Shining Like New Money: Loomis, August Wilson, Sam Pollard and Me

David Cooper Photography 202-950 Powell St. Vancouver BC V6A1H9 604-255-4576

Photo Credit: David Cooper, 2004

As a senior at (XUP) Xavier Prep: Xavier University Preparatory School in New Orleans, I had A.P. English with Mrs. Oubre, a feisty and brilliant Black woman with a love for literature. She assigned our class ‘Joe Turner’s Come And Gone.’ The words leapt off the page at me, literally in a way that no play ever had. I saw the characters, full and complex and recognized them. I knew them by face, mannerisms and name. They were my grandfathers and uncles and nannies and generations of people I would never meet. Being able to see the production on Broadway several years ago gave life an entire different meaning for me. August Wilson was a giant.

The other weekend, I saw Samuel D. Pollard during the Firelight Media’s Producer’s Lab Retreat. Initially I didn’t say anything because I didn’t think he remembered me. But he smiled and waved and motioned for me to come over. I hugged him and was humbled by both his presence and warmth. He himself is a living legend and this story of August Wilson is only yet another reminder.

Ironically, during that retreat, I received a text from my childhood friend Jewel Bush, who was also in Mrs. Oubre’s A.P. English class, telling me that she watched the August Wilson doc and said it was amazing. We began a brief back and forth of the wonder Joe Turner’s Come and Gone gave to two Black and Catholic, high school girls.  Although this was many moons before I would come to know and practice African spirituality, I remember how intrigued I was by Bynum Walker, the conjure man and his ability to “bind” people, situations, things.

The documentary has shed light on Wilson’s upbringing, self education, and has given his characters brand new life. Like many literary giants of his day, his words were highly influenced by our other artistic forms –  the blues and visual art. Watching the film, I learned that Joe Turner’s set was taken directly from a Bearden painting. And then, I get to relive the moment in the play where Christianity codifies African spirituality – ring shouts, hollering and wagging tongues.

Cinncinati-Bearden

Mill Hand’s Lunch Bucket, 1978

I’m thankful for August Wilson’s genius. I’m thankful for Sam Pollard’s storytelling. I’m thankful for educators like Mrs. Oubre and schools like Prep that introduce young minds to the brilliance and artfulness of our community.

To this day I randomly say out loud, “Herald Loomis! You shining like new money!”

Please watch August Wilson: The Ground On Which I Stand, now on PBS. 

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The Dandy Lion Project | A Comprehensive Survey of Global Black Dandyism

Khumbula | Johannesburg, South Africa | Photo Credit: Harness Hamese | via Loux the Vintage Guru

Khumbula | Johannesburg, South Africa | Photo Credit: Harness Hamese  & Lukas Amakali | Compliments of Loux the Vintage Guru

Four years ago, when Ngozi Odita (Society HAE/Afrika21/Social Media Week Lagos) asked me to curate an exhibition at her pop up gallery in Harlem, I had no idea at the time that I was foreshadowing a subcultural movement that was on a resurgent rise across the globe. That one exhibit has evolved into the most comprehensive multi-media survey of global Black Dandyism to date. Over the past four years, the exhibition has traveled to notable institutions including the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (Brooklyn, NY); Aljira, A Center for Contemporary Art (Newark, NJ); the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture(Baltimore, MD); and Open Ateliers Zuidoost in (Amsterdam, NL). Additionally, it has served as a platform for scholarship and academic discourse both here and abroad, including panels and lectures featuring Dr. Monica Miller, author of Slaves to Fashion.

As the project expands and connect with the contemporary connoisseurs of this phenomenon, I continuously marvel at the historical images I meet at the crossroads of time, space and style. Men of African descent were dandy and fine well before fine and dandy was even a “thing” by Europeans or anyone else for that matter.

Here’s to rebellious Black men around the world, whose sartorial decisions are challenging mainstream narratives of Black masculinity, creating a space for elaboration on elegance and allowing a moment for us to indulge in collective nostalgia. For those of you who have supported since Day 1, thank you. And to everyone just hopping on…buckle up and enjoy the ride. Cheers!


The Bow Tie Business

William and James

After spending so much time surrounded by dapper men and constantly reviewing images of the Diaspora’s best dressed, it was only a matter of time before the “fashion” bug bit me. Well more like the design bug. This Fall I’ll be launching my attempts to create a physical, wearable manifestation of The Dandy Lion Project. Look out for William + James…coming to a haberdashery near you. The line will represent a marriage between the charming aesthetics and revolutionary philosophies of William Edward Burghardt du Bois and James Baldwin.  Want to be added to the select list of VID (Very Important Dandies) to learn about the launch before we launch? Email me at thedandylionproject@gmail.com and put William + James in the subject line.

William + James | Coming Soon

William + James | Coming Soon.


 Documentary for CANAL PLUS (France)

 Photographer: Russell K. Frederick | Brooklyn, NY

Photographer: Russell K. Frederick | Brooklyn, NY

A few months ago, I was contacted by Laurent Lunetta, a Parisian filmmaker who wanted to interview me about The Dandy Lion Project during NYFW for a documentary on Black Dandyism to be aired on Canal Plus (FR). To help organized the shoot, I contacted my frat brother (Shout out to the Ques!) Barnabas Crosby, co-founder of Whiskey Boys. In typical Coleman Love fashion, we made magic. Special thanks to Ali of a Noble Savage, who most graciously invited us to his Brooklyn chateau (read loft) for the afternoon.

To document participate in the actual shoot, I called one of my right hands, Russell K. Frederick. I couldn’t have cooked up a more dynamic environment or conversation even if I wanted to. The shoot was incredible. The brothers who rolled through included Barnabas Crosby, Ignacio Quiles, Kevin Gray, Mike Barnett,  Robert “Max” Twitty and Kenard Bunkley. Can’t wait to see the finished product.

Shantrelle P. Lewis and Ali of a Noble Savage | A Noble Savage

Shantrelle P. Lewis and Ali of a Noble Savage | A Noble Savage


African Street Style Festival in the Streets of London, U.K.

Samuel Seth Mingle | Photo Credit: Sara Shamsavari

Samuel Seth Mingle | Photo Credit: Sara Shamsavari

Dandy Lion Portrait Session

Kevin Kittoe | African Street Style Festival | Photo Credit: Sara Shamsavari

This summer, British-Iranian artist Sara Shamsavari was invited by the producers of African Street Style Festival to create London’s first Dandy Lion Portrait Session. Some of London Town’s finest came out to represent for the Black Brits. It’s no wonder that England gave birth to the phenomenon that is traditional dandyism.

Sara has garnered international attention for her series on veiled women in London and Paris. I’m so excited to add her to our magnificent roster of artists.  Special thanks to Jeff Lennon for the invitation and James Maiki for producing this amazing video! Shout out to all of the gentlemen who lent their energy, their philosophies and and those [British accent] voices.

Click here to watch the Dandy Lion Portrait Session at the African Sreet Style Festival


SAVE THE DATE

Museum of Contemporary Photography | Chicago, IL

Museum of Contemporary Photography | Chicago, IL

Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculinity

Museum of Contemporary Photography | Chicago, IL

April 2 through July 15, 2015

Slated to be the largest iteration of Dandy Lion: (Re)Articulating Black Masculinity to date, a host of internationally and nationally recognized photographers and filmmakers have been added to the roster of artists including Baudoin Mouanda, Daniele Tamagni,  Rose Callahan, Sara Shamsavari, Arteh Odidja, Richard Terborg, Numa Perrier, Allison Janae Hamilton, Rog Walker and L. Kasimu Harris. Start making reservations to join us in Chicago and thank me later.

To give you a taste of some of the newest additions to the exhibit…

ARTEH ODIDJA | London, United Kingdom

Stranger in Moscow | Photo Credit: Arteh Odidja

Stranger in Moscow | Photo Credit: Arteh Odidja

Last summer, U.K. based photographer Arteh Odidja’s Stranger in Moscow exhibit opened at Ozwald Boateng’s flagship store on London’s historic Savile Row. Despite missing the show during my last trip on the other side of the pond, my British network enabled me to connect with Arteh and invite him to participate in Dandy Lion. Needless to say, he said yes.

Hear Arteh in his own words here.  | Follow him on Instagram.

BAUDOIN MOUANDA | Brazzaville, Congo

La S.A.P.E. | Photo Credit: Baudouin Mouanda

La S.A.P.E. | Photo Credit: Baudouin Mouanda

Baudoin Mouanda is a young, award-winning photographer from Brazzavaille. His images of the Congo’s sapeurs have been shown around the world and received critical acclaim. I’ve been following his work and anxious to include his images in the show. for a few years now. It was important for me to include the voice of someone who can express the stories of his own people as opposed to merely showing the images of sapeurs from an outsider’s view. He also said yes. We will be able to see La S.A.P.E. through the eyes of one of their own brethren. Special thanks to Daphne Kolader and Alexis Peskine for all of their translation assistance.

Read more about Baudoin’s critically acclaimed work and listen to him here.

LOUX the VINTAGE GURU | Namibia

Loux the Vintage Guru

Loux the Vintage Guru | Photo Credit: Harness Hamese & Lukas Amakali

Several months ago, multiple friends posted a link on my timeline. It  was the profile of a handsome, bearded gentleman donning vintage suits in Southern Africa. Hailing from Windhoek, Namibia’s capital city, Loux the Vintage Guru is rapidly becoming to the Continent what Street Etiquette is to the U.S. and Art Comes First is to western Europe. A sequence of features in major international publications followed that initial post and Loux and his co-compadres are now the faces of a fresh movement of a classic era in post-Independent Africa.

As of today, Loux and the Love is African Collective, have been added to the growing roster of esteem style gurus featured in The Dandy Lion Project. Between their photographs and Jim Naughten’s stunning images floating around of Herero women in traditional colonial dresses with cattle headpieces, I think I found my next new destination on the Continent. Travel Noire soiree in Namibia anyone? S/O to photographers Harness Hamese and Lukas Amakali for their stunning images.

Read more about Loux’s philosophy here. | Follow Loux the Vintage Guru on Instagram.

ROSE CALLAHAN | NEW YORK CITY 

Barima Owusu-Nyantekyi, London, 2013 | Photo Credit: Rose Callahan

Barima Owusu-Nyantekyi, London, 2013 | Photo Credit: Rose Callahan


Rose Callahan and her writing partner, Nathaniel “Natty” Adams, have made quite a name for themselves with their collaborative effort – I Am Dandy: The Return of the Elegant Gentleman. They don’t just capture the well-dressed, their portraits and interviews are a documentation of exquisite gentlemen from around the world for whom dandyism is not just a closet of nice clothes but a lifestyle. Rose and I first met during the opening reception of Dandy Lion‘s inaugural show. We’ve followed each other’s work since. I’m so thrilled to finally formally work with her through our shared love of the well-dressed.

Check out a recent feature on I Am Dandy Here. | Follow The Dandy Portraits Blog Here. | Order a copy of the book here.


Collecting Vintage Images

Mr. Ulysses Brooks and his cousins ca. 1930s | Submitted by: Deborah Singletary

Mr. Ulysses Brooks and his cousins ca. 1930s | Submitted by: Deborah Singletary

I’m still collecting vintage family photos of men of African descent from around the world (that includes Afro-Latinos and South Americans) for the forthcoming publication of Dandy Lion with BlackPrint Press. I’m especially interested in images from Brasil, Nigeria or anywhere in Africa for that matter, London and the Caribbean. If your grandfather, uncle or dad was dapper, please give him some shine and send over his photo!

GUIDELINES
NOTE: Write your name and VINTAGE DANDY LION in SUBJECT LINE of the email.
EMAIL | thedandylionproject@gmail.com

1. Please submit a hi-res scan of the image. The scan should at be at least 300dpi. Please do not send a photocopied image or a scan of a photocopied image. Only scans of original photographs will be considered.
2. Details about the Dandy Lion: Please include the following information:
Name(s) of anyone pictured in the photograph
Location of the photo
Approximate date (Year is sufficient)
Name of photographer (if available)
3. Name of the individual who owns the photograph (for appropriate credit).
4. Please include personal information about the photograph’s subject(s): personal interests, birthplace, occupation, pastimes, personality, etc…
5. Submissions from institutions and organizations will also be accepted with appropriate signed releases for use.


GET DAILY INSPIRATION AND FOLLOW US ON FACEBOOK 

Barbershop Ad | Francophone West Africa ca. 1960s

Barbershop Ad | Francophone West Africa ca. 1960s

Bow Ties & Rude Boys: The Global Black Dandy Takeover

Photo Credit: Sara Shamsavari

Photo Credit: Sara Shamsavari

*First Posted on Afro-Punk.com

Over the past few years, there has been a noticeable trend on the streets of urban landscapes in metropolitan areas all over the map – the rise of the global Black dandy. I found myself immersed in this alternative world of fine and flyyyyy Black men and when I say fly I mean from head to toe, when I curated the first iteration of my Dandy Lion exhibit. Launched at Society’s HAE’s Pop Up Gallery in Harlem in November 2010 during the nascent years of the resurgence of the Black dandy movement, in terms of imagery, Dandy Lion read like a breath of fresh air.

Up until that point, there were very few conversations being had about the Black dandy in contemporary popular culture. There was an inundation of images of the Black man as “thug” however, (a trend that we haven’t been able to shake over the past 400 years). Then in Fall 2009, Columbia University professor Monica L. Miller, published her dissertation research – Slaves to Fashion: Black Dandyism and the Styling of Diasporic Identity. Despite its academic tone and extensive research which could have easily intimidated the leisure reader, the book was widely discussed in pop culture, fashion and academic circles everywhere, especially in New York City. In this critical text, Dr. Miller provides an extensive chronology of the Black dandy from his 18th century European origin – Julius Suboise – to his present day contemporary, Andre 3000.

Photo Credit: Hanif Abdur-Rahim

Photo Credit: Hanif Abdur-Rahim

Coinciding with the release of Slaves to Fashion, an Italian photographer by the name of Daniele Tamagni also published a body of work called Gentlemen of Bacongo, in which he documented the phenomenon that is the Sapeurs of west Africa’s Democratic Republic of Congo. Better known as La S.A.P.E. Société des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Élégantes (translation: The Society for the Advancement of Elegant People), the sapeurs of the Congo, gentlemen who exude style and class in brightly adorned suits, defy the impoverished socio-economic realities of their community and use fashion to assert their masculinity and humanity.

Photo Credit: Russell K. Frederick

Photo Credit: Russell K. Frederick

What and WHO is a Dandy?

To some, the word “dandy” is more of a turn off than a compliment. Particularly within the Black community, the term dandy is associated with its classical European origins, white men in petticoats, pointed shoes and multi-layered lace blouses with accompanying ruffled sleeves. While both the word and style has its origins in Victorian and Edwardian era Europe, the presence of Black men in classic European fashion has always disrupted this European aristocratic aesthetic.

Throughout history, most notably the past two centuries, Black men have used fashion as a tool of rebellion. When self-styled, the African Diasporan man in the West has relied upon his innate sensibilities to express his masculinity, his humanity, his individuality. In styling himself, particularly in dress mostly associated with a particular class, station in life, education and social status of another race, as trickster the African Diasporan dandy cleverly manipulates clothing and attitude to exert his agency rather than succumb to the limited ideals placed on him by society. A Black dandy is deliberate about letting you know exactly who HE is and not what you want him to be.

Photo Credit:  Kia Chenelle, 2013

Photo Credit: Kia Chenelle

Be clear, every brother in a zoot suit and bow tie does not a dandy make. It is the combination of specific elements and accoutrements that distinguishes Black dandies from your every day dapper don. A Black dandy can be defined as a self-fashioned gentleman who intentionally appropriates classical European fashion with an African Disaporan aesthetic and sensibilities. He is a rebel – a modern day representation of the African trickster. His style and identity are generally a contradiction – to the stereotypes, boxes, categories, or ideas that society has about him (and in some cases… her).

Today, the fashion of Black dandies is more a nod to the style of their grandfathers than the likes of Oscar Wilde or Beau Brummel. They mix vintage with modern pieces designed on London’s Seville Row, African prints with polk-a-dots and plaid, flamboyant colors with classic lines. The sampling of their style from various eras and cultures is a manifestation of the hip-hop era that has produced them.

 

The Dandy Lion Project

The men photographed in The Dandy Lion Project are exceptional in both style and manners and provide the opportunity for a paradigm shift to occur as it relates to how men of African descent are seen and but more importantly as a platform, it highlights the self-articulation of sartorial Black men.

This traveling photography and film based exhibition project features the images of photographers and filmmakers from various regions around the African Diaspora. Their subject matter is young Black men in city, rural, literal and abstract landscapes across the globe, who defy stereotypical and monolithic understandings of masculinity within the Black community. Dandy Lion confronts the “thug” narrative and represents alternative identities.

Photo Credit: L. Kasimu Harris

Photo Credit: L. Kasimu Harris

The subjects are all Black men, yet are as diverse in ethnicity and culture as the project’s photographers. The nationality of The Dandy Lion Project’s subjects range from British, Jamaican, African American to South African, French and Congolese. Also, the project is not specific to locale – images were shot in various places around the Diaspora including throughout the U.S., South Africa, the Congo and Europe.

The first comprehensive exhibition of its kind, The Dandy Lion Project provides an exploration of a popular conversation in nuanced contemporary sartorial expressions and the fluidity of Black male masculinity. It is my hope that these well-dressed trickster, rebels continue to push the envelope and that talented photographers are nearby to document them bucking against the system, in their suits and ties.

Photo Credit: Caroline Kaminju

Photo Credit: Caroline Kaminju

For more information about The Dandy Lion Project, visit:
http://www.thedandylionproject.tumblr.com

Contact info:
http://www.shantrelleplewis.com

On the Occasion of Commemorating the Life and Contributions of Paul Robeson: The Role of the Artist-Activist

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Today, I was invited to pay tribute to one of our fearless scholar activist, Paul Robeson. As the African-American fellow in the United Nations Programme for People of African Descent in the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, I was honored to share remarks on one of the finest scholar-activist that our community ever produced. Please allow me to share those remarks with you:

“The poet or the revolutionary is there to articulate the necessity, but until the people themselves apprehend it, nothing can happen … Perhaps it can’t be done without the poet, but it certainly can’t be done without the people. The poet and the people get on generally very badly, and yet they need each other. The poet knows it sooner than the people do. The people usually know it after the poet is dead; but that’s all right. The point is to get your work done, and your work is to change the world.” 
― James Baldwin

Good afternoon,

I am Shantrelle P. Lewis, an African-American curator and researcher. I would like to thank the World Against Racism Network for organizing this wonderful program and inviting me to share a few words, commemorating the 116th Birthday of the world renowned African-American renaissance man, Paul Robeson. As our colleague Jan stated, April 8th falls between the monumental dates of two giants – the death of Touissant L’Ouverture, architect of the Haitian Revolution, who died in a freezing cell a short distance away from here in Fort de Joux and the birthdate of one of the brightest sons that Afro-America ever produced, the world renowned Renaissance man, Paul Robeson. Before I begin, I must also thank the Orisha and my own Egun, the term we use in the Lukumi tradition to identify our ancestors, for bestowing upon me good health and allowing me to be present before you today. I would like to pay tribute to our ancestors, both African and indigenous, for instilling within us the power and notion of resistance. I would also like to acknowledge all of the elders in this room, including my co-panelists, on whose shoulders my generation stands. Thank you for your bravery, commitment foresight and leadership. I am indeed inspired by your insights and words. Lastly, I am honored to share words on behalf as a member of Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and representative of the Museum of Contemporary African Art in commemoration on this fine occasion.

We have gathered today, to acknowledge the life, legacy, work, bravery, sacrifices and philosophy of Paul Robeson. Paul Robeson – Intellectual, attorney, athlete, baritone, scholar, activist, and artist –  he wore all of these hats and many more. Traveling around the world, enchanting millions whose mother tongues were different languages and whose complexions ranged from the palest of Europeans to the most melanated Africans and Asians, Paul Robeson left a profound impression on any and every one he encountered. He, the chameleon was ever shape-shifting. Since my esteemed co-panelists have already provided an elaborate portrait of such an extraordinary being. Thus, I would like to focus on two aspects of Paul Robeson, the framework that informed his role as artist-activist and the significant role of the artist activist today.

Paul Robeson’s advocacy for the assertion of human rights, particularly for Black People, largely can be credited to the mentorship he received from the imminent Dr. William Edward Burghardt DuBois. While oftentimes misunderstood, Du Bois’ theory of the Talented Tenth can be largely credited for the 20th Century Pan-African call for the responsibility of leadership in the Global Black community. His theories are best seen expressed in the actions of the artists-activists, such as Paul Robeson, and later, Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, on whom, he had significant influence.

At this point, I would like to reference Du Bois’ 1926 Criteria of Negro Art. In this critical speech he stated: “I do not doubt but there are some in this audience who are a little disturbed at the subject of this meeting, and particularly at the subject I have chosen. Such people are thinking something like this: “How is it that an organization like this, a group of radicals trying to bring new things into the world, a fighting organization which has come up out of the blood and dust of battle, struggling for the right of black men to be ordinary human beings — how is it that an organization of this kind can turn aside to talk about Art? After all, what have we who are slaves and black to do with Art? Or perhaps there are others who feel a certain relief and are saying, ‘After all it is rather satisfactory after all this talk about rights and fighting to sit and dream of something which leaves a nice taste in the mouth.’”

What Du Bois asserted is that there can be no revolution without the arts. During the time, in which he wrote this seminal essay, artists during that period were vibrant and creating, multiple expressions of self across disciplines. The Harlem Renaissance was full of writers, artists, playwrights, actors, painters, dancers and musicians. What Du Bois was pushing for, particularly in his theory of the Talented Tenth, was the leadership of the artist activist. It’s here where Paul Robeson and his contemporaries , and mentees, embraced this concept of the artist and activist and utilized it to push the agenda of liberation of oppressed people around the globe.

Du Bois’ influence is clear: Paul Robeson once said “Every artist, every scientist, must decide now where he stands. He has no alternative. There is no standing above the conflict on Olympian heights. There are no impartial observers. Through the destruction, in certain countries, of the greatest of man’s literary heritage, through the propagation of false ideas of racial and national superiority, the artist, the scientist, the writer is challenged. The struggle invades the formerly cloistered halls of our universities and other seats of learning. The battlefront is everywhere. There is no sheltered rear.”

The role of the artist-activist cannot be dismissed nor understated. Influenced by the work of DuBois, Robeson, Zora Neale Hurston, Katherine Dunham and others, for more than a decade, I have committed my own life to exploring the African Diaspora and disseminating this knowledge through a variety of ways, namely cultural programs, contemporary art exhibitions and research projects. I have served communities of African descendants locally, nationally and abroad. I believe that art is a powerful weapon in the face of oppression, discrimination and injustice. Nigerian musician-activist Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, in his fight against corruption in Nigeria pronounced “Music is the Weapon.” There are many other examples throughout history that exemplify the power of images, words, sounds and artistic productions in liberating Black people and people of African descent.

At the heart of each revolutionary movement of African peoples are the arts, whether that expression is through song (anti-apartheid songs sung by young students in Soweto), literature (the various publications produced during the Negritude movement) to the visual (the global resistance as expressed by the graffiti of urban youth today). Through my work as a curator and cultural worker, I have utilized the capacity of art to create social change in the world. My idea is simple: culture brings people together and has the ability to educate, inspire, provoke and unify individuals in our communities regardless of socio-economic status, education level or political consciousness.

In closing, for the artist, creator, cultural worker of African descent, all art is propaganda. Despite the objective, universal, belief of western aesthetics, there is no such thing as art for art’s sake within the framework of African aesthetics.

To return to the words of Du Bois’s Criteria of Negro Art, he eloquently states “Thus all Art is propaganda and ever must be, despite the wailing of the purists. I stand in utter shamelessness and say that whatever art I have for writing has been used always for propaganda for gaining the right of black folk to love and enjoy. I do not care a damn for any art that is not used for propaganda.”
As we prepare for the forthcoming International Decade of People of African Descent, as activists, as policy makers, as artists and cultural workers, we must educate, we must agitate and continue to use our talents to fight for the liberation of our people.

Thank you.

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Selfie with South African Ambassador H.E. Abdul Minty, my co-panelist during today’d commemoriation event for the fearless African-American artist-activist, Paul Robeson. 

Commemorating the contribution of Afro-descendent leaders to Human Rights
Theme: Remembering African-American actor and activist Paul Robeson
Organized by World Against Racism Network (WARN)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014
13.00 to 15.00
Room XXII, Palais des Nations, Geneva

Speakers:
Mireille Fanon-Mendes-France, Chair of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent
H.E. Abdul Minty, Permanent Representative of South Africa to the U.N.
Krishna Ahoojapatel, World Against Racism Network
Shantrelle Lewis, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art and Malcolm X Grassroots Movement
Moderator: Jan Lönn, World Against Racism Network

 

2013, Thanks for the Ride Lady!

Photo Credit: Anne Marie Blake for Dr. Yaba Blay's "Pretty Period"

Photo Credit: Anne Marie Blake for Dr. Yaba Blay’s “Pretty Period”

2013 was many things but boring, it was not. It’s hard to believe that so many awesome experiences were jam packed into a 12-month calendar period but apparently, that is the case. Sometimes overachievers are so focused on the end goal, with that tunnel vision that we suffer from, we rarely take a step back to marvel at all we’ve accomplished to date. I believe it was some smart famous dead person that said something about life not being about the destination but the journey…oh yeah, Ralph Waldo Emerson. With that said, one of my objectives for 2014 is to appreciate the moment by taking stock of what’s happening NOW. And the most recent moments bka last year’s highlights, I’d like to share with you. As a journey in collective excellence, I’d encourage you to create your own list and feel free to share with me! I’m always down for bucking somebody up because ultimately, the best way to hype up yourself is to hype up somebody else.

P.S. The “Thanks for the ride lady” is not mine but from Creepshow 2. Don’t know if you ever saw that scene where the white lady driver ran over this Black guy hitch-hiking in the middle of the night in a wooded area. Anyway, that’s his line, not mine. 🙂 

To see images of these various good times, click here. Looking forward to bigger and brighter moments in 2014…after all, I’ve coined it The Year of Excellence.

African Religions 101 | Resource List

Thanks to recent accounts in the news about the disrespect of African spirituality – first the media’s reaction to the suicide of actor  Lee Thompson Young (and the subsequent erroneous blog written by Luvvie in rebuttal) and most recently the American Apparel Halloween window display of a makeshift Vodou scene, I’ve created a list of resources from my personal collection that can be utilized by those interested in African spirituality. This list is by no means exhaustive. At some point, I will also add personal commentary to each resource. My interest has developed over the past decade and is informed by my own experiences as a practitioner of Lukumí, my academic studies, research and by the city that raised me, New Orleans. For now, happy reading!

Stephane Keith

Pictured: Mambo Marie Carmel | Photo Credit: Stephanie Keith

General Overview of African Spiritual Systems

Encyclopedia of African Religions | Molefi Asante and Ama Mazama

Of Water and The Spirit | Malidoma Some

African Religions and Philosophy | John S. Mbiti

Flash of the Spirit | Robert Farris Thomspon

The Aesthetic of the Cool | Robert Farris Thompson

The Spirit of Intimacy | Sobonufu Somé

The Trickster in West Africa: A Study of Mythic Irony and Sacred Delight | Robert D. Pelton

Let the Circle Be Unbroken | Marimba Ani

Afrocentricity | Molefi Asante

Yoruba Spirituality (and its derivatives)

Orisa: Yoruba Gods and Spiritual Identity in Africa and the Diaspora | Falola Genova ed.

Altar of My Soul | Marta Moreno Vega

The Way of the Orisa | John Neimark

Olookun: Owner of the Rivers and Seas | John Mason

The Core of Fire:  A Path of Yoruba Spiritual Activism | Aina Olomo

Vodou

Sacrd ARts of Haitian Vodou |Donald J. Cosentino

Divine Horsemen | Maya Deren

Haiti, History and the Gods |  Joan Dayan

A New Orleans Vodou Priestess: The Legend and Reality of Marie Laveau | Carolyn Morrow Long

Voodoo Queen: The Spirited Lives of Marie Laveau | Martha Ward

Voodoo in New Orleans | Robert Tallant

Vodou: Visions and Voices of Haiti | Phyllis Galembo

Vodou Brooklyn: Five Ceremonies with Mambo Marie Carmel | Stephanie Keith

Hoodoo and U.S. retentions

Slave Religion | Albert J. Raboteau

Mojo Workin’: The Old African American Hoodoo System | Katrina Hazzard-Donald

Mojo: Conjure Stories | Nalo Hopkinson ed.

Blue Roots: African-American Folk Magic of the Gullah People | Roger Pinckney

Bakongo/Kongo

Death and the Invisible Powers | Simon Bockie

Winti

Fodoe-winti | Henri J.M. Stephen

Winti: Afro-Surinaamse religie en magische rituelen in Suriname en Nederland | Henri J.M. Stephen

Personal Memoirs

When the Spirits Dance Mambo | Marta Moreno Vega

Tell My Horse | Zora Neale Hurston

Island Possessed | Katherine Dunham

Films

When the Spirits Dance Mambo | Marta Moreno Vega – Santeria

SOUNDRITE | Ja’Tovia Gary  – Haitian Vodou

A Cidade das Mulheres | Federico Fellini – Brasilian Candomblé

Divine Horsemen | Maya Deren – Haitian Vodou

Conference

Annual Orisa Conference | Omo Obatala Egbe

My 8th Anniversary Ode to Katrina: Special Dedication to the Survivors of America’s 21st Century Holocaust and in Loving Memory of Our Friends, Neighborhoods and Families.

“Death don’t always taste good.” – My sis, Sunni Patterson

Whenever I travel abroad and people ask me where I’m from, I respond: “Hi, I am Shantrelle. And I am from New Orleans.” I never say Brooklyn. I don’t say Philly. And despite spending a majority of my formative young adult years in this nation’s capital, I don’t say Washington, D.C. I rep the city where I was born and raised because I would hate for anyone to ever forget, what happened during that hellish August morning and the many days following the landfall of a sanctifying storm and collapse of a system. Perhaps being back in the house where I sat stunned, helpless, devastated and bewildered has shrouded me in this sudden sense of grief but, I’ll never forget. 

I’ll never forget that morning, the days preceding when I spoke to my family, trying to understand where everyone would be going, urging those who had decided to stay, to leave and wondering what was going to happen in the days to come. I’ll never forget seeing the side of the Hyatt on Canal Street blown off, the same Canal Street that hosts millions of tourists yearly on Mardi Gras Day…the same Canal Street where I transferred buses my first two years in high school as a student at Xavier Prep, trying to make her way home. I’ll never forget wondering what was happening to my grandmother and aunt who were in that Hyatt because my grandmother was one of the many elders that refused to leave their homes and was forced to do so at the very last minute. I’ll never forget the images that inundated CNN and every media source for weeks. I’ll never forget the physical and psychological stress my own mother endured as a state director who worked endless hours at a hurricane command center for many months in Baton Rouge, following the storm. 

In this moment I can talk about how the system failed us. I can speak of how the central government and the head of state left us to die. I could speak about the incompetence of some local leaders, the breakdown in communication of authorities, the lawlessness of police officers and troops. I could speak about the viscous white racist bastards who hunted evacuees down like dogs for trying to secure safe ground for themselves and their families. I could speak about bloated bodies of grandmas and grandpas, cousins, uncles, great aunts, nieces and babies that drifted through flood waters like pieces of scrap wood. I could speak about menstruating women with no sanitation supplies having to make due with the one pair of clothes on their body as they sat on a hot roof for days, praying that God would not forsake them. I could speak about thousands of people who were held hostage in the Superdome, not by physical force but by the force of conditions outside that kept them there. I could speak about the same Superdome that was over 100 degrees hot, musty with the spell of urine and feces and inoperable toilets which made it feel less like an NFL arena and more like the rotting lower decks of a cargo ship carrying African bodies during the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade. I could speak about the women and men who were in central lock up in O.P.P. who were locked in flooded rooms, refused food and water, beaten and pepper-sprayed and some left to die. I could speak about the people whose cars broke down on the side of the road because they couldn’t afford enough gas to drive themselves to neighboring states and place them outside of harm’s way. I could speak about all of the people who would have left if they could but had no cars or no money in their below poverty-level bank accounts that would have given them that luxury, so in their houses in the lower 9th ward and the Iberville and the St. Bernard, they stayed. I could speak about the people who 8 years later have still not returned home. I could speak about all of those things but I won’t.

Instead in this moment, I will speak the name of my Grandmother, Mrs. Gladys Calvin, whose sarcasm and simple conversations and Sunday morning phone calls and whose pancakes I miss so much. No, she wasn’t one of the thousands left for dead in a city that could not swim. But she was one of the thousands whose lives were sacrificed indirectly as a result of medical complications, suicide, heart break, post-traumatic stress disorder or murder that took place in the months, years, following the Storm. As a dialysis patient, not being able to receive treatment for weeks, being denied hospital, after hospital, did rapidly deteriorate her body which forced her legs to be amputated and took her away from us before we were ready to say goodbye. No Sunni, death don’t always taste good but I’m thanking God for being alive to mourn the memories of our loved ones and tell their story, lest we forget. 

Special Thanks to my cousin Tyronne Calvin who thanks to fate, was up here in Philly, holding a sister down. And for all of my friends, sorors and school mates who showed so much love towards my family and city, no matter how much time passes, I’ll never, ever forget your love. 

My 8th Anniversary Ode to Katrina | Special dedication to the survivors of America’s 21st century Holocaust and in Loving memory of our friends, neighborhoods and families.
8.29.05

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Grantangi | Dank U Wel | Masha Danki | Thank You for making my Andy Warhol Curatorial Fellowship 1000% Successful!

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Over the years, I’ve come to realize that I have a problem with good byes. At the end of many travels, projects and even when I’ve moved, I’ve rarely brought real closure to whatever the situation it was that I from which I was moving on. Well, after spending the past year, conducting research in the Dutch Caribbean Diaspora, beginning in the Netherlands last year and ending my journey with a month-long tour through the Dutch Caribbean, it is imperative that I not say goodbye, but say hello, to what is sure to be one of the significant aspects of my life’s work. It’s not possible to thank everyone because it would necessitate that I write a dissertation for that. However, there are several key people that I must recognize in this moment to whom I am indebted for their contributions to my work.

Amsterdam/The Netherlands Acknowledgements

For starters, before I thank anyone, I have to express my sincerest gratitude to Sasha Dees and Open Ateliers Zuidoost for prompting my curiosity about the Dutch Caribbean in the first place. Prior to meeting Sasha, I had no interest NOR any concept of Dutch Caribbean. I didn’t even know that Black people were living in Amsterdam (smile…it’s true, but neither does probably 80% of African Americans that you meet so I don’t feel so bad). So thank you Sasha for exposing me to this marvelous world!  I’d like to thank The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, who supported my travels and research over the past year.
While in Amsterdam, I came in contact with a community that fully embraced me with open arms. There are WAY too many people to thank. My search for knowledge began there in Fall 2011. Since that time, you all became my international extended family, dear friends and part of my inner circle of light. There are few of you, however, who have gone above and beyond the call of duty, friendship and camaraderie. I will not name you but you know who you are (and I don’t want to leave anyone out). Well, actually, I will – Charl Landvreugd, Egbert Alejandro Martina, Carl Haarnack, Nicole/Glynis Terborg, Patricia Kaersenhout, Faranú and Kno’Ledge Cesar, you have outdone yourself since I first touched down in Damsko two years ago. In addition, Ms. Ernestine Comvalius, Artwell Cain, Tanta Jetty Mathurin (and Eric Neslo and Mik),  Jennifer Tosch, Earl Longwood, Martijn Kerkmeijer, Arnold Lubbers, Christine Fischer, Patricia Schor, Daphne Kolader and Brett Russel, thank you for your friendship and support, especially with my research and with this Zwarte Piet Project! Mrs. Kim Garcia Meertins for trusting me with your perfect abode!  And the rest of my Dutch Art World/friends/colleagues – Misi Yaba, Judith Leysner, Silvia Martes, RaQuel van Haver, Iris Kensmill, Remy Jungerman, Jabu Arnold, Rob Perree, Stephanie Afrifa, Delano MacAndrew, Felix De Rooy, Cosimo Di Leo Ricatto, Dr. Adi Martis, Nancy Hoffman I appreciate all of the many ways, large and small, you have added to my overall experience; And my fellow creatives/cultural workers/community activists:  Joan Van Hees, Alaye Van Empel Aderemi, Maureen Healy, Bouba Dola, Esperanzah Denswill, Gabri Christa, Jeff Kroese, Sara Mattens, Ama Korenteng Kumi, Sabine Groenewegen, Heidi Lobato, Simone Zeefuik, Maarten van Hinte, Joelle Raus, Merhawi Dessi, Hodan Warsame, Seada Nourhussen, Bēylul Yosef-Ykeallo, Zihni Ozdil and Ruud Tevreden, THANK YOU.Black Pete, Zwarte Piet: The Doc Acknowledgements
Also, to my crew who are down for the cause and tackling this Zwarte Piet documentary with me – Shawn Peters, Raoul Popma, Brett (again) and Chanelle Pearson (for everything you’ve done to date). And to every single person who donated to the campaign, shared the link or reached out to me with tidbits and info, thank you! Now that I’m back, I’m strapping on my seat belt, shifting into second gear and getting ready for what is sure to be nothing short of a historic and exciting ride!Dutch Caribbean Acknowledgements

During my journey through the Dutch Caribbean, there are also several people that I must thank for making my trip over the past month BEYOND fruitful –  Donald Fela Ford for journeying with me and documenting one of the most important projects of my life to date. Who would have thunk that we’d be trekking across three countries and traveling by boat into the rainforest of South America several years ago when we first met? Not me homie, but thanks a mill! Artwell Cain and Holly Bynoe, thank you for connecting me with so many folks!ARUBA: Elvis Lopez at Atliers ’89 for being the absolute most fabulous Host with the Mostest! You my friend, are the opening act, the show and the after party! Thanks for introducing me to EVERYBODY that I needed to meet in Aruba – Mo Mohammad, Glenda Heylinger, Caresse Isings, The Matthew Brothers, the Staff of the National Archeological Museum Aruba. I’m SO coming back next year, and bringing a gang of bright eyed and bushy tailed artists with me, so I hope Aruba’s ready!
CURACAO: Lida Pandt, Richenel Ansano and Staff at the National Archeological Anthropological Memory Management;  Jeanne Henriquez and Su Girigori at Museo Tula, Roxanne Martha for her awesome P.R., Marcel Frans, Tirzo Martha, David Bade and everyone else at Instituto Buena Bista; Trina Pow and Hubby for taking me out; Lianne Leonora for your introductions; my girl Avantia Damberg for being such an awesome hostess of her country; the Ladies of New Day Morning Show for allowing me to be a special guest; my sis Silvia Martes – thank you for welcoming me into your family’s home, sharing your Grandma for a brief moment and exploring your beautiful island with me;  S/O to the illustrious Dr. Stephen Small! Thanks for your wonderful gift!
SURINAME: My sis from another set of a parents Jennifer Baarn, I will FOREVER be indebted to you. Seriously, I can’t ever repay you for your kindness, generosity, wisdom, advice, concern, encouragement and having ya girl’s back all the way from across the waters in the most eastern part of Mama Africa. I appreciate you and your family beyond words – my Uncle Pops and Gerley are the ABSOLUTE BEST. Thanks for opening up your family and your home. I take your charge seriously and promise to do our collective ancestors and people justice.Special thanks to NAKS! I wouldn’t have made 95% of the contacts that I needed without the time and energy expended by Tanta Siegmien Staphorst and the rest of the NAKS staff and family;  Marcel Pinas for being such a wonderful friend and warm ray of sunshine (+ welcoming us to Moengo:) and Abissa for our tour of the village there; Mr. Ramon MackNack for his time and energy and sharing a wealth of information about Winti; Kashmindra Vrede for leading me on that journey up the Suriname River into the Interior and your parents for being so sweet and for the fresh coconut water; my big bro Bryann Dijksteel for making sure that I got to every where I needed to go in one piece, and with some baka bana! LOL. (And for everything you else that you did for me that only a true big brother would do); Darell Geldrop for sharing so much about Winti culture and traditions as they are being carried out by a younger generation; the team at Readytex (Cassandra, Ada, Lyddia and Monique) for your THOROUGH break down of the contemporary art scene in SU; Mr. Rinaldo Klas and my friend Kurt Nahar for hosting me at Nola Hatterman Academy; my girl Dana Saxon just for being another Black American chick down for the cause and having a good time doing what we do!; Everyone who welcomed us at Pikin Slee especially Joney and Silvee; Nancy de Randamie for taking the time out to share info about the multi-disciplinary arts in SU; and last but not least the Veldman family for welcoming me with open arms and showing me one of the best times of my life!Anyway, I say all of that to say that this is not the end but only the beginning of what is shaping up to be part of my life’s work. Over the past decade, I’ve traveled to many places around the globe, many of which I’ve felt a connection. Of course anytime you go somewhere that reminds you of your home (in my case…New Orleans) in some kind of way or where you can see similar cultural threads, you’ll experience a bit of serendipity. However, from initial encounter with the daughters and sons of the Dutch Antilles and Suriname in the Netherlands, I’ve felt a sense of belonging and connectedness that’s difficult to explain. The more I learned and immersed myself in the art, history and culture of the Dutch Caribbean, I came to realize that this would not be a one time event or project, more like an ongoing exercise in discovery, sharing, growing and evolution. Many life changing experiences later – from my encounters with various parameters of race and racism in Europe, the adaptation of culture, political disagreements with associates, becoming engaged with an international movement of progress, and moving further in depth into a space where African traditions have persisted throughout and beyond modernity, I’ve founder a higher purpose for my work and calling. I am forever grateful for everyone who has opened up their minds, hearts, homes and histories to date. I’m even more thankful for all of the work that is yet to come.

In the names of Zora, Katherine and Pearl I move to the next phase of this journey to see where this road takes me.

In Love and Light,
Shantrelle
2012-13 Andy Warhol Curatorial Fellow

I am in the Art World, But Not of It: Dutch Caribbean Diaspora Diaries | Suriname Pt. 1

At NAKS

At NAKS

When people ask me about my research and being a curator, I believe that sometimes they are surprised by my responses. The more I travel and the more that I think about my approach to actually curating an exhibition, I learn more and more that my work is less about exploring art and more about investigating the context that creates the art…of the artist of African descent. Perhaps I’m well on my way to a career in Anthropology, following in the footsteps of Dunham, Hurston and Primus. Or perhaps I’m creating a new niche within the discipline of Africana Studies. Whatever it is, I know clearly that I as I strive to remain consistent, I sharpen my voice and allow my work to validate itself. The support from the people to whom which I make it accessible, further stamps its approval.

That’s why my curatorial work can’t be duplicated nor am I phased by or interested in performing some of the more traditional roles of a curator. I am much more than a curator, in the Western sense, and I am primarily a curator at the same time, in the African-centered sense. It’s sort of an oxymoron, a tad Eshu-ish. The work, defines what I do and how I do it, because it is an assignment from the ancestors. That I much, I know and believe to be true.

I arrived in Suriname two days ago, after my flight was cancelled and ridiculously delayed. That night, I was instantly struck by the distinct differences in phenotypes that I saw awaiting family members and loved ones in the receiving line outside of the baggage area in Zanderig International Airport. On our ride to Paramaribo we passed through somewhat of what I’ll call a rural area filled with houses that range from mini-palaces to one room shacks. Bonfires blazed brightly as Surinamese Hindus participated in the eve of an ancient Indian festival of color known as Holi (Phagwah).

Phagwah in Suriname.

Phagwah in Suriname.

My first real day in Suriname, the greenness that engulfed everything in the environment, intoxicated me. With the exception of Brasil, in terms of faraway lands that I’ve had the privilege to travel to, Suriname puts the T in Tropics. Maybe because its capital city is only a few steps away from the rainforest so it seems like someone took the city out of the rainforest but it couldn’t take the rainforest out of it. I’m careful about the words that I use to describe this place because I’m well aware that the language that we use, sometimes in describing our own selves, dwellings, characteristics and being, are words assigned to us by a foreign people who were, non-Black and European. So, when I talk about the landscape of Suriname, you will not here me saying “jungle” or “bush.” Nor will I refer to the various groups of Maroon people as “tribes.” That is the language of European former enslavers and colonizers.

Paramaribo

Paramaribo

As I became acclimated with my new temporary residence in a South American country nestled between Guyana and French Guyana, just north the massive land mass known as Brasil, I took note of the convergence of different peoples in a land where the population is roughly 500,000. But more than that, I also had the honor of learning my first lesson in Surinamese life from the father of a woman is quickly becoming a dear friend, Mr. Wilgo Baarn. Without saying anything about himself or his stature in this society, I watched other people’s reactions to this apparent living legend in the places we visited in my first day about town. Jennifer told me that her father, is an important man in so many words, but I think her description was actually an understatement, probably an act of decisive humility and grace on her part. She is his daughter after all and apparently cut from the same cloth. While in his presence, I heard others speak of him in reverence. I witnessed groups of men, literally bow before him, and symbolically kiss his feet. He is royalty.

Musicians greet Mr. Wilgo Baarn at Phagwah

Musicians greet Mr. Wilgo Baarn at Phagwah

Then we sat to eat and supposedly since we were both hungry, well I’ll speak for myself and say that I was famished, we sat in silence for the first fifteen to twenty minutes while we ate our meal at a Javanese restaurant in one of the Javanese neighborhoods in town. He broke the momentary comfortable silence then he asked me how I came to know his daughter. I told him. Then he began to speak about her mother. Her mother,M Mrs. Elfriede Josefine Marie Baarn- Dijksteel, transitioned and became in ancestor in 2012. One of the things that was most moving about his impromptu sonnet for his beloved was the fact that he held so much reverence for her and still does. In the times that we live in, it’s so rare to hear a man speak about a woman so adoringly. He said this to me “I was so proud of her.” Wow. I was literally stunned because there is some place in me that only hopes that I too will meet a man as great as Mr. Baarn who will have the same admiration for and support of the work to which I’ve wholeheartedly dedicated myself.

Uncle Pops, as I’ve begun to call him, started to speak of Mrs. Elfriede Josefine Marie Baarn- Dijksteel in a very quiet yet matter-of-fact manner. I call her name because that is what one does in honor of an ancestor. He began to tell me how important Mrs. Elfriede was in life but the the fact that she now has duties to perform in her death. Without having the honor of meeting her, his testimony and that of others who I’ve met on my journey, gives me a clue of the sheer magnitude of her spirit.

His testimony and my reflections on the type of woman his daughter, my friend, Jennifer Baarn has exhibited herself to be, led me to ruminate on both the power of fulfilling one’s destiny, the role of ancestors and spirituality and the power of the Black family in a New World context.

That moment was followed by a series of interviews with three Winti practitioners the following day, including one very well-respected priest. Speaking to them further reiterated the point of my being here. There is a clear need to continue to bring our spiritual traditions to light. Primarily as practitioners and secondly, as research, there is also a need to create more comparative analyses of the survival of Africa’s sacred systems in the Diaspora, and imperative that we include the Dutch Caribbean Diaspora in our discourse.

A Yoruba meets a Winti priest.

A Yoruba practitioner meets a Winti priest.

In Curacao, I was told that one of the largest feast days celebrated on the island was for San Antony, who is the Catholic syncretization of none other than my favorite, my main man, Papa Legba. Today I was told by Ramon, the Winti priest that I spoke with, that after paying respect to the Supreme Creator, then the Mother Earth and her husband, all Winti ceremonies are opened with acknowledgement to Leba, who “clears the space.” Again, Eshu/Ellegua/Elegba/Exu makes his presence felt in my path…at the crossroads.

San Antony Altar | Altar for  Legba | Curacao

San Antony Altar | Altar for Legba | Curacao

On Friday, I’ll be attending a workshop of a Winti dance for Leba. According to Deepak Chopra’s Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire, there is no such thing as coincidence. Synchronicity exists. Miracles are real. Evidently, this not merely research for art’s sake but for the sake of something that goes well beyond the tangible. I am in the art world, but not of it.

Diaspora Diaries continue.

NOTE: All photos where I’m pictured were taken by Don Fela Ford.

I’m Shooting My First Major Documentary & I Need Your Help!

“Now is the accepted time, not tomorrow, not some more convenient season. It is today that our best work can be done and not some future day or future year. It is today that we fit ourselves for the greater usefulness of tomorrow. Today is the seed time, now are the hours of work, and tomorrow comes the harvest and the playtime.”


~ W.E.B. du Bois

Zwarte Piet

Greetings,

As you may or may not know, I’ve been engaged in research in the Netherlands for the past couple of years. Of course most of my experiences have been nothing short of delightful. One of the things I did encounter, however, is the Dutch’s blackface tradition in the form of Zwarte Piet, a character classified as the helper of Sinterklaas, who is the Dutch equivalent of Santa Claus. The major difference between Old Saint Nick and Sinterklaas is that every year, white people dress up in blackface, redden their lips and wear afro-wigs in the same tradition as the minstrel shows of the U.S. that are now seen as blatantly racist in the States and other parts of the world.

I’m asking that you get behind me as my community and help me and my Producer, Chanelle Pearson, make this film. Our goal is to raise $20,000 in 30 days. We actually need WAY more money to go back and shoot but this is our minimum goal. The way kickstarter works is that we have to raise EVERY PENNY or we won’t get a dime! It’s literally ALL OR NOTHING!

To those of you who are already on board, have donated and shared, THANK YOU!! Let’s keep up the momentum!

HOW TO SUPPORT:

It’s very simple actually!
1)CLICK ON THE LINK, go to our KICKSTARTER PAGE.

2)DONATE if you can (but no pressure if you can’t) seriously.
There is a green button that says “Back This Project” – CLICK THAT!

3)SHARE: Post on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Blogs
Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Black-Pete-Zwarte-Piet-The-Documentary/329331507184382
Twitter: @blackpetethedoc
Hashtag: #blackpete

4)EMAIL: Send an email to your people – organizations, networks, family, etc…

5)TALK about what’s happening: The more people who talk about this project, the more support we will gain.

 MOST Importantly: If you have contacts with press of some sort, definitely send this to them. If you need a press release, email me and I will forward it to you.

Kickstarter Week 1

So far, 227 people have backed this project in less than in less than a week. To date we have raised $11, 702, which is 58% of our goal. I know with the total support of my family and friends, we can do this! (And remember, the money won’t be taken out of your account until the end of the campaign on March 12th and if it’s 100% funded so you can donate now because the money won’t be paid until later!)

 ABOUT MY ALL-STAR TEAM:
Just so that you know: My team is also pretty cool.

• My Producer Chanelle Pearson, is Bronx-based, identifies as Queer and co-produced the international/award-winning   Sundance premiering film “An Oversimplification of Her Beauty.”

• My Director of Photography Shawn Peters, is a proud Morehouse graduate (HBCU!).

• My photographer Brett Russel, is from Curacao (Caribbeans stand up!).

• And my sound recordist is tall, Dutch, blonde and handsome! (I’m an equal opportunity hirer!) LOL.

Never heard of Kickstarter?
Over the past week, I realized that many of my friends and family are unfamiliar with kickstarter – probably because they are not involved or connected to this crazy art world. So if people are confused, on the actual kickstarter page, I’ve provided some frequently asked questions and answers:
http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1576677152/black-pete-zwarte-piet-the-documentary#project-faqs

Lastly, many of you who have known me for years, know how much love I put into my work and following my passion. Well I’m clear on my purpose and passion. Now I’m pursuing my dream, which is much bigger than I can imagine for myself, and OUR people, here in the States and around the world. I’ve already started receiving hate mail but I am not discouraged. It has only encouraged me to work harder. I know that you all have my back. Thank you so much for all of your support throughout the duration of our friendship, whether it has been decades or the past several months.

I think as a Diasporan community, we can make this happen.

$20,000 in 30 Days or NOTHING! In fact, I want to EXCEED that goal! There’s work to be done.

Hugs,
Shantrelle

P.S. If all else fails, you can always use that line from my favorite movie, Coming to America, “we like the kind of money that jingles, but we rather the kind that folds.” :).

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