Tag Archives: Arts and Culture

Jourdan Imani Keith Releases Podcast Series Exploring the Link Between Orcas and Women

by Chamidae Ford


Seattle Civic Poet Jourdan Imani Keith, in partnership with Jack Straw Cultural Center and her cohort, Women and Whales First, Poetry in a Climate of Change, is releasing a limited podcast series by the same name. The series will feature seven episodes which will be released every Saturday, beginning on Juneteenth. 

The goal is to “bring awareness to the intersection of Orca Awareness Month and ancestral legacy,” Keith said.

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Multidisciplinary Artist Shontina Vernon and the Power of Story

by Beverly Aarons


Some birds aren’t meant to be caged — not by tiny steel bars and not by tiny forced narratives woven around their lives like intricate vines with pointy sharp thorns. As I listened to multidisciplinary artist Shontina Vernon tell me about her art — and by extension her life — during our telephone interview, I thought about how society’s carefully woven metastories threaten to confine us all like beautiful but trapped birds with very few of us daring an escape. Shontina Vernon is the one who got away.

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Drew Hobson: Let the Games Begin

by Kathya Alexander


When Drew Hobson got the opportunity to audition for a video game in 2012, he was thrilled. A self-described comic nerd, he was working with a children’s touring company when the theater’s director heard a video game company was having a hard time finding an African American voice for the lead character in a new game. The director immediately thought of Hobson. So Hobson recorded the audition on his home equipment and sent it in. 

“And I got the lead role. And it was amazing ’cause the lead role, where you start out at the first part of the game, and you can play all the way through the game, is African American.” 

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PONGO POETRY: My Once Upon a Time

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 children at the Child Study Treatment Center (CSTC), the only state-run psychiatric hospital for youth in Washington State. Many CSTC youth are coping with severe emotional, behavioral, and mental health challenges. Approximately 40% of youth arrive at CSTC having been court ordered to get treatment; however, by the end of their stay, most youth residents become voluntary participants. Pongo believes there is power in creative expression, and articulating one’s pain to an empathetic audience. 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.


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Seattle Opera Maestros of Color Explore Race and Gender in ‘View From the Pit’

by Mark Van Streefkerk


For over 400 years, opera has been an art form that encompasses vocal and orchestral music, storytelling, and visual art to explore the human condition — and in its beginnings, that meant the white, European human condition. Opera has since been written, performed, and loved by people around the world from many diverse cultures and ethnicities. In the 21st century, audiences and performers alike are increasingly acknowledging the historical racism, exoticism, and misogyny of opera’s traditional works and opening up doors for conversations about how to approach and interpret them. 

As part of Seattle Opera’s ongoing Community Conversations, last week the company presented a virtual panel discussion, The View From the Pit: Maestros on Race and Gender in Opera. The public webinar was moderated by Seattle Opera’s Director of Programs and Partnerships Alejandra Valarino Boyer, and featured maestros Kazem Abdullah, Viswa Subbaraman, and Judith Yan, conductors who have all worked with the Seattle Opera and internationally. The discussion covered a wide range of topics like representing marginalized people, finding liberatory spaces in opera, advice for other BIPOC artists, and how the conductors would like companies and audiences to approach challenging works. The discussion will soon be uploaded for viewing on Seattle Opera’s Community Conversations page. 

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Reading Recommendations for SPL’s Seventh Annual Summer Book Bingo

by Abby Bass, el Evans, and Misha Stone


Summer reading isn’t just for kids — adults also deserve reading goals and prizes! For the seventh year, The Seattle Public Library and Seattle Arts & Lectures are co-presenting Summer Book Bingo and want to help you set reading goals and make reading discoveries this summer.

How do you play? The first step is to download the Bingo card in English or Spanish. Use the card, which has 25 reading categories, to keep track of books you read from now through Sept. 7, 2021. Every time you finish a book, fill in a corresponding box. Complete a horizontal, vertical, or diagonal line and turn in your card by Sept. 7 at 6 p.m., to be entered into a drawing for a gift card to an independent bookstore. Or complete all 25 squares for “Blackout,” and you’ll be entered in a drawing for one of three grand prizes — including a subscription to the 2021/22 SAL series of your choice.  

Now, here are some reading ideas from three librarians, in some of our favorite categories, to get you started:

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Charles Johnson Talks Editing an Anthology, New Works, and His Book ‘Middle Passage’

by Lisa Edge


Geographically, the Puget Sound region is well known for its beautiful landscapes. There’s no shortage of stunning views from majestic mountains to expansive bodies of waters leading to the Pacific Ocean. The other gem of the area is the vibrant community of prolific writers. Charles Johnson is one of many accomplished authors who have impacted the literary world. Johnson is the kind of artist who keeps a notebook handy, so he’s always prepared to write down thoughts and ideas to be polished and used later.

The University of Washington professor emeritus has published more than two dozen books over the years. He’s also a screenwriter, essayist, and cartoonist. But he may be most well-known for his historical novel Middle Passage, which won the National Book Award in 1990. One of his most recent projects was guest editing the June issue of the Chicago Quarterly Review (CQR). It’s the first time the review has focused solely on Black literature. The anthology features new works of poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and art. It’s available for purchase now for $16. In this Q&A, Johnson talks about being a part of the milestone and much more.

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Staging Black Memories, Singing With Ghosts: The Williams Project ‘Campfire Festival’

by Jasmine J. Mahmoud


There was no campfire at “The Campfire Festival.” Rather, warmth came from other sources: Rheanna Atendido’s energizing voice in duet with an amplified acoustic guitar, Dedra Woods’s staging of her and her mother’s memories, storytelling about ghosts and pandemic boredom and political change, and the enthusiastic incredulity of safely and finally engaging in live theatre again alongside other strangers.

Last Friday evening, I nervously walked north through the very green Columbia Park, hugged by Alaska Street and Rainier Avenue South. What would this post(ish) pandemic theater look, sound, and feel like? Upon nearing the outdoor box office table, I viewed the outdoor theater setup on an upwards sloping lawn, where empty hula hoops lay on the grass designating socially distant seating clusters. Once seated, I stared at the facade of Rainier Arts Center, the stage for this theatrical event. There, affixed on white columns were blue banners with the words “Create,” “Celebrate,” “Perform,” or “Connect,” messages that further amplified this theatrical event.  

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FRIDAY FICTION: Demon of the One Year War

by K.D. Senior


Percy tied his apron in the back and took a deep breath. He knew it was going to be a long day. He grabbed the broom by its handle and began to sweep the floor; he knew Mr. Hopkins would complain if he didn’t at least see him sweep. This is what life after war was like. At least it was not the trenches, he thought to himself. During the course of his day, he reminisced about what his life was like before the one year war. Percy didn’t have to wonder what it was like after; he lived that day by day. He figured that this was the best it was going to get for a negro veteran in 1922. Still, he was grateful to Mr. Hopkins for taking him in, ’cause work was scarce after the war. While stacking cans, sometimes out of the corner of his eye he would see grenades. Some of those times when cans dropped, a slight gasp would escape his lips, followed by a sigh of relief when he realized he was not in the trench but a grocery store in Harlem, where he now, in contrast to his former glory, grudgingly swept the floor and stacked cans. 

He tried to remember the smell of his mother’s cooking, but like many things before the war, the memories seemed to evade him. He remembered how that memory carried him through hours of kitchen detail. He wished it would somehow carry him through this. One thing the Army taught Percy to do well was how to hate menial tasks, such as the one he was currently engaged in. Mr. Hopkins sauntered in from the back with a morning paper wrapped in his chubby fist. “Mornin’ Percy, I see you’re sweeping, and I ain’t even have to tell you!” said Mr. Hopkins as he took his seat at the counter, unlocking the register. “We got four cases of canned peaches that need stacking, so after you’re done with the store, take a break and then get to it.” Percy paused for a moment and recalled a portly master sergeant named Wilkins. He talked rot sometimes, but he was still good people.“Yessir.” Percy grinned to himself and popped to attention. “Don’t you start with that army bullshit.” Hopkins said. “No, sir, wouldn’t dream of it.” Percy went back to sweeping. He laughed to himself.

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