By Reza Corinne Clifton
PROVIDENCE, RI-The hours are 9:30 PM to 1:00 AM, the location is the Providence Black Repertory Company’s Xxodus Café on 276 Westminster Street in Providence, and the musical genres selected are all designed to invoke nonstop dancing. Although this sounds like an average club night, Thursday November 17 has been planned to be far from average.
Tasty Love Presents Rhythm and Spice Flag Party is the second event planned by Providence resident and Rhode Island College Alumnus Tacuma Vanterpool. As reported back in April, his first event, the Rise Up Charity Event, was immensely successful. In one night, more than 800 pounds of food were donated by a diverse group of older college students, professionals, and other Xxodus Café patrons who attended to support Vanterpool in his goals of collecting food for the homeless and educating the masses about the prevalence and severity of the problem.
Social networking was also a goal of the first event, but Vanterpool has chosen to put this goal center stage with the Flag Party. As he states in the three-fold six-page brochure he created for the event, “The flag is a symbol to identify groups in the community. The intended audience is college students and urban professionals. The event will allow people to network and contribute to the progression of cultivating resources in the community.” Also intentional was the music he chose, culling genres that mirror the diverse ethnicities of the communities here in RI who enjoy music, dance, and other manifestations of culture with origins that stem back to Africa.
In organizing the evening, Vanterpool himself chose to model the networking and resource cultivation for which he is promoting. Vanterpool identified and pursued a number of sponsors for the event—Providence (Southside and Elmwood) and Pawtucket area restaurants and businesses—who, in kind, donated some kind of their merchandise; furthermore he has turned to WRIU 90.3 FM, multi-regional RI urban music DJ, and Tuesday Black Rep semi-regular DJ Blade Mon to provide the music—reggae, salsa, dancehall, bachata, zouk, and more.
Vanterpool has been persistent and meticulous about planning the night to suit his goals. For example, to make sure that younger college students could be exposed to urban professionals—a point he saw as unapologetically crucial, he relentlessly requested till granted that eighteen year olds be admitted to what is usually a twenty-one plus venue. He has recruited, and re-recruited from the last event, several volunteers whose job will include passing out Tasty Love literature, and he has even bought music to supplement DJ Blade Mon’s collection.
With all the hard work and purposefulness with which Vanterpool approached the planning, I chose to speak with the DJ and representatives from a couple of the restaurants to see for myself why they chose to be involved.
Corey Taylor, aka DJ Blade Mon has been DJ-ing—using turntables and records—for a total of “eleven or twelve years for fun, and at least four years for profit.” Instilled with the positive values of music as well as developing a fascination with turntables and records early on, the combination of regularly “seeing other kids spinning at house parties” and one day seeing in the ‘Wanted Advertiser’ a complete setup which included 300 R&B, Hip Hop, and Reggae records, Taylor was propelled forward into the art form. Originally from the South County area—Narragansett, South Kingstown, etc.—most of the house parties Taylor DJ-ed were in his hometown area, but early on he was able to make appearances and land gigs in Providence, for example, at places like Club Babylon on Valley Street and Club Giza on Hartford Ave.
In terms of why he decided to do the Flag Party and whether this will be a regular, run-of-the-mill gig, Taylor responded: “Tacuma’s whole thing is trying to get together Black folks, Latino folks, Caribbean folks, Africans…all around music and a common culture and I believe in that. Bring your flag, represent where you’re from, and enjoy this music, all of which has African roots and all based on old African rhythms—from dancehall to reggae to merengue. It’s also a networking thing. I’m not just doing it, though, to get paid. There’s always that incentive, but I’m also doing it because I believe in what he’s trying to do…he’s trying to say ‘we’re all family, and we need to make a change.”
This belief in Vanterpool’s goals and intentions was shared by Eleanor Gaye, owner of Elea’s Restaurant at 711 Broad Street—one of the sponsors. “I love to see people united. I believe that we need all the ethnicities to come together to learn from each other and each other’s backgrounds, and to promote getting along. You get to know each other first, then you get past the stereotypes and some of the problems.”
Gaye opened Elea’s Restaurant in 1996 “to show that people from West Africa have good food, good culture.” Since opening, Elea’s has worked with and donated food to a number of community organizations including International Institute, South Providence Neighborhood Ministries, and the Liberian Community Association of RI. They have also participated in various neighborhood-sponsored events, like parades and the annual Taste of Elmwood held at the Casino in Roger Williams Park.
Vanterpool’s invitation also represents Elea’s first time working with the Black Rep, and the first that she has worked with any downtown event. Reflecting on her restaurant, the sponsorship being provided by Carolina’s Restaurant located at 864 Broad Street, and Taste of the Island Caribbean Restaurant located at 247 Lockwood, Gaye emphasized, “[it’s not just Broad Street] it’s like bringing South Providence to downtown.”
Getting at the core of why she said yes to Vanterpool’s Flag Party donation request, she explained, “We have all people coming to visit [the restaurant]—White, Chinese, Hispanic, Black, Caribbean, Haitian and of course Africans. Becoming involved was not necessarily because of a need for promotion. I believe in the cause. I don’t think that there are any risks. I’m just looking for and I believe in Unity.”
Tasty Love Presents Rhythm and Spice Flag Party by Tacuma Vanterpool is scheduled for this Thursday November 17, 2005, 9:30 PM to 1:00 AM, at the Providence Black Repertory Company’s Xxodus Café on 276 Westminster Street in Providence. Reggae, Calypso, Salsa and more provided by DJ Blade Mon. For more information about the event, visit www.blackrep.org or email email@example.com. For more information about DJ Blade Mon listen to 90.3 FM Saturday mornings, 11:00-2:00, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 401-741-4463.
Reza Corinne Clifton is a community organizer for RI Children’s Crusade for Higher Education on a High School Reform project. She is also a freelance writer whose articles can be seen in “The Minority Family Perspective” the Providence American Newspaper and at www.rezaritesri.com.