Tag Archives: Arts and Culture

Seattle Blues Singer Lady A Continues Year-Long Battle for Her Name

by Beverly Aarons

“I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I really did,” said Lady A during a telephone interview with the South Seattle Emerald. The Seattle-based Black blues singer has been embroiled in a year-long fight over her name with the white country band Lady A (formerly known as Lady Antebellum). “I was not well when this all started and I didn’t know what I was going to do … I was praying and I said, ‘I am going to stop worrying about this. God has a plan …’”

On June 11, 2020, just as explosive Black Lives Matter protests swept the nation, the country band Lady Antebellum announced on Instagram that they were inspired to change their name from Lady Antebellum to Lady A because “… our hearts have been stirred with conviction, our eyes opened wide to the injustices, inequality, and biases Black women and men have always faced and continue to face everyday …” There was just one problem — the Black blues singer Lady A had been performing under that name since the 1980s as reported in the Emerald in 2020. 

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Teen Summer Musical Returns With a Show About an Off-Brand Band and Racial Equity

by Susan Fried

The Teen Summer Musical is an institution in Seattle. For many years Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center and Teen Summer Musical director Isiah Anderson worked with dozens of young people over eight to 10 weeks every summer to create a world class, large-scale musical production. In 2019, performances of Uncle Willy’s Chocolate Factory played to full houses at Benaroya Hall and included 60 young people performing amazing choreography and singing incredible original music. In 2020, there was no Teen Musical. Like most annual events it was canceled due to COVID-19.  

Isiah Anderson, the director of the Teen Summer Musical “Story of an Off-Brand Band,“ rehearses
Isiah Anderson, the director of the Teen Summer Musical “Story of an Off-Brand Band,“ rehearses at the Acts on Stage Theatre on Wednesday, July 21, 2021. (Photo: Susan Fried)

The Teen Summer Musical has returned for 2021, though in an abbreviated form. This year’s production is made possible by Acts On Stage, The Voices Project, the Associated Recreation Council, and Seattle Parks and Recreation. Fifteen young people between 12 and 18 years old will be dancing and singing in an original musical Story of an Off-Brand Band written by Michelle Lang-Raymond and adapted and directed by Isiah Anderson, with original music by Lang-Raymond and musical director Cedric Thomas. About half of the cast and many of the staff have either performed in or were a part of the crew in past Teen Musical productions. By the first performance of this year’s musical, the cast and crew will have put in 5 weeks of hard work, Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, at the Acts on Stage Theatre space in White Center, co-founded by Michelle Lang-Raymond and Isiah Anderson.  

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PONGO POETRY: Streets Come With That

Pongo Poetry Project’s mission is to engage youth in writing poetry to inspire healing and growth. For over 20 years, Pongo has mentored poetry with youth at the Children & Family Justice Center (CFJC), King County’s juvenile detention facility. Many CFJC residents are Youth of Color who have endured traumatic experiences in the form of abuse, neglect, and exposure to violence. These incidents have been caused and exacerbated by community disinvestment, systemic racism, and other forms of institutional oppression. In collaboration with CFJC staff, Pongo poetry writing offers CFJC youth a vehicle for self-discovery and creative expression that inspires recovery and healing. Through this special monthly column in partnership with the South Seattle Emerald, Pongo invites readers to bear witness to the pain, resilience, and creative capacity of youth whose voices and perspectives are too often relegated to the periphery. To enjoy more of the writing you see reflected below, order a copy of The Story of My Heart, Pongo’s 16th anthology of youth poetry here.


by a young person, age 16

I never realized the streets come
with all these feelings
till I was in my cell thinking
about what the judge said after the sentence
not knowing which of my brothers
turned into a witness.
I never went into the streets for attention,
just trying to take me and my mama out the trenches.
But I keep going to jail.
Can’t help it because people keep switching.
Tryna to do good but charges keep popping up
because people keep snitching.
It’s like a double-edged sword
’cause every time I go to jail
it’s like an intervention
to get away from these streets
that feel like hell but they get so cold though.
All these dead brothers —
I cry every time I see each one’s photo.
I’m trying to grow.
I’m trying to stay on my 7-4.*
I can’t fold. Can’t let them see me crumble.
It’s like every time I f*ck up,
the whole team fumbles.

Got to march through these units
and always stand tall.
Especially in my cell,
staring at these 4×4 cell walls.
Dealin’ with all these suckas
in these halls.
But they wouldn’t try me though,
they don’t got the balls.
I’m just tryin’ to make it out,
but this system’s so flawed.
It wouldn’t be a fight at all
if these lawyers did their job
like when that police got off
when they outlined my brother in chalk.
And it’s like I can’t even go out to walk
without being scared
that I’m the next one to get shot.
It’s crazy to think
after all my ancestors fought,
this is all we got.
Tryin’ to get money
to get my peoples off the block
but I just keep getting sent
to jail to rot.

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Book Review: ‘Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America’

by Megan Wildhood

(This article originally appeared in Real Change News and has been reprinted with permission.)

Amazon owes the U.S. government $1.5 billion in taxes. Instead of paying that bill, it got a $129-million tax rebate in 2018 and continues to bully the cities that house its ever-growing number of warehouses for tax breaks, secret deals, and immunity from regulations that protect residents (such as the more than 50,000 Seattleites who work for it). A large percentage of its revenue, which totaled $11.5 billion in 2018, comes from government contracts. It skirts safety and seems to think humans are robots who exist to do nothing but gobble up more and more jobs, which of course pay so little that those “robots” (the majority of whom are contractors, not employees) qualify for food stamps. Workers sustain major injuries and even die violently on the job — but many of them “don’t blame the company.” 

After reading Alec MacGillis’ Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America, I wondered what it would take for people to start blaming the company. While there is mounting dislike of Amazon in what MacGillis calls Seattle 3.0 (after first discussing the original two iterations of the city), efforts to curb, regulate, or at least mitigate the damage done by Amazon have been insufficient. 

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Seattle’s Mayoral Candidates Talk About Post-Pandemic Arts Recovery at Arts Forum

by Mark Van Streefkerk 

On Thursday, eight of Seattle’s mayoral candidates shared their plans for reviving the city’s arts communities at an Arts Forum at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. All the candidates agreed that arts and culture recovery is a necessary component in the city’s overall post-pandemic healing, but each had a different idea of how to go about it. 

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Executive Director Beth Takekawa Retires From Wing Luke Museum

by Yuko Kodama

Beth Takekawa came home one day to a newsletter from her grandmother’s church on her dining table. The priest had written about “this little immigrant lady” in his congregation, and Takekawa read on, wondering who this new person was. She got a jolt when she realized he was writing about her grandmother. To Takekawa, her grandmother was a giant in her household.  She says this was the first time she realized how important perspective is in conveying a story.  

Beth Takekawa, the executive director of the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience, is retiring after nearly 25 years of leadership at this 54-year-old cultural pillar in Seattle’s Chinatown International District (CID). Wartime took the Takekawa family to the Minidoka internment camp in Idaho during WWII. Post-war, the family moved to Minnesota with the help of a Japanese American relocation committee.  Minnesota was where Beth grew up, but she gravitated to Seattle, where her family has roots just a few blocks away from the museum.  

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The Royal House of Noir: Seattle’s All-Black Kiki Ballroom House

by Brittany Higgs

The timing couldn’t be better for an all-Black kiki ballroom house to come to the spotlight. The Royal House of Noir is a house of talented and devoted performance artists and community activists in the greater Seattle area. There are currently a total of six members: house parents Lü (she/they/Queen), Chi (they/she/Queen), and CarLarans (he/they/King) and children Avery (they/he), Aísha (she/her/goddess), and Elle (she/her/duchess) Noir. These six individuals are taking the community by storm with their intentionality, mindfulness, and focus on community safety and liberation. 

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Roller Skating Is Back! … But It Never Really Went Away

by Beverly Aarons

Four wheels, five, three, and even two — inline, quads, or whatever suits you. Choose a rink and pump some tunes — the roller skating craze is in Seattle, too. 

When I first heard that roller skates were on back order and hard to find, I chuckled. First there was a run on toilet paper and now skates too? The pandemic gods have a great sense of humor. But then I began to remember some of my fondest childhood moments: Friday nights as a 1980s preteen rolling around the wooden floor of a local roller rink in Chicago. I felt a deep sense of nostalgia as I recalled the remixed and pumped-up James Brown songs that accompanied my wobbly skate legs. And I wondered: How has one of America’s most beloved pastimes fared 150 years after James Plimpton invented the modern roller skate and 50 years after its disco heyday? 

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Nina Yarbrough Will Be 4Culture’s New Arts Program Director

by Chamidae Ford

4Culture recently announced Nina Yarbrough will be their next arts program director. Yarbrough will begin her new role this September after she finishes her duties as the business development manager for the Central District Forum for Arts and Ideas.

According to a press release from 4Culture, the position is a senior leadership role that “oversee[s] the development, implementation, and evaluation of our arts funding programs and serves as a liaison to the King County arts community.” 

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The Morning Update Show — 7/14/21

The Morning Update Show — hosted by Trae Holiday and The Big O (Omari Salisbury) — is the only weekday news and information livestream that delivers culturally relevant content to the Pacific Northwest’s urban audience. Omari and Trae analyze the day’s local and national headlines as well as melanin magic in our community. Watch live every weekday at 11 a.m. on any of the following channels, hosted by Converge Media: YouTube, Twitch, Facebook, Periscope, and whereweconverge.com.

We also post the Morning Update Show here on the Emerald each day after it airs, so you can catch up any time of day while you peruse our latest posts.

Morning Update Show — Wednesday, July 14

LIVE — KC Elections Director Julie Wise | LIVE — OPCD Director Rico Quirindongo | LIVE — Vivian Phillips | Ballots Are in the Mail and on the Way! | Art and Culture in Construction

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