Feature Event: Sexy Dancer: A Burlesque Celebration of Prince, April 29, Durham, NC

Dearly Beloveds, we will gather on April 29th, 2017 to get through this thing called life.

Garden of Delights has assembled a cast like no other to celebrate the life of the Purple One, His Royal Badness, the Artist Forever Known as Prince. So bust out your Diamonds and Pearls, put on your Raspberry Beret, and drive your little red Corvette down to Monkey Bottom Collaborative for Sexy Dancer: A Burlesque Celebration of Prince! https://www.facebook.com/events/436462123357566/

Caza Blanca
Jo’Rie Tigerlily
Lottie Ellington
Murphy Lawless
Kayy Lovely
Ophelia Hart
Sally Stardust
Miss Blue Bell
Zadora Zaftig

Doors: 9 pm, Show: 10 pm. Tickets on sale now!!!  https://www.facebook.com/events/436462123357566/

Art: PHREE, Swept Away to Uncharted Territories

By Leslie Cunningham

Freedom can only be achieved when we stop resisting and accept our lives as an accumulation of our experiences and the connection to our ancestors. This is what Dina Mccullough’s art represents to me.

Primarily known for creating mixed media installations and sculptures, Dina is a 47-year old African American self-taught contemporary artist who revels in making multi-dimensional spaces of speculation, imagination and human experience. Her work “The Free Wall”, a multimedia work of copper, plaster, clay and tile that depicts slaves and their lives, is now in permanent collection at the Myers House in Albany, New York.

Originally from Philadelphia, Dina didn’t choose art, it found her at a time when she was embracing sobriety, melting wax for candles, and putting the pieces of her broken life back together at Extended Stay outside of Atlanta. “Before I found out who my real father was in 2015, I felt like something was missing in my life,” shares Dina. Today, under the moniker Phree Spirit Abstracts, Dina creates what she wants, without restraint. Provocative, confrontational and at times obfuscous to ingest all at once, Dina’s art mostly addresses issues around feminism, politics, and history, putting her in the ranks with of other bold expressionists such as Kara Walker and Xaviera Simmons. Dina says she was inspired to create “The Free Wall” after reading the story of a reburial project that honored 14 African slaves after 200 years. “After reading about the Schuyler slaves, “I wanted to celebrate they were finally getting a proper burial.”

An offering to the ancestors, Dina’s latest work is called “The Scales of Injustice”. In this work, Dina sheds light on the torture and pain experienced by African women during slavery. What started out as an art piece about slave blocks has morphed into a beautifully disturbing multimedia installation comprised of six women who are impregnated with cotton, coffee, rice and indigo – products that highlight how these commodities fueled America’s dependency on slave labor. In her art journal, she writes:

Over four hundred years ago,
we were beaten kidnapped, murdered and raped
the most fervent prayer was our children could escape
the land of the free
of tobacco, rice, indigo, cotton
no life mattered
our essence was forgotten

In Scales, Dina uses heavy chains for hair around a mold of her own face on each model. “Throughout the process, the ancestors spoke to me. They didn’t want to be seen as slaves, they were African queens who deserved to be honored and respected. Read more in TRIBES Spring 2017 Issue 37. 

Visit phreespirit.com.

Black Art Don’t Dance No More

A Review of Dasan Ahanu’s Everything Worth Fighting For: An Exploration of Being Black In America

Words by Michael Herriot

Blackness was once a soft spot. A vulnerability. Black people have always been strong, but “blackness” was once a collective Achilles Heel. It was strong enough to withstand a middle passage and resilient enough to bellow slave songs of freedom, but it whispered when “Massa” came around. It looked up to the heavens, but cast its eyes toward the floor when White women walked past. It stood up for freedom, but simultaneously sat on the back of busses.

But Blackness is armor now. It is frustrated and unsmiling. Lately Black art has reflected this. It is unflinching obstruction with arms folded. It is the defiance of fist raising and unapologetic noncompliance. Any art labeled “conscious” or “woke” has become grizzled and hard. Works like Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly,” Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me or Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric find their beauty in the sour matter-of-factness that stares you in the eyes and dares you to…whatever. Black art don’t dance no more, all it does is hiss.

…we’re all just balloons
Strung to existence on earth
but desperate for the heavens.

When I received a copy of Dasan Ahanu’s Everything Worth Fighting For: An exploration of being Black in America, I didn’t know what to expect. Although I knew him as a spoken word artist, I was also aware that he was a scholar and researcher of hip hop holding the Nasir Jones fellowship at Harvard. I knew he was an English professor and had sat in one of his workshops on the fundamentals and contextual literary devices used by–wait for it… Lil Wayne, Beyoncé and Kanye. I didn’t know if Everything Worth Fighting For was a work of scholarly critiques, an autobiography, or a series of essays. I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a collection of poetry examining Blackness from a unique perspective.

Everything Worth Fighting For is Black-skinned but not scowling. It shares the pain and the forlorn wistfulness of the Black experience without feeling hopeless. It is Blackness, once wounded, and still pink from peeling off the scabs–healing but not yet healed. What sets it apart from a lot of art that explores the Black existence is that he doesn’t contextualize this actuality as existing in a White world, he simply writes of existing, which makes this collection extremely human.

The poetry begins with personal fragments of Black lives that lay bare hope, sorrow, joy, and despair. It is the syrupy reminiscences of passed-down wisdom in “Grandfather’s Parable” that instills confidence but reminds that “the devil is watching. Read the full review in the Spring 2017 Issue 37.  

Visit dasanahanu.com.

The Art of Cool Music Festival April 28-30

American rapper, actor, film producer and poet joins to the 2017 festival lineup

By Derek Ross 

The 2017 Art of Cool (AOC) Festival just got cooler.  In partnership with the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), the two organizations announce the addition of Golden Globe, Academy and 2-Time Grammy award-winning rapper/actor/film producer/poet, Common as part of the official lineup for the 2017 AOC Festival taking place in Durham, North Carolina on April 28-30.

Common will perform on Saturday, April 29 during the festival weekend at the DPAC.  Tickets will be available beginning Friday, December 16, 2016 at 12:00 p.m.  The AOC Festival VIP Pass provides fans with access to purchase exclusive premium seats to see Common perform. The AOC Festival VIP passes can be purchased at www.AOCFestival.org.

In addition to Common, the AOC Festival VIP Pass also includes two-day access to all Club Pass venues; no waiting in line; and access to the VIP Sunday Brunch on Sunday, April 30 with a special performance by The Hamiltones.

Revive Big Band

Fans can also experience the festival by purchasing the 2017 AOC Festival Club Pass that grants two-day general admission to: Carolina Theatre, The Armory (with a sonic and lighting makeover), PSI Theatre, MotorCo, Pinhook. Club Pass holders can add on a ticket to see Common at the DPAC. Details available at www.AOCFestival.org.  An official ticket is required to attend the Common show at DPAC.

“Partnering with DPAC to add Common to an already exciting lineup for the 4th installment of AOCFEST is a true testament to the growth of not only Art of Cool, but also the audience for Black American Music in the area,” states Cicely Mitchell, President/Co-founder of The Art of Cool Project. “This truly is an honor and privilege to present such a world-class musician in one of the country’s best performing arts centers.” Single performance tickets to see Common can be purchased at DPACnc.com, Ticketmaster, or The Ticket Center at DPAC.

The three-day AOC Festival, a remixed experience of the Black American Music Festival, features forward thinking jazz, alternative soul and mature hip hop in its mission to expand the audience of jazz as well as innovative thought. In addition to Common, the legendary Godfather of Funk, George Clinton of Parliament Funkadelic, will headline the Durham-based nonprofit’s 2017 AOC Festival.


Also, joining the 2017 AOC Fest lineup with a unique performance with a full backing band will be legendary emcee, Rakim; producer/disc jockey, Just Blaze; Grammy Award winner Anthony Hamilton’s background vocalists, The Hamiltones (Exclusive VIP Brunch); saxophonist/vocalist/producer, Kenneth Whalum; jazz trumpeter and composer, Theo Croker; emcee, Goldlink; singer/songwriter, Nao; singer/songwriter, JMSN (pronounced Jameson); vocalist, R.LUM.R (pronounced ARE-LUM-ARE); singer/songwriter, Alex Belle and singer/songwriter/guitarist Isis, St. Beauty; trumpeter/composer, Marquis Hill; jazz drummer, Makaya McCraven; drummer Marcus Baylor (Yellow Jackets) and his wife, vocalist Jean Baylor formerly of Zhane, The Baylor Project; and more to come.

The Art of Cool Festival will also present two marquee showcases as a part of its performance lineup: Revive Big Band: A Journey Through the Legacy of Black Culture with Igmar Thomas and the Revive Big Band featuring special guests; and Ropeadope: The Next Wave featuring saxophonist/rapper/Grammy winning ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’ producer, Terrace Martin and The Polly Seeds; trumpeter/composer/producer, Christian Scott; Snarky Puppy drummer/producer Robert ‘Sput’ Searight’ of Sputnik; guitarist/composer, Matthew Stevens; Snarky Puppy keyboardist/producer/songwriter, Shaun Martin; and Erykah Badu’s band, RC & The Gritz.

George Clinton

Last year’s AOC Fest hosted over 8,200 music lovers, and 60 bands and presenters in 10 venues with an economic impact projection of $1.9 million for the city of Durham. To purchase passes for the 2017 AOC Festival or for more information about the AOC Project and its programming and events, visit www.AOCFestival.org.

About Art of Cool (AOC) Project

The Art of Cool (AOC) Project is a 501(c)(3) organization registered in the state of North Carolina and operating in Durham.  AOC has been presenting live jazz and educating the local community about jazz since 2011. Co-founded by Cicely Mitchell and Al Strong IV, the AOC has three flagship programs: Art of Cool Festival (AOCFest), StArt of Cool Jazz Education (Start of Cool), and Innovate Your Cool Conference (IYC).  For more information about the AOC Project and its programming visit, www.AOCFestival.org.