Recent Articles

Dessa: Acclaimed local musician speaks on hip hop, sexism and ‘moral responsibility’

Minneapolis-based rapper, singer and essayist Dessa recently had 
an album that charted in the Billboard Top 100.
Photo by Charles Hallman

 Minneapolis-based rapper, singer and essayist Dessa recently had an album that charted in the Billboard Top 100. Photo by Charles Hallman

Dessa’s remixed Parts of Speech debuted  in May, nearly a year after its original release, in Billboard’s Top 100. The Minneapolis rapper, singer and essayist, and Doomtree collective member easily displayed “her writerly sensibility, wit and honesty” in a MSR one-on-one interview after a scheduled appearance with Russell Simmons at the University of Minnesota. “I do what I love. I got plenty of friends. Continue Reading →

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Helen plans a big splash


“By all means, baby, eat in peace,” Helen St. James said when Keith complained about the interruption. “By all means.” And whisked everybody out of the dining room. Keith thought on it a hot minute, then shelved the idea of singing, polishing off what was left of his breakfast. Then, went to the hotel, packed, and caught a puddle-jumper back to Minneapolis. For a brief meet with Jeff Christensen, who lived in Stillwater, was recording there, and had called and asked Keith to back him up. Continue Reading →

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Selma: Timely civil rights saga revisits historic marches


I was born in the early 1950s, which means the Civil Rights Movement unfolded over the course of my formative years. And like the average Black kid growing up in that tumultuous era, I can distinctly recall having a very visceral reaction to the nightly news coverage, since I had such a personal stake in the outcome of the events. One of the most consequential flashpoints in memory was when a trio of voting rights marches were staged in Selma, Alabama in 1965. Launched by locals with the help of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the first demonstration came to be known as Bloody Sunday because of the way the police viciously attacked the 500-plus participants with teargas and billy clubs, all at the direction of a racist sheriff named Jim Clark (Stan Houston). Fallout from the shocking media coverage garnered the attention of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (David Oyelowo) who agreed to get involved. Continue Reading →

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David Oyelowo: Selma actor goes from king of England to Martin Luther King, Jr.

David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King, Jr. in Selma
Photo courtesy of selmamovie.com

David Oyelowo: Selma actor goes from king of England to Martin Luther King, Jr.

David Oyelowo (pronounced “oh-yellow-oh”) is a classically trained stage actor who is working successfully and simultaneously in film, television and theater, and has quickly become one of Hollywood’s most sought-after talents. He was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for his stirring performance as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the highly anticipated civil rights drama Selma. Directed by Ava DuVernay and produced by Oprah Winfrey and Brad Pitt’s Plan B, the film follows the Black fight for the right to register to vote culminating in the march from Selma to Montgomery and President Lyndon Johnson’s signing of the historic Voting Rights Act of 1965. Oyelowo can currently be seen in Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi space travel adventure Interstellar and in A Most Violent Year opposite Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac. He just wrapped production on Captive, a true-life crime thriller, and will soon co-star in Nina, a biographical drama about Nina Simone (played by Zoe Saldana). Continue Reading →

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How-to book helps Black families survive dangers of criminal justice system

“The August 9th fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Missouri has focused global attention on the precarious safety of young African-American men… Brown is only the most recent addition to the tragic list of shootings of young, African-American men that have ignited media attention in recent years. But the fact is that our young black men have always lived under threat from the armed guardians of the white social order. Black males and police forces have been at odds since the nation’s founding, when wealthy planters hired slave patrols to keep the white community safe from ‘dangerous’ escaped slaves. The tactics have been modernized, and the impact — as we’ve seen at Ferguson —

remains devastating… The criminal justice system is not so much a necessary service to society as it is a business that seeks to profit from the arrest and imprisonment of U.S. citizens. Continue Reading →

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Top Five: Chris Rock directs and stars in satire of celebrity reality shows

A movie review By Dwight Brown, NNPA Film Critic

Chris Rock recently hosted Saturday Night Live. During the show’s normal intro section, he did around 10 minutes of standup. One of the targets of his wicked humor was the new World Trade Center. He said he would never go in it. There were audible gasps, and a bit of controversy followed. Continue Reading →

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Motown: The Musical actress-singer delights in her multiple legendary roles

By Charles Hallman, Staff Writer

Motown: The Musical, the hit Broadway musical now touring the country, arrives next week for a 13-day run at the Orpheum Theatre in downtown Minneapolis. Grammy-nominated artist Ashley Támar Davis plays several roles, including Gladys Knight and Motown founder Berry Gordy’s sister Esther. She talked about her parts in a MSR phone interview. “The reason why I auditioned for Motown [is] because it was the first Broadway show I’ve seen in my entire life, which was last year,” explains Davis. She was impressed with the actors performing the Motown songs: “I got to see people who look like me.”

After telling a friend who watched the show with her that she could see herself on stage as well, “I auditioned for the [touring] show … Continue Reading →

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Mensah out, Yohannes in

His wake-up call came at nine on the nose. He was up and in the shower a few minutes later. Turned out, Helen and company — she’d got Yohannes Tona to sign on for a week and a half — were going north to Duluth, then Canada. He was tempted to stay on, but took a pass. It was just too important, right now, to handle things on the home front. In the hotel dining room, he sat down to a nice plate of eggs over easy, bacon and grits with toast and a pitcher of coffee. Reading the NY Times. Looked up and who should be sashaying out of the elevator but her ladyship of the hour, the illustrious Ms. St. James. Magnificently strutting across the carpet. Coming up behind, seriously hung over, Sam and Luis converged on the buffet. Shortly, everyone was at Keith’s table. Mensah’s goose, Helen had decided, was cooked. With dressing. Bad enough he’d been stupid enough to stand around toking up on the sidewalk. But getting caught with coke? Continue Reading →

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A toast to changing spots

There was no convincing the kid that watching the great Helen St. James work had been mostly boring. “Oh, no it wasn’t,” she said with a smile. “Trust me.”

“Come on.”

“Smitty, listen…”

“What did you just call me?”

For some reason, it seemed to fit. “Smitty, you’ll find out, believe me.  Ain’t none of this nearly as exciting as it looks from the outside. Continue Reading →

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Sounds of Blackness re-imagines a holiday classic

An interview with Gary Hines about The Night Before Christmas

By Dwight Hobbes

Contributing Writer

Sounds of Blackness (www.soundsofblackness.com) is a time-revered Twin Cities music institution, second only to a certain soulster with a penchant for purple. Their greatest hit, the enduring classic “Optimism” (you may know it by the refrain, “keep your head to the sky”) still gets airplay wherever R&B radio station are serious about their R&B. They are, of course, in constant demand around the country and abroad. Sounds of Blackness has earned, in a litany of national accolades, three Grammies, a Soul Train Award and an NAACP Image Award. What even diehard devotees to the premiere ensemble may not know is that they’ve entertained across five continents, including stints ranging from such prestigious patronage as heads of state, the 1996 Olympics and 1994 World Cup, to grateful audiences among the disenfranchised, such as homeless children. Continue Reading →

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