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Film Review: The Last Black Man in San Francisco

CHARLESTON CHRONICLE — The migration of well-to-do millennials, empty nesters and others into cities and the exit of working-class people and/or people of color is a social phenomenon: Brooklyn, Raleigh, Philly, Chicago, Nashville, Denver… Still, the poster child for cities in radical transition has got to be San Francisco. Tech companies came in, prices went up, middle-class, working-class and lower-income people practically vanished. 

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Jonathan Majors and Jimmie Fails in The Last Black Man in San Francisco. (Photo Credit: Peter Prato)

By Dwight Brown, NNPA News Wire Film Critic

You can like the message even if the messenger isn’t perfect.

The migration of well-to-do millennials, empty nesters and others into cities and the exit of working-class people and/or people of color is a social phenomenon: Brooklyn, Raleigh, Philly, Chicago, Nashville, Denver… Still, the poster child for cities in radical transition has got to be San Francisco. Tech companies came in, prices went up, middle-class, working-class and lower-income people practically vanished. 

The most striking change has been in the Filmore District. In the 1940s, African Americans and Japanese Americans shared the neighborhood until World War II when the latter group was sent to internment camps. For a while, Blacks rented or owned the district’s classic Victorian structures and the area thrived in its own way, dubbed “Harlem West.” Nightclubs and theaters attracted musicians like Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye. As banks became reluctant to approve loans and development funds, the people remained vibrant but the housing went downhill. 

These days the Fillmore is less colorful. What’s left of the middle/working/lower class black population now lives in the Bayview-Hunters Point district, which is near a Naval shipyard in the southeast part of the city. Once there were two black neighborhoods in S.F.: Fillmore or BHP. Now there is one. 

This occurrence provides a timely premise for a film that explores specific S.F. issues, but  is universal in so many ways. 

Jimmie Fails (Jimmie Fails) is a young man who’s shacking up in Bayview-Hunters Point. He’s a house guest of his best friend Montgomery Allen (Jonathan Majors, Hostiles, White Boy Rick), a writer, and Mont’s dad (Danny Glover). The two guys are so close, that they skateboard together—on one board.

Jimmie is haunted by his past. He grew up in his grandad’s Victorian home in the Fillmore. He still loves it so much that, even though his actions are not welcome by the building’s new white owners, he goes back occasionally to paint the window trims and do handyman work. Jimmie’s dreams and reality don’t mesh. One day he finds the Victorian is empty, and the owners have vacated. He becomes a squatter and in his mind the place is his. Mont and he take up residence. Mont writes a play and intends to stage it at the house with an audience. Both men are in for a reality check. 

Black flight deserves an investigation, as a documentary or a fictional film. As an amusing fantasy film? Maybe not so much. Writer/director Joe Talbot and Jimmie Fails, buddies since elementary school, attempt the latter task. The two with co-writer Rob Richert have created a picture book story that is filled with dazzling images of S.F. Artfully, cinematographer Adam Newport-Berra captures the iconic images of the city: e.g. Jimmie skateboards down Powell Street with a cable car going in the opposite direction and the Bay Bridge in the background. The vision is as gorgeous as a postcard. 

Equally entrancing is a heart-warming musical score by Emile Mosseri, with a playlist that includes Joni Mitchell. The homes are beautiful (production design Jona Tochet, set decoration Elena Nommensen, art direction Olivia Kanz). The clothes are eye-catching (costume designer Amanda Ramirez)–maybe a tad too dapper for low-income people. Overall, the tech credits are solid.

The characters are vibrant, but not always believable or accessible. That could be more a reflection of the script and what it imposed than the actors’ choices. The lead and supporting actors give earnest and eclectic performances: Fails and Majors have an amicable chemistry. Tichina Arnold as Aunt Wanda and Rob Morgan as James Sr. form a strong family bond. Fin Wittrock as the smarmy real estate agent represents the worst instincts of millennials. Jamal Trulove as the breakout character in the Greek Chorus on a BHP street corner shows the perfect blend of inner-city bravura and vulnerability.

Talbot’s direction is strong when it concerns the visuals: The aforementioned cable car scene; Jimmie and Mont riding a skateboard together; bright lights on faces in the sun. Moody lighting in darkened Victorian interiors; dad peering out from a window on a wall that’s part of a billboard ad. Talbot’s stop motion/slow motion bits are cool, too. He plays with the footage skillfully, often mimicking Spike Lee. 

So, what’s the rub? Ten minutes into the film, the mix of reality and fantasy feels disjointed like it’s doing a disservice to a very important subject. What you’re watching feels more suited for a quirky theater piece than a film. Though the two leads establish a viable friendship, Major overacts while Fails underplays his character. It’s like there are two separate performances that belong in two different movies. 

At one point a street person breaks into a wonderful baritone rendition of the ‘60s flowerchild hit “San Francisco:” “If you’re going to San Francisco, Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.” Nice performance, wrong movie. The erratic outburst is more suited for a light-hearted musical, and not a film with a serious theme. 

If some viewers can accept the fanciful storytelling, then they may find what’s on the screen entertaining. If they can’t, they’ll be frustrated by a plotline that never takes root, a momentum that lags more than it excels, and long winded, 120-minute storytelling (editor David Marks) that tests patience. 

Tackling social issues in a fictional film is not easy. But it can be done effectively if the story and storytelling come first and the message second. Otherwise you have a message movie that is usually off-putting—case in point. The writers and directors of Blindspotting chose a wiser strategy. Their storyline was prominent and their social issues came along for the ride. Their messaging was subtle and far more palatable. 

So why tell this tale at all? The aunt sums it up when she has a heart-to-heart talk with her nephew Jimmie: “…if you leave [S.F.], it’s not your loss. It’s San Francisco’s.” 

Multicultural neighborhoods enrich cities in ways that are often not appreciated or valued until they’re gone. That’s a timely, urgent and important missive that this film conveys, imperfectly. 

Visit NNPA News Wire Film Critic Dwight Brown at DwightBrownInk.com and BlackPressUSA.com

This article originally appeared in the Charleston Chronicle

Business

Charleston County Sheriff’s Office to Host Grant Writing Workshop in September

CHARLESTON CHRONICLE — Charleston County Sheriff’s Office and Grant Writing USA will present a two-day grants workshop in Charleston, September 5-6, 2019. In this class you’ll learn how to find grants and write winning grant proposals. This training is applicable to grant seekers across all disciplines.

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By The Charleston Chronicle

Charleston County Sheriff’s Office and Grant Writing USA will present a two-day grants workshop in Charleston, September 5-6, 2019.

In this class you’ll learn how to find grants and write winning grant proposals. This training is applicable to grant seekers across all disciplines.

More information including learning objectives, class location, graduate testimonials and online registration is available here: http://grantstraining.com/charleston0919.

Multi-enrollment discounts and discounts for Grant Writing USA returning alumni are available. Tuition payment is not required at the time of enrollment.

Tuition is $455 and includes everything: two days of terrific instruction, workbook, and access to our Alumni Forum that’s packed full of tools, helpful discussions and more than 200 sample grant proposals

This article originally appeared in the Charleston Chronicle

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Charleston Chronicle

COMMENTARY: Where ‘Da Heck Are Black Leaders?

CHARLESTON CHRONICLE — Illegal guns and drugs are permeating black communities and destroying black men in unparalleled numbers since slavery. Is it happenstance or by design? What has led up to these murders is nothing short of orchestrated genocide. It began with a two-tier educational system and drug dealers dumping loads of guns and drugs into the black community. Fathers got hooked on drugs and abandoned their children. Mothers took on two or three low-paying jobs to make ends meet while leaving children home alone to raise themselves. How do we dig ourselves out of this systemic disingenuous mess?

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Photo by: rawpixel.com | pexels.com

By Beverly Gadson-Birch

Illegal guns and drugs are permeating black communities and destroying black men in unparalleled numbers since slavery. Is it happenstance or by design? What has led up to these murders is nothing short of orchestrated genocide. It began with a two-tier educational system and drug dealers dumping loads of guns and drugs into the black community. Fathers got hooked on drugs and abandoned their children. Mothers took on two or three low-paying jobs to make ends meet while leaving children home alone to raise themselves. How do we dig ourselves out of this systemic disingenuous mess?

Yesterday, there were three reported killings of young black men—two in North Charleston and one West Ashley—all killed within 12 hours.  Before I could wrap my hands around this widespread violence that has become commonplace in black communities, I received a call that my nephew-in-law, an ex-professional football player for the Baltimore Ravens and NY Giants, was shot four times in Charlotte, NC. Details are sketchy at this time, but he is reportedly in stable condition.

I am an old school girl. We talked things over whenever someone offended us. The biggest disagreement back in the day, that seemed to garner some attention, was at a dance if someone stepped on your shoes. The dispute ended in an apology or a shoving match. Even if there was retaliation, rarely would someone end up dead. Retaliation was little more than gathering up your boys to kick butts. And drive-by shootings were unheard of. If parents knew something was brewing, they intervened and prevented the discord from escalating. Where are the parents of these young men that are committing violent acts and terrorizing neighborhoods? Where are they? Where are our leaders? Where are the clergies? Why are you invisible? Well, so much for the good ole days when my biggest fears were rats, roaches and snakes.

The lion share of murders is happening in North Charleston and Mayor Summey has yet to take a stand against crime in his city. There are nine failing schools in Charleston County School District and eight are in North Charleston. North Charleston has two failing high schools—North Charleston and R.B. Stall High; and, two excellent rated—Academic Magnet and School of the Arts. The enrollment disparity speaks for itself.  The two failing high schools are predominately black and brown; two successful high schools, predominately white. Is there any wonder why crime is out of control in the city? Who ‘da heck cares?

The Mayor has been silent on the issue of education as well. The problem is not just a black problem. It’s a community problem. Crime has no boundaries. We are either in the boat together or all out. You either sink or swim. There is no in between. Folks don’t like to hear the truth; but the truth is all I know. I know y’all didn’t ask me, but I have to speak it like I see it. We can expect more of the same if we continue electing persons to office who don’t give a rat turd about building families and healthy communities. It’s all about fattening their nest, employing their family, awarding contracts to their friends and maintaining the status quo while the rest of us are left to deal with dark money or no money; minimum wage jobs or joblessness; minimally adequate education or failing schools; ghetto or get out; healthcare or health neglect; food desert or food bank, etc., and the disparities goes on and on and on.

White folk, y’all need to listen up. My ancestors put up with back-breaking work in cotton and tobacco fields while temperatures soared well above 100 degrees. Slavery time is over. These young black whippersnappers today ain’t gonna put up with your foolishness. Y’all ‘scuse my grammar. Y’all better own this thing and stop pretending y’all ain’t got nothing to do with this mess. It may be in the black community today, but just wait!!

We have got to desensitize young black males regarding the long and short term effects of drugs and guns. Education must begin in the home, church and school, basically in that order. It’s about reprogramming and providing opportunities for young people. It’s about redirecting resources that are being spent in white communities and redeveloping black communities, community resource and sports centers, after school and high tech programs and a first-class educational system that produces scholars and not criminals.

I still want to know: “Where ‘da heck are our black leaders? Where are our clergies?  Y’all know who you are. Come out with your hands up!!”

This article originally appeared in the Charleston Chronicle

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Charleston Chronicle

Kimberly Riggins to continue leading Stono Park Elementary

CHARLESTON CHRONICLE — Charleston County School District announced this summer Kimberly Riggins as the principal of Stono Park Elementary School. Riggins served as the school’s interim principal for the 2018-19 school year after joining the district from Denver Public Schools. During her time in Denver, Riggins worked to improve staff and student culture and increase student attendance and parental involvement, all while creating a culture of high expectations for student learning and behavior.

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Stono Park Elementary School Principal Kimberly Riggins

By The Charleston Chronicle

Charleston County School District announced this summer Kimberly Riggins as the principal of Stono Park Elementary School. Riggins served as the school’s interim principal for the 2018-19 school year after joining the district from Denver Public Schools. During her time in Denver, Riggins worked to improve staff and student culture and increase student attendance and parental involvement, all while creating a culture of high expectations for student learning and behavior.

Riggins was instrumental in increasing K-3 reading scores and ELA and math growth scores, providing instructional feedback and professional development to staff to better enhance the quality of instructional delivery, and strategically aligning fiscal resources to meet curriculum and instructional needs. Riggins was the Executive Director of Orange County Public Charter School before serving in Denver Public Schools, leading the school to receive an A rating on the state grading system from 2012-2014.

Riggins holds a bachelor’s in business administration from the University of Cincinnati and a Master of Education from Xavier University. She is also certified as a Turnaround School Leader by the Florida Regional Education Board, a primary and elementary Montessori instructor, and holds a South Carolina principal licensure in elementary and secondary education

This article originally appeared in the Charleston Chronicle

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Animals

South Carolina Statewide Adoption Event’s Goal Is 1,500 Adoptions

CHARLESTON CHRONICLE — Pick Me! SC is coming back bigger and better than ever July 12 – 14.  More shelters around the state and more Petco locations than ever before are getting involved in this amazing statewide adoption event. The statewide adoption event is sponsored by the Petco Foundation, in partnership with BOBS from Skechers, and organized by No Kill South Carolina (NKSC). The goal is to save 1,500 lives through adoptions in just one weekend. Most shelters and adoption centers are offering “no-fee” or “low-fee” adoptions as part of this life saving event. NKSC is a program of Charleston Animal Society.

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By The Charleston Chronicle

Pick Me! SC is coming back bigger and better than ever July 12 – 14.  More shelters around the state and more Petco locations than ever before are getting involved in this amazing statewide adoption event.

The statewide adoption event is sponsored by the Petco Foundation, in partnership with BOBS from Skechers, and organized by No Kill South Carolina (NKSC). The goal is to save 1,500 lives through adoptions in just one weekend. Most shelters and adoption centers are offering “no-fee” or “low-fee” adoptions as part of this life saving event. NKSC is a program of Charleston Animal Society.

“People saw how successful the event was last year and we are so excited to bring it back,” said the Director of NKSC Abigail Kamleiter. NKSC brings all of South Carolina’s shelters together – to work together – through projects like Pick Me! SC. “Saving every healthy and treatable pet is a goal that is within our reach if we all work together!” said Kamleiter.

Petco Taking Part

Petco stores will host shelters and rescues to reach even more potential adopters. “All 25 nearby Petco locations across South Carolina are participating, including some along the border in North Carolina,” said Petco District Leader, Robert Tuttle. “Petco and the Petco Foundation are proud to take part in this event. When we all work together, there is no limit to what we can do for pets in need!”  

Long-Term Impact of Pick Me! SC      

Many people who adopted at Pick Me! SC last year, shared that they had never visited their local shelter before the Pick Me! SC weekend. Organizers hope people will continue to see the value that shelters bring to their individual communities. As part of the Pick Me! SC project, 100 dogs and cats will be spayed and neutered at rural shelters around the state, thanks to the Petco Foundation.

If you are adopting, please remember to bring a leash for dogs or a carrier for cats. Some of the locations may have these items for sale but be sure to check in advance. For more information, visit PickMeSC.com.

This article originally appeared in the Charleston Chronicle

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Art

North Charleston Artist Anik Hall Paints Chicora/Cherokee History

CHARLESTON CHRONICLE — Fresh Future Farm was awarded a Southern Creative Places grant from South Arts to create public art that educates, creates conversations and increases community pride. Farm staff worked closely with the SC History Room at the Charleston County Main Library and Don Campagna, History and Archives Coordinator for the City of North Charleston to verify and uncover little known historic information. Anik Hall, the Farm’s 23-year-old Special Projects Manager, collaged images of the neighborhood from the 1500’s to the present and received approval from the City to begin the work.

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Anik Hall (Photo by: charlestonchronicle.net)

By The Charleston Chronicle

Fresh Future Farm was awarded a Southern Creative Places grant from South Arts to create public art that educates, creates conversations and increases community pride. Farm staff worked closely with the SC History Room at the Charleston County Main Library and Don Campagna, History and Archives Coordinator for the City of North Charleston to verify and uncover little known historic information. Anik Hall, the Farm’s 23-year-old Special Projects Manager, collaged images of the neighborhood from the 1500’s to the present and received approval from the City to begin the work.

Comcast employees prepped the space for the project last spring. Hall translated the collage mock-up into a 50’ x 12’ life sized replica on the back wall of FFF’s grocery store. Staff members started recording oral histories using the StoryCorps app. To complement its work, FFF was awarded a fellowship from the League of Creative Interventionists, a national organization invested in building a network of artists doing creative placemaking work.

The Farm will host a community dinner that celebrates the mural’s completion and expands their oral histories project to include additional narratives from current and former residents later this year. These videos will be recorded for FFF’s YouTube channel and future podcast. Fresh Future Farm and the League will post event details on social media when they are available.

As part of Fresh Future Farm’s Kickstarter capital campaign, donors can pay to have their names added to the mural. To view the public artwork, visit Fresh Future Farm Tuesdays through Fridays from 12 pm to 7 pm and Saturdays from 7 am to 12 pm. Current and former residents are invited to share pictures and stories with the farm by emailing Anik at specialprojects.freshfuturefarm@gmail.com. All collected information will live on the Farm’s YouTube page and in a scrapbook.

This article originally appeared in the Charleston Chronicle

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Charleston Chronicle

Black PR Wire Power Profile: Mary J. Blige

CHARLESTON CHRONICLE – Iconic Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, actress and philanthropist, Mary J. Blige is a figure of inspiration, transformation and empowerment making her one of the defining voices of the contemporary music era. With a track record of eight multi-platinum albums, nine Grammy Awards (plus a staggering 32 nominations), a 2012 Golden Globe nomination, and five American Music Awards, Blige is a global superstar. In the ensuing years, the singer/songwriter has attracted an intensely loyal fan base—responsible for propelling worldwide sales of more than 50 million albums.

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Mary J. Blige (Photo by: defendernetwork.com)

By Black PR Wire

Iconic Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, actress and philanthropist, Mary J. Blige is a figure of inspiration, transformation and empowerment making her one of the defining voices of the contemporary music era. With a track record of eight multi-platinum albums, nine Grammy Awards (plus a staggering 32 nominations), a 2012 Golden Globe nomination, and five American Music Awards, Blige is a global superstar. In the ensuing years, the singer/songwriter has attracted an intensely loyal fan base—responsible for propelling worldwide sales of more than 50 million albums.

Born in the Bronx, New York, Blige began moving people with her soulful voice when at 18 she signed with Andre Harrell’s Uptown Records in 1989, becoming the MCA-distributed label’s youngest and first female artist. Influenced at an early age by the music of Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan and Gladys Knight, Blige brought her own gritty, urban-rooted style—fusing hip-hop, soul and honest, frank lyrics—to the forefront on her 1992 debut album What’s the 411? The multi-platinum set, executive produced by Sean “Diddy” Combs, quickly spun off several hits, including two R&B No. 1s: You Remind Me and Real Love.

Blige helped redefine R&B and began forging a unique niche for herself on the more personal second album, 1994’s My Life. Blige is an artist that uses her gift of song to lift spirits and touch lives while bringing her heart, soul and truth to those who are willing to listen. She is loved for her passionate, chart-topping hits like “Be Without You”, “No More Drama” and “Family Affair” all of which have made her a force in music.

In October 2013, Blige for Matriarch Records/Verve Records/Interscope Records released her first-ever holiday album titled, A Mary Christmas in collaboration with legendary producer, David Foster. Blige’s holiday album features her soulful interpretation of classic holiday tunes including Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, and The Christmas Song. Blige is joined by a number of A-list guests, such as Barbra Streisand, and duets with Jessie J, The Clark Sisters and Spanish collaboration with Mark Anthony.

Blige, who co-penned I Can See in Color for 2009’s Precious soundtrack, has branched out into acting. She appeared in Tyler Perry’s dramatic comedy, I Can Do Bad All By Myself in 2009 and starred in Rock of Ages, alongside Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin and Russel Brand in 2012. Taking on a more dramatic role, in 2013, she starred as Betty Shabazz in the TV movie Betty & Coretta, a biographical story about the widows of Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. Then in November 2013 Mary J. Blige starred as the mysterious guardian angel “Platinum Fro,” in the holiday musical film drama Black Nativity. Ramping up her acting career, Blige has guest-starred on the ABC comedy, Black-ish and the FOX musical drama Empire and most recently, starred as Evillene, the Wicked Witch of the West on the NBC musical, The Wiz LIVE!

In 2014, Blige released her 13th studio album, The London Sessions, which reached the No.1 position on the Top R&B Albums chart and included a behind-the-scene documentary of her recording sessions that premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival 2015.

Blige is close to completing her 14th studio album and recently finished The King and Queen of Hearts World Tour with Maxwell. The 24-date tour, produced by Live Nation took Mary to cities throughout Europe and the U.S.

Source: www.maryjblige.com.

This article originally appeared in the Charleston Chronicle.

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