Experience The Hip-Hop Fellow

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9th Wonder, Grammy Award-Winning Producer, DJ and Record Exec

Mark you calendar for Thursday, November 17 for the next Heritage & History program!

Film. Talk. Beats. Featuring Grammy Award-Winning Producer, DJ and Record Executive 9th Wonder at The Underground at the AvidXchange Music Factory, Charlotte, NC. Buy tickets here.

6-9 pm

Film. Documentary film screening of The Hip-Hop Fellow

Talk. Discussion and Q&A by 9th Wonder and Dr. Mark Anthony Neal

9-11 pm

Beats. Gantt After Dark experience with music, mixing and moves featuring DJ Chela

North Carolina native, 9th Wonder is the subject of the 2014 documentary The Hip-Hop Fellow, which will be screened as part of this three-part Heritage & History program. The film traces his 2012-15 tenure as a Fellow at Du Bois Institute at Harvard University where he taught and explored hip-hop’s role in academia. Currently, 9th Wonder is a Lecturer in African American Studies at Duke University.

In 1998 along with Phonte and Big Pooh, 9th Wonder formed the critically acclaimed hip-hop trio Little Brother. His first major label placement as a producer was the song “Threat” on Jay-Z’s Black Album, and since then he worked such artists as Erykah Badu, Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Mary J. Blige.

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Mark Anthony Neal, Ph.D.

Joining the program is Dr. Mark Anthony Neal, Duke University Professor of African & African American Studies and English, who co-teaches The History of Hip-Hop with 9th Wonder. Dr. Neal is the author of numerous books, including New Black Man, and is host of Left of Black, a video webcast produced with the John Hope Franklin Center.

“Given the demographics of Charlotte and pockets of segregation and poverty at the heart of the recent protests, this discussion of The Hip-Hop Fellow provides a unique opportunity for community folks seeking solutions to consider the possibilities for social change via hip-hop arts. Reflecting on 9th Wonder’s career is to bear witness to a young Black kid that grew up working class in North Carolina who finds himself as a fellow at Harvard University. It is crucial to understand that hip-hop allowed him and countless other Black youth to imagine a future for themselves.” — Mark Anthony Neal

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DJ Chela

Culminating the event is a Gantt After Dark experience with DJ Chela. DJ Chela got her start in North Carolina—her home state—making her mark in parties, live shows, college radio, DJ battles, and her mixtapes that were known for showcasing local hip-hop talent. One of her first opportunities was a 20-minute slot on 9th Wonder’s radio show on WXDU. She became one of the first, only and most widely recognized female DJs in North Carolina, gigging internationally, and rocking countless shows with national acts.

Now based in New York, Chela has been making her imprint in clubs, radio, mixtapes, live shows and battles for over 10 years. Her live sets are a dynamic mixture of world rhythms, Latin, Hip Hop, rock, reggae, funk, soul, disco, house and more mixed with a turntablist sensibility.

The Heritage & History program series features nationally noted artists and scholars who are preserving Black culture through an array of disciplines and media. In hosting each culture keeper, the Gantt Center invites public participation in special events and experiences that illuminate important stories and engage audiences. It has been a joy to be a part of designing the series and organizing this program and this one and this one.

Presenting Sponsor | Headquartered in Charlotte, Duke Energy is the largest electric power holding company in the United States. Its regulated utility operations serve approximately 7.4 million electric customers located in six states in the Southeast and Midwest.

Host Cultural Institution  | The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture celebrates the contributions of Africans and African-Americans to American culture and serves as an epicenter for music, dance, theater, visual art, film, arts education, literature, history and civic engagement. Follow the Gantt Center on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter @HBGanttCenter.

You can purchase tickets here.

Feast on Culture!

Food for thought and for your palate with Culinary Historian Michael W. Twitty

Michael Twitty Image_IMG_6500My work continues with the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture on its Heritage & History series. Next month, the Center will host Michael W. Twitty, a 2016 TED Fellow, chef and independent scholar on African American food, folk culture and culinary traditions of the African Diaspora.

Michael first came to my attention in 2013 while watching the documentary “The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross” with Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Soon after, I began following Michael’s popular blog Afroculinaria.com, the first website devoted to the preservation of historic African American foods and food ways. He’s a living history interpreter who “re-constructs early Southern cuisine as prepared by enslaved African American cooks for tables high and low.”

As a Southerner, ridiculous foodie, descendent of enslaved African Americans and forever-eager student of a long line of housekeepers and cooks who were my elder kin, I found Michael’s work fascinating and resonant. A seasoned presenter, Michael has delivered talks and cooking demonstrations at the Smithsonian, Monticello, Williamsburg and Oxford. His public talks, writing and meals stir dialogue about Black identity, the South, the African Diaspora, cultural appropriation and the racial legacy of America.

I reached out to Michael about 18 months ago to inquire what it would take to bring him to Charlotte. Admittedly, I fanned-out when he responded immediately and personably to my email. My giddiness increased when we spoke by phone and synched up our thinking to create a vision for a Charlotte food event. We gravitated to the idea of a talk and tasting of authentic recipes, informed by WPA narratives of formerly enslaved people from the Carolinas. Wow! Both my mouth and my eyes watered at the thought.

After much anticipation, Michael will present in Charlotte this summer as part of the Gantt Center’s Heritage & History program. It is a programming series that I’ve had the joy of conceiving, naming and shaping to spotlight nationally noted artists and scholars who are preserving Black culture through an array of disciplines and media. In hosting each culture keeper, the Gantt Center invites public participation in special events and experiences that illuminate important stories and engage audiences. Duke Energy is the Center’s sponsoring partner on the series. The inaugural Heritage & History program took place in March.

Michael’s talk will take place at Founders Hall, located at 100 North Tryon Street, smack dab in the center of Charlotte—the city’s historic heart and centuries-old trading crossroad. The irony of the event’s venue isn’t lost on me. How can you not marvel at the juxtaposition of a program centered on the antebellum stories and foods of enslaved Black cooks relegated to lowly hovels and a venue characterized by an expansive vaulted atrium, marble floors and 21st-century modernity. Further, Founders Hall sits in Charlotte’s tallest building—headquarters of the nation’s largest bank. The symbolism and seeming incongruity are remarkable yet representative of the curiously tangled American story. I trust the Ancestors will smile upon us as we remember them, learn about their lives and lift up their stories in one of our grandest  and most relevant places.

On Thursday, July 28, please come meet and experience Michael. And you can sample food of our collective ancestral roots. Buy your tickets here.

— VF

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Michael W. Twitty and me

‘Strong and Able To Fight’

“… I prayed to God to make me strong and able to fight, and that’s what I’ve always prayed for ever since.”  — Harriet Tubman, 1865

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Last night’s performance of Harriet’s Return, a one-woman play about Harriet Tubman written by and starring Karen Jones Meadows, sold out! And Karen received a spontaneous and resounding standing ovation from the audience of over 400 people.

The play kicked off the “Heritage & History” programming series that I collaborated with the Gantt Center to create this year and that Duke Energy is generously sponsoring. The series will feature “remarkable experiences with renowned culture keepers”. One luminary presenter is scheduled per quarter.

During Karen’s visit to Charlotte, she participated in a “lunch and learn” with about 50 Duke Energy employees last Friday. On Saturday, she led “Culture in the Quarter,” a hands-on workshop with local youth and families.

The lunch talk, workshop, play about Harriet and Karen’s personal story were highly inspiring and proved ideal for celebrating strong, fierce women (praying to be one) during Women’s History Month and on International Women’s Day.

Below are photos from the past week.

— VF

 

Reclaiming The Root Meaning of Philanthropy

  Radical simply means ‘grasping things at the root.’ — Angela Davis

Let’s engage in the radical work of reclaiming the root meaning of philanthropy: love of humanity. Philanthropy, a curious word to many, evokes a range of images, beliefs and emotions. To contemplate its semantics and evolution and then to initiate anew our collective philanthropic practice could prove a seminal undertaking for black America.

This moment hangs ripe. The “season of giving” is near and clears the way to a new year of possibilities. The election of President Barack H. Obama has substantiated, again, the might of black unity. And yet, between the hopes and history making and the thanks and gifts giving are uncharitable acts and vitriol that signal a shift back in time, not forward. Indignities, inequities and injustices do not simply dissipate; instead, we must come together in systematically uprooting them.

With community needs great and the need for unity greater, the times beckon a new era of conscientious philanthropy rooted in a love for community and expectations of social change. Let this generation, both young and old, embody a social transformation with bold recognition of our power and responsibility to give back.

Philanthropy is a gateway to power. It is a chief means to acquiring, sustaining and strengthening our status—economically, politically, socially and spiritually. Our ancestors knew this. They originated and supported systems for giving and assisted members of the community, whether neighbor, stranger or kin. Remarkably, a fundamental source of our progress at times seems forgotten.

Remembering our long and prolific history of philanthropy is crucial. Historical accounts of black largesse and examples of culturally significant vehicles of giving abound. Look up the Free African Society, an 18th century mutual aid organization established by Richard Allen and Absalom Jones. Study the social justice philanthropy of the legendary Madam CJ Walker. Before the Civil War, up through the Civil Rights struggle and after, our forebears charted paths and lay blueprints for progress. While the impulse to “give back” lives on in the community and opportunities exist to bring new twists to old traditions, this work must be encouraged and nurtured.

In the starkest of ironies, black Americans give the highest percentage of discretionary income to charitable causes when compared to other racial groups in America; and yet our philanthropy is discounted and overlooked by mainstream society. Indeed, within the black community, our traditions of giving are seldom acknowledged or celebrated, or even described as philanthropy. Absurd as it is, this cultural disconnect persists for many reasons and shortchanges us all.

Ideas and images of present-day philanthropy frequently fail to resonate and, worse yet, serve to alienate black Americans. Particularly unsettling is the stunning absence of black people in representations of philanthropists—a few select luminaries notwithstanding. A point of view endures that renders black donors and benefactors, in effect, invisible. The familiar picture of philanthropy is narrowly framed and thus gives a false impression that the only giving that matters is beyond the average person’s means.

On the demand side of philanthropy—as beneficiaries and “the needy”—is a common context for depictions of black children, families and communities. While but one facet of philanthropy, imagery around whites as the benefactors and blacks as those in need has devolved into a stubborn stereotype and produced a picture that distorts and is incomplete.

A richer picture exists. Widening the lens to include our customs and stories of giving yields a different view. Vibrant philanthropy is occurring in black communities, whether labeled as such or not. Even so, great promise rests in sharpening our focus to affect social change. Collectively, black America possesses the assets—heart, head, heritage and dollars—to eradicate a host of social ills. With our legacy of generosity, our shared stake in change and our capacity to leverage centuries-long gains in wealth, education and access, how could we not?

Exercising this power first requires a shift in thinking and wider recognition of the power of black philanthropy. Strategic alliances among black donors, across black communities and with institutional partners also are vital.

Significant in seizing the moment and sustaining the effort is love. Love of family. Love of culture. Love for thy neighbor as thyself. In its truest sense, philanthropy is rooted in love. Advancing social change with that spirit opens opportunities for everyone to participate and fixes the focus on liberating people not elevating oneself.

Putting our money where our heart lies. That is the charge. Begin doing your part today by deepening your knowledge of philanthropy, by examining your motivations for giving and by joining with others to grasp at the root causes of our collective concerns—for love.

Valaida