Watch Hands Up

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Watch, hands up!

Darkest midnight descends

upon my kin and each American.

This pall befalls all our brethren.

An unprecedented presidency ends,

while a bigoted braggart divides and ascends.

A momentous new and proud museum,

yet streets exhibit dead Black men.

Some feign unknowing of the pilgrims’ sin

then deign to say our unforgetting offends.

Lies tease. Justice teeters. Truth dawns and upends.

Stand your moral ground trusting how the arc bends. 

— ava wood

the second one

Pretend unknowing

of the original sin

is the second one.

ava wood

The other day I visited one of the few slave-era cemeteries of African-descent people in Charlotte. Known as the McCoy Slave Cemetery, the site has about 25 plots that date back to the 1840s.

I, like that morning, was still and reverent in that place. This haiku came home with me that day.

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

 

Giving Rooted in History and Culture

Last week, Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. came to Charlotte to deliver his lecture “Finding Your Roots” and I was project manager of the nearly sold-out event hosted by the Gantt Center. Luckily I was able to share my book as a gift to him . . . and have a friend snap this photo.

#getyourgiveon

Dr Gates

#GetYourGiveOn

Here’s your invitation!

You're invited!

We’re Bringing ‘Giving Back’ at Poor Richard’s Book Shoppe is a free and family-friendly gathering, centered on Black Philanthropy. The evening of the 23rd will include:

Poor Richard’s, a family-operated business in uptown Charlotte, is a full-service, independent bookstore and multi-cultural venue.

New Generation of African American Philanthropists (NGAAP-Charlotte), a CIN giving circle, comprises member-donors who pursue a mission “to promote philanthropy—the giving of time, talent and treasure—among African Americans in the Charlotte region, with the goal of enhancing the quality of life within our communities.”

We’re aiming to do for philanthropy what Justin does for sexy. Well…we’re certainly trying.

— VF

Shifting from ‘Me’ to Movement of Conscientious Philanthropy

Listen to my recent conversation with Tavis Smiley about Black philanthropy and Giving Back on his nationally syndicated radio program, The Tavis Smiley Show.

During the interview, Tavis questions whether any hope remains in rekindling a spirit of compassion and generosity in a culture that seems to be degenerating and glorifying a me-and-mine mentality. Hear my response . . . and then share yours here.

The book Giving Back is a centerpiece of the Giving Back Project, which aims to ignite a movement of conscientious philanthropy by empowering a generation to recognize their power and responsibility to give back.

The interview airs on The Tavis Smiley Show through Friday, May 25. Tune in and then share the link and your thoughts. — VF

Charles W. Thomas Jr., photographer

29 Days

Black History Month begins, again.

“Those who have no record of what their forebears have accomplished lose the inspiration which comes from the teaching of biography and history.”

Carter G. Woodson, Ph.D., The Father of Black History (1875–1950)

UPenn Scholar Marybeth Gasman: ‘Beautiful book that masterfully demonstrates the power of African American giving’

Our most recent advance commentary comes from Dr. Marybeth Gasman, professor, University of Pennsylvania and author of Uplifting a People: African American Philanthropy and Education and thirteen other books.

Giving Back is a beautiful book that masterfully demonstrates the power of African American giving. Through riveting photography and engaging vignettes, Valaida Fullwood tells the story of philanthropy at its purest. Giving Back showcases the diversity in giving that has taken place for centuries and continues to thrive in Black communities.  Anyone interested in philanthropy, Black giving, and African American history and culture will enjoy reading this wonderful new book.”

(I sense a new word cloud forming. Check in tomorrow.)