity of racial biases within our institutional structures of justice and allows for moments of reflection and healing.

The designers, Dayton Schroeter, Julian Arrington, Monteil Crawley and Ivan O’Garro, created the installation to contextualize the contemporary phenomenon of police killings of Black Americans within the 400+ year continuum of racialized state violence in the United States.

It is a data-driven installation shaped in response to the question “What is the value of Black life in America?”

The Oakland installation will be the first on the West Coast as it travels nationally to sites of symbolic power related to justice, freedom & democracy. Originating in Washington, D.C. on the National Mall in response to the 2020 murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Society’s Cage has continued its journey as an interpretive lens highlighting the historic forces of racialized state violence in the United States.

Other sites have included War Memorial Plaza in Baltimore, Maryland, and the site of the Vernon AME Chapel in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race massacre and destruction of the Greenwood District, known as Black Wall Street.

Oakland is an ideal host site for the installation as the home of the Black Panther Party, which was founded to combat the legacy of police oppression, inequitable incarceration practices, and remnants of slavery in the form of state-sponsored terrorism against Black people.

In 2009, the killing of Oscar Grant, a 22-year-old, unarmed Black transit rider by the BART police in Oakland set off local and regional organized protests that catalyzed a national movement.

Support Oakland Artists Executive Director Randolph Belle atop the installation called ‘Society’s Cage’ as it was being assembled. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

Support Oakland Artists Executive Director Randolph Belle atop the installation called ‘Society’s Cage’ as it was being assembled. Photo courtesy of Facebook.

“We were inspired to create the installation as a response to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor,” explains Dayton Schroeter, lead designer of Society’s Cage and design director at SmithGroup, which has offices in San Francisco. “The pavilion is a real and raw reflection of the conversations about racism happening now. It’s a physical manifestation of the institutional structures that have undermined the progress of Black Americans over the history of this country.

“The name Society’s Cage refers to the societal constraints that limit the prosperity of the Black community,” says Julian Arrington, who led the design with Schroeter, and is an associate at SmithGroup. “The pavilion creates an experience to help visitors understand and acknowledge these impacts of racism and be moved to create change.”

 

 

 

“It only took an instant for me to commit to this project,” said Randolph Belle, executive director of Support Oakland Artists. “In my over 30 years in Oakland as an artist and community developer, I’ve strived to utilize the arts to engage the public in thoughtful ways around important and timely topics. This project, this site, and these times are an unprecedented example of that.”

Visitors are encouraged to participate in a shared experience upon entering the pavilion. After holding their breath for as long as they can, evoking the common plea among victims of police killings, “I can’t breathe,” visitors then post a video reflection of their experience on social media using the hashtag #SocietysCage. This exercise is meant not only to build empathy but expand the installation’s impact online to allow anyone to participate in this shared exercise.

The pavilion was fabricated by Gronning Design + Manufacturing LLC in Washington, D.C., and Mejia Ironworks in Hyattsville, Maryland. A soundscape was commissioned from a pair of composers, Raney Antoine Jr. and Lovell “U-P” Cooper.

Comprised of four pieces, each eight minutes and 46 seconds in length in recognition of the time George Floyd suffered under the knee of police, they are themed to reflect each of the four institutional forces that sculpted the pavilion’s interior — mass incarceration, police terrorism, capital punishment and racist lynchings.

Early sponsors who have made the hosting of the Society’s Cage Oakland installation possible include the Akonadi Foundation, Tarbell Family Foundation, individual sponsors including principals from SmithGroup’s San Francisco office, corporate sponsorship including SmithGroup and many community partners including BIG Oakland.

Jeremy Crandall and Emax Exhibits were the Oakland Installation team.

A public unveiling is scheduled for Saturday, May 14, 2022, at 11 a.m., and a programmed event featuring local cultural artists is scheduled for Sunday, May 29, 2022, at 7 p.m. Participating individuals and organizations include original members of the Black Panther Party, the Black Cultural Zone, HipHopTV, and a host of local artists.

For more information, visit www.societyscage.com to find a link to the donation site. Additional donations will assist with programming and documentation related to the Oakland activation.

Randolph Belle is the executive director of Support Oakland Artists and RBA Creative studio in Oakland.

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Activism

MoAD, Artsy’s 2022 Art Auction Celebrates Many Voices, One Diaspora

“MoAD is so grateful to the incredible community of artists, galleries, and individuals who have enthusiastically lent their support to this year’s auction,” says Monetta White, executive director of MoAD. “Their generous response is a testament to the impact and importance of MoAD’s vital work to enhance the public’s understanding of Black art and to serve as a foundational platform for artists of African descent in the Bay Area and throughout the world.”

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Photo Caption: Jerrell Gibbs, Untitled #1, 2022, Courtesy of the artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery
Jerrell Gibbs, Untitled #1, 2022, Courtesy of the artist and Mariane Ibrahim Gallery

The Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), in partnership with global online art marketplace Artsy, presents its 2022 online benefit auction, “Many Voices, One Diaspora,” with works by more than 50 leading local, national, and international artists, many of whom have been featured in MoAD’s critically-acclaimed exhibitions.

The auction will run online from April 28 to May 12, 2022.

The expansive collection of both new and previously displayed works represents a vast range of voices from the African diaspora and includes signature pieces by such luminaries as Amoako Boafo, Jerrell Gibbs, Otis Quaicoe, Erica Deeman, Basil Kincaid, Lavar Munroe, Angel Otero, Ferrari Sheppard, and more.

Collectors will be able to browse works in a variety of media including photographs, paintings, prints, mixed media, and glass, ceramic, and fiber pieces.

In addition to works donated by individual artists, more than 16 galleries are supporting this important fundraiser including Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Lehmann Maupin, and others.

“MoAD is so grateful to the incredible community of artists, galleries, and individuals who have enthusiastically lent their support to this year’s auction,” says Monetta White, executive director of MoAD. “Their generous response is a testament to the impact and importance of MoAD’s vital work to enhance the public’s understanding of Black art and to serve as a foundational platform for artists of African descent in the Bay Area and throughout the world.”

The auction provides critical funding for MoAD’s operations and programs, and essential support for the participating artists. Additionally, proceeds from the auction will benefit local and national art and social justice organizations.

Through MoAD’s partnership with Artsy, the online art marketplace is enabling MoAD to enhance the voices of these dynamic artists and their works to Artsy’s 2-million+ global art collectors and enthusiasts.

“At Artsy, we’re constantly working towards a more diverse and inclusive industry, and it’s our responsibility to use our platform to further advocate for artists who deserve our attention and are leading the way in art.

“We’re excited to be partnering with The Museum of the African Diaspora on this benefit auction and support their mission, as well as bring a global lens to these participating artists,” said Dustyn Kim, chief revenue officer at Artsy.

“I am happy to support MoAD,” says participating artist Jerrell Gibbs. “The institution aligns with my vision, celebrating Black culture, and I am pleased to have my work alongside many renowned artists in the diaspora.”

To date, participating artists include: Annan Affotey, Alanna Airitam, Alex Anderson, Simone Bailey, Ebitenyefa Baralaye, Laylah Amatullah Barrayn, Gavin Benjamin, Leonardo Benzant, Lili Bernard, Amoako Boafo, Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo, Shenequa Brooks, Nyame Brown, Adrian Burrell, Elan Cadiz, Sydney Cain, Albert Chong, Dewey Crumpler, Kenturah Davis, Erica Deeman, Cheryl Derricotte, Barbara Earl Thomas, Conrad Egyir, Rodney Ewing, Adama Delphine Fawundu, Jerrell Gibbs, Adler Guerrier, Angela Hennessy, David Huffman, Wadsworth Jarrell, Basil Kincaid, Dionne Lee, Kija Lucas, Demond Melancon, Ian Micheal, Lavar Munroe, Carmen Neely, Ed Ntiri, Ramekon O’Arwisters, Angel Otero, Woody De Othello, Dr. Fahamu Pecou, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Enrico Riley, Muzae Sesay, Ferrari Sheppard, Nyugen E. Smith, Chanell Stone, Autumn Wallace, Nate Watson, Ricky Weaver, Bri Williams, and Andrew Wilson.

For more information, visit https://www.moadsf.org/projects/moad-art-auction-2022.

About MoAD

The Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) is a contemporary art museum whose mission is to celebrate Black cultures, ignite challenging conversations, and inspire learning through the global lens of the African Diaspora. For more information about MoAD, visit The Museum’s website at 
moadsf.org.

About Artsy

Artsy is the largest global online marketplace for discovering, buying, and selling fine art by leading artists. Artsy connects 4,000+ galleries, auction houses, art fairs, and institutions from 100+ countries with more than 2 million global art collectors and art lovers across 190+ countries.

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