The Significance Of ‘Sorry To Bother You’

I was excited about the prospect of seeing Boots Riley’s Sorry to Bother You from the moment that I saw the advertisements. Yet I was not prepared for the totality of the film because the ads emphasized only one piece: the white voice.

Without giving away the plot, the “white voice” refers to the way workers in a mythical telemarking firm are supposed to speak— over the phone— with potential clients. In order to win the favor of white clients, they are to speak with a “white voice.”

Every African American, and for that matter, every person of color in the United States, is familiar with the basic notion of a “white voice.” We are hit with that on a regular basis whereby our language, accents, etc., are viewed as somehow outside of the mainstream, and in many cases, perceived as threatening. Riley took this to another level as a way of critiquing U.S. society. He does it in an outstanding manner.

The film, however, is much more than about the white voice. It is about class struggle, racial justice struggle, gender justice struggle…in fact, it is about the very notion of collective struggle. And the setting is a near-future USA with a telemarketing firm whose workers look just like the working class of today. These workers struggle to band together to build a labor union and fight for their rights but also to challenge a mega-company that has dangerous plans afoot.

Sorry to Bother You mixes satire, near-future science fiction, an appreciation of collective struggle and a dire warning of the manner in which contemporary global capitalism is grinding us all down and destroying our humanity. It is the destruction of our humanity that Riley handles in such a superb manner.

When the film ended, I remained seated as I processed what I had just seen. But I also wanted to overhear other viewers and get a sense of their comments. Many were as excited and moved as me. But there were a few people that exited the theatre who were clearly baffled by the film. I suspect that they were not expecting a film that was anything but linear. It did not just focus on race; it did not just focus on class; it did not focus only on gender. It was truly multi-dimensional and was at the same time pushing the audience out of their comfort zones so that they were not just viewing a film; they were forced to view the USA, only through very different glasses.

If you have not seen the film, you must put the time aside to do it. My concern with films as great as this one is that they will disappear before they have fully gained traction.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is the former president of TransAfrica Forum. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.billfletcherjr.com.

Singer Brandy Headlines ‘Journey Home’ Fundraiser In Baltimore

On Saturday, October 20, 2018 Grammy Award winning singer Brandy will take the stage at the Modell Performing Arts Center at The Lyric for the annual “An Evening of Unexpected Delights” fundraiser to benefit “The Journey Home,” Baltimore City’s 10-year plan to make homelessness a rare and brief occurance.

The plan centers on a best practice known as “Housing First,” which emphasizes an increase in programs for men, women and families experiencing homelessness, as well as the better coordination of existing services.

According to organizers, about 35 percent of Maryland’s homeless are in Baltimore City, enough to fill the seats at The Lyric, which holds 2,564 people.

“The Journey Home brings together the public and private sectors, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and concerned citizens to work on solutions for preventing and ending homelessness,” said Chuck Tildon, vice president of Government Relations and Strategic Partnerships at United Way of Central Maryland, which serves as the fiscal agent and marketing partner for The Journey Home in an earlier interview.

“The Journey Home focuses on addressing fundamental causes of homelessness; the lack of affordable housing, inaccessible health care, inadequate incomes and a lack of coordinated services,” Tildon said.

In January 2008, the Journey Home board adopted what they called, “The Journey Home Strategic Priorities.”

The purpose of those priorities is to create a strategic framework for continued commitment and collective action. The priorities and strategic plan are complementary documents that contribute to the vision that homelessness in Baltimore will be rare and brief occurrences.

“The Journey Home was launched in 2008 in response to the growing call for cities nationwide to develop concrete plans to end homelessness in their respective communities,” Tilden said.

“An Evening of Unexpected Delights,” the annual fundraiser for the initiative began in 2011— a collaboration of presenting sponsor, Centerplate, the Baltimore City Mayor’s office and the United Way of Central Maryland.

Funding for The Journey Home come from a combination of public and private sources and the annual benefit provides needed flexible funding that is allocated based on real time need by Baltimore’s Continuum of Care.

“Understanding homelessness and why it happens in Baltimore, along with the types of homelessness people are experiencing— from transitional to episodic— is the key to making homelessness brief,” Tildon said, noting that efforts have led to the reduction of homelessness among veterans by nearly 30 percent over the past three years.

The fundraiser stands as a signature event, which organizers put a lot of effort into making sure of its success.

“We pride ourselves on this annual event of unexpected delights by surprising the sponsors, friends and family who support our great mission,” Tildon said.

Brandy is a Grammy Award winning performer and “we are confident that she will score a home run for us,” said Tonya Miller, the senior director of public affairs in the mayor’s office.

Brandy first rose to fame in 1994 with her debut hit, “I Wanna Be Down.” The Grammy-award winner also starred in the leading role of the successful 1990s sitcom, “Moesha,” and put together a string of hit albums and singles, including “Never Say Never,” which sold more than 16 million copies worldwide. Her duet with singer Monica on “The Boy is Mine,” spent 13 weeks at number one on the U.S. Singles Charts. Brandy went on to star in other television and movie projects like the horror film, “I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.”

Tickets for the 8 p.m. event are $49.50 to $79.50 plus fees. VIP tickets, which include a 6:30 p.m. reception are $99.50 plus fees. General admission tickets are available through Ticketmaster.

Thought Provoking Artist Visits AACC

The people in the photographs could be from today, dressed in period costumes, some neutrally looking at a blank area under a tree. It’s a jarring moment to realize they were viewing a now Photoshop-erased lynching victim, the nonchalance frozen in time by Ken Gonzales-Day’s images.

It’s that sneaky way of getting viewers to connect with the history and its implications that make Gonzales-Day the perfect visiting artist for Anne Arundel Community College this fall, said Matt Moore, the school’s Visual Arts department chair. “His work is seductive, it draws you in— then you’re challenged.”

Gonzales-Day will talk about his work and experience as an artist at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, October 11, 2018 in AACC’s Cade Center for Fine Arts Room 219 in Arnold. The talk is free and open to the public.

A Los Angeles-based art professor at Scripps College, Gonzales-Day creates images that center around Native Americans, Asians and Latinos that also expose cultural bias and the inadequacy of current historical narratives.

He is widely recognized for the “Erased Lynching” series and others, including an exhibit he is co-headlining at the National Portrait Gallery, “Unseen: Our Past in a New Light,” which runs until January 6, 2019.

This is only the second official visit by an artist to AACC, part of a planned annual event funded by the School of Liberal Arts. In addition to the talk, Gonzales-Day will participate in a private event where he will critique students’ works.

“It’s basically an interdisciplinary critique for advanced students,” Moore said. “It’s a great opportunity for them.”

Gonzales-Day received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, a Master of Fine Arts from the University of California Irvine, and a Master of Arts from Hunter College in New York City. His work has been widely exhibited including LACMA, Los Angeles; LAXART, Los Angeles; Tamayo Museum, Mexico City; Palais de Tokyo, Paris; The New Museum, NYC; and the Generali Foundation, Vienna, Austria, among others. In 2017, he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in photography.

The day after he appears at AACC, he will be speaking at a symposium at the Smithsonian.

Time For African Americans To ‘Come Home’

One of the best-kept secrets among African Americans is how much our brothers and sisters in Africa enthusiastically would love for us to “Come home.” Such was the case most recently in Nigeria as delegations of African Americans traveled to lle-Ife, Nigeria, the ancestral home of the Yoruba culture and tradition, for the 2018 Olojo Festival, September 28-October 2, 2018.

I was pleased to be joined on this unique and meaningful pilgrimage to Nigeria by Claudette Perry of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA); Jeffery Boney, Texas city councilman and contributing writer for the NNPA; Tish Bazil, author and photographer; and Gary Foster, videographer and social media visionary.

We were invited to attend the Olojo Festival by His Imperial Majesty The Ooni of Ife, who is the global leader of Yoruba and King of the Osun State in Nigeria. Ile-Ife is one of the oldest cities in the world dating back thousands of years.

Yes, Africa is very rich with oil, gold, diamonds, uranium, titanium, platinum and other precious stones and metals. Africa’s richest resource, however, is its human resource in the context of thousands of years of culture, language and tradition. Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation with over 190 million people.

From what we witnessed firsthand during the five days while we were in Ile-Ife, it was the culture that has had and will continue to have the greatest impact on unifying Nigerians and all people of African descent throughout the Diaspora. The Olojo Festival was one of most authentic and impactful cultural festivals that we had ever seen. We saw vibrantly displayed cultural genius in native language, traditional dress, dance, spirituality, pageantry and food.

In fact, we experienced a real-life “Wakanda” celebration of the sanctity, diversity, and cultural wealth of Africa in the ancient sacred city of Ile-Ife, Nigeria. The Yoruba language and cultural manifestations were so evident at the Olojo Festival that we were all moved to tears of insatiable joy and passionate responses.

In preparation for this year’s Olojo Festival, H.I.M.The Ooni Of Ife, stated, “We are set for a legacy project that will uplift one of the oldest cities in the world and put it on the global tourist map.” I certainly plan to let all of our NNPA member publishers and media company owners know about this historic city and all-inspiring annual festival. We should start planning now for next year’s festival.

In truth, African Americans have so many issues that are impacting our quality of life, some may ask, “Why should we focus on Nigeria and other nations in Africa?” The answer to that question is quite factual. African Americans have a history that did not begin or end in slavery in the United States. Our ancestry in Africa needs to be better known, appreciated and embraced.

We must travel back to our ancestral homelands. We must reconnect with who we really are without the trappings and ornaments of white supremacy. We are an African people. That is more than a Pan-African slogan from the 1960’s. Our children and our grandchildren should be told the truth about our African past, present and future.

It is our responsibility and opportunity to reconnect to Africa beyond sentimentalities. It is time to develop joint economic development ventures. Our Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) should teach African languages and culture as a prerequisite for graduation. We should hold our family reunions in Africa. The NNPA will take trade delegations to Nigeria and to other African nations. The African Press Association will become a member of the NNPA.

We know that there will always be challenges both at home and abroad. The point here is that African leaders such as H.I.M.The Ooni of Ife are calling for all of us to “Come home.”

Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr. is the President and CEO of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) and can be reached at dr.bchavis@nnpa.org

Young Musician Joins The Baltimore Times Staff

In the September 1, 2017 edition of The Baltimore Times, Staff Writer Stacy Brown penned an article about a talented young artist by the name of Imani Wj Wright. The article was entitled “Baltimore music maker inspired by his father and grandfather.”

In the article, Brown noted that Wright’s song “Consistency” had been “labeled as smooth and sultry, a down-tempo song that offers up an easy-going atmosphere— fusing a bit of nostalgia with something fresh.”

This description is also applicable to Wright’s newest endeavor. The 19-year-old has joined The Baltimore Times as a Staff Writer. Wright will be bringing a fresh perspective to the storied publication, which is in its 32nd year. Wright, who says he “loves to write,” says his work will be geared towards Millennials.

According to a U.S. Census Bureau Press Release released in 2015, Millennials are “America’s youth born between 1982 and 2000.” The release also noted that Millennials “numbered 83.1 million and represented one quarter of the nation’s population.” Wright’s debut piece for The Baltimore Times has been slated for the Friday, October 12, 2018 edition.

“When The Baltimore Times called me in for an interview, I was told they wanted me to hone in on the millennial base,” said Wright, chuckling as he recalled the suit he wore and the manicure he had done in preparation for the interview. “I was very excited. I knew such an opportunity would give me a chance to expand as a writer, and to expand my intellect.”

He added, “The Baltimore Times wanted an interviewer, writer, and someone who could do videos. It was the perfect opportunity. I stumbled across something I didn’t ask for and was not expecting. I am very grateful and happy because I have been in the paper, and I have admired the paper since I was 10 or 11 years old. This is an incredible feat.”

The Baltimore native excitedly talked about what readers can expect beneath his byline.

“Readers will get a very precise, creative and musical lingo,” said Wright. “I analyze tracks and songs from a very intricate level.”

Wright describes his own music as “R&B with the feeling of Rock & Roll, Jazz and Hip Hop. His touring schedule includes performances in Lancaster, PA and Tampa, FL.

In addition to his music and writing career, Wright is also the Founder and Co-owner of “SwanoDown,” a clothing store where his clothing line “SWANO Thinking” is sold. Wright runs the company with co-owner and best friend Lucas Ballard, who serves as President of Visual Affairs.

“Our company looks at creativity from a viewpoint that is outside of just art,” said Wright. “Our three main points are idealism, virtuosity and progression. We find different ways to hone in on those three things. We do it through writing, clothing, videos, and music.”

Wright is a graduate of Sudbrook Magnet Middle School where he says he studied music and learned how to play the saxophone. He went on to attend the Carver Center for Arts and Technology, where he was voted “Male Singer of the Year”. He credits Carver Center for Arts and Technology with getting his opera career started.

Wright’s growth as a musician includes his time on scholarship at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins, where he was honored with an “Outstanding Performance” award, and The Lyric Opera House of Baltimore, where he wrote an opera titled “Industrial Love.” His journalism experience also includes writing for Stereo Stickman, an online music magazine.

A creative force in his own “Wright”, he also spent an extensive stint at American University under the auspices of the Washington National Opera. He says the Washington National Opera also afforded the opportunity to perform at the Kennedy Center.

“I participated in really prestigious programs,” said Wright who also owns a music label. “When I reached college, I started to gain a real serious interest in the media outlet complex. I liked reading about music and entertainment. However, I was more interested in the

analytical side as opposed to the gossipy side.”

According to Wright’s bio, “through his various experiences in music, he has developed an eclectic sound that is undeniably of his unique creation.” However, his bio also notes “that as pleasing as the sound, the listener is also dually challenged to delve deeply into the music’s messages, ideas, and claims”.

Wright believes he is on the ‘right track’ to bring this ideology to youthful readers of The Baltimore Times.

“Out of performing live and seeing people wear my clothes, writing track reviews is most fun for me,” said Wright. “I enjoy the intellectual challenge of listening to a song, breaking it down and analyzing it.”

He added, “I am an artist myself, and I am always looking for originality, drive and high-quality music. The whole goal is to propel people.”

To contact Wright for story consideration or more information, email: iwrightmusic1@gmail.com.

Baltimore Bakery Opens To Much Fanfare

In the run up to the grand opening of her new “Baked in Baltimore” shop, lawyer and entrepreneur April Richardson wondered what would happen when she and partner Derek Lowery opened their doors at a location that was previously owned and operated as a Jewish bakery.

“It was absolutely insane,” said Richardson of the September 22, 2018 grand opening at 6848 Reisterstown Road in Pikesville, the location where Goldman’s Kosher Bakery operated for decades.

Instead of a having to bake just a few dozen of “Baked in Baltimore’s” signature sweet potato cakes and pies, Richardson says she stopped counting after more than 400 people, including Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh, showed up to support the new dessert specialty shop.

“I thought we’d slide into the city and get away with baking a couple of dozen pies and cakes a day but the first week has been crazy,” said Richardson, a Baltimore native who once worked as a lawyer for a lender that foreclosed on homes and businesses.

Featured in the Business Journal last year, as the woman who “built a $1 million cake shop,” Richardson eventually switched sides to help people avoid foreclosure. She worked on a panel enlisted by then-Governor Martin O’Malley and alongside then-state Senator Catherine Pugh to create new foreclosure laws.

While helping those victimized by foreclosure and mortgage fraud, Richardson encountered Lowery, who needed help to save his bakery in Prince George’s County.

“There was something about him, and I really wanted to help,” Richardson said. “I called the landlord who was on a train and asked her to stop the eviction and she asked why she should. I told her that I know how to get things done and she said, ok, but on the condition that I join the company,” she said.

After consulting with her son, Richardson got her sister to quit her job and also come aboard. Along the way, Richardson landed deals with retailers such as Wegmans and Safeway grocery stores; Starbucks; Nordstrom; and QVC.

She also secured investments from City First Bank in Washington, D.C., Prince George’s Financial Services Corporation in Maryland, and the Maryland Small Business Development Financing Agency.

The business has succeeded ever since, culminating with opening a location in Baltimore.

At the grand opening of Baked in Baltimore, she says that Mayor Pugh spoke to the crowd about not just the first day of the bakery, but the importance of sustainability.

“She left Ray Lewis’ parade and spent at least an hour with us and talking to the crowd,” Richardson said.

At one point, the crowd at the grand opening had gotten so large, Richardson said old classmates she hadn’t seen since the 1990s, volunteered to “jump behind the counter and help out.”

“I think the grand opening was so huge because people were so proud to have a black company in that community. It had been a community where black businesses had not traditionally been,” she said.

However, what stood out most for Richardson is what she believes was a message she received from her two late grandmothers.

“A 92-year-old woman named Geneva Denton walked up to me at the grand opening and said that she needed to talk to the owner,” Richardson recalled. “I said, ‘what if I told you that you were talking to her?’ She said she was so happy to have us in the city and that we were making Baltimore proud, and black women like her proud. She said she saw the crowd and came over.

“Well, to understand this, I was the favorites of both my grandmothers— my grandmother on my father’s side, whose last name was Denton and my grandmother on my mother’s side whose first name was Genevieve and they both were from Baltimore.

“So, this 92-year-old named Geneva Denton had delivered this message, and I said we have to make sure we take care of Baltimore. It’s not just about the grand opening, but what you do after you’ve opened.”