Friday, July 31, 2009

Very Busy Times in Durham

Sitting here at the Hayti thinking about all the positive things that are happening on the cultural scene lately.......The Bull City Slam team has been busy raising funds to go to West Palm Beach for the National competition, and several of NCCU's jazz performers are preparing to go to Newport for their annual Jazz event which in the past has had such renowned artist as John Coltrane,, Count Basie, Muddy Waters, Sarah Vaughan, and Dizzy Gillespie perform.
And don't forget that next week is also the week of the National Black Theatre Festival which draws thousands of fans and actors to Winston Salem to pay homage to Black Theatre and honor both its past and present and let folks know that it still has a bright future ahead. This year I have learned that a long time friend Ayinde Hurrey will be bringing a production to town and I am also looking forward to seeing some of my friends from the Theatre community at this bi-annual event.
But, if you aren't going out of town to these events, or playing to attend the National Black Journalist conference in Tampa, don't worry there is plenty of events going on right here in the Triangle.
Maxwell is coming to the DBPAC on Wednesday, the 5th and De La Soul will be peforming in Chapel Hill on the 8th..........And of course there will be live music at Brightleaf and West Village on Friday evening.
Keep telling folks Durham and the Triangle have plenty to do.....Last week, I had a full weekend...On Friday, I checked out the first of the West Village series which was like an All Star tribute and featured such acts as Captain Luke, John Dee Holeman, and Sol just to name a few....From there, I went and checked out Edsel
500's performance at Brightleaf and then chilled for a minute at West End Wine Bar before heading off to Alivia's for Carl Kinney's birthday party which featured great live music and some awesome poetry as well...There was even some deep political discussions going on about the Skip Gates incident that I participated in with one of my Police officer friends and others as well.
Saturday, I went and checked out my friend Kirk as he did some shooting for his film Game Boyz in the downtown area near Measurement Inc. Of course, sometimes you have to do some renegade kinda of shooting and I will talk about what kind of experiece that can be in a later post. Learned about the trials and tribulations that one of our actor's had been going through, and all I can say is that it is definitely a blessing that he pulled through what he had to go through and it was definitely a learning experience for him. That evening, I went by another gathering at Alivia's, this one for some folks who were moving out of town.
Sunday was relatively mild but I did go by the shooting that Kirk was having at Golden Belt. Sometimes folks are giving opportunities and still don't see the chances they have, and apparently that was the case as several folks didn't make it to the shoot but Kirk, being the trooper that he is, shoot with what he had and will probably do some more shooting at the Gallery he used which is located in Golden Belt.
By the way, looks like Durham is becoming even more of a spotlight for National acts. Why Tuesday, the Ballpark was filled with fans of legendary performers.....And although I was at work and missed the show, a friend of mine who works at West End and attended said it was a definite treat...She said John Mellencamp may not be as bouncy as he was the last time she saw him when he was much younger, but he still gives a great show and Willie was mellow....She said you could definitely smell Pot throughout the ballpark and considering the fact that Willie is an official spokesperson for NORMAL, a group that wants to endorse Marijuana legislation, that shouldn't be a suprise...She said some folks might have been thrown off by Bob's opening, and this was a sentiment I later read in Dave Menconi's column, but she thought as the show went on he got into more of his roots kinda of set and did a great job.
Later in the week Tori Amos was at the Durham Performing Arts Center. I keep telling my friends from out of state and even out of the Triangle don't sleep on Durham...We have a lot going on and I will be keeping you informed on many of these things right here in the future.
On Thursday, after work, went by the Armory where the concert that was slated for the Plaza with the Bull had been moved...Sometimes when the weather is threatening, the folks at Parks and Rec play it safe and move it indoors......I heard I missed a good acoustic set of Latin guitars earlier, but the band I heard definitely was rocking and had the limited audience moving..We have to find a way to get a more diverse and greater crowd for some of these awesome bands that are performing in the plaza. I went down by American Tobacco but by then the group who was performing Your Mama's Big Fat Booty Band had ended their set but I heard from a few friends that they rocked a nice sized crowd and had played a mixture of covers and originals...Definitely have to catch this group on a rebound trip....Also I understand that Friday, Coco had talked about her work with Gerald LeVert had an event honoring him that was held at the Carolina Theatre and I'm sure the jazz fans who saw Marcus Anderson at his CD release Party on Morris Street got a treat as well....Just as I know the folks who came here for Jazzy Friday got to hear some great music by William Darity and his group as well as meet some really talented artist who came here to talk about their art....I've always been a big fan of Marilyn and the dolls she makes that capture the essence of such great ladies as Dorothy Dandridge, Josephine Baker, and other famous people as well.....

Sunday, July 19, 2009

And That's The Way It Is

Growing up, I remember watching the news and dreaming of being a journalist, and one of the newsmakers I always respected and admired was Walter Cronkite...So it was with sadness that I learned of his death over the weekend...Whether it was his coverage of Watergate, the Apollo missions, Vietnam, or Reagan's victory in the 80's, I could always count on a fair and accurate assessment of what was happening from this trusted newsman.
And, from an iconic standpoint and as one who had their teen years during the mid 70's and early 80's, I can tell you a lot of folks that I remember with great fondness from my youth have passed on...Why just over the last couple of weeks, we have lost Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Ed McMahon, and here in Durham the first African American mayor Chester Jenkins recently passed and before him over the last two years, both Bill Cherry and Jim Fields passed.
Growing up, I listening to Michael during the Jackson 5 era and having a neighbor in Greensboro who swore up and down that she was going to marry Michael and I have learned since that this was a fantasy of many a young lady of that time......I also remember going to many a party at Marquette and hearing the sounds of Thriller and Off the Wall being played by the DJs at that various parties I attended at that school.
And as far as Farrah Fawcett, yes I was one of those youths who was trying to figure out was Charlie based on Howard Hughes, and yes I loved looking at the various women on that show, though as I wrote in a column many years ago, I never could figure out why they were wearing bikinis on a ski trip and I could have swore a saw that on at least a couple of episodes...I think from the character's standpoint I was drawn more to the intelligent one who seemed to always possess not just good looks, but brains and a great personality, who was played by Kate Jackson......But I did love her roles in Extremeties and Burning Beds, where Farrah proved you could deal with a powerful topic and give it the justice they deserved.
And of course I was one of those who enjoyed the bantering back and forth between Ed McMahon and Johnny Carson, and yes I even dreamed of one day him bringing me that Publisher's Clearinghouse ticket...Of course, it might have helped if I had actually entered the contest...Okay I might have turned it in once or twice, but that was probably it, and what's the old saying you can't win, if you don't play.
I can't really say I knew Chester Jenkins all that well, as he won during a time that I was exploring my journalism career on the daily side, and was not really that attached to Durham as I have become over the last two decades. But, I have heard wonderful things about him from those who remember him as a true pioneer on the political front here in Durham.
The other two I mentioned, Bill Cherry and Jim Fields, have been gone for awhile but they were definitely fixtures here in the Triangle...Bill, who had already done pioneering work with Jesse Jackson and Operation Breakthrough as well as the Negro Ensemble Company and Wattstax just to name a few before he moved here to Durham, continued to be at the forefront of mixing art and social justice together even after he moved here and continued his relationship with such national figures as Isaac Hayes, Howard Hewitt, and the honorable Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam and worked on various projects with them and was always here to support the various people of Durham who were trying to do innovative works in the entertainment field right here in our Bull City, including myself but also such folks as Brett Chambers, Eric Kelly, Ray Paschall just to name a few...
And of course so many people around here knew Jim Fields, Uncle Bubba, as he was known to many for his video work and his keeping on top of what was happening right here in our lovely city, both through conversations he held with folks who would lend him a ear and the shows he produced for Durham Cablevision.
But, as I reflect on this, I am glad to know that the future is bright right here in Durham and I saw that for a fact this weekend. I had the pleasuree of going to the open house for the Member show at the Durham Art Guild, and one thing the Guild has done has implemented a Junior membership for High School students and there work was just as equally impressive as some of the artist who have been doing things for years...I was really taken by the vivid colors and whimsical nature of some of their art work, and yet at the same time, there were others who gave sharp photographic images that really caught your attention...This is not to take away from the veteran artists who also had some great pieces in the show as well, and I urge you to go and check out the show...I think you will be impressed...
From there, I traveled to the Durham Armory and saw people of all ages playing a variety of music, some of which was provided by Music Explorium, and they were definitely enjoying themselves in a show that was originally scheduled for outside but was moved inside due to the threat of bad weather.
and I closed out that evening by going over to Golden Belt and checking out a wide variety of artists, including my friends Titus Heagins and Cynthia Grow who have studios there, as well as a variety of other artists who were featured as well...I heard from several people that the Play that was part of that showing and the dance by Mark Dendy were great, and I made it a point to see the Dendy show the next day and this installation piece which made tribute to the music and workers who helped build Durham and featured music, as well as the sounds of textile factories and references to both the blues and jazz music of our city's heritage definitely was amazing and was fun to watch.....I was also pleased to see that at the end of the show Dendy pointed out how many of the ADF dancers were on scholarship, and urged the audience to remember that even in tough economic times, the art plays a vital part in our community and should never be abandoned...This is a message that we need to spread throughout the city and the nation........
To close out this weekend, I went to see Fourth and A Mile which featured several friends and acquaintances of mine in great roles, and was another in the series of plays that Howard Craft has done to address various health issues, this one deals with the critical one of Prostate Cancer and does it by providing pertinent and important information, but still giving us a storyline and some great humor. At intermission, Craft told me that he had added the Muddy Waters tune for me, maybe he heard me tapping my feet from the back of the auditorium.......
I urge everyone, particularly my fellow men in their 40's, as well as those older and those approaching that age to see this powerful piece of theatre...As I already stated when talking about some of my friends who have passed, I am a big fan of using art to get people to think and ponder various issues....One of the greatest minds of our time, Albert Einstein, said "All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom."...........
So, for now, I'm outta here...but I look forward to discussing various topics of culture here on this blog...so to borrow from a Newsman I had a great deal of respect for, Walter Cronkite...That's the way it is on Sunday, July 19th.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Open Mike at Papa Mojo's and Barack Obama

Last night, I had the pleasure of hanging out once again at Papa Mojo's and enjoying another great show...Aaron was back and did a great job of some great Blues, and there was an awesome young lady, named Hope, who laid down some great Soulful tunes and of course Jasme did a Super job on two classics, Papa Was A Rolling Stone and her stirring rendition of the Prince Classic Purple Rain and she was doing this as part of her personal Birthday celebration.......I look forward to seeing her set at Hayti in September as part of the Bull Durham Blues Festival. Also Reid Splitter brought with him a talented violinist and he did a great job of performing on his two numbers, including a rousing rendition of Brick House that featured Violin...this was well done and rocked the house....Though I must say it was fun watching this one ladies reaction to the violin..She later told me that she just finds the violin to be such a sexy and seductive instrument, and I feel sorry for any man, woman, or child that tries to take away her attention when there is a violin being played....You know we all have our favorite instruments that we love...For example, I love soulful singing but I also love the sound of the horns and yes, I do love string music, but not to the extreme of that particular person.....And, of course I know some folks that just love Piano music, as well as the Drums and the Bass, both the standup variety and the bass guitar, as well as some who love the lead guitar and other instruments........
And speaking of instruments, earlier Barack Obama was talking about the importance of education and I was wondering how many of our youth here in Durham even know about classic authors like Thomas Wolfe, Mark Twain, or our own like Zora Neale Hurston, James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Richard Wright, and others and have read their books...How many of our youths are aware of entertainers from here like Nick Allen or Clyde McPhatter or Pigmeat Markham, entertainers from right here who paved their own path in entertainment long before Ninth Wonder and Purple St. James were doing their thing....I personally feel that our schools need to let our youth know about the proud heritage that has come from right here in the Triangle, and encourage them in their dreams and aspirations, and not find ways to tear it down...Too often we are too quick to label our kids and then put them on a destructive path of hopelessness and despair.....There are true stories of great intellect and great industry powers from right here in Durham, and we need to highlight these on a regular basis in our schools...How many of our teachers are using the story of N.C. Mutual in their classrooms and telling kids about the greatness that they come from right here in Durham...How many of our students are telling their students about Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois and what they thought of Durham in its heyday.....Are they making parallels to the development of now, have they told them about more modern pioneers like the Carl Webb, Brian Davis as an entrepreneur, or the late Ronnie Sturdivant...
As president Obama told the NAACP today, we need to work on improving our school system and letting folks know about the history from which they descended and help them define their destiny and pursue it in the 21st Century.....We need to find ways to encourage our youth, and not find ways to tear them down and belittle them...we need to understand that they have visions and hopes as well, and that who knows the next great Quincy Jones, Earl Graves, Malcolm X, or even Barack Obama may be sitting in our midst and we need to find ways to encourage them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

BATMAN IS DEAD!!!!

You know the Cultural minister of Durham also likes to keep up with news of the world and the world of culture, and I was shocked to learn of some of the developments from one of my Bartender friends.
Apparently Superman is imprisoned elsewhere in this Galaxy, and Batman is DEAD!....But don't worry, Robin is know Batman and Batman's son who had an affair with a Villain is now the new Robin.........Oh to make it worse, he wasn't taken out by one of his Archvillains, like the Joker, Two Face, Penguin, or even the Riddler but by some Alien villian who since I have lost track of the modern world of Comics I have no idea who they are......
If this isn't confusing enough, Archie of the popular Soap Opera like Comic is know about to get married, and is an ADULT!!!!
I'm sure the Artwork is wonderful, but I like the old fashioned comics....Tell me what you think of the new Comic strips..
By the way, is it just me, or are you rooting for Lance to win another title as well..Might be because he's the old man of Cycling in his 40's (Not that far from me) and I just recently got a Bike and am trying to get into my own cycling...Don't worrhy I don't think you have to worry about seeing me in any races anytime soon...or in the long distance rides and competitions like Lance does.........Though I have to say I am loving the soap opera between him and his teammate in this individual sport that has a team element...Sometimes that in and of itself is confusing......
Okay enough news outside of the area, but you will be glad to know that West End Wine Bar already seems to be getting some business coming over from the new Train station, an yours truly has been having some very productive conversation with some of my filmmaking pals as we look for investors for their projects and in this case of a Atlanta fashion friend try to find them designers and potential models for a show coming up at the end of the Month...If you need help in your endeavors, contact me at Bluesradio@gmail.com or by telephone at 919-956-5931.
Until later, I'm out.....

Monday, July 13, 2009

A Pet Peeve That Will Definitely Be Addressed Here

You know one of my pet peeves is folks who say there is nothing to do in this area, I choose to call home....Just follow me for a week or two, and you will see there are always things happening in our town, ranging from Book Signings and Poetry Readings to Independent Filmmakers making films to various musicians performing various genres of music around town, and there style of music range from Blues To Jazz to Rock and Roll to Folk and Classical.....
Let's just think of some of the world class events that are based right here in Durham, and that include things like the Bull Durham Blues Festival, American Dance Festival and The Full Frame Film Festival just to mention a few, and some that might be sited as more regional but definitely have large followings, i.e. the Festival at the Eno, Bimbe Festival, Juneteenth Festival in Durham, Centerfest, etc.....
Is getting quality food something you are interested in, check out the Farmers Market on Wednesdays and Saturday....Plus there are various worldclass restaurants here like Nana's, Pops, Revolution, Parizades, Cuban Revolution, Spartacus, and Nikko's just to name a few.
Have an interest in photography, there are various groups around town that deal with this topic and there is a Fencing Group that meets on Broad Street....If you are interested in Boxing, there are some Boxing classes you can take........If you are interested in sports, check out not only our college teams, but perhaps one of the most famous Minor League Team because of the movie and their success, the Durham Bulls......
If you just want to watch sports, there are various sports bars...Or you can do Fantasy Football like I have been doing for several years that my brother and several of his friends got me into...Earlier this day, I was given a lift by our commissioner Randy Edwards and he told me that we still need new participants for our two conferences. If interested, let me know...
Of course, as I said before, there is regular music series going on, among them are the Brightleaf series, the series at the American Tobacco campus, the concert series Parks and Rec does by the Bull, and the one that Music Maker will be launching again later this month at West Village.
And these are just some of the examples of what's happening on a regular basis, so don't say that there isn't anything to do in our fair city...Of course sometimes you just feel like sitting at home, curling up with a good book, watching TV, or doing nothing....I know I had various options for Parties Saturday night, but opted to just chill......

A Rainy Day in NC

Just thought I would try a new way to reaching out to the Public, and I think this will be a very effective tool..Here at this site, I will tell people about events happening in the Triangle and also give you some of my opinions on political and social issues, both relevant to our community and our world.
For starters, I have to commend the folks at Durham's new Public Access channel...I think we will be seeing some very innovative program coming out of this area very soon and I look forward to doing my part in this effort. The open house was relaxing and fun, and it was good seeing associates like Nia and several of her youth, Michelle Gonzalez of See Saw Studios, Morgan Diamond of Self-Help, City Councilman Mike Woodward, Solomon Burnette and others at this event.
Yesterday was fun as well, I really enjoyed checking out the performance of One Human Family at the Baha'i Center located in the Parkwood neighborhood of Durham. It was a very enlightening concert and the guest conductor also gave great insights into the history of Gospel Music and Spiritual in America in addition to the group putting together a fine show. I also stopped by later that evening to a new restaurant in the American Tobacco District, Cuban Revolution...I have been to this new restaurant a few times now and have been impressed by the staff and their menu, plus it's kinda of unique seeing a film about Che Guevara running on a fairly regular basis.........When I talked to the owner he said he was from Rhode Island but his wife is from Tampa and that is where the affinity apparently for the Cuban culture comes from.....
Speaking of Cuban Revolution, I also learned that one of their bartenders is organizing a trip to the Bahamas on a Party Boat in October around Halloween...This sounds like a fun outing and as I learn more details I will spread the word to my fans and supporters.......Who knows the Minister of Culture himself may decide to take this trip....By the way, the Bahamas has always been on my list of places I want to visit plus the Minister of Culture needs to do some more traveling these days...I definitely want to visit some of the countries that also have Ministries of Culture, so you know Australia, Scotland, Brazil, and China are on my wish list of places to visit in the near future.
On the Political side, I see that a new Surgeon General has been nominated, and like many of Obama's previous nominees, she is definitely an advocate of the working class.....The Surgeon General nominee Regina M. Benjamin is already seen as a leader in the fight to close the various gaps in health care, and has already shown her mettle of leadership in places like Birmingham and New Orlenas. I have also been impressed by the answers that Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor has been giving to the Senate...You can definitely tell that this woman of class has been an advocate for working class people and will continue to be such an advocate on the Supreme Court. I don't know about the rest of you, but I am glad to see a shift in what was for me becoming too much of a right-wing, reactionary kind of leanings when the past administration was in office.........I know a lot of folks are expecting immediate turnaround in our economy and our society, but like in all things, what took several years to ruin and destroy can't be rebuilt in a matter of days,. or for that matter, even months...It's gonna to take a while for us to correct this mess, but I am optimistic that it can be done......
And I already see a bright future on the Horizon for Durham, I think if you come downtown on a weekend now you already see a marked contrast to past years with activities happening on a regular basis at various venues like the Carolina Theatre, the new Performing Arts Center, The Durham Arts Council, Pinhook, and other venues, even some that are slightly away from Downtown like the Hayti Heritage Center and the various venues that are on both Duke and North Carolina Central University.........
Oh well, I'm bout to bounce for now and getting ready to head back to work at Measurement Inc. but I will be giving you various thoughts on a regular basis.........
By the way, I know on Facebook, I told folks I was looking for stories about the old clubs here in Durham, as well as the old Theatres that used to exist here.....I'm still looking for that information, so if you have any stories about those that existed over the last few years please share.........