Via Hugh E Dillon (who else?) we are learning that the stars, they were among us this weekend and OMG CAN YOU FEEL THE EXCITEMENT? First up, Rihanna (whose just-announced Anti tour hits the Wells Fargo Center on April 3rd) was at the Travi$ Scott show at the Fillmore Saturday night, because she is rumored to be his new bae, but we don’t know for sure and it is eating us up alive. Still trying to catch our breath from being so close to a singing supernova, we then learned that Ryan Phillippe was here to catch the Philadelphia Marathon and we got even more excited because Drive is such a great, great movie. Then we realized that we got our Ryans mixed up and felt the sort of sudden immediate emptiness that Milan Kundera has made a career writing about. Finally, the hat trick of celeb visits concludes with the news that 90210 reboot star Vincent Young saw the Igs lose hard yesterday, but we really don’t care about this one because our Beverly Hills 90210 interest died in the early 90s once the show became a smash and its soundtrack stopped playing Concrete Blonde and started with the Color Me Badd. “Joey” beats “I Wanna Sex You Up” any time, anywhere.
UPDATE: UFC dude Dana White was at Geno’s too, but that’s more cosmically right than anything else.
Do you know of Someone Famous Who Went Somewhere in Philadelphia? We don’t care, but we’ll humor you. Send your tips and pics to tips[at]philebrity[dot]com.
This past Friday, the office of District Attorney Seth Williams underwent sensitivity training, perfectly timed given the ongoing scandal involving current assistant district attorneys Frank Fina, Marc Costanzo and Patrick Blessington about pornographic, racist, and misogynistic e-mails they sent and/or received while working for the attorney general’s office and which were unearthed as part of the Kathleen Kane kerfuffle. In a press release that was issued today, information on the seminar — called “Connecting with Respect” and conducted by President & CEO of Legacy Business Cultures, Paul Meshanko — was detailed:
District Attorney Seth Williams praised the training, “The training was excellent and I know our entire office benefited from the instruction that was provided. Influencing culture in our office starts at the top and I plan to continue this type of training in the future. “As it relates to Frank Fina, Mark Constanza and Patrick Blessington, I know that they found this training seminar as instructional and helpful as I did. Frank, Mark and Patrick are great prosecutors who clearly made a big mistake. They have learned from their mistakes. This training along with continued reinforcement and supervision will allow us to move the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office forward and do what we do best – work to make the city a safer and more honest place to live, work and raise a family.”
It remains to be seen if the public will see the sensitivity training as an appropriate response from the DA’s office to the scandal involving the employees, but somehow we don’t see this completely quietly those calling for the prosecutors’ resignation. We will see.
La Blogothèque‘s A Take Away Show featured a stunningly intimate performance of “Lost My Head There” by Kurt Vile that was recorded at Paris’ Le Square Gardette restaurant. For the foreseeable future we are going to be bummed whenever we go out to eat and Kurt isn’t there to serenade us. So whaddya say Kurt, want to meet us at Ida Mae’s in like twenty minutes? We’re a bit famished.
Hidden City Philadelphia is regularly one of our favorite online haunts due to their coverage of the city’s forgotten, obscured, endangered, or just plain noteworthy locales. It is a repository of local history, and it needs your help. The site has just begun its annual fundraising drive in which it hopes to raise $30,000 to ensure that it can keep publishing the Hidden City Daily and continue to cover the following:
Keep tabs on Jim Kenney’s performance around preservation and urbanism.
Examine problems at the Historical Commission
Document anti-urbanism at the Zoning Board of Adjustment
Critique new development at the Navy Yard
Track plans for vulnerable buildings like the Blue Horizon, Delaware Power Station, and the Metropolitan Opera.
The drive runs through December 18th, and you can find out more and donate at the site’s Genorsity page. We all share the same community, and to have Hidden City disappear would be just as tragic as the loss of the Philly locations they regularly cover.
Back in June we told you about Visit Philadelphia®’s “I Am Philadelphia” tourism spot that featured the original song “21st Century” by Meredith Edlow and The A’s frontman Richard Bush. We weren’t a fan of how that tune’s vibe made us feel like we were stuck drinking at each and every one of South Street’s shittiest bars simultaneously. So when an instrumental version of the spot hit the Internet over the weekend, we took notice. Visually, this is a dynamic reminder that Philly is a world-class city very much of the, well, 21st century. A point that is further hammered home without the low-rent Strokes vocals grabbing away our attention.
In a press conference to be held later this afternoon at the Mayor’s Reception Room, Future Mayor Jim Kenney will announce four more appointments to his administration. They are as follows:
• Rob Dubow as Chief Financial Officer, a job he currently holds in the Nutter administration.
• Rebecca Rhynhart will be the new Chief Administrative Officer. She currently works as the Budget Director in the Office of the Director of Finance, a position she has had since 2010.
• Sheila Hess has been named City Representative. She comes to this position from the Independence Blue Cross, where she was the Director of Independence Blue Cross Foundation & Community Affairs.
• Harold T. Epps, President & CEO of PRWT Services, Inc., will serve as Commerce Director in the Kenney administration.
Your thoughts on these appointments? Let us know below, and we’ll have more news on his administrative choices as it develops.
If there is one thing Wilford Brimley taught us, it is that diabetes is no laughing matter. Unless it is the subject of a comedy show, that is. Tonight, comedian Patric Ciervo hosts Guess Patric Ciervo’s Blood Sugar at PhilaMOCA. Featuring comedians Megan Marron, Julia Hudson and Jon Plester, as well as special guest Dr. Matt Corcoran, this show will give comedians and an expert a chance to compete in a series of challenges see who would be the best diabetic. All profits from this show will be going to Diabetes Training Camp, so you can laugh and feel like you are making a real difference! Monday, 8pm. $10
Stick around for the late show tonight at PhilaMOCA and see the Phone It In Film Festival – Philadelphia’s premiere short-film festival that features material recorded entirely on cell phones. If you have ever felt creative, but also felt like real success in film making was beyond reach, allow some of the world’s most daring comedic filmmakers prove to you that you don’t need lights, cameras, or even action to make a film. You just need a phone! Monday, 9:30pm. $5.
This Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve, all the losers from your high school will be piling into the bar nearest your mom’s house to show off how fat they’ve gotten. Fortunately, at that same exact time, Comedy Dreamz will be coming to PhilaMOCA to show you how great life can be. If you’ve never been to a Comedy Dreamz show before you’ve probably only heard about how entirely engrossing the multimedia extravaganza is. If you have been to a Comedy Dreamz show before, then you are cool by me. Wednesday, 8pm. $6
Black Friday is a time of quiet reflection on the joy that is Thanksgiving, and you’ll have a whole boat load of time to quietly reflect at the PHIT’s second annual Black Friday Comedy Marathon. Kicking off on Friday at 10am, intrepid hosts Hey We’re Cool (pictured) will lead you through a maze of improv, stand up, sketch, variety, and every wacky idea under the sun that doesn’t end until Saturday Night becomes Sunday Morning. 38 continuous hours of comedy. Don’t sleep. Support a local business on Black Friday and bring your receipt for free admission to one of the most insane comedy experiences you can have this year. Friday, 10am. $10
On Sunday, get ready to acclimate back to a 5 day work week at Franky Bradley’s for Necrosexual’s No Holds Barred Burlesque: Sunday Night Raw. Set in a post-apocalyptic future where Franky Bradley’s is the lone ruin in a nuclear wasteland, local metal interviewer and MC The Necrosexual hosts a night of blood-splattered burlesque which pays tribute to pro wrestling, heavy metal, and freaks in general. Featuring performances by Tim Donst, Stephxecutioner, Left Von Blitz, Jon Lalucifer, Count Scoutchula, Ashlee Rose, and more. Sunday, 7pm. $10
— Joe Moore
Joe Moore is the genial jerk who is head writer of sketch group Dog Mountain, host of monthly show Guilty Pleasures and a sketch comedy instructor. Hunt him down on twitter @TheJoeMoore.
>>> Over at Ortlieb’s, you’ll have the opportunity to get caught up in Suburban Living‘s net of retro-nostalgia on a bill that also features Teen Men, Boston’s Infinity Girl, and a DJ set from Jeff Zeigler.
>>> The 5th Annual Cranksgiving Charity Ride allows Philly bikers the opportunity to pick up food items to be donated to Philabundance to help needy families have a nice Thanksgiving. More details on how you can get involved (and you should) here.
>>> What if Don Draper’s Carousel pitch was a theatrical experience? That’s kind of the vibe given off by Josh McIlvain‘s Slideshow. This intimate performance uses real slides to unfold a gripping tale of a family as seen through the fleeting images on a screen. Dude, what if that’s what all of our lives are?
RECOMMENDED: Here’s the thing, these Hunger Games movies have no right being as entertaining as they are. The brilliance, if we dare use that word, of these films is that they are populated with such a stellar cast that you overlook the fact that the story at hand — adapted from Suzanne Collins‘ phenomenally best-selling YA novels — is familiar and thin. That said, there are no real surprises in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 2, but there are fantastic performances from the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Phillip Seymour Hoffman (sigh), Donald Sutherland and a scenery-chewing Julianne Moore that transform the Panem revolution into something that seems urgent and truly important…not to mention very, very cinematic.
ALSO NEW IN THEATERS THIS WEEK: The Night Before showcases holiday hijinks from Seth Rogen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Anthony Mackie that we’re guessing is going to have a hamfisted message about growing up thrown in among all the dick jokes; Secret in Their Eyes is the latest Julia Roberts flick that we swear looks like every episode of Law & Order: SVU we have ever seen, but hey, at least Chiwetel Ejiofor is in it; Tab Hunter Confidential is a fascinating documentary about the long-closeted Hollywood screen icon; Brooklyn is a 1950s-set drama about an Irish immigrant’s struggles in the borough featuring a screenplay by Nick Hornby (who adapted Colm Tóibín‘s novel); And By The Sea is a Brad Pitt/Angelina Jolie team-up full of romance and intrigue and us never ever wanting to see it.
>>> In the almost ten-year span since we last heard music from HiSoft our lives have changed in ways subtle and profound that we haven’t really had the chance to analyze yet. But mentally we’ll be watching that hourglass empty tonight when the group spearheaded by Gerhardt Koerner plays their first Philly show in like, we dunno, FOREVER tonight at Boot & Saddle. Yet we imagine they’ll be as breezy as ever. Somethings never do change, and that’s so comforting, as are the other acts on the lineup: Light Heat and Don Devore.
>>> My Morning Jacket will do their thing and do it well supported by Strand of Oaks out at the Tower Theatre.
>>> Oh man yes yes yes yes yes yes. Do The Dark is back at Doobie’s, a candlelit, accordion-soundtracked hang sponsored by Liberty Bellows. This is just perfect for tonight. And the rest of your life, really.
The Ocean Blue first came to the public’s attention with the release of their eponymous 1989 album on Sire Records. Despite wearing their influences (The Smiths, Echo and the Bunnymen, New Order, etc) on their sleeve, the band quickly established their own musical identity through their jangly college radio-friendly sound and introspective lyrics. They gained regular airplay on MTV’s 120 Minutes and even did a incongruous appearance on Club MTV. Two more Sire albums followed: 1991’s dream pop epic Cerulean and 1993’s Beneath the Rhythm and Sound. Following the latter’s release, the band experienced a lineup shake-up with the departure of founding member Steve Lau, whose unironic saxophone was a highlight of the band’s early years). He was replaced by Oed Ronne, who remains in the group to this day. In 1996, they released their first and only album for Mercury Records, See The Ocean Blue, arguably the group’s most underrated effort. Unfortunately, a post-grunge culling of acts left the band without a label in the late ’90s. But the band bounced back, releasing several LPs on indie labels, including the group’s own Korda Records which released 2013’s Ultramarine. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the band is how solid they’ve remained over the years, experimenting with expanding their range but ultimately retaining the core Ocean Blue sound that won them acclaim so many years ago. (For more on this, check out Joey Sweeney‘s essay on the band here). Shelflife Records recently reissued the Sire LPs on vinyl, an occasion that the band commemorated by embarking on a short five-date tour in which they’ll play their first albums in their entirety. In advance of their show tomorrow at World Cafe Live, we spoke to band co-founder and frontman David Schelzel (whose day job is working as an intellectual property lawyer whose clients include Prince) about the tour and the group’s lengthy history.
What is it like revisiting these songs so many years later? How do you feel about them nowadays?
David Schelzel: Some of the songs, like “Between Something & Nothing” and “Ballerina Out of Control”, we play nearly ever set we ever do. So nothing too novel about playing them this time out. But others, like “A Familiar Face” and “Breezing Up” we never really ever played live. And doing an entire record, from beginning to end, is something we’ve never done. That’s been the really interesting thing. It’s a little like stepping into a time machine when you take that approach. It seemed like a good thing to do in connection with the vinyl issues.
How has the reaction been from the crowd so far on this tour?
We just played to an amazing crowd at a sold out show in LA. Seemed like everyone knew every note and lyric. And for those we met, had a story to tell us about their relationship with the first 2 records. I was a bit surreal actually.
In LA, we did “Love My Way” by the Psychedelic Furs and “Inside Out” by the Mighty Lemon Drops, 2 bands we toured with for our first 2 records. We hope to change things up a little for the other shows.
I’d like to talk a little bit about “10:10 Cloud Deck” (from See The Ocean Blue) specifically, was that song written as a response to what was happening on college and mainstream radio in the early 90s? The line “sings angry stupid songs and rakes in the dough” comes to mind.
Yes, it’s about that in part but also a larger mindset. The music is straight up album rock of the sort I was into at that time.
How do you feel about the return of dream pop bands like Slowdive, Lush, and Kitchens of Distinction over the past couple of years? Why do you think audiences are so hungry for the sweetness and light of such re-emerging acts?
I’m not sure why, but I think it’s great. I mean this is the kind of music that I grew up with and that speaks to me. I saw Slowdive last year and it was amazing because there were more people at that show than when I saw them in the 90s! But no complaints about that.
Since this is a Philadelphia-centric blog, I was wondering if you could share some of your memories about playing here early in your career.
Well Philadelphia was one of the first big cities, along with DC, that we ever played. It was a huge accomplishment to get shows there. I think our first show was opening up for The Innocence Mission at the Khyber Pass. And another early show was at Revival. Here’s a poster of that that we also used for the shows for this tour:
Later we got to play bigger venues, both supporting touring acts like My Bloody Valentine, and doing heading shows at the TLA and the Trocadero. We also meet our friends Riverside early on, who were some of the first people to come out and see us.
Your sporadic holiday MP3’s — including the cover of “Walking in the Air” have become a welcome Yuletide gift, will you be doing one this year?
Don Peris (of The Innocence Mission) and I are working on it!
Finally, when can fans expect some new material from the band?
We are in the middle of working on a new full length release. Hopefully wrapping that up and releasing next year or early ’17.
The Ocean Blue will play their self-titled debut and Cerulean in their entirety tomorrow night at World Cafe Live. Thanks to David Schelzel for taking the time to answer our questions.
As the Creed trailer points out, Paulie is now dead. Even known we’ve known this for awhile it still doesn’t feel right. After all, we all all Paulie. Related: The Rocky line of action figures featured a Slab of Meat toy. What a beautiful world we live in.
The latest Visit Philadelphia promotional video is dedicated to the city’s canines. Look, we’ll be completely honest and tell you that we are an absolute sucker for YouTube vids featuring dogs doing nothing more than being absolutely adorable. This one delivers that. A lot. Now we need to find a Frenchie immediately and give it all da widdle belly rubs! Be back in a bit.
In the aftermath of his father’s death in 2013, writer Daniel Nester found himself reflecting upon his misspent youth in Maple Shade, NJ. The resulting grieving process yielded the just-published memoir, Shader: 99 Notes on Car Washes, Making Out in Church, Grief, and Other Unlearnable Subjects. Walking a tightrope between poignancy and humor is never an easy task, but it seems like this new book as Nester pulling it off with Philippe Petit-esque aplomb. The Brooklyn Rail has just published two excerpts from the book, our favorite of which is the exploration of LSD experimentation and practicing for patriotism that is “Notes from the Ben Franklin Bridge.” Here’s a sample:
The last thing you need when you’re tripping on acid is to be alone. I went back outside. A tugboat on the Delaware sounded its horn. I ducked.
Then I looked up.
There were lasers shooting across the sky.
I looked down. Then up.
There were lasers shooting across the sky. Up again.
There were still fucking lasers fucking shooting across the fucking sky.
It would be another twenty years before I found out that night was when the City of Philadelphia tested its Fourth of July laser show by shooting them across the Delaware into Camden. Holly now works as a gardener in Utah. Beverly runs an animal shelter. Everyone does adult things. Camden is still Camden. Little kids still light drums full of garbage on fire. While I lived there I never felt more paranoid and alive.
Other than knowing what we are getting absolutely everyone for the holidays now, Shader’s biggest impact upon us is how utterly relatable it is. The experiences with finding oneself amidst an environment that seems stifling and rich with characters all at once is well-worn literary territory that Nester manages to make seem completely new…and familiar to our own experiences. In support of the work, Daniel Nester will be giving a reading at Tattooed Mom tonight as part of the latest Tire Fire literary event. We can’t wait to see what other experiences he shares with us there.
At an event to be held at Fergie’s later this afternoon, Mayor Nutter will be joined by Councilman Mark Squilla, Executive Director of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations Rue Landau, and Nellie Fitzpatrick, Director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs to sign a bill that “helps make bathrooms safer and more accessible for all by requiring privately-owned establishments that service the public to remove gender-specific designations from single occupancy bathrooms.” This just makes plain sense to us and feels long overdue, so this is a positive step forward. We’ll be watching this story develop with great interest while reflecting upon how when it comes to handling important equality issues like this Philadelphia is number one. Or, if you really have to, two.
UPDATE: After singing the bill, Mayor Nutter released the following statement:
Philadelphia is a world-class, welcoming city that proudly celebrates the diversity of our residents and communities. Our inclusive practices and commitment to equality makes our city truly great and a leader on LGBT issues,” said Mayor Nutter. “This legislation expands and strengthens gender-identity protections and is an important step in support of our LGBT community, especially our transgender community members. I am proud that Philadelphia is one of the largest cities in the nation to implement this kind of policy and I want to thank Councilman Squilla for introducing this bill on our Administration’s behalf.”
By now you are likely aware that the Philadelphia Marathon is happening this weekend. But what you may not have realized is that there is another imminent happening that will test the endurance of Philly’s toughest competitors: The 24 Hour Comics Challenge. Held at Atomic City Comics on South Street, the event features a diverse range of Philly writers/illustrators who are tasked with the mentally grueling challenge of creating an original 24-page comic in the span of the day. The event kicks off this Saturday at noon and runs an entire day, during which time the store will be open the entire time for supporters of Philly’s thriving comic scene to stop by and lend their support and/or pick up the latest issue of Jughead. Hosting the festivities is Kelly Phillips, whose work as the co-founder and publisher of the Dirty Diamonds all-girl comics anthology and Weird Me, about her experiences in Weird Al Yankovic fandom, have earned her the respect of her frantically drawing peers. This year’s participants include Cyn Why?, Dave Proch, Eamon Dougherty, Mike Curran, and Tia Uuggh, making the challenge a who’s who of rising industry stars. One of the benefits of living in a city like ours is that non-traditional art-heavy events like this happen on the regular. Stop by Atomic City at some point this weekend to check out how great Philadelphia’s comic culture is up close and personal.
Good morning Philadelphia! We polled a group of well respected Philadelphologists, and 4 out of 5 agreed that there is no better way for citizens of the City of Brotherly Love to start their day than by watching an incredibly awkward at for Franklin Mills in which Benjamin Franklin takes in the savings at the Northeast’s premiere shopping destination before leading the people of the 1990s in a revamped version of the Electric Slide called, wait for it, THE FRANKLIN SLIDE. The spot gets under way at the 30-second mark, but be warned, the nostalgia overload on this one is ferocious. It’s as if this entire spot is just a blaring klaxon of memory reminding us that the 1990s were fucking terrible. As if you didn’t already know that.
>>> Matt Pond PA play The Foundry tonight in support of their recent album The State of Gold, another typically superb set of songs from the longtime Philebs favorites. Related: If you haven’t heard their haunting cover of Lindsey Buckingham’s “Holiday Road” for some reason, get on it. You’ll want it for your December playlists.
>>> Now celebrating their 34th year, NYC ska icons The Toasters come to Milkboy Philly tonight to play songs old and new. Our feet hurt just thinking about the dancing that’s going to be happening at this one.
Kevin Powell is an internationally recognized author and activist, who is speaking tonight in Philadelphia at the Church of the Advocate for the release of his new book, The Education of Kevin Powell. Guest writer Katy Otto spoke with him about the new release and his experiences in a frank and engaging conversation.
Your new book is about your childhood in Jersey City, and it discusses a lot of your experiences being raised by your mother on her own. She sounds extraordinary and incredibly driven to do whatever she could to help you succeed. Why did you decide to tell this story?
Kevin: It covers my life from age three to my 40s, now. A long period of time. I’ve been thinking about this book since I was a young person in the ’90s. As some folks know in the ’90s they were giving out a lot of book deals to Gen Xers – write your memoir, you are the generation – but I wasn’t ready then. It would have been an angry book then – angry at my father for abandoning us, angry at my mother for more complicated reasons, and you need some time away from that trauma. Trauma could be coming of age, being the product of divorce, sexual or domestic violence – you need time from that. So I took it. I spent years in therapy processing it all, which I am proud of. Then I felt ready to write it.
I ran for Congress in 2008, and again in 2010 in New York City. After that I wanted to do some soul searching about what I had just experienced, because it was deep. Some of the seeds of the book had already begun to form, and I actually wrote the beginning of it many years ago. It sat there for at least a dozen years or so. I had an outline for it, but I didn’t do the serious writing for it until about three or four years ago. I had some things to contend with. I knew I was never going to run for office again, I knew I was going to dedicate my life to the service of others, I knew I was going to be an activist and organizer. I wanted to tell this whole story in one space, rather than in bits and pieces which I had done over the years.
Music played such an important role in your life, as you describe in The Education of Kevin Powell. You also rose to prominence as a young journalist for Vibe and on the MTV series The Real World. I have a few music-related questions for you: Do you think popular music today has the capacity to be a force for social justice and a better world? Do you see current artists who embody this?
Kevin: That is a great question. One, I don’t know what my life would have been like without music. As a child living in poverty, it was one of the only things I had. I didn’t realize it at the time but I was listening to people like Linda Ronstadt, Elton John and Paul Simon, to my mother’s influences like Motown. She always mentioned Sam Cook, Aretha Franklin, James Brown. Later I developed my own taste and fell in love with Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, 50s do-wop, The Bee Gees, disco – the punk rock scene caught my attention as a young person because it is rebellious, the way hip hop is rebellious. The book was written with music around me all the time.
I love Laura Nyro, I love Carole King, I love Lauryn Hill. I am a huge Beatles fan. Kendrick Lamar. Different things capture different parts of my life. If I was writing about the 80s I might mention Duran Duran, or Madonna, or Prince. Even though I am very much about social justice, I don’t necessarily need socially conscious music all the time. What I do need is music that feeds my soul. In these times, that might be Amy Winehouse for me. Her soul speaks to my soul. The pain she carries around is the same kind of pain I am talking about in my own book. Kendrick Lamar, in a song like I where he is talking about self-love and how he struggled with self-esteem issues, depression and suicidal thoughts – he’s very vulnerable, and he’s talking about the kinds of things I address in my book. I look for music that speaks to me in a certain kind of way. Do I want music to be more socially conscious given everything that is happening in the world? Do I wish there was a Nina Simone, a Bob Dylan, or a Bob Marley? I think they exist. Maybe they just aren’t famous yet. There might be artists who are already there who need the courage to write this kind of music. Marvin Gaye did so when he went from pop to writing “What’s Going On”, a seminal record for social change. It’s going to take some artists to turn that corner but I do think they exist.
You are doing an event tonight in Philadelphia. Our city has staggering poverty and a deeply under resourced educational system. There are many challenges here. Do you have a relationship to the city? What does it mean to you? What are you looking forward to in terms of your discussion in Philadelphia?
Kevin: This is a full schedule – we have been adding stuff. I actually have been doing several events in Philadelphia. I spoke at a school today, for students in grades six through twelve. Tonight I am doing the community event you mentioned at Church of the Advocate, a social justice church that brings people from diverse communities together. I am speaking at a grade school and a high school tomorrow, and I am spending the second half of the day at University of Pennsylvania. I have to give a shoutout to Anthony DeCurtis who is bringing me there to speak to a group of student writers. He was my first editor at Rolling Stone in the 90s when I was writing for them. He reached out to me when he heard about the book. I never would have written for Vibe if it wasn’t for him – he was a phenomenal editor and mentor. He is one of my literary and music criticism mentors and I would never say no to him. I will sit in his class and then have a discussion with his students. I am really looking forward to it.
Last night I was in Baltimore, and there are similar issues there with violence, improper housing, improper nutrition, trouble getting jobs, poor education – it creates a desperate situation. And then you have guns, which are readily available. It hurt my heart, I just walked by the Tabernacle Church near U Penn where there is a display of T-shirts representing people shot by guns in this city – fifteen years old, seventeen years old, fifty-six years old, and then back down to twenty-eight years old, back up to forty years old. I come from that, so this hurts. I grew up in tremendous poverty. My father had abandoned us. I felt desperate. I grew up feeling like there was no hope. Wondering if I was going to make it to fifteen, to thirty. No one should have to live like that or think like that. As a society we are failing poor people – poor people of color, poor people in urban areas, heck, even poor people in rural areas. In this country of tremendous wealth, where we spend enormous amounts of money on weaponry overseas, and all the other stuff we spend money on. You have to ask yourself why people are allowed to live in isolation and to suffer, and to end up taking it out on themselves and each other.
I was on the radio yesterday with young people from Baltimore and they said they would actually just like to be loved. They would like to know that there is someone out there with concern for who they are. And I care – my life is dedicated to this, no matter how hard and lonely it is. I just can’t stomach living in a world where there is any form of injustice. I don’t like racism, I don’t like sexism, I don’t like poverty, homophobia, classism, disrespect for the disabled community – any form of injustice bothers me. As Americans, as human beings, we need to figure this out. I feel like one of the lucky ones who miraculously survived. Many did not. They are like casualties of war.
I saw the movie Saving Private Ryan with Tom Hanks many years ago. The thing that struck me as they went from one theater of war to another was how they kept losing people. I literally cried when I watched that movie because I kept thinking about all of the people I grew up with, people like me, who died. Who were now gone. They didn’t have to be gone, but they didn’t think there was anything for them. Perhaps they died by guns, perhaps they were in jail – some of them may be alive, but are barely hanging on. It hurts my heart when I go back to my high school reunion and see people who aren’t that old – forties now, thirties several years back – but people look like they have been beaten down by life. That’s what poverty and violence will do to a person.
As a survivor of partner violence and an advocate for an end to sexual and domestic violence, I deeply appreciate your decades-long commitment to speaking out about/ending violence against women and girls. I particularly appreciate your own openness about your past and approaches that you worked hard to overcome. What are come key messages around gender-based violence you want to impart to other men and boys?
Kevin: A few weeks back I wrote a blog for CNN.com called “Why One Activist Thinks We Need a Men’s Movement.” I talked about my experiences doing this work in these times as an activist and organizer. I got a lot of responses, most of it positive, but also some angry responses from men. One of the responses I got was from the headmaster of a prep school in New England. He has 200 plus high school young men in the school. He and his wife are dedicated to helping this student population rethink and redefine manhood away from sexism, patriarchy, and misogyny. I was blown away by this and I went up to speak to them. They want to use my new book as a teaching tool, and I was also blown away by that.
One of the things I see when I work with men of all races, mostly straight men (I find more openness with my gay, bi and trans brothers), is that they have been grossly, grossly misinformed about masculinity. Boys don’t cry, we have to fight, we don’t view women as our equals, women and girls are either sex objects or caretakers. This leads us to engage in destructive behavior – which you experienced, which I engaged in, which many men engage in all across this planet. We learn nothing about the contributions of women and girls as equals. Our school systems don’t teach us this, our institutions of faith don’t teach us about equality, and so I always say when you don’t learn about half the world’s population you are not going to have a holistic respect for half the world’s population.
People think that violence against women is just physical, the putting on of hands – and of course that is egregious and I do work to end that. But there is also the violence of our language and our ideas about women and girls. Our attitudes are violent. It takes on so many different forms. Sexism, like racism, permeates so many aspects of society.
When I was challenged around my backwards, patriarchal behavior in the 90s, I decided to do a few things. I decided to be honest about it. I wrote an essay in 1992 called The Sexist in Me which was the first time I talked about it publicly. I took the challenge to do this by the women in my life seriously. They said to me, Kev, you can’t just talk about oppression or discrimination that is convenient to you – you have to talk about all of it and the intersection of these things.
Men need to take ownership for our words and our actions and not be defensive about it. We need to learn how to really, truly listen to women and girls – to hear your voices and hear your stories. If you don’t know something, you need to be willing to learn about it. For me it meant I needed to be willing to read. To learn about bell hooks, Audre Lorde, Gloria Steinem, Eve Ensler, and all of these amazing women in history that I was oblivious to for the most part. You have to be willing to challenge men and boys around their behavior. At some point you have to become a conscious ally to women and girls. As Eve and bell and Gloria have all said, men’s violence against women will not end until men and boys help to make it end. I take that very seriously. I had to learn these things and become comfortable with the fact that it made other men not want to talk to and hang out with me. I don’t want my gender privilege to hurt anyone, so I am okay with that. My privilege should be used to end oppression, not perpetuate it.
I believe I heard that you were involved in the recent Million Man March. I wanted to ask how you think that event can interface with organizing efforts such as Black Lives Matter – particularly because the BLM movement was co-founded through the work of three Black queer women. What do you think the interactions of these two movements might be like?
Kevin: No, not at all – not the recent one. I was at the original one in 1995, and even then I had some reservations about it which I write about in my book. While I appreciated the gesture, there was no real agenda at that march – no action steps to take. The other part of it was that it was rooted in patriarchy and sexism.
I think we should be wary of any movement rooted in patriarchy, sexism or homophobia. I can’t support any of it. The movement I want to be part of is intersectional. I will say that in the early 70s, Huey Newton, co-founder of the Black Panther Party, wrote two essays – one in support of the women’s liberation movement and one in support of the gay liberation movement. You don’t hear about these essays very much. People conveniently forget that stuff, and he was supposed to be this template for incredibly Black masculinity. Think about the area he grew up in, though. The Bay Area. He was exposed to people in a number of different movements. I am pretty sure these essays are in his book Revolutionary Suicide. You can Google it and find them.
I support people getting together around their commonalities, but what I am conscious of is what the language being used to call people together and whether or not these groups are still interested in working intersection-ally. I also wonder what we are actually giving people to take back with them, no matter what the leadership is. The follow up to this kind of organizing is important to me.
What do you hope people get from your book?
Kevin: I just was at a school with kids as young as eleven and as old as eighteen. They will be reading the book. It discusses self-esteem, violence – and I looked at these kids and wondered if they have experienced things like domestic violence and sexual assault. I hope that people can see that while this book does deal with those things, it’s a journey of healing. It’s about love for yourself and love for humanity. In spite of all the traumatic things we may have experienced in our lives – and I definitely have in mine – I am thankful for my spiritual practices, for therapy, and to be able to be in healing circles and to talk the way you and I are talking right now. We are wounded, many of us, no matter who we are. I know the isms exist that divide people, but as I travel this country and overseas, I see many commonalities in our differences. We have to fight for our lives, Katy – for our lives, for our sanity, for our dignity.
There are times in the book when I wanted to give up. I was abusing alcohol badly. I wanted to die. I wanted to give up. The depression was so debilitating I couldn’t even get out of bed. The sadness. I was medicating. I don’t judge people who smoke cigarettes, weed, do drugs – I understand that people are trying to work their way through stuff and to numb the pain. That’s what I hope people see – there is a little Black boy on the cover of that book, but you are him and he is you.
In the book I talk about my aunt Kathy who had a mental breakdown. She is a poor Black woman, living in America, experiencing racism, classism, sexism. She doesn’t have the language to articulate that, but that is what it is. She had the weight of the world on her. I wrote a poem about her because it was the only thing I knew how to do.
I read the poem many times. In 2002 in Lawrence, Kansas, I read the poem for the 100th birthday of Langston Hughes, one of my favorite poets. Afterwards, an older white sister came up to me with tears in her eyes and said to me, “I’m Aunt Kathy too.” It doesn’t matter that she was a white, middle-class sister – her humanity connected us.
That is what we need to grow into. We won’t grow into it unless we fight for our lives. My book is hard. People have told me they have cried reading it – I cried writing it, I had nightmares about it. But my prayer, my meditation, my hope is that it will help someone else know that they are not by themselves.