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PHOTOS: Drag Queens In South Africa Embrace Queerness And Tradition

PHOTOS: Drag Queens In South Africa Embrace Queerness And Tradition

Belinda Qaqamba Ka-Fassie, a post-graduate student in education at Stellenbosch University, wears a dress that resembles the white blanket typically worn at a male circumcision. Her headpiece and beaded stick, both handmade, are traditionally part of a bride’s ensemble. The 24-year-old designs her dresses, often choosing local fabrics. When Belinda Qaqamba Ka-Fassie dresses in drag, she doesn’t typically go for on the sequins and feather boas worn by performers on RuPaul’s Drag Race . A post-graduate student of education at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa, Ka-Fassie might put on a dress that resembles the white blanket typically worn by boys at a traditional male circumcision ritual, called ulwaluko, and she might add a multi-colored headpiece and beaded stick, both handmade and used by brides. It’s a very deliberate choice made by black drag queens from townships who are celebrating their roots and challenging dress codes for men and women through their traditional apparel. “We cannot separate our queerness from our Xhosaness,” says Ka-Fassie, a drag queen and activist. Mthulic Vee Vuma, a 21-year-old studying public management at West Coast College, wears traditional Xhosa clothing and jewelry in front of a shack in Khayelitsha. “The meaning of the clothing I am wearing is to love and accept our culture,” Vuma says. Her family initially struggled to accept her as a trans woman, believing it was a curse, but she says they now give her total support. Yet even as they embrace their culture, township drag queens outside of Cape Town, as in other parts of the world, face grave risks. They must often suppress their queer identity in their communities for their safety — traveling into the city for pageants and parties, then de-dragging before they go home. The limbo they live exists even in the terminology for their identity. There is no word to describe queerness in Xhosa, the indigenous language widely spoken in South Africa. The words that do exist are often insulting to the queer community, describing sexual behavior and denying queer people dignity. “When I came out to my family, I couldn’t find the appropriate word in Xhosa to explain my queerness,” Ka-Fassie says. #BlackDragMagic is the name of a photo project in collaboration with Ka-Fassie – a series of portraits showing how drag can be an art form in Africa that differs from mainstream aesthetics in the West. All of the portraits were taken on a single afternoon in August, with a pickup truck serving as a makeup station and changing room. The subjects — queer, black, gender-nonconforming and trans — were photographed throughout the township of Khayelitsha, which means “new home” in Xhosa. The township is located on the Cape Flats, about 15 miles southeast of Cape Town. Shakira Mabika, 24, emigrated to South Africa from Zimbabwe, where the former president “has referred to people like me as ‘pigs’ and un-African.” She asked to be photographed by dilapidated shacks where pigs were kept behind a fence. “I moved to Cape Town in search for a space where I could live my truth,” she says. But she says she has faced transphobia and still hasn’t found a job. The girls walked down the streets that day in a group, proudly and unapologetically. “I carry my African-ness and my queerness on my sleeve because it is who I am,” says Mandisi Dolle Phika, one of the photo subjects. Mandisi Dolle Phika, 27, asked to be photographed by a church, an important place to her family but a place where she says she has faced anti-queer bias. At Catholic school, she remembers, “I once overheard a conversation where it was said I have a ‘gay-demon.'” Now studying LGBTQI political leadership, she believes in “a colorful God” that “celebrates diversity in all its manifestations.” Discrimination is a part of everyday life for queer people in the townships, especially at taxi stands, churches and schools. In the Western Cape alone, a 2016 survey of 112 LGBT participants age 16 to 24 by Love Not Hate, a national campaign addressing anti-gay hate crimes, found that about two-thirds of LGBT people between the ages of 16 to 24 reported experiencing discrimination at school. Reliable statistics are rare, because queer people in townships often choose not to report harassment or violence out of fears for their safety and distrust of local law enforcement. Unathi Ferguson, left, was outed by a teacher in 11th grade but eventually saw the moment as a chance to “embark on a journey to sanity and complete acceptance [about] who I was.” Shakira Mabika, right, emigrated from Zimbabwe to South Africa in 2013. Olwage says the women told her they had forged “a newfound sisterhood.” Black queer people here, as in many other parts of the world, also struggle to be understood by their health care system. Some studies have found that LGBT patients have been subjected to discrimination, with health care providers refusing them care or doling out moral judgment. Long lines of people waiting for free treatment at clinics or state hospitals in impoverished areas can lead to a lack of privacy for patients. As a result, many avoid medical care or receive poor care. But the picture doesn’t have to be bleak. “Living in a township has taught me to be strong and strive. I have dealt with the stigma and hate, and now am stronger,” said Liyana Arianna Madikizela, a 17-year-old who posed for photographs. Liyana Arianna Madikizela, 17, is a drag artist from the township of Kayamandi. She poses near a string of drying clothes to challenge traditional gender roles. “I realized I was different when I didn’t want to do the stereotypical manly duties,” she says. “I was always keen to do house duties such as washing dishes, doing the laundry, cleaning the house and cooking.” Madikizela embodies the strength and resilience the drag queens have shown in the face of injustice and oppression. “I want to become the role model I never saw in the streets of Kayamandi,” she said. “Someone who is unapologetically gender non-conforming and who navigates their lives against all the hostile odds of living in the township.” Lee-Ann Olwage is a South Africa-based photographer. Sasha Ingber is a Washington, D.C., freelance writer. Belinda Qaqamba Ka-Fassie, a drag artist and advocate, collaborated with Olwage on this project.

PHOTOS: Drag Queens In South Africa Embrace Queerness And Tradition

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Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Head to Africa, with Archie in Tow

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Head to Africa, with Archie in Tow

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tagging an elephant in Botswana. (Photo: Instagram/Sussex Royal) The 10-day African tour the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are about to undertake on behalf of the Queen is loaded with personal and professional meaning. First they made a stop in Rome for the wedding of their rumoured matchmaker, Misha Nonoo, to oil heir Michael Hess. She’s the fashion designer who became tabloid fodder after Markle wore her “husband shirt” at her first official engagement with Harry at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, signifying the seriousness of their relationship. Other glam guests included the Sussexes’ cousins, princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, as well as Orlando Bloom and girlfriend Katy Perry, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, and Sir Paul McCartney. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle arrive at Misha Nonoo’s wedding in Rome. (Photo: Twitter/Daily Express) For the duration of the African tour, Duchess Meghan, four-month-old Archie and a nanny will be based in South Africa while Prince Harry will venture off on solo visits to Botswana, Angola and Malawi. The 35 planned functions, together and apart, include meetings with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela’s widow. It marks the first time the couple is taking Archie on the road with them (aside from those quickie summer jaunts to Ibiza, then to Elton John’s pad in Nice, both controversially by private jet.) The tyke has been seen only in glimpses to date: a carefully positioned foot on the Sussex Royal Instagram, a trickle of official photos of him in the Honiton lace-replica Royal Christening gown and that sunny day when he was snapped in Meghan’s arms as she supported Harry at a polo match. Meghan and Harry with their son Archie on his christening day. (Photo: Instagram/ @sussexroyal) So all eyes and cameras will be peeled for any new details — does he indeed have Dad’s ginger hair? — of the seventh in line to the British throne. The Commonwealth is a key focus for the Sussexes’ ambassadorial efforts, and they have been tasked with forging new links with the 53 member states once part of the British Empire. Harry is the president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust; earlier this year, Meghan was appointed vice-president of the youth-focused charity. The hope is the broad appeal of the couple, whose wedding was watched by nearly 30 million people globally, will strengthen emotional bonds with the Crown. Other goals close to the couple’s heart will take centre stage on this tour: the environment and mental health have been a particular focus for Harry, and women’s and children’s causes are important to Meghan. Even little Archie has already given back: one of the charities the couple chose to direct donations to celebrate the tot’s birth was The Lunchbox Fund in South Africa. They will tour the facility, which gives 30,000 hot lunches to hungry children in the townships and rural areas. The big announcement this tour will centre on a new partnership with the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy to protect wildlife of the Okavango delta in Botswana, Angola and Namibia. Other stops will address HIV-AIDS programs, grassroots youth initiatives and rhino conservation. Africa itself holds special significance for the Sussexes. Botswana was the site of their first getaway as a brand-new couple, when they went camping “under the stars” in Harry’s words, to bond after knowing each other just a few weeks. Two of the stones from Meghan’s engagement ring were sourced from that country. The central diamond, of course, came from Harry’s mother’s jewelry collection. Right before her death, Diana made a high-impact trip to Angola to bring attention to the urgent issue of explosives and land mines that litter the country, remnants of a civil war that ended in 2002. This trip Harry will return to that country to launch a new Halo Trust initiative. He will also be on hand to witness the renaming of the Huambo Orthopaedic Centre, a place she had famously visited, in her honour. Africa was where Harry and William retreated with their father, the Prince of Wales, to regroup in privacy after Diana’s sudden death in 1997. The continent is where Harry has said he feels most grounded. And Meghan has ties too, having worked in Rwanda to raise awareness for water issues as a World Vision Canada ambassador when she was single and living in Toronto filming the TV drama Suits . Prince Harry in Lesotho, one of the many African countries Prince Harry has focused his charity efforts on over the years. (Photo: Kensington Palace/Twitter) Royal tours often become an exercise in outfit spotting and dating back to Diana’s time, the whistle stops became runways. Kate and Meghan have both managed to combine pregnancy with duty, paying appropriate homage to local customs and designers on flashy foreign parades. But there is some speculation that, after the Sussexes were dinged up in the tabloids for their excesses in the past few years — the wedding and the renovation costs to Frogmore House, the designer-outfit sticker shock, those jet trips to the Riviera — that this tour might call for a little practicality and restraint, wardrobe wise. After all, the Duchess just launched a sensible work-wardrobe collection that will raise money for a charity. And then there is that enduring image of Diana in Africa, getting to work with body armour over a chic, simple white blouse and khaki trousers. We don’t know — and likely never will — if Canada’s Jessica Mulroney, Meghan’s dear friend and discreet wardrobe consultant, will have her fingerprints on this tour closet. But it is a safe bet that, this trip, the powers that be will want to keep sharp focus on the causes and fewer column inches on the dress diaries. End of Advertisement The cover of Leonard Cohen’s forthcoming album, “Thanks for the Dance”

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle Head to Africa, with Archie in Tow

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Prince Harry and Meaghan Markle head to Africa, with Archie in tow

Prince Harry and Meaghan Markle head to Africa, with Archie in tow

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tagging an elephant in Botswana. (Photo: Instagram/Sussex Royal) The 10-day African tour the Duke and Duchess of Sussex are about to undertake on behalf of the Queen is loaded with personal and professional meaning. First they made a stop in Rome for the wedding of their rumoured matchmaker, Misha Nonoo, to oil heir Michael Hess. She’s the fashion designer who became tabloid fodder after Markle wore her “husband shirt” at her first official engagement with Harry at the 2017 Invictus Games in Toronto, signifying the seriousness of their relationship. Other glam guests included the Sussexes’ cousins, princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, as well as Orlando Bloom and girlfriend Katy Perry, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, and British talk-show host James Corden. For the duration of the African tour, Duchess Meghan, four-month old Archie and a nanny will be based in South Africa while Prince Harry will venture off on solo visits to Botswana, Angola and Malawi. The 35 planned functions, together and apart, include meetings with Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Graca Machel, Nelson Mandela’s widow.It marks the first time the couple is taking Archie on the road with them (aside from those quickie summer jaunts to Ibiza, then to Elton John’s pad in Nice, both controversially by private jet.) The tyke has been seen only in glimpses to date: a carefully positioned foot on the Sussex Royal Instagram, a trickle of official photos of him in the Honiton lace-replica Royal Christening gown, and that sunny day when he was snapped in Meghan’s arms as she supported Harry at a polo match. Meghan and Harry with their son Archie on his christening day. (Photo: Instagram/ @sussexroyal) So all eyes, and cameras, will be peeled for any new details — does he indeed have dad’s ginger hair? — of the seventh in line to the British throne. The Commonwealth is a key focus for the Sussexes’ ambassadorial efforts, and they have been tasked with forging new links with the 53 member states once part of the British Empire. Harry is the president of the Queen’s Commonwealth Trust; earlier this year Meghan was appointed vice president of the youth-focused charity. The hope is the broad appeal of the couple, whose wedding was watched by nearly 30 million people globally, will strengthen emotional bonds with the Crown. Other goals close to the couple’s heart will take centre stage on this tour: the environment and mental health have been a particular focus for Harry, and women’s and children’s causes are important to Meghan. Even little Archie has already given back: one of the charities the couple chose to direct donations to celebrate the tot’s birth was The Lunchbox Fund in South Africa. They will tour the facility, which gives 30,000 hot lunches to hungry children in the townships and rural areas. The big announcement this tour will centre on a new partnership with the Queen’s Commonwealth Canopy to protect wildlife of the Okavango delta in Botswana, Angola and Namibia. Other stops will address HIV/Aids programs, grassroots youth initiatives and rhino conservation. Africa itself holds special significance for the Sussexes. Botswana was the site of their first getaway as a brand-new couple, when they went camping “under the stars” in Harry’s words, to bond after knowing each other just a few weeks. Two of the stones from Meaghan’s engagement ring were sourced from that country. The central diamond, of course, came from Harry’s mother’s jewellery collection. Right before her death, Diana made a high-impact trip to Angola to bring attention to the urgent issue of explosives and land mines that litter the country, remnants of a civil war that ended in 2002. This trip Harry will return to that country to launch a new Halo Trust initiative. He will also be on hand to witness the renaming of the Huambo Orthopaedic Centre, a place she had famously visited, in her honour. Africa was where Harry and William retreated with their father, the Prince of Wales, to regroup in privacy after Diana’s sudden death in 1997. The continent is where Harry has said he feels most grounded. And Meghan has ties too, having worked in Rwanda to raise awareness for water issues as a World Vision Canada ambassador when she was single and living in Toronto filming the TV drama Suits . Prince Harry in Lesotho, one of the many African countries Prince Harry has focused his charity efforts on over the years. (Photo: Kensington Palace/Twitter) Royal tours often become an exercise in outfit spotting and dating back to Diana’s time, the whistle stops became runways. Kate and Meghan have both managed to combine pregnancy with duty, paying appropriate homage to local customs and designers on flashy foreign parades. But there is some speculation that, after the Sussexes were dinged up in the tabloids for their excesses in the past few years — the wedding and the renovation costs to Frogmore House, the designer-outfit sticker shock, those jet trips to the Riviera — that this tour might call for a little practicality and restraint, wardrobe wise. After all, the Duchess just launched a sensible work-wardrobe collection that will raise money for a charity. And then there is that enduring image of Diana in Africa, getting to work with body armour over a chic, simple white blouse and khaki trousers. We don’t know — and likely never will — if Canada’s Jessica Mulroney, Meghan’s dear friend and discreet wardrobe consultant, will have her fingerprints on this tour closet. But it is a safe bet that, this trip, the powers that be will want to keep sharp focus on the causes and fewer column inches on the dress diaries. Image by leefenn-tripp Pixabay

Prince Harry and Meaghan Markle head to Africa, with Archie in tow

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First Look at the Fierce Performers of ‘School Girls, Or, The African Mean Girls Play’… and Their Fabulous Dresses

First Look at the Fierce Performers of ‘School Girls, Or, The African Mean Girls Play’… and Their Fabulous Dresses

DC Metro Theater Arts spent a day at rehearsal with the cast of Round House Theatre Company’s season opener: School Girls, Or, The African Mean Girls Play . Not only is this play a fabulous female-centered production featuring an all female-identifying cast, an all-female design team, and esteemed female playwright (Jocelyn Bioh) and director (Nicole Simpson), it also features beautiful costumes by designer Ivania Stack. Fresh off two sold-out off-Broadway runs, School Girls tells the story of Paulina, the reigning Queen Bee at Ghana’s most exclusive boarding school. The Miss Global Universe pageant is coming up and Paulina just knows she will win, until Ericka arrives. The new girl, with her lighter skin and Western sensibilities, throw Paulina, and her hive-minded teenage minions off-kilter. Ghanaian-American Playwright Jocelyn Bioh has been praised for creating in School Girls a gut-bustlingly funny story that explores the serious issues of colorism, girlhood, colonialism, and beauty and for highlighting the universality of the teenage girl experience. Meet the fierce performers of School Girls in their pageant dresses. All photos by Anu Dev. Kathena Johnson plays Paulina: “Paulina is the Queen Bee, the most popular girl in school. All the other girls follow her and do what she wants, like her little minions… What I like most about this story is how universal it is in terms of going to school and having insecurities and dealing with bullies and identity. It could be anybody’s story.” Photo by Anu Dev. Claire Saunders plays Erika: “Ericka is the newcomer and that comes with all the stereotyping you would expect. She is vulnerable but not interested in being walked over. For me, this role speaks specifically to my background and what it means to be biracial and the difficulties in navigating those different worlds.” Photo by Anu Dev. Debora Crabbe plays Mercy: “I was born and raised in Ghana and I moved here in 2002. People might not fathom that a story like this could happen outside of America but living up to standards of beauty is universal. What makes this play funny is the reality of teenage girl thinking: one minute we are all about the clothes, or a celebrity we adore, or how we feel about a certain outfit. Our minds are everywhere at once.” Photo by Anu Dev. Mauriama Akibo plays Gifty: “My favorite part of the show is the pageant. It’s like we enter a world of magical realism. I love dropping into that world and then dropping back into high school and all the awkward things that come with it.” Photo by Anu Dev. Awa Sal Secka plays Ama. “I think a lot of the time, people assume that young people are exaggerating their emotions or that their frame of reference is less real than older people. But their feelings are very real and translate into who they become in adulthood. My favorite thing about this play is that it gives those emotions a platform and also its portrayal of African girls. We often see pain and struggle in African, but we don’t see joy and laughter and sisterhood and friendship and everything else that comes with being human.” Photo by Anu Dev. Jade Jones plays Nana. “Nana is one of Paulina’s followers. She is shy and quiet, smart and focused, but she also struggles with body image and acceptance. It’s hard for her to learn to love herself while she’s under Paulina’s spell… this show is a comedy with meat on it. It’s definitely a play that people will talk about for days after seeing it.” Photo by Anu Dev. Shirine Babb plays Eloise Amponsah. “My favorite thing about this play is how we sneak information in between the laughter. I love how Jocelyn Bioh has balanced humor with human issues specifically about African women and found a platform to share that with the world in a comedic way.” Photo by Anu Dev.

First Look at the Fierce Performers of ‘School Girls, Or, The African Mean Girls Play’… and Their Fabulous Dresses

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Subscribe To Mike Johnson Reveals How He Feels About Not Being The First Black Bachelor Updates

Subscribe To Mike Johnson Reveals How He Feels About Not Being The First Black Bachelor Updates

Rumors have been circling for a while that one of Bachelor Nation’s recent favorites from Hannah Brown’s Bachelorette season , Mike Johnson, would not be chosen as the next Bachelor. Johnson became a front runner in the minds of many earlier this year for his maturity, reliability, positive attitude and megawatt smile. But, as it turns out, those rumors were true , and when the next lead of The Bachelor was announced earlier this week, those behind the show had picked “Pilot” Peter “windmill sex” Weber. Now, though, we know how Mike Johnson feels about not making the cut. Fan support for Johnson to become the next Bachelor was so strong that ABC and the producers couldn’t completely ignore him, and while it turns out that he was under consideration , not becoming the franchise’s first African American Bachelor hasn’t gotten him down. I had those conversations. Wonderful crew at Warner and ABC. They chose a different route. I was definitely sad, I wasn’t in the best of spirits for maybe 17 minutes. Ha! You tell ’em, Mike! You don’t need no stinking lead role on The Bachelor to be happy! Really, though, let’s look at how gracious Mike Johnson is being in, what some might call, defeat. He didn’t even badmouth the network or The Bachelor ‘s producers. In fact, he complimented them, even though he clearly knows what a huge mistake they’ve all made. From Hannah Brown’s season of The Bachelorette , there were three top contenders for leading the next run of The Bachelor : Tyler Cameron, Peter Weber and Mike Johnson. Cameron has become well-known in recent weeks for hanging out with supermodel Gigi Hadid , and it can only be assumed he did not want to give up that new relationship to take a chance at love on TV again. And, really, who among us can blame him? Weber was seen as another level-headed and loving guy from that season, who Brown also happened to reveal was packed with enough stamina to have sex with her four times during their fantasy suite date in a windmill. So, even though we found out during that season that he may have broken up with his girlfriend just to go on The Bachelorette , he was still in contention. It was hoped that Johnson, who had remained at the forefront of people’s minds all this time and during his stint on Bachelor in Paradise , would have had enough fan support to encourage the franchise to name him as the first black Bachelor. This was still true while his fellow BIP co-star, Derek Peth , was broken up with, twice , in very dramatic fashion, but handled each one with grace and kindness . Franchise host Chris Harrison spoke out about what they look for when choosing leads not long ago, and revealed that not only does the decision hinge on whether or not they believe they have the right person at the right time (Cameron dating so publicly almost definitely took him out of the running), but if that person seems like they will make for good, layered storytelling on a television show. Clearly, they thought that Peter Weber was the better choice right now. In case you’re wondering, Mike Johnson would have loved to lead The Bachelor had he been asked, but, as usual for our Mike, he’s got nothing but good things to say about the whole process. I would 100 percent have accepted being the Bachelor if they had chosen me. I think I would have made a really good Bachelor. I would have been the first black Bachelor, as well as the first veteran Bachelor. ABC made a great choice with Peter — that’s who they decided to go with. I’m a phenomenal man and still am. The point of going on The Bachelorette was to find love, and that opportunity is still there for me. I happen to believe that Johnson’s positive vibes as he talks about the (temporary) disappointment of not being selected for The Bachelor will only continue to fuel Bachelor Nation’s upset over him not looking for love as we all watch next season. Though, as Johnson said during his chat with Extra , he’s still “a phenomenal man” and can find love outside of the show. Which bodes well for all the flirty conversations on social media that he’s been exchanging with pop star Demi Lovato (as well as their date from a few days ago ). Well, Mike Johnson might not be the first black Bachelor (or the first military veteran in that role, as it should be noted that Season 10’s Andrew Baldwin was an officer in the US Navy), but Peter Weber is. His season of The Bachelor is due to start filming by the end of this week and will hit ABC on January 6, 2020. We’ll keep you up to date on everything about the new season ( including rumors aplenty ), but until then be sure to bookmark our 2019 fall TV premiere guide for everything you can watch in the coming weeks!

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‘No path is easy’: Black opera singers detail struggles

'No path is easy': Black opera singers detail struggles

This image released by the Metropolitan Opera shows Latonia Moore as Serena, center left on stairs, and Frederick Ballentine as Sportin’ Life in a scene from the Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess.” (Ken Howard/Met Opera via AP) NEW YORK — More than 60 years after Marian Anderson broke the colour barrier at the Metropolitan Opera, black singers still face unique obstacles in building their careers within the industry. “We’ve made some strides, but not a whole lot,” said Naomi Andre, a professor at the University of Michigan and author of the book “Black Opera.” “I happen to know there’s an incredible network of black singers out there,” Andre said in an interview with The Associated Press. “… and yet they’re not getting the calls from the big houses and probably should be.” At the Met this season, the company said there are 36 black singers on the roster, out of a total of 368. Of those, 27 are in the new production of the Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess” that opens Monday. Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said the company is “committed to increasing diversity on stage.” He added that the Met is “proud that today virtually all our leads in Porgy and Bess . are established Met stars,” who regularly appear at the house in a variety of other operas as well — a sign that the company has developed a strong lineup of black talent. Still, “Porgy,” a tragic love story set in South Carolina’s Catfish Row, provides a rare opportunity for black artists because the Gershwin estate requires that they be cast in all the singing roles. The AP sat down with five of them during rehearsals to talk about challenges they’ve faced. The five, along with the roles they’ll be performing, are soprano Latonia Moore (Serena); mezzo Tichina Vaughn (Lily, the same role she sang for her Met debut in 1990); tenor Frederick Ballentine (Sportin’ Life) and bass-baritones Eric Owens (Porgy) and Alfred Walker (Crown.) Here are edited excerpts from the conversation: AP: How has being African American helped or hindered your career? BALLENTINE: I have experienced a few times where people said, ‘I just don’t know if we could see you in that.’ Or ‘Are you sure you could play that, does that quite work?’ They’ll dance around it but not say the actual thing. I think me being African American at this opportune time has helped me significantly because . I’ve been at eight houses and I’m quite young. However, I don’t know if I could have made such a deal were it not for me being able to do Sportin’ Life. It thrust me into an international light earlier. But at the same time, it is a bit stifling. I don’t want to feel trapped. MOORE: For me it was “Aida,” and that’s what I’ve done the bulk of my career, mostly because I’m black but maybe because I’m kind of appropriate for the role vocally. And I thank God for it because that’s what catapulted me. BALLENTINE: They’re more accepting of black women … because black men in romantic roles will always be an issue. We can think of so many black women who performed all over the world: (Kathleen) Battle, Leontyne (Price), Jessye (Norman) …. OWENS: From that era, I can only think of one man, and that’s George (Shirley), but they made George up so light that he almost looked white on stage … WALKER: I did Orest (in Richard Strauss’s “Elektra”) in Germany (opposite a white soprano) … The woman that hired me, her husband was the designer, and he looked horrified when he saw me and I was like, ‘You knew I was black, right?’ So they did this thing. He got us to put this dust on our face. We still didn’t look alike. It was so silly and it didn’t work. VAUGHN: For the most part, it’s hard to be specific unless somebody comes to you and says something, because our business is quite subjective, but I have been told sometimes that they don’t want a black person for that. AP: Where do you stand on the issue of white singers darkening their skin for certain roles? The Met stopped using dark makeup for “Otello,” and white soprano Tamara Wilson protested against darkening her face for “Aida” in Verona, Italy. MOORE: I’ve never had an issue with it personally. The only issue I’ve had is the Al Jolson look. OWENS: That’s blackface, where you’re disparaging the person. When you look at “Otello” and “Aida,” someone is aspiring to be the leader or the princess of Ethiopia, I never had a problem with it. If they were trying to make fun of black people, that’s different. MOORE: You have to be a chameleon. When I went to Japan for “Aida” they painted me darker. I said, “Why are you painting me darker?” and they were like, “We have Ethiopians in body suits and we want you all to be the same colour.” . And I said I’m with it. It looked great. I looked amazing, super dark. BALLENTINE: I don’t understand the necessity of Aida being in blackface. Why? Are you going to go around and do it to the entire chorus? You can make the point easily with costumes. VAUGHN: If I want to be Klytemnestra (Elektra’s mother), do I need to get in white face? AP: What about the production by the Hungarian State Opera which violated terms of the Gershwin copyright and used white singers who claimed they “self-identified as African American?” MOORE: It’s ridiculous what they did and they lied, but why shouldn’t they put on a production? They want to sing that music. BALLENTINE: How are you going to feel when the copyright on “Porgy” runs out (in 2030) and it’s in the public domain and people want to do it in blackface? WALKER: If I saw an all-white cast in “Porgy and Bess” I would be really offended. . How can you take the race out if it? Its all in the language. Would you set it in Catfish Row? I’m not going to buy a bunch of white people in this historic place. AP: What advice would you offer young black singers trying for a career in opera? VAUGHN: No path is easy for people of colour. Anywhere. Decades ago when I was young and wondering should I do this for real, a woman — she was white — told me: “You need to not think about what colour you are.” As soon as you start thinking about yourself as black, you invite obstacles. WALKER: I kind of had to do that. I go to these foreign countries and I’m singing these roles and you’re the only black man in the room you look around, there’s no one else. . I just can’t have that as baggage. OWENS: I tell young people, “Nobody ever got your job.” If it was your job, you’d have had the job. . Anytime I don’t get a job when I audition, I assume that it wasn’t about your colour, because if you go down that road it’s paralyzing and then there’s no self-examination about the artistry. BALLENTINE: For every single one of us you see on stage, that’s another door that we have opened so that people behind us can follow. I think every time I do a role that’s not “Sportin’ Life,” I’m opening the door for some young black man behind me . because it’s really hard. Mike Silverman, The Associated Press

‘No path is easy’: Black opera singers detail struggles

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‘No path is easy’: Black opera singers detail struggles

'No path is easy': Black opera singers detail struggles

NEW YORK — More than 60 years after Marian Anderson broke the colour barrier at the Metropolitan Opera, black singers still face unique obstacles in building their careers within the industry. “We’ve made some strides, but not a whole lot,” said Naomi Andre, a professor at the University of Michigan and author of the book “Black Opera.” “I happen to know there’s an incredible network of black singers out there,” Andre said in an interview with The Associated Press. “… and yet they’re not getting the calls from the big houses and probably should be.” At the Met this season, the company said there are 36 black singers on the roster, out of a total of 368. Of those, 27 are in the new production of the Gershwins’ “Porgy and Bess” that opens Monday. Peter Gelb, the Met’s general manager, said the company is “committed to increasing diversity on stage.” He added that the Met is “proud that today virtually all our leads in Porgy and Bess . are established Met stars,” who regularly appear at the house in a variety of other operas as well — a sign that the company has developed a strong lineup of black talent. Still, “Porgy,” a tragic love story set in South Carolina’s Catfish Row, provides a rare opportunity for black artists because the Gershwin estate requires that they be cast in all the singing roles. The AP sat down with five of them during rehearsals to talk about challenges they’ve faced. The five, along with the roles they’ll be performing, are soprano Latonia Moore (Serena); mezzo Tichina Vaughn (Lily, the same role she sang for her Met debut in 1990); tenor Frederick Ballentine (Sportin’ Life) and bass-baritones Eric Owens (Porgy) and Alfred Walker (Crown.) Here are edited excerpts from the conversation: AP: How has being African American helped or hindered your career? BALLENTINE: I have experienced a few times where people said, ‘I just don’t know if we could see you in that.’ Or ‘Are you sure you could play that, does that quite work?’ They’ll dance around it but not say the actual thing. I think me being African American at this opportune time has helped me significantly because . I’ve been at eight houses and I’m quite young. However, I don’t know if I could have made such a deal were it not for me being able to do Sportin’ Life. It thrust me into an international light earlier. But at the same time, it is a bit stifling. I don’t want to feel trapped. MOORE: For me it was “Aida,” and that’s what I’ve done the bulk of my career, mostly because I’m black but maybe because I’m kind of appropriate for the role vocally. And I thank God for it because that’s what catapulted me. BALLENTINE: They’re more accepting of black women … because black men in romantic roles will always be an issue. We can think of so many black women who performed all over the world: (Kathleen) Battle, Leontyne (Price), Jessye (Norman) …. OWENS: From that era, I can only think of one man, and that’s George (Shirley), but they made George up so light that he almost looked white on stage … WALKER: I did Orest (in Richard Strauss’s “Elektra”) in Germany (opposite a white soprano) … The woman that hired me, her husband was the designer, and he looked horrified when he saw me and I was like, ‘You knew I was black, right?’ So they did this thing. He got us to put this dust on our face. We still didn’t look alike. It was so silly and it didn’t work. VAUGHN: For the most part, it’s hard to be specific unless somebody comes to you and says something, because our business is quite subjective, but I have been told sometimes that they don’t want a black person for that. AP: Where do you stand on the issue of white singers darkening their skin for certain roles? The Met stopped using dark makeup for “Otello,” and white soprano Tamara Wilson protested against darkening her face for “Aida” in Verona, Italy. MOORE: I’ve never had an issue with it personally. The only issue I’ve had is the Al Jolson look. OWENS: That’s blackface, where you’re disparaging the person. When you look at “Otello” and “Aida,” someone is aspiring to be the leader or the princess of Ethiopia, I never had a problem with it. If they were trying to make fun of black people, that’s different. MOORE: You have to be a chameleon. When I went to Japan for “Aida” they painted me darker. I said, “Why are you painting me darker?” and they were like, “We have Ethiopians in body suits and we want you all to be the same colour .” . And I said I’m with it. It looked great. I looked amazing, super dark. BALLENTINE: I don’t understand the necessity of Aida being in blackface. Why? Are you going to go around and do it to the entire chorus? You can make the point easily with costumes. VAUGHN: If I want to be Klytemnestra (Elektra’s mother), do I need to get in white face? AP: What about the production by the Hungarian State Opera which violated terms of the Gershwin copyright and used white singers who claimed they “self-identified as African American?” MOORE: It’s ridiculous what they did and they lied, but why shouldn’t they put on a production? They want to sing that music. BALLENTINE: How are you going to feel when the copyright on “Porgy” runs out (in 2030) and it’s in the public domain and people want to do it in blackface? WALKER: If I saw an all-white cast in “Porgy and Bess” I would be really offended. . How can you take the race out if it? Its all in the language. Would you set it in Catfish Row? I’m not going to buy a bunch of white people in this historic place. AP: What advice would you offer young black singers trying for a career in opera? VAUGHN: No path is easy for people of colour . Anywhere. Decades ago when I was young and wondering should I do this for real, a woman — she was white — told me: “You need to not think about what colour you are.” As soon as you start thinking about yourself as black, you invite obstacles. WALKER: I kind of had to do that. I go to these foreign countries and I’m singing these roles and you’re the only black man in the room you look around, there’s no one else. . I just can’t have that as baggage. OWENS: I tell young people, “Nobody ever got your job.” If it was your job, you’d have had the job. . Anytime I don’t get a job when I audition, I assume that it wasn’t about your colour , because if you go down that road it’s paralyzing and then there’s no self-examination about the artistry. BALLENTINE: For every single one of us you see on stage, that’s another door that we have opened so that people behind us can follow. I think every time I do a role that’s not “Sportin’ Life,” I’m opening the door for some young black man behind me . because it’s really hard.

‘No path is easy’: Black opera singers detail struggles

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What South African cricket can learn from the Springboks

What South African cricket can learn from the Springboks

Former Springboks captain’s Wynand Claassen, Warren Whiteley and Antonie Claassen (Wynand’s son) at World of Rugby on June 18, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Zoe-Lee Botma/Gallo Images) Former Bok skipper Wynand Claassen, a man who still loves his cricket too, points out the stark contrast between the two sports. As a boy growing up in Middelburg and as a student at the University of Pretoria, former Springbok rugby captain Wynand Claassen loved his cricket and he believes the two sports face starkly contrasting fortunes based on their current trajectories. The Proteas have already bombed out of the Cricket World Cup in dismal fashion, but Claassen is far more positive when it comes to the Rugby World Cup. He says the Springboks’ upward curve is due to embracing former players like coach Rassie Erasmus in crucial roles. “In South African sport we tend to chase the old players away, which means you don’t have their know-how; elsewhere they embrace their old players, here not so much. So that’s why it is nice to see Rassie doing so well, he has smelt the wintergreen in the Springbok changeroom, he was a phenomenal player and now he’s a coach with vision and insight. He was mentally tough as a player and he knows world rugby. “But there’s a great gap between South African cricket and rugby and it comes down to rugby having the right coaching. I know there are a lot of guys overseas, but the talent is still there in cricket. And they’ve got to select their best side. The 31 guys who go to the Rugby World Cup will be in form and the best, people who say there are quota players are talking twak. They are all there on merit – you can see how they play,” Claassen told The Citizen . Claassen’s views on teams being selected on merit have certainly not mellowed, and he continued: “Cricket are not selecting their best side and their depth is not very good, so I don’t think the same turnaround is going to happen in cricket. To go to the World Cup without AB de Villiers also shows something is hugely wrong. You’ve got to accommodate a guy like that, especially when you don’t have enough top players,” the rangy No 8 said. AB de Villiers. AFP/File/Glyn KIRK Claassen said Cricket South Africa needed to try and create stiffer competition at domestic level, as rugby has done with Super Rugby. “Super Rugby has really helped our rugby and cricket doesn’t have that. Every week our rugby players are coming up against top New Zealand and Australian sides, as well as playing each other. That competitiveness is working in rugby and our players are no longer in awe of an All Black because they’ve been through that experience of playing against them. “Instead, cricket’s new domestic system is going to put a lot of guys out of work and I think it’s going to be a death blow. Rugby also has much bigger TV rights and they can groom players for higher honours,” Claassen said. South Africa’s captain for the demo-racked 1981 tour of New Zealand said SA Rugby needed to try and keep Erasmus as the Springbok coach after this year’s World Cup. SOUTH AFRICA – UNDATED: Wynand Claassen playing rugby in New Zealand in 1981.(Photo by Wessel Oosthuizen/Gallo Images) “They must keep Rassie until 2023, there’s no doubt in my mind. Rassie must identify the next guy and get him into the coaching staff as well, and then he can take over at the end of 2023. That’s what the All Blacks do, they had Graham Henry involved for 12 years and Steve Hansen worked under him and has now also been involved for 12 years. That’s how they have continuity. “We are working on four-year cycles and throwing away the coach, so there’s no consistency with a whole new management structure every four years,” Claassen said.

What South African cricket can learn from the Springboks

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Bowdoin College exhibit honors African American among first to reach North Pole

Bowdoin College exhibit honors African American among first to reach North Pole

Genevieve LaMoine is the curator of Bowdoin College’s Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum, which has a new exhibit on Matthew Henson, who was the first Americans to reach the North Pole. Alex Lear / The Forecaster BRUNSWICK — On April 6, 1909, Matthew Alexander Henson and five others were the first humans known to stand at the North Pole. But it is usually Robert Peary, the famed explorer and Bowdoin College graduate, who basks in history’s limelight as the man to claim that distinction. Henson, an African American who Peary admitted he couldn’t do without, and four people of the Inughuit tribe of northwest Greenland – Seegloo, Ootah, Egingwah and Ooqueeah – have often been overlooked in the years that followed. A new exhibit at Peary’s alma mater, in the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum – which shares his name and that of fellow Bowdoin graduate and Arctic explorer Donald MacMillan – aims to correct that oversight. It opened Aug. 27 and runs through the end of the year. Matthew Alexander Henson, an African-American, has often been overshadowed in the story of Robert Peary’s expedition to the North Pole. Courtesy Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum “We always try to celebrate Matthew Henson,” said Genevieve LeMoine, the museum’s curator, in an interview Sept. 13. But this latest photo display was inspired by the 50th anniversary of Bowdoin’s Russwurm African American Center, she said. Since the museum’s opening in 1967, it has included artifacts that reflect Henson, such as a massive sledge (or sleigh) that he built for Peary’s expedition, adhering to the explorer’s design. Peary and the Inughuit considered Henson one of the best dog sledge drivers, according to the exhibit. Born in Maryland in 1866 to sharecroppers the year after the end of the American Civil War, Henson was orphaned at a young age, moved to Washington, D.C., to live with his uncle, and ran away to sea at age 11. After eight years seeing the world as a cabin boy and seaman, he met Peary in 1887 while working at a haberdashery, and was hired as a valet on the 1877 Bowdoin graduate’s survey expedition to Nicaragua, according to the college. Henson first went north with Peary in 1891, journeying over the Greenland Ice Cap, the northern end of Greenland, and Cape Hecla, MacMillan recalled in “How Peary Reached the Pole.” “He was the most popular man aboard the ship with the Eskimos,” MacMillan, an 1898 Bowdoin graduate, wrote. “He could talk their language like a native. He made all the sledges which went to the Pole. He made all the stoves. Henson, the colored man, went to the Pole with Peary because he was a better man than any of his white assistants. As Peary himself admitted, ‘I can’t get along without Henson.’” MacMillan was one of six non-native people to take part in the 1908-09 expedition to the North Pole; frozen feet forced him and a few others to turn back, leaving Peary, Henson, and the four Inughuits. Henson, in a 1951 TV interview shown in the exhibit, recalled that he had to break the trail of ice the whole way up, with no one else to take his turn. “Naturally, it was best for (Peary) to keep his men ahead of him instead of in the back,” Henson said, adding that being in the lead, “I was the first man that ever set feet on the North Pole.” Since there wasn’t a way at the time to pinpoint the exact top of the world, there’s much debate on who actually got there first. “The navigation instruments (were) not that accurate, so Peary did these long criss-crossing sledge trips, just to cover an area of about 10 miles,” LaMoine said. “… The thing is, they were all six of them there.” Henson and Peary had reached the top of the world together, but their relationship soon soured. The explorer, who received the bulk of the glory for the accomplishment, rarely spoke with Henson. In need of money, Henson launched a lecture tour, to Peary’s chagrin, and the two men had a falling out. There is no known photo of the two of them together. “Peary wasn’t one for sharing the spotlight. And of course, in those days recognition to an African-American would have been highly unusual,” LaMoine said. “… I think it’s important for people to recognize that there was this amazing, talented African-American man who accomplished a great deal.” Henson would never return to the Arctic. Which also meant he never saw an Inughuit woman he’d loved – and the son they had in 1906 – ever again. Along with bringing Henson’s story more attention, MacMillan did him another favor in 1924 when, on his northern travels, he took a photo of his young son, named Anaukaq, and presumably let Henson know he’d fared well, according to the exhibit. Matthew Henson built this sledge for one of Robert Peary’s northern expedition. It is on display at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum. As the American Civil Rights movement dawned, Henson began receiving recognition for his work. The Chicago Geographical Society awarded him a gold medal in 1948, at which time he was interviewed on the radio. A TV interview followed. He and his wife Lucy, with whom he lived in Harlem until his 1955 death, never had children, LaMoine said. First buried in Woodlawn Cemetery, the couple’s remains were transferred to Arlington Cemetery in 1987. Anaukaq, then 80, was able to make the trip to witness the reburial seeing his father honored. Henson is “much better known now than he was, but he’s still not as well known as he should be,” LaMoine said. Maryland named a park and school in his honor, but Henson lacks the more general attention he deserves, she said. “The great hero gets all the acclaim, but (Peary) couldn’t have done it without Henson and many other people.” Michael Alpert, president of the Greater Bangor Area Branch NAACP, on Monday praised Bowdoin for recognizing Henson’s contribution to polar exploration. “The history of the United States is filled with racially-motivated exclusions and erasures. African American accomplishments have often been ignored when they should be celebrated,” Alpert said. “… Mr. Henson’s intelligence and courage were obviously valued by Robert Peary as they journeyed to the North Pole. Thanks to Bowdoin’s exhibit, Henson’s place beside Peary can now be more widely known.” Comments are not available on this story.

Bowdoin College exhibit honors African American among first to reach North Pole

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Texas school denies claim African American boy, 4, was told to cut hair – or wear a dress

Texas school denies claim African American boy, 4, was told to cut hair – or wear a dress

Fox News Flash top headlines for Sept. 18 A Texas public school has denied a claim that a 4-year-old African American boy was told to cut his long hair in compliance with the dress code — or come to school wearing a dress and say he is a girl. The Tatum Independent School District held a special board meeting Monday to address some parents’ accusations of racial discrimination to a jam-packed audience, many of whom attested that racism doesn’t exist in their community, KETK-TV reported. NEW YORK CITY BANNING CHOCOLATE MILK IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS “Recently, social media claims have been made that Tatum ISD’s hair code is racially discriminatory and that District administration suggested a student identify as the opposite sex for purposes of limiting the applicability of that policy. The District vehemently denies these claims,” Superintendent J.P. Richardson said in a statement, according to the station. The controversy began when Randi Woodley used social media to share her experience at Tatum Primary School in August, when she took her grandson, Michael “Tink” Trimble, to meet the teachers. Michael “Tink” Trimble, 4, was told his hair didn’t meet the school’s dress code. Woodley said she was called into the principal’s office, where she was told that Michael’s long hair didn’t comply with the dress code and had to be either cut or braided. She claims the superintendent then told her “[she] could either cut it, braid it and pin it up, or put my grandson in a dress and send him to school and, when prompted, my grandson must say he’s a girl.” UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE GIVES SCHOLARSHIP TO BULLIED STUDENT WHO DESIGNED HOMEMADE SCHOOL SHIRT The Tatum ISD dress code states that a male student’s hair cannot fall below the top of a T-shirt collar. It also says “no ponytails, ducktails, rat-tails, male bun or puffballs” are allowed on boys. Randi Woodley, Tink’s grandmother, has since braided his hair, saying she refuses to cut it. Woodley’s claim has raised concerns among some parents that the school’s dress code is outdated and discriminates against African Americans for their natural hair. Kambry Cox, whose 5-year-old son isn’t allowed to wear dreadlocks to the school, spoke at the board meeting Monday in favor of changing the rules, the Longview News-Journal reported. “I stand here and ask for all of you to recognize the inequality, and support change and growth for our district,” she said. “I ask that you eliminate rules that have no purpose, other than to conform our children to obey certain stereotypes.” However, other parents at the meeting stood by the rule. “As a parent and alumni, I stand behind all the rules that the district puts forward,” said Cleveland Brown, according to the paper. “I know my child will be treated fairly. I know they will be safe, and I know they will get a great education.” Both Woodley and Cox told KETK that they won’t give up their fight until the rules treat each child equally.

Texas school denies claim African American boy, 4, was told to cut hair – or wear a dress