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18/02/2019
by MediaExpert
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NYC’s Chinatown Welcomes Year of the Pig With Vvibrant Parade

Drums, dragons and dancers paraded through New York’s Chinatown on Sunday to usher in the Year of the Pig in the metropolis with the biggest population of Chinese descent of any city outside Asia.

Confetti and spectators a half-dozen or more deep at points lined the route of the Lunar New Year Parade in lower Manhattan.

“The pig year is one of my favorite years, because it means lucky — everybody likes lucky — and, for me, a relationship or family” and a better life, Eva Zou said as she awaited the marchers. “Because I just moved here several months ago, so it’s a big challenge for me, but I feel so happy now.”

There’s an animal associated with every year in the 12-year Chinese astrological cycle, and the Year of the Pig started Feb. 5.

Some marchers sported cheerful pink pig masks atop traditional Chinese garb of embroidered silk. Others played drums, banged gongs or held aloft big gold-and-red dragons on sticks, snaking the creatures along the route. Someone in a panda costume marched with a clutch of well-known children’s characters, including Winnie the Pooh, Cookie Monster and Snoopy.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and U.S. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York, both Democrats, were among the politicians in the lineup, where Chinese music mixed with bagpipers and a police band played “76 Trombones,” from the classic musical “The Music Man.”

The lunar year is centered on the cycles of the moon and begins in January or February. Last year was the Year of the Dog.

While some parade-goers were familiar with the Chinese zodiac, others said they were just there to enjoy the cultural spectacle or partake in a sense of auspicious beginning.

“We’re here to get good luck for the year,” said Luz Que, who came to the parade with her husband, Jonathan Rosa.

His hopes for the Year of the Pig?

“Wellness, well-being and happiness,” he said.

17/02/2019
by MediaExpert
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Fiascos and Fumbles: Oscar Organizers Stumble to Restore Glory

First it was the furor over a proposed new “popular” film category, then it was the fiasco over planned host Kevin Hart, and last month the organizers of the Oscars were accused of intimidating celebrities not to present at rival award shows.

Last week, another storm erupted when, as part of a pledge to shorten next Sunday’s Oscars ceremony, plans to present awards for cinematography, film editing, live-action shorts and makeup/hairstyling during commercial breaks were slammed as insulting by actors, directors and cinematographers. Five days later, the plan was scrapped.

It’s been a tough 12 months for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as it battles to restore its annual Oscars show to a must-see event after the U.S. television audience slumped to an all-time low last year.

“This year, the bigger question than who will win at the Oscars is what the heck is going on at the academy?” said Tim Gray, awards editor at Hollywood trade publication Variety.

“There have been a slew of bungles,” Gray added. “I feel they are flailing around and acting out of desperation.”

Under pressure from the ABC television network to trim and liven up the ceremony, the academy has seen many of its efforts backfire.

Bungles include a retreat in September over a proposed new “popular film” category, the withdrawal in December of Oscars host Kevin Hart because of past homophobic tweets, and an accusation in January by the U.S. actors union that the academy was pressuring celebrities not to appear or present at award ceremonies other than the Oscars.

The Oscars is the last in a long Hollywood season that sees award shows and celebrity-packed red carpets every week over two months.

“The academy is caught between its role as a venerable institution that confers honors for the ages on film and the demands of the hurly-burly of social media, the 24/7 news cycle and the demands of the ratings,” said Sharon Waxman, founder and editor in chief of Hollywood website The Wrap.

‘People really care’

The academy did not return a request for comment for this story, but said in a letter to members last week that show producers “have given great consideration to both Oscar tradition and our broad global audience.”

ABC Entertainment President Karey Burke told reporters earlier this month she believed that the publicity around the Kevin Hart withdrawal showed the Oscars was still relevant.

“I, ironically, have found that the lack of clarity around the Oscars has kept the Oscars really in the conversation, and that the mystery has really been compelling,” Burke said. “People really care.”

The missteps have all but drowned out initial kudos over this year’s diverse Oscar nominations list, which range from art house films like “Roma” to superhero blockbuster “Black Panther” and crowd-pleasing musicals “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “A Star is Born.”

Awards watchers say the Academy’s efforts to deliver a compelling show for viewers next week still risk falling flat.

“The Academy is dealing yet again with what appears to be a leading film that is a very small film, in Spanish, and in black and white, that has not been seen by that many people, Waxman said, referring to best picture front-runner “Roma.”

Recent best-picture winners include small art-house films “The Shape of Water” last year and “Moonlight” in 2017.

“That is the more fundamental problem the Academy is facing with this telecast,” Waxman added.

Variety’s Gray said that, for the movie industry, the Oscars ceremony is always an enjoyable family get-together.

“The Oscars should also be fun for the viewing audience,” he said. “We will see if they are.”

17/02/2019
by MediaExpert
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Pan African Festival Connects African Diaspora Through the Arts

More than 100 artisans and 170 films from around the world are being showcased at the 27th Annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival in Los Angeles. 

The multiday event in the largely African American neighborhood of Baldwin Hills aims to connect Africans to people of African descent from around the world.

“As a result of the slave trade and colonization, African people are spread all over the planet, so we get a chance through this festival, get a chance to know each other,” said the festival’s executive director, Ayuko Babu.

Film, fine art, fashion and jewelry with Africa as inspiration are all featured at the festival.

“I never think of us as African American. I think of us as Africans in America, and in coming from that perspective, the ancestral lineage of art and Africa is beyond belief,” said jewelry artist Henry Baba Osageyfo Colby of Timbuktu Art Colony.

Film festival

Filmmakers from around the world, such as Nigerian director and actress Stephanie Linus, also attended the festival.

“Connecting all of us to film that is especially about us and we can see a reflection of ourselves and tell our stories and get a better understanding about where I’m coming from,” said Linus, who presented her movie, Dry, at the festival.

The film is about child marriage and the devastating effects of the practice. It is a social issue in Nigeria that surprised Linus when she first learned about it while attending college.

“I’m like, ‘Oh my God, can you believe that we’re living in the same country? We’re having two totally different experiences.’ We in the south (of Nigeria) are able to go to school, have an education, decide what happens to our bodies, and there’s some people up in the north where they don’t even have those choices.”

Linus has used the power of the media to bring awareness to child marriage, which affects girls around the world.

“I’m happy that people have taken proactive action because we screened the movie in Gambia and a month later, the government banned child marriage in Gambia,” Linus said.

Dialogue and education

One of the main goals of the festival is to create dialogue and education through film and the arts.

“We know there’s profound things happening around the black world, and so this is a way to amplify that make people pay attention,” Babu said.

This year’s festival opened Feb. 7 and runs through Feb. 18.

17/02/2019
by MediaExpert
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Sedans Take Back Seat to SUVs, Trucks at 2019 Chicago Auto Show

It’s billed as North America’s largest and longest-running auto show, now in its 111th year. The 2019 Chicago Auto Show offers a lineup of nearly 1,000 vehicles occupying nearly 1 million-square-feet of space at the McCormick Place Convention Center.

A special preview for members of the media at the annual show is a chance for manufacturers to show off their latest and greatest products about to enter the market.

What is notable about this year’s event is what some manufacturers aren’t showing off — new sedans.

Customers want trucks, SUVs

“Over 10 years, there has been a consistent movement of customers in the United States and around the world, but even more so in the United States, moving away from sedans and more traditional passenger sedans into more utility vehicles,” said Joe Hinrichs, president of Ford Motor Co.’s Global Operations.

“Nearly 7 out of 10 vehicles sold today are trucks or SUVs in the U.S. market. They like the ride high, the seating height, the utility of the vehicle. And now, we can give them the fuel efficiency that they used to get out of sedans. So, that’s where customers are going.”

All reasons Ford is going the extra mile and planning to invest $1 billion to upgrade its Chicago manufacturing facility, which produces the popular Explorer Sport Utility Vehicle, or SUV — also used as a law enforcement vehicle — and the new Lincoln Mariner luxury SUV.

But while Ford is offering new options for consumers, it is also discontinuing models of the Focus, Fiesta and Fusion cars, ending production later this year.

“We’ve been planning our business to incorporate the expectation that some of those cars will go away,” Hinrichs said. “Then bring in new products to enter the market to supplement some of that volume that was lost so that we can keep our plants full.”

The new family car

“We have the debate a lot about is the compact SUV the new family sedan, and in many instances, you can say yes,” said Steve Majuros, marketing director for cars and crossovers for the General Motors Chevrolet brand. He introduced two new trucks in Chevy’s popular Silverado lineup to media at the auto show.

The prominence, and choices, of SUVs, crossovers and trucks in GM’s current lineup promoted at the auto show stands in contrast to its perennial attraction in recent years, the Chevrolet Volt. Even though it is the top-selling electric plug-in vehicle of all time, sagging sales have led GM to cease production in March.

“Volt was a great product for us,” said Majuros. “(It) had a great run — two generations. But what has happened is as the ability to produce pure electric and the kind of cost configuration and range of what people are looking for, Volt had its time, but was a great stepping stone for us to lead us to the future, which was pure electrification.”

Joining the Volt on the chopping block is the Cruze, a compact car manufactured at GM’s Lordstown Assembly plant in Ohio. Chevrolet does plan to keep making the Malibu midsize sedan and the Bolt all-electric vehicle, among a few other options.

“We’re not abandoning the car market completely,” Majuros assured. “We’re right-sizing our portfolio. We’re reacting to what the consumers are looking for.”

What they are looking for are trucks and SUVs, which made up about 70 percent of the 17 million vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2018, a trend expected to continue this year.

17/02/2019
by MediaExpert
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Sedans Take Backseat to SUV’s, Trucks at 2019 Chicago Auto Show

Billed as the largest and longest running auto show in North America, the Chicago Auto Show this year is showing a notable change in the kinds of vehicles on display at the city’s McCormick Place Convention Center. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, the shifting preferences of consumers is driving the kinds of vehicles manufacturers are producing and marketing.

16/02/2019
by MediaExpert
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Uganda’s Controversial Curvy Women Tourism

Uganda’s junior minister for tourism this month sparked controversy by suggesting that curvy women could be promoted as a tourist attraction. Uganda earns billions of dollars from wildlife tourism. But, the idea of adding women to that list has generated heated debate about objectifying women. Halima Athumani reports from Kampala.

16/02/2019
by MediaExpert
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Gucci Vows Diversity Hiring After ‘Blackface’ Sweater

Italian fashion house Gucci announced a major push Friday to step up diversity hiring as part of a long-term plan to build cultural awareness at the luxury fashion company following an uproar over an $890 sweater that resembled blackface.

Gucci also said it will hire a global director for diversity and inclusion, a newly created role that will be based in New York, plus five new designers from around the world for its Rome office.

It also will launch multicultural scholarship programs in 10 cities around the world with the goal of building a “more diverse and inclusive workplace on an ongoing basis.”

​Harlem meeting with Dapper Dan

The announcement came after Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri met in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood with Dapper Dan, a well-known African-American designer, and other community members to hear their perspectives.

Dapper Dan, who collaborated with Gucci in 2017 on a menswear line, has emerged as a leading voice demanding accountability from Gucci over the sweater, which was black with a pull-up neck featuring a cutout surrounded by cartoonish red lips.

Bizzarri said Gucci has spent the past days conducting a “thorough review of the circumstances that led to this” and consulting with employees and African-American community leaders on what actions the company should take.

“I am particularly grateful to Dapper Dan for the role he has played in bringing community leaders together to offer us their counsel at this time,” Bizzarri said in statement.

Earlier Friday, Dapper Dan tweeted that the participants at the meeting “made great demands” of Gucci. He said he would announce a town hall meeting in Harlem “for us to talk about what they have proposed.”

In May, Gucci said it will begin conducting annual one-day unconscious-bias training sessions for its 18,000 employees around the world.

Designer scholarships

The design scholarship program will be launched in New York, Kenya’s capital of Nairobi, New Delhi, Beijing, the Chinese city of Hangzhou, Seoul, Tokyo, Beirut, London and Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The company described it as a 12-month fast-track program leading to full-time employment.

Gucci has apologized for the sweater, which creative director Alessandro Michele said was not inspired by blackface but by the late Leigh Bowery, a performance artist, club promoter and fashion designer who often used flamboyant face makeup and costumes.

“I look forward to welcoming new perspectives to my team and together working even harder for Gucci to represent a voice for inclusivity,” Michele said in statement Friday.

15/02/2019
by MediaExpert
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Bombshell Book Alleges Vatican Gay Subculture, Hypocrisy

A gay French writer has lifted the lid on what he calls one of the world’s largest gay communities — the Vatican, estimating that most of its prelates are homosexually inclined and attributing much of the current crisis in the Catholic Church to an internecine war among them.

In the explosive book, In the Closet of the Vatican, author Frederic Martel describes a gay subculture at the Vatican and calls out the hypocrisy of Catholic bishops and cardinals who in public denounce homosexuality but in private lead double lives.

Aside from the subject matter, the book is astonishing for the access Martel had to the inner sanctum of the Holy See. Martel writes that he spent four years researching it in 30 countries, including weeks at a time living inside the Vatican walls. He says the doors were opened by a key Vatican gatekeeper and friend of Pope Francis who was the subject of the pontiff’s famous remark about gay priests, “Who am I to judge?”

Martel says he conducted nearly 1,500 in-person interviews with 41 cardinals, 52 bishops or monsignors, and 45 Vatican and foreign ambassadors, many of whom are quoted at length and in on-the-record interviews that he says were recorded. Martel said he was assisted by 80 researchers, translators, fixers and local journalists, as well as a team of 15 lawyers. The 555-page book is being published simultaneously in eight languages in 20 countries, many bearing the title Sodom.

The Vatican didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

Culture of secrecy

Martel appears to want to bolster Francis’ efforts at reforming the Vatican by discrediting his biggest critics and removing the secrecy and scandal that surrounds homosexuality in the church. Church doctrine holds that gays are to be treated with respect and dignity, but that homosexual acts are “intrinsically disordered.”

“Francis knows that he has to move on the church’s stance, and that he will only be able to do this at the cost of a ruthless battle against all those who use sexual morality and homophobia to conceal their own hypocrisies and double lives,” Martel writes.

But the book’s Feb. 21 publication date coincides with the start of Francis’ summit of church leaders on preventing the sexual abuse of minors, a crisis that is undermining his papacy. The book isn’t about abuse, but the timing of its release could fuel the narrative, embraced by conservatives and rejected by the gay community, that the abuse scandal has been caused by homosexuals in the priesthood.

Martel is quick to separate the two issues. But he echoes the analysis of the late abuse researcher and psychotherapist A.W. Richard Sipe that the hidden sex lives of priests has created a culture of secrecy that allowed the abuse of minors to flourish. According to that argument, since many prelates in positions of authority have their own hidden sexual skeletons, they have no interest in denouncing the criminal pedophiles in their midst lest their own secrets be revealed.

‘Gossip and innuendo’

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author of Building a Bridge about how the Catholic Church should reach out more to the LGBT community, said that based on the excerpts he had read, Martel’s book “makes a convincing case that in the Vatican many priests bishops and even cardinals are gay, and that some of them are sexually active.”

But Martin added that the book’s sarcastic tone belies its fatal flaw. “His extensive research is buried under so much gossip and innuendo that it makes it difficult to distinguish between fact and fiction.”

“There are many gay priests, bishops and cardinals in ministry today in the church,” Martin said. “But most of them are, like their straight counterparts, remaining faithful to a life of chastity and celibacy.”

In the course of his research, Martel said he came to several conclusions about the reality of the Holy See that he calls the “rules,” chief among them that the more obviously gay the priest, bishop or cardinal, the more vehement his anti-gay rhetoric.

Martel says his aim is not to “out” living prelates, though he makes some strong insinuations about those who are “in the parish,” a euphemism he learns is code for gay clergy.

Martin said Martel “traffics in some of the worst gay stereotypes” by using sarcastic and derogatory terms, such as when he writes of Francis’ plight: “Francis is said to be ‘among the wolves.’ It’s not quite true: he’s among the queens.”

Martel moves from one scandal to another — from the current one over ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington to the priest-friendly gay migrant prostitute scene near Rome’s train station. He traces the reasons behind Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation and the cover-up of the Mexican founder of the Legion of Christ, the pedophile Rev. Marcial Maciel. In each, Martel parses the scandal through the lens of the gay-friendly or homophobic prelates he says were involved.

Gay rights advocate

Equal parts investigative journalism and salacious gossip, Martel paints a picture of an institution almost at war with itself, rife with rumor and with leaders struggling to rationalize their own sexual appetites and orientations with official church teachings that require chastity and its unofficial tradition of hostility toward gays.

“Never, perhaps, have the appearances of an institution been so deceptive,” Martel writes. “Equally deceptive are the pronouncements about celibacy and the vows of chastity that conceal a completely different reality.”

Martel is not a household name in France, but is known in the French LGBT community as an advocate for gay rights. Those familiar with his work view it as rigorous, notably his 90-minute weekly show on public radio station France Culture called Soft Power. Recent episodes include investigations into global digital investment and the U.S.-China trade war.

As a French government adviser in the 1990s, he played a prominent role in legislation allowing civil unions, which not only allowed gay couples to formalize their relationships and share assets, but also proved hugely popular among heterosexual French couples increasingly skeptical of marriage.

His nonfiction books include a treatise on homosexuality in France over the past 50 years called The Pink and the Black (a sendup of Stendhal’s classic The Red and the Black), as well as an investigation of the internet industry and a study of culture in the United States.

Martel attributes the high percentage of gays in the clergy to the fact that up until the homosexual liberation of the 1970s, gay Catholic men had few options. “So these pariahs became initiates and made a strength of a weakness,” he writes. That analysis helps explain the dramatic fall in vocations in recent decades, as gay Catholic men now have other options, not least to live their lives openly, even in marriage.

15/02/2019
by MediaExpert
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Regina Is Already a King, but What About President?

So, Regina King walked into a 99-cent store. And what’d she get? A prophecy on her life.

No joke. King was shopping around — “sometimes people will say, ‘You at the 99-cent store?’ I like a bargain too” — when a woman walked up to her with something of a prediction.

“She said, ‘You don’t know it but you’re going to run for president.’ And I was like, ‘President of a company?’ She was like, ‘No… of the United States,’” King recalled, adding that she thought the woman was a clairvoyant.

“She said, ‘Close your eyes. You are. I see it,’” King continued. “I was like, ’Girl, I appreciate that but no— that’s not happening. I like my life too much. I like my family too much. I like my friends too much.”

The idea of King, 48, running for presidency isn’t too far-fetched. Rather, it’s not a stretch for people to jokingly ask her to: The seasoned actress is one of the most likable and genial celebrities in the industry, and one fans and peers are constantly rooting for. Remember Taraji P. Henson happily screaming at the top of her lungs when King won her first Emmy in 2015?

King has picked up two more Emmys since — earning acclaim and praise for her riveting roles in John Ridley’s anthology “American Crime” and Netflix’s “Seven Seconds,” where King stunned on-screen as the mother of a son killed by police.

Now King is hitting new heights with her first big screen role since 2010: Her portrayal of a devoted mother in Barry Jenkins’ “If Beale Street Could Talk” already won her honors at the Golden Globes and the Critics’ Choice Awards. She’s up for best supporting actress at the Academy Awards, pitting her against Oscar winners Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz; Amy Adams, a six-time Oscar nominee; and first-time Marina de Tavira, who co-starred in “Roma.”

″(Regina) has been stalwart in this industry for so long. For a long time, she was doing the work to do the work and I think the industry sort of catches up to wonderful artists like Regina. She shows up and does the work, whether it be in front or behind the camera, and the industry is taking notice,” said Colman Domingo, who plays King’s husband in “Beale Street.” ″I think it’s not only an Oscar nomination for ‘If Beale Street Could Talk,’ I think it’s also for her body of work.”

King called the nomination “extra-special” since it’s her first; the film also is also competing for best adapted screenplay and best original score at the Oscars on Feb. 24.

King has shined on-screen since she appeared on NBC’s “227” in 1985. Her credits include films like “Jerry Maguire,” ″Friday,” ″Ray,” ″Boyz n the Hood,” ″Enemy of the State” and “Miss Congeniality 2.”

But King traded movie roles for TV ones so she could easily raise her son — her regular date at awards show — in Los Angeles: “I wasn’t interested in homeschooling my son.”

“I had the conversation with my team,” she said, “and they felt like TV was going to be the best space for me to live in.”

She landed a starring role in TNT’s “Southland” in 2009, playing Detective Lydia Adams — a part originally not written for a black woman.

“Everyone at the agency had been put on notice, ‘Do not treat Regina King like a black actor. She is an actor,‘” King said. “I hadn’t even quite seen it that way, but that’s what they felt. It kind of started with ‘Legally Blonde 2.’ That was the reach out, like, ‘You know what, why don’t you guys consider Regina King?’”

More TV roles came to her, including “The Big Bang Theory,” ″Shameless,” ″American Crime,” ″The Leftovers” and “Seven Seconds” — all while film stars turned to TV and found success, from Nicole Kidman to Matthew McConaughey to Viola Davis. Even Meryl Streep is heading to the so-called “small screen.”

“I think of myself as a trailblazer for film actors going to television,” King said.

But no matter the screen, King always comes through. She’s known for digging deep into her roles, giving a dramatic, stirring performance that leaves audiences wanting more.

“I’m doing my research. I’m talking to real life people who’ve had these horrific experiences,” King said.

One of the real people was Marion Gray-Hopkins, whose son was killed by police officers. King spoke extensively with Gray-Hopkins as she prepped for “Seven Seconds,” which also earned her a Golden Globe nomination.

While King is usually able to leave the drama on the set, she said it was hard to escape the madness of the TV series.

“I called my son so much (for) just like random things. He couldn’t watch all of ‘Seven Seconds.’ He saw the first episode, and he tried to watch the second. He was like, ‘I can’t.’ He said, ‘It feels like that’s me,’” King said. “And he was like, ’Now I get why you were calling me with just like weird stuff, like, ‘Did you remember to put the clothes in the dryer? I’m like, yeah mom. I put the cleaning towels in the dryer. Did you feed the dog?’ I just wanted to hear his voice.”

King’s son, Ian Alexander Jr., will be by her side at the Academy Awards on Feb. 24 to cheer her on — just like so many others.

“I feel the love,” she said. “I can just be anywhere, from the grocery store to wherever. Sometimes, it’ll be the sweetest thing, I’ll get a woman that’s just like 70, 80-years-old say, ‘Just thank you. Thank you for just representing us.’”

“I’m just living my life and trying to remain a good person and give what I get and remain open so that what I get is good, so that’s what I can put back out. But you’re not thinking about how your walk always effects people that you don’t know,” she added.

But still, she’s not running for president.

“When you make the choice to be in the public’s eye, you are letting go of anonymity. You’re letting go of some things that you want to hold dear and protect. … For a president, that’s on level 9 million,” she said. “I am all here for sacrifices, but not that one.”

15/02/2019
by MediaExpert
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Native American Flutist Shares Authentic Sounds and Stories

These days, Native American Flute Players perform at music festivals across the globe. But few belong to any tribe or nation, something that troubles Darren Thompson, a member of the Lac du Flambeau Band of Lake Superior Chippewa in northern Wisconsin and an award-winning flutist.

This week, he is performing at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in New York, sharing stories and music that speak to the history, trauma and resilience of the Ojibwe people. And of course, to the instrument itself, which the Ojibwe call “bibigwan.”

“The Native American Flute’ is the name of the instrument, so anybody who picks one up and plays it can call himself a Native American Flute Player,'” said Thompson.

Technically, playing an inauthentic flute violates the U.S. Indian Arts and Crafts Act, passed in 1990 to ban the sale of goods falsely labeled “Native American. But there is nothing to stop non-Native performers from falsely claiming Native American heritage.

“It’s not so much the fact that they are playing the flute that bothers me. It’s the fact that a lot of them are non-Native and try to play the part of a Native, wearing what they think is Indian’ attire. It’s offensive, and it perpetuates the stereotype that Native Americans are still running around as they did in the past,” said Thompson.

‘Singing trees’

Thompson grew up hearing traditional Ojibwe music, but it wasn’t an important part of his life until he left the reservation.

“I went to Marquette University, where there weren’t any other Native kids,” he said. “I was still in Wisconsin, but it was a foreign environment.”

Homesickness led him to the music of Navajo/Ute flutist Raymond Carlos Nakai, which evoked memories of his childhood.

“One of the first stories I ever heard came from the elders, who talked about trees,” Thompson said. “I remember them saying trees sing to us and give us guidance.I think I was four, and that story came to mind 15 years later when I first heard Nakai playing.”

It was then, he said, he understood what the elders had been trying to tell him: Trees do sing — through flutes carved from their wood.

Each flute unique

Thompson bought his first flute from a non-Native vendor at a cultural festival. He taught himself to play, and as he learned, he felt moved to connect to the music of his ancestors — music that preceded government assimilation policies that nearly killed off the Ojibwe language, culture and religious traditions.

“I went out to museums to research actual instruments that were seized 200 years ago and taken into collections,” he said. “Store-bought “Native” flutes are similar in construction, but they are tuned to a minor Western music scale. But an authentic one would be tuned to the maker himself.”

Traditionally, players carved their own instruments from a single piece of wood — cedar, for example, or ash. Each flute would have two chambers, which allowed the player to breathe, Thompson explained. 

No two instruments would have been alike.

“The length of the instrument would be the distance from that person’s armpit to his first knuckle,” he said. “The width would be the same as the width of his thumb. Even the spacing of the finger holes is calibrated to the player’s body.”

The number of open holes carved into the flute varies.Thompson owns several flutes, some he made himself and others custom made. Some have only four holes, which can produce eight notes. Others have five and six holes, allowing for greater range in melody.

The result is a sound unique to each player — a deep and clear tone that Thompson says “touches a lot of people.”

He has wanted to perform at NMAI for at least a decade.

“NMAI has a program called The Art of Storytelling.” My performance is unique, in that I try to reintroduce stories and music from history. Songs I’ve learned that were recorded in the early 1900s, before our culture got erased,” Thompson said.

To hear a sample of Thompson’s work, click below:

The stories don’t just speak to what was lost, but what has survived. And some carry messages that are universal:

“If you take all the four-leggeds, those who walk on all fours, from the Earth, life on Earth would not be able to sustain itself. 

“If you take all the winged ones, those that fly in the sky, life on Earth would not be able to sustain itself.

“If you take away all the plants from the Earth, life on Earth would not be able to sustain itself.

“If you take away all the water, and those that live in water, from the Earth, life on Earth would not be able to sustain itself. 

“If you take away man from the Earth, life on Earth would flourish.”

 

 

15/02/2019
by MediaExpert
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Hopes High Before Kenya Ruling on Decriminalizing Gay Sex

Members of Kenya’s LGBT community are looking forward to a High Court ruling that might decriminalize gay sex. The impending ruling is raising hopes among LGBT persons across the region.

South of Nairobi, in a remote town, models are in training in a safe house tucked in a quiet neighborhood. These are not just any models. These are LGBT refugees from Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda.

Most fled persecution from their home countries because of their sexual orientation.

Lubega Musa, 27, fled to Kenya in 2015. He, together with other LGBT refugees, started an economic empowerment program called Lunco Haute Cotoure, whose activities focus on fashion, design and music.

“There are things we would love to do as Lunco Houte Cotoure for the gay community openly, but we cannot do them because of the law,” Musa said. “So, if there is change in the law, if same-sex becomes legal in Kenya, we as artists, we work with the gay community. The situation will be much better for us to exhibit our talent, and you know the LGBT community is one that is most talented in the arts.”

 

WATCH: Kenya High Court Ruling on Decriminalizing Gay Sex Awaited 

High Court ruling

Kenya’s High Court will rule this month on whether to repeal Section 162 of the Penal Code, which criminalizes gay sex.

In Kenya, one can be sentenced to up to 14 years for violating the law.

Activists say the case is a milestone in the fight for LGBT rights in the region.

“This is an opportunity for LGBTI people to claim their spaces,” said Brian Macharia, a gay rights activist. “Whether we win this case or not, there is visibility that is coming by the fact that we managed to get this far at the courts, that we got a lot of Kenyans thinking and talking about this.”

Homophobic attacks are common in Kenya, as a majority of the population objects to homosexuality.

​Too soon, some say

Charles Kanjama, the lead lawyer representing the Kenya Christian Professionals Forum in the case, says Kenya is not ready to accept homosexuality.

“We think that it is in the interest of our country, as do most other Africans in this continent in which we live, to outlaw homosexuality. That is gay sex in particular, and any manifestations as promotion or propagandizing in favor of gay sex, so that we can try as much as possible to encourage and promote healthy sexual behavior,” he said.

Activists in Africa and elsewhere are campaigning against penal codes that criminalize gay sex, most of which date from the colonial period.

The laws in many countries are being overturned. India scrapped them last year. Angola in January.

Kenya might do it in a matter of weeks.

However the High Court rules, both sides are likely to appeal to the Supreme Court if they lose.

13/02/2019
by MediaExpert
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Donald Glover Gets 5 Nominations for NAACP Image Awards

Coming off a big night at the Grammys, Donald Glover and his alter-ego Childish Gambino have been nominated for five NAACP Image Awards.

Glover is nominated for his acting and directing on “Atlanta,” and Childish Gambino got three nominations on the music side. Glover won four Grammy Awards including record and song of the year on Sunday night.

The nominees were announced Wednesday at the Television Critics Association winter meeting in Pasadena, Calif.

“Black Panther” was nominated for 14 awards, with star Chadwick Boseman and director Ryan Coogler nominated for entertainer of the year along with Beyonce, LeBron James and Regina King.

The 50th NAACP Image Awards honoring entertainers and writers of color will be held March 30 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood and aired live on TV One.