by Reza Corinne Clifton
Artist Fred Johnson. Johnson is an acclaimed jazz musician who’s opened for musical legends like Aretha Franklin, Chick Corea, Patti LaBelle and Miles Davis. He has studied music in different parts of Africa and has also gained attention for his presentations on the healing power of music. For more photos, click here
PROVIDENCE, RI - On Saturday June 23rd, RezaRitesRi.com correspondent Marco McWilliams and founder/editor Reza Corinne Clifton hosted a one-night concert series at RISD Museum as part of the four-day long Liberation: A Celebration of Juneteenth. The celebration, which was organized by John Mahone and Ghislaine Jean-Mahone’s Just a Step Productions – in collaboration with Waterfire Providence, RI State Council on the Arts, RI Black Storytellers (RIBS), Trinity Mortgage and the RISD Museum – ran from June 21 to June 24.
About Juneteenth, Nationally and Locally
Juneteenth is a time-held national tradition commemorating the end of slavery in the United States. June 19, 1865 is remembered as the day that federal troops rode into Galveston, Texas with orders to release enslaved African-Americans. As Lisa Jones chronicles in her nonfiction book, Bulletproof Diva: Tales of Race, Sex, and Hair, it was two and half years after the Emancipation Proclamation and two months after the end of the Civil War. Sometimes called Emancipation Day or Jubiliation Day, Jones explains, Juneteenth is also celebrated in Oakland, California, Buffalo, New York, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin among other places.
RI’s festivities included comedic and dramatic performances at RISD museum and at The Metropolitan Regional Career & Technical Center. On the 24th, the Tse Tse Gallery and RIBS partnered to host workshops.
Ghislaine Jean-Mahone, Marco McWilliams and Reza Corinne Clifton. Jean-Mahone of Just A Step Productions was one of the main organizers of the event. Clifton is the founder and editor and McWilliams is a contributing reporter to RezaRitesRi.com. Clifton and McWilliams hosted the Saturday night concert. For more photos, click here.
RezaRitesRi.com Hosts Concert
The concert hosted by McWilliams and Clifton on the 23rd was staged at RISD Museum, the first official collaboration between Just a Step Productions and the important Providence institution according to Jean-Mahone. It featured richly diverse, Pan-African and multicultural artistic expression from regional, national, and international musicians.
The lineup began with a husky, Mississippi-delta style performance from acclaimed RI singer, musician, and songwriter Kim Trusty. Known for her comfort and elegance doing classic jazz, but also for the versatility she displayed on her first full-length CD, Sweet Novena, Trusty’s take on a blues-spiritual style was still breathtakingly moving.
The night continued with intimate selections delivered by singer, songwriter, and self-taught guitarist Cedric Josey - whose acoustic guitar-accompanied vocals sounded at times as clear and melodic as international singing star Seal - then moved to enthralling, feet-thumping gospel hits by Refined 313. After that came up-and-coming band Afrika Rainbow, a Cape Verdean reggae band that performs Creole- and English-language songs that have caught the attention of popular local hip hop artist Chachi Carvalho.
Members of the Welfare Poets. The Welfare Poets are a collective of artists and activists based in New York City who’ve been performing since 1990. Their music incorporates hip hop, Puerto Rican-style Bomba y Plena, and Latin Jazz among other genres and influences. Their message is also spread through residencies, workshops, and community activism. For more photos, click here.
The night closed with internationally acclaimed jazz and African-folk artist, Fred Johnson, and New York City-based, Afro-Latino musicians, poets, and emcees The Welfare Poets.
For more information about Liberation: A Celebration of Juneteenth or about the concert series artists, visit http://www.inhousefreestyle.com/juneteenth.html. For more information about Just a Step Productions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 401.286.7675.
Reza Corinne Clifton is the publisher and editor of www.RezaRitesRi.com, a news, arts and culture website for Rhode Island’s ethnically, artistically, and socially diverse. In the spring of 2007, she received a 2007 RICJ Metcalf Diversity in the Media Award in the category of Technology for the New Millennium. She is also a freelance writer whose work regularly appears in print and online publications throughout RI.
Marco McWilliams is a double major in African/African-American Studies and History at Rhode Island College. He works in RIC’s multicultural affairs department as an African American Studies specialist. He has developed the college’s first ever cultural and socio-political film series with both a domestic and international focus. He also lectures on North American enslavement, critical Black history, the politics of hip-hop, and media literacy.
A speech by Reza Corinne Clifton
A photo of (my mother) Judge Thompson during her youth.
This speech was delivered as the keynote address on Monday, May 21 at the Rhode Island State House at the 2007 Ceremony of the Lieutenant Governor’s Leadership Awards. These awards are given annually to exemplary high school seniors from public and private schools across Rhode Island.
I’d like to begin by thanking Lt. Governor Elizabeth Roberts and her staff for choosing me to speak to you important young people. I’d like to next acknowledge all the proud families, friends, and school staff members here to support you, and I ask them to join me in another round of applause for all the student leaders being recognized tonight.
I was asked as both a leader in my own right and as the daughter of an important RI leader to speak and recognize today’s students. My mother is Superor Court Judge Rogeriee Thompson; she was RI’s first Black woman district court judge. I use the word was because when she was appointed and promoted to Superior Court, she became the state’s first Black woman Superior Court judge.
Now, seeing who my mother is, it is easy to see what or who might have inspired me. But I had the opportunity to talk to my mother recently – when I interviewed her for a newspaper – and I’d like to tell you a little about some of the people and some of the experiences that inspired my mother. There are 3 or 4 lessons within these stories about being a leader that I want to share with you.
(1) My grandmother – my mother’s mother – was not a judge or even a lawyer. She was a teacher. And my mother’s grandmother was a seamstress. But my mother’s grandmother was a person of great significance to my mother, and it was the love, attention, and time she dedicated that made her so important to my mother. I say this because a leader is not always a CEO or president. Sometimes it’s just someone who cares.
(2) My mother grew up in South Carolina during the days of segregation – separate but equal; Blacks here, Whites there. My mother was too young to participate in a lot of the activities we hear about, like freedom rides and sit-in protests, but one particular opportunity did arise. One day, in response to the unequal treatment she and her fellow black students received and in response to the lousy attitudes of her white student counterparts, my mother joined a number of her black classmates in filling waterguns with black ink and squirting them at all the white kids at the last bus stop – where they were always taunted by the white students entering the bus as they exited. I share this because sometimes a leader stands up for important principles like equality for all people, even when they don’t fully understand what it means.
(3) The last story I want to share is from when my mother was in high school. Like you folks being honored today, my mother proved to be a great student. Well, one of her guidance counselors submitted her name to take part in a summer program designed to give opportunities to African-Americans who were great students. Remember, there weren’t abundant opportunities at African-American schools. My mother did not know her name was being submitted, but when the offer came, she decided to take advantage of the program and go. This opportunity changed her life and eventually led her to attend a high school in a whole other state. I share this to tell you two lessons, really.
(a) sometimes you’ll have to do the work to be recognized as a leader – things like applying to school or for scholarships. But like the honor you’re receiving today, sometimes someone else recognizes and recommends you, and this is just as important.
(b) While sometimes being a leader means taking an important, principled stand, like the one my mother and her classmates did that day on the bus, sometimes it’s about doing or getting things important to or for you, the individual. Studying hard, getting involved in school – it may be about you, but it’s about being the best that you can be, which is part of being a leader.
So I want to take the time to congratulate you for some of the first steps you’ve taken in becoming a leader and I want to wish you the best as you continue forward on your path. Friends, family, supporters and loved ones, please take the time to join me one more time in saying congratulations to these important young people.
For more information about recipients of the 2007 Lieutenant Governor Leadership Awards or about this year’s ceremony, visit http://www.ri.gov/press/view.php?rss=1&id=4180.
To read other speeches written and delivered by Reza Corinne Clifton, click here.