Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Heart to Heart with TOE TO TOE Filmmaker, Emily Abt

story by Jocelyn M. Goode
photo: courtesy of Emily Abt

This Friday, February 26th at 7pm, acclaimed indie film Toe to Toe will host it's New York City premiere at the Village East Cinema. The movie, written and directed by Emily Abt, is about two high school senior girls from different ethnic and class backgrounds, who struggle to keep their inter-racial friendship, despite competing athletically and socially against each other. FAIM Internet Magazine had the great opportunity to receive candid answers from Emily about her intent and experience making the provocative film. Read what she had to share below...

FAIM: What is the significance in exploring a black/white dynamic over any other racial combination?

EA: I've always been very interested in race relations and especially in the relationship between black and white women in America. Interracial friendships between us are not as common as one would think (according to the NYTimes, interracial friendships end at age 14 for 87% of Americans) and I wanted to make a film that explored why. The film is inspired by some of my own experiences, I too attended an elite, politically-correct prep school on the east coast, and there are parts of my personality in both the Jesse and Tosha characters.

FAIM: What were some challenges you faced on a personal level and a logistical one while producing this film, and how did you overcome them?
EA: Financing was of course a huge challenge. Once I was on set, the main challenge was capturing what was on the page without getting distracted by outside forces. Directing would be the most fun job ever if it weren't for the constraints that face every shoot. It was difficult to capture great performances and scenes with so little time and resources, I couldn't let myself get distracted by anything that wasn't directly related to those two goals...The lacrosse scenes were indeed very challenging but we had a great coach, Samantha Eustace, who helped us choreograph those scenes and also helped train the girls. She actually plays our lacrosse coach in the film.

FAIM: How does this film challenge the status quo in terms of media targeted at young women and girls?
EA: I wanted to make a film that challenged the status quo on race and sexuality. The character of Jesse and her story tries to raise questions about the rampant sexualization of teenage girls. The "lets get f-ed up and hook-up" lifestyle is so ubiquitous in pop culture these days. I think this trend endangers young women so I tried to tell a story that showed the darker side of that lifestyle and how young women can get hurt even when they think they're just having fun.

The relationship between Tosha and Jesse hopefully inspires folks of different races to be more real with each other, even when that's awkward. What I love about the girls' relationship is that it's complicated and it deals with the messy, subtle forms of racial tension that are usually overlooked by mainstream media. Some of their conflict isn't even about race but it gets amplified by the fact that they're from different backgrounds. These girls are authentic with each other, they don’t always say the polite thing and they don’t shy away from conflict with each other. I think there's beauty is that realness and it leads these two girls to a place where they're willing to sacrifice a lot for each other.

FAIM: What type of impact do you want this movie to have on audiences?

EA: My background is in documentary so I wanted TOE TO TOE to drip with authenticity and I wanted it to mean something real to audiences. Story must always come before political message but my favorite films have both...I'm not sure how folks will react but I hope they're moved, entertained and inspired by it. Isn't that why all us filmmakers do what we do?

Those interested in attending may purchase advanced tickets online at Directly after the screening, there will be a Q&A session with Emily Abt along with the film's lead actors, Louisa Krause and Sonequa Martin. The post-premiere party will be at the Blind Pig Bar, where guest will have an additional opportunity to chat with the cast and crew.
For more information about the film and to read other reviews, visit Toe to Toe's facebook page.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Diamond in the Rough-Queens Fashion Week Opening Night Review

by Jocelyn M. Goode
photo: models in fashion by Qristyl Frazier

The sparkling, glittery glow of a beautifully cut diamond is the product of hard work, pressure and refinement. Yet, someone had to discover the initial rock and take the time to cultivate it. This situation is analogous to Queens Fashion Week.

Delali Osun, director and founder of QFW, describes the three-day event as the "jewel in the crown of New York City". Seeing the value in Queens designers, she invested her own capital to create an unprecedented exposition featuring undiscovered and latent talent. The potential for Queens Fashion Week was clear at last night's event, however it will be time before it is refined to the status of crown jewel.
An ecletic group of fashion designers presented their ware. Qristyl Frazier's line, especially catered to full-figured women, reflected sensuality and subtle elegance. Designer Knitwear by Michi's line projected sophisticated femininity that says "all eyes on me!" Monica Yepez reminded us that the summer will be here soon, showing her collection of revealing swimwear. Fashion-forward outfits from the Glendale shop, Stella Gialla went over well with the audience. The Eye Collection featured reggae-inspired graphic prints on sportswear. The show culminated with the fashion of Delali Osun, whose line featured one-of-a-kind hand-painted designs on everyday pieces and evening wear.
Qristyl Frazier Designs

Designer Knitwear by Michi

Designer Knitwear by Michi

Fashion designer, Michi with model

Monica Yepez (left) with a model and her son

Outfit from Stella Gialla

Outfit from Stella Gialla

the Eye Collection

Osun Designs

All the components of a great fashion event were in place. There was a VIP room with a seafood buffet catered by the Pavillion Grill. DJ Brina Payne kept the mood upbeat with her selection of pop beats. And much props to the host of the evening, Mia Amber. She filled down time between sets by humorously engaging the audience and selecting guests to walk to runway while everyone else cheered on. Members of the press and a large group of photographers were present to cover the event as well.

Make-up artist working backstage before the show

Hostess, Mia Amber

fashion blogger, Nubia Mejia and Mary Beirne, headband designer

Despite some technical difficulties and a minimally decorated space, the show was enjoyable. I encourage all who support the expansion of the fashion scene and local designers to check out the remaining days of Queens Fashion Week. It will take the support of many individuals to bring QFW to its full potential as a shining jewel of New York City.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Queens Fashion Week Begins Today!

by Jocelyn M. Goode
photo: A sizzling design by Designer Knitwear by Michi

Of all the five boroughs in NYC, Queens has been the quiet underdog known for being the most suburban and least "happening" of the major metropolis. Well, in the past few years, all of that has been changing with a growing arts scene and now it's very own Fashion Week.

Tonight is the Queens Fashion Week Gala Opening taking place at Standard Motor LOFTS, 37-18 Northern Blvd, Long Island City from 7pm-9pm. Looks by Designer Knitwear by Michi and Qristyl Frazier from season 6 of the hit reality show, Project Runway, are some of this evenings features.

Friday brings the Young Designer's Initiative when emerging designers and kid models give audiences a show of their latest creations and up-n-coming talent. There will also be a Young Entrepreneurs segment to highlight "small people doing big things" in Queens.

The Queens Fashion Expo, a free event on Saturday, is an opportunity to meet the participating designers and shop from local retailers offering stylish merchandise. Later that night will be the Finale Runway Show, which the Queens Fashion Week website describes as
the "shining 'Jewel in the crown of New York City!' with a host of Fashion Designers, models, Style Icons, Celebrities and dignitaries in attendance".

FAIM Internet Magazine will be in the house to see what the opening night of this premiere Queens event has to bring. Check back tomorrow for a full review and photos. For more information and ticket prices, visit the website:

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Haiti One Month Later--A Journalist's First-Hand Account from Port-Au-Prince

by Jocelyn M. Goode

Last month I wrote an article called "Haiti Help or Haiti Hoodwink?" raising questions about the massive amounts of dollars that people have been giving, but the lack of accountability for how the resources are being spent. I hold my position that giving money is not the primary solution and that it will take real community organizing and grassroot political action on the part of Americans to ensure that the people of Haiti have agency and self-determination as they rebuild their nation.

FAIM Internet Magazine has a correspondence with POCC Block Report Radio journalist, Minister of Information JR. On February 8th, he along with a team of other journalists and medical providers flew to Haiti to provide a first-hand account of what has really been going on. POCC Block Report Radio, "the peoples voice on the airwaves and the internet", boldly covers stories that expose the racism and injustice perpetrated by government and police agencies on black people and people of color globally. Minister of Information JR had this to say about his observations in Port-Au-Prince:

"Today is the one month anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti. Today I went all over Port Au Prince and saw the devastation firsthand and the occupation by Brazil under the guise of the UN, and of course the USA. I rode through Port Au Prince all day, and didn't see one act of recovery going on. I haven't left Port Au Prince. Here it looks like the city was hit with an atomic bomb. All through the city you could smell dead bodies, and see people going through the rubble lookin for scraps of metal to build a shanty-house as well as anything that can be eaten, drunk, or sold. I don't see where the millions of dollars that have been raised for Haiti is going. Everywhere people is starving. Me and my comrades gave some of the most desperate some money, but the thing is that it might help them today, what about tomorrow?

We been staying at a makeshift hospital ran by some white so-called American missionaries. Today at the house I witnessed my first act of Jim Crow type racism from so-called friends, on this particular trip. Haiti is like a time machine. Its like 1920 here in terms of the apartheid type of relationships that the whites have with the Blacks. The white woman of "God" that runs the house that Haitians can't come in the house from their shanty town in the backyard after the hospital closes, but check this out, multiple dogs have free reign all over the property. So in other words these dogs are more important than the Haitians; including the hungry babies, the old people, the wounded and maimed, and regular everyday people.

One of the members of our delegation were told not to feed the Haitians in the tent city that is in the backyard, because they already eat once a day. The issue is, why do they think that they can determine who I share my food with. The house is full of white people who have free reign to eat as much as they want, and whenever they want.

The second issue, is that when we went to Port Au Prince we had a 19 year old Haitian translator named Gady who helped our team. When we got back, the rooster-neck nun who is ultimately in charge of the house told him that he can't be in the house, although we met him in the house the day before and hung out and listened to music to about 1am. We asked why, and she told us he wasn't a good translator. I told her, he did great with us, from 10am to 4pm. She told me he doesn't know enough English medical terms to assist the doctors, I informed her that my team consisted of journalists, and we didn't need him to know English medical terms. She then quickly said there were other reasons then told us that she just didn't want him in the house, and if we needed a translator, contact her, and she would hook it up. Most of the translators that I met were very subservient, except ours, and thats why we got along. She kicked him out, and we went out the house after him and paid him a 3rd of what he would make in a month as a translator, because we realize how hard it is to find money, water, and food let alone a regular job.

I'm currently writing this from the house, and God knows, I wish I had somewhere else to go out here rather than deal with these undercover racists. I don't, so like my Haitian "auntie" told me, I'm supposed to see all of this so I can report it.

On another note, most of the Black people from the U.S. that are out there, that I have met are complicit in this Jim Crow racism. They act like they don't see it because it is not affecting them. These dumb ass people don't recognize that these same crackers were doing this to their grand parents 60 years ago. It's like Malcolm taught us, when he talked about the house slave and the field slave.

This is my first report, on my first full day here. There is more to come, so stay tuned..."

Already the light on this tragic issue is beginning to dim. As I predicted, soon it will no longer be news and people will be exhausted from hearing about the situation in Haiti. FAIM Internet Magazine makes a commitment to continue to update its readers about the progress (or lack thereof) on this terrible crisis on a regular basis. Check back for future updates.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Seventh Graders Take On Sustainability

by Jocelyn M. Goode

Green, organic, sustainable—these words are common in conversations about environmental consciousness and natural health. However, they have also become gimmicky catch-phrases tossed into mainstream advertisements to make commercial products appear more socially responsible. This week, FAIM Internet Magazine looks at some defining principles of sustainability and a group of middle school boys who took on a challenge to create sustainable, useful objects from scratch.

Beyond the rhetorical debates, there are some fundamental aspects to sustainability. Here are seven basic principles to look for in objects and products:
1. Made from low-impact materials that are non-toxic and created with recycled material
2. Energy efficient, requiring little energy to function or drawing energy from natural sources like the sun or the wind.
3. High quality and durability as opposed to cheap and disposable. This ensures a longer usage life and less manufacturing/production.
4. Designed for reuse and recycling, also called a “commercial afterlife”, with properties that enable the waste to function in a productive way.
5. Leaves small carbon footprint, using less energy and releasing small amounts of carbon monoxide into the atmosphere.
6. Substitutes services over consumption, meaning a move from personal ownership to utilizing a service that encourages sharing resources to produce less waste and use less energy. Carpooling and cab-sharing are some versus vehicle purchases and multiple-car households are examples.
7. Renewable so that the resource can be replenished faster than it is consumed.

The above list is just the tip of the iceberg on the subject and the implications ultimately affect us all. Still, being informed about the basics of sustainability is always a good way to begin to analyze our own habits and the products we consume regularly.

A group of seventh grade students at George Jackson Academy, a middle school for academically promising but low-income boys, recently studied sustainability in their visual arts class. They then had the task of interpreting the principles into purposeful creations using only found materials and trash. An assorted array of objects resulted from the exercise. Here are a few.
Lateef Fall made a "green" bird feeder from a cardboard and popsicle sticks.

Michael Liu made a checkers board from old Tropicana boxes and buttons which he painted red and black.

Bruce Ramphal took the material from a broken umbrella and designed this waterproof poncho, which he says will fit a toddler perfectly.

Damien Troncoso used this empty tissue box to make a floral-decorated picture frame.

Johnny Cuevas' "umbrella-hat", still in its prototype stage is a tyvek umbrella which attaches and detaches to a cap so the wearer can use it hands-free. He still has some kinks to work out with the design...

Other prototypes included a “metro glove”, which Isaiah Horton made from a lost glove and a strip of fabric. He sized the material and attached it to the front of the glove to form a pocket perfect for a Metrocard. The “metro glove” gives the user quick and easy access to the transit card. Nahjee O’Donoghue made a wind chime using a wire hanger and empty soda cans. Even the sound was far from charming, the sound of the metal wire rustling against the aluminum cans was loud enough to silence a classroom full of routy seventh graders.

I encourage others to try the sustainability challenge and design your own reusable objects based on the seven principles. Please send your photos in to and I will post them. You just might surprise yourself with your ingenuity!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

How to Review an Artistic Exhibition: Evaluating the “The Black Artist as Activist” show

by Jocelyn M. Goode
art by Malik Seneferu

Many of us have visited museums and galleries, stared hard at the art, and then walked away wondering what it was all about. FAIM Internet Magazine would like to give the readers some tips to help evaluate artwork and curatorial exhibitions. Reflecting on the recent “The Black Artist as Activist” opening held at Danny Simmons’ Corridor Gallery last Sunday in Brooklyn, we will walk through some critiquing criteria while reviewing the group show.

Questions to Ask
When approaching art and exhibitions from a critical perspective, it is important to have a set of questions in mind. For example:
What is the theme of the exhibition? How have the curators defined its meaning?
How do the pieces relate to each other and to the theme?
What information is available about the art and how accessible is it?
Are there artists’ statements to clue in viewers about the creative process or the meaning of each individual piece?
How does the overall presentation affect the experience of the art?
Does the art evoke an emotional response, positive or negative, or do you find yourself unaffected?

Strength Defined
Strong art connects with you, allowing you to see something in a new or different way. It draws you in, encouraging you to examine the details and question the process. The work may also demonstrate well-developed technical skills, meticulous craftsmanship and unique creativity. At the height of an artistic experience your emotions should be stimulated, whether you feel inspired, alarmed or something in between.

Strong exhibitions tell a story. Each piece displayed should form an invisible thread to the next one to weave a message for the viewer to discover and unravel. It is essential that curatorial shows also promote the artists. There should be clear indicators if the work is for sale and the art’s presentation should be as appealing as possible. Established show spaces such as museums and galleries have the common practice of promoting an exhibition on its website, with postcards, and by providing a exhibition list to viewers when they visit that detail the title, artist, medium, year and price of each piece in the show.

Attending an Opening
The opening of a show tends to be the highlight of an exhibition. The featured artists as well as many guests will turn out to support the unveiling of a new presentation. In many cities, this night happens on the first Thursday of the month. It is as great opportunity for the artists to interface directly with the audience, to promote themselves and ultimately to make sales on their work. A good curator will also coordinate an “artist talk” during the opening when the artists can speak directly to the guests about their work and process. Gallery-hopping is a term to describe the activity of bouncing from one opening to the next, sampling new work and wine along the way.

Bonuses to the art opening experience include light snacks and free wine, which usually loosens up the crowd and encourages them to mingle in the space for a while. Guestbooks help both the exhibition institution and the artists keep in contact with guests, so audience members should make a point to sign them! You can tell an opening is live when it starts to spill out into the streets and buzz of people’s voices is heard from blocks away.

Reviewing The Actual Experience
Given this criteria, how did the “The Black Artist as Activist” exhibition rate? Well, the theme of the show was detailed in decal letters on the wall outside the doors of the show. However, one guest commented, “It was so crowded, I didn’t even see it. I knew the show was about activism but I didn’t see the connection in all the art.” Inside the show’s pamphlet viewers could also find more information about the theme, which “brings together black artists who have used their art to highlight the ways in which we as a people have struggled and responded to the inequalities and transgressions in a society that has inadvertently condoned the violation of human and civil rights for many of its people.”

Much of the art did indeed represent an aspect of blackness and the black experience in America. However, some fell short in relating to activism. The following are details from some of the most poignant pieces in my opinion.

Kevin E. Cole, "Our Children's Journey", mixed media on paper, 2007

Derick Cross, "Perception #1", wood, paint, mixed media, 2009/2010

MLJ Johnson, "2 Face Mama", oil on masonite, 1978

Khalid Kodi, "Darfur Dirty Laundry", mixed media, 2009

Terrence Sanders, "They Knew", paint, mixed media, 2005

Ademola Olugebefola, "Reclamation site #2", mixed media, 1969

Shani Peters, "To Have and To Hold On", screenprint on dupioni silk, 2008

Kevin E. Cole, "The New Nooses", bronze, 2007

Kevin E. Cole’s nooses cast in bronze made a powerful statement about the chokehold of sports and incarceration.
Wilhelmina Obatola Grant, "It's 10pm", mixed media, 2000

Wilhemina Obatola Grant created a piece that mixed clock pieces with paraphanelia associated with activities common in black, ghetto life—from crack pipes to powerfists, bullets to beer caps.
It was nice to see young faces such as these teenagers paying stylistic homage to the early 90s.

During the two-hour opening, the relatively small gallery was filled to the brim with guests of all ages. People clamored in groups around the hors d’oeuvres and wine and clustered against the Corridor’s walls. It was difficult to get close to the art and even more difficult to get information about the installations, the artwork that was multi-dimensional and presented on the floor. While some artists did have the intent to sell their work, there were no prices listed.

Danny Simmons and Dr. Brenda M. Green

Co-curator Danny Simmons, eldest brother to Russell and Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons, addressed the crowd along with Dr. Brenda M. Greene, mother of Talib Kweli. They thanked the audience and made announcements about future events and gallery programs. Simmons invited the artists up to be formally acknowledged by the guests. Each one briefly made an introduction.
Malik Seneferu (far left) and Zoraida Lopez (next to Malik) were some of the featured artists.

Unfortunately, the artists were not given a chance to really speak on their work, a true drawback considering how much the pieces would have benefited from some explanations. Their moment was really upstaged when a long-winded Jamel Shabazz, a teaching artist for one of the galleries programs, spoke for over ten minutes about his life and artistic inspirations. He wasn’t even a featured artist in the show! Kudos to the artists who took the initiative to bring their own promotional material like Malik Seneferu, who flew all the way from San Francisco, CA to represent his work.

Overall, the “Black Artist as Activist” exhibition was a good concept but the execution of the show did not highlight and promote the artists to the best capacity. From the Corridor’s website, which makes no mention of the opening on its home or event pages to the lack of pricing information and the absence of an artist’s talk, the curators missed the mark on bringing together the visual story. Nonetheless, the overwhelming turnout proved that support was strong for the artists and subject. Hopefully, future shows will harness that energy in a more cohesive way.