Category Archives: Art

Los Angeles Pride: A video tour

Being a polysemic word, Pride means something noticeably different between members of the LGBT community. Whether it is getting the masses to sign a human rights petition, dressing in drag as a cultural protest, being able to safely hold hands with a loved one in public, or donning a colorful ensemble, these acts represent Pride. L.A. Pride is a smorgasbord of the above times twenty. It is the largest gathering of the LGBT community in Southern California.

The most attended event during the 2013 L.A. Pride Celebration was the parade, where more than a hundred organizations walked. The Pride festival, immediately following, held in beautiful West Hollywood Park, featured live entertainment on multiple stages, headline performances, various dance venues, and thousands of people. A nice addition to Pride this year was Momentum, a large-scale light and interactive installation in collaboration with ONE National Gay and Lesbian Archives, Impact Stories, The Mazer Lesbian Archives, The Lavender Effect, and The Colors of Compassion. Momentum was curated by INSTALL:WeHo, a queer art non-profit, .

In the video tour, I ask, “What is L.A. Pride?,” and hope to answer the question.

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Poetry Review: Douglas Kearney’s Black Automaton

Douglas Kearney is not a poet to be read causally. His most recent collection of poetry titled the Black Automaton is a wildebeest, a wild beast, horned, hooved, and heavy. Automaton is defined as a “moving mechanical device made in imitation of a human being,” in other words a robot. Black Automaton, I believe, is meant not to describe African-Americans as robots, but the ideal of the “Black” experience as a robotic or same reality experienced from the south to the “city.” “Tallahatchie Lullabye, Baby,” “The Black Automaton in Tag” and the FloodSong poems speak to the robotic reality.

Reading “Tallahatchie Lullabye, Baby” a second time, I noticed the words Emmett Till at the bottom of the page and that made the poem come together, like an open wound being stitched up. At the age of fourteen in 1955, at the height of violence in the early days of the struggle for civil rights, Emmett Till was murdered, after falsely being reported flirting with a white woman. The shocking photographs of his open-casket funeral were published in Jet Magazine and the story was later picked up by Look Magazine and raised the question of “approved murder due to race.” With that understanding, the poem takes on an emotional urgency to the last word to reach an unthinkable and known ending.

The alliterations work to move the poem:

cattatil casts tattles Till tale,
lowing low along the hollow
crickets chirrup and ribbits lick-up
what’s chucked the ‘hatchie swallow

The cattails, plants that grow in abundance along the Mississippi, become eyewitnesses to Till’s death and they tattle or talk amongst each other, spreading what they know along the river bank, until the crickets chirp and frogs ribbit, creating this melancholy song.

Till's mother insisted on an open casket. Imag...

The visual-ness of “The Black Automaton in Tag,” makes it capable of being read different ways and the play on the “n” is genius. The “n” word debate, is it a word of empowerment or fodder for fools, has polarized the African American community – either “Black” people love it or hate it. The “Black Automaton in Tag” takes a historical context and is an argument for blacks who love “it”:

 

it’s best not to err and ER the A
if one must air the n _ _ _ _ _.
The ER is a looming heir
of that gloomy era where
n _ _ _ _ _s were in the air
in the best knots

The poem ends with reminding the reader that “it” is still the same word that it originally meant no matter how it is pronounced, spelled, or understood as.

The Floodsong poems seem to be connected via a Southern tributary, dealing with public worship, calling out in the Black church, religious song, and life along a river and how the river shapes living, seen through the eyes of animals: “Flood Song 1” is through the eyes of a canal rat, “Flood Song 2” is through the eyes of a water moccasin, “Flood Song 3” is through the eyes of an alligator, “Flood Song 4” is through the eyes of a mosquito, “Flood Song 5” is through the eyes of a bullfrog, “Flood Song 6” is through the eyes of a seagull, “Flood Song 7” is through the eyes of a catfish, and “Flood Song 8” is through the eyes of a stray dog.

The collection as a whole is a threaded mediation on the black experience from the south to the “city,” pieced together through negro spirituals, rap lyrics, questions, and a visual experience that leaves the reader with the lines, “knocking its broken neck against the smoke” and takes them back to “Negro” in tag.

Kearney is best experienced in person above the page. I not only saw him perform pieces from Black Automaton at Otis College’s Visiting Writers Series with Nick Piombino but also I got the chance to talk to Kearney about his creative process. He uses Abode InDesign to create his poems and later asks readers to “score” his visual poems. However the pieces are scored, is how Kearney reads the pieces live.

Books to read by Kearney

1. The Black Automaton (National Poetry Series Books)

2. Fear, some

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Interview with Diary of a Natural Gal

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For my Diary of a Natural Gal Style Files interview, I worked with an amazing crew to shoot the pictures. The photographer was Garen Hagobian and the stylist was Rico Cherry. I can’t wait to post the full interview here. Here is an excerpt:

Kisha Roby: I would describe your style as sultry school boy, where do you draw inspiration?

Victor Yates: Is that a good thing (laughs)? I use to only wear black and gray. That’s it. Then my best friend started picking out clothes for me that I wouldn’t normally wear. I went from school boy realness to wearing cowboy boots, with khaki linen cut off shorts, and shirts and sweaters from the 80’s. I love 80’s Adidas shorts, vintage designer clothes, and conversation pieces. Today so many things inspire me. I like patterns, textures, and bold colors and mixing things together that the average person might think is strange. Since moving to Los Angeles my thrift store obsession has grown. Buffalo Exchange and Wasteland are my top thrift stores in L.A. But out here thrift stores are like coffee shops.

Kisha Roby: When did your passion for writing begin? What is your ultimate dream for your writing career?

Victor Yates: I started writing poetry at 14, after reading Maya Angelou’s work. I loved libraries and would read a lot. Also, my mother loved books and she would buy books for me as well. I remember trying to read The Firm, by John Grisham, and not being able to understand it. I hope to write quality fiction books and venture into short stories and writing plays.

Credits:
Photographer: Garen Hagobian
Website: http://www.motonicausa.com/photo.html
Number: 323-459-6100

Stylist: Rico Cherry
Email: rico243@yahoo dot com

Interviewer: Kisha Roby for Diary of a Natural Gal

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Azari and III Rocked Sónar On Tour Concert

MUSIC: Live Show Review

How I first heard Azari and III is indicative of their sound, which can be best described as dance music cut into fine lines of disco synthesized euphoria, to be snorted in generous doses. At a downtown L.A. party, SummerTramp (where brown-meets-white meets all the colors of the rainbow in swimwear), a DJ played a song that I’d never heard. I had to add it to my iTunes library. While continuing to dance, I held up my smart phone, to capture the song and identify the artist. Ten seconds later, Hungry for the Power by Azari and III appeared on the music app. Everyone at the party went crazy. The experience was recreated, with more smoke and flashing lights, when the band came on at 12am, Saturday, November 10, as part of the Sónar On Tour Concert.

The preceding band, Die Antwoord (who unabashedly dissed Mother Monster, Lady Gaga in their music video, Fatty Boom Boom) woke up the crowd, while Azari and III took the crowd on a rave binge at the Shrine Expo Center. The vocalists Cedric Gasiada (aka Starving Yet Full) and Fritz Helder ran on the stage and sung, “I’m hungry for the power,” and their movements matched the lyrics. They were animalistic, dramatic, and nuanced; an effect that was appreciated. The worst thing that can happen going to a dance music concert, is watching an entertainer who cannot entertain.

Everyone in front of me, in the standing room only space, who hadn’t been dancing to Die Antwoord, rocked out with the Cedric and Fritz. The other band members: Dinamo Azari and Alixander III were behind turntables, serving the crowd the classic house beats they needed to hear. Azari and III is an amalgamation of Dinamo’s last name and the three I’s after Alixander. The group’s goal is to create art and it was accomplished. They are a band with a future-sound and a fashion forward look. The wild intensity created by the energetic four-some, was extended and visualized through Pfadfinderei, an internationally renowned design collective. Dolphins, cut flowers, music video clips, and unrecognizable words flashed behind the band and were interrupted by rainbow-colored Emergency Broadcast System slides. The visuals served as a fifth band member, heightening the concert experience.

Into the third song, Indigo, Cedric asked the crowd, “Are you possessed?” As I looked around the mob of people, I could tell everyone was literally possessed, dancing away, uninhibited. Whatever the source of that possession is open to question, but Azari and III’s music genius is not. Nine songs later the crowd was hungry for more.

Azari & III

Azari & III (Photo credit: evasèe)

After leaving SummerTramp, I downloaded the song, Hungry for the Power, and realized I had more music from the band. I had their song, Stay Here, which was a super-collaboration with English dance band, Friendly Fires. I even had songs they remixed: Little Boots’ Shake, Sam Sparro’s I Wish I Never Met You, MNDR’s #1 in Heaven, Uffie’s Difficult, and Sunday Girl’s Self Control.

The line up at the Sónar On Tour Concert also included: DJ Nic Fanciulli, DJ Paul Kalkbrenner, and DJ Seth Troxler. The concert attracted: college students, club kids, drag queens, musicians, L.A.’s fashion elite as well as Kat Von D, Dita Von Teese, and Rose McGowan. L.A. was the last leg in the tour schedule. Some concertgoers had not heard of Azari and III, but became instant fans. Azari is hungry for your love and your love they will have, one city, one song, one remix, at a time.

To listen to Azari and III check out their YouTube Channel @ AzariandiiiOfficial and to buy their music go to iTunes now.

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Listen to my Interview with SnowbizNow Radio Show

 

Nicholas Snow, of Snow Biz Now Radio, interviewed me on Monday about my writing and being in the highly acclaimed anthology, For Colored Boys, edited by Keith Boykin. Click HERE to listen to the show.

SnowbizNow airs approximately three hours a day, five days a week, from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. PST. The show explores and reports adventures in the world of travel and entertainment, along with current events, sexuality, politics, lifestyle, health, fitness, spirituality, personal empowerment, pop culture and more.

The blurb from the website:

African-American, Latino, and Asian-American writers tell their own stories of coming of age, coming out, and coming home.

The new book, For Colored Boys, tells stories of real people coming of age, coming out, dealing with religion and spirituality, seeking love and relationships, finding their own identity in or out of the LGBT community, and creating their own sense of political empowerment. Contributor Victor Yates is a freelance writer. His new book, The Taste of Scars, is set to be released by AddisonCraft Publishing. Yates is the winner of the Elma Stuckey Writing Award (first place in poetry).

 

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The Other Brazil: DVD REVIEW: Madam Sata

Madame Sata Movie Trailer

The directorial debut of Karim Ainouz’s, Madame Satã, is a pictorial marvel detailing the life of João Francisco dos Santos, a black Brazilian man living in 1930’s racially and socially oppressive Lapa (northern Brazil). João (Lazaro Ramos), along with Laurita, (Marcelia Cartaxo) his best friend and Tabu, (Flavio Bauraqui) his pseudo household maid, construct a colorful yet restrained, irrational yet tender, spellbinding yet dark world through prostitution, drug usage and fantasy. Having the desire to rise above his meager lifestyle, Joao aspires to be a celebrated stage entertainer (drag queen) and loved by the public. Madame Sata illustrates how João “negotiates being in the world,” reacts to its judgment and the harsh realities that hauntingly follows. Ramos and the entire cast of Madame Satã, unforgettably breathe life into the sounds, sadness, beauty, and personal narrative of the human experience. The movie alluringly captures the multifarious textures, shades, and rhythms of Brazil in dramatic lighting and cinematography.

Madame Satã (film)

Image via Wikipedia

Emotional Scene from Madame Sata

Madame Sata is subtitled, it’s a Brazilian film in Portuguese. After the first five minutes it’s like you’re watching an English language film. The movie was nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Film – Limited Release and won Cinema Brazil Grand Prize’s top prizes Best Actor (Melhor Ator) and Best Actress (Melhor Atriz).

The name of the movie is taken from Cecil B. DeMille‘s movie Madam Satan about a woman trying to seduce her unknowing and unfaithful husband and teach him a lesson. In the movie João dresses as the character from Madam Satan.

Lazaro Ramos also stars in one of my other favorite movies, Carandiru, about Brazil’s largest prison in São Paulo. I only own two DVD’s Madame Sata and Carandiru.

Carandiru Movie Trailer

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Vincent (Starry Starry Night): Folky McLean song inspires black nerd

Don McLean Performing Vincent (Starry Starry Night)

Vincent (Starry Starry Night) by Don McLean

Starry starry night, paint your palette blue and grey
Look out on a summer’s day with eyes that know the darkness in my soul
Shadows on the hills, sketch the trees and the daffodils
Catch the breeze and the winter chills, in colors on the snowy linen land

Now I understand what you tried to say to me
How you suffered for you sanity How you tried to set them free
They would not listen they did not know how, perhaps they’ll listen now

Starry starry night, flaming flowers that brightly blaze
Swirling clouds in violet haze reflect in Vincent’s eyes of china blue
Colors changing hue, morning fields of amber grain
Weathered faces lined in pain are soothed beneath the artist’s loving hand

Chorus:
For they could not love you, but still your love was true
And when no hope was left in sight, on that starry starry night

You took your life as lovers often do,
But I could have told you, Vincent,
This world was never meant for one as beautiful as you

Starry, starry night, portraits hung in empty halls
Frameless heads on nameless walls with eyes that watch the world and can’t forget.
Like the stranger that you’ve met, the ragged man in ragged clothes
The silver thorn of bloody rose, lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow

Now I think I know what you tried to say to me
How you suffered for you sanity How you tried to set them free

They would not listen they’re not listening still
Perhaps they never will.

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