Getting to the root: Where do our missing girls go?

The #missingDCgirls have woken us up again. Black cis and trans girls & women reported missing across the country number close to 75,000. 37 of the cases in DC – all Black and Latinx – reported since January remain unsolved.

In the past few weeks, spikes in disappearances of young women of color – and notice of them – in the Metropolitan DC area sparked widespread concern and consideration about the status quo. 









Amidst statements that this is only a spike in reporting, Derrica Wilson finds the community’s fears to be valid. Wilson is co-founder of and a spokesperson for Black & Missing Foundation (BAM FI), an organization working to spread awareness of and locate missing people of color. Viewing the chart above, keep in mind that the rate of those missing must be viewed relative to the size of the population. The US is 73% white, so it’s clear, about a quarter of the population – Black, Asian, Native, Latinx – is disappearing at an alarming rate.

As people who care and for those who see ourselves in this – how can we provide for and protect missing cis and trans women and girls of color in the US?

This is happening currently, every day.


Why? How?

Some will be runaways seeking refuge, or fleeing abuse. The girls missing from DC have drawn our attention to missing youth in particular, and rightly so. Cis and trans young women ages 11 to 17 make up approximately 75 percent of the runaway population. The National Runaway Safeline also reports that a range of 1.7 to 2.8 million runaway and homeless youth live on the street each year.

Runaways list abuse as a major reason for running. That trauma is something they will need help building themselves up from – as we all would. Physical, emotional, and sexual abuse still widely affects minors between the ages of 12 and 17. If they don’t have a safe place or trusted advocate to turn to, running away becomes a real option. They’re human.

Look to support organizations like Covenant House, a homeless youth shelter and center of advocacy in DC. Sasha Bruce Youthwork engages and prepares young people to stabilize with work and social support. Seeking Shelter’s strong list of sheltering and transitional services covers 15 cities across the US, including DC.

We could all support these community hubs in our local cities, by donating time and resources as we are able. The Public Defender Service for DC provides a Directory of Youth and Family Services amongst other resources for navigating the DC Justice System.


They can be led astray

Black and Latinx youth are particularly vulnerable to predators via social media. People have always been enticed by the promise of romance. It’s often difficult to distinguish from what we may be really seeking like autonomy, self-love. Teens, statistically, have a harder time with that difference, especially when they are being manipulated or groomed.

At the same time, social media postings of missing kids can help bring them home faster. That’s especially true for teenagers. Their peers are more likely to see the alert and can notify police and those searching of any information they have. Derrica Wilson of BAM FI encourages us all to pay attention to missing persons reports and outreach efforts on social media.

Maybe we could more intentionally build with the young people around us. If you’re interested in volunteering try mentorship, get out in the community. They need to be listened to – as they all do. Life lacks stability sometimes, and it can be extra difficult as a young person. We don’t need to have it all together to share an ear and some experiences.


Seeking safe spaces

Some are afraid to disclose their personal beliefs and preferences, for fear that family would take issue. It’s the pregnant teenager, or someone struggling with expressing their sexual and/or gender identity. Teens are new to finding their place in the world and though they are resilient, sexism, racism, and transphobia are turning their insides too. So they run away when they can find no one to turn to without fear of judgment, or worse. And to whom? Where? The reality is, as Kimberly of the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP) says, “outside of community, there are no safe spaces”.


And to whom?

It’s on track to be the most violent year on record for trans women of color. Casa Ruby and organizations like it around the country provide that sense of community and care for individuals in need of safe spaces and solidarity. As the only Bilingual Multicultural LGBT safe space in Washington, DC, Casa Ruby offers companionship, along with access to hot meals, emergency housing referrals, legal services counseling, and support groups. These beacons for young people need our support. They are right there at the intersections of identity, quality of life, and safety.


Speak up

While we’re on connections – language can go a long way. In every day you can instill the use of Latinx in place of Latino or Latina, to support awareness, visibility, and acknowledgement for the gender nonconforming. It’s an extension of using “they/them/their” instead of assuming “his/her” identification amongst LGBTQ+ and allies. You can invite a safe space with your presence and help others do the same. It’ll continue to spread through conversation, verbal and written communication, and social media. (No excuses – the APA just recognized “they” as a singular pronoun.) I may have digressed there, but it’s about willingly shifting to a more inclusive society, starting with the narrative.
Screen Shot 2017-03-28 at 8.10.37 AM


Keep an eye out

We must be vigilant, we know some will have been abducted. People are calling for transparency and community involvement in the way local and federal officials take action to #findourgirls. Black lawmakers are calling for the FBI and Justice Department to help police investigate the missing in DC. However, even police have been arrested for human trafficking. It’s a disgustingly lucrative business.

Human trafficking has become the second-fastest growing criminal industry in the United States. Activists and organizations across the country and world fight the forces perpetuating slavery and trafficking, both domestic and international. Based in DC, FAIR Girls prevents the exploitation of girls worldwide through prevention education, compassionate care, and survivor-inclusive advocacy. Courtney’s House provides outreach and protection for children and minors who are victims of domestic sex trafficking in the greater DC area. You can find many other active Housing Resources and Emergency Shelters at the District of Columbia Office of Disability Rights.


What now?

We must support the watchers. High attendance to “Where Are They Now?”, the March 22nd forum on the missing in DC shows a community mobilized, and passionate about the cause. They are at the heart of this in Ward 8, and authorities should recognize and include them in finding solutions for preventing and protecting against this.

Where Are They Now?, forum held March 22nd, 2017.


The public has to be more aware, inclusive, and active than ever in this time of heightened violence against people of color and the lgbtq+ community, redundant mainstream media, and building institutional oppression. Part of the response to the recent burst of black and latinx girls disappearing in DC is termed as a “perceived increase”. It feels a bit dismissive, like there’s an assumption these lives will pass from mattering in the public eye.

We must stay raising awareness about our missing cis and trans young women of color and issues facing them. Since there’s always been a significant disparity in how much they are reported and efforts to find them, we’ve got ground to cover, wouldn’t you say?

So let’s say their names, keep an eye out for others, and integrate living, thriving safe spaces wherever we can. Maybe then we could find them before they ever go missing.



Support Black & Missing Foundation in providing equal opportunity for all missing. If you’re in the DC area in May, join their Hope Without Boundaries 5K Run/Walk fundraiser.

If you relate to this, and want to share here, contact us.


Illustrating Monsters in Human Nature with Mananiko Amarilla

Mananiko Amarilla Kobakhidze lives and studies as a graphic designer and illustrator in Tbilisi, Georgia. At 25, she shares the belief that we all encounter and harbor inner selves as often as other human beings. Her work accentuates these beings – and ways of being – in familiar form, inviting us to see we all experience them. We asked her to share her thoughts on giving life to our monsters, and share a bit about her process for some of our favorites:

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So, you work with physical printmaking, as well as graphic design, photography, and illustration. Is that right? What medium have you been playing with most these days?

It all started with  photography, long before printmaking and illustration. I tend to make very graphical and defined colors, movement was a key, not “poetic beauty” or “fine art” (painting). Then I passed all exams to art school and there was less and less time for photography, eventually I became obsessed with book illustration and poster design and graphic design. Drawing in any expressible way is my playground today.


What influences do you feel most often growing up and now studying in Georgia?

Hm, think I stay aside of cultural stuff and that’s why I think my illustration or works are sometimes not fully understood, I just don’t like to be in step with the flow.

We share your love for Stranger Things, and people rave about various components – the font, the soundtrack. What makes the show meaningful to you?

The 80’s are my favorite :)) It’s like the era of color in the 21st century. Dresses, accessories, music everything – the show is like my favorite 80’s ^_^

What other narratives, media, or creators inspire you?

Ballet, music, movies, books, people in the streets, sounds, everything. It’s like a tickle for my brain and then everything expresses itself on paper.


Stop watering dead flowers, girl

How long have you illustrated? Have you created any self-illustrations?

I’ve been drawing since childhood, mostly I was “just drawing”. After Academy it became more serious. So I’ve been illustrating for 6 years I guess 🙂 Mostly they all are my self-portraits, inner self ones, from what I see and hear.


Lost Space Invader

There’s such rich feeling in your work. Are characters based on people you’ve encountered?

They all are real, just they all are reflections of what I see, and there’s a part of me in them as I said before.


“Monsters” keep making an appearance so I have to ask, can you describe the characteristics that invoke that for you? What makes for a “monster” in this world?

Monsters are friendly characters, if you remember Where the Wild Things Are? “There should be a place where only the things you want to happen, happen” – Maurice Sendak. Those monsters are things to happen and a place is my paper. They are really friendly, just a real side of every human being, which we shouldn’t be ashamed or afraid of. We hide monsters and sometimes, they are much more beautiful than we think they are.


Sea monsters are still alive


Der Himmel Uber Berlin

Could you translate this caption? What inspired this?

It was a school assignment to make posters, so I did this one based on Der Himmel Uber Berlin (“The Heavens/Sky Over Berlin”, “Wings of Desire”). I think this was my first attempt to make a monster, to show one and to tell a story about angels hiding from us, not seen.

What were you envisioning as you designed this poster of Trump? What do you think might come next?

Well, it’s going to be an everlasting, idiotic political game he’s going to play and I think the whole world is just TRUMPED because what the United States does influences every single country. If a crazy non-political, selfish man is going to rule a country full of possibilities it’s going to be a disaster. I tried to make it a bit funny that way.



We’ve talked about street art in Tbilisi before, and the shift to street marketing you witnessed. How do you think artists can collaborate with businesses toward profitable and genuine work?

Most of the artists are denying paid jobs, but it’s still hard if you want to make a living out of what you do. So you have to compromise, between paid work and what’s really a reflection of oneself.

How do you balance professional and personal expression in your design workflow? What makes it difficult? Where are some natural intersections?

Sometimes I do a very boring job, but I still try to make intersections between what I really want to express and do and what I’m doing at my job or other paid work. It’s a miracle if you are paid for your art and a great pleasure, but mostly I feel framed if I’m not working for myself. So I hope it will change, or I will change it. But there are some places for “crazy people” like me :))



Keep up with Mananiko on Instagram or via Tumblr.


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


Black Lives Matter


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.


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.”.


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.


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.


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


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










Solidarity and allyship











Looking out for our fellow citizens


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.”



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

The End of Silence, revisited

‘Life is full of noise and that death alone is silent… nothing essential happens in the absence of noise’.

Noise: the Political Economy of Music, Jaques Attali (1985)

What meaning is in a sound? To hear the rattle of gunfire from the comfort of your stereo speakers, is our imagination transported to a distant war zone, or do we listen to such a noise as simply that, a singular audible event which fails to infer a semantic meaning outside of the situation from which it is been listened to? Instead we stare at the lifeless, cold speaker cones, bewildered at the loss of a visual source. The invention of recording technology allows us to strip a sound from its original context, disrupting the ephemeral nature of a noise and transforming the vibrations of the world into sonic subjects that can be revisited at a later date. Throw in samplers, synthesisers and the near endless potential of digital manipulation, we are able to get further and further away from the source of origin, complicating our attempts to understand a musical abstraction, to make sense of our emotional response to a transplanted sound. Does this technological chasm between a sound and its source leave us with simply a barrage of meaningless noise?

Matthew Herbert’s 2013 release, End of Silence, is a record that asks us to confront such questions, and many more, challenging our perceptions of recorded sound. Having pressed play, a hubbub of distant cheering voices and alerting whistles vie for attention against a rumbling white noise that quickly swoops into dominance, exploding from the speakers and perforating the space between the listener and the recording, before dissipating into an uneasy quiet, a sonic detritus that bubbles under the fallout of the devastating sound that hits you after only five seconds into the piece. That sound is a recording by photographer Sebastien Meyer, who captured the moment a bomb falling from a pro-Gadaffi plane hit the ground in Libya, during the battle of Ras Lanuf at the height of the troubles in 2011. What you hear in End of Silence is the noise of terror that resulted in the death of civilians, a 5-second sample that serves as the sole sound-source for the album. Over three tracks, that sample is disintegrated, contorted and mutated, exploring the depths of horror contained within, turning the explosion into a haunting beat, the whistles and cries of urgent fear as awkward melodic loops. This is Herbert attempting to ‘freeze history, press pause, wander around inside the sound’, stretching and slowing down the event in order to better make sense of it, acting as the antithesis to the ceaseless 24-hour rolling news coverage that desensitises us to the world’s atrocities. It is as if Herbert is searching for a resolving silence inside the sound-clip, a moment of quiet to contemplate the tragedy. Yet just as soon as the music lulls into relative calm, the deafening explosion returns with a cacophony of noise, an aural onslaught to reassert the terror of the sonic subject.


Matthew Herbert, Yann Seznec, Tom Skinner, Sam Beste

Recorded over three days, Herbert and his band improvised with and around the fragmented sounds that Herbert had prior manipulated, a sort of live electronic jam that maintains a human element that is often lost in programmed electronic music. In order to acknowledge the distance between the performance and the actual event, microphones were set up outside of the studio, capturing a gentle birdsong for the beginning of ‘Part 2’ that is quickly shattered by the noise of the explosion once again. Despite the safety and quietude surrounding Herbert’s studio in the Welsh countryside, the terror encapsulated in the sample remains omnipresent. A minute before the final track comes to a close, we are hit one final time by the 5-second recording which abruptly breaks into an uneasy silence that hauntingly lingers until a few digital bleeps bring it to an end. That silence is as shocking as the explosion itself, offering a poignant finish to a record that will linger in your memory long after listening.

Herbert’s musical explorations into sound have taken many tangents over his prolific career, from experimental house to big-band jazz, but with End of Silence, he appears to have crystallised the potential to utilise the medium of sound as a ‘new frontier in storytelling’. I first came to be aware of Matthew Herbert’s work via a professor’s suggestion to listen to his reworking of Mahler’s 10th symphony, an intriguing work that re-recorded Mahler’s final completed orchestral movement. Herbert instils a ghostly, haunting presence through manipulating the original sound source, as if Mahler’s aura has been stirred from the dead within this recomposition, having been unsettled by Herbert’s temporal alteration, placing a mirror between light and darkness, life and death. Mahler Symphony X was followed by Herbert’s One trilogy, a collection of albums released over two years that were constructed from utilising a single source of sound, taking as subject himself, a performance in a nightclub and the life of a single pig, from birth to slaughter. These records worked to construct a narrative through sampling, and with End of Silence, Herbert has further narrowed his scope and in doing so highlights the incredible capacity of sound to hold a vast complexity of meaning.

Yet what story is told in End of Silence? Listeners unaware of the album’s concept, the origin of its sound source, would be left feeling relatively cold to a record that is essentially a barrage of noise and fragmented bleeps. We can only take the word of the photographer, of Matthew Herbert, as to the horrific circumstances from which the album is derived, without which the powerful political value of the album would be lost. But what meaning may this album hold for those who have bared witness to the trauma of being in a conflict zone, who have heard the sound of a bomb explode?  We may suggest that End of Silence has appropriated a highly sensitive subject and packaged it as musical entertainment, ultimately making music out of the sound of death from a position of relative privilege, another case of cultural imperialism making profit at the expense of lost and forgotten voices outside of the western world. Its political value becoming masked by Herbert’s musical ego that serves to dismantle the sound beyond recognition to display his prowess at sonic manipulation. However, this is undue criticism, as the album has prompted important discussion, it does force us to confront and remember the violent atrocities that occurred in Libya, and indeed in other nations suffering from similar conflicts.


End of Silence highlights the potential for electronic artists to utilise sampling to create a form of protest music that takes real sound bites of actual events as its subject, forcing us to confront surrounding issues through sonic excavation of the sample. With Herbert’s album, the instrumental, abstract nature of the music may be ambiguous in suggesting how listeners should respond to the political message, but through this ambiguity, more

sontag regarding

Regarding the Pain of OthersSusan Sontag (2003)

questions can be asked, our ways of listening and seeing the world can be challenged as opposed to reading off an already-written script. Susan Sontag once wrote, ‘photographs are not much help if the task is to understand. Narratives can make us understand, photographs do something else – they haunt us’. In a similar sense, Herbert’s use of sampling in End of Silence functions in a similar manner as to how Sontag perceives photographs work in representing pain and tragedy. We are not told how to feel, yet we are forced to confront this sonic representation of violence in a way that encourages greater introspection alongside attempts to make sense of it in regards to the music’s outward reality. Through its abstract form, we can explore the subtle nuances of meaning and emotion that lie beneath the ability of language to symbolise or express, not working towards an explanation, but instead haunting us.



What is so fascinating about this piece is how Herbert uses recorded sound to construct a complex rhetoric through exploring that sample. It serves as a unique voice in the representation of modern conflict, and in many respects, the album has managed to capture a representation of a specific historical event that otherwise may have been forgotten. As a sonic artifact, it holds significant political weight in itself. But through Herbert’s manipulation of the sample we are asked, as listeners, to interpret that sound in a self-reflective manner that is eternally present, and not just as an objective historical incident. That is the beauty of sound recording and of creating sample-based music; as each time we listen, it echoes (but is not limited to) the past, whilst also asking us to re-evaluate the meaning of that sound through its present contextual frame, and to interpret its relationship to our own experiences.


You can read Noise: the Political Economy of Music in full, here.

“Only we can tell our stories”: a review of “The Square” and “Winter on Fire”

When the Egyptian revolution occurred in 2011 and the 2013-2014 Euromaidan protests followed in Ukraine, unless you were on the ground experiencing the catastrophic political turmoil, it was difficult to begin to comprehend the true sequence of events or how the people were responding to them.

Luckily, there is film, and people use film to make documentaries, to tell these stories. Sometimes, they are brave and take their cameras into war zones because they actually care about showing other people what is happening in their country. The filmmakers of  both“The Square” and “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” assumed that bravery to chronicle the events surrounding both revolutions.

The cultural differences between the two countries are stark, it’s true, but the common element within both of these films is that they show people of all ages taking refuge in a central gathering place, a square that already holds cultural and historic significance. They claim it as their own, camping there for months in spite of the barrage of militancy exercised against their calls for accountability and independence from the government.

In 2011, around the time that the Arab Spring was taking place, I was in Berlin conducting interviews with different people there and in Egypt for an anthropological research paper about Egypt opening its border with Gaza. One of them, Mohamed Shoukry, a real estate agent living in Alexandria at that time, offered incredible insight into the situation depicted in “The Square.”

“A lot of people are in the political sphere who never appeared before the revolution. Their intention is to root out the corruption in Egypt, but this will take some time,” Shoukry said. “Even though now we may have been able to cut off its head, it has strong roots.”

“The Square” starts off with a bang, a gripping sense of immediacy that spares nothing on the imagination of the violence waged against the protesters who called for President Hosni Mubarak and the military to be deposed. We are introduced one by one to the activists playing a central part in speaking out against the oppressive Mubarak regime, a spectrum including reserved British-Egyptian actor and activist Khalid Abdalla and a bright, young idealist named Ahmed Hassan.


Ahmed Hassan in “The Square.” Photo credit: Netflix/Noujaim Films


The footage of Egyptian-American director Jehane Noujaim being chased by the military for documenting the event will render the audience shaken, and as the announcement of Mubarak’s concession is proclaimed, the fear and anxiety felt for the activists melts into joy. But wait…it’s not that far into the film now, right? Exactly. This is what makes “The Square” unpredictable and the emotional energy of its characters captivating.

The motif throughout the film is a vibrant mural depicting the success of the revolution in colors representative of the people’s joy toward Mubarak’s ousting. However, this is when the Shoukry’s insight helped place the revolution in greater perspective. The protesters optimistically  retreated from the square, in pursuit of something resembling a democracy and someone resembling a responsible leader. That optimism is challenged, however, when the military seizes control shortly after the resignation of Mubarak. He was going to stand trial for the murder of peaceful protestors in this time, and was sentenced to life imprisonment. However, his acquittal for this crime caused the protesters to return to “The Square”, and a new chapter in the film chronicles their growing despair.

The Square

Protesters, including a man holding tear gas cannisters, chant slogans and wave national flags during a rally in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Nov. 25, 2011.


Magdy, another activist and member of the Muslim Brotherhood, brings an interesting dynamic to “The Square”, particularly when the Islamic group expands political leverage and influence after Mubarak abdicates office. The other activists, who are not particularly religious, are shown in the film as being on fair terms with Magdy. As The Brotherhood assumes growing power, however, and becomes increasingly brutal and militant toward the secular protesters, the relationship between Magdy and the other activists complicates.

The Armed Forces offer to supply The Brotherhood with weapons and political power within the government if they betrayed the revolutionaries. There are other sources, however, specifically one in the Washington Post, that claim The Brotherhood was portrayed inaccurately in the film and their image distorted falsely by the cosmopolitan activists in Tahrir Square.

“Politics is not the same as revolution. If you want to play politics, you have to compromise,” Abdalla says.

At the same time, he points out how The Brotherhood was the only strongly organized group amongst the crowd, and as the enthusiasm died down,  it became evident who the players were: The Brotherhood or the old regime, now fronted by the military.

“It was a war in the square, not a revolution,” declares one of the other activists.

In 2012, when Morsi is “democratically” elected president, the growing agony is chronicled in the mural with a big, blood red line painted over his face. People take to Tahrir Square once again, and the protest exhibits an alarming new energy in communicating their rejection of another violent and oppressive leader.

THE SQUARE-Graffiti_eye_patches_0

Work by graffiti artist Abo Bakr on a street near Tahrir Square in Cairo as seen in Jehane Noujaim’s documentary, “The Square.” Credit: Courtesy of Noujaim Films

At one point in the documentary, he states, “Enough of this. All the politicians are failures.” Walking in the middle of a (surprisingly) empty street in Cairo, he makes a metaphor of himself, declaring “I’ve decided to walk in the middle of the street. The cars can do what they want.” He asserts, “I will stand my ground, enough walking cautiously on the side.”

In contrast to the optimism at the start of the film, it is this point when the growing tide of pessimism returns, with Abdalla stating that the rebels’ mistake was “in leaving the square before the power was in their hands.” The Brotherhood had been working alongside the military regime and took power, which enhanced Magdy’s visible anxiety about which side to invest allegiance in.

Wake Up America

Protests against American support towards the Egyptian military were not included in the scant media coverage  of the Tahrir Square uprisings. Credit:

When Morsi is ousted and sentenced to death, a sense of joy waves over the activists. Hassan, our charismatic guide, is revived from his dip into disillusionment at the news of the Muslim Brotherhood’s power play.

Hassan even calls up Magdy and speaks to him in a kind, jocular tone, showing that he did not want their relationship to be punctuated with the tension that had imploded between them when The Brotherhood had seized power.

The tone of the documentary, however, portends the uncertainty and volatile spirit of the events that have continuously been influencing the energy of the people. At the end, the film returns to Abdalla, whose serious, pensive demeanor stands out against Hassan’s fierce optimism.

“When you don’t have your rights, when you’re taken to the front, when you’ve been lied to, when you’re killed, things become pretty clear,” Abdalla conveys in a direct, sober manner.

Although, in the light of the context of Morsi’s ousting, this statement can be viewed as a victory, there is something about Abdalla that indicates he is not certain that Egypt will not continue to be politically volatile.

Red paint is shown dripping on the Converse of an artist working on the mural, a metaphor for how the young revolutionaries are influenced by secular culture and want to change the social and political mores of the country to align with ideals rejected as Western.

However, as returning to the mural throughout the film reminds us, there will be constant changes in the story of one of the greatest revolutions in the history of the world. With the Egyptian military in power, the story of whether or not the people remain as optimistic as they are portrayed at the end of the film remains fairly obscured at the moment.


Anti-government protests in Kiev

Anti-government protests in Kiev January 25, 2014. After two months of primarily peaceful anti-government protests in the city center, new laws meant to end the protest movement sparked violent clashes. Deadly violence erupted on both sides. © Maxim Dondyuk


“Winter on Fire” chronicled the November 2013-March 2014 protest that occurred in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev after then-President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement deal with the European Union, ultimately moving the country further into Russia’s circle of influence.

The documentary, directed by Russian filmmaker Evgeny Afineevsky, also places one in the middle of the action right away, showing how thousands of people who believed in Ukraine as a European nation took to Maidan (Independence) Square, a beautiful nexus in a capital symbolic of the ancient world (aligned by a medieval gate and an opulent cathedral) clashing with the modern, as fast food restaurants and hotels have popped up nearby.

It is once again the perfect place, as Tahrir was to Cairo, to symbolize the change that the people were waiting and looking for. After centuries of being tied to Russia under the Kievan Rus empire and beyond, they were hoping to become a modern, politically stable country.

The documentary is ultimately, I think, a bit more detached from the participants than “The Square” is. It feels more restrained and not so involved in their lives from the start, as you are not invited to know an integral set of activists. Here, the stories are magnified in-depth little-by-little as the film goes on.

That being said, the film, recorded by Ukrainian protesters, is a powerful testament to the joy and movement that was summoned forth when these events occurred and the people came together. Having travelled in Ukraine and other former Soviet countries, one of the most distinct characteristics of the people was their melancholy demeanour. Years of starvation, suppression, economic peril and corrupt governments leave the region besieged by continually grey skies and an underlying lack of hope. That suffering is and will continue to be prevalent radiates and looms outward amongst the thin, cobbled corridors of their broken cities.

The wonderful part of this film is that as the momentum gains, the people realize that this could be the opportunity they have waited and secretly hoped so long for and the hope begins to appear in their eyes. People of all ages gathered at Independence Square, a majority of them dressed mostly in black parkas but with a few colourful grandmas, speaking different languages. Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, the non-religious: they were all there.

There was another group the film did not cover: those people who internalized nationalism the most. After speaking to a friend of mine who had insider knowledge of the Maidan protests, I learned that nearly all the fighters on the “front line” were members of Ukraine’s neo-Nazi and right-wing parties. The movie, he said, left this fact out: that while the crowd was mainly a composition of people fighting for universal equality, there were also seedier elements that existed. These groups are, in a way, to the Maidan what the Brotherhood was to Tahrir.

It was, at its core, a peaceful protest, a loud call of disagreement with the government for giving up their chance to break away from the fringe status they maintained between Europe and Russia. There is a saying in Europe that I heard frequently: Poland is 10 years (development-wise) behind Germany, and Ukraine is 10 years behind Poland. This agreement would finally have kick-started Ukraine’s course into the European trajectory.

With snow falling on Independence Square, the atmosphere grows explosive as some protesters begin behaving violently. One of the peaceful activists opines that the Ukrainian riot police force (known as the Berkut) has planted people within the crowd in order to bring forth a reason for them to attack.

The cellos and violins that frame the events appropriately capture the restless melancholy throughout the film. The snow falls harder on the ancient square. The sparrows linger on the bare tree branches. An impending sense of doom lurks throughout the crowd, and an ancient church bell that had not been rung since the Mongol Tartar invasion in the 1240s grips everyone in its timbre.

Sure enough, the Berkut storms onto the square, descending like a swarm of locusts. Armed with iron rods, they attack, beating people viciously on the ground. A woman is shown leaning back against the tree. The blood stains on her face against the white wool hat she is wearing stand out as a pronounced metaphor, a taint against the purity of her idealistic behavior.

“Who gave birth to you, a mother or a wolf?,” one of the protesters asks, referring to the relentless brutality displayed by the Berkut.

There is, however, a discrepancy between how much blame the film levies on Yanukovych as the sole perpetrator and other factions of persecution taking place that were not mentioned.

“They paint Yanukovych as this blood-sucking demon of pure evil, but they miss the people who actually orchestrated a lot of the violence, like the people directly in charge of the Berkut police,” says Anton Guz, a graduate student pursuing a degree in peacebuilding and conflict transformation at SIT Graduate Institute in Vermont.

As the film goes on and the winter moves further along, the steam continues rising up from the make-shift kitchens and fires that the protesters have started in order to keep what has now become somewhat of an island alive. The supplies that became the fuel for the Maidan island were not revealed in the film. Specifically, volunteer drivers were bringing in medical supplies to the fighters and taking people to the hospital, as the roads to Kiev were blocked. There was a mass outcry of support for the protesters in Maidan, one of which, called AutoMaidan, was based in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, a hub for nationalistic Ukrainian support.

Hrushevsko Street

Morning on Hrushevskoho street after the night of flaming tires and Molotov cocktails. Protesters again constructed barricades and prepared Molotov cocktails before a night battle between protesters and police, which already had become a usual thing. Kiev, January 25, 2014 © Maxim Dondyuk

The support and supplies brought in from various parts of the country fueled the ongoing struggle against the winter and the cold history that Ukraine did not want to continue to freeze itself into.

My favourite moments in the film, showing the peoples’ sense of humour and heart in the midst of a dim situation, were their responses to various bans placed on them by Yanukovych, one of which was ‘no helmets.’  They answered by putting on pots, pans, flippers, masks of all shapes and colours. It was quite unusual to see little babushkas roaming around this dystopian war zone with pots on their head, and the film juxtaposes this all-too-real-its-surreal element quite strongly throughout.

Guz was born in Ukraine and is quick to point out some aspects of the film that he found problematic, specifically Ukraine’s all-too-relevant relationship with Russia.

“I think that’s a nuance that’s dangerous to forget, since the master manipulators in this situation live in Moscow, not Kiev. But also, surely it’s important to actually name the culprits behind the violence, right?,” Guz said. “Where are they in the movie?”

The film shows the people walking over snow-covered pictures of Yanukovych as they enter a cathedral, where bodies of the dead are being carried. A slow, solemn heavy chant rises from the crowd paying final respects to friends and family members who have died.

In order to understand this scene and the context of the movie, it is important to keep in mind that Yanukovych was a tyrannical, greedy ruler, and one that was under orders from Russian president Vladimir Putin to not allow Ukraine to strengthen relations with Europe. However, he used his relationship with Putin as leverage, deceiving Putin into thinking that he had control of Ukraine and its affairs while subsequently working behind the scenes to strengthen relations with the EU.

The Yanukovych-Putin relationship is 150% a crucial element of the politics framing the backstory behind the revolts, as is the massive history of oppression and tyranny that Ukraine has endured at the feet of Russia. It is no question that anyone who is interested in global affairs and who wants to learn about the Maidan events in 2014 will walk away from the film with a greater understanding of what it means to be a country caught between two significant powers, but nevertheless, they would have benefited even further had more context been provided.

“The movie could have empowered people who saw it to go out and convince everyone that Ukrainians beat incredible odds, showed amazing bravery and resilience, and transformed their own society in the space of a few months,” Guz said. “The movie could have showed that while people are arguing whether the EU is worthwhile because of minor economic quibbles, people in Ukraine laid down their lives for the mere chance to join it. It could have enlightened people in western and central Europe to the crazy shit that threatens them and people like them only a few hours away from where they live.”


Markiyan Matsekh plays the piano for riot police in Kiev, 7 December 2013. (c) Andrew Meakovsky, Oleg Matsekh and Marikiyan Matsekh


As a girl in the middle of the square plays a piano painted the colours of Ukrainian flag and snow continues to fall on the ashes of the Euromaidan, the documentary resides to ending the story on a tidy note. The ending summary does mention Yanukovych’s flight to Russia, the subsequent annexation of the Crimea by Putin and the ongoing war in Eastern Ukraine, but it doesn’t touch over the chaos and bickering that is continues to take place within the new Ukrainian government.

Both documentaries are raw and incredibly well-filmed. While “Winter on Fire” ultimately opts for a slightly cinematic feel with the way it is tidied up at the end, “The Square” leaves things just as raw and un-ended as at the beginning of the film. Both, however, serve as hallmarks of courage and bravery to share with the world how hard people around the world are fighting for their freedom.


Check out LensCulture for more photos of the Ukrainian revolution and Egyptian revolt.

watch | DJ Fatz and DJ 2wenty of Choice FM on party-rocking, and The People’s Station

DJ 2wenty: We’re for the people. Nine times out of ten if the people want it, we do it. 

Choice FM 92.1, is a radio station reaching Rocky Mount, Wilson, Oxford, Nashville, Zebulon, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Durham. Affiliated with the nationally syndicated Breakfast Club, they cover mainstream Hip Hop and R&B culture and music; locally, they lift up talent, events, opportunities, and businesses in rural communities of color throughout Eastern and Central North Carolina as well as the metro area. The station itself was originally called Soul 92 Jams, and offered one of the first spaces for black voices on radio in the area at its creation in 1974.

I sat down with DJ 2wenty and DJ Fatz, both of whom have been at the craft for decades, since the early eighties. DJ 2wenty eyed Soul 92 as the place for him well before he settled into his home at “The People’s Station”.

DJ 2wenty: I told the boss I’d be working here and he said they may not have enough room for me. I said, yeah, you do.

His time slots, role and experiences built from there and now, DJ 2wenty is at the studio six days a week, broadcasting and collaborating with other hosts, like DJ SoFabKim. DJ Fatz brings the Governor’s Mansion every weeknight, a three-hour set spanning current and classic black music. Both have shared stages and connected amongst the local and international DJ communities. As for live events, DJ Fatz and DJ 2wenty agree, the people “gotta come prepared to party.” So, when we talked about what DJs need to bring to the table:

DJ 2wenty: Music, know your equipment, and your sound. Because sound matters, it really matters.
DJ Fatz: I want people to hear what I’m doing and how I’m doing it, it’s like now people don’t really care about the sound, about the DJ being a real DJ – as far as transitioning a record into another record, the blending and scratching. We’re party-rocking DJs. We don’t wanna just stand behind what we use. I’m not bashing the technology change, cuz times have to change…

It’s like the disc jockey tradition blurs that line of the past and the potential. The atmosphere and experience a turntablist brings about can never be replicated. They scratch, flare, tear, and transform music deconstructing and rearranging to create new pieces, combining physical elements – vinyl, needle, motor, and their own hands – with unique style. 

Durham in particular has a deep connection with the DJ tradition – before and including DJ Fatz, who’s originally from the Bull City. 

DJ Fatz notes that for him, and for more and more folks DJing, it’s about combining the potential of current technology, with a deep knowledge of music and that equipment – digital, analog, or both.

If you didn’t know, turntabling is one of the pillars of hip hop culture, and these two live for the culture. Choice FM is keeping that creativity – and sharing it, interacting with the audience – at the forefront.

DJ 2wenty: I want to be the DJ that makes you dance, that has people singing along, lose their voice, take their shoes off cuz their feet hurt.

DJ Fatz and DJ 2wenty believe people are looking for just that, somewhere they can really release and dance – another innate element of hip hop. There’s this call for something more than a “social gathering”, as they put it. Nuanced, vibrant, innovative and deeply rooted black culture spans the rural and the metropolitan in this area. Rural communities of color are often overlooked, but the folks at Choice FM truly support the people throughout Eastern and Central NC.

Their abilities to broadcast over distance or bring an event to life, whether they be concerts, pool parties, or turntable battles, help keep the people connected, informed, and feeling free to move with the music.

DJ Fatz: We’ve been knowing each other now 20, 30 years. It was so amazing to come back and meet up with him and he’s in this type of setting. I’ve always been an African man, I want an urban radio station in this area. When choice came along it was like heaven on earth for me, because it allows us to be the DJs that we are. You got DJs at this station that respects the art and culture of DJing so when I come here to DJ, it feels like home.


Scroll to the top or head to Youtube to catch our full interview. You can also vibe with DJ 2wenty at The O in Wilson every Saturday and Tuesday, and DJ Fatz in Durham at Emerald City every Saturday.

You can reach DJ Fatz on Instagram, @djfatz72 or on Twitter, @djfatz_bcf.

Our magazine was catfished: An apology and reflection from the editor

“Humanity amongst the ruins of constant conflict” has become an ironic title, considering that the individual we featured turned out to be a digital ghost. We were catfished on this piece, along with The Telegraph, Wall Street Journal, Vice and several other outlets by the person who portrayed themselves as “Eduardo Martins”. He pulled us in with a compelling story of his experiences and the chance to share a perspective on parts of the world being ravaged as we speak through vivid photography – by stealing the work of true, seasoned photojournalists like Daniel Britt and the identity of a surfer in the UK named Max Hepworth-Povey.

Read co-founder and managing editor Larisa Karr’s comments in the Washington Post: “He posed as a heroic war photographer – and the news industry believed him”

After some reflection, my inclination is still to be grateful, as we are for anyone who shares their work, story, or perspective with us. Definitely a bit put off, but grateful for this reminder to immerse ourselves more deeply in the process of storytelling and the true connections that lay the foundation for it. This age of social media, with all the opportunity, information, and connection that it grants, demands that we are present and persistent in getting the story right. You can read up on the details of this impersonation in the Washington Post, BBC, Mashable, and other outlets. It points to the layers of falsified, biased, and manipulated “news” these days.

Read: “How to fool the world into thinking you’re a photojournalist” in Scout Magazine

So, I want to first apologize to the photojournalists whose work was plagiarized, and the entire community in independent media. We do not pay for contributions to Recount Magazine and accepting payment for features or any other content is not yet in our business model, so we exchanged nothing with “Eduardo Martins”, to be clear. At the same time, this person’s betrayal of the craft, creative work, and serious costs of photojournalism has leeched onto us here and for that I also apologize to the artists, activists, and other folks we have featured. 

Read: “Brazil ‘surfing war photographer’ Eduardo Martins exposed as fake” in BBC Latin America

Finally, to our readers, in the year since that piece, and as we continue, we seek to grow by varying our content and producing more thorough pieces, and by digging deeper with the real people creating, organizing, documenting, and building out in the world. I wasn’t sure what to do at first knowledge of this. Since the revelation, we have taken measures to be more hands-on in engaging our readers and subjects, so stay tuned for what’s to come and please email your feedback to us at


Please note: Although several outlets have removed their coverage of “Eduardo Martins”, we have kept the piece, “Humanity Amongst the Ruins of Constant Conflict” up on our website to date, as originally published (with photography redacted as of September 10th), to facilitate the content of outlets exposing “Eduardo Martins” as a fraud to readers across the world. This is no endorsement of his actions, but we hope it serves as a documentation of his betrayal, evidence of his false claims, and ongoing reminder to be thorough as journalists, writers, editors, and content creators.

In Conversation with Ducee’ Drop Top

Devin May has a very unique moniker.

The 24-year-old rapper is known as Ducee’ Drop Top, an alias he was christened with as a result of his obsession with a certain automobile.

“We used to get rentals a lot when we were a little younger, when we would take trips wherever we wanted to go,” May said. “But every time we wanted a rental, I always wanted a drop top and so every time we got one I was just always doing some crazy stuff. So people just started calling me ‘Drop Top.’”

Yung droptop supports @dadedclothing

A post shared by Duceé DropTop (@therealdroptop) on


Ducee’ was a name that friends would repeatedly call him, and it soon became part of his rapper alias.

His music is majorly influenced by rappers and musicians in hip-hop, like Snoop Dogg, Wiz Khalifa and Outkast, but he’s also inspired by everyday experiences.

“A lot of themes (in my music) are things that I just see and a lot of things that I do. I really just go off of vibes to be honest,” May said. “You know, I rap about everyday lifestyles. I rap about the struggle of what happened with my homeboys and why they’re locked up right now.”

For May, who is a perfectionist, it is important to maintain a balance between being serious and laid-back when creating music.

“My main thing is practice makes perfect,” May said. “You’re gonna always have tracks that you don’t release and you’re gonna have different stuff, but at the end of the day, if you’re having fun, that’s all I care about.”

May was raised in Durham, North Carolina but travels frequently between the Bull City and Atlanta.

“I say the Bull City raised me and Atlanta made me,” May said. “I network and that’s where I have gotten to see things that changed my perspective on the music game and life.”

He speaks fondly of Durham, especially about its recent rise as a creative and artistic hub in the Southeast.

“I love what it’s become because everybody’s working together. Everybody’s pushing each other,” May said. “Everybody’s bringing out all the art and if it stays like this, I’d say in the next two years, Durham’s gonna be crazy.”

His musical background began at a young age.

Having played the violin, trumpet and French horn throughout his elementary, middle and high school years, he played in an all-star band and attended art school in Durham. From there, he focused on other instruments, including drums and guitar. It was only about a little over a year ago, however, that he started rapping and immersing himself in his love for hip-hop and rap culture.

His ultimate goal with his music is to give back to the community.

“You know how Akon lit up a whole city in Africa by giving them electricity?”, May said. “I’m trying to do stuff like that with money. Whenever I get on, whenever it happens, I’m giving back to the community because they need the money more than I would.”


Read below for an exclusive Q & A with the artist.

Tell me the origin behind your name.

“Behind Ducee’ Drop Top? To be honest with you, alright, so, it’s a little funny story. We used to get rentals a lot when we were a little younger, when we used to take trips just wherever we wanted to go, but every time we wanted a rental, I always wanted a drop top and so every time we got one, I was just always doing some crazy stuff. So, people just started calling me ‘drop top.’”

What’s a drop top?

“Like the car. You know, when the roof pops off.”

Oh, ok. Ok. I wasn’t sure. Sorry. That’s funny.

“And yeah, Ducee’ just came from… my friends just call me that. I don’t know why. You should ask them. I mean, it was just like, ‘You know, I like Ducee’. Call me Ducee’ Drop Top.’ You know what I’m saying? It’s just a name that just came over time.”

Yeah. So, it was just kind of like a mish-mash of things in your life that came together.

“Yeah. Yeah.”

That’s cool.

“Yeah and it’s a little different too. You know what I mean? It’s like drop top. It’s like naming an item on a car, you know what I’m saying? It’s something different.”

Mmm-hmm. Yeah. You don’t hear that too often.


So, in terms of some of the themes you primarily rap about, what would you say are like some motifs or just like themes that come up in your music a lot?

“A lot of themes are a lot of things that I just see, you know, a lot of things that I do. I really just go off of vibes, to be honest. I just go in there and I just make something happen. You know, I rap about everyday lifestyles. I rap about the struggle of what happened with my homeboys and why they’re locked up right now and stuff like that or I’m just talking about trying to make a little club banger or I’m just talking about, you know, all of my homies, walling. We’re in the club, walling. You know what I’m saying?”

“Just different things and it depends on my vibe when I just go in the studio, you know what I mean? You just try and go in there and just have fun with it, you know what I mean?”

Yeah, yeah. That makes sense.

“Cuz you make music and my main thing is practice makes perfect. You’re gonna always have tracks that you don’t release and you’re gonna have different stuff. But, at the end of the day, if you having fun, that’s all I care about.”

Yeah, yeah. You’ve gotta make something that you’re proud of but you’re also not too serious about at the same time.


So, what would you say, you mentioned your homeboys being locked up, what would you say happened with that, if you don’t mind me asking?

“Well, they had a situation. I guess I can’t speak upon their charges or whatever, but whatever they’re going through, we just want them to know that we’re here for them, you know. We gotta push it for them. So, when they get out, they’ll be in a better situation, you know what I mean?”

So, would you say in terms of social justice issues, would you say police brutality and the pipeline-to-prison thing is something that you’re passionate about?

“Well, we’re not going to go ahead and start off.”

Yeah, yeah. Oh god.

“Fuck Trump. Fuck all this corrupt bullshit. Honestly, if people just looked at each other equally and we all came together as a whole, we don’t even have to be countries. All this extra shit is just a result of going back in history. History just repeats itself, you know what I’m saying?

“You just kind of gotta deal with what’s going on, you know what I mean? Just try to stay positive. You feel me?”

Yeah, yeah, absolutely and I think you’re right about you know, countries and borders and nationalisms. It’s such a barrier between human beings. Some person will say, ‘I’m from this country’ and another person will say, ‘Well, I can’t relate to you because I’m from this country’ and it’s just really sad.

“Yeah, man. Honestly, it’s ignorance and it’s lack of education. It all starts at the house, you know what I mean?”

“Eventually, hopefully, it’ll all change but the only thing we can do is just thrive and prosper and try to make the situation better for the next generation. You know what I mean? That’s what I’m trying to do. You know how Akon had lit up a whole city in Africa? Like, he gave them electricity and stuff like that?”

“Yeah. I’m trying to do stuff like that with money, trying to start things like that so whenever I get on, whenever it happens, I’m giving back to the community because they need the money more than I would, you know what I mean?”

Yeah, absolutely, sort of like what Chance the Rapper did in Chicago. I forgot what exactly happened but I think he did something to help school kids and I thought that was really cool.

“Yeah. It all starts with youth and if you give them something to do that’s positive, then, you know what I’m saying, it can change a lot. But some people get the money and they forget about everything else and they’re just worried about whatever else involves more money and then there’s those people like J. Cole and Damian Marley that are real humble people. You can tell the real humble ones out there by how they act when they get money. Money sometimes changes people.”

So what would you say some of your primary influences on your music are?

“Like right now or what influenced me overall? Like, people?”

I would say both.

“Ok. Well, the people that always influenced me when I was young were people like Snoop Dogg, Outkast, different people. Outkast, I always loved Outkast because they were way ahead of their time and if you really still listen to what they’re talking about, it’s the same stuff that’s going on now. It’s just so crazy. So, I just like dope stuff like that. Wiz Khalifa and you know what I’m saying. They inspire me. Honestly, I try to get inspired by everybody that’s around me.”

That’s awesome, yeah.

“All my friends, they’re the ones. We just push each other to do better. Those are the real people that inspire me, you know what I mean?”

Yeah. So, what would you say, it terms of the places you live, between Atlanta and Durham, how has living in those places shaped your music, do you think?

“It’s changed. Oh, man. I’ve grown up in Durham since second grade, but my whole family has always been from Georgia. So, I’ve always gone over summers. I’ve gone back and forth from Georgia and stuff like that. So, it’s different scenery. It’s a bigger city. It’s different. Now, Durham’s a good city. It’s developing now and I’m loving to see what it’s molding into because it’s a beautiful city filled with a lot of artistic people and it deserves shine, you know what I mean? Now, everybody’s working together to actually do it, you know what I mean?”


“One of the last people that came out in Durham that actually made it was maybe 9th Wonder, you know what I mean? These people are like older heads now. But the reason why a lot of people, there’s been a lot of artists throughout time, that haven’t made it is because they didn’t want to work with each other and actually worked for individual prosperity instead of trying to put the city on the map, you know what I’m saying? So, excuse me if I’m trying to ramble.”

No, it’s all good. Stream-of-consciousness is always better.

“Yeah, I love what it’s become because everybody’s working together. Everybody’s pushing each other. There’s a lot more shows. Everybody’s bringing out all the art and if it stays like this, I’d say in the next two years, Durham’s gonna be crazy.”

Yeah, they moved Moogfest there, which was, you know, kind of a thing in Asheville and then all of a sudden, they moved it to Durham, which, you know, Asheville was kind of sad. But, I went there last year to cover it and I could totally see why Durham is really up-and-coming because it’s super hip and cool.

“Yeah, and it’s always been like that but it wasn’t like this two or three years ago. It was nothing like this. But now, I love it, you know what I mean? So, I just want to put the city on the map and you know, I love Atlanta. I say the Bull City raised me and Atlanta made me. I network and that’s where I got to see things that changed my aspect of the music game and life, you know what I mean? I’m just trying to take whatever I can. I just like to travel. So, even when I was in LA, I’m just trying to take what I can from each little spot.”

Yeah, that makes sense. So, if you were to say what inspired you to become a rapper primarily, what would you say? When did you become a rapper?

“Ok. Well, I’ve always done music my whole life. I was in fourth grade. I started playing the violin in the school program. When I got to middle school, I played trumpet and then they switched me to the French horn and I played in the all-star band, went to art school in Durham and I was focused on drumming, like percussion and guitar and stuff like that. So, I’ve always had a love for music and I always thank my parents for getting me into it early, you know what I mean? So, I didn’t really start taking rapping seriously until about a year and some change ago. I’ve always liked beats and loved hip hop and the rap culture and so, you know, I started just doing it for fun and I started really trying to take it seriously because the two homeboys that I mentioned earlier that are in jail, they were the main people that were really rapping and I used to always be around them. It was a team. It was always love. It was about brotherhood. So, they were really pushing me to keep the dream alive, you know what I’m saying?”

Yeah, absolutely. That’s awesome.

“So, it’s really just for fun but if, at the end of the day, people love it then I’m just gonna keep doing what I like, you know what I mean?”

Yeah, you gotta roll with that.

“I just dropped my first mixtape. It was called #boostUP. I just dropped it on December 30th and it’s available everywhere, Apple Music, iTunes, all that stuff.”

Is it on Spotify as well?

“Yes. It’s on Audiomag, Dat Piff, Google Play, Amazon, it’s on everywhere. Check it out.”

watch | Cool Boy 36 speaks on video art, streetwear, Raund Haus

Cool Boy 36 sat down to share what the movement and collection is about, shouting out creatives in the Durham, NC scene. Click to get a little more familiar:

Shop Cool Boy 36 art and gear at bigcartel and keep an eye out for Flora (Cool Boy 36 Collection #2)! The launch party will be at the Durham Arts Place on Saturday, August 5th. Details here.



“I want them to feel it”: jazz musician Mike Casey on one of music’s undefinable genres

Jazz: just the word alone conjures up many images, perhaps old photographs of noir-drenched scenarios, a dark underground club in New York, a range of colors and beats bounding together in a seamless and yet non seamless dysphoria.

One thing that jazz is not supposed to be, however, is forgettable.


Mike Casey, captured by Airen Miller Photography.

Mike Casey, 23, originally hails from Hartford, Connecticut, and fronts the Mike Casey Trio. As a saxophonist, he is very passionate about bringing jazz to the forefront of musical experience.

“It kind of just becomes background music if the crowd is there to eat and not listen, which is something that jazz musicians often deal with because, many times, it’s instrumental music,” Casey said. “There’s no words, so someone who doesn’t understand the music might just think, ‘Oh, this is supposed to be background music’ but it was never really supposed to be background music.”

The difference between jazz and other types of music, like funk, is that it exceeds more than one dimension.

This, according to Casey, is because the other musicians in the group are not necessarily following a lead musician. Instead, they are initiating a conversation through their music. (Amongst these co-conversationalists is harpist Brandee Younger.)

“In jazz, if I’m soloing, not only are there people playing with me but they’re actually improvising how they respond and how they accompany me and I’m reacting to what they do and how they accompany me,” Casey said.


In 2017, the Mike Casey Trio released their debut album, the The Sound of Surprise, which has been hailed as “enjoyable from first to last note” by jazz critic Sammy Stein.

The chordless trio, comprised of Casey, who alternates between tenor and alto sax, bassist Matt Dwonszyk and drummer Corey Garcia, jive well together. Casey went to high school with Dwonszyk and the two have been playing together in one way or another for eight years. He met Garcia three years ago in Hartford and said he has contributed quite a bit in concept and style.


Airen Miller Photography.

“We have some really awesome chemistry and we’re able to kind of read each other’s minds and surprise each other and kind of make things happen in new, interesting ways,” Casey said.

For Casey, who describes his music as “passionate, raw and powerful,” it is imperative to elicit a strong emotional response from the audience.

One of the tracks on the album, Dagobah, has a surprising inspiration: Star Wars.

“Dagobah is the swamp planet that Yoda is hiding out on and Skywalker is supposed to teach Yoda how to learn to be a jedi,” Casey said. “It’s a weird place for a jedi hiding out. He was pretty nervous about going there.”

Casey compared his decision to stay in Hartford to Dagobah, as he believed it facilitated a learning experience that he perhaps might not have received in other places.

“If you ask any young musician where are you going to study jazz, you’d expect to hear New York, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Boston, even Chicago,” Casey said. “But Hartford, by all odds, has actually had a lot of amazing jazz musicians for whatever it is you do.”

He has, however, already graced several nightclubs in New York, including the famous Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem.

According to Casey, jazz is anything but background music for the denizens of New York’s famously jazz-infused neighborhood.

“With people in Harlem, jazz to them is not just music. It’s a religious experience,” Casey said. “It’s like a spiritual thing and even though, usually, people are there listening, you can just feel that their connection to it is different than most other places I’ve played.”

Born out of the African diaspora and African-American struggle, said Casey, jazz was historically the music of the Civil Rights Movement and represents freedom.

One need look no further than Max Roach’s bone-chilling “Freedom Now Suite” to ascertain that jazz music has, at its essence, liberation and boundary-defying characteristics.

Casey, however, feels that he is not a prodigy and in this regard, identifies with one of his idols who also frequented Minton’s Playhouse.

“Thelonious Monk has already been an influence to me in the sense of that he was willing to stick to what he believes and what he wants to sound like, no matter what, and that’s something that I think I relate to because, in a certain sense, I’m a late bloomer when it comes to jazz music,” Casey said. “Jazz has always been kind of obsessed with prodigies and people becoming really good really quickly and although I’ve been playing for a while, that wasn’t really my story.”

Part of Casey’s story was finding his voice as a musician.

Or so he thought, until a conversation with another of his idols sparked a realization about creative discovery.

“That’s kind of how I always looked at it until that conversation with Sonny (Rollins), where he said, ‘You already sound like you. You are you. It’s really not necessarily finding it. It’s more about becoming a better version and refining it,’” Casey said. “Changing that outlook on it has helped me tremendously and made me kind of dig deeper within myself.”

At the end of the day, it’s about connecting with the audience.


Mike Casey playing with Marc Cary’s Harlem Sessions at Gin Fizz in 2015.

“I want people not just to observe and listen but to really feel what I’m doing and that doesn’t mean you have to like it. They might hate it,” Casey said. “But, at least, I want them to feel it.”

Visit his website to listen to the Mike Casey Trio’s album and keep up with Mike Casey, saxophonist, song writer, and teaching artist.

Speak up for free and open internet – a brief on net neutrality

Net neutrality is calling on us all to speak up – individuals, organizations, and companies continue to do so. People have already submitted over 10 million comments this most recent round. The power to stand against it, to retain some principles of free and open Internet lies with us.

Here’s a few thoughts and reads on the status of the ongoing debate and what’s at stake (before you head to the comment section of the Federal Communications Commission).

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The “internet of things”, the creator market, the gig economy, and free speech are threatened by the reversal of net neutrality.

I came across a thought-provoking post the other day, elaborating on the difference between IRL and “in-person”. Much of the internet, for better or worse, is real life. So this is a time to acknowledge that the internet is a substantial resource, and that lacking access or reliability from the internet seriously impacts people’s access to educational, physical, health-related, and employment resources for many. Sure, it’s all complicated. But it has enabled entrepreneurship and organizing in solidarity amongst marginalized groups, made long-distance, quality healthcare available through telemedicine – and much of that mobilization and innovation is threatened if net neutrality ceases. So, this debate, and its outcome, will deeply impact our daily lives – we’ve got to act accordingly.


The focus in the United States right now is another installment in the back and forth between the FCC and FTC, representing telecommunications and trade of information services.  

Essentially, if you care about accessibility and quality of the Internet – broadband, download and upload speeds, streaming services, privacy – you should consider yourself vested in the “battle for the net” and make it clear that you are pro net-neutrality. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai promises that there is little evidence of telecommunications giants and corporate service providers intervening or manipulating the control they have over the openness of the Internet – we disagree. Read up.

The American Civil Liberties Union gets to the point in “What is Net Neutrality?” and this timeline from TechCrunch provides a meatier history. We’ve been at this since the sixties! It’s a reminder that technology develops and evolves exponentially, and we must stay involved.


Legislation like this is affecting the privacy and freedom of consumers across the world, and there are steps you can take a more proactive and protected user.

So this bill is called “Restoring Internet Freedom”… and though some may be resigned to Uncle Sam’s eye all up in their Drive, that Orwellian title should beg several questions. We took our questions to Hammy Havoc last year.

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He’s a multi-faceted cypherpunk in the UK, who shared his philosophy and advice in a Q&A covering issues of privacy that he’s studied, observed, and faced head on, as well as the open-source alternatives that we could all utilize. Reach out to us if you’d like to share perspectives from your experience.


It’s time to get personal – the most effective comments come from your experience.

As well-put and informative as the drafted comments are, take some time to relate what open internet and consumer protections mean to you – that is, why access to quality Internet should be the norm, in your opinion.

You can send multiple comments, and with personal statements there’s some variety on record and we can guard against disregard on the grounds of automation. Here’s a helpful piece on how to draft a meaningful and effective message to the FCC.


It’s easy to spread the word.

And vital. Start with the social media- (and aesthetic-) friendly graphics below, crafted by the folks at, where you can post a comment, get more information and guidance in efforts to preserve net neutrality individually and collectively.

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You are not alone, there have been open letters, youtube videos, and even some of the largest web companies and platforms (Facebook, Google, Amazon, and Netflix) are on the people’s side, helping to make voices heard. Join in, the site is open for rebuttal comments until August 17th!


Growth through Darkness: A Gallery Walk with Charvis Harrell

“My art comes from a dark place,” wrote Charvis, when we asked him to share about his process and introduce himself.



We all know the saying meant to push us through times of intense adversity and ongoing challenges: “that which doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger”. But if you ask him, “it’s more appropriate to say that which doesn’t kill you – but comes close – will change your life in a way you aren’t equipped to imagine. That is where my art comes from.”

The man behind the artwork hails from Macon, Georgia, where he and his creative expression have grown through times of prosperity, pain, and processing.

“The hardest part of doing any piece is getting past myself, until recently I would too often drink 125 ounces of cheap beer between in the middle of the morning just to get my brain past this one word I learned the hard way: sarcoidosis.

This lung disease inflames and weighs on people between the ages of 20 and 50 at times temporarily, at times permanently. In response to the environment – chemicals, bacteria – it’s as if stimulated and drained all at once, it seems. 
“It started in the summer of 2004, I felt as if I came down with a real bad cold. One day at work I felt like I couldn’t make it anymore so I went to the hospital. They took my blood and after a misdiagnosis of AIDS, tuberculosis, and other illnesses my body mimicked, until they finally did a biopsy and came to the proper result of sarcoidosis. Until that moment I was a construction worker as my father was and his father was, and art was something I did on rainy days to relax.”

As most are, Charvis was into crayons and such as a kid, and it was when he saw The Artifacts, Wrong Side of Da Tracks, that he intentionally made visuals his own, “I never got anywhere close to putting up a burner, but I had a real sick tag. I put it up everywhere I could in Sharpie and every once in awhile I’d get a can of some real cheap paint and try to do bigger stuff, but I must admit I wasn’t that good at that.” Still, he continued to draw, and during the healing process from a car accident at the age of 21, he felt led to paint – big, using mistints from the hardware store and higher grade paints, to highlight.


This mosaic is an homage to Charvis’ upbringings in the church and career as a mason. “Doing construction with my father gave me a sense that anything was possible. Taking part in the completion of a building from the erecting of the foundation until turning over the keys makes you aware that you can make anything out of the materials you have with the right knowledge. My mother was the same way with sewing and plays and productions so I was surrounded by people who could turn plain objects into whatever they desired.”


He calls his early work “awful art, self-taught garbage where the background appeared to be an afterthought painted around the subject.” Four months after his sarcoidosis diagnosis, a house fire led to a new beginning and a “valuable lesson that when you own nothing you possess everything you need.” That fire claimed almost all of his artwork and most of his good friend and thought partner Jermaine Causey’s as well.

At that point, he says, “I began to produce art with a serious intent to flaunt some of my greatest possessions: my perception and sympathy for the people without power to speak for themselves. My art became much better and I started to show my work.”

That perception and sympathy combine to feed his work with honesty – essential when seeking to understand stories that are not your own, and to reinforce that there are dimensions to every person’s story. 

“I thank God for every moment and I know compared to so many other diseases it could be much worse, but the reality is, sometimes it’s hard for me to use my talents – often I wake around two or three in the morning, covered in sweat, nauseated, tired, and achy with my brain racing from me.”

That’s where the process often begins for him, waking to the darkness of morning then immersing into “research, research, and more research”, watching documentaries or Art21, a series on the art of the people of our century, until dawn. If he’s called to draw that day, he’ll do that, or paint, until midday. He shared that lately, though, he’s been devoting more of that energy to the writing process.

At his father’s recent passing, Charvis came across a collection of old poetry that he is in the process of self publishing, entitled “cartoon violence”, and his murder mystery, titled, “The Butcher, The Baker, and The Cupcakemaker Bot” is well underway.  You can find the introduction to it on Twitter, under the name butchbakemake. “I’ve gotten some great feedback, so lately I’ve been focusing more of my creative energy on writing, but I still find space to paint every week.”

Volunteering at the Tubman Museum, before it became one of the biggest museums of African American art  in the Southeastern United States gave him a rare chance to become extremely intimate with great works of art. He mentions the curator, Jeffrey Bruce, in particular, who “went above and beyond his way to be more than generous with his knowledge and expertise, which I still seek and appreciate”.

Tony Harris, creator of Iron Man and Ex Machina, also helped Charvis to develop. Harris was open to Charvis’ questions on general art, tools, techniques and ways to make comics appear professional. “The amazing thing is that as great as his art is, he was one of the least absorbed artists I’ve ever met. Everything was about Rockwell and how he constantly worked and reworked a painting, doing the same painting three or four times, his ability to tweak characters and bring about details that he invited and his ability to use the people around him resonate to an entire nation.”

So perhaps, growth is about the people that substantiate the space around us, challenging limits and illuminating possibilities to the artist, the self, within. It comes forth in the art as well, influencing strokes, nurturing subjects, inviting collaborators.

“I just finished probably my best show yet with Jermaine Causey and Nik Nerburn. I’ve been doing art with Jermaine since kindergarten and anytime you see one of my pieces you’re seeing conversations between Jermaine and​ I that led to that work. Nik is a new friend of ours, a photographer we just began to work with, and he is a perfect fit to counterbalance our style and add the personal touches that brings everyday people into the spotlight.”

The Ampersand Guild Hall, or The [&] Guild Hall, was the ideal location for the installation and his paintings. It is a family-owned, artist-run space committed to fostering community amongst people of all backgrounds in a place that badly needed a watering hole for creative vision. It is the only venue in Macon where artists of different races consistently put on shows together, presenting narratives that subvert the idyllic Southern comfort driving segregation and inequity.

You’ll feel his comfort working with space, physical or philosophical. You’ll see it in the way he utilizes elements like shadow and the coincident construction, the way he challenges the means and nature of interactions between people.

So together, Harrell, Causey, and Nerburn set out to shine light on folks shrouded in socially-constructed shadows, wrongly characterized by their oppression. Perhaps to educate some, in the visceral way that art does, and certainly to remind “others” that their multiple facets are seen, they matter, they are appreciated.


“Just a reminder of what it’s like to be young and free”


In recent months, sarcoidosis has begun to affect Charvis’ eyes, and he will tell you, “I spend too much time thinking that if sarcoidosis takes my vision – how can I produce my art from an even darker place?”

It should be noted, though, that there are very real things that the eyes can’t reveal, that the mind won’t accept. Not without intention or passion or persistence, or all three. This artist expresses a pure dedication to muddling through the elusive with the rest of us.

Now, a recap of the show at his favorite hometown venue, [&] Guild Hall, through the lens of Ariel Robbins at Essentia Arts Photography.


On Wahooism, the reduction of Native American culture to convenient and reductive symbols with aggressive connotations – especially offensive given historical to current practices of oppressing indigenous people in the United States.

What questions do you want people to ask themselves when they look at this?

“How comfortable are you with using an entire race as a mascot?  How would I feel if this was my race on a banner? Would you be offended if there was a team named the yellow skins depicting an Asian with skin the color banana yellow? The biggest misconception of all is you have a team named the Indians with a Native of this land depicted with a  bright red skin tone smiling ear to ear. Now I changed the race to an actual Indian is it appropriate now? Wahooism.”


This is a companion piece to the red, white, and blue banner, it is a painting of “Wah-Tho-Huk” though most people know him as Jim Thorpe, an all-American. As a child he was forced to attend a normalizing school where Americans separated him from his family, culture, language, and even the very name his parents gave him – all under the pressure to be acceptable to America. He excelled in all sports and was even an NCAA ballroom dancing champ, but lived a hard, broke life, ending up forced to be a laborer. To this day, his accolades go unrecognized officially.


The controversy of this – the treatment of indigenous people in popular culture – is one that historical victors would like to have us overlook. It’s especially insulting when collective consent to Wahooism just amplifies the systemic violence and disregard for Native Americans currently displayed. Consider the tribal land seizures to make way for destructive oil pipeline construction in the corporate interest at Standing Rock and throughout the US.

Charvis takes it all head-on, pushing viewers beyond the comfortable narratives constructed for us. Experiences in that space beyond norms is vital this time of “alternative facts” and convenient misinformation, in which people are collectively confused about how we got here and where we’re headed. His work feels like a reminder to continue to question and to nurture those spaces beyond norms – regardless of the aforementioned current political dynamics in the United States, maybe even in spite of.


It seems the ‘danger’ is learning, says Charvis



I’m interpreting this as a commentary on rape culture and consumerism, but what statements lie behind that yell, when you revisit this piece?

It’s more so on the popular rap culture. It’s part of a series called “ With the jawbone of an ass.” It references Samson killing a bunch of people, but considers how we kill our love for each other and ourselves through our constant degrading of women and our love for things with people names on it. Artists that don’t challenge themselves tend to fall into a machine of cliches.

It’s as if 90% of the mainstream rappers love Jordans, needs a chain, smoke the best, make it rain on them hoes, got that stick, whip game, flip it, my goons so grimey, pop them bottles, hoes be loving, my ice got me froze, and the names of various products with white people’s names on them, bitches be sucking. If you listen to most of the subpar rap, you can point to an image coming out of the mouth of the subject I painted. For almost every lyric.

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The shadow play is so interesting, how’d you account for location and the sun for this installation piece?

“This piece commemorates the meeting and process of working with Ed Woodham and Samantha Hill. They were resident artists who were fired for working with the actual residents of a location they were asked to work in, instead of helping to tell a false narrative of people who weren’t part of the actual neighborhood.” Maya Mackrandilal writes about it all in The Impossibility of Art.

“Sam once asked me if I could use one word to describe my art and​ my message I’m trying to convey, what would it be. ‘Hate.’ The look on her and Ed’s face was priceless. Hate can be one of the strongest forces you encounter in your life. To illustrate my idea I carved the words rise with arrows pointing up and Bree Newsome at the bottom climbing the flagpole in South Carolina taking down the confederate flag. It shows how a hate for something can make you rise up to do a beautiful thing. Light is an important function of this piece, at the right time it shows that the things you do will cast a shadow bigger than you are.”




Keep up with Charvis Harrell on Instagram (@charviszharrell).