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Venus Sings by Reza Rites

President Obama Visits Cuba and Danay Suarez Talks to Reza Rites: A Bilateral Analysis and Discussion on Diplomacy, Music, and Mixtapes

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President Obama Visits Cuba and Danay Suárez Talks to Reza Rites: A Bilateral Analysis and Discussion on Diplomacy, Music, and Mixtapes

By Reza Corinne Clifton
(with translation help from Reza Clifton, Tamara Diaz, Bryant Estrada, and Jose Ramirez)

PROVIDENCE, RI – On Sunday, March 20, 2016 President Obama landed down 90 miles away from the US, in Cuba – the first president to do so, reportedly, in 90 years. Three years ago, Jay-Z and Beyonce, another couple that some would consider a President and First Lady (or Queen and Chancellor] of Hip Hop, traveled to the same Caribbean island despite what were, then, even stricter restrictions on travel to the Spanish-speaking island. Then, like now with Obama, Jay-Z and Beyonce inspired conversation, and, some would argue, controversy with their trip. That is because to this day, say anti-Castro protesters, the Communist government running Cuba is still limiting important rights and liberties to their citizenry, such as free speech, a reality reflected in the regular detainment and incarceration of artists and others considered political dissidents. Critics of these types of trips say that visiting Cuba when human rights violations like these are still the norm encourage the Cuban government – now led by Raul Castro – to continue their policies and punishments.

On the other hand, Cuba is also known for its high-performing educational system and effective medical care. There are opportunities and programs for Black American students as well as students from all over Latin America who want to study medicine in Cuba, for instance, and the country’s music, art and culture is rich, varied, magnetic and appreciated all over the world – including in the United States. That’s right, not even a blockade or end to official diplomatic relations could interrupt the world meeting and learning about Cuba through the simple act of pressing play or sitting in person to hear musical selections from an “Habanero” or farmer from the countryside. As I saw in the years 2000 and 2002, the opposite was true too: many Cubans, at least in Havana (la Habana) were aware of American music and different cultural norms from the US despite the divisions being imposed diplomatically. Moreover, I remember during my trips with American University and the State University of New York, Buffalo, that the American dollar was an accepted form of payment everywhere we visited and stayed! If the blockade and harsh policies both governments have against each other – once harsher, too – aren’t stopping the co-mingling of the two cultures, shouldn’t policies be shifted, ask advocates on the other side, to support partnerships that would benefit both regular Cuban citizens and regular Americans?

In the spring of 2013, a number of musicians joined the America-Cuba relations debate when Jay-Z released a single called “Open Letter” to respond to what the radio and world music website Afropop described as “Cuban-American Republican politicians” who “raised an uproar, demanding to know if the trip was legal…” Following Jay-Z’s “Open Letter,” a number of artists released remixes, remakes and responses to Open Letter: Common, Pitbull, and Wyclef, for example.

But so did another artist: Cuban hip hop emcee and world music singer, Danay Suárez. Suárez, whose debut album is called “Polvo de la Humedad” (or Dust of the Moisture), lives in Cuba, though her music is known across the world, including in Europe and here in the US. I know this because she has performed the last two years in spaces I attended and covered, specifically the Latin Alternative Music Conference in 2014 and the Afro-Latino Festival in 2015 – both in NYC. I caught her performance in 2015 and can assure you: many sang along during her set.  

I spoke to Suárez shortly after her performance at the Afro-Latino Festival, and one area I asked about was her Open Letter verse and her feelings on what is happening between the two countries. Obama may not see it in time, but the podcast, and Suárez’s insights, may help with understanding what’s at stake and what’s at play in this moment. Please note our conversation was in Spanish.

As a citizen of Cuba, Suárez says she felt proud that popular and well-known artists Jay-Z and Beyonce would visit her hometown. But as for her musical response, Suárez knew that, coming from the streets of Havana, she could offer perspectives that none of the other Open Letter artists could.

Some of those perspectives include the reminder that Cuba represents a place full of contradictions, with its limited liberties that exist alongside a commitment to bring up very educated people and professionals. And that’s nothing to ignore, suggests Suárez, as two areas considered valuable for humans – healthcare and education – do exist and thrive in Communist Cuba.

With her inclusion in “9 Cuban Artists You Need To Know Right Now,” an article published March 16 in The Fader, and her inclusion in a recently-aired CNN mini-documentary it’s clear that Suárez herself is a valuable part of contemporary Cuban culture. To learn more and to hear her music, visit http://www.danaysuarez.com or look for and follow Danay Suárez on Youtube, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. You can also find her on Soundcloud, where where you’ll find the link to carta abierta, aka Open Letter.

For news on when additional snippets from the conversation with Suárez are available, and for other music updates from me, Reza Rites, visit ambitiousblackfeminist.com and venussings.com, follow @rezaclif on FB and Twitter, @3amblack on Instagram and Twitter, and Sonic Watermelons on FB, Twitter, Soundcloud and BSRlive.com.    

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MUSIC

Danay Suárez (and band) performing LIVE, July 10, 2015, Madiba/MIST Harlem, Afro-Latino Festival, NYC, 3rd Edition, #afrolatinofestnyc, afrolatinofestnyc.com.

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ADDITIONAL/REFERENCED LINKS

http://www.thefader.com/2016/03/16/cuban-artists-you-need-to-know

http://www.afropop.org/8176/cuban-artist-danay-suarez-responds-to-jay-zs-open-letter/

 

Venus Sings on Reggae Showcase: TODAY, Sunday, 2.21.2016, WRIU, 2-5 PM

  It’s always a beautiful day if reggae is involved; it’s meditative and transformative when I get to be the one curating and delivering the tunes. Check out my vibes TODAY…

THE REGGAE SHOWCASE
Venus Sings Edition
Sunday, February 21, 2016
2:00-5:00 PM (est)

LISTEN LIVE:
90.3 FM
http://wriu.org/listen.html

Catch me weekly on Sonic Watermelons, bsrlive.com/live-stream, every Tuesday night, 7-8 PM… Because the world is a big place, with big ideas, and lots and lots of music. 

Providence-based Artist Explores Intersections of Race, Videography and Social Media, Locally and Globally, in Race Matters! A New Exhibit at URI

Providence-based Artist Reza Clifton Explores Intersections of Race, Videography and Social Media, Locally and Globally, in New Exhibit at URI

IMG_9328
(Music Moves at Race Matters! full release below. Click here on the image to link to an extended release)

WHO:

Reza Clifton, Digital Storyteller

Steven Pennell, Gallery Director & Urban Arts and Culture Program Coordinator

Twenty artists working in different visual arts formats.

WHAT:

“Race Matters” an exhibit honoring Black History Month by celebrating racial and cultural diversity and examining the long history of horrible acts of racism across the nation and the world through the visual arts.

“Music Moves” a photography exhibit and multimedia project created by RI-based writer, “digital storyteller” and cultural navigator Reza Clifton.

WHEN:

Exhibit dates: January 25, 2016 to February 26, 2016.

Building/gallery hours are

  • Monday-Thursday, 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM
  • Friday and Saturday, 9:00 AM to 4;00 PM.

Reception: Sunday, February 7, 2016, 1-4 PM

WHERE:

URI Providence Campus, 80 Washington Street, Providence, RI.

INFO

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promo_uri_music_moves

Providence-based Artist Reza Clifton Explores Intersections of Race, Videography and Social Media, Locally and Globally, in New Exhibit at URI

PROVIDENCE, RI – “Race matters, and music moves; just look around you.”

That is how Providence, RI-based writer, cultural navigator and “digital storyteller” Reza Clifton describes her participation in an art exhibit currently on display at the Providence Campus of the University of Rhode Island (URI). Race Matters! features a collection of artwork from over a dozen different artists who contributed pieces to help highlight the beauty of racial and cultural  differences as well as the urgency behind the need to end racism. Among the artists exhibiting is Clifton, who submitted pieces from her project called “Music Moves.”

Clifton describes Music Moves as a photography exhibit and multimedia project she launched in 2014 “to explore and celebrate the different effects and benefits delivered through music.” She does this by sharing photographs, multimedia interview clips, and stories captured in places as wide and diverse as Madrid and San Sebastian, Spain; Austin, TX; Asheville, NC; Providence, RI; and Brooklyn, NY.

Clifton, also known as Reza Rites, Venus Sings and Reza Wreckage, has acquired several nicknames because she has worked as a blogger, community organizer and DJ, independently and for organizations across RI, for over a decade. She has produced content for radio dating back to 2001, and has been known as a pioneering blogger, podcaster and social media user and a busy freelance writer since 2004. Clifton was awarded Diversity in the Media Awards in 2007 and 2009 for work that appeared on her blogs and podcasts, and she has been recognized for leadership as a community organizer and contributor to the music and art scene in and outside of Rhode Island. She currently teaches writing and digital media at various sites (schools and community centers), and she can be heard weekly on Brown Student and Community Radio where she shares music, airs interviews and reports on the intersections of art, social media, race, gender and poverty on her show, “Sonic Watermelons.”

Despite these accomplishments, Clifton says she has experienced the kinds of barriers that women and people of color working in the media frequently reference in anecdotes, and which can be seen in digital media campaigns, like the #OscarsSoWhite conversations, and in research.

For example, the Women’s Media Center found that out of the 250 top-grossing domestically made films of 2013, women accounted for only 16 percent of all directors, producers, writers, cinematographers and editors. Similarly, the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF), in their “Global Report on the Status of Women in the News Media,” found that men hold 73% of the top management jobs compared to 27% by women.

Clifton says Music Moves is a testament to the fact that focusing on the things you love can get you past these barriers. And she says the photos show it. For example, currently up at URI are photos from the 2015 Afro-Latino and Afropunk Festivals, Brooklyn, NY, which she attended and blogged about last summer, and the 2009 Jazzaldia Jazz Festival in San Sebastian, Spain, which she covered as part of her former production and hosting work on WRIU, a student and community-run station located on the URI Kingston Campus. Clifton also submitted photos from the 2012 South by Southwest Festival in Austin, TX, and from a day at the park, specifically Recife Park in Madrid, Spain.

Like her other exhibitions, Clifton selected photos that also fit into one of three sub-themes: 1) Music Moves Ideas and Cultures, 2) Music Moves Across and Through Space and Time, and 3) Music Moves the Human Spirit. Reflecting on the links between the Race Matters themes and Music Moves, Clifton explained:

“For me, focusing on music has led me to 1) work in a field, journalism, infamous for its low numbers and skewed representations of women and people of color, while 2) allowing me to to experience live performances and artist interviews in locations and with artists from all over the world, especially with women and musicians with West African, Caribbean, Latino, and/or Black American backgrounds. What I have found? Music Moves!”

The Race Matters! exhibit is on display now and until February 26, 2016, 80 Washington Street, Providence. Building/gallery hours are Monday-Thursday, 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM and Friday and Saturday, 9:00 AM to 4;00 PM.  The reception for the event is scheduled for Sunday, February 7, 2016, 1-4 PM.

For more information, click here to read the full release, which includes information about photos in the current exhibit, visit www.VenusSings.com/music-moves, or do a search through all online posts containing the hashtag #MusicMovesReza. To follow Clifton, follow her Tumblr page, www.AmbitiousBlackFeminist.com, or follow @3amblack on FB, IG & Twitter and/or @rezaclif of FB and Twitter. 

 

REZA DOES REGGAE: Venus Sings on Reggae Showcase, Sunday Jan 31, 2016

PROVIDENCE, RI – Hi friends, I can’t believe how long it’s been since I last posted here on VenusSings.com. November 12, 2015, to be precise, was the last time I shared anything new. In the interim, I have set some things up, lined some things up, and hung some things up. There is more info and there are more posts coming soon; one hint and way to catch up in the meantime is by following me @rezaclif on Facebook and Twitter.

photo 2One update:

TOMORROW, Sunday, January 31, 2016, I’m covering The Reggae Showcase, a weekly program produced by Peter Dante for WRIU, a broadcast service of the University of Rhode Island. I am one of several different DJ’s selected by Dante to guest-host annually on the Reggae Showcase, which has been on-air for over twenty years. Chune in!

THE REGGAE SHOWCASE
Venus Sings Edition
Sunday, January 31, 2016
2:00-5:00 PM

LISTEN LIVE: 90.3 FM / http://wriu.org/listen.html

cropped-venus-sings-website_logo1.jpgA few other notes to put in your ear:

Photos from my Music Moves collection are currently up at the URI Providence Campus and the reception for it is Sunday, February 7, 1-4 PM, 80 Washington Street, Providence, RI. More info about the exhibit – Race Matters! – and the inclusion and integration of my work, are coming soon right here to VenusSings.com. In the meantime, searching through #musicmovesreza and @3amblack on Instagram, Facebook, and/or Twitter will take you to behind-the-scenes and up-to-the-minute updates about the project. Or visit the Music Moves page here on VenusSings.com.

 

uri combo collage_final_2
A final update:

A quick shout-out is owed to my team at Sonic Watermelons, the show I started in 2010 on Brown Student and Community Radio (BSR). Not only are Jose and Deejay Kellan working as hard as ever to help keep the show full of interesting guests and great music, they have also joined me in extending our net to bring more people onto the team. Special thanks go to some of our earliest and most dedicated new recruits (and former guests, in some cases) Jessica LaBrie, Michelle Arias, Rachel Simon, Erroll Lomba, Vatic Kuumba, and Kabir Lambo.

sonic flyer_summer_2015Follow/share Sonic Watermelons:

With new faces, voices and talents at the table, Sonic Watermelons experienced an exciting start to the new year with a flurry of inspiring visitors and conversations as well as a bump in listener traffic and community engagement. We also have more expertise at the table, which means our podcast game is about to get serious too. If you’re not tuning in weekly yet, you should probably start:

Sonic Watermelons ~ Every Tuesday, 7-8 PM ~ bsrlive.com/live-stream ~ @sonicwatermelons on Facebook ~ @watermelonradio on Twitter 

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I look forward to returning and adding more content here to VenusSings.com. And I look forward to continuing to build with you folks.

Sunshine and laughter,
Reza Rites

 

Fall Into Music: Venus Sings’ List of Favorites, November 2015

FALL INTO MUSIC:
Venus Sings’ List of Favorites, November 2015

by Reza Corinne Clifton


Other songs by Yuna that I enjoy jamming to are “Live Your Life,” and, from her album “Nocturnal,” “I Want You Back,” and “Lights and Camera.” And her cover of Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” is spectacular!

PROVIDENCE, RI – A few nights ago I had the pleasure of running into a friend I collaborated with in my previous role as co-producer and co-host of Voices of Women on WRIU. I miss the show and the corresponding opportunities, adventures and pursuits that came with having a slot where I curated and presented two hours of music every month. In particular, I miss the way the show inspired me to locate, uncover and share music made by hard-working women in and from all over the world. I was reminded of the rush and given another chance to relive the good ol’ days, when my friend asked me for recommendations for new, sultry women she could share on the show.


The song “Mama Says,” by Ibeyi, inspired me to write a poem that you can find here. “The River,” another song by Ibeyi, has a video that blends the shockingly surreal and shockingly real.

Twenty minutes later, I sent Liza the following list of artists that I thought she should check out:

  1. Ibeyi
  2. Yuna
  3. Jhene Aiko
  4. The Internet
  5. Melanie Fiona
  6. FKA Twigs
  7. Hollie Cook

No, it’s not that all of these women are new, though some are, yes. On the other hand, all of them are artists that fit the sound that my friend seemed to be seeking out. In case she’s reading, and because, in hindsight, seven seems like a strange number, here are four more artists I’d recommend based on new music they’re producing and/or the timelessness of what they’ve already done.


Jill Scott has been out for nearly two decades. Still, as one viewer on Youtube wrote, “She pulled the words out of my heart” with this one. A couple other favorites of mine from over the years include “A Long Walk” and “So In Love.” 

  1. Nneka
  2. Santigold
  3. Solange
  4. Jill Scott

I hope to share additional recommendations before the year ends. In the meantime, leave your favorites in the comments or with me on Twitter @rezaclif.

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