By Reza Corinne Clifton
PROVIDENCE - If life could always be as easy as arriving home on a late evening flight to be greeted right next door by a harmonious, eclectic, soul-shaking band, then I think the world would be a better place.
Alas, we can’t always experience the ease and pleasure of such privilege, but I did last Friday, April 20 when I arrived home from a conference to drop my bags, grab my camera, and stroll next door to hear the sounds of the Kim Trusty Band. Of course I wasn’t lucky enough to hear the entire concert, but what I did hear included songs from Trusty’s newest album, Sweet Novena.
“And we didn’t even have our keyboardist tonight,” was a refrain lead singer Trusty, on acoustic guitar, and her band-mates – on drums, bass, and electric – uttered at different times to audience members that directed accolades their way at the end of the performance. Yet it was almost unimaginable to picture a smoother musical collaboration than what they had already produced.
I have seen Trusty perform live before – at the University of RI Providence campus doing impressive and melodious covers of jazz greats Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughn. As a person who has had musical phases saturated in Ella and Billie, I remember being quite moved at that performance.
Seeing Trusty last Friday, though, I saw a striking difference that was due in part to the cohesion of her accompanying musicians and in part to their flexibility to explore boundaries outside of the jazz genre. In the hall of the Mediator Fellowship at 50 Rounds Avenue in Providence, like on the tracks of Sweet Novena, funk-met-blues-met-folk-met-soul-met jazz-met rock and roll.
Scroll down or click here to read my first article about Kim Trusty, the April 2005 Providence American article entitled “Four Black Women Honored at URI Jazz Performance in Providence.”
Click on any of the photos to hear a sample of track 3, Clockstrike, from Trusty’s album, Sweet Novena. To hear other samples, or for more information about Kim Trusty, visit www.kimtrusty.org.
For more information about the music series at the Mediator Fellowship, about booking the Mediator, or about the center itself, visit www.mediatorfellowship.org, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 401-941-3070.
By Reza C. Clifton
This article orginally appeared in the April 7, 2005 edition of the The Providence American newspaper. This is the first time it was published on RezaRitesRi.com
PROVIDENCE, RI - “Celebrating Women; Celebrating Jazz; Celebrating African-Americans.” “A Sunday Stomp at the Savoy.” These are just a couple alternative titles that could have been used to describe the jazz concert that took place here in Providence Sunday, April 3.
If you missed it, The Sophisticated Ladies, Ella Fitzgerald, Bill[ie] Holiday, Bessie Smith, and Sarah Vaughn, occurred on the 3rd at 3:00 PM in the Paff Auditorium of the Feinstein Providence Campus of RI, performed by Kim Trusty with accompaniment provided by Joe Parillo and Chris Lopes.
Trusty—a vocalist, songwriter, guitarist, and actress—is a graduate from Berklee College of Music who began singing in an all-black Baptist church in rural Pennsylvania. She now lives in Providence, and may be familiar to those who attended last year’s “Waiting for Bessie Smith,” the musical by Ricardo Pitts-Wiley.
For those still unfamiliar with her, Sunday’s performance would have been the perfect introduction to her. The layout of the space—with tables and chairs in one section, and just chairs in another—coupled with the smaller size of the auditorium, encouraged a level of informality. Add to this intimacy a small group of performers, Parillo on piano, Lopes on (stand-up) bass, and Trusty on vocals, and the scene was set to love them or hate them.
And love them the audience (and I) did. Trusty’s musical maturity was evident as she effortlessly switched styles from the precise, to the simple, to the velvet, mimicking Ella, Billie, and Sarah. In her rendition of Holiday’s God Bless the Child, for example, there were moments when she left me mesmerized and entranced just by her pronunciation of the letter A in the words mama and papa.
In other moments, like during Trusty’s interpretation of A Train, the audience was amazed and enlivened as Trusty masterfully scatted—imitating the missing rhythms of the percussion, and melancholy cries of a muted trumpet. At other times, when she was not scatting, I was still left hearing the sound of the snare drum and hihat, which were physically absent.
For others, like students from a History of Jazz course, Trusty, Parillo, and Lopes served as live examples of the subject matter they were ingesting in class, like the Harlem Jazz movement. One audience member, Ana Gomes, who attended with sisters Alicia and Izzie, explained that she had heard of the singers Trusty covered and had learned about the art of scatting, but the performance became that unique opportunity to experience them.
Besides jazz history students, audience members included other students who had seen posters up on campus, and fans, like Greg and Charlene Micallef. Mrs. Micallef spoke excitedly as she explained that she previously saw Trusty perform original music at a tribute concert for Trusty’s mother and grandmother, and in the musical Waiting for Bessie Smith.
If you attended Sunday, or have seen Kim Trusty perform previously, then you understand. If you have not, make sure to run, not walk to the performance this talented Providence resident and her band embarks on next.
For more information on the Kim Trusty band, visit kimtrusty.com. To see Joe Parillo next, see him with his Trio at the Cav once a month, with the next performance being April 16.
By Reza Corinne Clifton
(Originally written Saturday, April 7, 2007)
(On their way down to Washington, D.C. this past January on a bus sponsored by RI community organization, Direct Action for Rights Equality - DARE)
PROVIDENCE – Last month, in March, a global antiwar mobilization occurred to show mass discontent for the U.S. war and presence in Iraq, to support worldwide movements for peace and justice, and to call for better funding for injured and incapacitated soldiers and veterans. It was the fourth anniversary of demonstrations.
I remember participating four years ago in Washington, D.C., and I wanted to return to take part again.
I did not.
Nor did I go to any of the RI-based demonstrations.
Yet for the last few months, I have been nothing short of consumed with fear, anger, and obsessive analysis about the normalization of war and the culture of violence disseminated and received all around us. Yes, I know that war has been a part of life for every culture; I know that video games have dealt with fantasy-based and realistic war scenarios for decades; yes I did have a Quentin Tarantino film-viewing phase and in fact am intrigued at the double feature he and Robert Rodriguez have out in theatres right now.
On the other hand, I felt despair and a sense that all kinds of Civil Rights progress was rescinding upon concurrently viewing the soul-jarring realism and drama depicted, mimicked, and at times, dare-I-say, predicted in three films I saw recently: the highly acclaimed Sierra Leone-based biographical blockbuster Blood Diamonds; the bi-cultural Jamaican-American gangster flick, Shottas; and Get Rich or Die Trying the biographical sketch of Black American hip hop artist 50 Cent.
(These four join others this past January on the DARE bus going to the antiwar demonstration in Washington, D.C.)
What did I find so toxic about the three movies? And how was my response to these movies related to the antiwar movement? It was not immediate, but the answer for me began formalizing.
Notwithstanding normal age-, genre-, or socio-economic-related preferences, each of the three films stars what consensus would say are well-known or highly-marketed actors, performers, or popular music personalities. In addition, the three films share the trait of copious, often nondiscriminatory or deceit-originated violence. The result is that the three movies become symbolic representatives of a Black cultural characteristic shared by Blacks in West Africa, the Caribbean, and North America. Viewing them as such – as proof of a shared culture despite regional diversity– I immediately became concerned at what seemed like the global commercialization of two very irresponsible and dangerous statements:
1 – Voluminous and constant levels of testosterone-driven Black on Black violence are a cultural norm for Black people and communities across the world; it is inescapable; nothing more is to be expected; do not trust your brown-skinned neighbor.
2 – Wars that occur and men who lead them in African villages, West Indian communities, and African-American neighborhoods are unaware of or, worse, not humane enough to care for rules that exempt women and children from the violence of war; women are equally, viciously targeted for their passive or direct loyalty; youth are intentionally, brutally recruited;
During a recent appearance at Brown University, professor, spiritual leader, and media commentator Dr. Michael Eric Dyson talked about how rare it is for the media to depict and the public to consume images of love between and among black people that the majority population would replicate or personalize. Already worried that I concurred with Dyson’s assessment, what scared me more seeing the three movies in a row was witnessing the exaggerated dumping of images onto the international film market that demonstrate Black people as a biologically inhumane people incapable of living in any way but in a constant state of violent coexistence.
I’m not saying that soldiers, rebels, and diamond smugglers in Sierra Leone did not just as aggressively sever the hands and arms of women and girls as those of men and boys; many did. And I’m not saying that women don’t envelop themselves in layers of crime so thick that their lives don’t become endangered; many do. And I’m not saying that young Black men don’t become engaged in violence in their prepubescent or adolescent stages of physical and psychological development; many do.
What I am saying is that these barbaric or depraved examples of violence are not simply a Black thing. These phenomena can also be seen in present-day cultural symbols of traditional Anglo-America.
Take the issue of recruiting child soldiers. The legal age to enter and begin military service is 18 years old, but military recruiters – and the image of bravery and violence they represent – are allowed into high schools hosting 9th graders, allowing exposure to students as young as 14.
And for all the leadership-oriented accolades often associated with it, the JROTC program – also run in high schools – runs a program for young men and women that includes physical mastery of weapons resembling real military issue arms; regular clothing requirements that mimic the cut, appearance, and stylistic discipline of military uniforms; and classes taught by former military officers. In spite of assertions often voiced that JROTC and the military are separated, opponents of the program argue that it is a recruitment mechanism for the military.
That’s not the only instance that demonstrates Anglo-American cultural ambivalence to an otherwise-considered inhumane situation.
In the same month that I sat shocked and horrified seeing a number of Black men - many recognizable Jamaican and American personalities - simulate indiscriminate and intentional acts of violence against women or children, researchers off-screen continued to release findings arguably proving the existence of a systematic under-counting of Iraqi civilian deaths since the arrival of American soldiers four years ago (and remember, most civilians are women and children). In the shadows of reports supported by the Bush administration of tens of thousands dead, reports from researchers supported by the highly acclaimed Johns Hopkins University, for example, emerged with estimates of more than 600,000 dead.
(These women also joined others in D.C. to stand for peace and justice instead of war in Iraq)
As alarming as the alternative estimate is, and as disconcerting as the idea is of official, federal deception, it was after receiving information at a conference I attended on International Women’s Day in March that I became fearful of a more complex cultural shift. The handout was filled with statistics and quotes collected form diverse sources by locally-known former newspaper columnist, and human service, education, and peace steward Pam Steager – for a workshop she delivered on “Women and Peace Building.” Simultaneously poignant and disturbing was a section taken from the documentary entitled “Peace X Peace: Women on the Frontlines” which noted the dramatic increase in civilian deaths by American military personnel - 15% in World War I; 65% in WWII; and 80-90% today.
Without having to listen to a Pentagon spokesperson, the policy suddenly became easy to hear: as America increases its capacity to provide security to its citizenry, its military attack strategies increasingly devalue the lives of women and children. Or, said another way, America finds it pointless to follow the international common practice of avoiding women and children in combat and barring them from being targets.
It’s shameful. Yet according to Hollywood, it’s only Black men killing and recruiting women and children.
This war will not end easily, and violence will continue to be normalized in our lives. Yet things will only be balanced when more of us stand up. That’s why I wanted to be in Washington, D.C. to protest in March – to stand up en masse. That’s why I ask you to stand up next.
Click here or scroll down to hear from another person seeking peace, who attended the Washington, D.C. antiwar protest in January.
Reza Corinne Clifton is the publisher and editor of www.RezaRitesRi.com, a news and events website for RI’s ethnically, artistically, and socially diverse. She is also a regular contributor to www.RiFuture.org. Her articles have also appeared in several print and online publications, like the Providence American Newspaper, the Kent County Daily Times, and Motif Magazine. She also works as a Community Development Specialist at the Urban League of RI.
by Reza Corinne Clifton
(Sara Mersha, Executive Director of Direct Action for Rights and Equality (DARE), checks her notes in preparation for the bus her organization coordinated for January’s antiwar protest in Washington, D.C. Sue took DARE’s bus to participate.)
PROVIDENCE, RI - When I heard that “Sue,” the girlfriend of a well-known RI political activist, had never herself participated in a mass protest or demonstration, and was going for her first time back in January, I knew I had to speak with her. Beyond who her second-half was, I knew Sue to be a sharp critic of many of the president’s current policies, articulate in describing the problems and possible solutions. I had to know more.
What did you expect going down to the protest?
I really didn’t know what to expect. I was preparing myself to see a lot of people all expressing the same message in their own personal way. I thought there might be some war supporters who might be heckling the anti-war demonstrators, but there was none of that.
How did you prepare?
I spoke to some people who had demonstrated in the past. I just kept an open mind and went down there preparing myself to meet a lot of great people.
What were some of the most memorable sights or sounds? What surprised you the most?
The most memorable sights were families protesting together. I loved to see the kids involved and on their parents’ shoulders. There was one sight of three people who were posing as statues. One was an Iraqi woman, another Condeleeza Rice, and the other was an American woman soldier. They had streaming red chiffon material to symbolize blood and it was tied to all of them and streaming together to form one long pool of blood. It was very symbolic. What surprised me the most was how peaceful it was. I know that sounds ironic given it was a peace march, but I was expecting more opposition.
Describe some of the people you saw or spoke with. Did you have any expectations about who you’d see or who you’d meet before you went down?
I went down with the DARE [RI organization, Direct Action for Rights and Equality) bus. There were a lot of community organizers and activists. I would not consider myself to be in their league. It was slightly intimidating because I felt like what have I done to be on a protest bus surrounded by people that live their life fighting for a cause. My insecurity came out a little bit, but then I realized that one thing I have in common with everyone is that we all believed so much in something that we went to do something about it. I had no expectations about who I would see, but I was surprised about seeing so many celebrities like Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Jane Fonda, and Jesse Jackson.
Why do you think it took you so long to participate in a protest in general, and with the antiwar protest specifically?
I have never surrounded myself with people who not only think like me, but act on it. I have always wanted to make some type of difference, but could never quite bring myself to do something besides write a letter to a senator or representative. Having an activist boyfriend and meeting a whole spectrum of people who actively participate has fueled my fire. It’s been great, although I would still like to do more.
What were the police like or what kinds of experiences did you have with the DC police?
The police were great. It was a calm setting with no fear or intimidation.
Will you be going down this weekend (to the March protest)? If not, do you plan to participate in any other antiwar demonstrations?
I will not be going down this weekend, but I will be there in spirit. If there are any more protests that are closer to home, you bet I’ll be there.
Have you identified other ways to show your disapproval of the war? Do you think protesting is sufficient, and would you recommend it to others who disapprove of the war?
I think protesting is a great way to boost your moral and spirit for the cause. The best way to really show your outrage is to contact your senator and representative. Write them a letter, send an e-mail, and call them. Get your friends and family to do it too. If our elected officials see the disapproval from their constituency, they will act on it. We are the voters who voted them in, and can also vote them out. They work for us. We must never forget that.