Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, and newly confirmed Seattle Police Chief Kathleen O’Toole, will both be visiting the New Holly Gathering Center – located at 7054 32nd Avenue South- on Thursday, June 26th at 6:00pm to film the latest installment of Ask The Mayor.
Mayor Murray will be taking questions directly from those in attendance, as well as discussing a host of issues ranging from his proposal to stave off cuts to metro bus service, universal preschool , gun violence, neighborhood crime, and progress on police reform.
In love is an easy state to tumble into with Shontina Vernon’s music. Perhaps it’s because you can’t quite figure out what genre along the musical spectrum lays claim to her inimitable sound. Folk? Rock? Jazz? Blues? Soul? All season the flavoring of her melodious entree. Or, it could be that her lyrics, layered with so much meaning, provide a sharp counter to those currently being spewed from our radios – which seem to be directly rehashed from the dialogue of Green, Eggs, and Ham. Or, it might just be because her songbook spans such a wide range of human experience that it becomes nigh impossible for your ears to be infected by one of her tunes without it causing you to harken back to a pivotal moment in your own life – whether love squandered, hopes realized, or dreams stalled. In any case, Vernon’s music, similar to the emotion it inspires, simply put, is just really damn good.
The Texas native and University of Washington educated playwright/singer-songwriter, returned to the city last year, making South Seattle her home. And though she travels back and forth to the East Coast and internationally, our novel area has served to reignite her creative embers, while providing her a much needed site of repose between projects. We were able to stop replaying her last album just long enough to catch up with Shontina in person, to discuss her own love for music, her upcoming projects, and life in South Seattle.
Emerald: Common wisdom suggests that you have to leave Seattle, especially the southern end of it, and go somewhere else in order to achieve success in most artistic endeavors. You’ve lived in pretty much every major city in the United States, what is it that continually brings you back to South Seattle?
Shontina Vernon: It’s a combination of things, but mainly timing. I’ve lived in Atlanta. I’ve lived in Los Angeles and New York, but Seattle is unique to me. It has a quaint small town vibe, yet feels like a great place to incubate new ideas. The pace here suits my life at the moment. I travel a lot, and re-entry here is always so easy. And the natural beauty could reawaken even the most dormant imagination. Being an alum of UW has also meant that I have access to a really solid artistic community. Seattle’s the kind of place where on one hand, I wish more people knew about it- and there were more people of color- but then again, I don’t always want to share it. Blame the introvert in me.
Emerald: The lyrics of your songs have so much depth and meaning behind them. They’re a welcome contrast to many that are currently produced by the music industry. How are you able to create songs that resonate so powerfully with the listener?
Shontina: I try to be a really good listener myself, to what my experiences at any given moment are trying to show/teach me. I had a very rich life growing up in Texas, so I pull from there a lot. I’m adopted, but my mother was born in 1917 and my father was born somewhere around 1893, so I had very old parents who were rooted in a time that is so not now. They were very much country people, very simple salt of the earth people. I think that the way that they lived their lives seeped into me, along with the way that I hear and experience music, so some of that root sound, blues sound in my music, comes from them. I’m also a theater artist, so I use what I know about playwriting/acting to help me get into different perspectives in terms of writing a song. It allows me to step into a character so to speak and write from that place. There’s so many ways to write music, and I employ them all, at least I try to.
Emerald: Would you say singer/songwriter is your primary occupation? You do so many other things.
Shontina: I would say my primary occupation is that I’m a storyteller. That is the one thing that is fundamental to all of the disciplines in which I work. As an artist, I have the unique vantage point of being aware of all the different stories for which I am the intersection, or the culminating event. Stories ask to be told in different ways, so I try to honor that and tell them with whatever form best suits the telling.
Emerald: Is it even possible to describe your creative process when working on musical project?
Shontina: No (laugher). It’s not. Because it’s so different depending on the thing I’m making.
Emerald: Okay, let’s isolate one of your works. The song Dreamer, which I think is absolutely amazing, how did you go about writing it?
Shontina: I don’t even remember writing the song (laughter). What I remember is where I was when I wrote it. That time in my life, who I was with, the conversations we were having. The conversations that I was having with myself. How I wrote it? I don’t really know. I just know what inspired it. I also seem to remember that the melody and the words came together. As of late, I’ve been experimenting with music and sounds, producing more tracks and allowing the lyrics to come as they come. My last song I released, “Snake Oil Man” was like that.
Emerald: So for you is art akin to that Ernest Hemingway quote that, “In order to write anything you have to live life first?” Essentially life itself is the muse for an artist?
Shontina: Yes, because life is everything, right? Everyone that shows up, every place that you live, every place that you visit, that is all fodder for what you write. But, how you will write about those things is always a surprise. You never know. I forget who the writer is, but there’s this quote about writing being as much of a process of discovering one’s self in what you write, because sometimes things about you are revealed to you right on paper that you weren’t quite consciously aware of, so there’s this relationship between you and the work all the time.
Music to me tends to reveal more about how I feel. I mean, I feel pretty intelligent in terms of what I’m thinking at any given moment. I do feel smart, but when I work in music, it all of a sudden becomes clear to me about how I felt about a situation rather than what I thought about a situation. Feelings are harder to get at.
Emerald: As an artist, how do you define a successful career? For some it’s monetary reward, for others it’s acclaim for what they do. What is it for you?
Shontina: For me it’s, “Does it feel good and am I happy doing it?” And I don’t mean that superficially either. If I’m making art, but unable to sustain a life for myself, then it doesn’t feel good. And it makes me worry for the kind of art I’m making from that place. It isn’t successful. Now, if I’m making tons of money, but my creative life is languishing and there is no art. Same. There is no joy in that either. It’s not about accolades or lots of money. I think those things are fine. I don’t personally have a judgment about those things, but at the end of the day, you still rest with you, and those just aren’t the things that I imagine will stand out on my deathbed. It’s got to feel good on all fronts or I’m just not doing it (laughter).
Emerald:. Your songs often mix tragedy and humor. Why is that?
Shontina: Life is just like that. And I think you see and understand things more clearly with contrast. Something is sadder if it follows something really, really joyful. It’s more joyful if it follows something really tragic and really sad. So I think that’s the musician in me that says that they have to play together. I’ve now lived long enough to see myself make decisions that I thought were really good, that farther down the line turned out to be bad, and I’ve made some decisions that I thought, “this is really bad,” and farther down the road they turned out to be the best thing, so the truth is that you don’t really know. You just have to include it all in the telling of a good story.
Emerald: I know that Joni Mitchell has been a major inspiration for you, but who else has played a role in your artistic development?
Shontina: So many! I’m a huge fan of Junot Diaz as a writer. When I first read his book, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, it sort of freed my writer’s mind me from some of its constraints. I think, because he is someone coming to the states from the Dominican Republic, he has an eye that peers into this world, and that world. Again, contrast. There is also Audre Lorde. I was here in Seattle, when I went into a bookstore and found an anthology of her work. Poetic, pointed and raw. I was just like, “Where has this person been my whole life!” Growing up in Texas there wasn’t a lot I was exposed to. I was dreaming a life for myself with no evidence that it was possible. Neither of my parents had much schooling, so there’s a lot that you’re like, “Well, how do I do this? Can it even be done?'”
Musically, I listen to everything. I’m a huge fan of the old jazz heads – Thelonius, Mingus. Abbey Lincoln was a revelation for me. Her compositions are so beautiful and wise. It’s funny, I love her music, but Joni Mitchell is more of a literary influence for me, because of the way she used words to paint pictures. She was a visual artist that approached music from that mind. Hearing her and Tracy Chapman and Joan Armatrading, a lot of them reminded me, that, “I’m a musician, and story is my way in.”
Emerald: What do you want people to say about you after seeing one of your performances?
Shontina: I want them to come out with the feeling of not wasting the hour or two, with the feeling of what’s possible. If their imaginations get stretched at all, if they come out with any questions, that’s good for me.
Emerald: So what’s next for you?
Shontina: Several things. I’m working on a collaboration called the Storyband Project, a kind of theatre lab for musicians to experiment with storytelling. I’m also expanding a new theatre piece that I presented here in March at CD Forum’s Creation Project. It’s called NOTE TO SELF: Postcards from Cuba and Beyond, and it takes a look at Black American identity against a global canvas. Of course I can’t wait to record some music. I’ve already started working on material for the next album. And finally, I’m collaborating with a group of writers on a web series being developed through Eclectic Brew Arts. It’s a story that follows a young church, and the evolution of some of its members. And it’s called BATTLE AXE.
Emerald: What advice do you have for any burgeoning artist from around this area? Especially for those who keep hitting a bump in the road? Shontina: The first thing is, don’t kid yourself about what you want or why you want it. I encourage people to really look inside themselves. If you’re pursuing capital A – ART, just to seek validation of your worth outside of yourself, that’s a dangerous place to begin. Not that some haven’t started there and found their way. But I say that because we have the kind of culture here in America that really knows how to exploit that individual. The machine is waiting to eat you. But If you’re committed to making art because you know you have something of value to give/to express, then make it. It will find its proper place if you are simply committed to the discipline required to make it. Take care of yourself. Fill your life with good people, take note of the beauty that is around you, and make a point to leave the world better than when you came.
For more information on Shontina, including upcoming shows and events, please visit: http://www.tinavernon.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @tinavmusic
Producing a film seems like rather a nebulous task. We have the director, who directs, the actors, who act, the designers, who create the world of the piece, and the writer, who writes the thing. But what does a producer do, exactly? He is the forerunner, the organizer, the person who makes the thing happen. And Ramon Isao, an up-and-coming writer/producer in the Seattle film scene, certainly fits that mold. The energetic, talkative, and charismatic young artist is set to do his third feature this summer, Dead Body, a slasher-meets-mystery flick sporting a cast and crew of young up-and-coming Seattleites and shot in a cabin a few miles out of town.
When I asked Ramon how long he’s been writing, he said, “I’ve always written, even as a kid. I started out with fiction, but 8 years ago, my buddy Kevin asked me to help rewrite a movie called Zombies of Mass Destruction”. A completely new experience for Ramon, he jumped on the chance, and the two were able to produce the feature amidst positive reviews.
Then, along came Junk – a film he described as “A raunchy, evil comedy – the work that I’ve decided my parents never need to see”. In addition to co-producing and co-writing, he co-starred in this one, playing a character that he put as “disturbingly like myself”. Ramon said that learning to act in this type of role changed everything for him as a writer and producer. He exclaimed, “I gained a newfound appreciation for what actors did!”
Fresh from these two successes, he has jumped headlong into co-writing and co-producing – along with co-conspirator Ian Bell – a combination slasher and mystery flick called Dead Body. Seen it a million times? That’s what I thought. When I asked him why this movie was so special, he pointed out the never-done combination of slasher and mystery. Turns out, it’s hard to do – Isao has worked with Ian for months to crack the formula, involving high school kids, a game gone wrong, mystery, death, and campiness all bundled into one delicious little flick. With it, he’s interested in “combining the humor and the absurd with violence”.
Believe it or not, though, the new genre isn’t what Ramon is most excited about. He spent most of his time gushing about the talented group of young Seattleites working on the film. Ramon said he was “dead lucky to score” the cast and crew. As Ramon put it, “Every single one of these people is super talented – I’m mostly just excited to show off to everyone that I landed all of these awesome collaborators!” Almost as exciting for Ramon is that he can do a film in his hometown, with people in his hometown, about an area in his hometown. His goal with this group is to build a community of Seattleites to make art with, project after project.
Upon asking him what a Seattle layperson should do to get involved with Dead Body: He laughed, and said, “Come to us! Email me at email@example.com if you want to be a PA throughout August – you’ll get some food and experience, and get to kick it with some kickass artists!” You can also check out their Kickstarter to donate – cool perks include a Halloween party with the cast and free tickets to see the movie at one of the festivals it will be circulating at (Ramon is shooting for horror festivals and SIFF, to name two).
His response to my query of how to get into film in general? Get out there and do it! “It’s easy!” he said, and immediately laughed. “No, I’m lying. It’s fucking hard. But you just have to go do it. Start making things! You gotta make the bad shit to get to the good shit”. So, you heard him, would-be film guys. Start making movies, even if they’re terrible. Get out there with your camera and shoot shit – you never know when you’ll get your break. And stay tuned for more on Dead Body – I expect we’ll be seeing more about it soon.
Mary Hubert is a performing artist, director, and arts administrator in the Seattle area. When not producing strange performance concoctions with her company, the Horse in Motion, she is wild about watching weird theater, whiskey, writing and weightlifting.
On a typical day it can serve as a de facto community gathering hub, overloaded computer lab, hallowed sanctuary for religious revival, job center for the long term unemployed, adored romper space for toddlers, a copy/ printer/ fax depot of last resort, and a cherished De–stress Zone for elders raising the twenty first century’s version of teenagers. Of course, if you ask Morgan Wells – Director of R.A.Y’s West Hill Family Center, located in the Skyway/Westhill neighborhood – days at the center are anything but typical.
“The people who come in definitely vary on a day to day basis. They may be looking for housing, job searching, researching DSHS benefits, or wanting to take an online course, along with a myriad of other things. We want to serve as broad a part of the community as possible and throughout it all we want to make sure that we have a welcoming staff for them.” Says Wells.
The multifaceted West Hill Family Center – equipped with a computer room, conference meeting suite, children’s play area and a staff of five full time employees, in addition to two interns- has been one of the Skyway area’s most venerable institutions, serving its residents for the past twenty years. Not a small feat when you consider – with a few notable exceptions- that during the same period the life cycle of most businesses and organizations in the area have approximated that of the Mayfly.
Wells points to the unqualified support the center has received from the community as the main reason for its continued endurance. “This place is very much community run and community owned. Many times, when staff are away or sick, community members will just take the initiative to fill in for them, answering phones, helping people find resources, fixing computer problems, and keeping the building safe. It’s really them who have kept the Center thriving and helped us to avoid the pitfalls of many other organizations.”
To many of the area’s residents, the support has been both mutual and sorely needed, as Skyway- though falling within the Seattle city limits, and maintaining a Seattle address – is technically an unincorporated portion of King County, effectively meaning it lacks availability to the funding and resources that the rest of the city has access to.
As a result, the center has stepped in, during times both good and bad, to serve thousands upon thousands of the area’s residents. In several cases it has functioned as the last line of defense between them and destitution, both physical and mental. “If it wasn’t for the center I’d be homeless or worse right now. I really don’t even want to think about it!” one patron attested to as she used the center’s dual copier/fax machine to send her resume to a prospective employer.
Unlike the callous and aloof nature that is often associated with social service organizations, the center has cultivated a reputation of warmth and respect in its treatment of those who walk through its doors, regardless of circumstance, preferring to refer to all of them as clients. “When I walk in the door here I’m treated as a human being, and not a piece of garbage like other places. You can tell at other places that they don’t care about you. They’re so condescending towards you. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been waiting in line forever. It doesn’t matter if you have a child you’re waiting with. To them you’re just another number.” Said a young mother who frequently visits the center.
That reputation wasn’t acquired by happenstance, according to Wells: “Our vision is that everyone who comes here walks out of our door thinking they’ve been treated with respect, and that’s been a permanent part of our culture. We don’t have direct benefits to give out and so we don’t have to ask people to prove their eligibility like other social service places. Our door is open to everybody and there are no eligibility requirements for any of our programs which is great. So we try to treat everyone like a person and not like you’re number 1652 at the DMV.”
Although it’s reputation has remained intact throughout the years, several new faces amongst the center’s staff have caused concern over possible changes in its operation. In a little under a year, the center has undergone almost a complete overhaul, as its previous director – Jennifer Moore, along with two of its youth counselors- departed for opportunities elsewhere.
Perhaps no loss has been as heartfelt as the recent retirement of the center’s long time receptionist/ administrative assistant Cynthia Green, who had been with the center since its inception, nearly becoming indistinguishable from it in the minds of almost all of the area’s locals.
“I don’t know, with Ms. Cynthia leaving it’s kind of strange. When I come in now I see new faces and I’m not sure what to make of everything. With all the changes I’m a little concerned.” said one grandmother who regularly attends kinship care support group meetings at the center.
Well aware of some of the anxiety that has arisen amongst the clientele, Wells has been proactive in soliciting the opinions of the center’s regular attendees, even going so far as to establish a community steering community to best identify what most needs to be addressed as it concerns the Skyway area.
“Historically, we’ve made an effort to be flexible and responsive when things change, whatever they are, whether at the center or within the community. I’m certainly willing, if we need to totally scrap something and start over and build from the ground up. If that’s what we have to do to meet the needs of our community right here and right now. If the voices are coming to us and saying we need and A.A. group, or we need more Adult Education classes ESL classes, or whatever that thing is, I’ll go after it and put my heart into bringing it here to this building.” Wells stated.
Even with the center undergoing potential changes, there is at least one thing that its regulars hope remains forever sacrosanct. As one stated, “This place, to me, is like a second home. A second family really. And I hope it always stays that way!”
Community: VFW Meat Raffle from 4 to 7pm @ Skyway VFW Hall 7421 S. 126th St Seattle, WA 98178. More Info: email firstname.lastname@example.org
Movies: Opening of Chef staring Jon Favreau showtimes 1:30pm, 4:00pm, 7:30pm and 9:30pm @ Ark Lodge Cinemas 4816 Rainier Avenue South Seattle , WA 98118. More Info: http://www.arklodgecinemas.com
Community: Rainier Valley Eats Community Dinner, from 5:00-6:30pm @Rainier Community Center 4600 38th Ave South Seattle, WA 98118
Community: Beacon Hill Meaningful Movies presents More Than Honey @ The Garden House 2336 15th Ave South Seattle, WA 98144. film starts at 6:15pm and includes free admission and free popcorn. More Info: http://www.beacon-arts.org
Theater:Anything is Possible Theatre presents Friday performance of Robin Hood, show starts at 7:00 pm@ The Rainier Valley Cultural Center: 3515 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98118. More Info: http://anythingispossibletheatre.org/
Toddlers: Tot Gym ( Gym will be filled with lots of toys, along with a few bounce houses for each and every toddler’s enjoyment) from 10:00am to 1:00pm @Rainier Beach Community Center 4600 38th Ave S, Seattle, WA 98118 More Info: Carl.Bergquist@seatte.gov
Community: Cierra Sisters presents Summer Surprise, from 11:00am to 1:00pm @Rays West Hill Family Center 12704 76th Avenue South Seattle, WA 98178 More Info: http://www.cierrasisters.org
Theater:Anything is Possible Theatre presents Special Giving Night Saturday performance of Robin Hood show starts at 7:00 pm@ The Rainier Valley Cultural Center: 3515 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98118. More Info: http://anythingispossibletheatre.org/
Sunday, June 22nd
Community: Brunch at the Beachcomber from 10:00am to 12:30pm @ Beachcomber 12623 Renton Ave S Seattle, WA 98178. More Info: (206) 772-5183
Theater:Anything is Possible Theatre presents Sunday performance of Robin Hood show starts at 2:00 pm@ The Rainier Valley Cultural Center: 3515 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98118. More Info: http://anythingispossibletheatre.org/
Seattle, WA – SeedArts Cinema and Jazz Night School are presenting a documentary that traces the musical contributions, journeys and obstacles of American women instrumentals in jazz form the early part of this century. The film will be shown on Saturday, June 28th at 7 pm at the historic Rainier Valley Cultural Center (3515 S Alaska St, Seattle, WA 98118), followed by a conversation with the filmmaker, producer, and director Kay D. Ray. Suggested donation is $5.
The 80 minute documentary film” LADY BE GOOD Instrumental Women In Jazz” concentrates on the contributions of local American women instrumentalists in jazz from the early 1920s to the 1970s and the development and extent of the all-woman jazz groups. LADY BE GOOD captures the lost stories of female jazz musicians in provocative and often humorous interviews with women musicians, big band leaders, jazz authors and historians. Musician and composer Patrice Rushen guides us through these exciting histories with rare photos, previously unseen film and television footage, and scarce recordings. Join Peggy Gilbert, Marian McPartland, Carline Ray, Quincy Jones, Jane Sager and many others in this important new narrative.
Post-workout recovery is an often under-looked or overanalyzed component to a successful training program. When it comes to a post-workout recovery routine, keeping it simple is best. Try these 3 easy to-do tips from RHF CrossFit trainer David Calderon to help your routine:
1. Food: A recovery shake or small meal consisting of simple sugars to replace glycogen (stored energy) and protein to aid in repair of muscles is key. Here are a couple options depending on your schedule.
Whey protein shake made with milk
Greek Yogurt (8 oz) with berries (1/4 cup) or bananas (1/2 cup) and granola (1/4 cup)
2-4 ounces of deli meat, a handful of nuts and a small piece of fruit
2. Water: Just drink! Hydration post-workout will assist in recovery, help flush out toxins and aid in transportation of nutrients. An easy rule of thumb not just for post-workout but in general is to consume enough water so that your urine is clear.
3. Stretching: Static stretching has its place and is most productive post-workout when muscles are warmed up. Never stretch to a point of pain; instead stretch to a degree that is comfortable to you and accumulate 60-90 seconds per muscle area. Adding a stretching routine will aid in increasing your flexibility, preventing injury and reducing next-day soreness.
David Calderon is a graduate of San Jose State University with a Bachelors of Science in Nutritional Science with a concentration in Dietetics. He’s also the CrossFit trainer at Rainier Health & Fitness.
Reportage, Culture & Commentary From The Most Eclectic Place on Earth