Truth

Alex Elle, “Neon Soul”

This poem was written by one of my all time favorite writers, her name is Alex Elle. She is person that inspired me to start my own personal blog and start writing poetry again. This poem is an expert from her book that was just released yesterday, Neon Soul. I find that the older I get the more important truth is to me. I want to interact with people and things and ideas that are very true and very real. Journeying through life with this mindset of lately has brought me a lot of pain but also a lot of joy and growth. In walking in my own truth and light, I am becoming a better me, a better sister, a better daughter, a better lover, a better artist, a better being. The truth can be scary, intimidating, and even confusing but like this poem says its has granted me the utmost freedom and has brought me the most happiness and joy that I’ve felt in a long time. Speaking on more technical terms, her writing style reminds me a lot of Samuel Beckett. The simplicity is what captures me and allows me to stay in the space of what is on the page, her writing and her words. These are the words and the works of art that take me down the deepest rabbit holes of thought and touch my heart and soul; nothing big, nothing fancy and no flashing lights; just truth, thought and passion.

“Home”

Cabrini-Green Homes before demolition, Source: Google.com

In Chapter 7 of City of Rhetoric by David Fleming; he talks about how the majority of society see thoses that live in public housing projects and the assumptions that are made about the communities and the people that live in them. Fleming uses the the example of Chicago’s Cabrini Green Homes to further elaborate his point as to as how the residents of public housing in this country are denied basic rights and they aren’t even given the choice to decide as a community how they want to develop their environment. The people of Cabrini Green, a public housing project in Chicago, are constantly “othered” from the rest of society in three ways. The first way people in the community are othered is by them being represented as people that are lesser than the majority of society, secondly, the neighborhoods in which they live are depicted as unruly and out of hand, and thirdly, the residents are denied stay for long periods of time in these neighborhoods.

The conditions of a lot of public housing communities such as Cabrini Green went very bad due to the lack of care from the government. A high level of crime and violence went on in these neighborhoods and eventually because self governed by the residents themselves as tension grew with the Chicago PD. In an effort to try to prevent urban revitalization of this particular building residents proposed that the building be turned into a co-op where they are homeowners and they work together democratically. This was the best option for the current residents due to the fact that the building then wouldn’t be demolished and they wouldn’t have to move out and find another place to live or yet worse, be without a place to live entirely. Sadly, the proposal was rejected by the City of Chicago Department of Housing and by the Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) and the Cabrini Green Homes were demolished to forward the city of Chicago’s mission of Urban Renewal and revitalization . The last residents were finally forced out in December 2010.

What happened at Cabrini Green is an all too typical narrative that Fleming details in chapter 7 of his book; residents of public housing neighborhoods are already seen as less than the majority of people and then when they try to stand up to protect one of the few things that is theirs, it gets taken away from them. Public Housing Projects such as  Cabrini Green Homes and those alike are neglected by the government just like the people that live in them are and the residents are left to try to survive there without any assistance or care. Despite being isolated and neglected by the government Cabrini Green residents and other public housing residents would rather rehabilitate the area in which they live, rather than being forced out on the streets and have their building be demolished. Through urban revitalization not only are people’s communities and homes being taken away  that live in public housing but so are their basic rights, their voices and their sense of humanity.

The Lincoln Theatre: The Jewel on U

Source: Google.com

 

Washington DC is full of many attractions, historical landmarks and fun site of entertainment. In fact, the nation’s capital is home to one of the most well known sites of entertainment, affectionately referred to as “The Jewel on U”  or The Lincoln Theatre. Anyone not familiar with the Washington DC area such as a tourist is going to want to take to the internet to look up fun and entertaining things to do while they are in the nation’s capital. The Lincoln Theatre’s website uncovers the the type of entertainment that would attract a tourist or a newer resident of Washington DC.  The Lincoln Theatre’s website  displays all of the upcoming events and performances booked at the venue for the remainder of the year. This essay aims to analyze and consolidate what the website is displaying in comparison to what the Lincoln Theatre is and once was, whom the website is trying to attract, and lastly what this means for a person viewing the website.

source: Google.com

The Lincoln Theatre is not only a long standing staple of U Street it is a long standing staple of Washington DC; because of this, the changes that this theatre undergoes have been reflective of the changes going on in Washington DC as a whole. When one goes on Lincoln Theatre’s website, the viewer is met with a warm inviting color tone of a background. The navigation menu displays contact information and information about how to get to the venue and then a scheduled list of plays, acts, and performances taking place in the upcoming weeks. “Lincoln Theatre” is posted at the very top of the webpage in a white, classic style font that matches the regality of the physical structure itself. Immediately under the navigation bar is the running list of acts coming up in the next days, weeks and months.

In my observations, I noticed every single one of the acts that are posted on the face of the Lincoln Theatre website up until December 5th of this year are white people. There are actors, comedians, musicians and other artists scheduled to perform, yet, every single of them are white. This pattern quickly stuck out to me because the Lincoln Theatre, a huge part of history of a jazz music and black culture has been standing on the corner of 1215 U Street Northwest, Washington DC since 1922. The greatest of musicians and artists such as Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Cab Calloway and Billie Holiday performed at this every location. This theatre historically, was home of performance to many black artists and invited people to celebrate black art. Looking at the Lincoln Theatre website site homepage today, this rich history of African American artists and musicians, is not only not reflected, but it is nowhere to be found.

Duke Ellington, Musician (Source: Google.com)

In the past years, the Lincoln Theatre reflected what Harlem looked like many years ago for black artists: it was lively and proud. Although U Street  as a whole hasn’t been gentrified much like the majority of Washington DC,  one of the biggest staples of this street, The Lincoln Theatre, has been gentrified immensely. I wonder how is it that one of the blackest areas of Washington DC that host right in the very center of it an iconic building that is now everything but a celebration of blackness? Anyone that is new or unfamiliar with the Washington DC area that went to the Lincoln Theatre website to get an idea about exactly what this historic place was about would have no idea of the beautiful, rich and important significance this theatre had to black culture and black people as a whole. Overtime, a space for black art and the support of black young and thriving artist had now changed into a place for young up and coming white artists and that in itself to me is disappointing given that fact that U street is a staple of black culture and this theatre means so much to the black community.

Ironically enough, after going through The Lincoln Theatre’s website today there’s a tab under the “Venue”option about the history of the venue and they insert a short statement about the history of the theatre and they name the famous black musicians that used to perform there when the theatre was first opened. In the history of the venue description of the website is the only part of the website where I saw not just black people but people of color at all. The theatre’s website barely featuring any people of color is beyond bothersome because a venue that was initially built as a haven and space for black artists has now turned into a  place that is a common space for white people much like the rest of Washington DC. Looking through the Lincoln Theatre website reminds that people love black culture, but not black people. It’s easy to love something that seems fun and entertaining but this country never truly loved black people, simply only what black people produce; this is exactly what happened with the Lincoln Theatre on U Street . U Street is one of the blackest places in Washington DC, but I’ve also noticed that its “trendy” its the new place for people to go hang out, eat, and observe “culture” and be entertained but of course the biggest entertainment draw on U Street, that been turn into a theatre that is primarily white and only host white artist because its about the culture, the draw and the trend of being on U Street that is “cool” it was never about the people because if it was, the Lincoln Theatre would have black people still performing and doing shows there.

One of the possible reasons for this drastic change in culture of the Lincoln Theatre could be due to the change in management. A company called I.M.P Production is the parent company of the Lincoln Theatre and has been the parent company since June of 2013. I.M. P Productions is owned by  Seth Hurwtiz and Richard Heinecke, they started the private entertainment company years ago. When interviewed by Billboard Music Magazine, Seth Hurwtiz was asked about the appeal of the various venues that he and Heinecke owns and he gave the following response, “Our strategy with all our venues is make them so good that artists feel that’s where they have to play. That’s our strength.” (Billboard Magazine).

Seth Hurwitz (Source: Google.com)

The term “good” is relative to Hurwtiz’s perspective and I have to wonder in his eyes what exactly does he mean by “good,”. Perhaps Hurwitz means “good” in a sense of making it appealing to the exact audience he wants to attract to the area, but I question if it has to be at the unfortunate cost of the historical prominence artists of color fading away? In this analysis its important to also ask whom sees it as “good” the local people living on Ustreet or people from out of town looking to perform there or see a show at Lincoln theatre.

In terms of how ownership of The Lincoln Theatre came about, Seth Hurtwitz was granted ownership of the theatre in 2013, through a bidding process governed by the then -mayor, Vincent C Gray and the Department of General Services.

Former DC Mayor, Vincent Gray (Source: Washington Times)

The DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH) saw the need to develop a plan that invested in the longevity of the theater, “The DCCAH’s primary role was to continue operating the theatre while developing a sustainable long-term business strategy for the theatre” (dgs.dc.gov). The Commission received a few Letters of Intent to include Hurwitz’s; the decision of ownership was based upon “economic terms”, “vision” and “business model”. After a secondary deliberation between the Commission, Mayor Gray, and The Department of General Services, Hurtwitz of I.M.P Productions, was selected as the new operator of The Lincoln Theatre. In the announcement of the theater’s new operator Mayor Gray stated, “I’m delighted that we can now move forward with I.M.P and being revitalizing this immense cultural asset”.The Mayor and the DC Commission saw as a need for “revitalization” of the theatre in the same way other political officials saw a need for “revitalization” of many other parts of DC as well. The changes in operator and changes of the theatre as a whole is just a reflection of the same change going on around the entire District.

I won’t say that I am surprised that this has happened but I am without a doubt disappointed because this country has a habit of taking things away from black people, whether it is music, culture, fashion styles, space, or simple freedom. The taking, stealing and reclaiming of black culture and turning it into something other than that is nothing new but still hurts the community time and time again. Then we get places like the Lincoln Theatre website that barely have a trace of the true history of the theatre displayed.

This website is evidently trying to draw to a very specific crowd of people and entertainment. There are no superstars such as Taylor Swift and the Zac Brown band  scheduled to perform but more specifically, young, and up and coming and white artists that make alternative music such as Stephin Merritt, performing later next week or  Yann Tiersen scheduled to perform at the theatre in December. After being under new management it is evident that the Lincoln Theatre is also trying to appeal to a specific group of people, that do not necessarily reflect those people that live on U Street, which has gone from 52% black, 35% white, and 13% other races to present day, 60% white, 24% black and and 16% other races (Statistical Atlas). Despite the location; the target audience is  apparent based upon the website in comparison to what the theatre was initially constructed for.

Another noticeable part of the website is the social media insertions, on the face of the website to the right it says “Join our emailing list” , “Like us on Facebook” and “Follow us on Twitter” with the respective icons for each social media platform. This social media segment of the website is in an even bigger font than the theatre’s phone number and address; this displays the urgency to keep up with the times and heighten their social media presents on the interwebs to attract a younger, more tech friendly audience that is constantly on social media. Additionally, being the powerhouse company that I.M.P. Productions is, it owns more than one venue in the area, not just the Lincoln Theatre; so I can can understand one’s initial confusion logging on the the Lincoln Theatre website and seeing on the left side of the screen, ads and promotion for two completely different venues. On the Lincoln Theatre’s website there are ads posted of shows at the Merriweather Post Pavilion and the 9:30 Club, two other concert and live performance venues.  I.M.P owns all three venues. The Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland is a giant concert venue that has indoor and outdoor seating and host large festivals such as DC’s Trillectro, every year. The 9:30 Club formally known as Nightclub 9:30 was opened in 1980 and then  relocated in 1996 to its present location, on U Street about two blocks from the Lincoln Theatre.

On the Lincoln Theatre’s website a viewer can see that the website is designed to grab the attention of a younger, whiter audience than the theatre’s historical talent and audience has once reflected. The website is designed in a way that appears to be holding onto the the classic look of the theatre’s ambience but still trying to remain relevant through various social media platforms and promotion of other concert venues in the area. The website as a whole is reflective of the acts that perform at the Lincoln Theatre today as well as the ownership of the theatre. A person discovering the Lincoln Theatre for the first time and looking at the website, will see a new, modern, less diverse, and classy place to enjoy entertainment rather than the culture filled, fun, celebration of black culture and talent that the Lincoln Theatre once was. It must be acknowledged and addressed when there begins to be a recurring habit of erasing a certain history and at what point does that mean the certain person or people that created that history are erased too? This is the Lincoln Theatre’s website of today, an eraser of what the theatre once was and a display of what it is becoming, a mirror of a “revitalized” Washington DC.

Source: Google.com

 

Gensler, Andy. “9:30 Club’s I.M.P. Announces New $60 Mil. Washington D.C. Venue: The Anthem.” Billboard Magazine, 24 Jan. 2017, www.billboard.com/articles/business/7668937/930-clubs-imp-announces-new-60-mil-washington-dc-venue-the-anthem. Accessed 27 Feb. 2017.

“History.” The Lincoln Theatre, www.thelincolndc.com/history/. Accessed 28 March 2017.

“Mayor Vincent C. Gray Announces the Winning Bid for the Historic Lincoln Theatre” | Dgs, DC.gov, 27 June 2013, dgs.dc.gov/release/mayor-vincent-c-gray-announces-winning-bid-historic-lincoln. Accessed 30 Apr. 2017.

“Race and Ethnicity in U Street Corridor, Washington, District of Columbia (Neighborhood).” Race and Ethnicity in U Street Corridor, Washington, District of Columbia (Neighborhood) – Statistical Atlas, US Census Bureau, www.statisticalatlas.com/neighborhood/District-of-Columbia/Washington/U-Street-Corridor/Race-and-Ethnicity. Accessed 30 Apr. 2017.

“The Lincoln Theatre.” The Lincoln Theatre, www.thelincolndc.com/. Accessed 26 Feb. 2017.

Simplicity and the Art of Failing

Samuel Beckett, Writer

When Samuel Beckett writes, “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better” in Worstward Ho! Beckett is saying that in order to achieve progress, we must fail. Looking at this superficially, one may feel as though that this is counterproductive to what it means to progress but in fact it is not because every time we fail we learn something and learning is always in the direction of progress. What Beckett has to say about failure matters because society has put this stigma on the concept of failure as being “bad” or something that is not suppose to happen or that failure should be avoided and this in actuality isn’t the case, we should all try and fail and try again and fail.

Samuel Beckett would use such simple structures in his works, to deliver his point in a focused manner. He’re trying to prove a single point, why is it necessary to add things to the sentences that are just going to take away from this point or cloud his position? The saying is true that sometimes less is more and this structure absolutely affects how we read this. If Samuel Beckett were to use question marks after the first two sentences I think that it would certainly grab the reader’s attention but it would also leave the reader to answer the questions in their head about if they’ve ever tried and if they’ve ever failed. Answering of these questions in one’s own head is leading the reader to be caught up in his or her own thoughts of these memories rather that focusing and continue reading Beckett’s point which is what having a period mark forces one to do; same thing with an exclamation point it almost doesn’t leave any room for the reader to mentally “wander off” in his or her own thoughts. For these reasons, I think the simple structure that Samuel Beckett uses to deliver his point is highly effective.

HOME: Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

 

I remember just like it was yesterday how damn good it felt to be home. Or at least what what like home to me. I took this picture standing in the ocean in Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. The journey to Providenciales became quite a soul searching journey for me. A lot of terrible things happened to me when I was on the island and a lot of beautiful and spectacular things happened to me while I was on the island. Despite the good, bad and in between I got so much closer to finding out whom I truly was and who I am meant to be. I have always been proud of being black, my racial identity is something I’ve held very close to my heart and cared very much about, On the other hand, I like many other black people in America do not know my ethnicity due to the history of slavery. I could be Jamaican, Somali, Sudanese, Nigerian, Trinidadian, Native, Guyanese, Cuban, Malian, etc. but me and my ancestors were robbed of that knowledge after my people were sold into slavery. So rather than being proud to represent my ethnic heritage, I was left with the choice to be proud of my racial identity, that was socially constructed by the white man and when people ask me what I am I simply respond….. ”I am black” not because Im trying to be secretive or curt but simply  because that is all that I know.

Due to this dilemma, my sister and I chose to do some research on our family history as much as we possibly could and it led us to this beautiful, stunning, miraculous place of Providenciales, Turks and Caicos. We found that more than likely, this is the place of our ethnic heritage and background. Given my last name “Tucker” which in itself is a slave name, most of the people sold into slavery and sent to North Carolina were from the Turks and Caicos Islands with the last name “Tucker” which why everyone on the Island thought that my sister and I were locals. Besides that evidence of the last name, my sister and I physically looked like all of the Islanders, the women had small, muscular frames with beautiful dark skin. The men looked just like my father, tall, broad shoulders, large eyes, strong cheekbones and dark skin. Although never having been to this place, it was ridiculously familiar to me, the people, the music, the food, the dress, the slang, everything just felt like I was suppose to be here and it was only a return rather than a visit.

When I look at this picture, I can still tasted the fresh Conch that Skylar and I would go diving in the ocean for and pull out of the water to eat raw. When I look at this picture I still remember dancing my heart out at the junkanoo every Thursday night with the island calypso and soca music and waking up to the sun hitting my face early mornings, when I look at this picture I am reminded that Providenciales, Turks and Caicos is HOME.

Problematic Pura Vida Bracelets

When I saw this ad on Facebook I was disgusted. It made me sick to my stomach. I don’t care what the heck they’re selling, this person in the ad has and Om symbol in his/her foot. How dare they? How incredibly rude and disrespectful can this company, Pura Vida be? In Hindu culture, the Om is a sacred symbol that is to be held to the highest esteem and is to be absolutely nowhere near the ground and especially NOT the feet, one of the dirtiest parts of one’s body. This image is hurtful and highly offensive, and it is evident to me that the marketing team and creators are culture competent. I did a bit of research on the team and one the creators, two young caucasian guys that are both recent college graduates. I am SO incredibly sick and tired and fed up of white people thinking its “cute” trendy” and “hipster” to exploit, disrespect and appropriate culture from people of color. This isn’t okay and there are a ton of advertisements and rhetoric like this and its absolutely absurd. There’s a difference between appropriation and appreciation. If one TRULY appreciated the culture they would know and understand that nothing about placing an Om on the foot is okay, this isn’t cool at all. I was so upset about this, I decided to give this company a call and after they chose not to pick up the phone, I decided to write a strongly worded email, to the marketing head of this company expressing my disappointment and disgust and asking them to remove this ad from all the platforms. I doubt that they’ll even acknowledge my email but I know I did something to speak out against something that I find disturbing and hurtful.