DIGBOSTON.COM 04.11.19 - 04.18.19
AN INTERVIEW WITH CLAIRE DENIS
KISMET, BOSTONâ€™S MUSLIM SUPERHERO
MAN OF FATE
MUSIC+ARTS: A RECORD STORE DAY PROFILE | PLUS: PORSHA O.
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THE GONG SHOW
I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to crack on church bells. I have gone after religion relentlessly, from believers to preachers, and last year even took a swipe at funeral processions, which I decried for, among other offenses, being patently classist on the grounds that they are typically for “folks from certain religions, plus people with means.” “Why,” I asked, “should privileged or specific groups get to inconvenience the rest of us?” It’s ridiculous, just like how we have to tolerate a symphony of church bells around here. The straw that broke my back on this one didn’t start out as a noise complaint. I was driving past a church in Dorchester last Sunday, and noticed as I had before that police allow folks to double-park when they’re in service. This, of course, is absolutely absurd, and only happens because the authorities are sympathetic to (certain) religious people. Which is essentially discrimination against everybody else, not to mention the cause of traffic disturbances. If you don’t believe me, if you think the BPD allows just anyone to clog a major thoroughfare, try throwing a reggae concert and asking the cops if your guests can occupy a lane for an entire block. The same is true about church bells, which can be to unsuspecting eardrums what cadaverous processions and double-parked cars are to commuting. Who else gets to make that kind of noise? Why do Christians—and especially Catholics, the shameful homophobic child rape apologists among us—get to interrupt the rest of good Bostonians who want to sleep in on a Sunday? Or on any day in some cases, since churches of all stripes and superstitions seemingly ring bells whenever they please. Imagine if religions with predominately nonwhite members had a custom that obnoxious. Every Tom, Dick, and Becky from Bay Village to Brookline would be outside with their sound meters. I told some friends and family members that I planned on writing a column like this. Most requested for me to kill the rant altogether, or that I at least bark softly and set aside the fire I typically reserve for political hypocrites. Fine, I sort of promised, but it isn’t easy; after all, the culprits in this case landed on my fecal compendium for the unnecessary clamor that they make. Think about that for a second—I’m angry about unsolicited cacophony forced on communities by institutions that pay zero taxes, and my own pals and relatives are mostly concerned about the noise I am making. Listen, very few of these churches even have actual bells anymore. Even when they are real, they serve no contemporary function in an age where smartphones feature information on church start times, but it’s even stupider that we are being annoyed by artless recordings that are programmed and looped in the name of tradition. Sorry to sound off, but I’m sick of being sounded on. CHRIS FARAONE, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF
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THE SUMMIT: PART I SOMERVILLE
Residents vent on issues related to neighborhoods, transit, and accessibility BY BOSTON INSTITUTE FOR NONPROFIT JOURNALISM @BINJREPORTS As a major initiative for 2019, the team at the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (BINJ), in collaboration with partners at DigBoston, Somerville Media Center (SMC), and various other outlets, is focusing on identifying and reporting critical stories in the City of Somerville. To that end, we have been leading journalism workshops at SMC, including some with high school students, and in February BINJ turned out more than 100 Somerville residents and active community members to the ONCE ballroom on Highland Ave to converse with area journalists about issues they think need more coverage. The information these participants provided has already seeded articles and will continue to bear fruit over the coming months. In addition to our follow-ups, we have transcribed all of the presentations given at ONCE. It’s a lot to chew on, so for the purpose of reporting back we parsed sentiments of the participating Somervillians into the following categories (many of which overlap at multiple intersections): • Neighborhoods, transit, and accessibility • Union Square and other development • Low-income residents and affordable housing • Immigrant communities • Trees and the environment • Arts, artists, and artisans 4
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In addition to reports that stem from the February meetup, over the coming weeks we will also publish words and ideas that stood out at the summit. Starting this week with excerpts from various testimonies related to neighborhoods, transit, and accessibility. Mary Mangan, Winter Hill Neighborhood Association Who are the property owners sitting on huge vacant lots and vacant storefronts? I’ve had three people here asking me about the Star Market [property]. Who are the developers landing all the big projects? … What’s happening in the schools? Are they actually improving outcomes for students with the most barriers? Or are schools just shifting to more affluent demographics? We want to connect and align with other neighborhood or issue groups doing similar things … and it’s hard to know who and where this is. Reaching and engaging renters is particularly hard for us; we have the same homeowners showing up for most of our meetings. … Urban environment issues are of concern to us and urban health issues that are more specific to city living. ResiStat was a great idea initially but we never get beyond the city marketing information anymore. We aren’t digging into the data on restaurant inspections, licenses, health department stuff, recreation department events.
Justin Moeling, Gilman Square Neighborhood Association As the Green Line extension representative to the community working group for the Gilman Square Station area, I get to meet a lot of my neighbors. They’ve had a lot of conversations about station design [and how] Gilman Square actually doesn’t have direct access to the Gilman Square Station. One of the things that we realized is that [in] Gilman Square, some people don’t even know that Gilman Square exists. … There’s going to be a lot of development that happens in that area … there’s really going to be an upswell of development and just endless opportunities. Last March a few of us got together and formed the Gilman Square Neighborhood Association. … It’s an interesting situation in which we already had the Winter Hill Neighborhood Association. … They’re awesome, but … we needed a voice that was collective for [Gilman Square]. We were able to advocate with the city and GLX [Green Line extension representatives from the state] and elected officials in order to get the pedestrian bridge open on School Street, and we’re really working to be active with neighbors in the community that are engineers and architects to have the community at the table with developers in the city in developing Gilman Square. We hope that folks [who] live in the neighborhood join us.
Ellin Reisner, Somerville Transportation Equity Partnership We were founded around 2003 by community residents concerned about getting the Green Line extension brought here and we’ve been working on it since then. … The design issues are really of great concern. Not just for now, but for the long term of the City of Somerville. Particularly … safety … accessibility … attractiveness. We’ve moved on a little bit, although we’re still very engaged in all these issues, to exploring the health effects of noise and air pollution caused by traffic. … Right now we are actually working on a project with the City of Somerville to look at how to get better ventilation systems in the newer housing that’s going up near highways. We want people to participate in this because we feel like we get called all the time [with people asking], Is this is a safe way to build a new building, and is it gonna be good? We don’t want to have to do it building by building, we want to have some guidelines for the city, we want people to be aware that we have some choices to make and ways to deal with making improvements to the quality of life. We all live near busy roadways. We all want to live in safe places. Obviously reducing the number of vehicles traveling on our streets is a big thing, but that’s not gonna happen instantaneously, it’s gonna take a long time for that to happen. Polly Pook, Brickbottom Artists Association I’m here to talk about the Community Path and Inner Belt. … There were six options on the GLX contract and the fifth one was to extend the Community Path from the East Somerville Washington Street Station over to NorthPoint. That’s great, everybody would like to have that. The problem is … they have designed something that runs nearly a mile long with no exits, no access between them. It runs 50-feet up into the air over the bridges. … We have created an alternate plan and we presented this to them. [It] has been approved of by the Friends of the Community Path. … What this does is it breaks it up into three parts; there [are] two access points, parks could be built at each [as] resting places. … Most importantly, it connects to the Inner Belt, and it means that everybody—pedestrians and bicyclists, as well as a future T station—could connect to the Community Path. Whereas the proposed path for the GLX constructors blocks any future access to an eventual T station on the Inner Belt. … The GLX [contractors] just want to have a path that connects … the straightest line between two points and [to] be done with it. Suzanne Bremer, Somerville Free Press I’m a long term Somerville resident … [and] I’m a librarian. … I and a number of people in this room who have helped me … took a look at … what’s going on. … We started an experiment and we took as our premise that we are the media, we create content. We post on Facebook, Instagram, we have our blogs, we are generating media. We as a community don’t own … a printing press. So … we experimented. And we ran up against a couple of things. One is we figured out we had to define our mission, because it became clear very quickly that everybody wants a seat at the table. Which is great, but you find that some people don’t want to sit at the table with other people … so we had to come up with some guidelines. We started with a mission statement and we go from there. Now we’re in the process of forming an editorial policy. If you look at our website [for Somerville Free Press] you will find examples of content that we as members of the community have created. … And this is where the newspaper model comes in. If we took a sheet of paper and put it in the beauty shops and coffee shops all over Somerville with QR codes that link to in-depth reporting, we could have a way of providing what’s best about a newspaper with what’s best about the huge amount of technology that we can use to curate and tell our own story. Bill White, Somerville City Council When I started out [in city politics], there was print journalism. … So if someone had a kid in the little league, they’d get the paper to see the little league score, but they’d also read the other things. So back then if you had something like an article on [climate action], people might say, Gee, you know we really have a problem, what’s happening with the climate? That doesn’t take place from what I can see. … So folks have newsletters or Facebook pages that are specific to one thing. One of the benefits when you had a newspaper of record [was] that maybe 10,000 people would read [it]. As an elected official, let’s say I had a brother and sister on the city payroll and I voted 100% for the mayor. Needless to say, there would probably be an editorial on that, and probably people would look down on me as I shopped in a store or whatever. You don’t have that right now. It’s very important … to try to cross-pollinate. … My fear is, again, we’re getting a bit … too compartmentalized. … It’s going to be important for a cross pollination of all impacted folks to get together to play a role in how this city moves forward. Transcription by Spencer Walter
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A Somerville Community Summit Follow-Up Meeting will be held on Saturday, April 27 from 12 - 2pm at the Somerville Media Center, 90 Union Square, Somerville. Hosted by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism, DigBoston, and the Somerville Media Center. For more information, go to: facebook.com/events/583649248783693/. This article was produced by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. To see more media like this visit binjonline.org, and you can support independent local reporting by contributing at givetobinj.org.
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NONPROFIT MODEL NOT A PANACEA FOR AMERICAN NEWS MEDIA APPARENT HORIZON
Would-be reformers need to keep that in mind BY JASON PRAMAS @JASONPRAMAS A couple of weeks ago I wrote a column about a bill (S. 80) filed with the Mass legislature by Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D - Marblehead) and Sen. Brendan Crighton (D - Lynn) that aims to start a volunteer commission to assess the state of local journalism in the Bay State. While agreeing that it was a thoughtful step in the right direction, I was critical that the composition of the proposed body was not diverse enough—as the first version of the bill failed to include journalist unions and representatives of news organizations that were in the trenches doing journalism at the local level. This week, Ehrlich and Crighton released an op-ed on their bill in CommonWealth magazine that doesn’t yet remedy the problems I named, but does state that they intend to change the number and types of stakeholders that may get seats on the commission: “We are looking forward to further discussion not only about who wants to be at the table, but also about the many ideas being considered in the journalism industry. The commission that will look at those ideas is still subject to change, potentially adding those who can help us see the full picture, or relieving disinterested parties of any obligation.” That’s probably a positive development. Especially since I previously stated that my organization, the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism (BINJ), fully intends to attend hearings on the bill (with friends) and push for commission seats for organizations comprised of working journalists: labor unions like NewsGuild-CWA, the Society of Professional Journalists, and BINJ itself. And why do my colleagues and I think our group should have a seat at that particular table? Because we’re not only working local journalists, but we’re a nonprofit organization that’s experimenting with ways to reverse the rolling collapse of American journalism … and then expand it. Ehrlich and Crighton specifically name the nonprofit news model as one worthy of consideration by the proposed commission among a number of possible solutions to the crisis in journalism: “As with the start of any conversation, and as happens with every bill, we have already learned much about the state of local journalism from many interested parties. Some creative models already in practice include local stakeholder rescues, buybacks from national conglomerates, and experimental philanthropic nonprofits. These models and others emerging are all worthy of study and evaluation by academics, policymakers, and especially those in the field.” A sentiment I have some agreement with. And I note the nod to “those in the field” like my co-workers and I with approval. But I’d also like to see more discussion of the difficulties with running news organizations as nonprofits. Because it’s hardly a new economic model. And it often doesn’t work well for funding news production. Something I can say from long experience. Historically, nonprofit news outlets were started by organizations that were already nonprofits—notably churches and charities. Perhaps the most famous of these, the Christian Science Monitor, was founded in 1908 here in Boston. Just as nonprofits as we now understand them were first forming. And it continues to publish to this day. But few church or charity news outlets insist on the journalistic standards the Monitor is justifiably famous for. Most are essentially PR mouthpieces for their respective organizations. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not journalism. Over time, independent news outlets also began organizing as nonprofits. Particularly after the political upheavals of the 1960s and early 1970s damaged many Americans’ trust in mainstream commercial newsmedia. And the Tax Reform Act of 1969 created the IRS 501(c)3 nonprofit status that allows qualified charitable organizations to offer their donors a tax break. 6
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Mother Jones magazine, for example, was launched as a nonprofit in San Francisco with a staff of 17 in 1976. Such publications absolutely produced journalism as it’s commonly understood. And being nonprofit was a way to distance themselves from the problems inherent in the traditional advertising-based commercial news model. However, there’s nothing preventing a nonprofit news organization from selling advertising. Not all nonprofit news outlets do so, but it can be done. Where nonprofits differ from for-profit companies is in how they are run and the fact that they are not organized to turn a profit. Which is not to say that they can’t make money. They very much can. The difference is that the federal government expects them to use surplus funds they raise to further the mission of their organization. Rather than disbursing it to shareholders or partners. Virtually all nonprofits have some kind of board of directors in charge of their enterprise. The board can be elected—if there are members to do so—or self-selecting. And it will generally have hire/fire power over paid staff. Where nonprofits don’t differ from for-profit companies is that their money has to come from somewhere. Therein lies the rub. Said money can come from smaller donations from many individuals—which for a news nonprofit is pretty close to the ideal sources of funds with which to produce journalism in the public interest. But it can also come from fee-for-service activities, like when BINJ charges money for certain events we run. Or from selling merchandise. Most questionably, however, the biggest money donated to nonprofits comes from rich people, the foundations usually created by wealthy families to keep their money away from tax collectors, and from the corporations owned by those families. How exactly is that different from a commercial news outlet taking ads from major corporations—which, as I’ve mentioned, nonprofits can also do? The answer is that, at the end of the proverbial day, it’s not different at all. For many nonprofit news outlets, rich people have as much control over what they publish as they do with any commercial outlet. Not direct control (unless they bankroll a news organization outright), but the control that comes with the implicit threat that money that has been donated one year can always not be donated the next. Nonprofits of all kinds seek to avoid that unhappy fate by trying hard to keep rich donors happy. And nonprofit news organizations are no different in that regard. Their boards can find themselves under tremendous pressure to avoid rocking any boats containing key funders at times. When they succumb to that pressure—off the record and merely implied as it normally is—they sacrifice their outlets’ independence. As surely as any for-profit news outlet does when its editors refuse to cover certain subjects that would discomfit their largest advertisers. Which assumes that typical nonprofit news operations manage to get major donations from rich funders. But most nonprofit news outlets, like most nonprofits in general, do not get such donations. Nor do they have enough paid staff to get large numbers of small donations to compensate and thus struggle to survive for relatively brief periods before calling it quits. Or devolving into purely volunteer outlets—a nearly certain prescription for irrelevance and failure. Fundraising for nonprofits is extremely competitive in the US—a dilemma made even more dire by the rise of crowdfunding in our society. People are constantly being asked for charitable donations. Day in, day out. Leading to the phenomenon known as “compassion fatigue.” In response, facing an economy that never really allowed working families to recover from the last recession, many
people will tend to restrict their limited donations to the organizations that hold the commanding heights in their area of interest. To get more “bang for their buck,” so to speak. But also because —in the “journalism space”— they just can’t keep track of all the smaller news outlets that are trying to get donations. Outlets they hear little about anyway, and therefore don’t trust. Hence the spectacle of a few well-funded news nonprofits like ProPublica (that is now, it must be said, funding some local work on its own terms) continuing to grow even as smaller nonprofit news outlets with more diverse voices crash to earth. And millions upon millions of dollars are ceaselessly getting dumped on academic institutions by larger foundations to “study” the crisis in journalism rather using that money to fund smaller nonprofit news outlets to help ameliorate that crisis at the local level where it is most intractable. Given all that, running news outlets as nonprofits is no panacea for the many problems besetting American journalism. It’s actually a difficult option that isn’t necessarily morally superior to running a for-profit news outlet. And how could it be otherwise? Having a board and a membership does not automatically result in more independence for news nonprofits in our capitalist political economic system. Especially if their members are inactive and their boards are more interested in placating donors than doing the kind of take-noprisoners journalism that their staff journalists often want to do. Which is one important reason my partners and I have gradually built a loose hybrid operation over the last four years featuring a nonprofit component (BINJ) and a for-profit component (the alternative newsweekly DigBoston). Both fully independent of each other, but able to work in tandem in many situations. In hopes that our news enterprise can achieve stability in ways that continue to elude most news outlets today, and then grow. Through a mix of small and large donations funding investigative journalism and educational activities on the BINJ side, and ads from small and large businesses funding general news production on the DigBoston side. In that fashion, we believe we can prevent monied interests from having undue influence over the news we produce. Which is why we need to have a representative on the proposed Mass journalism commission. To be there to say that neither the for-profit nor non-profit models alone can fix what ails journalism. And as I said in my first column on this topic, there also has to be public investment in news production to offset the lock currently held on news outlets by the rich and powerful. Not state-run news outlets, and not just more federal money for quasi-public media like PBS and NPR, but pots of local, state, and federal government funds that can be drawn from in a democratic manner to help make sure that every city and town in the nation has at least one independent news outlet dedicated to covering happenings within its borders. It’s certainly worth experimenting with such reforms in the Bay State, and BINJ is committed to doing our part to figure out what works. Naturally, we would prefer to be admitted to any virtuous journalism circle that state government creates toward that end. But if we have to create our own policy network, we will do so. Apparent Horizon—winner of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia’s 2018 Best Political Column award—is syndicated by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. Jason Pramas is BINJ’s executive director, and executive editor and associate publisher of DigBoston. Copyright 2019 Jason Pramas. Licensed for use by the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism and media outlets in its network.
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Tough questions following an audit of a charity meant to help Bostonians in need BY DAN ATKINSON For decades, Boston residents have been able to go to a small room on the second floor of City Hall and get assistance. Need a few hundred bucks to get out of a jam, like paying your heating bill? The Trustees of Charitable Donations for Inhabitants of Boston may have you covered. But as a recent audit of TOCD suggests, the charity intended to help those in need has seemingly been enriching its coordinator and doing little else. The outside analysis by Ernst & Young, which was obtained by this reporter through a public documents request, describes a total lack of checks on a coordinator whose annual salary has in some years been three or four times the amount of money dispersed through TOCD, as well as an indifferent board overseeing a setup rife with opportunities for mismanagement and fraud. City spokespeople say administrators have cleaned up the TOCD, putting it under the watchful eye of the treasury department and updating its board for more oversight. But asked about the audit, a spokesperson did not indicate officials will further investigate the charity’s past workings in order to see where funds that were supposed to help people actually went. “This calls into question the legitimacy of what they’ve been doing during that whole period, it’s quite serious,” said Greg Sullivan. A former state inspector general who now works as a research director for the Pioneer Institute, Sullivan added, “I would highly recommend to the Attorney General’s charitable division that they go in and look very carefully at where the money went.” A history of niceness Charities with explicit ties to the city have been around for a long time—the Overseers of the Poor in the Town of Boston, dedicated to helping residents in need, was first incorporated in 1772. The group changed its name and refined its mission over the next two centuries before being reorganized under state law as the Trustees of Charitable Donations. It’s still a complicated organization. Made up of 20 8
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funds and bequests, from $1.3 million out of the David Sears Charity Fund to $32 via the Sophie M. Friedman fund, TOCD is independent, but it can still accept donations as well. As of 2017, the most recent figures publicly available, it had $4.24 million in an investment account with Morgan Stanley. The path to getting money from TOCD can be complicated as well. People seeking help fill out an application at City Hall and give any supporting documents to the TOCD coordinator. The coordinator makes sure everything is in order—for starters, a person can only apply to TOCD for assistance once, with the exception of asking for annual assistance on heating bills—before getting approval from the fund’s board of directors. If the request is approved, the coordinator determines which fund to withdraw money from, then transfers the cash from Morgan Stanley to an account at Bank of America, and finally cuts a check directly to the company the applicant is paying. Though the TOCD has an office in City Hall, no city funds are used. The coordinator is paid through the fund itself, while board members draw no salary. As for oversight, the 12-member board is appointed by the mayor and is supposed to keep an eye on how funds are disbursed. It’s not uncommon for mayor-appointed boards, especially those that meet infrequently, to have members that stay on well past their appointed terms if no one has been nominated to replace them. Until this January, the most recent spate of appointments to the TOCD came in 2009, from then-Mayor Tom Menino. At that point, there were at least nine members on the board. By 2018, there were three—well below the five members needed to sign off on disbursements, according to TOCD bylaws. And that’s just one apparent impropriety that auditors discovered in impugning the charity. ‘Risk of fraud’ After Walsh took office in 2014, according to city
officials, auditors reviewed several city trusts and funds that have mayoral appointments. At the end of last year, Boston’s treasury department asked the firm Ernst & Young to take another look at TOCD to see if findings identified four years earlier had been remediated. What they found was a disaster. The language of the audit is restrained, only indicating likely problems. The document states that rather than conducting a “forensic” audit that looks for specific evidence of illegal behavior, Ernst & Young focused on the “internal controls, processes and procedures” of the charity. Overall, however, the review of those functions portrayed a charity that’s vulnerable to mismanagement or worse. Among the findings:
• A lack of documented policies, procedures and internal controls may lead to inconsistent processes, inefficient operations, and potential noncompliance with applicable laws and regulations. • A lack of segregation of duties … may lead to
inappropriate and fraudulent transactions being recorded on financial statements and increase fraud risk.
• A lack of internal controls … may lead to
misstatement of financial statements and material weaknesses of financial controls, resulting in risk of fraud and misappropriation of funds.
While the auditors only suggested the possibility of crimes, they highlighted a legally allowable fact that is nevertheless ugly—the fund was being used to pay its coordinator more than it was to help its intended beneficiaries. Robin Charlotin has been the coordinator for TOCB since 2001. In her first full year on the job, she made $47,934, according to tax filings. That year the charity made about $296,000, mostly through investment income,
and spent about $148,000 on beneficiaries and $88,000 on expenses including Charlotin’s salary. Charlotin could not be reached for comment. By 2010, Charlotin’s salary had climbed to $76,000, while only $41,000 was given out to applicants. According to the audit, over the past four years the charity’s average expenses—including Charlotin’s salary—were $131,276, while the average disbursement total was $49,740. In 2017, Charlotin pulled in a salary of $93,231, while TOCB gave out $21,917. The charity only made $98,000 in investment income and donations that year. “Insufficient and ineffective utilization of the fund may risk the Charitable Trust not meeting its mission and objectives to assist City of Boston residents in need,” the audit states. Sullivan was more blunt: “That’s as dismal a record as you can generate. That’s the surest way to deplete money intended to help people, spending five of every six dollars to pay administrators,” he said. “It seems as though the amount of benefits being given out doesn’t even approach the amount of administrative costs for the charity and that’s a terrible record, it shouldn’t be that way.”
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Reconciliation The Ernst & Young audit also raises questions about Charlotin’s oversight of the charity’s finances. While the audit never names employees or trustees, it says the fund had “no consistent process to track inquiries and applications or verify whether new applicants had previously received assistance,” raising the possibility that people could have been inappropriately given money over and over. Charlotin, the coordinator, had sole responsibility for all disbursements, as well as access to all financial accounts and an ATM card, according to the audit. “There are currently no reconciliation procedures performed to validate the accuracy and completeness of financial records, which may lead to inappropriate and mismanagement of trust funds,” the audit notes. “Over the past 4 years, it appeared the coordinator has relied on the external auditor to identify discrepancies between the investment activity and the general ledger.” The TOCD is audited by an outside organization every year, and that auditor has found “material misstatements” between 2014 and 2017 plus “material weaknesses related to internal controls over financial statements” between 2015 and 2017, according to Ernst & Young. These did not involve small figures. The outside auditor found accounting errors of $2.6 million and $2.2 million in 2014, along with four separate misstatements involving more than $5 million in 2017. Where was the board? According to the Ernst & Young audit, the body only had three of its required 12 members during the audit period (although the TOCD’s tax returns list as many as six members). And while the bylaws say the board is supposed to meet every four to six weeks—nine to 12 times a year—it only met 25 times over the audit’s four-year period. Eleven of those meetings had fewer than the board’s three members present, and seven saw only the chair in attendance. Multiple meetings “incorrectly and inconsistently” documented having quorum, according to the audit. The audit does not name Charlotin or any board members, but according to tax filings the chair was Rev. William Dickerson, who has been a member since 2005. According to the audit, “the chairman of the board regularly signs two to three blank checks at each board meeting for the coordinator to provide emergency disbursements.” Dickerson could not be reached for comment. “A lack of internal controls in place to provide appropriate oversight ... may lead to mismanagement of the charitable trust,” the audit states, adding, “a lack of controls around board voting and approval process may lead to risks of fictitious or duplicative applications being processed.” The audit describes a board that was, at best, asleep at the switch. Nevertheless, as part of a full slate of appointments made official in January, Dickerson and another person who was on the board during the time in question were both re-appointed by Walsh. “Given the dismal history of performance, it doesn’t seem to make much sense to reappoint the folks who are supposed to be in charge,” Sullivan said. “The material weaknesses on the previous audits are black marks against the administrators of the program. Usually if an organization gets an audit with material weaknesses identified, everybody should be rushing in to fix that immediately. That’s not what happened here.” Walsh moved to make new TOCB appointments at the beginning of 2019, while the Ernst & Young audit was still ongoing. The fully constituted board met in March to discuss the findings, which were completed in February, and made major changes to the trust’s operations. The city Treasurer’s Trust Division will now oversee all financial and operational activities, while the board still approves disbursements. City officials said bringing that inhouse, into a system that already manages more than 200 trusts containing $800 million in cash and investment assets, will ensure proper accounting for TOCB activities. And it will cut down on management costs significantly. What previously cost $145,000 will be slashed to about $20,000, leaving more money available for applicants, officials said. “I know the mayor recently made appointments to try and address this, but that doesn’t address the larger looming question of what happened in the past,” Sullivan said. “The recordkeeping has been so poor and not overseen by board members [that] it makes this highly vulnerable to abuse. I’m not saying it was, but it should be investigated.”
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This article was produced in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. If you want to see more reporting like this, you can donate to BINJ at givetobinj.org.
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Stop by after work and enjoy Afro Flow Yoga®, a unique yoga experience that promotes healing, balance, and peace in a non-judgmental and safe environment created by Leslie Salmon Jones and Jeff W. Jones. April 11 & 25 | May 9 & 23 | June 13 & 27 6:00 PM - 7:00 PM | Northeastern Crossing 1175 Tremont Street, Roxbury Please bring a yoga mat and water! This class is free and open to the public. First come, first served. For more information, please call 617-373-2555
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DEMOCRACY COOKING EATS
Almost a year into operation, enjoying more than simply suds at Downtown Crossing’s unique beer hall WORDS AND PHOTOS BY MARC HURWITZ @HIDDENBOSTON Breweries continue to open up all over Greater Boston and elsewhere in New England, and they run the gamut from bare-bones facilities with award-winning beers (think Alchemist in Stowe, VT), to incredibly appealing spaces with beers you might not have heard of (for instance, Stone Corral in Richmond, VT), to sprawling multi-purpose spaces with excellent food to go along with top-quality brews (Jack’s Abby in Framingham). Then there are breweries that don’t really feel like breweries, instead seeming to be more like cozy beer halls or old-fashioned pubs. Democracy Brewing in Downtown Crossing appears to fall into this category, and if early impressions are any indication, it has the potential to be a classic “old-Boston” spot even though it’s only been around since last July 4. After more than a year of planning and construction, Democracy Brewing opened last summer in the former Windsor Button building on Temple Place. The space has the exact kind of charm that you would expect from an historic building in the heart of the city (the knitting and craft shop had been in that space for nearly 80 years). The rather anonymous exterior hides a vastly appealing interior that includes a long bar with communal tables running alongside it, a somewhat dramatic mural in the front area where a few tables are set up, more tables along the right wall that have wonderful old lights above them , a tiny “snug” beyond the bar that’s perfect for a small group looking for privacy, another small area at the very back end of the space, and an events/function room back and to the right, with its entrance consisting of an enormous doorway that you might see in an old bank or a theater. Dark woods and exposed brick also add to the charm, with the overall vibe being an interesting mix of German beer hall, Irish pub, and old-Boston watering hole. If you’re wondering where the brewery part of the
place is, just look down as you walk in. You’ll see all the tanks and other equipment on the lower level that becomes (mostly) hidden once you move farther into the main room. But there’s more than simply beer here; Democracy Brewing is one of an increasing number of breweries that focuses on both food and drink, unlike some that only offer snacks and/or have food trucks visit. The beer remains the main reason to come here for many though, and most of the ever-changing brews are quite good, with a couple of the highlights being the 1919 Strike, an outstanding oatmeal stout that’s smooth and with a hint of chocolate, and the Consummate Rioter, an IPA that has both the bitterness you might expect from a West Coast beer, as well as the citrusy tanginess that’s more common in New England. Other options (that DigBoston missed on earlier visits) include More Than a Feeling, a tart and sour beer with a strong cherry taste; Rising of the Moon, an easy-to-drink Irish red ale; Heartbreak Hill, a Beligan-style ale that has a robust sweetness to it; Fighting 54th, a saison with a surprisingly sharp taste coming from lemongrass and clove; and Cellar Door, an English bitter ale that’s fairly low in alcohol and has hints of pine and black tea (they offer flights if you want to sample). Food offerings at Democracy include your usual bar snacks like pickled veggies, ranch popcorn, tortilla chips and guacamole, pizza bagels (a popular item here), and fries. You can get entrees as well, including fish and chips, a fisherman’s stew, and shepherd’s pie with lamb. The items tried over the course of a couple of visits were very impressive for a brewery, with the beef barley soup having loads of barley and almost being a meal on its own. The macaroni and cheese, meanwhile, was of the old-school variety, and includes delicious cubes of lardonstyle bacon that more places should offer. There’s also an excellent six-ounce burger served with Vermont cheddar
>> DEMOCRACY BREWING, 35 TEMPLE PLACE, BOSTON. DEMOCRACYBREWING.COM 10
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and a house-made bun, as well as a breaded and charred chicken schnitzel that practically screams out “beer hall,” just like the massive beer pretzel that comes with ranch dressing, mustard, and onion dip. Prices for food and drink are mostly reasonable, and servers are both friendly and efficient to a fault. This should come as no surprise, as Democracy Brewing is workerowned and “democratically governed,” while management is focused on the space itself becoming some type of community center. The local brewery scene is fascinating, in part because breweries tend to be so different from each other. Among the mix, Democracy Brewing seems to be particularly different—in part because it feels more like a typical historic Boston bar than a place where people make beer. There may be better spots for house-made brew in New England, and better places for food in the city, but there aren’t many places where good food, good beer, and great atmosphere meet, which makes this a place to watch and enjoy as more and more people discover it.
Among the mix, Democracy Brewing seems to be particularly different–in part because it feels more like a typical historic Boston bar than a place where people make beer.
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MAN OF FATE FEATURE
How America’s first Muslim superhero surfaced in Boston after 70 years in retirement BY CLAIRE SADAR @KAREPUBLIC A sweep of headlights brings the sign into view: “Boston, 1 Mile.” The car speeds under the elegant pointed arches of the Zakim Bridge, and then into the I-93 tunnel under downtown Boston. Inside, obscured by shadows, the driver swears at the erratic motorists ahead of her. Thus enters Boston’s hometown superhero, coming to save the day. If a Boston superhero brings to mind a tired Wahlberg or Affleck trope—set in Southie, crawling with cops and mobsters, topped by bad accents—you are likely not alone. However, Kismet, Man of Fate, is almost the exact opposite of the Hollywood manufactured Boston caricature. The character of Kismet, revived and reimagined by local author and academic A. David Lewis, is an Algerian Muslim with two queer Muslim women as his non-super sidekicks. Early on in the story, he eschews violence in favor of social and political action. He wears a silly hat. He is also completely and comfortably a Bostonian, saving the day not by flying in from above, but rather commuting via I-93 and a sea of Masshole drivers. Like many Bostonians, Kismet is a transplant. The character first appeared in a brief run in Bomber Comics in 1944, fighting Nazis in Vichy France and punching Hitler for fun. Lewis first encountered Kismet in 2007, when he went looking for the first Muslim superhero as part of his research for a scholarly volume on religion and graphic novels. According to Lewis, this title belongs to Kismet. Some artists featured Arab characters in graphic novels prior to that, but they were either not overtly Muslim or not overtly “supers.” Kismet only appeared in four volumes before his character was dropped. Eventually, his likeness and 12
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stories reverted to the public domain, allowing Lewis claim and revive the character. Lewis, who is a convert to Islam, was drawn to the character not only because he was the first Muslim, but because his story and identity were handled with a sensitivity not often seen in popular culture at that time, or indeed even today. “His “Muslim-ness” wasn’t overblown; his faith seemed to just be part of his character, not some overwhelming trait,” Lewis told me in an interview in 2017, shortly after he first reintroduced the character. “I saw a lot to like in Kismet that,
frankly, I found lacking in a number of Muslim superhero depictions over the years, especially with the way Dust from the X-Men comics has been handled at times.” We don’t know with certainty the name or names of the writers who first developed Kismet. The author listed for the series was a pseudonym, but according to Lewis’s research, the most likely candidate was a woman named Ruth Roche. Roche, like Lewis, was a native of Massachusetts. Thus it is all the more fitting that Lewis, rather than creating a fictional city for Kismet to settle in, or returning him to southern France or his native Algeria, transported him to contemporary Boston. Lewis chose Boston for a host of reasons. The rising Islamophobia in the wake of the bombing of the Boston Marathon first planted the idea that the region needed
a Muslim superhero. The depth and complexity of the Hub’s history, and present, also played into the decision. Home of the Revolutionary war, abolitionists, and busing riots, Boston is a “perfect paradox that encapsulates the history of the entire United States,” Lewis told the Dig. As importantly, Lewis was tired of New York having all the fun. “I felt I was giving Kismet a home and giving my home a hero,” Lewis told me in 2017. Kismet fits contemporary Boston where, according to the 2010 census, more than 28% of the population was born outside the United States. Because of Lewis’ intimate knowledge of the city, Kismet’s Boston feels like Boston. He provides a wealth of details—from quoting city ordinances about fire sprinklers in buildings, to referencing in-jokes like the 2007 Mooninite bomb scare. Kismet attends some of the most defining events of the past few years in Boston, like the Muslim-Ban rally in Copley Square. Perhaps as important as the color in the storyline, Kismet’s artwork captures Boston’s architecture and geography. Disparate landmarks like Marsh Plaza at BU, Boston City Hall, and the Swedenborg Chapel in Cambridge are all depicted in his unique style. Characters in Kismet don’t just walk around the block from Boston City Hall and find themselves in Cambridge. They have to deal with awful drivers and crowded trains like the rest of us. There are small details as well. MBTA buses and woodclad triple-deckers quietly and naturally inhabit the backgrounds of each scene, while the color scheme also reflects Boston. The daytime city scenes are dominated by browns ranging from golden brick to coffee; the blue-black night that rules for half the year also features prominently, punctuated by points of light from the skyline. Though Kismet’s Boston may feel strikingly familiar, fictional but nearly parallel universes can give both natives and transients a chance to view their city on unfamiliar terms. Speaking to the Guardian, Warren Ellis, author of the London-set graphic novel FreakAngels and other beloved books, observed that in comics, “spires become watchtowers, the top of pubs become gardens, churches become secular gathering places. We interact with them through the comic in a much more intimate way than we ever interact with them as residents or tourists.” During the course of Kismet’s adventures, we are not only allowed into spaces that are otherwise off limits to most residents, like the stacks of Harvard’s Andover Library, but also the private space, both physical and mental, of the characters in the story. The same Guardian piece argues that urban
settings are the almost universal, defining feature of comics, not only because “cities—as places that ferment action and opportunity—are obviously a great source of narrative for comics. But perhaps the connection is even deeper. There’s as much action to be found in the private world of urban living as there is spilling out on to the streets.” Boston is not known for being a minority friendly city by a long shot, but according to the 2010 census, 53% of its residents identify as something other than non-Hispanic white. Ironically, in real life Kismet would be counted among the 47% of non-Hispanic white Bostonians. Controversially, people of Arab descent are considered white for purposes of the census. Kismet is one of a few isolated examples of fictional depictions that focus on the experience of Bostonians who don’t identify as white and male. According to Carlo Rotella, professor of American Studies at Boston College, Boston has “become synonymous with not just the idea of the local but with a very specific kind of locality: the
imagined neighborhood worlds of working-class white ethnic guys who inhabit what’s left of an industrialera Boston that’s been disappearing for at least two generations.” In Kismet, readers are introduced to a diverse array of characters in every sense of the term. His closest associates are two queer Muslim women, one devout and one not so much. Another character proudly introduces herself as “half Boston Irish, quarter Tibetan, quarter black.” Kismet sits down for an interview about his powers with real-life African-American theologian Jacqueline Lewis. All while the story’s two main antagonists are a middle-aged woman and an older man, of French and Algerian origin respectively. We meet most of these characters in their intimate spaces and see them as fully-fleshed out, complex human beings. The characters who in Kismet’s Boston are almost all women and/or racial, religious, and sexual minorities. The story provides a glimpse into the lives of minorities among minorities… and shows them to be completely mundane. Fiction, whether it takes the form of film, novel, or comic, is a camera obscura—a pinhole image that helps us isolate and focus on isolated aspects of reality. A single story featuring characters from historically marginalized groups, like Kismet, does not “solve” Boston’s problem fictional representation, but can help as they become more of the norm, and not just the exception. “Telling and sharing diverse stories adds to the cultural landscape of the city,” Cagen Luse, graphic designer and founder of the group Comics in Color, told the Dig. “It peels back the formulaic Boston tropes and reveals the diverse and colorful Boston I see everyday. I believe this will result in people of color seeing themselves represented as an important part of the fabric of this city.” This article was produced in collaboration with the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. To learn more about our mission to boost local journalism visit binjonline.org, and you can make a contribution in seconds at givetobinj. org.
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BAM IS BACK FEATURE
Another year, another milestone for the Boston Art & Music Soul Fest BY DIG STAFF @DIGBOSTON The Boston Art & Music Soul (BAMS) Festival is still more than two months away, but you may have seen the event and its founder, Catherine Morris, in Hub headlines of late for a few reasons. For one, BAMS Fest is on track to continue last year’s party, which drew more than 2,000 heads to Franklin Park for a day of engaging music and arts. For this next experience, going down June 22, Morris and her team will bring, among some guests from out of state, local eclectic hip-hop artists Red Shaydez, Luke Bar$, and Cliff Notez, plus singer Aleecya, poet Ashley Rose, and dance troupe Samba Viva. For two, BAMS recently announced a partnership with Berklee College of Music, which will no longer organize its annual Beantown Jazz Festival. Berklee professor Terri Lyne Carrington, the artistic director of the Berklee Institute for Jazz and Gender Justice who helped direct the Beantown Jazz Festival, will now serve as a co-curator for BAMS Fest. “This festival is for the people and designed by the people,” Morris told reporters. “We want to create a space of belonging and celebration for communities of color, all while raising the profile of local visual and performing artists, and working towards building an artistcentric city … We are truly excited at the growth of our partnership with Berklee College of Music in a way that conveys their investment in community engagement, diversity, inclusion, and the arts.” Morris, a seasoned event planner who has worked in that capacity for MIT among other esteemed institutions, wrestled with the idea for a big event like BAMS Fest for >> FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT BAMSFEST.ORG. 14
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years before executing last summer. As she told the Dig in Fest announcement party, Morris gave some background 2018, there were seemingly endless hurdles along the way. on the booking. Years ago, she tried to bring the artist to “Being a tall, black African-American woman and an event she was organizing, but wasn’t taken seriously being able to articulate a festival that is typically done in because she was a woman. She actually told the story to New York and California, people just don’t want to believe Roberson last year, and he responded with a note and a it,” she said. “There are leaders in this community who tell specific call to action: “Bring me to Boston.” me we are going to fail. There are people who say that I On Saturday, June 22, Morris will do just that. won’t be successful because of where it is. And I just have a different view—Franklin Park itself connects six neighborhoods, and Franklin Park is underutilized.” Morris added, “It’s been 30 years since the concerts at White Stadium that used to have large crowds. People don’t always want to go downtown—they want to be in their backyards … A lot of time, folks who live in Cambridge may not go to Roxbury, and [the other way around], but there is a total similarity between their interests. There is a perception that my kind may not walk with y’all, but when it comes to similarities in arts and culture it doesn’t matter what neighborhood you’re from … You have to convince the people that it’s possible. We’re going to be looked at.” Having proved her haters wrong last year, for 2019 Morris set out to clear new walls, and to scratch another entry off her bucket list—namely, by landing two-time Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Eric Roberson as a headliner. At a recent BAMS PHOTO COURTESY OF ERIC ROBERSON
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STRANGE OASIS MUSIC
Profile: Eight years of Deep Thoughts in Jamaica Plain BY CLAIRE BARLIANT One day a little black pig walked into Deep Thoughts on South Street in Jamaica Plain. This was not the first animal to show up in the store. There had been a “rat situation.” And a squirrel once tried to hibernate in the store’s electric organ. But a pig was unusual. It wandered in from the petgrooming store down the street, whose owner had a thing for exotic pets. “We just chilled with the pig for a couple of hours,” recalls Nick Williams, who co-owns Deep Thoughts with his wife, Alaina Stamatis. “When the owner came back she apologized, and was like, ‘Do you want to buy a piglet?’” A pet pig would not be entirely out of place at Deep Thoughts. The store is idiosyncratic. From its archaic, analog inventory of vinyl records and used books, to its semi-cooperative business structure, Deep Thoughts is a unique model of success in a fast-paced capitalist environment pushing toward homogeneity. The store’s walls are plastered with paintings, posters, and fliers, and on its ceiling is a dense web made of yarn with various
Today Alaina writes erotic poetry, which she also performs, sometimes while wearing a fishnet bodysuit with plastic lizards slipped beneath it as pasties.
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kitschy items woven into it—stuffed animals, tinsel streamers, fake flowers, oversized plastic candy canes, paintings, and record sleeves. It’s based on similar collages at houses that regularly functioned as underground music venues, many of which have been shut down since Boston’s “Nuisance Act” of 2012. The White House in Jamaica Plain, for one, had a web that stretched three stories and extended through the middle of the house’s central staircase. It was filled with wooden instruments. If Deep Thoughts, which has been open for eight years as of April 1, is an oasis of weirdness, then Nick and Alaina themselves are its rare species. Cheerfully non-conformist, they make music and art and run a successful business— all the while having an enviable amount of fun. Like a lot of owners of retail establishments, they spend a lot of time dealing with eccentric characters, yet Nick and Alaina are affectionate toward those living on the fringe. More so than they often are toward other clientele. One interesting regular, for example, lives in the woods near Turtle Pond. He used to buy Kid Rock CDs but didn’t want the cases; he just shoved the CDs in his pocket. He claimed that the music, which he played on a discman, helped to ward off the coyotes. “He would come back and say, ‘These are all scratched,’ and I’m like, ‘Dude!’ Nick says. Another guy asked for Nick’s help filling out paperwork so he could move from his family’s house into a group home. Sometimes the quirkier customers have to be asked to leave due to minor infractions; the Turtle Pond guy, for example, once left a half-eaten chicken leg on top of a record bin. In most cases, Nick finds himself worrying slightly about their wellbeing.
Overall, Nick and Alaina are not easily fazed. Working in music has exposed them to a wide range of personalities. “Nightlife people are just messed up,” says Nick. “Poor health, mental and physical. Both of us have a nightlife background, and at a certain point we just realized enough is enough. We quit drinking three years ago. We’re basically teetotalers, just for longevity and general happiness.” Nick also performs at the store with his Grateful Dead jam band on Friday nights, and says, “I thought that we wouldn’t be able to handle it because we do at least one, maybe two shows a week at the store. But in reality,” he adds, “I still love that aspect of it, it just doesn’t involve me getting drunk.” “In our line of work,” Alaina says, “you can drink all day and all night. It’s just better to say I don’t drink.”
Nick and Alaina met while performing at the venue house Gay Gardens in the fall of 2011 (the space was shut down in 2012). Alaina was subbing for someone in a duo called Loud Objects—but on the night she performed, she dubbed the band Meowed Objects. Such is Alaina’s charmingly wacky sensibility. She is tall and slender, with long, sandy blonde hair cut into bangs that highlight her light blue-green eyes. One of her front teeth is missing, which only adds to her allure. When she laughs or grins, which is often, it looks like her teeth are waving hello. By the time Alaina met Nick, she had lived in a number of different venue houses in industrial New York neighborhoods like Ridgewood in Queens. These were commercial spaces—buildings that formerly housed an
auto mechanic, or a nightclub—that offered rehearsal or studio space for cheap, while landlords either didn’t know or didn’t care that tenants were sleeping there. At one of these group houses, Alaina recalls that one guy was training to be a yoga teacher, and led classes every day on the rooftop—the nearby roar of the subway notwithstanding. Sometimes the instructor would say, as she puts it, “cheesy stuff,” so she was inspired to start “Evil Yoga,” a performance art in which, during a normal yoga class, she would hold a microphone close to her mouth and whisper diabolic comments in a low voice, putting the subwoofer on the floor so it vibrated ominously. “Feel the angry earth,” she intoned. It was a hit, but the yoga teacher leading the class was disturbed by the project, so it ended. Today Alaina writes erotic poetry, which she also performs, sometimes while wearing a fishnet bodysuit with plastic lizards slipped beneath it as pasties. She has a ten-piece backup free jazz band, the Jazz Massagers, in which Nick plays bass and is also the band leader. Alaina used to write a horoscope column for Boston Compass as a testing ground for the zippy one-liners that make up her poetry. Last June, for Virgo’s horoscope, she wrote, “If you have sex with a virgin while somehow positioned on a wheelchair you could potentially pop a cherry, a boner, and a wheelie at the same time.” Nick and Alaina’s style is somewhat confounding. Their taste in music tends to skew hippie—Grateful Dead, Phish—but they are also quite dark. On the day we meet, Alaina is wearing a vintage jumpsuit and a silver pendant around her neck with the angel of death on it. Nick is sporting a stupendous combination of tie-dye shirt and ’80s-era pants with tapered legs and a jazzy pattern, both in vibrant teal, and a reflective silver fanny pack which he appears to be wearing unironically. When I visit them at Deep Thoughts, I try several times to nail their particular vibe, even asking what decade they would like to live in. A record by Emil Richards, a jazz vibraphone player from the ’70s, plays on the turntable. It’s a weekday, and a lone customer methodically rifles through the bins, quietly amassing a pile of records and periodically emitting gleeful cries of discovery. Alaina says she would go back to the ’70s for a Dead show, but both she and Nick maintain they are perfectly happy with being alive right now. Business is healthy—even younger people continue to be drawn to vinyl—plus, they’re in love—with each other, with their choice of career, with living in New England. Nick, like Alaina, is effortlessly social, a fast talker who always seems to be one or two beats ahead, his restless roving eyes scanning the room, evaluating and assessing. Slight of build, with a mildly manic intensity, he sometimes punctuates his speech with highpitched giggles. Nick felt drawn to New England from a young age—perhaps due to having gone to overnight camp in Cape Cod. Growing up in New York City, he also spent summers in the Catskills. When I ask him where in New York he’s from, he tells me “100th and Broadway,” which I later learn connotes the home of a group known as the Sullivanians. Nick’s mother was an active member and became dedicated to the philosophy of its therapist/leader, who strongly disapproved of nuclear families and the authoritarian nature of parents. Thus the therapist, Saul B. Newton, who started the Sullivan Institute, dictated who would engage in procreative relationships, and created a quasi–free love environment in which children were raised by caretakers, often without knowing who their father was. Nick, who was the youngest child in the group, did know his father. The group dissolved in the ’80s, partly due to AIDS-related fears Nick posits, though he and
his mother left shortly before the end. “It was sort of like growing up with a bunch of brothers and sisters,” he recalls. “I was like, What, you mean all of a sudden I have to just live with my mom? It didn’t make any sense. I liked having all the people around.” The Catskills resort was also owned by the Sullivanians, and they would do things like have Marx readings every Thursday. “It had an old-school leftie vibe—but with this vibe of being like, ‘Parents are bad.’” Nick still spends holidays with some of the other former members. In Jamaica Plain, Nick has an uncanny ability to run a record store well. He got the music bug while in college for a year at Hampshire out in Western Mass, where he booked shows. Later he moved to Northampton, where he ran a record store with a few other friends. Though he learned a lot, extracting himself from the business was painful. So with Deep Thoughts, he made sure to iron out all of the details in advance. When his initial partner’s band moved to New York, Nick bought him out, eventually bringing Alaina on in 2015. Other partners sell goods at the store, which can make it seem like a cooperative. But as Nick puts it, “A true cooperative would be everyone’s there, we all own our own records, we take a percentage and put the rest into a common fund that pays the rent. And then we would all theoretically own a share.” Instead, Deep Thoughts is “a somewhat capitalistic cooperative in that Alaina and I own the common fund and we use it at our discretion.” Four consignment sellers currently help with the store. The more the sellers work, the lower their consignment rate. Books, stereo equipment, and records are all handled by different people. Still another works four hours a week in exchange for using the basement as a rehearsal space for his band. The relationship among the partners is friendly. At the store I meet Nadav Havusha and Jim Shep. Havusha, who just completed a degree in library science, says he brings a specialty.
“Certain aspects of ’90s indie rock,” he muses, “which isn’t even something I’m that into anymore—but I lived through it.” “It’s just better if you work with nerds,” Alaina says. “If you work with people who see themselves as cool and they have this toxic masculine kind of aggro thing, you’re going to have problems. They’re the kind of people who are always going to have a thing with the boss, even though we’re not really the boss.” “I would say I’m not the boss, I’m just a vessel,” says Nick. “If you don’t want to be here,” says Alaina, “just go.” Nick’s take it or leave it philosophy extends to customers too. The store’s Yelp page includes a couple of grumpy reviews to which Nick responds, unsurprisingly, with artfully crafted, absolutely uncompromising, acerbic responses. Valerie L. of Brighton gave Deep NEWS TO US
Thoughts a grievous two-stars, writing at length about her experience: “After failing to return the box of records I was recently browsing through to their pristine resting position … the sales assistant approached me and said condescendingly, ‘Does this look proper to you?’ Stunned, I took the .2 seconds to return all of the records so they were all facing the same direction.” Nick’s response: “Yesterday, after you were done browsing, you had left my new arrivals bin looking like a bomb hit it. Multiple record jackets were dented based on the way you had handled them. From this treatment I went ahead and assumed that you didn’t know that you were being disrespectful of my shop, and so out of courtesy to you and the places you will shop in the future, like Tres Gatos, I politely asked you, ‘Does this look proper to you?’ And then you took .2 seconds to tidy the area, and then 5+ minutes to write a petty review on Yelp.” In the rest of the world, the customer may always be right. In Nick’s world, no one is entitled to special treatment.
*** Things in Boston used to be different. Damon Krukowski, a local writer and musician who performs with the band Damon & Naomi, has lived in the area since the early ’80s, when Cambridge was still mostly a hippie town, before the government eliminated rent control. “Back then,” he recalls, “we had an enormous number of record stores, used and new. Rent was cheap and vinyl was one of the few ways to hear music.” There were also numerous places to see shows, and Krukowski could pay his rent by playing live music at various bars and clubs. Rehearsal space was also cheap—EMF in Central Square in Cambridge was among the last buildings offering practice spaces in the area. It closed last year. Before that, EMF gave musicians more than a space to work; it also provided a sense of community, which is not easily replaced. “The real estate explosion in Boston and Cambridge has put pressure on the entire cultural underground,” says Krukowski. While he believes there is enough interest to keep record stores in business, rent remains an issue nonetheless. “Lack of stability comes with the territory of being at the fringes of mainstream economic culture,” Krukowski adds. Not that Nick and Alaina show signs of strain. The lease for Deep Thoughts is good for another two years, and while condominiums are starting to crop up around them, Alaina believes that residential housing in JP is in greater demand than retail space. Meanwhile, she and Nick got married in August, at the Audubon Center in Mattapan. The ceremony started fairly conventionally, but in short time two of their compadres, dressed in rabbit costumes, jumped out from where they were hiding and led the wedding party to a beautiful field in the woods. The rest of the afternoon unfolded in predictably unpredictable fashion, complete with Nick’s Grateful Dead cover band playing music. According to Alaina, it was a perfect day. Soon after their wedding, the couple moved to Wendell, a town in the Pioneer Valley with a population of approximately 800. They commute to Boston on the weekends, putting in long hours at the store. Nick and his band continue to perform on Grateful Dead night every Friday—“That’s our pride and joy,” says Alaina—while life in the country suits them. Alaina started a new business designing T-shirts, which are already being sold at a pub near their new place where Nick sometimes plays. “We’re in heaven,” Alaina reports. “And our rent is never going to go up.” FEATURE
DEPT. OF COMMERCE
ARTS + ENTERTAINMENT
HIGH LIFE:‘IMAGES THAT COULD REALLY EXIST’ FILM
An interview with director Claire Denis BY JAKE MULLIGAN @_JAKEMULLIGAN
I think we presume he came of age relatively young since these characters were obviously not leading easy lives before the film began. No, he probably had a terrible childhood, and was in juvie, as they say. Maybe he committed murder, I don’t know. For me he was a sweet child, in a way, among the bunch of the crew we see. It was so insecure for him not to have physical contact. To be in the process of giving sperm, and doing other stuff, cleaning or whatever, just being there… like in jail, actually, exactly like in jail. In jail, the sexual pressure is high, and it creates masturbation… And we do see Ettore masturbating in the film. Like in jail, probably. And the machine is something that can make him more relaxed—the fuckbox [a device onboard the ship which many of the characters use to get off]. But that doesn’t mean that he’s satisfied, and it doesn’t mean the same as holding someone. So even though it’s a rape, even though it’s a violent act, there is no way to do differently, you know? JULIETTE BINOCHE AND ROBERT PATTINSON IN HIGH LIFE, IMAGE FROM FILM COURTESY A24 Claire Denis is a French filmmaker whose movies include Chocolat (1988), U.S. Go Home (1994), Beau Travail (1999), Trouble Every Day (2001), and Let the Sunshine In (2018). Her latest film, High Life (2019), opens in Boston on Friday (it depicts the deep-space journey undertaken by a crew of convicts who’ve been sent out to complete experiments such as testing the energy properties of black holes and investigating whether or not humans can reproduce in space). Also recently distributed in the U.S. are two of her non-fiction movies, Towards Mathilde (2004) and The Breidjing Camp (2015), just released on the same DVD. We spoke about those films—and others, including Vice—last week at the Eliot Hotel.
Central to your work is voiceover narration. The voiceover [in High Life] came naturally. I don’t know why, the beginning was always, for me, an empty old ship, not in good shape, with a luxurian garden, and a baby. A certain voice comes from outside, saying hey, I’m here, I’m coming back, I’m doing this and that [this is the character Monte, played by Robert Pattinson—he and the baby are the only two survivors on the ship as the film begins in medias res]. The father is repairing a piece because everything is dull and old and not functioning so well. I thought this was a… it was always the way I wanted to enter the story. It brought of course the question of what happened before? How can this baby be alone with this man? So then I knew I wanted to see him throwing his companions off ship to save energy. Then immediately knowing there were other people before. And to wait until after that to start the voiceover. Not to say I’m alone because they’re all dead, but just to say I can’t stand any more of these images from Earth. I wanted him to be in a present time, not relating to the past. On the subject of those fucking images from earth, which Monte and the baby often view on screens inside the ship... those images have a certain pixelated quality, what in another context might be called “glitch art”. Was incorporating that particular texture into the film something you were conscious of?
Even in the first version of the script I knew they were too far from any connection with Earth, which meant to communicate would take months or years. And of course hope of returning home doesn’t exist. Then I thought, it would be fun, but not very scientific I guess, if there were some remnants… as if ghost images from Earth, sent by our TVs and all our means of communication… have somehow left the solar system, and are now like ghosts in cosmos… I wanted the Curtis image of the Indian [a shot from Edwin S. Curtis’ 1914 film In the Land of the Headhunters], and then I thought, I wanted a little boy at the seaside. Things like that, you know?
Evocative? Evocative of things… images that really could exist. Not extremely beautiful images… More primal? Yeah, the little boy is actually my nephew, and it was shot in the family circle. And Curtis made his film as a souvenir for the Indian people, to protect their image. I think also I have a traffic light in the street. That’s it. Another element of High Life which I’d like to discuss is the character Ettore, played by Ewan Mitchell. [The character is a crewmember who is depicted staring at the women onboard during many early scenes, during a later one he commits sexual assault]. For so much of the movie we’re watching him watching other people. And that seems very important to me… Ettore has a violent sense of desire, and the film seems to suggest a connection with his perspective. What are your thoughts about the character? There was not a very highly sophisticated thought about this character. His name was from Italian origin, and the young man I cast is really so much more British, but he asked me to keep the name. The thing is that I wanted someone younger, near the age of the girls [crew members played by Mia Goth and Gloria Obianyo]... not coming of age but someone who’d have been coming-of-age as the ship was getting away from the solar system.
The colors of this film have imprinted on me. There’s a particular shade of blue which tints most of the scenes on the ship, and I feel like I can conjure it up exactly. Same for the shade of orange which lights some other spaces on the ship. But the blue tint most of all—and that light is especially seen on Ettore. When he’s watching Dibs and the Captain in their scene near the vents, it’s as if light is on everyone but him: he’s watching them, and they’re in a warmer light, then Andre Benjamin approaches him, and he too is emerging from a warmer light, but Ettore is just left in this cold blue. We planned it like it would actually be in a ship. With the director of photography, Yorick Le Saux, we programmed lights: a blue for night, a red for alerts…. this white-ish shade for when the ship is younger, more orange and dirty for when the ship is older, when Monte is alone with his daughter. We kept green for the garden, which is a more natural place. But the thing is that I wanted… We were obliged to adapt ourselves to the ritual we had organized and programmed. So I would say “night!”, and the lights would turn to night. Or I would say, “red alert!”, or “pristine daylight”, or “not pristine daylight”, things like that. Of course it was easy and fast, but it also made us obey the lights too. It was not a light made specifically for this shot, no. It was a light that was programmed. Extremely important to the experience of watching the film are these cuts which bring us from one color to another, like the many occasions when the red appears suddenly atop the blue. How does color affect your editing rhythm—do you feel as if you’re following changes in light? This was in the script, actually. In the script the first scene was in the garden, he’s repairing the ship, and it’s non-pristine daylight. Then when he’s back, he’s feeding [the baby], and cleaning her, and putting her to bed, and then the red alert comes. So it’s red, and then after that, it’s blue, night. So those sections in the script—with day, [then] red, [then] blue—they were already reasoned like that. It was important for us, because we knew there was nothing outside for them to rely on.
>> HIGH LIFE. RATED R. OPENS FRIDAY, APRIL 12, AT THE COOLIDGE CORNER THEATRE, KENDALL SQUARE CINEMA, AND AMC BOSTON COMMONS. >> TOWARDS MATHILDE IS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE ON DVD FROM GRASSHOPPER FILMS. THE BREIDJING CAMP IS INCLUDED ON THAT DVD AS AN EXTRA FEATURE 18
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Those programmatic colors for me seem to evoke the inhumanity of incarceration. Because on the rare occasions in High Life when we do see images from Earth… Shots of Earth? It’s remembrance, because they are too far away. Earth is out of reach. ...there’s a warmness and texture to the image that’s not there when we’re on the ship. Because we did it on 16mm. All the images from Earth were made with 16mm film. All the inside of the ship is shot digitally. Another film of yours just released in the United States is The Breidjing Camp, a nonfiction film which depicts a refugee camp in Chad. Despite both featuring characters who cannot leave a limited space, that film and High Life are in many ways polar opposites: The Breidjing Camp presents a space where people are working together for the sake of bettering their community and their opportunities, High Life presents a space where the very concept of community seems to be atrophying into oblivion. I was curious if for you there was any connection between the projects. No, but I was so moved when I went there [to Chad]. At the time it was so difficult, we had to cross by car because there was a problem with the plane, and I mean… I was really moved. I was with a very small crew, there were three of us, and to be very honest… I thought all the time, why do I feel so strong and happy? I should feel so devastated and sad. But I felt happy because I could see the strength of those people. The hospital was the greatest moment for me. Of course they are complaining because they don’t want the new school program, I understand, they want to stay Sudanese, they don’t want to become Chadian, I understand that. It’s like a moral fight. They fight for spiritual things. And it was of course wonderful to hear you finally deliver “Claire Denis voiceover” yourself—Claire Denis voiceover performed by Claire Denis. They asked me to do a comment [voice over], and I didn’t want to. I felt forced to do it. And then to say what I felt: I was moved, and impressed, and also afraid—I didn’t want to be a voyeur. There’s a quote from yet another film of yours that was just released in this country, Towards Mathilde, which I felt so beautifully describes your own work, particularly with regards to how you approach narrative. We hear Mathilde Marrion, while correcting a performer on a certain point, say “Do not make it a crescendo. It makes it too dramatic… it should be something opening up from the inside.” I don’t know why I am such a strange… I always have a feeling that if I don’t feel the opening or the end, it will never work on me. And when I met Mathilde, it struck me and it struck her that we were very close, in a way. Very close in our work. Like sisters almost. Companions of work. We felt… not exactly the same, because she’s a choreographer, but this need to feel it before, you know? For me your films approach narrative in a way that so naturally befits the motion picture format. So much of the storytelling in your films is accomplished entirely via the juxtaposition of images, as opposed to, say, via dialogue. Yeah, sure, sometimes dialogue is great, but the process of editing is… I take for granted that I have to anticipate this process while writing a script. This sort of blurred connection from one scene to another… when I say “blurred”, it’s because I like ellipses. I don’t like when it’s [Denis slashes the air while making a swift cutting sound], you know? It’s like a scar… if it’s already sealed, it’s better. For instance, yesterday, on the plane, I was watching Vice (2018), because I really wanted to see the film. I missed the film when it was released in Paris and I was very sad because I like this director [Adam McKay]. And I liked the way the voiceover is from someone else [not a primary character], I was really thrilled by all this. And by the acting of course. But then comes the moment when the [character delivering the] voiceover is in a car accident, and blood is coming on the pavement, and then Dick [Cheney] is dying if they don’t find a donor for a new heart… and I was so, how would I say? I regret those surgical moments in the film. I thought, for me, in film… film is not medical. When I did L’intrus (2004), there was also a heart transplant in the film. The big question for me all the time was, do I film the heart transplant? So I went to a hospital, and I watched a heart transplant, and believe me… I was also driving in the car with the new heart. I did the complete thing. And I thought, my god, do I have to film that? Then after awhile, I thought, maybe we will go back on him [the character in L’intrus] when he’s already in South Korea with this huge scar. Because I thought if I see this actual transplant, it will make it more objective than subjective. For me the heart transplant is so… when I see the young man dying on the street in Vice, and the voiceover is saying “it’s me, although I’m dead”... I would’ve loved not to have seen those shots of the heart. Also I know it’s not a real heart. I’m sure those in the film Vice are special effects hearts. And when I was watching the real transplant, I thought, I will never film a real heart, dead or alive. Because it belongs to someone, you know? Conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
NEWS TO US
DEPT. OF COMMERCE
ARTS + ENTERTAINMENT
‘I DO POETRY ALL THE TIME’ ARTS FEATURE
Meet Boston’s new Poet Laureate Porsha Olayiwola BY HEATHER KAPPLOW It’s March 12 at Emerson College’s Paramount Theater, and the City of Boston is holding its official celebration of its newest and third poet laureate, Porsha Olayiwola. A poet laureate’s main task is to raise a city’s valuation of poetry, but this does not feel like an “official city celebration.” It feels like a party. The podium at the front of the room is awash in bright purple light; the rich scent of stewed meats, rice and sticky plantains yank at every visitor’s salivary glands; and the room is packed. Venue staff scurry in search of additional chairs and water to accommodate an unexpected overflow of boisterous poetry enthusiasts. Predominantly young poetry enthusiasts. Of color. Language flies fast, furious and alive from every corner of the room, until the formal program begins. Then all attention shifts to the youngest speaker of the evening, Khatazja, a 17-year old student from the O’Bryant high school for math and science. Her poem is sad—about the stress of familial violence— but also strong. Fingers snap around the room at its conclusion. Khatazja is followed by Michelle Garcia Fresco, a poet from UMass Lowell, who gets the crowd riled up with a sassy piece about “women who wear hoops,” which, after rising and falling several times, twists hoop earrings into an even more sophisticated shape and then ends with a direct challenge to the audience: “Tell me a story of survival that did not come full circle.” The youth are followed by two of Boston’s adult poets, the rousing Emmanuel Oppong-Yeboah and outgoing Poet Laureate, Danielle Legros Georges, both immigrants who landed in Boston and used language to keep afloat and then thrive. There are mothers in almost every poem of the evening, and in the audience as well—a miniscule baby fusses in the back of the room as the featured poet, Porsha Olayiwola (Porsha O) takes the podium. The crowd howls and whoops—giving her a full standing ovation before she can even speak. Olayiwola is regal yet obviously moved. When she is
finally able to speak, it is clear that her power is rooted firmly in her generosity to others. She thanks everyone, including the Emerson community that has nurtured her work; the young people that she coaches and who inspire her; her mother and sister who have come for the occasion; and Boston’s Chief of Arts and Culture, Kara Elliott-Ortega, who has just emphasized how urgent and important it is to the city to have a non-binary person of color in the Poet Laureate role. Olayiwola has a speech but she doesn’t read it. “Poetry is love,” she says, “That was my speech. A poem is a way of making love last forever.” She gives a short overview of her priorities as laureate—applying poetry to address Boston’s affordable housing crises tops her list—and then she reads. Her poems include an ode to Boston, two “dance poems,” a piece about her sister, and a surrealistic reimagining of a horrific racist incident in the life of singer and 1950s film star Dorothy Dandridge. The event closes with music—a performance by Oompa who talks about how hard it is “for those of us who are fiercely independent and have trouble with authority to find role models” and how rare it is to have someone like Porsha that fits the bill. Oompa’s lyrics speak some of the hardest truths of the evening in a way that people are able to dance and clap along with: “Everyone wants to be us, until it’s time to free us….”
*** Dig: What does it feel like to be the Poet Laureate of Boston? PO: It feels really, really amazing! As soon as I wake up in the morning, It’s the first thing I think about. And it’s really fulfilling. I feel like, for the last six years, I’ve just been working and working and working, and I hit a point where I felt like I couldn’t remember anyone ever having said thank you for it all—which is fine, that’s not why I do the work—but it was tough on me, I literally spent all my time, all my money, feeding people. And now it feels
like, here it is, all of the thank yous I never got, this is that. Dig: What do you have to think about now as a writer, that you didn’t think about before you took the role on? PO: How do I serve the whole city? My first task was writing a Boston ode, and that’s when I really had to think, what do I want to do here? It makes my audience automatically broader, and something I think about at the beginning, when I’m writing, instead of afterwards. This is for everybody [in Boston.] And this specific line is for this group and this specific line is for that group. Also, as a person who exists as queer, fat, black, woman, etcetera etcetera, there’s so much hate in the world, and even if it’s not named, it exists, and I can feel it, and it affects me as I’m moving and operating in the world. In this position, that hate still exists. And I am to serve. So I’ve been really thinking about how do I love everybody, genuinely and authentically?
*** Olayiwola is giving feedback to a group of about 30 students at UMASS Boston, where she’s been brought in to judge a poetry competition. She’s covered their short, fiveto ten- line poems with whole pages of handwritten notes, and has chosen five instead of the requested three winners. Her praises are gracious, warm and very specific. “I’m a sucker for a title.” “This one reflected current times while also being timeless.” The students, reading their poems at the front of the class, have made themselves vulnerable and she does the same, sharing a poem she wrote the previous day—during a precious entire day at home spent writing. They are the first to hear it—and it’s very personal. Formally structured, but luscious and sexy and funny. Afterwards, students come and introduce themselves shyly. She goes the extra mile in connecting with the ones who have a harder time stepping forward, and has compliments for their writing whether they won or not. She offers other kinds of encouragement too: A student wearing a patch pinned to their coat with their personal pronouns and another heart-shaped patch reading “Dyke” tells Olayiwola they like her esthetic. Olayiwola responds in kind, “I like your esthetic too—the way you’re doing our eyebrows is very smart.” While gathering her things once the students have left, Olayiwola, says “Boom!” quietly to herself. She punctuates the stanzas of her day the same way she punctuates her lines when spitting poetry at the many slam competitions that got her to where she is now.
PHOTO CREDIT: CARLIE FEBO (SHOOT DIRECTED BY PRINCESS MOON). 20
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Poetry entered Olayiwola’s life in high school. When she read her first poem, she really couldn’t believe that people were willing to sit silently through it and clap at the end. It just seemed impossible, but also, secretly, it was the thing she wanted more than anything else—not just to speak and be heard, but to be a part of a community where people spoke and were heard. But when did she begin feeling like a poet for real? “Honestly? Probably yesterday. Or at least I had that thought yesterday. I’m really interested in inquiry, in really investigating the craft, and this weekend I locked myself in my house and I wrote one poem, and then I was like ‘This is it! This is great! Oh, maybe I am poet!” Olayiwola traces her love of writing poetry to her love of argument. She’s always craved intellectual debate—but also always felt like she needed to write things down before she says them in order to say them best. “It really helps me
to articulate everything that I need to say—allows me to take my time with what I want to say and craft it in the ways I want to say it. And that feels good.”
*** Olayiwola’s day began with a photo shoot because she needs new headshots. By early evening, she’s still a bit giddy, describing how her friends that were styling and photographing her glammed her up. It’s difficult, while watching this hard working, no-nonsense person gathering a group of equally hard working poets and teachers together to discuss the future of Massachusetts’ main youth slam poetry competition, to imagine the scenario she’s describing, which involves her frolicking for the camera with butterflies in her hair. But there are pictures to prove it happened. A midday meeting was blissfully cancelled, so she’s had adequate time to recover from the photo shoot before putting on the mantle of Artistic Director at MassLEAP (Literary Education and Performance Collective,) which has been supporting “positive youth development through spoken word poetry forums” in Massachusetts for eight years. It’s a mantle Olayiwola’s shaped to match her personality, and a role she’s put her heart and soul into. This is no top down organization. When going around the room with introductions, it’s clear that everyone is highly accomplished and brings unique wisdom to the table. Alex Charalambides, MassLEAP’s Worcester-based CoFounder and Managing Director, and Olayiwola, keep the planning meeting of about 20 young poets, slam coaches and other youth mentors on track in terms of time, and supplied with healthy snacks. But other than providing some prompts for thinking about the organization’s priorities for the next year, and some music to keep everyone in the right mood while they think, both of MassLEAP’s leaders are letting the group gathered at their Make Shift office do the real leading. Even the branding and naming of the next festival is up for design by committee. At the meeting’s close, Olayiwola says “Thanks for letting us pick your creativity without paying you!” *** When Olayiwola introduces herself in the circle at MassLEAP, she identifies herself by saying “I do poetry all the time.” And it’s completely true. At this point in her life, as one of the two youngest poet laureates in the country, all of her jobs are about making poetry or making poetry happen. She’s fully aware of how lucky she is to be in this position. “I am repeatedly humbled and in disbelief.” Moved to tears regularly in fact, she confesses. When people ask her what she does—usually Uber drivers (she admits “A lot of my revelations exist within the context of an Uber ride…..”)—she always tells them she’s a poet, not just a writer. “Poetry differs from other forms of writing—it is often times much shorter, which means we have a limited amount of space to capture something. And I keep thinking about infinity—taking something that is finite, and putting it into three lines even, or four lines, and then suddenly it lasts so long!”
*** Dig: What do you want to accomplish as Boston’s poet laureate? PO: For me it’s about service. The laureateship offers a unique position of being at the intersection of the arts—writing—and also serving. Being selfless. And I can’t stop thinking about housing—I’ve been thinking about housing for years, so I’m planning something at the intersection of arts and activism. I’ve applied for a grant. This feels very urgent to me. Also, I got called when a young black man, a staff member at a local school, was [fatally] shot over spring break. How do you address that for that community? You need to call in an artist for dealing with something like that. I felt how important it was to be there at such a difficult time. Dig: How is your writing going since you took on your laureateship? PO: The city keeps asking for poems and that’s good. I love to write and I love a good deadline. And how do I take what somebody else wants and also give it my own voice? That’s been a great challenge, it’s been pretty tremendous for my writing, I would say. I’m on a roll right now. Dig: Who inspires you? PO: I really get inspired by the young people. I love them. They are so smart and have such great ideas. So the young people first. And my mom. But also everyone inspires me. Really. Porsha O is also the judge of the Mayor’s Poetry Contest which is open to the entire city of Boston and has a mid-April deadline. Readers interested in submitting work should go to this link for more info: http://cityofbostonartsandculture.submittable.com/ submit/78029/the-mayors-poetry-program-at-boston-city-hall-2019
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BY DAN SAVAGE @FAKEDANSAVAGE | MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NETE3 I’m a heteroflexible married cis woman in my 40s. I’m also a POS cheater and a catfish. I really fucked up. One year ago, I met an older man in an online fetish forum. He sent me an unsolicited PM, and we have talked for hours every day since then. My husband, whom I’ve been married to for more than 20 years, does not know that I am having an emotional affair. I have no intention of telling my husband what I’ve done. I have been honest with my online boyfriend about everything except my name, my age, and the fact that I have a husband. (I know those are all really big things to lie about.) My boyfriend lied to me early on about his name, age, and relationship status, but came clean out of guilt. So I had the opportunity to say that I lied too, but I didn’t take it. I know what I’m doing is wrong. My husband would be very hurt if he knew. And my boyfriend, who wants to make a life together, would be very hurt as well. I’m in love with both men, but I’m not leaving my husband. I know the only right thing to do is break things off with my boyfriend. I’ve tried multiple times: I’ve told him that he is better off without me, that I’m a bad person, and that he shouldn’t trust me. Each time, he convinces me to stay. We have not been physical. We have never even been in the same room, much to his dismay. I have thought about telling him the truth, but I am worried about my safety, and I do not want to hurt him any worse than I already have. Plus, I’m a fucking coward. I am in treatment for PTSD. My therapist believes that my actions are a coping mechanism, i.e., it is easier to pretend to be someone else than it is to be me. I don’t think she’s wrong, but I also don’t think it excuses what I’ve done. How do I end this relationship without doing any more damage to my two partners? Conning And Tricking For Intensely Selfish Haven Far be it from me to question your therapist’s assessment—she’s spoken with you on multiple occasions, and her insights are doubtless more informed—but I think her framing falls short. She describes your actions as a coping mechanism: You told a stranger lies and abused your husband’s trust to escape your miserable life. If you weren’t so fucking miserable—if other people and/or circumstances hadn’t conspired to make you so fucking miserable—you wouldn’t have done this. You wouldn’t be doing this still. But despite your therapist’s efforts to help you down off that hook, CATFISH, you seem determined to hang there. She’s offering you absolution, in whole or in part, while you stand around flagellating yourself (“POS cheater,” “fucking coward,” “bad person,” etc.). Personally, I think you’re entitled to your feelings. Go ahead and feel terrible. You did a bad thing. It’s not the worst thing someone’s ever done online, and most people know not to take what a stranger tells them on the internet at face value. But if feeling terrible doesn’t motivate you to make changes… well, it’s not for me to question your sincerity. But some people think it’s okay to do terrible things so long as they have the decency to feel terrible about having done them. If you’re not one of those people—if you actually feel bad—doing something about it and learning something from it will alleviate your misery. Here’s what you need to do: End things with your boyfriend. Write him an e-mail, tell him the truth about your age, marital status, and unavailability. Don’t share your real name with him; you’re under no obligation to do so, and if he turns out to be the vindictive type, CATFISH, you don’t want him to have your real identity. Apologize for not coming clean when he did—he lied to you too at the start—and thank him for the pleasure of his virtual company and the joy he brought to your life. Then block him. Here’s what you need to learn: You didn’t do this because you’re miserable—or you didn’t do it just because you’re miserable. You did this because it was fun. We call it “play” when children pretend to be someone or something they’re not; child’s play is also, yes, a coping mechanism. Vulnerable children pretend to be big and powerful superheroes and/or monsters to cope with and momentarily escape their relative powerlessness. And nothing makes a child’s playful fantasy feel more real than a good friend who plays along. Most adults don’t make time for play—most of us aren’t LARPers or kinksters— but even adults need play, and some adults need play more than others. You found a space where you could play (that online fetish forum), and you found a playmate who helped make your fantasies feel real (a guy you’ve never actually met and who could still be lying to you about all sorts of things). It got out of hand when arousal, orgasms, oxytocin, and promises you couldn’t keep got stirred into the mix. The play made you feel better at first, but the dishonesty and stress of deceiving two people eventually wiped out the benefits you were getting. You need to find a way to build some play into your life, sexual and/or nonsexual, that doesn’t require you to lie or hide. It would be great if you could do that with your husband, CATFISH, but if he’s not willing or able to play with you, get his okay to play on your own.
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On the Lovecast, science says, weed = better orgasms: savagelovecast.com.
“i have a recommendation from my veterinarian” 22
04.11.19 - 04.18.19 |
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May 4th COLUMBUS THEATRE, PROVIDENCE T I C K E T S AT H U M P FI L M FE S T.C O M
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COVER: KISMET, MAN OF FATE! We're Boston's only weekly alternative newspaper. #news #nightlife #music #art #film #food #comics digboston.com
Published on Apr 11, 2019
COVER: KISMET, MAN OF FATE! We're Boston's only weekly alternative newspaper. #news #nightlife #music #art #film #food #comics digboston.com