Friday, December 7, 2018

The Last Days of the Black Elks Hall in Bronzeville..




A Once Sacred Place in a Once Sacred Space ..
is now reduced 
2 a pile of rubble …

A rubble of red bricks
now sit on the spot 
at the end of my block

A pile of red bricks 
that sit unknown 
against the night  sky
as I
pull the car up to see  
the crime .. up close...
A murder in the night…
There’s no red tape around the corpse.. but 
It still feels like a death in the darkness... 
where someone took away my heart and my soul...

Yes … my  Big little “Red Schoolhouse’..
The Elks Hall…
Where they used to  hold “Elks Affairs”
With B.B. King as a headliner
 Where they dressed in their best.. 
With  beautiful fur collars and 2 inch heels.
And Dobb hats
The end of an era..
of important Black Elks who started  up in  Bronzeville
back in the day.

I remember the cars that lined the block and  
how the lots were full when there was an “Elks Affair..

I remember when guitarist, George Freeman, brother of Von Freeman..
and Byron Barbour  and Terry Norman ... played gigs there.

I remember after many years,… when the Elks  had gone.. 
and the Temple of the African Community  came...
With  Dr Jake Carruthers as their  leader,
we looked forward to the works of the Kemetic Institue
but .. alas.. he passed away 
and the dreams seemed to leave with him..
because the building was never brought to the original vision.

I  came to say  goodbye 
To a piece of my light…

A part of my family history
Growing up on the block..since 1966
Growing up...
knowing 
that 
I could go get some 
Jays potato chips... and a pop..
and watch the elders talk ... 
about important  'things' that elders talk about..
and feel safe...
 knowing that the BIG RED BUILDING  stood
at the  end of the street
 towering  like a big red Fortress 
protecting 'Short Vernon from the  Hawk,
 the folks...
and that it had a history ...

but now it's

Reduced to nothingness... 
against the night sky
It’ s cold… and I stare and stare
before taking a picture

I am alone..
Feeling some kind of way…
 like a lone warrior who cared…
 like a Bronzevillian Shogun
who guarded ... the Stable... 
who watched  over...
and groomed and  
maintained the grounds.

I know I tried..  
to imagine  
a school for the Arts
The children inside ..
a place of learning
filled with music  again..
with community again..
learning about the beauty, the history that we
have in Bronzeville
and interfacing that history with  the world..
The world who always came to visit 43rd St

They  would  stop  at my door 
to learn about the Checkerboard Blues club...
And they would always ask 
"What y'all going to do with that Big Red Building 
at the end of the block?
And I would  always say..
"Some of  us would love to see it become a  
Historical  place of learning.."
A place where the Arts & Technology can flourish...
Where literacy can rise..

But what really happens 2 a dream when it gets no support
Too little.. too late…
No support from those..
who have cultural roots here
 but No imagination..
No love.. 
No Interest..
For a Stable built in the 1890’s
surrounded by cobblestones...

With a rich history..

I’m  having  a flashback
A FLASH BLACK  
2  a whole 'nother time..
In Bronzeville 
On 'short Vernon
 Which is the nickname 
for this block on 43rd St..
because it is only one block long...
on Muddy Waters Drive
With its own rich history..

A flashback to when they tore the Checkerboard down..
As I watched  from the window…
It was a long time coming…
And it hurt just as much..

By Aki Antonia c2018 12418

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Denise Thimes.. A Musical Raconteur at Winters Jazz Club

Vocalist, Denise Thimes appeared in a Tribute to Nina Simone  
at Winters Jazz Club on July 6 and 7th, 2018.

On a sold out Saturday night in the summer in Chicago…
Denise Thimes was ON … like 3 neck bones!… 

Shimmering…Shining..
Poignant and Mesmerizing..
Regal… Sensual  and Sophisticated…
Soulful…Mournful …Saucy and Humorous!     
She was Oh so commanding and oh sO real… 

Denise was all of the above in the intimate setting of the 
new Winters Jazz Club as she performed her compelling 
hommage to Nina Simone…

A storyteller is a storyteller and a good  vocalist is expected to sing a musical story… 
but a Raconteur is “someone who can regale his or her listeners with riveting stories, usually funny, sometimes dramatic”.

Denise Thimes is a masterful storyteller… 
a musical raconteur…  who pulled us into the turbulent waters of Nina’s musical journey of love…social justice and compassion for fellow men and women.

She WAS riveting… as she regaled us… 
through many emotional moods all evening.

She seemed to channel Nina Simone’s spirit as she sang…
and we were drawn into the deeper meaning of Nina’s lyrics in such a way that this concert begin to feel like we were at a Jazz theatre in the round. 

No one had told me that Denise Thimes 
was also a gourmet musical chef!
And...at this concert,…. she put on the pot!  

She cooked up her music like a succulent gumbo .. 
stirring up a sensual and spicy musical roux  
peppered with Nina’s outrage and songs of Freedom…

Then on the side …
she added some St Louis styled ribs with sauce…
while channeling Bessie Smith Nina  
and an ‘Old Soul ‘ version of herself….
singing thangs like……

I want  a little sugar 
In my bowl
I want a little sweetness
Down in my soul
I could stand some lovin'
Oh so bad
I feel so funny and I feel so sad…

I want a Little Sugar in my bowl
Please.......give me some sugar….

Um um umph!  
It was so good, we were licking our  fingers…

Accompanied by a  superb band , a mixture of  incredibly musical ….musicians from St Louis and Chicago,  she started her performance with  Simone’s ‘Aint Got No, I’ve Got  Life…

At the beginning of the song, 
the words sounded campy and depressing...  

“I ain't got no home, ain't got no shoes
Ain't got no money, ain't got no class
Ain't got no skirts, ain't got no sweater
Ain't got no perfume, ain't got no bed
Ain't got no man”

but 
by the end of the song... 
the winds had changed...
ands she began to roar the words
loudly..

I got my arms, got my hands!
Got my fingers, got my legs!
Got my feet, got my toes!
Got my liver, got my blood!

I've got life! 
I've got my freedom!
I've got life!
I've got the life!
And I'm going to keep it!
I've got the life!

Words that reminds us to appreciate all that we do have…

From the moment she entered the room of  listeners.. 
we were under her spell.. 
I Put  A Spell On You…

And she told us we were under her spell..  
that she had  put a spell on us  
Why?  she said “Because you’re mine! “

(Silly me I had thought she was singing to a man… but no!  
She had us all enthralled from the first  note!)

And then she enthralled us more..
with the song 
Four Women… 
a song I have heard sung many times,
but... not sung like that! 

Four Women who had a story to tell..

Four Women ...
Aunt Sarah, 
Saffronia, 
Sweet Thing  
Peaches…

When Denise SANG their stories, 
she went in deep...
she stepped inside their characters and brought each one to life. 
At the end, she received a standing ovation… 
and a tip!
My Skin Is  Black!
My  n….a....m….e    is Aunt Sarah!

Yes! She is a serious musical ranconteur.
From gut-bucket to church!

And her quintet was superb! Subtle and potent, they were the perfect accompaniment , while each band member had the musical chops and skills to fire up the whole room when they took a solo!
  
She brought in a highly skilled music director/pianist, 
Adaron "Pops" Jackson and a funky bassist, John King  
from St. Louis, and seasoned up the rest of the quintet with two experienced  Chicagoans, the fiery jazz drummer, Charles Heath and the smooth stylizations of guitarist, Henry Johnson. 

Johnson is a well known Jazz guitarist in the tradition of  
Wes Montgomery and George Benson.
He has performed in many Chicago Jazz venues including the Jazz Bulls Club, Andy’s, Rick’s  Cafe Americane’ and tours with pianist, Ramsey Lewis. 

Guitarist, Johnson has performed on several of his own albums and has played with many performers including  
Jack McDuff, Hank Crawford, Freddie Hubbard, Jimmy Smith, Sonny Stitt, Stanley Turrentine, Joe Williams and Nancy Wilson.

Drummer, Charles Heath’s talents have been showcased at venues and events including The Chicago Jazz Festival, the Chicago Jazz Showcase, Birdland  in Canada, The Blue Note , Poznan, Poland and Tokyo, Japan.
He also served as the resident drummer with the national tour of Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones' theater production of "The Color Purple" and currently as the drummer for pianist and jazz legend Ramsey Lewis

The pianist, Adaron "Pops" Jackson  
transported us back in time to a club in our mind….
where the tinkle of piano riffs and runs 
coupled with Thimes big saucy voice 
had us snapping our fingers…
and singing back and forth in call and response… 

With just right mix on the ivories of Earl Father Hines 
and Count Basie riffs.. 
I thought I was in a juke joint and a supper club…

The bassist, John King was so tasty, 
I wanted to get some fries with all that St Louis rub... 
he had going on those bass strings…

She’s from St Louis , Missouri and she  told us with a bit of an accent, “ We put an R in everythang!   

She also told us she was happy to be in Chicago; 
that she is moving to Chicago ....
Then she showed out...
by sliding into some serious low-down and dirty blues… "
" ’cause you can’t be in Chicago and not ’sang’ some blues!”

Denise Thimes had the guitarist, Henry Johnson playing solos with so much grease on the strings a la Chicago blues style,
I thought I had walked in on Howling Wolf at Theresa’s Blues Club back in the day!

Denise Thimes is an enchanting performer who kept us mesmerized at both of her shows in tribute to Nina Simone at Winters Jazz Club.

I wish I could know 
how it is 
to be free!

She took us church! 
Amen!
Had us clapping and crying!
And remembering that everything is new  
again. 
The band was so musical!
The band was so awesome!

Lovely!
Finally! 

She channels you back to a time that you wish you had been born in...
Thank you Denise Thimes for an evening of musical excellence 
we welcome you to Chicago!

Aki Antonia c 2018
7152018
Bronzeville Arts Blog

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The Silver Room Block Party!'Chi-town Afro-Funk!
There were so many 
Funky badass …magical… musical moments of
Blackgirlmagic  and  BlackguyAfrofunk... 
that it was truly a kaleidoscope of 

Funk, 
Fun, 
Energy 
and 
Peace
With a can of hair grease….
 
As  the  Millenials  
and ere'body  else 

showed up and showed out
all peace and love...

as the Silver Room Block party 
mushroomed n2 Art
Fashion
painted faces
Artist, Marcus Allenye
was pushing his new book ' The World Is Yours!'
The Universal Alley Jazz Jam..
and some killer 
Black Rock music….
on 3 different stages 
Rocking  out  with Black Cheri Soul! 
Cherelle CheriSoul Sullivan, 
Jordan Bosman, Aki Antonia 
Km Nelson,  Lothario  Lee and more... 
 
Cherelle Cheri Soul  
& the  Black Cheri Soul Band
was rocking out!

The Joint was Jumping at the Silver Room  Block Party!
Hey! ...Keyboardist, Aki Antonia caught a moment with 
Vocalist, Actress and uber multitalented  Sharyon Culberson!
Rituals..Poet..Photographer and more, 
Corey Walden catches up .. at the Silver Room Block party! 

from  53rd and Blackstone
2 53rd and Harper 
(Honorary Oscar Brown  Jr Way
53rd and Lake Park 
and everywhere in-between…. 
There were some Salsa dancers 
dancing ...
and a LIVE Salsa band!

And the crowd was lOving how
A Drum & Dance troupe...  & 'Chi-town tribe ...
Ayodele  
were bringing that vibe..  
Africa  Brown was rockin those drums!
and rhythms 
straight from the Motherland… 
like....  
Fela meets Southside HOUSE
.
AYODELE

When we rolled up on 53rd St... 
going 2 the sound check for Black Cheri Soul… 
we could see the cars were back 2 back! 

On 53rd St?... 
N Hyde Park? ...
Really?
People were everywhere!

Rocking the beautiful funkiness of natural hair in all shapes,
forms and colors

It was so intoxicating & intergenerational …
that  it was like an Afro - Futuristic dream...
of Urban Pharoahs and Nubian Queens

Dashiki-ed Africanos and Beauty Africana 
were floating in and out ..
Not..
 " We gone 2  Paris this weekend 4 Afro-Punk  
but like...
We sTaYed at home in our Pyramid...
.. 4 some  Chi- town Afro-FUNK! …

U know we are a spiritual center 4 all things Black  NOIR!...
when we in... CHICAgO are the home of Sun RA
and Kelan Phil Coran...  Chaka ...Earth Wind and Fire and  
The  Pharoahs .  and Africobra...
We are DuSable's   great great grand children.....
....and ONLI and the Black AGE!

A bevy of Neo-Africana and Neo Africanos …
 in full effect…
BlackRock bands  were slanging.
and Neo-Soul sistas were sanging

Black hair…. 
was everywhere…
from Bald sOul Sistas 2  
sOul sisters with big Box braids…

Multicolored locs 
             with intricate Chi-town fades....
Big naturals  on shorties.... 
and
Queens floating those Goddess braids...






I saw sisters with threaded braids 
that I haven’t seen since I was in Ghana
Brothers with BIG ‘natchals.. that made u  just wanna...
hmmmmm....

Afri-fashinistas were flashing skin and Kente.. 
I saw some ‘Classic men’ in skinny ties and plaid
The Silver Room Block Party was 
sO sO "SUPERBAD"!

And at night…
They were stunting and fronting 
on Pop shots and Scooters..


Boys will be boys
and the Boyz had their toys
All out and 
Sleek and shiny...
All jumping with sounds and in beautiful colors...
Bentleys and Jeeps and Pop Shots
Futuristic and Classic  
and rocking  some some hip hop
…the music was playing
I felt like a star... 
Cause  they  just wouldn’t stop standing 'round my car...


All text and  video and photographs by Aki Antonia c2017
All rights reserved.
AA72017