The Mask Reports
Longtime African American Actor Robert Hooks seaks on the state of Black Theater then and now.
By Roxanne Roberts, The Washington Post
Q-Is there a great theatre company specifically for African American actors, like Ailey is for dancers?
A-The closest thing to a black theater company that is able to survive and sustain itself is the St. Louis Black Rep. And theater companies — let’s just take Los Angeles, for example — the Los Angeles Music Center downtown and Mark Taper Forum and all the people that run those companies are getting the grants from the foundations I couldn’t get because they did one black play in their season. The black theater producers, the people who are in the community need the grants, and they can’t get them because the established theaters downtown are taking advantage of those grants.
See the full interview here.
Actor Robert Hooks (Robert Hooks)
June 18, 2018
The house where the singer Nina Simone was born is in bad shape. The ceiling is crumbling, the walls chipping, the floorboards sagging; stray wooden planks are strewn against the walls. Last year, it seemed inevitable that the house would succumb to time.
But, thanks to the teamwork of four artists and a nonprofit, the site has a new lease on life. On Tuesday, the house in Tryon, N.C., was named a “National Treasure” by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The organization will devise a plan to rehabilitate the house so that it might be used by future artists.
The house, where Simone was born in 1933 as Eunice Kathleen Waymon, has been the subject of failed restoration attempts over the years. Kevin McIntyre, a former economic development director for Polk County, bought the house in 2005 and invested more than $100,000 of his own money before losing the property to money troubles. When the house went on the market in 2016, many assumed it would be knocked down.
Instead, four African-American artists — the conceptualist Adam Pendleton, the sculptor and painter Rashid Johnson, the collagist and filmmaker Ellen Gallagher and the abstract painter Julie Mehretu —bought the house together in order to preserve Simone’s legacy. The purchase caught the interest of the National Trust, which had recently started a $25 million campaign to preserve historical sites related to African-American history. Simone died at age 70 in 2003 after a long career that made her a soul legend and civil rights icon.
“African-American women in jazz and in civil rights: their legacy is often undervalued, and there’s an ongoing struggle for recognition,” Brent Leggs, the director of that campaign — called the African-American Cultural Heritage Action Fund — said in a phone interview.
So, the organization decided to mark the house a National Treasure, a label that has been bestowed fewer than 100 times across the country. The team will begin an 18-month campaign with a $100,000 internal budget, working with the local community, local organizations and the World Monuments Fund to devise a long-term plan for how to preserve the space. Mr. Leggs estimates the full restoration will cost around $250,000.
Mr. Pendleton and the other three artists will be actively involved in shaping the house’s future. One idea is to turn the space into a home for an arts residency program, with hopes that future artists might be inspired by the same surroundings that sparked a young Simone.
“I’m not interested in turning the house into a museum,” Mr. Pendleton said in a phone interview. “I’m much more interested in restoring it so that it reflects what it was like when the Waymons lived there. I think it’s important to note that it looks like a very humble dwelling.”
And while the crumbling house is very much of a different time, Mr. Pendleton says it has strong symbolic power in a fraught modern era. “Nina’s politics challenged what America was at the moment she was alive — and challenged what America could be and what it would become,” he said. “I think those are questions that don’t die.”
Nina Simone and Sister Rosetta Tharpe Are Finally Inducted Into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
by Charline Jao | 11:34 am, April 16th, 2018
The inductees for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year included Nina Simone for the Performer Category, and Sister Rosetta Tharpe in the Award for Early Influence.
The induction of Sister Rosetta Tharpe was one of the highlights for many who felt her electric sound, gospel music, and her completely original guitar playing has been much overlooked. Biographer Gayle Ward points out that this black woman, “influenced Elvis Presley, she influenced Johnny Cash, she influenced Little Richard. She influenced innumerable other people who we recognize as foundational figures in rock and roll.”
The induction and tribute to Tharpe was led by Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard who performed “That’s All” with Roots’ Questlove on drums and Paul Shaffer on piano and “Strange Things Happening Every Day.” Prior to the performance, Howard had told Rolling Stone that inducting Tharpe is “a huge honor” and that she “[hopes] this spotlight helps people discover what so many of us already know. She is one of the greatest artists of all time.”
Delivering the induction speech for Nina Simone was Mary J. Blige, who gave a powerful speech about her love for Simone. Blige was in no rush to give Simone her overdue spot, saying, “Please bear with me, this is a very long speech, but I’m here for the queen tonight. I’m going to take my time.” Simone had been eligible for induction since 1986, but only received her first nomination this year.
Blige spoke about Simone’s ability to make anything she sang her own, and the meaning being songs like “Mississippi Goddamn”. Blige explains, “her first civil rights song in response to Medgar Evers’ death in Mississippi and the four little black girls in the Alabama church bombing – gives us chills with its anointing and frustration and anger [at] the racism that was going on in the world.”
Nina was bold, strong, feisty and fearless, and so vulnerable and transparent all at the same time. Her voice was so distinctive and warm and powerful; I never heard anything like it. She knew who she was and she was confident in what she did and why she did it. But it was often the lack of confidence in herself that people could relate to. Nina sang for all her pain, her joy, her confusion, her happiness, her sickness, her fight. She fought through all the stereotypes. She fought for her identity. She fought for her life.
Andrew Young, who was the mayor of Atlanta and the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and a congressman, said that, during his days as a civil rights organizer, Simone’s music was the soundtrack of the movement. “Every home I went to had Nina Simone – I mean everyone,” he said. “For all the people in the civil rights moment, it was an identity.” Her songs about injustice, struggle, and black life resonate to this day. They’re just as relevant to Ferguson or Baltimore or Mississippi as they were to the civil rights era. And, of course, hip-hop took notice, with artists such as Ms. Lauryn Hill, Kanye West, Common, Jay-Z and myself, amongst others, sampling her extensively, and she has influenced countless singers, including many of them that are here on this stage today.
Blige’s speech is definitely worth listening to in full, as she goes through the personal and political power of Simone’s music.
She was followed by a speech from Simone’s brother Nyack Sam Waymon. The Roots and Andra Day performed a tribute with “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” and “I Put A Spell on You.”
The incomparable Lauryn Hill performed of “Ne Me Quitte Pas,” “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair” and “Feeling Good.”
(via Rolling Stone, image: Screencap)
The childhood home of Nina Simone has been designated a National Treasure by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Credit: Travis Dove for The New York Times