All posts by shelby Black

Between the Lines: USF Hosts Writers Festival

Up-and-coming writers gathered to read from selected events at the University’s Emerging Writers’ Festival last week. The two-day event on April 8 took place in Fromm Hall. The festival was sponsored by the English Department and co-sponsored by the Asian Pacific American Studies and African American Studies Programs.

Ryan William Van Meter, Assistant Professor of English at USF as well as one of the main figures in charge of the festival, described the festival’s main focus as “celebrating the pleasure of reading and writing as an active member in a literary community while being inspired by fellow artists”. The festival began with three readings from distinguished authors Adam Peterson, Roger Reeves, and Michelle Orange. Peterson, a published author of flash fiction, commenced the event with shorter pieces he had written. His quirky delivery and side commentary resulted in laughs from the crowd and they only continued throughout his comical readings.

Next up, Roger Reeves, published poet and assistant professor at The University of Illinois, Chicago, read his poems with themes  ranging from racism to popular culture. With each reading, Reeves emphasized every emotion and feeling the poem offered, resulting in cheering and praise from the audience.

The last author, Michelle Orange, read one of her essays from her published novel, “This is Running For Your Life: Essays,” discussing her trip to Beirut, Lebanon during the spontaneous bombings occurring. Her vivid use of language and detail transported the audience right into her essay and a silence drifted through the crowd as she read through her experience.

The second night featured two writers, poet Sandra Lim and author Manuel Gonzales. Lim began by reading a handful of pieces from her book “The Wilderness” as well as a few pieces from her upcoming book. Most of her poetry discussed real life experiences, especially her move from California to Massachusetts as an assistant professor at The University of Massachusetts, Lowell.

Gonzales finished the event by reading the last part of his work, “The Miniature Wife and Other Stories.”  His out-of-the-box story, discussing the woes of a zombie office worker falling in love with his human co-worker, earned laughs from the audience, helped by his quick delivery.

This group of authors exemplifies what the festival aims to accomplish. Each author’s pieces all differed in style and subject matter, resulting in a perfect balance of material for the festival.

“We aim to represent the richness of the current literary scene by inviting writers who come from a diversity of backgrounds and who work in a range of aesthetic styles,” Van Meter said. “We want to bring to campus writers who test boundaries and whose career paths will stand as compelling examples from students.”

The campus bookstore has set up a special display showcasing the authors’ novels.

 

Greg Johnson, co-owner of Marcus Books, shakes hands with Mayor Ed Lee at City Hall. (Photo by Hamis Al Sharif)

A Story Ending? Historic San Francisco Bookstore May Face Closure

In 1960, Black history was made when Julian and Raye Richardson opened the bookstore known today as Marcus Books. Proudly proclaimed as “the oldest Black bookstore in the nation,” Marcus Books has been at its present location, in a three-story Victorian on Fillmore St. (between Sutter St. and Post St.), since 1981.

For more than 50 years Marcus Books has served as a cornerstone to showcase the great literary achievement of African-American writers. The store gained its fame by hosting African-American authors, poets, and musicians, such as Oprah Winfrey, Malcolm X, Earth Wind & Fire, Dave Chapelle, Toni Morrison, and Queen Latifah. The Richardsons created a place where people could learn about and enjoy Afrocentric culture, history, politics and literature.
But last year, as a result of a predatory loan and eventual bankruptcy, the family was forced to sell the Fillmore property, which, in addition to housing the store, was also home to three generations of the family. After months of organizing and negotiating by Marcus Books supporters, the real estate developers who bought the property agreed to give the Richardsons until the end of February to raise $3 million — twice what they paid for the property — to buy it back.

As of publication time, the fate of the landmark cultural institution was in doubt, though whether or not Marcus Books raised enough money to buy the property back should be determined by early next week.

A pair of Dons, Denise Sullivan, class of 1983, and Tiye Sheppard, a junior media studies major, worked for several months with a core group committed to saving the Fillmore treasure. Sullivan helped with organizing and getting the word out about Marcus Books, and Sheppard, a film studies minor, shot a history of the store and public appeal videos.

In response to the fate of Marcus Books, Sheppard, who attended a meeting with store owners and financers on Monday, said, “no answer that can be released but I can say that things look very promising.”

According to Sheppard, a settlement agreement must be met by the end of this week. “Votes will be casted tomorrow, [Tuesday Feb. 25], from a financial source that can assure a positive fate for Marcus Books. Unfortunately, since it’s a vote, we don’t know for sure what will happen, but things are looking good according to our sources,” she said.

Sullivan, a music journalist and historian, got involved with Marcus Books when her fourth book, “Keep on Pushing: Black Power Music from Blues to Hip Hop,” came out in 2011. Even though Sullivan had relationships with other bookstores, she said, “It was Marcus Books, black-owned and specializing in Black history, that embraced me as an author more than any of the other bookstores or outlets I had previously dealt with. So when I heard they were in trouble, I felt that the least I could do was to be on their side.”

Sheppard is a native San Franciscan and has seen the city go through many changes and gentrification. She got involved with saving Marcus Books when Sullivan reached out to the Media Studies department for help. As an African-American woman, Sheppard believes protecting Marcus Books will benefit younger generations.
“The African-American population is dwindling by the day,” Sheppard said. “It would really be unfortunate to no longer have a positive representation of black business owners. If we want little kids, particularly kids of color, to grow up and have an inspiration, they should [think], ‘Oh, I don’t have to be that guy standing on the corner; I can be that guy reading that book in that bookstore.’”

For the past several years the store has been run by Karen Johnson, one of the Richardsons’ daughters, her husband Greg, and their daughter named Tamiko. Julian Richardson died in 2000, while Raye Richardson, 93, had been living with the Johnsons above the store.
Sheppard and Sullivan were with the Johnsons and other key supporters on February 13 when Mayor Ed Lee signed paperwork designating 1712-1716 Fillmore Street a historic city landmark. The Victorian building has two claims to that status: long before it was a bookstore, it was a famous jazz club called Jimbo’s Bop City.

Sullivan noted that Julian Davis, the Johnsons’ lawyer, and Grace Martinez, a community organizer for Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, steered the committee that rose up to fight for Marcus Books. San Francisco Supervisor Malia Cohen and Supervisor London Breed also pushed to keep Marcus Books where it is.

“It was a community response,” Sullivan said. “The store never asked anything of us. People came forward and wanted to see it preserved. And another thing that I feel is worth reiterating is that the store is not having bad business. It was matters of the physical property and the sale that put the business in jeopardy.”

Another native San Franciscan, actor Danny Glover (“The Color Purple” and “Predator 2”), helped Marcus Books with their “Keep It Lit” grassroots campaign — a campaign to raise a million dollars in 30 days, from Jan. 20 to Feb. 20. If Marcus Books is saved, the campaign will continue, said Sheppard. “The work is not done; we’ve just gotten started. Donations will go towards compensating for borrowed funds from community lenders,” she said.

A big part of the reason Marcus Books inspires such devotion is to due to the legacy of founders Julian and Raye Richardson.
The Richardsons established the Malcolm X school, dedicated to strengthening the education of  San Francisco youth, and Julian Richardson, who ran Success Printing Company, printed issues of San Francisco State University’s student newspaper “The Organ,” after the SFSU board refused to publish it due to the student strike of 1968. As a result of that student strike, Raye Richardson became one of the founders of SFSU’s ethnic studies program. Last fall the store held a “legacy celebration,” and former poet laureate of San Francisco Devorah Major credited Raye Richardson with being the first person to help her realize she was a writer.

“I knew that the store had a rightful place in literary history, American history and San Francisco history,” Sullivan said. “As a native San Franciscan, I am concerned about the cultural welfare of this city, all of its citizens, and the African American culture in general.”

Marcus Books supporters worked with ColorOfChange.org, an organization dedicated to strengthening African American political voices nationwide, to create a petition that drew more than 14,000 signatures in support of the store.

Westside Community Services (WCS), a community-based organization dedicated to restoring San Francisco communities, along with The San Francisco Community Land Trust (SFCLT), which strives to provide strategies for stabilizing lower-income communities in San Francisco, offered to buy the Fillmore property back in order for Marcus Books to keep operating on the site. The SFCLT was approached by the Marcus Books campaign committee to help plan a way to buy the property back.

WCS put up a $1.65 million loan, leaving SFCLT to raise an additional $1 million. One of the methods they used was “crowd-investing,” encouraging contributions from private individual investors. Tracy Parent, organizational director of SFCLT, believes helping Marcus Bookstore is the perfect example of their mission.

“Resident members and general members have a vote in the Land Trust to ensure the assets continue to serve the community,” Parent said. “This is a form of shared ownership and stewardship of community assets. Our primary mission is to create permanently affordable housing for low and moderate-income people, and this historic building has two large flats upstairs that can be preserved as permanently affordable family-size apartments, with three and four bedrooms, which are very hard to find in San Francisco.”

Sheppard concluded: “I got involved with Marcus Books because my mother bought a book from the store that she later used to pick my name. When I heard it was in trouble, I wanted to help because the store closing would be so detrimental to San Francisco’s culture. We already have large waves of gentrification impacting the city’s landscape so the threat of losing another historical business was the last straw for me. I think students, especially those from outside of the state, should find this important because the city that houses our university is experiencing a sort of class war right now. It’s easy to be disconnected from this as a non-native, but ultimately, we all live in San Francisco and it impacts us in one way or another.”

To donate to the Keep It Lit grassroots campaign, visit: http://www.gofundme.com/6bvqlk

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Phantogram Performs “Phresh” Music at Amoeba

The electronic-rock duo known as Phantogram came to perform at the legendary Amoeba Music in Haight-Ashbury for free this past Wednesday.

Phantogram’s Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel first came onto the scene in 2009 with the release of their first studio album “Eyelid Movies” and have been recording since. Their most recent album “Voices” was released last Tuesday on Feb. 18. Following the album release, the record store was filled with fans, in between the rows CDs, posters, vinyls, and DVDs, and filling in from the sides to watch the band perform. Though the crowd mostly consisted of Phantogram’s fan base, music lovers of all ages came to watch the performance and also did some perusing of their own throughout the store.

Carter and Barthel were set up on Amoeba’s stage along with their signature keyboard and guitar. The stage set up was simple due to the limited space, only consisting of Phantogram and their instruments; but what they lacked in decor, they made up for in their performance. Barthel’s vocals filled the room with her chilling, smooth sounds as she clutched the microphone in her hand, while bobbing to the music. Carter accompanied her on the guitar along with the two backup keyboardists.

Jack Kennedy, a USF sophomore, said that though Phantogram’s performance wasn’t quite up to their usual energy level, it was still enjoyable.

“It wasn’t as dynamic as their other shows, but their ability to mix acoustic sounds with electronic sounds is of course what gets me. They have a lot of different aspects going on at once,” Kennedy said.
Despite the smaller performing space, Phantogram delivered. Performing their new songs off their latest album including “Bill Murray” and their single “Black Out Days” was the perfect way to get the audience excited and show them what to expect from “Voices.” The rest of the concert showcased their past classics including “Don’t Move” from their 2011 EP “Nightlife.”  Though the concert only consisted of only four songs, it sold many audience members to buy their album. The crowd cheered as they finished their set, and the first 200 people who bought the CD, scrambled to meet Phantogram to get their CDs signed.

“They played their first hit song, which is always a classic and they brought out some new stuff. All in all I was impressed. I have seen them once before and they sounded just as good in the more intimate setting,” Kennedy said.

Live at Amoeba showcases varied music genres ranging from rock to bluegrass. Information on the dates of the shows and performers can be found on Amoeba Music’s website at amoeba.com.

Eminem Revisits His Roots in “The Marshall Mathers LP 2”

Whether you know Eminem as Marshall Mathers or Slim Shady, the Detroit rapper has blown fans and critics away again with the release of his eighth studio album “The Marshall Mathers LP 2.”

Born in Detroit, Michigan, Eminem began his rapping career when he released his debut album “Infinite” in 1996. Although it only sold 1,000 copies, Eminem was not deterred from releasing his second rapping attempt successfully in 1999. That year, he introduced his infamous alter ego Slim Shady with “The Slim Shady LP,” which officially put him on the music map.

Eminem has been labeled one of the best selling artists in the world. He is a member of the  Rolling Stones’ “100 Greatest Artists of All Time” list, and has won a total of 244 awards, including 13 Grammys and an Academy Award.

After releasing his album “Recovery” in 2010, Eminem stayed under the radar until he tweeted in 2013 that he would be releasing his latest album this fall. Since the announcement, “The Marshall Mathers LP 2” has been one of the most anticipated albums of the year. However, it is unlike what most fans have come to expect from the rapper. Instead of taking on his alter ego Slim Shady again, Eminem revisits the material from the first “Marshall Mathers LP,” referencing many of his old songs. The album includes 16 tracks and collaborations with well-known artists such as Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, and Fun’s lead singer Nate Ruess.

The album begins with “Bad Guy,” a continuation of his critically acclaimed “Stan.” It follows the new antagonist Matthew, the little brother of the departed, crazed fan Stan. The narrator is Matthew, who plans to avenge his fallen brother by blaming Eminem for his death. The song has eerie similarities between the old and new, and even contains direct references from the first song that will make your jaw drop.

Another song that will soon top the charts is “Love Game,” which is a collaboration between Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. This jam has the witty, upbeat tempo that so many of Eminem’s songs incorporate, along with some obligatory crude humor. Both rappers come together and it is obvious that they are simply just having fun, which makes the song more enjoyable.

Finally, “Headlights,” featuring Nate Ruess, is possibly the most emotional and thought-provoking song on the album. The song has a slow and intense beat, but it is the lyrics that will stop you in your tracks. “Headlights” is Eminem’s apology song to his mother Debbie Mathers. He openly apologizes for his old song “Cleaning Out the Closet,” a very vicious diss track aimed at her, and states that he “cringes when it comes on the radio.” He uses this opportunity to ask for forgiveness, admitting that she did not deserve his constant abuse. The song will bring tears to your eyes. The lyrics are heart-wrenching, and when listening to it, you feel this new connection unfold.

“The Marshall Mathers LP 2” was released on November 5, and it has since stayed at #1 on iTunes top albums. The album is the perfect way to finally put Eminem’s old self to rest.

“Nothing Was The Same” Shows a Different Drake

Whether you know him as “Wheelchair Jimmy” or “Drizzy Drake,” this Toronto born rapper has certainly made a name for himself around the world. Though he first came to fame as Jimmy Brooks on the popular Canadian show “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” he quickly changed his image once he signed onto Lil Wayne’s record label, Young Money Entertainment.

Drake’s career took off after putting out his first EP titled “So Far Gone” in 2009. Since then he has released two albums, “Thank Me Later” and “Take Care,”both receiving rave reviews. His third studio album, “Nothing Was The Same,” was set to release on Sept. 24 but was leaked early on Sept. 16. Though this may have been bad news for Drake, it was good news for us music lovers as this album certainly does not disappoint.

The album features 15 songs, ranging from slow and melodic to fast and catchy, including his hit singles “Started From The Bottom,” “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” and “All Me.” There are many collaborations on the album featuring big name artists like Jay-Z and 2 Chainz. Though Drake was initially known as a soft-hearted rapper, he certainly proved himself a formidable player in the rap game with his hard hitting track “The Language.” This track is quick and upbeat with clever rhymes and a catchy chorus that discusses his career as a rapper. However, at heart, Drake is a hopeless romantic and he fully showcases this in his songs “Furthest Thing” and “From Time.” Both songs are low tempo beats discussing various stages of relationships, however “From Time” sets itself apart from other songs by featuring singer Jhene Aiko, as her light voice sings chilling hooks on the track. Also, Drake pairs with rap legend Jay-Z on the longest song on the album, “Pound Cake”. The combination of both these rappers on one song makes this an instant classic, as the raps are quick and the rhythm is easy to vibe to.

In any album, some songs are better than others, but I can personally say that I thoroughly enjoy every song on this album. Drake has certainly outdone himself; his rapping and singing combined with his smart and thoughtful lyrics makes this an addictive addition to your music collection.

 

Attendees were able to browse through diverse collections of music-related items, making it difficult to walk out with nothing. 
(Photo: Courtesy of Shelby Black)

KUSF Rock ‘N’ Swap Strikes a Chord

Early morning on Sunday, September 8th, numerous vans rolled onto USF campus for 30th annual KUSF Rock ‘N’ Swap. The first KUSF “Sock” ‘N’ Swap was held off campus in 1983 at the Kabuki Theatre, when it was solely used for event purposes. Now held in McLaren Hall, KUSF has teamed up with local and nonlocal vendors to put together one of the largest music fairs in the city. This year, buyers came as far as from Japan to look at the collection, and vendors from San Diego even made an appearance.

Ann Averill, a junior and KUSF DJ, encourages students to come and check out what the event has to offer.  She said, “you’re going to be really surprised on how big it is. It’s almost like going to Comic-Con. It’s huge and it brings in a whole lot of people. It’s bigger than what you would imagine.”

Admission is free to students. Music enthusiasts can find discounted records, DVDs, posters, and tapes from every genre and musician. Doors opened at 7am and music lovers began filing in to get their hands on the rare merchandise found at this swap. Miranda Morris, coordinator of KUSF events, describes Rock ‘N’ Swap as an event where adults and students can come together with a common interest. She said, “this event definitely brings a music culture to campus in all sorts of varieties; whether its musicians, vendors, or collectors.”

Students can also interact and talk to the KUSF DJ’s who help manage the event. Morris hopes the Rock ‘N’ Swap will encourage other students to become more active with KUSF.

Rock ‘N’ Swap is held three times a year; the next one will take place in November. To get more information on the event or to be involved with KUSF, please visit their website at KUSF.org.