Page 1

INSIDE:

ALLEGHENY COUNTY JAIL SGT. SUED OVER ABUSE ALLEGATIONS VOL. 3 ISSUE 42

Dec. 2, 2020 - Dec. 8, 2020

PGHCURRENT

PGHCURRENT

PGHCURRENT

'MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM' IS A TRIUMPH FOR BOTH AUGUST WILSON AND CHADWICK BOSEMAN

FREE TO THE PEOPLE

FREE TO CONNECT

Connect your student to remote one-on-one learning support and live homework help, to language learning resources and virtual storytimes, we’ve got learners of all ages and stages covered.

CLP – Student eResources Call: 412-622-3114 Text: 412-775-3900 carnegielibrary.org/kids-teens


SUPPORT THE PITTSBURGH CURRENT AND THE FUTURE OF INDEPENDENT JOURNALISM

We are an influence-free, Independent alternative print and online news company in Pittsburgh Pa. As we’ve been reporting on the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve seen firsthand the dramatic effect it’s having on businesses around southwestern Pennsylvania. This is especially true for small businesses like ours. While we remain steadfastly committed to reporting on the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak through the latest information and features, we need your help. Support independent journalism through a sustaining or one-time donation to the Pittsburgh Current. 80% of all donations go toward paying our staff and content creators, 20% will help keep the lights on. And 100 percent of it will ensure this city continues to have an alternative, independent voice. Even before canceling events and staying at home became the new normal, media companies like ours were struggling to keep things going. But we, like others, have found a way because people depend on our product, they like what they do and we feel that appreciation every day. We announced last week that we were temporarily halting our twice-monthly print publication and focusing on our online digital edition because people aren’t going outside, and the businesses where we distribute are all closed. The good news in all of this is that our digital edition will now be coming out weekly instead of bi-monthly. So beginning March 24, you’ll be able to get the Current every Tuesday (to make sure you get it delivered to your inbox, fill out our email signup on our homepage). We are a small team with a big mission and we’re stubborn enough to know that with your help we will get through this. The Current, like many small businesses, is at a crossroads. We plan on doing our part to get you the information you need to make it through this crisis, but we need your support to make sure we’re also able to report on the next one. You can donate by clicking the popup on our homepage or clicking donate below.

Donate to the Pittsburgh Current and the future of Independent Journalism Thank You,

Charlie Deitch

Publisher, Pittsburgh Current charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com

2 | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT


Climate Crisis and Corrupt Politics By: Larry J. Schweiger Free Shipping Paperback $29.95 or purchase an eBook for $19.00 (Read the first 25 pages for free)

There is only one earth and our world is undergoing dramatic changes brought on by the climate crisis and other human-induced ecological disruptions. The world's top scientists studying these threats and the forces behind them have been warning us for decades to end the use of fossil fuels or face catastrophic consequences. Their long-ignored warnings have become more dire. Larry Schweiger has long been on the front line of efforts to enact rational clean energy and climate policies and has witnessed efforts to undermine our democratic system that has been rigged leaving America hoodwinked and held hostage to dirty fuels. Climate Crisis and Corrupt Politics pulls back the curtain on the central role of big oil, coal, and gas interests in American politics through the flow of money to fabricated entities for independent SuperPAC expenditures for mass deception through distorted advertising. Larry wrote this urgent message aimed at parents, grandparents and young adults who care about their children forced to live on the ragged edge of an unprecedented climate crisis. This book is especially for leaders who understand that we must act now with a "Green New Deal" scale response. Together, we must confront and overcome the many toxic money influences, reverse a failing democracy and retake the reins of government to enact policies that secure our shared future and the future of life on earth.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | 3


STAFF Publisher/Editor: Charlie Deitch Charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com

contents

Advisory Board Chairman: Robert Malkin Robert@pittsburghcurrent.com

Vol. III Iss. XLII DEC. 2, 2020

EDITORIAL

Managing Editor At Large: Brittany Hailer Brittany@pittsburghcurrent.com

NEWS 6 | ACJ SGT. Sued

Music Editor: Margaret Welsh Margaret@pittsburghcurrent.com

OPINION 8 | Larry Schweiger 10 | Jessica Semler

Visuals Editor: Jake Mysliwczyk Jake@pittsburghcurrent.com

Arts 12 | Ma Rainey on Netflix 16 | Bandcap Friday

Sr. Contributing Writer: Jody DiPerna Jody@pittsburghcurrent.com Education Writer: Mary Niederberger Mary@pittsburghcurrent.com

EXTRA 17 | Dan Savage 18 | Parting Shot

Social Justice Columnist: Jessica Semler jessica@pittsburghcurrent.com Environmental Columnist: Larry Schweiger info@pittsburghcurrent.com Contributing Photographer: Ed Thompson info@pittsburghcurrent.com Contributing Writers: Jody DiPerna, Atiya Irvin Mitchell, Dan Savage, Larry Schweiger, Brittany Hailer, Matthew Wallenstein, Caitlyn Junter, Aryanna Hunter, Nick Eustis, Jessie Sage, Mary Niederberger info@pittsburghcurrent.com Logo Design: Mark Addison TO ADVERTISE : The Fine Print

Senior Account Executive: Andrea James andrea@pittsburghcurrent.com Charlie Deitch charlie@pittsburghcurrent.com

The contents of the Pittsburgh Current are © 2020 by Pittsburgh Current, LLC. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this publication shall be duplicated or reprinted without the express-written consent of Pittsburgh Current LLC. One copy per person. The Pittsburgh Current is published twice monthly beginning August 2018. The opinions contained in columns and letters to the editors represent the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Pittsburgh Current ownership, management and staff. The Pittsburgh Current is an independently owned and operated print and online media company produced in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood, 1665 Broadway Ave., Pittsburgh, PA., 15216. 412-204-7248. Email us or don’t: info@pittsburghcurrent.com.

4 | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT


CORO N AV I R U S C ASES A R E AT AN ALL-TIM E H I G H S O R EMEM BE R . . . . .

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | 5


NEWS

ALLEGHENY COUNTY JAIL SERGEANT SUED FOR PREGNANT AND DISABLED WO BY BRITTANY HAILER - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER

BRITTANY@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

Editor's Note: This is a breaking story and will be updated as information becomes available on pghcurrent.com. In a federal lawsuit filed by Abolitionist Law Center (ALC) against the Allegheny County Jail (ACJ), three former incarcerated persons with physical and psychiatric disabilities say that Sergeant John Raible brutally assaulted them repeatedly. The suit was filed Tuesday by ALC, the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project and the law firm K&L Gates. The plaintiffs are also suing Warden Orlando Harper, Chief Deputy David Zetwo, and Deputy Chief of Operations Jason Beasom. According to the lawsuit, Raible pepper-sprayed April Walker, 27, repeatedly while she was pregnant, which resulted in her hospitalization. On a separate occasion, Walker says Raible slammed her head on a concrete wall and restrained her in a chair. Walker has asthma, bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic

stress disorder (PTSD). According to the complaint, LaVonna Dorsey, 35, who has asthma, depression, and anxiety, alleges that Raible pepper-sprayed her on the face, breasts, and buttocks while she was naked and locked in a “strip cage.” The complaint says that Raible then placed her in a restraint chair and over-tightened the straps, which resulted in a shoulder injury. Alexus Diggs, 25, who is diagnosed with bipolar disorder and complex PTSD, said in the complaint Raibled locked her in an “enclosed steel strip cage and shot her with multiple pepper spray bullets because she had a “flexible pen.” According to the filed complaint, “Raible then assisted other officers with strapping Ms. Diggs in a restraint chair without first allowing her to be decontaminated, resulting in her skin burning....for several hours while she was strapped into the torturous device.” ALC staff attorney Jaclyn Kurin wrote in an email, “The Plaintiffs are also suing Raible’s supervisors,

6 | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

Warden Orlando Harper, Chief Deputy David Zetwo, and Deputy Chief of Operations Jason Beasom for their failure to train and supervise staff at ACJ which led to the assaults. . .before the Plaintiffs were assaulted, Harper, Zetwo,

and Beasom were aware of Raible’s violent history of assaulting incarcerated individuals for non-threatening conduct.” According to the County Prison Extraordinary Occurrence Statistics for 2015-2019, compiled by


R ALLEGED ABUSE OF OMEN

NEWS FREE TO CONNECT Register online or in-person for your Library card today. Get access to Learning Support, Books, eResources, and much more. carnegielibrary.org

FREE TO THE PEOPLE

the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections, Allegheny County Jail has had the highest number of uses-of-force by corrections officers on incarcerated individuals of all the county jails in Pennsylvania. In 2019, the ACJ used the

restraint chair 339 times--a much higher rate per capita than any other county jail in the state. And, in 201819, 17 pregnant women in the state of PA were restrained, 6 of which were at the ACJ. PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | 7


OPINION

THE TRIUMPH OF

BY LARRY J. SCHWEIGER - PITTS

A

ssociate Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote a book entitled: “A Republic, If You Can Keep It." In it, he wrote, "The separation of powers and its role in protecting individual liberty and the rule of law can sound pretty abstract. I confess it seemed that way to me in my high-school civics class. I came to appreciate the genius of the Founders’ design more fully only years later, when as a judge I saw what happens to real people in real cases when the separation of powers goes unattended.” The trend is increasingly troublesome. The Supreme Court was exercising far-reaching legislative powers when they gutted key provisions of the Voter Rights Act essentially claiming that racism in elections no longer exists. The majority opinion asserted that "based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day" they stripped key provisions protecting voters. In 1965 after years of civil rights protests, Congress enacted, and President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. Congress examined the evidence and reconfirmed the need for continued Federal intervention as vital for fair and open election in 1970, 1975, 1982, 1992, and 2006. Turning the clock backward and ignoring the long deliberative Congressional work on voter rights, the Supreme Court severely damaged minority voting rights in the case of Shelby County v. Holder. It is now painfully clear that voter suppression targeted at minority communities is again fully operational in several states held by conservatives.

INFO@PITTSBURG

President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch in 2017.

When the High Court concluded that free speech equals money and corporations are people, they dismantled the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act that passed Congress, and the President

8 | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

signed. We now deal with a flood of dark money and the influence it buys. As Gorsuch stated in his book "separation of powers," the principle needs reexamination

especially in light of the Thanksgiving decision. Far from having separated powers, the executive, legislative, and judicial branches are entangling in ways that are


OPINION

JUDICIAL POWER

SBURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST

GHCURRENT.COM

troubling. Especially in recent years, the High Court has made profound decisions impacting our lives that are entirely out of reach of the voters. Gorsuch forgot what he once wrote about the importance of the separation of powers. On the eve of Thanksgiving during an exploding pandemic, the SCOTUS issued an unsigned opinion endorsed by Gorsuch, supplanting their flawed judgment for health scientists. They blocked well-intended, medically sound executive efforts by Governors and Mayors who addressed a severe challenge amid the COVID-19 pandemic to slow the spread of a deadly virus. In an unsigned majority opinion, the SCOTUS reversed an earlier decision that included Ruth Bader Ginsberg during this public health crisis by limiting crowd sizes. In this specific case, Governor Cuomo established health-based restrictions to large gatherings that would only be applied in red zones where the COVID spread is dangerously high. The High Court, in this recent ruling, now claims that Cuomo infringed on the right to free exercise of religion. Ignoring the public health risks of their decision, they framed their decision around violations of religious freedom, falsely claiming that the actions are not neutral because they “single out houses of worship for especially harsh treatment.” The majority also falsely indicated that there is no evidence that the religious organizations that brought the lawsuit had contributed to the spread of Covid-19 when church after church across America

has witnessed the consequences of super spreader events. In a post-science, post-commonsense move, the Court eliminated a critical public safety measure and stripped executives of an important pandemic option to protect the general public. Ginsberg's last request was her hope that Trump and the Senate would wait till after the election as they did with Garland. That was ignored, so now we have Amy Coney Barrett, who, after having had COVID herself, participated in a super-spreader event at the White House and ignored health scientists' warnings. Jeffrey D. Sachs, director of the Center for Sustainable Development at Columbia University, recently wrote, "Last month, I wrote that Amy Coney Barrett would help to usher in a new posttruth jurisprudence on the Supreme Court. While I had cited her anti-science statements on climate change, her arrival on the Court has created a new 5-4 majority against public-health science at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.” Mass indoor gatherings of any kind are a threat to public health and safety during a raging pandemic. Scientifically illiterate judges overturned sensible executive decisions when the High Court ruled against New York state's medical science-based decision to limit religious congregations in high-incidence communities. The extreme right-wing of the SCOTUS are not public health experts, but they act like they are. They do not respect the judgment of those with particu-

lar expertise and responsibility in health science and even accused the Governor of targeting religious institutions. Justices Sotomayor and Kagan wrote that granting the injunction “will only exacerbate the Nation’s suffering.” One person's right to freedom of religion in a raging pandemic in a red zone is a threat to certain unalienable rights of others in that zone, including life itself. Suppose a churchgoer attends a crowded church and brings COVID-19 to their community, and the virus kills others. In that case, it is common sense that their religious rights collide with others' rights to live. The already conservative high Court took a hard right-hand turn with Mitch McConnell. As Obama was taking the oath of office, Mitch McConnell vowed to make him a one-term President. Failing at that, he and Republican senators hemmed Obama in every way possible, including blocking scores of well-qualified judicial appointments. In response to the continuing blockage of Obama's nominees, Senator Harry Reid, on November 21, 2013, invoked the so-called “nuclear option," changing Senate rules to allow a simple majority vote for all nominees except for the Supreme Court. The Constitution provides the President “shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate,” appoint justices, Federal judges, and key public officials. On March 16, 2016, President Barack Obama nominated Judge Merritt Garland, a well-qualified

moderate Judge respected by Republicans and Democrats alike, to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Mitch McConnell and the Senate Republican majority refused to hold a hearing or even give Garland a courtesy meeting. The Republican majority refused to provide advice and consent on this nomination during the final year of Obama's presidency. The Senate's unprecedented refusal to accept or reject the Garland nomination to fill the vacancy created by the death of Antonin Scalia (who died on one of his famous hunting junkets funded by special interests) left the Court with eight justices. Obama’s executive power to appoint a Supreme Court Justice was thwarted by Republican Senators ignoring their role to "advice and consent." By stonewalling Obama, they handed Trump an opportunity to appoint Neil Gorsuch. McConnell extended simple majority policy to Supreme Court appointments and confirmed three problematic extreme right-wing justices appointed by Trump with simple majorities. Now that a Federalists Society majority is in firm control of the High Court, we should anticipate a much more aggressive role for the Court attacking health and environmental laws without restraint. We should also expect more terrible ideological decisions that conflict with sound science from this unelected political body that is legislating from the bench.

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | 9


OPINION

PLANNED PARENTHOOD PENNSYLVANIA ADVOCATES CALL FO

BY JESSICA SEMLER - PITTSB

JESSICA@PITTSBUR

Editor’ Note: Jessica Semler is the former Public Affairs Director for Planned Parenthood of Western PA (PPWP) and Project Director for Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates & PAC. On Tuesday, November 24, 2020, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates (PPPA) staff released an open letter calling on donors, volunteers, patients, partner organizations, community leaders, and elected officials to join them in demanding Executive Director Emily Callen resign. The letter charges Callen with behavior during her nine-month tenure that is "fiscally irresponsible and used racist, transphobic, classist language, and language which perpetuates a stigma against abortion," and lists summaries of these behaviors. Additionally, over the previous weekend, workers learned of massive restructuring of staff due to budget issues that include firing a Black Woman who excelled at her job, forcing three remaining staff to compete for one position, and more—all of this during a pandemic, no less. Staff members who organized the Save PPPA campaign allowed me to interview them about their letter and what they want to accomplish. While the letter explicitly

Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates Executive Director Emily Callen. (Facebook Photo)

asks for the ousting of current director Emily Callen, the group has put forward other tangible demands meant to ensure that this doesn't happen again. Callen exhibited very problematic behavior, but she is a symptom of a larger, more deep-seated problem. While the field team is doing real work on the

10 | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

ground, the board members who make structural decisions are removed from a lot of that work. Save PPPA is aware of this as well. "The field team has been pushing to be a part of hiring decisions for senior leadership for years. To the extent we have been allowed to ‘have a say’ in hiring

before, virtually every time we have expressed serious concerns about a candidate, those concerns have been ignored. Because of this, we are demanding that the board bring us into the hiring process as an equal partner… We are the ones who do the work of this organization, and we need a board and an execu-


OPINION

OR RESIGNATION OF EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FOR STIGMATIZING

BURGH CURRENT COLUMNIST

RGHCURRENT.COM

tive director who understands and respects that work." said Cortney Bouse, Regional Field Director Western PA (she, her). Goals of Save PPPA: Ongoing commitment to DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) and unlearning racism/racial biases from the board Access to our operating budget and clarity on our financial deficit The creation of hiring committees for open positions A seat on the board for the organizing team/staff Removal of other board members who have been openly racist, transphobic, or otherwise abusive towards staff and other board members. As noted above, I am not approaching this issue as an outsider or neutral party. I went to them in high school when I needed birth control, and they've provided amazing gynecological care for me over the years. By the time I began working for the Public Affairs department in 2015, PP had also been there for me when I needed an abortion in 2012. When I became a staff person, I couldn't imagine going anywhere else for my healthcare because the treatment I received from the staff was unmatched, unbiased,

and kind. There is a struggle that is all too common amongst current and former Planned Parenthood staff: We have so much love for the mission, the organization, and the vital work Planned Parenthood does by providing healthcare to folks who would otherwise encounter so many barriers. We are hesitant to disparage or critique the organization publicly because we know that our words and actions can and will be used by anti-choice politicians, protesters, and others who just want to systematically dismantle access to reproductive care. They will cling to any negative development, perceived or otherwise, and use it for their ends. The real issue at hand is that some in positions of power at Planned Parenthood know all of this they count on it, and they take advantage of it by not making good faith efforts to make real changes, and to avoid accountability. This is wrong, and why it is commendable and important that staff is speaking out. When asked about how the constant attacks and incessant need to put out fires can be used to keep racial justice and gender issues on the back burner, Brianna Taylor, Southeast PA organizer (she, her), acknowledged, "this is a constant struggle in every movement, but the reality is that allowing these things to fester only opens us up to

more attacks. If it is an organized effort by the people in the movement, the movement will emerge stronger." "It's also important in the fight for reproductive rights and expanded access to sexual and reproductive health care that we center our work on the patients most affected by restrictions and cuts to sexual and reproductive health care, and that means centering racial justice and destroying the gender binary,” Taylor added. “We know as Planned Parenthood patients as well as staff that our work for reproductive freedom can not be achieved without prioritizing racial and gender justice." The bravery of the PPPA staff to come forward publicly with these demands cannot be overstated, and starting this campaign is an extension of what their jobs demand. As one staffer said, “You can’t hire organizers and expect them not to organize.” While some may see this campaign as a precarious move considering Planned Parenthood's position in our current political climate, it's clear that this decision was made out of love for the organization, the people it serves, and the values it espouses. These issues aren't unique to Planned Parenthood, nor is the culture of shame and silence around them, which purportedly exists to protect the organization, its mission,

and its patients. In Brene Brown's "Dare to Lead," a book about developing brave leaders and courageous cultures, Brown posits, "when the culture of a corporation, nonprofit, etc. mandates that it is more important to protect the reputation of that system and those in power than it is to protect the basic human dignity of individuals or communities, you can be certain of problems." These workers know the importance of Planned Parenthood's work, and it is too significant to allow the organization to suffer by not addressing the issues that harm the people it is supposed to protect the most. Christine O’Donovan-Zavada, Regional Field Director Central PA (she/ her) said, "we cannot afford to have leaders who aren't committed to abortion access. It's a disservice to the people we claim to support and to the movement. Abortion access needs to be front and center, and so do the voices of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, & People of Color), TGNC (Transgender & Gender Nonconforming) folks, low-income folks, etc.” O’Donovan-Zavada added, "We hear it all the time that organizers are the backbone of organizations like PPPA -- and it's time that we have a seat at the table. It's overdue."

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | 11


ARTS

’'MA RAINEY’' DOES AUGUST WILSON PROUD

12 | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT


ARTS

VIOLA DAVIS AND THE LATE-CHADWICK BOSEMAN EARN THEIR OSCAR BUZZ IN PITTSBURGH-FILMED NETFLIX RELEASE

M

a Rainey’s Black Bottom comes out singing the blues and never stops, even when the music isn’t playing. The second Oscar-worthy adaptation of an August Wilson work in four years bursts beyond the play’s theatrical constraints from its first moments. And unlike the play, it doesn’t make you wait for the grand entrances of its star players. The musical number at the outset establishes award-winning actress Viola Davis in the role of the real-life Gertrude “Ma” Rainey and Chadwick Boseman as Levee, the brash trumpet player with big dreams. We meet them in a tent in circa-1927 Georgia, as Levee tries to upstage the star and flirts with her girlfriend. Needless to say, Ma is not amused. Before the action shifts from Georgia to Illinois, photos and clippings give evidence of the Black migration to northern cities like Chicago and Pittsburgh, a frequent Wilson theme. When the scene moves north to a Chicago recording studio, and the owner asks, “Where is she?,” and “Where is the trumpet player?,” we already know which one is keeping everyone waiting and we know to buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

BY SHARON EBERSON - PITTSBURGH CURRENT CONTRIBUTING WRITER INFO@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

Viola Davis (opposite page) as Ma Rainey and (above) the late-Chadwick Boseman as Levee in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. (Netflix)

Without a word, Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s screenplay has established the post-industrial diaspora of the era and the conflict between Ma and Levee, and perhaps most tellingly, it gives the audience what many have come to see: Viola Davis decked out as the Mother of the Blues, and “Black Panther” star Chadwick Boseman in his final role, before his death in August, at age 42. Davis, who won the 2017 best supporting actress Oscar for Denzel Washington’s

adaptation of “Fences,” leads a powerhouse team in conveying the 1920s installment of Wilson’s American Century Cycle, with all but “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” set in the Hill District. That didn’t stop the movie’s producers, among them Washington and Wilson’s widow, Constanza Romero, from bringing the production to the writer’s hometown. “Ma Rainey” is the work that established the Pittsburgh playwright as a theatrical force

on Broadway, in 1984, with the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Fences” to follow in 1987. The title is taken from Ma Rainey’s signature song, music that spoke volumes to Wilson. The playwright, who died at age 60 in 2005, not only wrote in the mournful, rhythmic language of the blues, he declared, “I am the blues.” As he lets Ma tell it, “White folk don’t understand about the blues. They hear it come out, but they don’t know how it got there. They don’t un-

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | 13


ARTS derstand that it’s life’s way of talking. You don’t sing to feel better. You sing because that’s understanding life. This’d be an empty world without the blues.” Ma says this in conversation with bandleader Cutler (Colman Domingo) as she waits for the cold Coke she was promised on a hot summer day. When none is waiting for her, she refuses to continue until the bottles are in hand. The songs in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” come stingily after the opening number, although music director Branford Marsalis did a deep dive into what Levee derisively calls the “jugband” sound -husky-voiced Ma Rainey was not swayed to change her style as the Jazz Age roared around her. Davis sings “Those Dogs Of Mine” -- “dogs” in this case being “feet,” as in “Oh how my corns did burn” and, unlike Levee, “I can't wear me no sharp-toed shoes.” Other songs are vocalized by soul singer Maxayn Lewis, a former Ikette with Ike & Tina Turner. Vocals aside, Davis imbues Ma with furious pride and glimpses of vulnerability -- the seductive Dussie Mae (Taylour Paige) is an obvious weak spot. The actress, armored in heavy padding and eyes glaring beyond a sea of coal-black down to her cheeks, demands not just respect but subservience from any who would challenge Ma’s will. She’s the moneymaker at this party, and she makes sure no one forgets it. That includes the white men who are beholding to her at this session: her manager, Irvin (Jeremy Shamos),

who spends most of his time cajoling or giving in to Ma, and Mel Sturdyvant (Jonny Coyne), the owner and engineer of the studio. Mel barely conceals his distaste for Ma and her band members, who spend most of the movie sequestered in a basement rehearsal area. In their claustrophobic quarters, in the heat of day and with delays mounting, frustrations and resentments begin to roil. Elder statesman and pianist Toledo (Glynn Turman) is quick to impart wisdom and criticism, while bassist Slow Drag (Michael Potts) moves to his own rhythms and trombonist and Cutler struggles to keep the players in harmony. At least until the end of the session. Boseman, whose theater roots include a production of his play “Hieroglyphic Graffiti” by Pittsburgh’s Kuntu Repertory Theater, has the flashiest role as Levee, and is elevated by matching wits with a band of distinguished scene partners. You may not know their names but you probably know their faces. Veteran actor Turman, for example, plays a key role in the current season of FX’s’s “Fargo,” and Domingo can be seen opposite Zendaya in HBO’s “Euphoria.” Potts, soon to be seen in “The Prom” on Netflix, was among the stars of the Tony-winning revival of WIlson’s “Jitney,” directed by Santiago-Hudson. “Ma Rainey” proves to be another standout in their long list of credits. The bandmates serve as catalysts for Boseman’s character, in a film dedicated to the late actor’s “artistry and heart.”

14 | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

Both are on display in Levee, who enters with spiffy new wingtips and gloating about his own arrangements and songs. His bandmates aren’t having any of it. Turman’s Toledo is particularly put off by Levee’s bravado and lack of concern for the task at hand. In an exchange about “just having a good time,” Toledo lectures that more Black people “got killed having a good time than God’s got ways to count.” When Levee is teased for showing deference to the white studio owner, he finally breaks down and explains why what they see isn’t necessarily the whole story. In a harrowing monologue about the violence and racism that has shaped the man Levee has become, the camera captures Boseman’s every expression of pain and outrage, and we witness what the buzz for a posthumous Oscar is all about. In another telling scene, when Mel takes hold of Levee’s music, Boseman’s expression of hope mixed with doubt needs no words to create a palpable foreboding. Tension permeates the screenplay by Santiago-Hudson, a Tony-winner for Wilson’s “Seven Guitars” and a Drama Desk-winner for “The Piano Lesson” off-Broadway. While Wilson spent his childhood in the HIll District, absorbing the atmosphere and characters that would become the subjects of his plays, Santiago-Hudson was a frequent visitor to relatives in Clairton. His empathy for and familiarity with the material shows. He and “Ma Rainey” director George C. Wolfe (14 Tony nominations, including two wins) collaborated previously

The late-Chadwick Boseman as Levee in M

on the Emmy-nominated TV movie “Lackawanna Blues.” Their adaptation of “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” that hits Netflix on Dec. 18, after a stint in movie theaters, clocks in at a lean hour and 34 minutes. It’s an achievement that honors the original and delivers a tightly told tale with emotional punch and visual impact. For cinematic interest, several scenes defy the settings of Wilson’s version and move outside of the studio. For example, a fender-bender that is spoken of but unseen in the play is staged here. It’s also where Pittsburghers can see evidence that the movie was filmed in their hometown. While interiors were mostly created at the 31st Street Studios in the Strip District,


ARTS

Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. (Netflix)

outdoor scenes were shot on West North Avenue on the North Side. Vintage cars time-traveled to a street lined by facades transformed with circa-1920s signage, as Pittsburgh stands in for Chicago. A separate interior takes place at what appears to be a swanky hotel, where patrons stare as Ma sashays past the dining room, flanked by Dussie Mae and her nephew, Sylvester (Dusan Brown). When Ma finally arrives at the studio, relief quickly is replaced by a rise in blood pressure. Levee recklessly pursues Dussie Mae, and Ma pours fuel on the tense session by insisting that her stuttering nephew be heard on the recording. The blues are written all over

this sweltering day that had begun with hopes of making music and earning a few dollars. But in the Wilsonian world, high hopes and good times are luxuries that few Black people can hold onto for more than fleeting moments. The dashed hopes of Black Americans are particularly resonant in August Wilson’s plays, even as he gained fame writing about them. In “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom,” there are some glimmers of hope, such as in the strength of the title character -- a Black, gay woman who controlled her own destiny against all odds, through her talent and sheer force of will. The other old hand of the piece, Toledo, delivers the message that perhaps is most resonant, across decades, from the 1920s to the 2020s, from Wilson’s Hill District roots to Black Lives Matter. “The colored man won’t get ahead until he realizes that he is the white man’s leftovers,” Toledo tells young Levee. When questioned about what one man can do to effect change, Toledo schools his bandmates: “I said ‘we.’ You understand that? That’s every living colored man in the world gotta do his part. … I’m talking about what all of us got to do. Together.” Maybe there is a ray of hope amid the blues after all. Ahead of its Dec. 18 release on Netflix, “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” is playing in Pittsburgh exclusively at the Manor Theater in Squirrel Hill. Info: www.manorpgh.com Sharon Eberson is a Pittsburgh-based theater and pop culture writer and critic.

OFFICIAL ADVERTISEMENT THE BOARD OF PUBLIC EDUCATION OF THE

SCHOOL DISTRICT OF PITTSBURGH ADVERTISEMENT FOR BIDS

Sealed proposals shall be deposited at the Administration Building, Bellefield Entrance Lobby, 341 South Bellefield Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pa., 15213, on December 08, 2020, until 2:00 P.M., local prevailing time for: Pgh. Chartiers Early Childhood Center Finish Floor Replacements and Miscellaneous Work General and Asbestos Abatement Prime Pgh. Classical Academy 6-8 Bleacher Demolition Project General Prime Pgh. Miller PreK-5 Comprehensive Plaster Repair and Painting General, Mechanical, Electrical and Asbestos Abatement Prime Pgh. Perry High School CTE Cosmetology Relocation General, Plumbing, Mechanical, Electrical and Asbestos Abatement Primes Pgh. Perry High School Bleacher Demolition Project General Prime Project Manual and Drawings will be available for purchase on November 02, 2020 at Modern Reproductions (412-488-7700), 127 McKean Street, Pittsburgh, Pa., 15219 between 9:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. The cost of the Project Manual Documents is non-refundable. Project details and dates are described in each project manual. We are an equal rights and opportunity school district

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | 15


MUSIC

BANDCAMP FRIDAY ROUNDUP BY MARGARET WELSH - PITTSBURGH CURRENT MUSIC EDITOR

MARGARET@PITTSBURGHCURRENT.COM

I

t’s likely that your inbox is currently packed full with deals! deals! deals! But if you’re fortunate enough to have a little extra money to spend during this holiest of shopping weeks, consider buying some local music. Dec. 4 is the final Bandcamp Friday of the year, which means that the site will forgo it’s cut of the profits and all the money you spend there goes directly to the artists. We’ve compiled a few new releases from Pittsburgh-area artists, which will also hopefully offer a jumping-off point for further browsing and exploration. Cam Chambers Prodigal www.camchambers.bandcamp.com/album/prodigal Melodically, lyrically, and production-wise, Chambers’ heavy, driving, deeply soulful approach to r&b packs a wallop. Don’t sleep on this one. Mighty B-Sides www.mightytheband.bandcamp.com/album/b-sides Some personal news: I’m exactly the right age and demographic to love this sampling of brash, catchy powerpop. If you love or have ever loved Jade Tree records, perhaps this record is for you as well! LILAC//WEB Blue Angels EP www.lilaccybercrust.band-

Sheridan Woika Rabbits www.autumnsounds.bandcamp.com/album/rabbits Kind of a wild stew of vibes and sounds on this one, but at its heart Rabbits is a sweet little collection of hazy, melodic singer/songwriter indie-pop. JROUZ3 THE Demo 3P https://jrouz3music.bandcamp.com/album/the-demo3p A warm, mellow trio of slow-jam-y r&b with just enough warp and grit to stick to your brain.

camp.com/album/blue-angelsep This chaotic five-track release bursts with harsh, metallic pink noise. Think cheerleader hype, industrial riot grrrl, a conversation between Shonen Knife and Discharge and the devil himself. Good Dude Lojack The Drive www.delicatecashmere. bandcamp.com/album/thedrive Friday marks the release of a new full-length from GDL.

16 | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | PITTSBURGH CURRENT

If the hypnotic, softly melancholic single “Days are Cool” is any indication, expect some tripped out, chilled-out house music. The Cynics “I Live Alone”/”Hand in Hand” www.gethiprecordings. bandcamp.com/album/i-livealone-hand-in-hand Ok so this was actually recorded in 1993, but sounds real nice in 2020. Check out a couple different sides, figuratively and literally, of our very own garage rock icons.

Sam Stucky “Nothing Special” www.samstucky.bandcamp. com/ Stucky has an EP due in January, but for now you can sample his cozy, nostalgic approach to catchy ’70s AM radio pop. Slowdanger AR www.slowdanger.bandcamp. com/album/ar Slowdanger is perhaps best known for experimental dance and movement performance, but the multidisciplinary duo also works in soundscapes. Here they offer some dark ambient tones which may inspire some at-home movement.


Savage Love Love | sex | relationships BY DAN SAVAGE MAIL@SAVAGELOVE.NET

I'm a lesbian and my girlfriend is bi. I've read your column and listened to your podcast for a long time, Dan, and I always thought I'd be fine with having a partner ask me about being monogamish. Then my girlfriend of about a year and a half told me she wants to see what other women are like. She says the thought of me sleeping with other people turns her on but the prospect of her sleeping with other people only makes me nervous. She came out later and I'm the only woman she's been with. I understand that, as a woman, I'll never be able to give her what she might get from a man sexually and that sometimes she’ll want that, so there's also that. We've talked about it and it would have to be a Don't Ask/Don't Tell agreement, I would also get to step outside the relationship, the other people would have to know we're in a relationship, and there couldn’t be any “dates.” On top of all that, we're long distance for now. She says she loves me and I believe her and she says she doesn't want to lose me. But she also says she’s been dealing with these urges for a while and needs to address them. I don't want to lose her. Do you have any advice? Fretting Endlessly About Relationship Situation

I understand your fears. People in committed non-monogamous relationships have been known to catch feelings for their outside sexual partners. And while that doesn’t always doom the primary relationship, FEARS, catching feelings for someone else inevitably complicates things. And while a non-monogamous couple can make rules that forbid the catching of feelings, feelings aren’t easily ruled. But people in closed relationships

have been known to catch feelings for people they aren’t sleeping with, i.e. coworkers, friends, friends-offriends, partners of friends, siblings of partners, partners of siblings, etc. So the risk that a partner might catch feelings for someone else isn’t eliminated when two people make a monogamous commitment—and yet sane, stable, functional people in monogamous relationships manage to get through the day without being nervous wrecks. Because they trust their partners are committed to them. And even if their partners should develop a crush on someone else… which they almost inevitably will… they trust that their partners aren’t going to leave them… which they still might. By which I mean to say, there’s risk in every relationship and it’s trust that helps us manage our fears about those risks. So if you trust your girlfriend to honor the terms you’ve agreed to—DADT, fucks are okay, dates are not, the other women know she’s taken—and you trust she’s telling the truth when she says she loves you and doesn’t want to lose you, FEARS, then you should choose to believe her. Just like a person in a monogamous relationship chooses to believe their partner when they say they won’t fuck anyone else (even though they might) and won’t leave them for anyone else (even though they could), you can choose to believe your girlfriend will honor the rules you’ve laid out. I’m at a bit of a loss. I met a guy that I really like at a nudist resort of all places. I didn’t realize at the time just how much I was falling for him. He was trying to be more in the beginning but I missed some very obvious signs. Hindsight is 20/20. I’m incredibly guarded after growing up in an emotionally abusive

SAVAGE LOVE household and am still dealing with some trauma after being raped a few years ago. By the time I realized how I felt about him, he surprised me by telling me he had a girlfriend. I was trying to arrange a time to see him after I disappeared for a bit to face some demons from the past. I wanted to tell him how I felt in person. Before I got that chance, he already had a girlfriend. He and I run in the same kinky circles and I ran into them at an event. I actually got a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach which I didn’t expect. I never told him how I felt about him. I’m happy that he is happy with her but it hurts, nonetheless. He matters enough to me that I would be content keeping him in my life even if it’s just as a friend. My question is should I tell him how I feel and risk losing him altogether or do I let him be happy with his girlfriend and not tell him that I fell hard for him? I know he might not reciprocate my feelings. That’s okay if he doesn’t, but the not knowing I think hurts more than the truth would. Hopeless Romantic Nailing The Hopeless Part If the not knowing hurts more than losing his friendship would— if not knowing whether you had a shot with him and blew it—then you should tell him how you feel (or felt) and express regret for missing the obvious signs and disappearing on him. And as painful as it might be hear that he wouldn’t want to be with you even if he were single—and that’s the worst-case scenario—you will get over it and get over him. Best-case scenario, HRNTHP, he had no idea you were into him, he’s not serious about the new girlfriend, and he’d rather date you. Less-than-bestcase scenario, he might be willing to date you if 1. things don’t work out with his new girlfriend and 2. you’re still single at that point. In the meantime, don’t pass on any other opportunities that come your way and be courteous, polite, and non-toxic when you run into them together at kinky events.

I'm writing to beg you—to implore you—to make some sort of desperate, last-ditch attempt to hold back the tide of linguistic confusion over the word, "come." Yes, that is the word, readers of Savage Love. It’s “come,” it’s not "cum." The past tense is "came," not "cummed.” (Yes, Dan, people are now saying and typing "cummed.") In the past I've been content to merely grumble cantankerously. The final straw came over the last several months when, while watching a lot of international TV and movies, I noticed—to my horror— that the people responsible for the subtitles are using "cum." Yes, the semi-literate usage of online free-porn-posters has now polluted the entire planet's comprehension of this simple English word. I turn to you, DS, to do something about this. To come out loudly and proudly for coming, loudly and proudly. This isn't just about spelling. It's about losing the meaning of the word: It signifies an arrival. Canadian Opposes Mangled English I’m on your side, COME. I’ve been fighting a lonely battle against “cum,” “cumming,” and (shudder) “cummed” for as long as I’ve been writing this column. I confess to having sinned a few weeks ago when I used the term “cumblebrag.” But in my defense, that was obviously a pun and—for the record—my one-time use of “cum” in the service of a joke should not be construed as an endorsement of “cum.” (The eye stumbles over “comeblebrag,” so it wouldn’t have worked to use “come.”) As I’ve written before, we don’t have alternate spellings for other words that have both sexual and non-sexual meanings. Seeing as we don’t “suk dik” or “eet pussee,” there’s no earthly reason why we should “cum” on someone else or be “cummed” upon ourselves. On the Lovecast, Dan chats with Amy Chan of "Breakup Bootcamp." www.savagelovecast.com

PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | 17


PA R T I N G S H OT PITTSBURGH CURRENT PHOTO BY JAKE MYSLIWCZYK PITTSBURGH CURRENT | DECEMBER 2, 2020 | 18


Millions discover their favorite reads on issuu every month.

Give your content the digital home it deserves. Get it to any device in seconds.