Sounds of Blackness

Recent Articles

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 ( 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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Entertainment Spotlights This Week



Formations, Sediments, Cover-ups, and Remnants: Work by Christopher E. Harrison and Daniel Kerkhoff

The work in this show explores the integration of natural materials and layers to examine the relationship between time, memory, and the world we inhabit. Tue.-Sat., June 21 — July 19, 10 am — 4 pm; Opening reception Sat., June 28, 6-8 pm

Banfill-locke Center for the Arts, 6666 East River Rd., Fridley

Go to or call 763-574-1850 for more information





The 3rd Annual Benefit 2 Celebrate Life

Minneapolis musicians spanning three decades will come together to play the iconic soundtrack to Purple Rain in its birthplace. Featuring Bobby Z & Friends, Sounds of Blackness, Paris Bennett, Dr. Fink, Eric Leeds, Slug (Atmosphere), and more. VIP reception hosted by Apollonia. Sat., Jun. Continue Reading →

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Northsiders mingle with cops, firefighters at People’s BBQ



By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer


If only for a few hours, the city’s North Side and Minneapolis police recently worked together and had fun doing so. At least on that day, August 17, police officers walked among the mostly Black crowd and peacefully coexisted. Minneapolis police, along with Minneapolis firefighters and the Park Board members, held the “Battle of the Badges — The People’s BBQ,” a free food and entertainment event at North Commons Park. One officer later told the MSR that they ran out of food, but it appeared that everyone had fun. In light of recent tensions between the Black community and police, “I thought it was a great idea,” said KMOJ Morning Personality Shedrick Garrett, better known as Shed G. The station was among several local businesses and organizations that helped sponsor the four-hour outdoor event. Continue Reading →

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Youth-focused Black History Month celebration planned

Black parents also encouraged to participate

By Youthprise Staff

Contributing Writers


“Renewing Hope in the Promise of Minnesota’s Youth” is an opportunity to commemorate Black History Month with a series of events on February 26-27 that embrace the insight, resourcefulness and energy of today’s youth, while also tapping into the strengths of African American culture and history. The organizers plan to bring people together across cultural and generational lines to collectively address how African American cultural strengths and lessons from history can be used to address disparities in opportunities and outcomes for under-engaged youth. Planned, orchestrated, and led by youth in partnership with adults, the Black History Month Celebration will include multimedia presentations, artistic expressions, public speaking, and facilitation by local youth in an effort to showcase the diverse skills, talents, and qualities that are being taught and strengthened through local out-of-school time programs.

Dr. Joseph L. White, Ph.D., pioneer in the field of Black psychology, perennial voice for youth empowerment, and strong advocate for leadership development among Black and Latino youth will be a featured guest

throughout the two-day celebration. His keynote presentation, remarks, and facilitated dialogues over the course of the two days are titled “Discovering, Rediscovering and Utilizing the Strengths of the Past to Take Control of Our Destiny as African American Youth in the 21st Century.”

Recent research shows that engaging young people in pursuits that affirm racial pride and promote positive connections to their culture can have a positive impact on academic performance. On that account, teaching youth positive messages about their culture and history can play a fundamental role in laying the foundation for their future success. Continue Reading →

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Local talk-show producer redefines the word ‘frugal’



Keith Porter has found a way around today’s affordable housing crisis. He saves a bundle by forgoing a place of his own. He floats. “I crash with friends. And, when [business] slows down, have a girlfriend I can stay with.”

This is not your conventional instance of being homeless. Continue Reading →

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Hometown talent celebrate BMA’s 25-year anniversary

African American cable music company saluted by local music artists
By Robin James

Contributing Writer


“Coming here tonight, I see so many great friends in the house who are here with us tonight…Without you there would be no us,” Pete Rhodes, the founder of the BMA Network, said at its first BMA Channel celebration held at the Dakota Jazz Club & Restaurant on Friday, December 21. This three-hour event, which Rhodes hosted, was free and open to the public. A first-of-its-kind event, it also served as the 25th anniversary of the BMA Network. Sponsors of the event included IPR, Comcast, and the Minnesota State Lottery. Technically speaking, BMA has been around for 28 years, but as far as formal annual celebrations go, the number 25 works. Continue Reading →

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Sounds of Blackness headline this year’s Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Benefit




Three-time Grammy Award-winning Sounds of Blackness will headline the Eighth Annual Carol Fitzgerald Memorial Fund Benefit on Friday, April 6, at the Metropolitan Ballroom in Golden Valley. Minnesota’s own nationally renowned, multi-talented recording artists and 2012 NAACP Image Award winners are joining superstar NFL six-time All-Pro Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. and the rest of the Fitzgerald family to help raise significant dollars for our target charities — breast cancer, HIV and urban education. Saturday, March 24, Muhammad and Lonnie Ali, founders of Celebrity Fight Night Foundation in Phoenix, Arizona, at their 18th Annual Gala awarded Larry Fitzgerald, Jr. the prestigious 2012 Muhammad Ali Award. The award is presented to extraordinary leaders in sports and the entertainment business who exemplify being champions in their career fields and in winning the fight for charities. The late Mrs. Carol Fitzgerald, his mom, died April 10, 2003 after a tough battle with breast cancer. Continue Reading →

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Community center honors 45 years of S. Mpls Black history ‘We Are Sabathani’ cultural preservation project underway


By Charles Hallman

Staff Writer


Minneapolis’ Southside Black community has a legacy worth noting. Civic leaders, business owners, musicians, doctors: all part of a rich legacy of Minneapolis’ Southside Black community not often talked about. Sabathani Community Center, a building that takes up most of the block between 3rd and 4th Avenues South on 38th Street that once housed a junior high school, served as the launching pad for numerous individuals — from artists to athletes, to politicians to preachers, and countless others — since it opened as a center in 1966 to provide structured activities for area youth. Last week the center announced a new cultural preservation project to introduce to some and reacquaint others to its rich heritage not only to the city’s South Side, but also to the Twin Cities at-large. “We Are Sabathani” is collaboration between the Council on Black Minnesotans and the Minnesota Humanities Center, and funded by money from the state Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Continue Reading →

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Best albums of 2011 make for optimism about 2012



As the year 2011 ends and 2012 begins, one word comes to mind: optimistic. Optimistic is how I feel. Kind of like the song “Optimistic,” sung by the Sounds of Blackness and written by Jimmy Jam for his mother. It’s one of my favorite songs. And I’ve told Jimmy so. Continue Reading →

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