NORTH ADAMS — A lot of people probably think that it’s the local indie journalist poverty thing that keeps me from going out and reviewing more food in and around Greylock Nation. They’d be right, of course, but an even more compelling reason exists: I get tired of chowing down on an entree that’s gonna run north of $20 and then realizing, “I wish I’d just stayed home and cooked that myself. And better.” All told, I’ve got a couple decades or more in the food world, from the field all the way to the front of the house and everything in between. That background can make me wicked appreciative and generous or decidedly unforgiving. The slightly unhinged duality might or might not serve me as a food critic.Keep Reading
The dance world has been slow to let go of certain stereotypes. Chief among them might just be that men shouldn’t dance en pointe, and that romantic love is best expressed by men and women dancing together.
Which is one of the reasons that Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, the 45-year-old, New York City–based company of men in tights (and really, really large pointe shoes) has always been such a blast of fresh air. Not only are they game to get tarted up to play, often hilariously, all the women’s roles in classic ballets, but they also demonstrate serious dance chops that rouse the audience to standing ovation.Keep Reading
As you head into the weekend, do not be sequestered in your house. Northern Berkshires and the Bennington, VT area are inundated with free events that include family and child friendly events. Don’t forget Project Snowshoe at the Clark Art Institute. Borrow a pair of snowshoes and investigate 140+ acres of incredible landscape on easy hiking trails behind the Clark Art Institute.Keep Reading
“My interest in browning the white cube — by building with adobe bricks, making brown bodies present — is a response to entering traditional art spaces and not seeing myself reflected. This has been the case not just physically, in terms of the whiteness of those spaces, but also in terms of the histories of art they uphold”Rafa Esparza, ArtForum, November 21, 2017
It is the end of January. The sky is an opaque slate grey. Temperatures are sinking into minus territory, not counting wind chill factor. What should you do to fight mid-winter inertia? Go out! There are lots of amazing activities to do in Northern Berkshires from snowshoeing at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown to free day at MASS MoCA in North Adams to exhibits that just opened this month. Check the notices below; you will begin to see the light.Keep Reading
Don’t Be Embarrassed! But…
All good exhibits and productions have to end sometime. Maybe they’re going on tour to spread wonder and admiration across the country or the world (either objects of art or thespians). Maybe they’re being crated up and shipped back to from wherever they were on loan (More the art than the performers). Maybe they’re being returned to captivity in a private collection after enjoying a brief public outing (we really hope we’re talking about just the artwork, here…)
No matter the reason, when that show closing date starts drawing near, you’d best be making excuses for lots of other things in your life that you’re going to have to beg off. It is NOT unthinkable that you might miss a once in a lifetime chance if you blink. The Greylock Glass is here to help you avoid massive regret with your reminder of what’s soon to pass. Or at least pass through and on their way to another destination.
— The EditorsKeep Reading
VESSELS FOR CHANGE
52 Artists – 100 Mugs – 1 Cause
Area artists rally to support the Berkshire Immigrant Center
BERKSHIRES, Mass.—In October, more than 50 area artists are joining their creative forces to make 100 hand-painted ceramic mugs in support of the Berkshire Immigrant Center. The project, Vessels for Change, will culminate in a celebration at Bright Ideas Brewing on the MASS MoCA campus in North Adams on Wednesday, November 15 from 7-9 pm.
For a $100 donation to the Berkshire Immigrant Center donors will receive a one-of-a-kind handmade mug, locally brewed beer, and a celebration. To make a donation and reserve a mug, visit:
http://www.stephanieboydworks.com/vessels-for-change/Ceramic artist Stephanie Boyd, one of the event organizers, was inspired after a recent mini-fundraiser she held on Facebook shortly after the events at Charlottesville. She made six mugs, posted them for $100 each with the intent of donating 100% to the Southern Poverty Law Center. She sold out within a few hours. The success of that project led her to create something larger to benefit a local organization.
“The response from our community has been inspiring,” says Boyd. “Virtually everyone asked to participate responded with enthusiasm. And the donations are already pouring in.” She continues, “Our community wants to do something positive to provide some counterpoint to the negativity we see in the news everyday.”
Five ceramic artists, Boyd, Suzy Konecky, Amrita Lash, and Phil and Gail Sellers, are making the mugs and artists including the likes of Danny O., Amy Podmore, John MacDonald, Michael Oatman, Tracy Baker-White and many more, (full list below) are painting the mugs in the potters’ studios.
“Opening our studio for artists to come and paint has been a treat. We have already had a few days where there were several artists painting at the same time,” says Gail Sellers of River Hill Pottery. “There is so much enthusiasm,” she adds.
Vessels for Change aims to raise $10,000, equivalent to approximately 5% of the Berkshire Immigrant Center’s annual budget.
“This is a critical and difficult time for many in our immigrant and refugee communities and we are so grateful that our community is coming together to support them and our work,” says Brooke Mead, Director of the Berkshire Immigrant Center. She continues, “We have just hired two new caseworkers to meet the ever-expanding need for our legal immigration counseling for the thousands of immigrants in the Berkshires. This wonderful creative initiative will bring a much-needed influx of funds to support our work and training for our new staff that is critically needed.”
And, added Mead, “We are enormously appreciative and humbled by a grassroots effort to support us financially so that we can keep our attention on our mission – directly helping immigrants.”
The mission of the Berkshire Immigrant Center is to assist individuals and families in making the economic, psychological, and cultural adjustments to a new land. Each year they provide assistance to over 800 individuals from more than 80 countries. Their work navigating the complex U.S. immigration system, promoting civic engagement, and facilitating cultural integration is invaluable. By helping immigrants meet their basic needs, and supporting them in their efforts to become active participants in our community, the Center builds bridges of understanding and cooperation across cultures. Their work results in strengthened communities, reunited families, refugees protected, higher employment income, and economic self-sufficiency for newcomers.
The participating artists are a “who’s who” of the local creative economy and includes: William Archer, Tracy Baker-White, Renée Bouchard, Keith Bona, Stephanie Boyd, Sharon Carson, Jana Christy, Deb Coombs, Phyllis Criddle, Richard Criddle, Arthur DeBow, Zoe Doucette, Mike Glier, Brandon Graving, Suzy Helme, Jane Hudson, Frank Jackson, Ellen Joffe-Halpern, Joanna Klain, Alison Kolesar, Suzy Konecky, David Lane, Amrita Lash, John MacDonald, Sarah McNair, Anna Moriarty-Lev, Mark Mulherin, Karl Mullen, Mary Natalizia, Dawn Nelson, Danny O, Michael Oatman, Linda O’Brien, Opie O’Brien, Derek Parker, Doug Paisley, Amy Podmore, Maggi Randall, John Recco, Michele Ridgeway, Bill Riley, Anne Rocklein, Eric Rudd, Greg Scheckler, Ann Scott, Gail Sellers, Phil Sellers, Karin Stack, Diane Sullivan, Sandra Thomas, Betty Vera
The event organizers are Stephanie Boyd, Gail Sellers, Phil Sellers, Suzy Konecky, Laura Christensen, Orion Howard, Amrita Lash, Sandra Thomas
Sponsors/Supporters: Bright Ideas Brewing, Williamstown Community Chest, Sheffield Pottery
To make a donation: http://www.stephanieboydworks.com/vessels-for-change/
Freight Train, Freight Train
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Brooklyn composer Gabriel Kahane visited MASS MoCA in 2013, on the eve of his major label debut The Ambassador. Now he returns on Friday, October 20, at 8pm, to stage an intimate, work-in-progress song cycle, solo at the piano, based on his recent two-week Amtrak journey around the country.
Composer, musician, and vocalist Kahane has quietly become one of the leading voices in American music today. “A star of the new-music scene” (The Los Angeles Times), Kahane resists traditional definitions by composing from a seemingly endless reserve of strategies. Moving nimbly between hip Brooklyn venues and Carnegie Hall, The New York Times notes, “[Kahane] fuses art-song and pop-ballad conventions into something new and entrancing, including rich, potent string-quartet writing.” Having first received recognition for his boundary-breaking concert piece Craigslistlieder, a quirky song cycle based on text from personal ads found on Craigslist.com, his 2014 release The Ambassador is a study of Los Angeles seen through the lens of ten street addresses. The album was hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the year’s very best,” and the track “Empire Liquor Mart (9127 S. Figueroa St.)” made NPR Music’s Favorite Songs of 2014. Kahane’s highly anticipated follow-up, Book of Travelers, is set to premiere at BAM Next Wave Festival just weeks after its MASS MoCA preview.
Book of Travelers began to form the morning after the 2016 presidential election, when Kahane packed a suitcase and set out for a two-week train trip across the U.S. with no phone or internet, embracing 8,980 miles of a reclusive Amtrak existence. The result is a hymn to the analog intimacy of American rail culture as an antidote to the fragmentation and efficiency of modern life. Alone at the piano, accompanied only by video, Kahane draws from dining car conversations with dozens of strangers — cowboys, postmasters, religious Luddites, national park conservationists, drifters, and software engineers — to sing of his own upended assumptions about the body politic as revealed through his unplugged railroad exile. Book of Travelers is directed by Daniel Fish, with scenic and video design by Jim Findlay, video programming by Julia Frey, and lighting design by Mark Barton. Fish and Findlay both return to MASS MoCA following the preview of their 2014 play The Source, which subsequently premiered at BAM to critical acclaim.
Over his prodigious career Kahane has collaborated with a diverse array of artists, including Paul Simon, Sufjan Stevens, Andrew Bird, Blake Mills, and Chris Thile. As a composer, he has been commissioned by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Carnegie Hall, A Far Cry, The Knights, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, among others.
On Friday, October 20, at 8pm, after two weeks in residency at MASS MoCA, the engine pulls into the Hunter Center and Kahane steps off, bringing with him an entrancing American tale, both familiar and strange. Lickety Split, MASS MoCA’s in-house café, serves up fresh salads, homemade soup, and lip-smacking pub fare. The MASS MoCA bar is always well-stocked with local beer from Bright Ideas Brewing and Berkshire Mountain Distillery spirits. Concert tickets are $5 for members, $10 for students, $14 in advance, $20 day of, and $30 preferred. Tickets for all events are available through the MASS MoCA box office located on Marshall Street in North Adams, open 11am to 5pm every day except Tuesdays. Tickets can also be charged by phone by calling 413.662.2111 x1 during box office hours or purchased online at massmoca.org.
About MASS MoCA
MASS MoCA is one of the world’s liveliest (and largest) centers for making, displaying, and enjoying today’s most important art, music, dance, theater, film, and video. MASS MoCA nearly doubled its gallery space in spring 2017, with artist partnerships that include Laurie Anderson, the Louise Bourgeois Trust, Jenny Holzer, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, and James Turrell.
Gallery admission is $20 for adults, $18 for veterans and seniors, $12 for students, $8 for children 6 to 16, and free for children 5 and under. Members are admitted free year-round. The Hall Art Foundation’s Anselm Kiefer exhibition is seasonal and currently on view. For additional information, call 413.662.2111 x1 or visit massmoca.org.
11am to 5pm, closed Tuesdays
Spirit and Song tie both this episode and much of the creative community.
This is Will Call, #58—I’m your host, Jason Velazquez, and I thank you for tuning in. This episode is sponsored by the Williamstown Theatre Festival, which presents the brand new musical, “A Legendary Romance,” August 3rd through the 20th on the Main Stage. Tickets available at wtfestival.org.
I don’t always know what thread that runs through each episode will be when I start planning, but by the time I start weaving together story, song, images, and information, the pattern always emerges.
Art and Soul
This week, the magnifying power of community on creative expression revealed itself as our theme. We speak with Rev. Mark Longhurst of the First Congregational Church of Williamstown both about the seasonal “Art and Soul” series of sermons going on now, as well as the upcoming Story Slam taking place at the Clark Art Institute. “Art & Soul” examines the intriguing intersection of creativity and spirit. This week, Mark recommends taking in the July 26th appearance of Anna & Elizabeth at the Hancock Shaker Village in preparation for his sermon, “Spirit and Song” which will feature local favorite performing and recording duo, Long Journey. In between, Mark emcees an annual Story Slam taking place at the Clark Art Institute, who’s theme of Nature fits divinely with two Helen Frankenthaler exhibits now on view at the Clark.
We also connected with Philippa Thompson via Skype in this episode to catch up with Bang on a Can, whose summer festival is going on now at MASS MoCA. Philippa describes how new interactions among an international collection of musicians breathe life and innovation into a curious species of musical organization now in its 30th year.
Finally we welcome back one the Greylock Glass’ oldest friends, Michelle Daly. She also spoke via Skype to give us an overview of this year’s DownStreet Art celebration, and talks a little bit about her new role as director of the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
First though, let’s get in the spirit of things with a bit of song—From Anna & Elizabeth’s self-titled 2015 release, here is “Poor Pilgrim of Sorrow” right now on Will Call.
That was another one, “Troubles,” from Anna & Elizabeth’s debut album. Anna & Elizabeth are playing Wednesday, July 26, at the Hancock Shaker Village as part of the Barn Music Summer Series, which launched this year. Rev. Longhurst discusses the work of Anna & Elizabeth and other artists in “Spirit and Song,” the next installment of the “Art and Soul” series of summer sermons exploring the creative landscape of the Berkshires through Scripture. Service begins Sunday at 10 a.m. All are welcome. The Story Slam happens at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown Friday, July 28th at 7:00 p.m. The event is free, and would make a great pairing with the Helen Frankenthaler, open to members and the public at regular admission prices.
Bang on a Can
Now, on to discussion of a music event which is not new, but is, in fact, like a familiar bird that makes its home ever so briefly at MASS MoCA each Summer. Our guest is Philippa Thompson, program manager for Bang on a Can, who gives us an inside look into some of what makes this celebration of new composition so enduring.
16Th Annual Bang On A Can Summer Music Festival at MASS MoCA
July 19 – August 5, 2017
• Daily Recitals in the Galleries at 4:30pm including
Ghanian Drumming, Latin Music, and much more
• The Bang on a Can All-Stars preview ROAD TRIP by
Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe
• Mark Stewart and festival fellows perform on hundreds
of spectacular original instruments of Gunnar
• World Premiere Composer Concert – Over 40 young
composers and performers from around the world
debut nine new works written especially for the festival.
• A tribute concert to Pauline Oliveros
• Music from Central Asia – musicians from Kazakhstan,
Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan
• Festival fellows perform Philip Glass’ Symphony No. 3
• Concert celebrating guest composer George Lewis
• Concert celebrating guest composer Louis Andriessen
• 6-hour Bang on a Can Marathon featuring music by Steve Reich, Louis Andriessen, Jeffrey Brooks,
Michael Gordon, David Lang, Vanessa Lann, György Ligeti, Nicole Lizée, Julia Wolfe and more
An astounding diversity of musical perspectives and geographic origins adds texture through powerful collaborations, such as that between Australian composer Kate Moore and Bang on a Can All-Stars cellist Ashley Bathgate. The two met in 2009 and have worked together on various projects including Moore’s debut with Cantalope Music and 2016’s Stories for Ocean Shells, to which this song, “Velvet,” belongs.
And that was “Thorn,” composed by David Lang and performed by Molly Barth. Check the shownotes for information about where to go to make the music you hear on this episode your very own. You can also find links to Bang on a Can and MASS MoCA which has a full slate of events lined up for the entire season.
Well THIS season would certainly not be complete unless we checked in with Michelle Daly of the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center at MCLA. DownStreet Art is among the region’s premier events and just about the best excuse to shut down Downtown for a few hours.
I feel like we barely tread couple yards of all the ground I wished I could cover with Michelle. Alas! But, as always, links to DownStreet Art and the BCRC are in the shownotes, so you can explore on your own. Just don’t forget to find your way to downtown North Adams this Thursday.
Well, I don’t always time it this well, but it looks like we do, in fact, have a little space here at the end of the episode to play a song we haven’t featured on any of our shows yet, and that’s “Rescue Me,” by Long Journey, the beloved Berkshires duo comprised of Karl Mullen and Amrita Lash. They’ll be providing some of the “song” portion of the “Spirit and Song” community worship service this Sunday at the First Congregational Church in Williamstown.
Again I want to thank our sponsor for this episode, The Williamstown Theatre Festival, and encourage all of our listeners who are as crazy about musicals as we are to make haste to wtfestival.org to pick up tickets for A Legendary Romance, playing on the Main Stage August 3rd through August 20th. That’s our show for the week, I’ve been your host, Jason Velazquez, and I hope you’ll join me again for another episode of Will Call.
until / UNTIL
WordXWord and Lift Ev’ry Voice collaborate in a poetic response to Nick Cave’s UNTIL
Pittsfield, MA – WordXWord and the Lift Ev’ry Voice Festival have collaborated to invite poets to participate in a performance response to artist Nick Cave’s massive installation – UNTIL – at MASS MoCA on July 14 at 7:30P. The performance is free (does not require Museum admission fee) and is open to all.
“When Nick Cave conceived UNTIL, he intended it to be more than an exhibition; his vision was a space that would serve as a platform for dialogue and expression.”
until / UNTIL is both a collective response and a dialogue featuring spoken word artists whose work spans a wide range of poetic styles. Participating poets include Curtis Asch, Alex Hicks, Ashley Wonder, Donna Motta, Stan Spencer, Epiphany Thomas, Tristan Alston, Seth Brown, Mariah Barber, Elizag, and Kori Alston.
“Cave’s UNTIL addresses issues of gun violence, gun control policy, race relations, and gender politics in America today.”
Parents are cautioned that this program may contain material that raises more questions than it answers.
until / UNTIL
WordXWord and Lift Ev’ry Voice in poetic response to Nick Cave’s UNTIL
July 14, 7:30 p.m.
Mass MoCA, 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams, MA
For more information about WordXWord, visit WordXWordFestival.com. For more information about Lift Ev’ry Voice, visit LiftEvryVoice.org
Signature Events / Lift Ev’ry Voice 2017
June 16, 8P
Carl Hancock Rux
Mass MoCa, 1040 Mass Moca Way, North Adams, MA
MASS MoCA presents Carl Hancock Rux spoken word and poetry created in response to Nick Cave’s expansive installation UNTIL. [Tickets: MassMoca.org]
June 17, 1P
Workshop with Carl Hancock Rux
Mass MoCa, 1040 Mass Moca Way, North Adams, MA
Lift Ev’ry Voice and Mass MoCA present a poetry/spoken word workshop with Carl Hancock Rux. [Free. Pre registration required: LiftEvryVoice.org]
June 27 – 30
Camille A. Brown & Dancers Community Residency
Jacob’s Pillow Dance presents a series of dance workshops and events for youth, teens, and adults with Camille A. Brown & Dancers. All experience levels welcome. [Free. JacobsPillow.org]
June 29, 3:30P
Camille A. Brown & Dancers Lecture Demonstration
Pittsfield, Location TBD
July 14, 7:30P
Mass MoCA, 1040 Mass Moca Way, North Adams, MA
Lift Ev’ry Voice in collaboration with the WordXWord Festival presents a multi-generational cast of poet/performers who will share work created in response to Nick Cave’s UNTIL. [Free. WordXWordFestival.com]
July 22, 10A – 6P
Durant Park, Columbus Ave, Pittsfield, MA
Sponsored by the Berkshire Branch of the NAACP, In celebration of community, the Gather-In features activities for all ages, including games for children, musical performances, dance, food, a variety of vendors and informational booths, and a spirited a basketball tournament. [Free. NAACPBerkshires.org]
August 5, 5-8P
Struttin’ with Wanda Houston
The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home, 2 Plunkett St, Lenox, MA
The Mount plays host to Lift Ev’ry Voice in a celebration of community with the Wanda Houston Band. Enjoy delicious food from the Terrace Café and Lucia’s Latin Kitchen, available for purchase, or bring your own picnic. [Free. EdithWharton.org]
August 12, All Day
Lift Ev’ry Voice Day at Jacob’s Pillow Dance
Jacob’s Pillow Dance, 358 George Carter Rd, Becket, MA
Jacob’s Pillow Dance invites the Lift Ev’ry Voice community to spend a day and enjoy all that the Pillow has to offre. The day’s activities include free and ticketed performances, tour of the historic grounds, the opportunity to observe classes, picnic and more. [Free and TIcketed Events. JacobsPillow.org]
August 20, 3P
Walkin’ with LEV
The Mount, Edith Wharton’s Home, 2 Plunkett St, Lenox, MA
Enjoy the SculprtureNow exhibition at the Mount as never before when Lift Ev’ry Voice takes you for medley of music, dance and poetic responses to the grounds and sculpture. [Free. EdithWharton.org]
August 25, 1-4P
Mass MoCA, 1040 Mass Moca Way, North Adams, MA
In conjunction with Highland Free Day at Mass MoCA, Lift Ev’ry Voice presents a family-friendly beading making workshop with Marla Robertson. [Free.]
Schedule updates and additional events, including events presented by friends of the festival can be found on line at LiftEvryVoice.org.
The history of the African-American community in the Berkshires stretches from the War of Independence, which dozens of blacks from this region fought in, to the present day’s diverse community, including the second African-American female astronaut, Stephanie Wilson. Famous Berkshire natives include such historic figures as the legendary writer and activist W.E.B DuBois; Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, the first American slave to successfully sue for her freedom; and the Reverend Samuel Harrison, who served as the chaplain to the legendary African-American 54th Regiment of western Massachusetts in the Civil War and successfully fought for and won equal pay for black soldiers. Lift Ev’ry Voice celebrates this rich tradition of the African-American community, arts and culture, history and heritage, while acknowledging the larger global context in which this community exists.
In the wake of the November election, people across the country have seen fear and anger and exclusion become part of a national public conversation. Many people are sharing the experience of feeling that they do not belong in their familiar places. It’s called othering — making someone feel pushed to the edges, unwanted or different. It can happen in daily meetings and conversations, at work, at school, even at home.
In the Berkshires, movements are growing in response, art and lectures and performances and rallies, to explain what othering means and what it looks like — and to draw people together instead.
People are saying in different ways, I feel threatened. I feel alone. And people are saying that hate is not mine. I want to stand with you. I want to live in a country where we can all live and love and work, pray or not, speak and play music. People are saying we need to talk to each other.
In the Berkshires, efforts are growing to bring people together. In Pittsfield, on a November afternoon, young WordxWord poets and storytellers reflected on how it felt to be excluded or pushed to the edges, as part of “Othering,” a month-long show curated by the Berkshire Art Association at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts.
In Great Barrington, Asma Abbas, Associate Professor of Politics and Philosophy at Bard College of Simon’s Rock, invited Moustafa Bayoumi, American Book Award–winning writer and professor of English at Brooklyn College — who wrote one of the most re-tweeted tweets of the 2016 USA presidential debates, according to Twitter—to speak about Muslim American experiences in the last 15 years.
In North Adams, Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel, joins Rabbi David Markus, her co-chair of Aleph, the central organization of the international Jewish Renewal movement, in a call for solidarity. If a national effort to register Muslims becomes real, they are calling on all Americans to register.
Nick Cave’s “Until”
And in December of 2016, MASS MoCA, offered free admission for Berkshire residents until the solstice, as Nick Cave’s installation, Until, opened to take a close look at the ideal of “innocent until proven guilty” — and what happens when it becomes “guilty until proven innocent.”
Soprano Brenda Wimberly and organist Sereca Henderson perform at the opening of Nick Cave’s ‘Until,’ at MASS MoCA. His installation fills the Rauschenberg gallery, and everyone who walks in stops at the doorway. The room is as large as a football field. And it is full of light.
It’s like walking into an optical mobile. It’s a maze of stars and spirals and suns on 16,000 strings. They spin like tops, and they transform from pinwheeling color to faint lines, until they become invisible. In some of them, at the core, he has set the image of a hand gun.
Nick Cave is known for Soundsuits, wearable sculptures that cover the whole body, and he often performs in them. But here he has created something new. It’s a landscape. It’s a cloudscape made of chandelier crystal. It’s a place where he invites other people to perform.
Benjamin Clementine gave a concert on opening night.
Nick Cave created this installation holding in mind the lives and deaths of Eric Garner, Oscar Grant, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Yvette Smith and Michael Brown and more like them. Mass MoCA curator Denise Markonish speaks about his work.
Moustafa Bayoumi and Asma Abas
John Coltrane’s ‘A Love Supreme,’ a jazz classic from 1965 has echoes of Middle Eastern scales in its improvisation, and echoes of Islamic prayer in its inspiration, professor Moustafa Bayoumi writes in his 2015 collection of essays, “This Muslim American Life: Dispatches from the War on Terror.”
Coltrane often performed with Muslim musicians, he says, and anyone with an ear attuned to Islamic influences can hear them in Coltrane’s words and music.
He quotes Coltrane’s liner notes: “No Matter what … it is with God. He is Merciful. His way is in love, through which we all are. It is truly — a love supreme.”
Moustafa Bayoumi is an internationally recognized journalist. He is a columnist for The Guardian; his writing has appeared in journals from the New York Times to the Nation; and he has appeared on CNN, FOX News, National Public Radio and many other media outlets around the world.
He is an associate professor of English at Brooklyn College, and in 2008 he won an American Book Award for “How Does It Feel to Be a Problem: Being Young and Arab in America.”
“How Does It Feel to Be a Problem?” takes its title from writer, Civil Rights activist and Great Barrington native, W.E.B. DuBois, who asks that question in Souls of Black Folk.
In his book, Bayoumi tells the stories of seven young men and women in their 20s living in Brooklyn after 9/11.
Rasha and her family were imprisoned without trial and without evidence; Sami served in the military in Iraq; Yasmin fought discrimination in her diverse high school — and won.
In December, professor Bayoumi came to Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington to talk with professor Asma Abbas, and her students and the community, about the experience of being Muslim American in the past, in the last 15 years and today.
Many Americans misunderstand a great deal about what Muslim Americans believe and how they live their lives, he said.
To begin with, Muslim Americans have lived in this country for almost 400 years.
Aleph takes a stand against othering
Rachel Barenblat of Williamstown is the rabbi and spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, and she will serve as the interim Jewish Chaplain at Williams College in the spring semester. She is also co-chair of Aleph, the central organization of the international Jewish renewal movement, with David Markus, associate spiritual leader of Temple Beth-El of City Island in the Bronx. He has Berkshire ties as well — like Rachel, he is a Williams College alum. (In full disclosure, I am also a Williams alum, and Rachel is an old friend.)
Jewish Renewal, founded by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, is a movement across Jewish denominations. At its center, Aleph includes a rigorous liberal seminary and a growing network of congregations and communities around the world.
In response to the U.S. president-elect’s campaign promise to require all Muslims to register with the government, Aleph has sent out a call to all Americans, if that day comes, to register as Muslim in solidarity.
That call comes out of values central to Renewal, Rachel and David say, from a respect for all faiths, and a core Jewish value (Lev. 19:18), to love your neighbor as yourself.
The experience of being treated differently — the ‘Othering’ that David Markus talks about — is also the name of the Berkshire Art Association’s biennial juried show. In November, it filled the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts in Pittsfield with abstract paintings, collages and drawings.
The art association sent out a call for work reflecting on experiences of exclusion and separation. More than 30 artists from throughout the Northeast had work in the exhibit — from a twenty-year veteran of the U.S. military who served two tours in Iraq to an African-American Pittsfield High School graduate now studying art at Williams College.
On Nov. 13, the Pittsfield organization WordxWord hosted an afternoon of poetry and storytelling on the same theme — WordxWord uses spoken word, poetry and storytelling to celebrate diversity and creativity and make connections.
Four of those poets have given us permission to share there work here. We thank Izzy; our second poet, who has asked to remain anonymous; Sage; and Doni Smith.
On Saturday, Jan. 7, on the 76th anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech, a new Four Freedoms Coalition will invite the Berkshire community to unite against hate and bigotry in all its forms. The Berkshire County branch of the NAACP, BRIDGE, Berkshire Immigrant Center, United Africans of the Berkshires, and the United American Muslim Association of the Berkshires and others will gather for a rally and march in downtown Pittsfield.
The Four Freedoms Coalition is a non-partisan, diverse coalition of community organizations and people working together to unite the community and reaffirm the American values outlined in President Roosevelt’s speech:
Freedom from fear
Freedom from want
Freedom of speech
Freedom of religion.
All are welcome. To find out more, check out the Four Freedoms Coalition on Facebook or email email@example.com
On Jan. 29 at 3 p.m., Doni Smith and WordXWord will welcome the new year with a free poetry reading to celebrate sharing and caring and reflect on the consequences of greed at MCLA’s Gallery 51, at 51 Main St., North Adams.
Nine days after the presidential inauguration, poets and spoken word artists will bear witness to a world where greed appears to have no limits, and yet every day holds moments of generosity and compassion. The event will accompay Josh Ostraff’s exhibition, OFA ATU, which opens Jan. 26.
Also in Pittsfield, Georgene Poliak has formed All Band Together as an initiative in compassion and solidarity. At the holiday Shindy at Shire City Sanctuary, she showed arm bands with a crescent and a star that she is making out of upcycled t-shirts and sweaters. They recall the bands that Jews in Europe were made to wear under the Nazi occupation. But these mean the opposite — they mean that people of many faiths can stand together.
And in the spring, new artists will come to Mass MoCA to create and perform work inspired by Nick Cave’s ‘Until.’ Internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones will present a new solo work on March 4.
And choreographer, writer, and actress Okwui Okpokwasili will create and offer a site-specific dance on April 7.
Grammy-winnter and living legend Mavis Staples, known worldwide as a voice in R&B, Gospel, Soul, folk, rock and blues, will also perform at Mass MoCA on March 25.
And Toshi Reagon and Dorrance Dance will return to the ’62 Center at Williams College with tap masters Derick Grant and Dromeshia Sumbry-Edwards.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass.—For six Flame Maples, prisoners of “Tree Logic,” the fight for liberty has finally shattered the shackles that have root-bound them for years. Sort of.
In an apparent victory for activist organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Trees (PETT), the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA) has decided to release the latest group of trees that have been part of the installation created by Natalie Jeremijenko in 1999. Keep Reading