Women’s March NYC: Signs for the next steps

According to the Associated Press, over 500,000 people marched on Washington, DC on January 21, 2017, and the New York Times reports that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office counted 400,000 people marching in the Big Apple. Marches took place, not only in cities throughout the United States, but around the world, bringing that number to 2.9 million. Although this global show of resistance was sparked by the election of Donald Trump and was christened the “Women’s March”, as I made my way across 42nd Street and up Fifth Avenue in New York City, I found myself amidst a sea of protest signs running the gamut of issues.


Reproductive rights seemed to be at the forefront, but slogans focused on gay rights, climate change, immigration, healthcare, police brutality and a general “fuck you” to misogynists everywhere were also on display. 

To me, the day was a cathartic, pre-emptive strike against an administration which has consistently promised to go right on the intersecting issues where sense of reason and heart go left.

In our own words

Below, the words of just a small handful of the women in attendance in New York City give a snapshot of the atmosphere of hope and sisterhood I experienced:

“My name is Bonnie Heller, I live in Manhattan. I’m a neighbor of Donald Trump’s. We’ve known him for many, many years. He has never done anything to help his city, so I don’t understand how he would ever help this country. Plus the fact that he’s a misogynist, racist asshole. So that’s about it.”

“My name is Carly Lissak, and I’m here because I don’t think anyone should feel that they are represented by someone who doesn’t believe in who they are or [the reasons] why they should be seen as equals. Also because I’m scared. I know that we are the pillar of the free world and when the face of the pillar of the free world is mentally unstable it’s just not good for anyone. Also this is an emotional outlet to feel better.”

“We are here to fight for our rights!” – Gia

“The reason why I joined the Women’s March is because I believe this day will be crucial and will go down in history. As an American female I have realized throughout my years of adulthood that there are so many right we take for granted each and every day. I protest to say ‘no more’. I protest because I am aware of what is at stake. I protest in the hopes that they don’t strip us women of our rights. I protest in hope that the planet does not go to shit because of some in-denial narcissist of a president that believes it’s all a hoax. I want my children and my children’s children to have the future they deserve. Ultimately, I protest because that’s all that we have left [in order to] fight back.” – Daniela

“I march because I need to use my voice to speak up for those that America is refusing to hear.” – Andrea

“If I didn’t care about this country I wouldn’t be doing this.” – Overheard on the train ride home


These words are nothing without continued action

Here are some links to help you get involved with just a few of the organizations empowering and connecting people to fight for the issues addressed at the Women’s March. Every action counts and the way forward is all about intersectionality.

Planned Parenthood

GLAAD

Black Lives Matter

Greenpeace

The first step forward in the Women’s March 10 Actions / 100 Days is to start contacting your senator about the issues that matter to you. They’re offering printable postcards to get you started and I’ve got some of the messages seen on signs in NYC for inspiration:

No human being is illegal.

Presidential does not mean bully.

I’m pro-woman. He’s a con-man.

Love trumps hate.

We shall over comb.

Eyes on the state.

Hands off my rights.

Respect existance or expect resistance.

Black lives matter.

Science is real.

Made in ‘gina.

It’s time to ovary act.

Conversion therapy is going to be lit.

 

Humanity amongst the ruins of constant conflict: Q&A with photojournalist Eduardo Martins

Eduardo Martins is a documentary photographer from Sao Paolo, Brazil and humanitarian at the UN Refugee Agency. You may have seen his work in Vice, Le Point, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Le Monde and The Telegraph. Captivated by the depth of his work, he shared what the work conveys about Martins’ perspective and experiences in the field.

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Palestinian masked after clash against Israeli forces, near the border in east Gaza.
It seems like you’ve been privy to some pretty frightening situations. How do you balance your role as an objective observer/photojournalist and wanting to help the people you are photographing?

During my work, there are many moments in which I spend time beyond the camera and end up getting involved with the people I’m photographing. Once in Iraq shooting a conflict, I stopped shooting to help a boy who was hit by a molotov, dropped the camera and helped get him out of the conflict area. In scenes like this, which are common in my work, I stop being a photographer and become a human being. I can not be impartial in these moments.

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Palestinian in his car in the ruins of Beit Lahiya, north of Gaza Strip.
There’s a strong sense of humanity in your photos. I think particularly of the photo in Gaza with the man in the damaged Audi and also of the barely-visible eyes of one of your female fighters. Do you talk to people before you take their photos or do you prefer to be candid with your photography? Why?

I always try to talk to people, to be able to shoot properly. Sometimes, in certain types of situations, I have to act immediately, so we can not have this kind of communication. But when I can talk and try to know the story of each one, it changes my perception of how I set the scene and shoot.

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Funeral ceremony of a Palestinian child, victim of Israeli Airstrike.
Which area out of all that you’ve photographed did you find most difficult to be in and why?

The most difficult and dangerous place that I’ve photographed was Syria, because it is a place that is constantly in this very serious civil war. It is very hard to work there; the risk of life is imminent. Once, in a conflict between the Free Syrian Army and the opposition forces of the Bashar government, I took a glancing shot. I believe, without a shadow of doubt, the most dangerous place to be right now is Syria.

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Ruins from the city of Aleppo, Syria.
What initially inspired you to take up photography?

I always liked to photograph, then I had a serious illness, so I was unable to work for years. When I was healed, I decided to invest in my humanitarian and photographer side and moved to Paris and started working in the NGO Children’s Safe Drinking Water. From that moment on, I started to travel to places with social problems where I started shooting this reality. I joined the humanitarian work with photography, which ended up working very well.

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Free Syrian Army member with anti-aircraft weapon on the front line in Azaz, Syria.
What is your favourite photo you’ve ever taken? Why is that?

It is difficult to highlight a favorite picture. I have several, but they are the ones that took the most out of me while shooting. Not only the final result, but what I went through to be able to transform the scene into a photograph that conveys something to the viewer. I like a lot of my work in the Gaza Strip, have a great identification with the Palestinian people, and because of that I do my best to do a good job.

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In the month of Ramadan, a Palestinian reads the Quran in the Omari Mosque, in the center of Gaza City.
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Palestinian boy screaming after the clash against Israeli forces, east Gaza.
What is your definition of what constitutes a good photo?

What makes a good photo to me is the power it has to touch the viewer, I believe it’s crucial to bring the feeling in photography, and I try to portray faithfully to the public what I see and feel by clicking a situation.

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The streets of a city in ruins, Aleppo, Syria.
What are your thoughts on photoshop and editing programs that so many photographers currently use? Do you think that these programs contradict the purpose and mission of photojournalism?

I think that nowadays the photographer has many tools at his disposition to help in their work. I personally do not use any program like photoshop; I believe that a good real photographer does not need to edit the image, he does a good job even without these tools. I respect those who use the program, but I don’t see it as part of the development of my job.

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Iraqi refugee boy refreshing with a tank of water, helped by Iraqi Forces.
What made you become involved in the UN Agency Refugee program and why?

At CSDW, we worked at the UN refugee camps most of the time. I worked a lot in the Middle East and met many people who were part of the UN, which turned out to be very positive to open doors and start working with the UN. This year I was invited to work as a humanitarian in the agency. It was a great honor and I immediately accepted their invitation.

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Iraqi refugee in Dohuk refugee camp, Iraq.
What is your mission when you travel to a new place to photograph? What are you searching for or hoping to document when beginning new projects?

I will always photograph places with social problems; I always look for this type of subject. I want to show the public the reality of these places, telling the story through my work, something that can impact and bring a willingness to change to the next. My favorite subjects are definitely conflicts and social problems around the world, so when I have an assignment I always look for places facing these humanitarian issues. My favorite places are in the Middle East and Africa.

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Yazidi refugees in Dohuk refugee camp, Iraq.
If you were to have a personal motto, what would you say it would be and why?

My motto is always where there is chaos there is also beauty, which is what I try to show in my work and in places that have such a difficult reality to be faced. I try to show the good side of each place, people, and situation. Basically, my motto is to awaken compassion within the viewer, touch the heart of each one deeply so that they are moved to make a difference in the places they live through charity and compassion to the next.

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Palestinian children in a car destroyed in Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip.
Which photographs(s) of yours has/have generated the most reaction from the public and/or the journalism community?

My work in Syria and Iraq have more prominence in the journalistic media, after all it is more photojournalistic than documentary. But the general public appreciates a lot of my work in Gaza because of the human side that I picture. Finally, I just hope all my work can touch every person in a way, whichever that is.

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Palestinian children selling balloons in the streets of Gaza City.

Follow Eduardo Martins on Instagram to keep up with his captures and travels.

 

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Syrian man who had his leg amputated up the stairs of his home in Aleppo.

Sign up for updates on refugee issues, displaced peoples, and the efforts to help them from the UN Refugee Agency.

 

 

This written Q&A was edited.

Pie Face Girls: Angry, Attentive, and Anti-HB2

We started off discussing Monsanto on slightly damp benches. Dani’s disdain for the company’s careless disruption of the natural flow of things quickly shifted into the group’s deep appreciation for the deliciousness of ugly fruit, specifically blood oranges from earlier in the summertime. “GMO OMG.”, she recommended, “It’s on Netflix.”.

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Pie Face Girls at Tactile Workshop for The Hopscotch Oasis. Dani on guitar, Tiffany on bass, Klay on drums.

I ran into the Raleigh-based band at The Hopscotch Oasis, a day party for the festival hosted by Tactile Workshop. Perfectly comfortable, super sweaty, and thoroughly entertaining on the half-pipe stage, they let us know right off the bat, “we are an angry band.”  Throughout the show they chatted openly with us about the festival, giving context to songs about catcalling, birth control, and white male privilege via Tinder. They also paid homage to the anti-HB2 banner displayed by Grayson and Tina Haver Currin and verbally harangued Gov. Pat McCrory. Everyone seemed to feel at home tucked away in the lush little backyard of Tactile Workshop, talking about real, impolite, human things. It was refreshing. North Carolina’s citizens, reputation, and economy remain marred by HB2, the discriminatory, anti-LGBT legislation passed with shady swiftness earlier this year. In the state’s capital, Hopscotch was a 3-day, 3-night invitation to explore music venues and vibes that felt worlds away from the North Carolina state legislature and wary of standing in its bigotry-tinged shadow.

Hey, Pat, happy Hopscotch. #hopscotch16

A photo posted by Grayson Currin (@currincy) on

 

At the Hopscotch Oasis that Saturday, Klay put it precisely – “Hopscotch is evil because they make you choose.” Hailing from Durham, I have spent a sporadic, limited time in Raleigh, and rarely spent it frolicking and Hopscotch was a great chance to bop around the city and its venues. I imagine it was that much harder to choose from this year’s impressive lineup while listed on it, to play three shows throughout the weekend. Pie Face Girls pulled through it, though. The band wistfully recalled Big Freedia and Erykah Badu, noting that in addition to favorites and legends like those, Hopscotch curates a strong, eclectic range of genres. Festival-goers could check out any artist for a solid show, and “it might push you outside of the zone that you anticipated,” Klay pointed out. Keep in mind, 40% of the 120-band Hopscotch lineup is local. Pie Face Girls made a point to shout out the experimental noise of Patrick Gallagher out of Carrboro, NC and all the artists they played with throughout the weekend, including Durham’s JooseLord Magnus at The Hopscotch Oasis. I missed JooseLord’s performance, but observed the mutual enthusiasm they had for a future collaboration following the show and immediately wanted to get to learn more about them both.

So, Pie Face Girls met me in Raleigh for an interview and as we discussed the challenges of navigating the vast Twitter community and the process of building ideas into action, we landed on a conversation about how the band are growing into themselves. Tiffany described this past year as the one where she realized that they could truly spread their reach and stand on their own, though “in the beginning, it was fun and games.” Now, they are looking to sustain themselves with what they love, acknowledging that it takes time.

Their straightforward statements, like those in “Fuck You, I’m Pretty” and the mantra, “Dick is Dead” really resonate with people – at The Hopscotch Oasis, it was like one big conversation. At the same time, Dani pointed out, entrepreneurship and marketing demand their own skills and are necessary for growth. Seeking that growth can feel farcical after years of creating and performing solely for the love of it. Surely, they do not want to sell out, but I’d assume that would be difficult for the members of Pie Face Girls – authenticity is part of their essence. Defiant honesty and self-knowledge course through their sound; their presence is a cool, collected indignation that reminds you, “if you’re not angry, then you’re not paying attention.

They are definitely paying attention.

The group posted up at Ruby Deluxe’s NC Pride Dance Party in Raleigh to register voters a few days after we talked, and has played alongside NC Music Love Army to raise money for efforts against HB2. The Love Army performs in protest, and “in support of sane governance for North Carolina”. Proceeds from these shows go to community and advocacy organizations Equality NC, LGBT Center of Raleigh and Now or Never NC.  Pie Face Girls recently played the Official Afterparty following Come Out and Show Them: A Benefit to Take Back Our State. The proceeds from that festival went to Common Cause NC, Democracy North Carolina, Southerners on New Ground and Come Out and Show Them’s efforts to keep activist artists’ shows in the state in order to redirect the funds for the work of repealing HB2.

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Tiffany, Dani, and Klay at Ruby Deluxe, handing out sexual health resources and getting people registered to vote.

Another way you’ll find Pie Face Girls in the mix could be a collective or record label for musicians in marginalized communities to come together – queer artists, trans and cis female artists and artists of color. North Carolina does not offer that in music production yet and the corrupt politics of this state only reinforce the need for such a space. As the idea grows, they are seeking collaborators that want to make a similar impact. Klay and Tiffany joked about whether they were included in the plans, and without missing a beat, Dani confirmed. At one point, she looked at them, then to me and said, “your fam is your support system.” They were quick to thank multiple bands, community members, and artist-activists for encouraging them from the beginning and as they’ve grown thus far, shouting out the staple Raleigh venue, Kings.

I had to ask, then, about the label on their ReverbNation profile from earlier on, “Do it your damn self”. It’s an empowering message, and at this point, it seems they are building on that spirit. that led them to record everything on their own in order to get their messages out into the world, then kept them performing and bettering themselves, but now with an explicit appreciation for collaboration. They are consciously taking themselves more seriously than ever and embracing the process.

Pie Face Girls take the impact of the craft beyond themselves as well, working with Girls Rock NC to guide young musicians as they lift their voices and build community through music. Dani helps to facilitate Teen Axn League, a team of female and trans youth, working year-round in conjunction with Girls Rock NC, to create safer spaces for teens in North Carolina, through organizing an overnight feminism and music summer camp every year.

When I asked about what is next to come, Dani stated, “as long as I can be an activist, I’m happy. As long as I can fight for the shit that matters in this world…because there’s a lot of shit to fight in this world.” Pie Face Girls’ raw yet inviting nature and open participation in activism come at a welcome time, when women’s rights and LGBTQ rights are threatened intensely at the state level, particularly in North Carolina. It is also a time when local policy implications are largely lost amongst the presidential election melee. Musical forces out there spending quality time with young people making their way, and encouraging the groups who fight hateful legislation and advocate for their communities and the voice of the people shouldn’t be taken for granted. Participation matters, especially in local and state politics, and at the community level.

“At the end of the day it’s about intention,” they stated in agreement – and I think that’s true for all of us. The volunteering we do, the creative statements we make, and the collaborations we are a part of demand we pay attention to the why of it all. Pie Face Girls are setting out to “reach as many people as we can… and get to the point where other people will load our gear,” Tiffany clarified with a laugh. They are working on tours through the South and the Northeast, and the logistics of an album set to come out in 2017. Experiencing the passion and talent they put into the music, and the way their engaging personalities drew people in after the show at The Hopscotch Oasis, Pie Face Girls are well on their way with some real, quality statements. Stay tuned.

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Follow Pie Face Girls on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

 

 

Upcoming Shows

October 14-15  Manifest Music Festival, downtown Chapel Hill

October 22  Jon Lindsay album release party, Kings Raleigh

October 27  Local Band Local Beer, Pour House Raleigh

November 19  Kosher Hut Raleigh

November 25  Smashfest, Scrap Exchange Durham

Messages from a movement: Charlotte, NC rises up together

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On this hot, sunny Saturday in September, the people of the Queen City and beyond marched together in protest to denounce and heal from the killings of Keith Lamont Scott and Justin Carr, to resist the presence of the National Guard throughout the city, and to exercise freedom of speech and assembly in statements against systematic violence and institutionalized racism.

Charlotte, like Ferguson and Baltimore, was declared to be in a “state of emergency”, in response to looting, violence, and property damage perpetrated by a few on the first night of demonstrations. Since then, the messages of this movement were again obstructed by the sensational media focus on “rioters”, and complicated by the conflicting accounts of these two cases. Instead of engaging with the community’s calls for transparency, accountability, and other demands of the people of Charlotte, it was decided to militarize the city by bringing in the National Guard.

Media narratives tend to place property above people, confusing various forms of resistance to state-sanctioned violence with criminality. Reverend William Barber III is a leader in North Carolina’s efforts to preserve civil rights and improve quality of life, who states:

“This is what democracy looks like. We cannot let politicians use the protests as an excuse to back reactionary “law and order” measures. Instead, we must march and vote together for policies that will lift up the whole and ensure the justice that makes true peace possible.” – Why We Are Protesting in Charlotte

Channeling my own intentions in joining the people in peaceful protest, formed by the sense of unity that I’ve experienced at vigils and community discussions, amongst people in solidarity with the movement for black lives, justice, and institutional reform, I went to Charlotte to document what we really have to say (or write, in this case).

It is said that this is a movement, not a moment. So, here’s a bit of what democracy looked like that day.

 

Speaking truth to power

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Accountability

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Solidarity and allyship

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Resistance

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Looking out for our fellow citizens

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The sign on his left reads, “United States Congress must pass a law that all police officers in every state in America must have, once a year, ongoing education and training required under federal law in order to serve with a weapon in public.”

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Visit Charlotte Uprising for more information on their demands, partner organizations, and ways to get involved.

Mischievous Minds: A Short Tale

Six hands, six empty pockets.
Two mischievous minds planning to shoplift.
One opposing mind, supposedly mine
yet somehow I find myself fascinated with an object, obviously planning to “cop” it.
I have to stop this;
How can I be considered a leader if I allow others that are rebellious towards authority and immune to rules…
To target me as an object of ridicule & pressure me into assuming a new identity;
It all began when they were able to convince me to skip school.
Apparently, my standards had been set too high. According to my new acquaintances, it was fictitious of me to place myself on such a big pedestal.
—————-{Scene One}—————–
We individually make our entrance to discover that the store is empty yet stocked full of goods.
Snagging an item or so is simple, anything more is intense, yet at the same time, “more is plenty” therefor my jacket & pockets are now full of goods.
I turn the corner and come in contact with a co-worker that from the point on begins following me.
That was a new encounter because throughout my life I had become accustomed to authority hallowing me.
I had yet to know what it felt like to be perceived as just another lost delinquent; With that being said, I was oblivious of the fact that my environment was gradually swallowing me.
I noticed that the co-worker was constantly glancing in my direction, so to diminish the tension, I try to smile.
It wasn’t genuine but I felt like it was an alleviating gesture and maybe it would prevent them from following me to the electronic aisle.
I examine every object that catches my eye until I spot a pair of mesmerizing headphones.
Immediately my thoughts were “…where can I stash it?…my pockets are packed & there’s little to no room in my jacket…” However, there is plenty of room in my casket because in my heart I knew that what I was doing was dead wrong.
—————-{Cut Scene}——————
Six hands, six empty pockets.
Two mischievous minds selling stolen products.
One opposing mind, supposedly mine
but somehow I find myself exchanging an object, obviously planning to make a profit.
I have to stop this:
Placing myself in these predicaments despite knowing the likelihood of falling under the influence of these risky hooligans;
Usually, my decision making derives from good judgement, but that is clearly not the case now, because I have been persuaded to skip school again.
This shift from my former demeanor to my newly adopted ways and tendencies
has transpired due to my alliance with individuals as endangering as enemies.
—————–{Scene Two}—————-
We are inside the convenient store holding a conversation, attempting to resolve our conflict
I was experiencing a great difficulty coping with my paranoid state of mind; the last thing I wanted was to get caught and be labeled as a convict
So I voiced my concern by saying “Im not in fear of getting caught but there is no way we are pulling this one off… it is way too ‘hot’ in here”
Meanwhile, during our dispute, a man approaches us. He then pulls me aside and says “young man your coat looks kind of stuffed, what kind of stuff you got in there?”
“…You have circled around the store several times now; you want to tell me what it is that you are really up to?”
“…I could detect the mischief on your amigos from a mile away, but you…”
“You carry a righteous aura; I sense your brightness. I get the vibe that you are unique, so I suggest you keep away from this crowd or you will end up getting yourself into a wreck [crash]”
“…I have seen their kind before, overtime they become cut throat [slash], so I suggest you tuck your neck [& do it fast…]” Protect yourself, have more respect for yourself because I am certain that if it ever came to life or death circumstances your so called ‘homies’ would cut your neck [in a flash]”
The mans perspective was food for thought; it actually made me stop myself & ask: if these “allies” of mine had my best interest at heart?…& how long could I expect this unorthodox act of mine to last?
Truth is, if I continue walking this path, I will be sacrificing a bright future that is bound to turn into a dark past…
But at the same time, who is to say that I will ever fulfill my potential? I mean, its not like anyone else can fulfill it for me.
Although, I have may have taken a wrong turn in this journey of mine; it has made me more aware of my reality, in which I would go into further depth but that topic is another story.
—————–{Cut Scene}—————–

Thoughts on Brexit, a Lesson in Change

It’s all not so funny anymore.

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A few weeks prior, my friends and I were discussing the then-forthcoming EU referendum and soon found ourselves mocking the unnerving anti-immigration, nationalist rhetoric that had dismantled any meaningful debate of the Leave campaign. ‘An hour for England’ we ironically jeered as we drank our Czech beers and Spanish wine, laughing at what we thought was a misguided minority stuck in the past.

Oh, the pain of being terribly wrong, for the masses have voted and we no longer belong. This is a strange despondence and in a way I feel part of the problem. The very real anger and frustrations of the working classes across Britain have failed to be addressed and the European Union and the issues of immigration have sadly been utilised as a scapegoat through a thinly-veiled xenophobia disguised as taking back control of the nation’s democracy. We are all responsible and we all must deal with the consequences. America, take note. The parallels with the Brexit campaign and Trump’s rise to prominence have been well-discussed, but what the results of the referendum show is that this is not a joke, this is not something to be laughed at, and it is your responsibility, the American public, to ensure similar events do not occur in the following presidential election. Take it seriously, because fear and hate is powerful, powerful enough to prompt Britain to disregard rational discussion and shoot ourselves in the foot, moving towards economic instability and a troubling future.

The morning of, I read several gut-wrenching statuses on social media from dear friends who just so happen to be of citizenship of another European nation, detailing a sense of no longer being welcome in this country, fearful for their jobs and family. With passion, I send my deepest love and support to you, but please do not descend into bitterness for you are not alone. It will be desperately challenging, yet we must fight together to ensure the rising tide of regressive isolation is overcome by even greater global cooperation, changing this despair into developing new visions of our future that effectively address the issues of our age. The EU has its problems and it is a devastating blow that the UK has decided to leave rather than to remain and work with the rest of Europe to resolve the many issues. However, might there be another possibility for Europeans, a new period of greater international cooperation through which the deeply-pressing humanitarian and environmental concerns are better met? We are moving into the unknown, but we must not fall into hate and we must not let perfection be the enemy of the good; instead we must look towards a focused and productive action to help create a new community of togetherness.

As a British citizen, I feel completely disillusioned by the whole debate in which both sides fail to adequately address the issues at hand. Its divisive politics have had a clearly damaging effect upon the UK’s social cohesion. The polls reflect this, with a clear majority of young people aged 18-24 voting remain, and conversely a clear majority of the older generation voting to leave.

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What does it now mean to be British? I used to feel pride for my nationality, proud of the National Health Service and pleased to be a part of a country that supported multiculturalism and diversity. I desperately hope this result does not signal the start of the erosion of the many things I hold dear. Brexit may lead the country to the implementation of further right-wing agendas given the lie that the nation has been sold: that leaving the EU will help protect the many pillars of our social democracy.

Nigel Farage, that slimy degenerate being – and prominent voice of the Leave campaign – has already come out and said that the supposed 350 million that we pay to the EU will not necessarily be used for the NHS. Comically, this was one of the main arguments for exiting the EU, yet I really can’t decide whether to laugh or cry at this hopelessly farcical reality. Thankfully, he is not an elected MP, for now. And let us desperately hope that Cameron’s resignation does not result in a blond buffoon taking his place, someone we so fondly smiled along with as we watched his embarrassing idiocies unfold on the international stage as London mayor. There must be a better alternative.

These are but a few words from a confused and disappointed soul trying to make sense of what has unfolded. I do not want to feel resigned to anguish and defeat. I want to feel hope, that despite this terrible outcome there is a better future to be found, one that is better for Britain, better for Europe, and better for the world. I say this with bated breath but that is all I’ve got.

May we make the mistakes from which others learn.

Brandee Younger brings soulful vibrance to community arts

The intimate PSI Theatre at Durham Arts Council felt like the perfect space to experience the soul vibrations of Brandee Younger, along with Chelsea Baratz on tenor sax, Dezron Douglas on bass, and Otis Brown III on drums. 

The band played a medley of Alice Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby, original compositions from Wax and Wane, and pieces she selected to play first and reveal afterwards, inviting the audience to guess the tunes. One was  If it’s Magic by Stevie Wonder, a favorite of hers, as she states in conversation with Obvious Magazine, it is “one of those songs that makes you question everything and also feel hopeful regardless of circumstance. It’s about spreading the love.” The spread was inviting, with a warm backdrop where melodies could dance, and the audience could cozy up. 

Durham Arts Council utilizes the space in PSI Theatre for various arts performances, film screenings, and community meetings. Over 3,400 folks of all ages flock to the building to attend Durham Arts Council School, a community education program for visual and performing arts, providing over 700 courses throughout the year, including summer camps for kids ages 5 to 12.

The next stop for the harpista was another community-based event, the culmination of Harp on Parka concert series commissioned by Arts Brookfield. The organization presents free cultural experiences in public spaces at Brookfield’s properties around the world, to support creativity and innovation in music, dance, theater, film, and visual art.

Younger curated and assembled the 4-concert series exploring the ways harp is used in the 21st century to showcase the flexibility of the instrument, “I thought about who is doing something different, challenging the status,” she said to Village Voice, “and while classical harpists are a dime a dozen, the ones [who play other genres] aren’t. It’s a bold thing.”.  

The “hybrid harpist” embodied that boldness here in Durham for the Art of Cool Festival. Younger collaborates throughout the community of creators, with Lauryn Hill, Ryan Leslie, Talib Kweli, Common, and Ravi Coltrane – under whose creative direction she collaborated in Universal Consciousness, a recent tribute to Alice Coltrane. While reaching across genres and forging her own style – as we witnessed at Durham Arts Council – Younger projects the rich musical traditions of Coltrane and Dorothy Ashby. 

Altogether, the music and works of Brandee Younger provide a smooth lesson in the vitality of past and future collaboration in both jazz and community.

If you’re in New York this summer, Brandee Younger will be around for several shows starting June 7. For community arts programming (like Harp on Park) in New York, check out The Swings: An Exercise in Cooperation from June 10 to July 7. The installation is sponsored by Arts Brookfield and designed by Daily tous les joursan interaction design studio with a focus on participation by empowering people to have a place in the stories that are told around them.

Terence Blanchard & the E-Collective: Groove As Advocacy

Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective’s headlining set at the Art of Cool Fest began with a sense of drama that was only amplified by the elegance and grandeur of the Carolina Theatre. Blanchard’s trumpet seemed to howl with anguish while the E-Collective quartet maintained a hard-edged groove underneath, creating a palpable tension and forward momentum that was infectious. With nods to jazz fusion and Miles Davis’ electric explorations of the ‘70s, a dose of R&B, blues, and funk, and the urgency of music with a deeper message, Blanchard and company gave the audience a great deal to consider.

Although the music they performed that night had its feet planted firmly in the now, the Grammy-award-winning Blanchard is no fresh face to the jazz scene. In fact, anyone who’s enjoyed a Spike Lee film from Jungle Fever on has heard his compositional style. Since 1991, he has had a successful solo recording career playing traditional jazz and now heavier, more groove-based music with his group E-Collective. Breathless, his first album with the E-Collective, is his heaviest yet. Though the music came first, it became clear to Blanchard that he had to speak out about police brutality and the deaths of so many African-Americans as a result, and the music naturally took on that voice.

The group was first conceived by Blanchard and drummer Oscar Seaton during the scoring of Spike Lee’s Inside Man. It took them eight years, but they finally came together while America was embroiled in the high-profile police killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. “Once we got to it, we were in Europe, and we noticed that there was a lot of stuff going on back in the States—a lot of crazy stories about violence with African-American youth and law enforcement. We took note, and all of the meanings of the songs started to change. That became the basis of the album,” Blanchard said ahead of Art of Cool Fest.

He goes on to speak more about impacting youth through musical exposure, saying “Part of what we’re trying to do is reach […] kids, to let them know if they want to play an instrument there’s a way to do it at a high level that can be very rewarding. It’s all about trying to bring people together, trying to show people other options.” During a press interview at Art of Cool, he elaborated more on why he thinks young people are very important to the future of music: “The thing I love about working with young folks […] is that there’s some young creative minds out there that are astonishing. […] And the thing that blows my mind is that when you give them the tools [they can do incredible things.]”

Seeing cuts from Breathless performed live only confirmed this, as up-and-coming bandmates Charles Altura (on guitar) and Fabian Almazan (on piano) have unique and masterful voices on their respective instruments. Altura’s guitar seems to soar and blaze with a bite to rival any contemporary jazz guitarist today. Almazan’s fleet fingers have Cuban roots, and his touch on the piano and synth alike is reminiscent of jazz and fusion greats like Joe Zawinul. “Fabian is probably one of the great young talents of his generation,” Blanchard has said of Almazan. “Once people really hear what he’s about and what he’s doing, they’re gonna be enriched.”

Terence Blanchard and the E-Collective will continue to tour in support of Breathless, their next show will be in Seoul, South Korea.

RECOUNT: Art of Cool Festival Playlist

In anticipation of Durham’s third annual Art of Cool Festival, RECOUNT presents this 2-hour Spotify playlist of our featured artists! We’ll be bopping around the Bull City all weekend; from the free, family-friendly day parties to the late night/early morning jams to the Innovate Your Cool Conference think tank at American Underground.

From the epic, cross-generational jazz of Kamasi Washington to the stripped-down, modern soul of The Internet, the 2016 Art of Cool Festival boasts a range of diverse, jazz-inspired acts bringing the traditional, the innovative, and everything in between to Durham.

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If you’re anywhere near the Triangle this weekend, come out to enjoy local and internationally renowned artists, support local vendors and venues, and embrace the community-building focus of the Art of Cool Project, the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization hosting this three-day event.

Hope to see ya there. Either way, there’s more to come from us. Stay tuned.

Overcoming Fear of Feeling the Bern

Some people will read my account of attending three Bernie Sanders events and think I have a long way to go before I’m able to call myself “politically involved”. I agree, but I wanted to share my experience with taking the first steps toward active involvement. Before embarking on this journey, I was incredibly nervous about showing up to volunteer at campaign events because of the classic millennial fear of awkwardness. I thought there’d be no way I would be able to hold my own in political conversations with the type of people who’d be volunteering for Bernie Sanders on a Saturday. I imagined a bunch of over-achievers around the same age as me spouting off fact-checked tidbits about income inequality and making me feel l was an outcast among activists.

Before the first event I participated in, I was terrified. As I walked towards a voter registration event in New York City, on 112th street and Broadway at Columbia University—right outside Tom’s Diner from Seinfeld—I almost turned back multiple times. I was alone, after asking numerous friends to come with me and finding that even my fellow Bernie supporters were too nervous, busy, or both, to accompany me. It was about a month and a half before the New York primary, volunteers approached people on the street to ask if they were registered to vote. The idea is simple enough, but the thought of approaching strangers in the middle of the street added an extra layer to the fears I had about the dynamics between the other volunteers.

I walked to a table decked out in Bernie signs and saw a few older volunteers handing out forms and clip boards. There was not one person my age in sight, certainly a disappointment (why weren’t 20-somethings coming out to these events) though the reasons revealed themselves. Oddly, I also found comfort because these older volunteers seemed enthusiastic about guiding me through the process. My fears were eased as I realized that a sort of passing of the torch was taking place among the main organizer, a man named Steve Max, and some of the other volunteers.

Next to conquer was the hurdle of taking my clipboard and voter registration form, situating myself outside of the New York Public Library, and asking passers by if they were registered to vote. Volunteers with their clipboards were scattered up and down the block, so at least I had some cushion as pedestrians passed by and were approached by my fellow Bernie supporters. Eventually I started to recite a refrain of, “Hi, are you registered to vote?” Almost everybody responded, “Yes.” Or a polite (and somewhat timid) “No, thank you.”

Eventually I got some more engaged responses, like “Woo-hoo! Feel the Bern!” Or, “Sorry, I’m voting for Hilary.” I fell into a rhythm with the people passing by and it became painless, because of the very thing that makes New York City so great—you’ll never see these people again.

Back at the table, I talked to Steve Max about his involvement in the Bernie campaign and found out that he was a lifelong activist, which fascinated me. I was so focused on my notion of campaigning and getting involved as scary and overwhelming, so it was refreshing to hear the point of view of someone for whom this seemed to be second nature.

“You probably won’t believe this, but I can remember campaigning for Franklin Roosevelt at the age of four,” he told me. “We’ve done everything. We started in September just signing up volunteers to build up the list. We built that up to about 425 people. We’re trying to keep it local. You know, in the same neighborhood all the time. Then we went to petitioning. We were the highest group except for one upstate in terms of getting the greatest number of petitions.”

He pretty much sticks to organizing events around the Upper West Side, which I think is great because it builds a sense of community, everything an idealistic Bernie supporter dreams of. By the time I left voter registration that day, I frankly felt great about myself and the world, although that didn’t totally stop me from nervously anticipating the next event, a primary results viewing party in the East Village.

This one was more passive, just a bunch of people at a restaurant watching the results of the Arizona primary and the caucuses in Idaho and Utah, but it was clear that there was a sense of community among those in attendance. Many of them told me they came to events regularly, and pointed me in the direction of the organizer Jessica Stokey.

Unlike Max, Stokey was new to political organizing, but wanted to get involved because of her fierce support for Bernie. “I just knew I wanted to volunteer,” she said. “I actually even signed the petition for him asking him to run. So I was following him from the beginning and trying to get involved and trying to volunteer before they even had a sign up to volunteer. Then the first thing that they were having people do was to organize events. And I’m actually kind of good at that, so I was like, ‘Perfect.’ It was sort of a no-brainer for me.”

The watch party event had a much more diverse range of people in attendance, and Stokey told me she thinks many volunteers are, in fact, getting involved for the first time. I shared with her my own nervousness about volunteering and my pleasant surprise at how rewarding and nice it was. “In terms of the experience overall, I actually want to write how working on the Bernie Sander’s campaign has made me a better person,” she told me. “It’s enriched me in ways I never expected. I wasn’t looking for personal growth. I was looking to support Bernie. It has literally changed my life.”

It might sound over the top, but I totally got what she was saying. These community-organized, grassroots volunteering events make you feel like you are really part of something. The people you meet all share a common view, based in appreciating that we are all different. It reminds you of all of the other humans around you on this earth and the fact that we all have a unique story. “My heart is open, my mind is open and I’ve been meeting the most incredible people and we are forming these friendships and alliances in ways that I think I was living in more of my own little bubble. My whole life has opened up,” said Stokey.

The third event I went to, which I am confident will not be my last, was canvassing. Although by this point I felt like I had legs to stand on, I was probably most nervous about this because all I knew was that canvassing entailed knocking on people’s doors, which seems like one step more awkward than approaching people on the street. That day, I learned that volunteers only knock on the doors of registered democrats, ask if they will be voting in the New York primary, and ask if they have decided who they will be voting for. If they have decided who they will vote for, but do not volunteer which candidate, the volunteer can delicately ask if they are leaning towards one candidate or the other. The answers to these questions are then recorded on a form.

Since starting this journey, I’ve had people say positive things to me. Friends seem to look at it as admirable or revolutionary. That would be great, even flattering, except for the fact that they are rarely able or willing to join in. Now, maybe deep down they’re all a bunch of Trump supporters and don’t want to tell me—but somehow I doubt that’s it. I think they share my initial feelings of anxiety toward awkwardness. A fear that political activism is for someone else, some other group that doesn’t include them. For a generation that has infinite knowledge in the palm of our hands, We seem to use the excuse that we “don’t know enough to get involved” quite often, but I found getting physically involved the best way to learn. Meeting individuals from different walks of life who shared my basic beliefs and thought process was emotional, validating and inspiring. When I first set out to get involved, I probably would have told you my job would be done by the time the primary rolled around, but now I realize that being a concerned citizen never ends. I’ll be voting on April 19, but there is so much more to devote my time and attention to – I’ll have to go beyond that. I hope others are willing to take those scary first steps as well.