Although the first day of March is here, it does not mean events celebrating Black excellence are ending. In fact, the opposite is true for Los Angeles. There are many local and virtual cultural experiences continuing into March that focus specifically on Black women-centric themes.
They offer an effortless and urbane progression from Black History Month to Women’s History Month. If you’re interested in partaking, here are six noteworthy—and mostly free—events to check out.
Black Quantum Futurism is Charting What’s Next
Camae Ayewa and Rasheedah Phillips—a USC music professor and an attorney turned housing advocate, respectively—have developed a futuristic approach to advancing Black life and Black causes.
At the REDCAT galleries in DTLA, an exhibition of their current work, titled CPT Reversal, runs through Saturday, March 5, and is just one of a myriad of projects under Black Quantum Futurism, a multi-faceted, multidisciplinary exploration of “the intersections of futurism, creative media, DIY-aesthetics, and activism in marginalized communities through an alternative temporal lens.”
Their work is elaborate, amazing and even far out. It is based in theory, practice and research, and has garnered a mountain of awards, superlatives and international acclaim for the co-founders.
This is new-wave, next-level stuff. Its deft fusion of art, science, community engagement and complex, thought-provoking ideas is delightful, and not to be missed.
The exhibit at REDCAT galleries is free; hours are noon to 6 p.m., the Disney Concert Hall complex, 631 West 2nd Street, 90012.
‘Slave Play’ May Not Be Fair Game
This explosive and tendentious Broadway favorite hasn’t stopped causing controversy since it racked up a record 12 Tony nominations, including best play and direction, in 2020. It’s at the Mark Taper Forum in DTLA for two more weeks.
“Slave Play” mines the fraught issues of sexual desire and dysfunction, and refracts them through the dynamics of interracial relationships, which in itself is a scarcely discussed subject.
Three couples act out therapist-directed antebellum fantasies and it gets ugly. Therapy gets skewered as two female facilitators—themselves an inter-racial coupling—begin to out-Karen each other. When central character Kaneisha tells her white British husband that he is like an ancestral virus, she isn’t saying she doesn’t love him.
The audience finds itself considering its own complicity in racial power dynamics, as the set design—a literal wall of mirrors—reflects viewers’ reactions into the midst of the action.
During the play’s initial Broadway run, playwright Jeremy O. Harris decided to begin offering “Black Out” shows, where targeted performances were restricted to Black audiences. The jokes, and some of the most inflammatory scenes, seemed to hit differently at these shows, Inda Craig-Galvan wrote in a commentary for the LA Times.
The show is raunchy, risky and incendiary. It didn’t win a single Tony, but that didn’t stop this play on sex play that came through Broadway like a wrecking ball from entering the lexicon. People love it or hate it, but can’t stop talking about it. “Slave Play” runs through March 13.
Mark Taper Forum, 135 N Grand Ave., 90012
Reparations Club Has An Attitude About Books
Reparations Club is a Black-owned and woman-owned independent bookstore that is thriving in the midst of a resurgence of small businesses on Jefferson Boulevard. The book store that also goes by Rep Club for short is an inviting space, tucked right off Crenshaw on Victoria Ave. Dessert favorite Kobbler King is across the street and Party Beer Co., a brewery with an open-air patio, is a few blocks down.
Patrons can relax and browse on a comfortable chaise, or square up at the games table. The staff knows the materials, and lively discussions erupt spontaneously around favorite authors and ideas.
The business has plenty of character and includes a diverse offering of tomes on Black history, culture and social/politics topics, as well as a children’s section, vintage albums and gifts. Reparations Club may be the new bookstore prototype: small, concept-driven and plugged-in to the neighborhood.
Hours are Tues-Sat 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday Noon-5 p.m.
3054 S Victoria Ave. Los Angeles, CA 90016
Henry Louis Gates & Wole Soyinka in Discussion
Two renowned literary powerhouses will meet in conversation Friday, March 4, at the Loyola Marymount University Hall Atrium.
Wole Soyinka, a Nobel Laureate, and Henry Louis Gates, an Emmy-awarded film and television producer, will sound off in a “global conversation” sponsored by the Marymount Institute for Faith, Culture and the Arts.
The free event takes place at 7 p.m. at the Westchester Main Campus, 1 LMU Drive, 90045 310.338.2700.
To register: https://bellarmine.lmu.edu/soyinkagates/register/
Array 101 fights back against anti-racism rhetoric
Ava Duvernay’s Array 101 placed Colin Kaepernick’s story front and center in February as it rolled out full-page ads in print media and showed up in the official Super Bowl program to promote a learning initiative focused on the former NFL quarterback.
“Colin in Black and White,” a free online learning package designed to accompany Duvernay’s Netflix series of the same name, covers themes from the six-part series, including race, identity, social construction and equity, among others.
Duvernay told Deadline that the campaign is a direct counter move against “CRT hysteria.”
She said she couldn’t sit quietly by and watch, “as vital parts of American history education [were] being erased from official curriculum, …. vital works of literature [were] being banned, ….vital discourse [was] being muted….”
This is the fourth educational package developed under Duvernay’s Array imprimatur, which acquires and distributes films and sponsors training and mentoring for women filmmakers. The materials provide support for educators, parents and school districts to implement curriculum around social justice issues or to supplement what’s being currently taught at their local schools.
Array 101 packages are available to go along with the Academy award-nominated feature “Selma” and the acclaimed streaming series “When They See Us.” There is also a package for the historic film “Sankofa.” Released in 1993 by Ethiopian-born filmmaker Haile Gerima, the legacy film charts the metaphysical journey of a high fashion model to uncover her ancestral roots.
‘Recitatif’-- The late Toni Morrison left a riddle of race neutrality
The release of “Recitatif,” a short story penned by the incomparable Toni Morrison, caused a small sensation in the literary world early in February.
There were levels to the excitement. In her prolific career, Morrison wrote reams of highly acclaimed prose, but only one short story. It had never been released, except in a now out-of-print 1983 anthology. Those who know the work say that “Recitatif,” titled after a distortion of the French word for recitative (accent on the 4th syllable), was deemed an “experiment” by Morrison.
Morrison weaves the tale of two childhood friends— both female, orphaned and needy—who look back on their life from the vantage point of adulthood. There’s a riddle in the midst of their relationship. Morrison lets us know they are one white and the other black, but not which one.
Like “Slave Play,” Morrison’s artful dodge is meant to interrogate the readers’ biases.
The lyrical quality of Morrison’s diction has been described as music-like. The word recitative refers to “rhythmically free vocal style that imitates the natural inflections of speech.” The title may be yet another sleight of hand from Morrison, who famously told us the measure of our lives exists in how we “do language.”
Author Zadie Smith contributes an introduction, deemed “typically insightful,” by book critic David L. Ulin in the LA Times, who cautions not to read it beforehand.
Out on Knopf at $16, the 96-pager is a delicious, dangling carrot for the Humanities geek who dotes on Morrison. It seems to beg for a Spring Break reading.