Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Guest Blogger: Patricia Atilano Co-organizer of The Changing South: Women in Poetry & local writer

Being a women in any part of the world, is a passionate challenge that transforms with supreme beauty in her environment.  Woman is beauty, and beauty is woman.

The Changing South: Women in Poetry, is an event by Levine Museum of the New South to celebrate all women. These six amazing women will speak in Libertad from different parts of the earth. They will unite to share with us their experiences, their stories, and their battles. They make a symbolic relay to exorcise their natural fears, from their powerful identity and inspire us with their creative capacity through one of their manifestations of the arts; Poetry.

Let’s surround these women with attitude that celebrate their femininity, their strength, and life itself!

Ser mujer en cualquier parte del mundo, en cualquier sociedad es un reto apasionante que transforma con suprema belleza su entorno.  Mujer sinónimo de belleza, y belleza sinónimo de mujer.  

The Changing South: Women in Poetry, es un evento del Museo Levine del Nuevo Sur (Levine Museum of the New South) para celebrar a todas las mujeres.
Estas seis mujeres luchadoras que conversan en libertad, de diferentes partes del mundo, se unen para compartir con todos nosotros, sus experiencias, sus historias, y sus luchas.

Hacen un simbólico relevo, un ejercicio de exorcismo de su medio natural, de su ponderosa identidad, y que nos inspiran con su capacidad creadora, a través de una manifestación de las artes; la poesía.

Contagiémonos de la actitud de estas mujeres, que celebran su feminidad, su fuerza y la vida misma.

by Patricia Atilano

Co-organizer of The Changing South: Women in Poetry & local writer

Join us this evening for a special poetry presentation at 5:30p.m.  

Share your story below.

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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Diggin' History Through Music and Dance: A.M. "Toni" Tupponce

Many performers and women‭ ‬often recall a moment‭ ‬when they‭ ‬“found their voice.‭”‬ Where and when did you find your voice‭? ‬How has it impacted what you do both as a vocalist and an individual‭?

Finding‭ ‬“my voice‭”‬ has been a journey that I am still on‭…‬with no arrival date or end place in sight.‭ ‬From the time that I first started singing as a solo or lead vocalist in college‭…‬.my instructors and mentors called me a‭ ‬“torch singer‭”‬.‭  ‬I was only interested in singing songs that evoked some kind of emotion in the listener‭…‬I wanted to touch them somewhere.‭  ‬Whether I was singing R&B,‭ ‬Blues,‭ ‬Jazz or Gospel‭…‬if I did not connect with the lyric and the melody,‭ ‬truthfully,‭ ‬I did not care to sing it.‭  ‬I was subsequently convinced that if I wanted to‭ ‬“work‭”‬ I had to broaden my repertoire and skill set to sing songs to get people‭ ‬“dancing‭”‬!  I also believed,‭ ‬but not for long,‭ ‬that my voice and range needed to be higher‭!  ‬So I tried to force this natural contralto of mine into a stronger soprano.‭  ‬That only led to frustration and could have led to injury.‭  ‬As I got older and listened more to the truly great vocalists‭ ‬….Carmen McCrae,‭ ‬Billie Holiday,‭ ‬Nancy Wilson,‭ ‬Dinah Washington,‭ ‬the late Eva Cassidy and Phyllis Hyman as well as Donny Hathaway and of course Sarah Vaughn‭ (‬whose range is off the charts‭)‬…and‭  ‬so many others‭ ‬…I learned that I only need to sound like the best‭ ‬Toni that I possibly can.‭  ‬So now,‭ ‬while getting people on their feet has its place for me‭…‬.‭ ‬when I sing‭ ‬I go for the emotional jugular and make no apologies for it‭…‬whether the song touches you to tears or crazy laughter‭…‬.I just want to‭ ‬feel what I sing and to share a conversation with the other musicians and the listener that says we‭ ‬“get‭”‬ each other‭! ‬The impact has been that I am probably more vulnerable much of the time.‭  ‬And,‭ ‬I hope,‭ ‬I am more authentic.‭  ‬My goal is to always perform as if I may never get the chance to do it again.‭  ‬I do not always meet that mark‭…‬.and I am disappointed in myself when I don‭’‬t because I think I‭’‬ve cheated my audience and myself
"Toni" Tupponce

As we‭ ‬celebrate‭ ‬Women‭’‬s History Month,‭ ‬what women‭ ‬–famous or not‭—‬have influenced you‭? ‬How‭? ‬What do you hope your example is for young women today‭?

My first influence was my Mom‭…‬.she was a‭ ‬real‭ ‬“youngster‭”‬ when I was coming up.‭  ‬She‭’‬d finished college and worked a little by the time she had me‭…‬.but she had the heart of a child and a tremendous‭ ‬“Mom psychology‭”‬ that defied her youth.‭  ‬She gave me the grounding even in the mid‭ ‬1950‭’‬s to embrace myself as a black girl and to see it as‭ ‬beautiful.‭ ‬I was placed in the position of desegregating a small Catholic parochial school in my hometown in Virginia when I was‭ ‬5‭ ‬years old.‭  ‬Without that grounding,‭ ‬I would have come out of that experience a very different young woman.‭   ‬Second was my Aunt Emma‭…‬.who taught me that loving someone does not guarantee you that they will love you back and you have to live on‭…‬still whole and loving yourself.‭  ‬I admired icons like Fanny Lou Hammer,‭ ‬Myrlie Evers,‭ ‬Josephine Baker,‭ ‬Angela Davis,‭ ‬Lena Horne,‭ ‬and my Speech and English instructor in college,‭ ‬Miss Mary Bohannon‭…‬she took no prisoners and expected excellence in written and oratory expression.‭  ‬She cared nothing about embarrassing you when you were wrong and when you did well,‭ ‬it was no more than she expected of you.‭  ‬Most people dropped her course as soon as they drew the short straw with her name at registration‭!  (‬she‭’‬d‭ ‬love hearing that as scared‭ ‬as I was of her‭!)

A Sign of the Times is finishing‭ ‬this year‭’‬s Diggin‭’‬ History Through Music and Dance series on Wednesday.‭ ‬What has this program meant for you and the band‭? ‬What has stuck with you about how audiences have responded‭?

This is our third season of‭ ‬“Diggin History‭…”‬ at the Levine Museum of the New South‭!  ‬In terms of what it‭’‬s meant‭…‬I can only speak for myself‭…‬its been wonderful.‭  ‬I am so proud of my husband‭’‬s tenacity in putting this series together and pulling it off.‭  ‬It only gets better each year,‭ ‬I think.‭  ‬Because we‭’‬ve focused on the history of Black people from throughout the African Diaspora this year‭…‬it has drawn me closer to the shared history with sisters and brothers who are Hispanic‭…‬whether from Brazil,‭ ‬Venezuela,‭ ‬Haiti,‭ ‬Cuba,‭ ‬Mexico or Puerto Rico‭…‬.we are related through our ancestral lineage,‭ ‬our enslaved history,‭ ‬our tenacity and our music‭!  ‬Is that not awesome‭?  ‬That connection should bring us together in this community‭…‬.and I pray we will stop letting the media or the powers that be keep us apart.‭  ‬We can get beyond the spoken language‭…‬every time,‭ ‬as Tyrone says,‭ ‬that we say:‭ ‬“1,‭ ‬2,‭…‬1,‭ ‬2,‭ ‬3,‭ ‬4‭…‬..‭”‬ and the rhythm kicks off into something fierce‭!   ‬The audience response has been tremendous.‭  ‬The numbers keep growing.‭  ‬And best of all,‭ ‬people want to know MORE‭!  ‬This year they are requesting bibliographies and young people are asking for recommended reading to begin their journey of knowledge‭…‬it doesn‭’‬t get any better than that.

In your experience,‭ ‬where do art and activism meet‭?

Art and activism meet everywhere that we are.‭  ‬Art is a reflection of society at any given time.‭  ‬It is reflected in everything from rap music and hip-hop to the messages that we are tolerating on television and in the movies.‭  ‬The greater the actual numbers of‭ ‬“minorities‭”‬ the more negative the media message.‭  ‬I do not think this is accidental.‭  ‬So art has to challenge that‭…‬speak truth to the masses in ways that it can be heard,‭ ‬envisioned,‭ ‬shared and embraced.‭  ‬Our ancestors hid their messages in the drums,‭ ‬lyrics of spirituals,‭ ‬carvings‭…‬.so nothing is new‭!‬  I used to want art to be pretty and make me feel good‭…‬.and I still do.‭  ‬But I think that art should also make me a little uncomfortable at times‭…‬shake me up and make me reconsider my position and question what I know.‭  ‬That‭’‬s why I love that we are having our dialogues at the Levine‭!  ‬The museum has stepped out into some uncomfortable territory at times‭…‬.and I thank you for it.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ask an Activist! Out of the Shadows: Undocumented and Unafraid

Out of the Shadows: Undocumented and Unafraid is a participatory art project, conceived and orchestrated by artist Annabel Manning. Immigrant youth from Charlotte and the Triangle area of North Carolina collaborated with Manning to create portraits, which were then digitally altered to portray the youth's visible and invisible status simultaneously.  Compelling and personal, the pieces featured in the exhibit demonstrate how art can be a deliberative and imaginative forum for exploring complex issues about immigrant labor, education, and legal status.

Please meet activist and artist, "Touchdown" 

Does the concept of being both visible and invisible relate to your experience, and if so, how? 

Yes. I participate in this society as any other regular person but then there are moments that always remind you that you are not quite the regular person…that there is something missing and that it will limit you. Traditionally, before growing to questioning the immigration system and all that benefit from its lack of working, I understood that not having legal status must be kept secret or invisible as much as possible. Every day was about negotiating identity in a home that is not “your own.” Even today with all the empowerment that has come from being involved in the immigrant youth rights movement, it is still difficult to branch out outside of social justice circles and be fully visible. You don’t know how people will react…to a certain point one may not care but the fact is that the system in which daily life functions with things such as employment, you must be kept invisible or at least the full you and your identity must not be known. At the end of the day it is still a liability upon which many things depend on. 

When did you first become aware of your circumstance of being undocumented? What is it like to be undocumented?

I became aware of this status upon crossing the border by foot with my family. Additionally, it became evident that I was different when I was in school K-12th grade. I was very aware of this immigration status because everything was pointing in the direction of hiding it or making it invisible and just faking it but as youth sometimes that is the last thing you are willing to do. I did not want to participate in a mock presidential election at my elementary school because I had to vote and I knew then that was not allowed for someone like me who did not have a social security number. For me being undocumented became about learning how to negotiate my presence anywhere I went and often being very scared to open what I thought would be a Pandora's box type of situation. However, you learn that life has to continue and if you don’t go back to “your” country then you have to learn the ins and outs of living while being “illegal.” This encompasses everything from your friendships to your goals to the practical thing of getting fake social security numbers in order to get a job somewhere. That’s the truth. This country and its politicians push us to these fringes in which we have to make decisions for which results in either direction have you as the “illegal” losing out. 

What is your dream for immigration reform?

I don’t dream about immigration reform…anymore. I just dream of an empowered community that comes to understand that with or without immigration reform we are worth it and must not live afraid. If there is no reform then I would hope that undocumented people would live life being unafraid and willing to risk it all in this country because the alternative means losing our dignity. 

What does coming out of the shadows mean for you?

Coming out of the shadows for me means a process of healing. It does not necessarily get rid of the fear. Coming out of the shadows means you allow yourself to consider the possibilities of being deported or targeted and having a plan of action for that. It means breathing like you own yourself and your future instead of a nine digit number. It is only the beginning of a longer term process for liberation. 

Out of the Shadows: Undocumented and Unafraid is on display now through June 29, 2014.

Tell us below what does activism mean to you.

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