Cappuccino Soul

Cappuccino Soul

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Me and Romare: My First Article in the Charlotte Observer

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'The Storeroom' features some of Charlotte's greatest artists, including the master Romare Bearden


"Dreaming about Miss Anne and Lulu Belle" by Romare Bearden
Photo courtesy of Melberg Gallery, Charlotte, N.C.

Monday, April 26, 2010

I am the Honored and the Scorned

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I am the first and the last.
I am the honored one and the scorned.

I am the whore and the holy one.
I am the wife and the virgin.
I am the barren one and many are my daughters.

-- From the Nag Hammadi, via Daughters of the Dust,
a film by Julie Dash

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Brownstones to Red Dirt: Children Write from the Heart

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I was just telling my 7-year-old daughter about the joys of having pen pals in other parts of the world. This film, "Brownstones to Red Dirt," shows the power of words and the impact that reaching out to others can have. When I was a child, I had pen pals in England, Cameroon and Peru. I'm sure my correspondence with these children opened my eyes and heart to people from all over the world.

Here's what the San Francisco International Film Festival's Web site says about this provocative film.

In 1990 the NYPD declared the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn an "Impact Zone," where, in just three square miles, there were 139 murders. At the same time, across the Atlantic Ocean in the African nation of Sierra Leone, a brutal 11-year civil war resulted in a devastated country and thousands of orphaned children. Today, the Respect pen pal program is attempting to bring these two groups of children together through the simple act of writing letters. This moving documentary shows how that experience not only helps shape the children's lives, but also shows them that even if they can't count on the world, they can count on each other. Brownstones to Red Dirt captures seemingly average students from vastly different worlds whose inspirational growth shows that no child's future is predestined.
Here are some of the words shared by the child pen pals featured in "Brownstones to Red Dirt."

The Life in Africa is hard and difficult, but I thank God.

They lost their parents because of the war and all of them died.

I want you to be my friend.

I will be her friend, and I won’t let nobody boss her around.



The documentary is showing in San Francisco later this month.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Aging Out of Foster Care

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This one made me cry.

Report: Foster Kids Face Tough Times After Age 18
by Pam Fessler

NPR, April 7, 2010

(Click on the text below to read the full story at NPR)

It's hard turning 18 — moving out, finding a job, going to college. But many foster children have to do it by themselves, without the lifeline to parents and home that helps many teens ease into independence.

A major report out Wednesday says that many former foster kids have a tough time out on their own. When they age out of the system, they're more likely than their peers to end up in jail, homeless or pregnant. They're also less likely to have a job or go to college.

Life can be a struggle for these young people, even with help from the government and nonprofit agencies.

Take Josh Mendoza, a shy young man from Tampa, Fla., with soulful eyes and a hint of dark hair along his upper lip. He lived in 14 different group homes after he was removed from his mother's care more than two years ago because she used drugs.

But now he's just turned 18, and like 30,000 other foster teens this year, he's suddenly out on his own.

"This is my apartment," Mendoza says as he opens the door to a ground floor unit at an apartment complex in Tampa. The living room is empty except for a navy blue futon and a small TV. The white walls are bare. He has only been here for two weeks.

There's food in the cupboard, but not a lot: some spaghetti, Cream of Wheat and cereal.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Erykah Badu: Missed Opportunity

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In Erykah Badu’s provocative music video for her song “Window Seat,” Badu gets raw for her fans -- literally.

In the video, Badu drives a car along the same route as President John F. Kennedy, just before he was assassinated 47 years ago in Dallas. She then walks down the route that Kennedy’s car travelled, along Dealey Plaza, while shedding her clothes. When she arrives at the spot where Kennedy was shot on the grassy knoll, she’s totally naked. We hear a shot and Badu falls to the ground.

OK, this is all very shocking and has caught the attention of the media, fans, and onlookers, but what’s the singer's point?

Badu told the Dallas Morning News this week that the video is a “protest” and about freeing yourself. The song Window Seat “is about liberating yourself from layers and layers of skin or demons that are a hindrance to your growth or freedom, or evolution,” she told the paper. “I wanted to do something that said just that, so I started to think about shedding, nudity, taking things off in a very artful way,” she said.

But the lyrics to the song don’t seem to support her claim. Here’s a sample:
don't want nobody next to me
I just want a ticket outta town
a look around
and a safe touch down
can I get a window seat
Am I missing something?

I noticed that “Erykah Badu” is listed as one of the “Hot Topics” on the Web site for The Dallas Morning News. Could this have been the point of her stunt?

My guess is -- yes. Didn’t she want to call attention to her new album, to sell more records, to get more people talking about her, to exhibit her body?

This statement below by London’s xiamoogle, which appeared in the comment section of The Guardian’s blog post today about Badu’s performance art, comments on the video briskly:
How is it that female musicians have to be controver-shawl to gain fans/respect/fame? And why must they have to get naked in order to be controversial? Maybe she'll get a billion views too and be projected into the mainstream? … I expected better from Badu.
So did I.

Although I’m not a big Badu fan (she seems to whine a bit when she sings and she’s often off key), I’ve always respected that her attention seemed not to be on overt sexuality. She seemed to have something more substantial to say. I don’t remember her wearing extremely revealing clothes or gyrating her hips, like so many modern performers do to sell their wares.

But with this video strip act, Badu busts the typical move. She shows her body to get attention -- to sell something.

It’s a shame and too bad that she couldn’t have focused all this attention on a cause that was really worthwhile – like, for instance, the documentary about the mass rape of women and children in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.

The World's Most Dangerous Place for Women, a film narrated by Thandie Newton, follows a London woman who grew up in that city, but was born thousands of miles away in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Judtih Wanga was sent away by her parents to live in Britain when she was three, she returns to Congo to meet them for the first time.

When Wanga arrives in her homeland, she comes face to face with the brutality of this country.

Every day, at least one woman is assaulted in Congo –- not only her character, but her body. This is the perfect kind of injustice to highlight with performance art. Take a wrong and reveal its cruelty and absurdity with metaphor — poetry — action.

Badu missed a prime opportunity to really say something about so many issues -- physically and mentally abused women, poverty, lack of healthcare for the poor, war, the people of Haiti -- the list is endless. Instead, we’re all left looking at her.