Archive for the People of Color Category

Afropunk-Halloween-D’est, Freedom Train

Posted in art, film, People of Color, queer, reading with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Ok, I have been looking for inspiration all week and I must say that I intensely just found it. Right here at home, thanks to the New York Public Library and James Spooner, who have collaboratively brought the film Afropunk into my life. I didn’t realize during all those hours spent moshing in friends basements back in junior high that I was part of a sub-culture. Oh, but I was, I was Afropunk and proud, and now I know it. That’s why I gripped my punk mixtapes, smuggled out of Brooklyn through summer camp channels into my sweaty suburban palms. It explains my yellow sweater and my later interest in Saul Williams. I thought I was alternative or grunge, in fact I was part of an isolated sub-culture of people who didnt then know each other, but who now, I hope, do, thanks in large part to this film, BAM’s Afropunk festival (which I have attended as a unitiated), a cool website and I imagine a lot more.

Did you know that Bad Brains were rastas and members of the Dead Kennedys and Suicidal Tendencies are black? Where have I been? Anyway the point is, I love this film and I can relate to so much of what the interview subjects are talking about, and those punk squatter kids with their black and white patches, who I used to encounter in the east village should take a page out of this film is all I’m saying.

Which brings me to Halloween. Lost in a sea of decision, to dress up or not to dress up, to go out or avoid the madness, a moment of inspiration I found during an audience participation workshop moment at Freedom Train (the black queer theatre that I much love) last week…I was to write around memory, family, ritual – and I came to the ritual of dressing up for Halloween, which for me was a ritual, because I only ever wanted to be one thing. A punk rocker. From the age of about 2-12 this was my stock costume. It involved 80s leg warmers, purple hair, I dressed up as what I was, in fact, without knowing it yet. This year on cabbage night, the inspiration has returned to me, minding my business, watching library dvds, what should I discover-but myself! So this year, tomorrow, I will dress up as the most proud version of my alien finds voice culture. Bring it on. And if you see me, say hi.

Also deserving of a mention in this week’s culture quest in review are Rachael Rakes’ new travelling doc series, Docktruck’s screening of Chantal Akerman’s D’est. Oh, we love Chantal. The film was what you could call silent, or you could call it: in Russian without subtitles + diegetic music, I say potato, you say patato anyway, it was long, in duration, shots on various public and private scenes throughout the eastern bloc shortly after the fall. Read about it in Art Forum and tell them I want to write for them and buy me a zine at Printed Matter and show me your Halloween costume, or maybe you could just see me at Unnameable books, where I also was earlier this week to take in the also much loved by me reading series, Uncalled for Readings, organized by the awesome Ari and friends. I especially enjoyed the second poet, Donna Masini. I purchased her book so more to come on that. A big book review post is one its way, cause as usual I am multi-tasking when it comes to books.

In closing, on the book vein, here is a quote from Eileen Myles’ Not Me:

“The Best Revolutionaries

like to give up

on hot nights in fall.”

Afropunks don’t though.

Still Socialiting- with Legends

Posted in art, Book, film, People of Color, talk with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Wow, like a lost child I continue to stray from the Brooklyn Socialite path, but never too far my friends. Never too far. All the while as my keyboard fingers have gone limp, my little legs have still run from one cultural event to the next. Indeed, I have much to report.

In adventures in the surreal I have recently found myself in 2 interesting settings. One, a friendly neighborhood book group, with a selection of my peers. We had gathered to discuss A Mercy, by the legendary Toni Morrison. Halfway through some questions arose about characters and the author’s intention, when one of the group said, “Well, I’ll just call her and ask her, hold on a sec.”  “Excuse me?” I stuttered out. “What does she mean she’ll just call her?” “Well Toni Morrison is her grandmother.” Another member offered. Oh, I saw. Morrison was called and I sat dumbfounded. There was so much I wanted to ask her.

To continue on the theme of six degrees of separation, the next day, out of Brooklyn and all the way uptown at the 92 Street Y, I was picking up my ticket to Chinua Achebe from the press representative and he mentioned in passing that all 900 seats of the auditorium were packed. “I haven’t seen the Y this full since Toni Morrison was here.” He said. Of course, Morrison again.

My second brush with legend this past week or so, was a screening that I had the occasion to attend on the rooftop of the Chelsea Hotel. Yes, after seeing Chelsea on the Rocks, Abel Ferrara’s docudrama (it had re-enactments, many) next door at the Chelsea Cinema, I moved considerably closer to that old ghost, new art temple of legend, yes the Hotel in question. I got past the reception who didn’t seem to want to let any of us up to Sam Bassett‘s penthouse apt. We did make it though, the very small crew of myself, 5-6 other journalists, Sam, his girlfriend Erin Featherstone (I was having fashion week flashbacks, I had been to her show, but in person, she was more real life-like and very nice. Bryant Park makes one grand I suppose.) and Stanley Bard himself, with his support team of family and friends. There we sat, with an amazing view of the city, in Basset’s studio/home and watched the work unfold. His documentary, Stanley Bard, was decidedly different from Chelsea on the Rocks, although they were made at similar times, with similar subject matter. The comparison is a whole article in itself, but for now let’s leave it at more, on the gentle, kind and very talented Bassett, to come.

Next stop: Another screening in the series put on by the Royal Flush Festival. This art/music/film festival is a smallish local affair, still they have managed to pack their theaters and involve some amazing contributors. One such element of amazement, was Justin Strawhand’s film, War Against the Weak. Based on the seminal, critical history of  U.S. eugenics by Edwin Black, this film really mines our history in a way that many are not yet ready to own. It tracks how the Rockefeller foundation, along with several other rich American families funded eugenics research in the U.S and Germany from the beginning of the 20th century, all the way up through the Second World War. The startling tenet of the film is that Nazism was directly inspired and to some degree funded by racist American science, and what’s more, many other institutions and policies that remain in place here, to this day, were motivated by eugenics. A sinister origin is revealed for the SAT, the IQ test, and much of the  documentation, which has been kept by government agencies like jails and schools throughout the past century. Again much more can be said on the subject, and in order to verse myself more fully, I purchased, yes with my own limited funds, the last copy of Edwin Black’s book in the Union Square Barnes and Noble. Here once more, I accidentally approached legend, this book happened to be a hardcover, signed by the author.

But let’s take a step back, dedicated readers of this blog may remember that I first met Justin back in the spring at Full Frame. We got into a long discussion about Eugenics outside of a festival party. De ja vu, a couple of weekends back, when I was at the Hamptons Film Festival, lying low as Industry (that means I was on the screening committee, not that I am now an industry bigshot of any kind) who should I find myself hanging out with outside a party again. Yes, of course Justin and here it comes out that I still haven’t seen his film and the plan is made to be at his Royal Flush screening. Wait, what else happened in the Hamptons?

Well, I saw a lot of films and I took a little morning trip to Montauk, my favorite part of that area, where I went to Joni’s my favorite brunch spot in New York state. Oh, it’s charming, has amazing organic food, lots of  which is homemade. I also made a point to go the water everyday and watch the fishermen and walk and relax. Ahh the Brooklyn Socialite will survive Brooklyn only with regular exposure to nature. Yeah, I’m making a rule to get out as much as I can.

OK, but what were the filmic highlights? Let’s see, Shadow Billionaire, was intriguing, The Paper Man was great because of the fact that lots of stuffy audience members walked out in the middle including, one former Mayor Giuliani. Yes, this was my brush with not legend, but ignominy. Oh the shame. I wanted to give him an earful, but I was too polite to interrupt the film, unlike some people. Mira Nair’s collection of shorts was intense, also earned several walkouts, but as Guy Maddin (yes legend is the theme today) once shared with me the fact of the very high walk out rates in his films, I don’t think it is necessarily a bad sign.

To conclude with legends, and to reference my less than clever pun (Still Socialiting) yes I’m not just a boob, this is a reference to the film Still Bill. I saw it this week at Stranger than Fiction. The film is about, yes the legend, Bill Whithers, who after all these years is still Bill. He’s kept his roots and remained down to earth, a family man, who hasn’t released a record in 30 years, after such epic songs as Lean on Me, Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone and Grandma’s Hands. The film is candid and touching and made me really want to find the last autographed copy of the Bill Whiters CD at Barnes and Noble on 14th street.  Maybe my luck will hold.

Commentary- Dialogue. Human Rights

Posted in film, People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , on July 15, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I have been questioning the sanctity of commentary a bit as of late. Thanks to fevers and homebody time and, of course, multiple other factors. This morning, however, I got a welcome reminder of what the point of it all is. That’s right friends, Dialogue. It’s all about the discussion, debate, free share, book club style, writing workshop, round table chat. Sometimes we find engaged minds in non-cyber life that want to dig into our topics with us, while other times we find these passionate opinionated folks online. After I posted my recent interview with Pamela Yates, the director of The Reckoning on the Huffington Post, as promised, this lively multi-voiced dialogue ensued. In progress, and quoted full text, here are our comments.

godlessliberal I’m a

Great interview. It’s sad, a story about Sarah Palin can garner up to a thousand comments but a film about the International Criminal Court has one lonely comment, it speaks volumes about our priorities as a collective people. I, for one, am looking forward to watching this film to get a better understanding of the kinks that still need to be worked out within the court and why our government refuses to sign on as a member state.

Posted 10:27 PM on 07/14/2009

Robyn Hillman-Harrigan – Huffpost Blogger I’m a Fan of Robyn Hillman-Harrigan I’m a fan of this user permalink

Thanks, I’m glad the post has sparked your interest in the ICC. It is such significant work, quietly being hacked away at in the Hague and I agree that more of us should know about the court and our countries opposition to it.

Reply Favorite Flag as abusive Posted 01:45 AM on 07/15/2009

As a member of one of the communities that has dealt with the aftermath of ICC indictments — the ICC has a long way to go in terms of implementation. Especially in Uganda, we’ve witnessed a lot of double standards. The Ugandan President and Moreno-Ocampo attended a press conference together to announce the arrest warrants.

After seeing that, it was clear there would be no accountability or justice for crimes the Ugandan government had committed either in Congo or Uganda. Justice is a two-way street. This is one are the ICC must work on in order to garner popular support.

A couple of interesting articles:

Waiting for Bashir: http://ugandagenocide.info/?p=1527

The ICC is a Western Tool But Can Be Improved: http://www.blackstarnews.com/news/122/ARTICLE/5828/2009-07-01.html

Posted 07:05 PM on 07/14/2009

Robyn Hillman-Harrigan – Huffpost Blogger I’m a Fan of Robyn Hillman-Harrigan I’m a fan of this user permalink

Hi, thank you for your comment. Yours is an important perspective, could you tell us more about how the ICC is experienced on the ground in Uganda? The film definitely delves into the criticisms the court has received from African member states and their citizens. What do you see as the way forward?

Reply Favorite Flag as abusive Posted 01:49 AM on 07/15/2009

Thanks for the questions.

For many, the experience of the ICC in Uganda has been tinged with a lot of contradictions and confusion. People can see the government using the ICC when it is convenient, to garner international support, but the law has not been applied to the government itself.

(Right now, Uganda is presiding over the UN Security Council, and ICC prosecutor Moreno-Ocampo is in Uganda to convince Ugandan officials to arrest Sudan”s Al-Bashir, who will be visiting later in the month� in 2010 the ICC review conference will be in Uganda ” these facts alone bring up many contradictions.)

There is a national Amnesty Act for former rebels — this adds to the confusion of whether ICC law or Amnesty will be applied. A war crimes court is another confusing option.

Direct communication with the ICC has been difficult. Victims have written the court to raise issues of systematic government abuse but have received little response from the court. Meanwhile, the Court is spending money to “sensitize” victim communities about their rights.

Posted 10:29 AM on 07/15/2009

FindingTruth I’m a fan of th

(Continued Thoughts)

Many people see the court as a walking contradiction. I have a relative who is a member of the Ugandan army – he said the investigators were only interested in interviewing child soldiers. He raised the question of how truthful the child soldiers might have been, due to army presence.

Most people are afraid to speak too loudly about the history of serious human rights violations by the government. (It was stunning to see the people in the film speaking out.)

From a survivor perspective, the crimes of the government are worse than those of the LRA, yet it is only the LRA”s crimes that are being addressed. This is where the ICC’s lack of effectiveness is most apparent.

Amnesty International Report: http://www.hrw.org/en/reports/2005/09/19/uprooted-and-forgotten

Many politicians and civil society groups who have raised issues of justice around the LRA issue have been targeted for intimidation by the government ” the conversation in Uganda around the ICC/LRA/Justice is far from free.

The way forward in Uganda: interpret the ICC Statute as it is written and aid the Chief Prosecutor in neutrally applying the law to both sides. The Court also must recognize that governments do not have the ability to try themselves!

The other issue is execution of the warrants. Perhaps the warrants need not be made public? The court’s current system of relying on member countries for arrests hasn’t been successful.

The dialogue is still in progress. To read the actual interview with Pamela Yates click here.

Word of the Day- ManCode

Posted in People of Color, tv, word of the day with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 26, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

As I am in TV land, I have just now been taking in the wonderment that is The Bachelorette. Out of the 20 guys that are after her hand in marriage, and a million dollars or so, only one of them is not white. His name is Juan. He looks pretty similar to the white guys, tall, buff model/actor type, but beyond the crime of not being white, what’s even worse is that he is the sensitive type, a poet/artist/architect, who talks about his feelings and, apparently, “Does not respect man code.” David one of his competitors, dropped this line of brilliance, after saying that if he had met him outside of the show, he would have “Tied him to a tree and beat him up.”

Yes he really did say that.

So what is this ManCode? According to David, Juan broke it by not taking his shot with the boys at the bar, he dared to pour it out and then allegedly pretended to have drunk it. Ouch, pretty evil! But David says that “Juan was breaking man code left and right.” What else did he do? What is this elusive ManCode? If you know what else it entails please share. This could be the key to understanding, not only realityTV, racism, and violence, but perhaps the entire hetero-normative capitalist society…

R

Ella at Howard Zinn

Posted in Book, ella, People of Color, politics, queer, reading with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 21, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

I will just preface this by saying that as someone with a degree in History, yes not your typical socialite trade, nonetheless true…Howard Zinn is my idol. Take that American Idol, last week, while I was paying my dues in the country, Ella went to hear him speak along with a few other visionaries at the 92 street Y. Here’s her report back. R

Entering the 92nd Street Y last Wednesday, I may have been guilty of bringing more than a healthy dose of cynicism. Don’t get me wrong – I cried as much as the next liberal during Obama’s acceptance speech. But, well… I struggle with a lot of the liberal left’s self-righteousness and lack of self-criticism. Especially when confronted with it in its Park Slope post-hippie incarnation. And let’s be honest – if I struggle to stay polite to Park Slope liberals, Upper East Side liberals should entice me to set off fire alarms by smoking Marlboro Reds,  and to loudly proclaim my affection for clubbing baby seals.

Also, taking the subway from Crown Heights to 86th street is such a bizarre exercise in people watching.  Not a situation geared to inspiring faith in the existence of a post-racial America. Even in oh-so-liberal New York.

The high schoolers carrying AP-study guides and the people handing out fliers for every cause and demonstration under the sun did nothing to raise my spirits. I haven’t been grumpier since my mother forced me to take part in a Swedish outdoor Hannukah celebration.

Imagine my surprise when A Young People’s History of the United States
turned out to be the most inspiring and intellectually challenging event I’ve been to in a long time.

Howard Zinn, I shouldn’t have doubted you. Surprisingly tall and gangly, Zinn’s introduction to the evening showed not only that he’s still sharp and funny but also that he can command an audience without bogarting the stage. Despite the fact that the evening tied in with the publication of A Young People’s History of the United States, the self-evidently titled young reader’s version of Zinn’s non-fiction bestseller, it didn’t feel like an excuse to hawk books.

Instead, the evening introduced me to several historical speeches I’m going to have to revisit, and several performers I’m keen to check out again. Tim Robbins has been a long-term favorite of mine, but Avery Brooks is definitely someone I’d love to see act again. And I want to hear Shontina Vernon sing again and Staceyann Chin perform poetry.

For me, one of the very genuine effects of the evening was a return to the feeling that dissent and questioning of the ruling order can be intellectually satisfying. And that this doesn’t have to be done mockingly. The Martin Luther King Jr speech, Where Do We Go from Here?, performed by Brian Jones, was a picture of sincerity, while at the same time addressing the troubling link between race and class which was true in the 60s and has not yet been overcome.

Emphasizing the role of young people in shaping the world, Evann Orleck-Jetter, the twelve year old girl whose testimony helped sway the Vermont state legislature to allow equal marriage rights, read the piece she’d delivered early this year, as well as a document against child labor from 1913. I was worried for a while that this would be gimmicky and embarrassing. Instead, her calm performance was a restrained tear-jerker –- impressive in anyone and incredibly dignified for someone that young –- which highlighted Zinn’s argument that the study of history should inspire people to participate in the struggles of their own age.

The evening inspired me to email one of the poems performed to an old teacher of mine, from back when I was a super idealistic teenager. She wrote back, thanking me, saying she’d needed it that day. I guess the evening brought back those feelings of I matter-ness that otherwise tend to get trapped beneath my everyday life. Maybe, sometimes, the enthusiastic young person in me needs to be given space to push the post-ironic jaded city dweller aside.

By Ella Fitzsimmons

The Girlfriend Experience, Fixer, Print vs Blog

Posted in film, Food, Party, People of Color, politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 3, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

It’s been another busy week friends. Since last I wrote I saw The Girlfriend Experience and  Fixer:The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi at the Tribeca Film Festival, went to a Print vs Blog talk at the Tribeca Y, had a poetry reading and danced the blues off at two Brooklyn house parties. Plus, I had another successful meal at Buttermilk Channel, this time brunch. Their biscuits are pretty good, but not as good as mine! I also had a chance to live it up a little bit on Saturday while actually reading peacefully in the sun in Choice Greene’s backyard patio. On the way there I passed an awesome kids clown show on Grand, in front of the Still Hip clothing store. Apparently they are having them every Saturday, if you love costumes and clowns, and environmentally themed, musical children’s performances as much as I do, then definitely check it out!

First a note about Brooklyn house parties and then onto my film reviews. Note: They rule! Ha, ha, no really they do. OMG Michelle played at the one on Friday night, which was at this house called Mansion (not to be confused with the snooty Manhattan club, Mansion.) DJ Designer Impostor played and on Sat, DJ Shomi Noise was awesome. Aside from being my friend, she is also a generally great DJ!

Ok film. So, the two films were extremely different than each other, the first Steven Soderberg’s new opus on high class prostitutes, who give their customers the illusion that they are somehow in a loving relationship with each other, was less than spectacular. Although the directer himself, with huge successes like Erin Brochevich, Sex Lies and Videotape, and Traffic under his belt, was wildly confident during the Q & A after, several elements of the film caused me to take pause.

He typecast, if you will, non-actors to play the roles of the prostitute and her personal trainer boyfriend. He didn’t give them a script and instead set them up with a situation and encouraged them to ad lib. Although this technique was quite successful in Ballast it fell very short in The Girlfriend Experience. Soderberg claimed, during his talk back, that if people didn’t know that was his method, we never would have noticed. I beg to differ.

The holes in the dialogue were obvious. The language was incidental and often seemed forced. Many of the relationships were unconvincing and the main character, played by porn actress, Sasha Grey, was stiff and boring to watch. If you made a film about me walking around NY having somewhat random conversations with strangers, I’m sure I would also be stiff and boring to watch. Why? Because I’m not an actor and films which follow non-actors are usually called documentaries. Why not just call the whole thing off, and make a documentary about a real prostitute who offers the girlfriend experience? Just asking.

Speaking of documentaries, let’s talk a bit about the really good film that I saw at Tribeca. But first, a note about opinions. Yes everyone has one, and some people start blogs and share them, people like me. But Tony Ortega, editor, and Michael Cohen,  publisher, of the Village Voice have a bit of a bone to pick with people like us. However, the founder of Gothamist and a writer from Mashable, who sat on a panel with them on Thursday, they kinda think us bloggers are great. If you’re interested in finding out more about this secret society who is bringing down the media oligarchy, come to the Brooklyn Blogfest on Thursday, that’s where most of our upcoming schemes for world domination will be hatched.

No, to be fair, Ortega claimed to support bloggers, to want to maintain the integrity of the Voice, and most shockingly, he insisted that the Voice is still making good money.  Strange, those claims seem to run counter to the Voice‘s recent massive layoffs and to their stubborn attempt to remain the source of NYC event advice. Unless they become a little more cutting edge with their suggestions, I don’t see people continuing to look to them to find out what’s happening.

But that’s just my opinion, and it’s here in my blog, not pretending to be impartial in some newspaper. Anyway enough angst right? Fixer: The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi without necessarily seeking to do so, makes a very different and much more compelling argument in favor of the old media establishment. There is absolutely a place for researched, well-sourced journalism, especially in terms of foreign correspondence.

Fixer is a documentary that follows Christian Parenti, a Nation journalist, on a fact gathering trip through Afghanistan. As he travels around the country, meeting with Taliban leaders, villagers and any other potential sources of information, Ian Olds, the filmmaker is in the back seat of the car, a fly on the wall, observing Parenti’s transactions.  In order to navigate this active war zone, Parenti requires help from what is known in the journo trade as a fixer.

A fixer is a local person who makes contact with potential sources, estimates the level of risk in traveling to various areas and then facilitates the actual journey by driving the foreign journalist to the rendezvous points and serving as translator while there. More than a middle man, Parenti’s fixer, Ajmal Naqshbandi was a journalist in his own right and as portrayed in the film, was a very savvy and intelligent individual. He died not long after the journey that Parenti and Olds took with him.

On another fixer job, working for an Italian journalist, Naqshbandi and the Italian were both kidnapped by a notorious Taliban leader. This man is known to have kidnapped and brutally executed several people. We are told at the start of the film that Naqshbandi died in this cruel way, but that his Italian employer was released relatively unharmed. The rest of the film navigates how the fixer got to that point and questions why he was not saved.

I was glad to see that Fixer won best documentary at Tribeca. It is truly an interrogative film. It forces us to question A. what is really going on in Afghanistan, B. how much that self-government and democracy actually protects Afghan citizens and C. How we would  even begin to answer these questions without the field researched findings of foreign corespondents funded by media institutions.

1 point scored for blogs and 1 for old media. Looks like a tie Tony.

Tribeca Film Festival-Indiewire Party at the Apple Store

Posted in film, Party, People of Color with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 24, 2009 by thebrooklynsocialite

Last nights Indiewire Filmmakers party was a bit of a whirlwind. I had to explain my moniker to a few people when they asked, “So are you a socialite?” “No,” I clarified, “I’m the Brooklyn Socialite.” Big difference, indeed!

I ran into filmmaker Joe Brewster who I know from many Stranger than Fiction’s ago, and from seeing his film, Slaying Goliath at the African Diaspora Film Festival. He was excited to see me and took me on a fast-paced, arm pulling tour of the entire party. Determined to introduce me to all the filmmakers of color who are involved in the Tribeca all Access program and everyone else he knew along the way, including his wife, Michelle Stephenson.

Some of the highlights of these rapid fire meetings, included a guy named James? who is opening a 3-plex art cinema in Williamsburg in December (more info on this when I figure out his last name and actually get a contact for him!), Molly Charnoff of the Lava Dance company, who’s performance, We Become I saw at the Lyceum back in December, Lisa Lucas, who I haven’t seen since we went to High School together and who turns out to now work for the Tribeca Institute, small world! She looked great. I also met numerous filmmakers who seem to have great projects in the works like The Kivalina Project , Wam!Bam!Islam! and Binawee by Australian Aboriginal filmmaker, Sam Saunders.

Plus I ran into filmmaker, Ian Olds, who I had met at Full Frame and who’s feature documentary, Fixer:The Taking of Ajmal Naqshbandi,  I am excited to see next week. The film is about a  Afghan fixer hired by a Italian journalist to help navigate Afghanistan, who is then kidnapped by the Taliban and ultimately executed. More on this after I see it.

All in all the party was fun for meeting and self-watering, there was a lively dj but not much dancing, they did have great sugar covered chicken triangle things going around in trays and in true Freegan style I ate as many as possible!