Music writer and journalist Jordannah Elizabeth has written the perfect music book for young people, “She Raised Her Voice! 50 Black Women Who Sang Their Way into Music History,” illustrated by Briana Dengoue (Running Press Kids/Hachette Book Group). “Through my years of music journalism, research and documentaries of Black women in music, I wanted to share with the world and give the next generation a chance to know these women, and continue their legacy,” said Elizabeth.

Her in-depth research and years of writing on Black women in music serve as an encyclopedic source for all ages. The 50 Black women covered reflect a multiplicity of music genres from Sister Rosetta Tharpe (Godmother of Rock and Roll) who stated, “Can’t no man play like me, I play better than a man,” to Memphis Minnie, Poly Styrene, Skin, Leontyne Price, Nina Simone, Jill Scott, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ella Fitzgerald, and Lena Horne, who worked with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to enact laws to stop Black people from being lynched. The colors of Dengoue’s illustrations are so vibrant they jump right out and speak in the name of each woman. 

“This book also serves as a source to help update music history and all the contributions of Black women,” stated Elizabeth during a phone interview. “I always wanted to write text books for music history with my Black feminist works,” she stated. 

“She Raised her Voice” gives young ladies an inside perspective about various genres of music making. Giving them the deliberate option to pursue any music road for self-expression. The music was grown from the seed of Africa and transformed through its many travels into the Black music family which includes many sisters and brothers from hip hop, jazz, gospel, blues, opera, rock and roll. This book is just as important to men in a music world that remains a male-dominated fortress. Elizabeth’s offering of this female awareness is a certified effort in the ongoing struggle for female equality. This is the perfect holiday gift that will forever inspire aspirations.    

The phrase “writin’ is fightin’” was coined by playwright, author, poet and satirist Ishmael Reed. For over five decades, his writings have represented the crown of thorns upon America’s distorted head which continues its deliberant attempts to bamboozle people of color. 

The word warrior continues his fight in 2021, as he calls the New York City art world to the stand with “The Slave Who Loved Caviar.” It examines the chaotic life and career of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The two-act play, directed by Carla Blank, will run Dec. 23-Jan. 9 (Thursday-Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday 3 p.m. matinee), at the Theater for the New City (155 First Avenue (between 9th and 10th Streets).  

The cast will include Jesse Bueno, Maurice Carlton, AUDELCO award winners Roz Fox and Robert Turner, Laura Roberts, Monisha Shiva, Brain Simmons and Raul Diaz (as Baron De Witt).

The playwright Reed appeared as Baron De Witt, the son of Dracula, in the play’s live-stream reading that took place last March during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when all theaters were closed down.

Since the reading, the production has been somewhat revised, noted Reed. “The monologues have been turned into dialogue and the comic relief remains. I also composed and performed the music [playing piano] which will be released as a CD at some point.” 

Reed’s idea for the play is a result of his viewing Julian Schnabel’s film “Basquiat” (1996). “I was offended by the film and began researching Basquiat’s work and realized I had dismissed him as just a graffiti artist, but his range and focus was much more significant,” Reed said during a phone interview. “The Slave Who Loved Caviar” uncovers the racism directed at Basquiat, and the ways that Andy Warhol, the art establishment and the fashion industry exploited and profited from Basquiat’s artistry. During the 1950s Black recording artists were given expensive cars for their talent. But years later the artist Basquiat was rewarded with green cash but at what price, serving as a slave to the industry that discovered him? 

This is the theatrical investigation into the relationship between Basquiat and Andy Warhol. It questions why seemingly racist tactics toward Basquiat were allowed to masquerade as “Art Criticism” and explores how Basquiat’s treatment implicates the New York City art world. “This kid was destroyed by fanatics, he did all the way and they looked the other way when he was doing cocaine, he was treated like a slave,” Reed stated. “Real names and incidents are brought to life through vigorous research.” 

Reed, a MacArthur Genius Fellowship winner, is no stranger to NYC’s Lower Eastside; he premiered multiple plays at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, including “Life Among the Aryans,” “Body Parts,” and the sold-out 2019 run of “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda” (which extended three times). His most noted works for me include “Mumbo Jumbo” (1972), “Yellow Back Radio Broke-Down” (1969), Flight to Canada (1976), and one of his recent books “Barack Obama and the Jim Crow Media: The Return of the Nigger Breakers” (2010). All of his works swing like an avant garde orchestra, always in motion hitting spirited notes. 

For information and tickets call 212-254-1109.

Saxophonist and composer Sherman Irby, long-time member of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, will come to Dizzy’s in a smaller configuration to celebrate “A Very Irby Christmas” Dec. 21-24. His band will include fellow orchestra mate and trombonist Vincent Gardner, pianist Isaiah J. Thompson, bassist Gerald Cannon, drummer Willie Jones III and special guest vocalist Camille Thurman (she was an extremely impressive saxophonist sitting in as a member of the JLCO). Two shows each evening at 7:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. (except Dec. 24 one show only at 7 p.m.). For tickets and reservations visit jazz.org/dizzys or 212-490-3460.

Enjoy your holidays. Thank you so much for reading this column and of course the support of this historical publication. Stay safe and wear that mask, keep the groove. We remain family.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.