Rejection Letter #1

It’s been almost two months since I got my first R.L. from one of the Arts applications I submitted. Admittedly, I’ve been stalling about updating everyone with the results. More interesting, though? My video diary belting out a Barbra Streisand classic and tracking what I’ve been up to since I got the e-mail. Why is Babs being dragged into this? Because there’s nothing like a little drunken (yes, there was alcohol involved in the making of this video) ode to Nikki Arnstein to make me forget how sucky Rejection Letters can be! #PushOnThroughTheStruggle ~ cS, Constance SHERESE

August 20, 2014
Dear Applicant,
Thank you for your interest in the Critic-in-Residence Program. We received a number of outstanding applications and were only able to choose three finalists for this year’s inaugural program. The review committee has considered your request and regrets that we cannot invite you to participate at this time. 
We appreciate the effort you put into submitting your application and we highly encourage you to remain in touch with our organizations in the coming year. 
Sincerely,
Your Latest Motivation

ThrowBackThursday: A Night At The Movies… ahem, Film Fest

Popcorn Buckets at the Door.

It’s #ThrowBackThursday and I’ve been looking through my old blog posts. This is one that’s been listed under my “Last Updated” tab since November 2011. Basically, it was still a draft. I’d been really excited about this post when I first started the topic, but other things came up and somehow I never got back to it. After a while, I started to feel like it wasn’t “new” and “fresh” enough anymore. But who says there’s nothing of value to be had in a slightly middle-aged post? That’s what ThrowBackThursday’s are for! So without further ado, I give you ‘A Night At The Movies… ahem, Film Fest.’

For anyone passing through the Georgia State University campus in downtown Atlanta, GA last Wednesday night it would have looked like a typical evening in college town. Vendors and restaurants closing up shop after the rush, young people making plans with friends about what to do with their next few hours of freedom, and a few dedicated students just heading inside for evening classes. But in one of those classrooms there was a group of students, faculty, and community members coming together for something not so typical to the University. On the corner of Decatur Street and Central Avenue, in the Classroom South Building, a student film festival and panel discussion was taking place burgeoning with fresh young talent and creative ability.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m all about scoping out the new and fresh creative scene. So now that I’ve given you the perfect visual, let’s cut to the juicy parts!

The First Annual Black Student Film Festival (sadly, it was the 1st and only edition of this festival) featured submissions across seven genres: Documentary, Suspense/Mystery/Horror, Comedy, Drama, Romance, Action, and Music/Video – and there were over 20 films screened during the two day festival.

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One of my favorites was the documentary “Keepers of the Culture” – by Amris Bell & Imani Warren

This piece took me back to my childhood days hearing my mother and aunts playfully refer to our family as “a bunch of Guichie’s [sp]” because we all love to eat white rice in place of the more traditional Southern African American breakfast, Grits. I gotta admit, I can throw down on some long grain Carolina white rice! At the time, I thought the word Guichie was simply a reference to rice farmers from the wet marshlands of North and South Carolina.

Around the time I started college, I learned two things. First, that I’d been misspelling the word for years. I think I subconsciously wanted to throw a little French Creole flavor in there. It’s actually spelled “Geechee”. You learn something new every day! I also learned that the Geechees are more than just rice farmers. They’re an entire community of people who migrated to the US from various Afro-Caribbean islands and countries. They’ve managed to preserve a distinct culture – known as the Gullah culture – within this small region. Remember that Nickelodeon children’s show, Gullah Gullah Island? That’s right. It was about the Geechee people of South Carolina!

I was intrigued to discover all this because it shed new light on one of my family’s great mysteries. My grandmother’s real name. I’ve started to think she may have had an Afro-Caribbean background on her father’s side of the family – and a first name to match! Bernice Hopkins, as we all knew her, was the daughter of Susannah Green. Susannah died in child birth when my grandmother was two years old, and Bernice wound up being raised by her maternal grandmother, Betty. So the story goes, Betty never really cared for the name Susannah (or Susannah’s husband, maybe?) had given my grandmother at birth. She made sure my grandmother always knew her real name, but she personally chose to call her by what we think was actually her middle name, Bernice.

When my grandmother got older, she did a bit of the typical teenage rebelling and ran off with a man who was never any good for her. You know the type. Gambler, swindler, drunkard, and all around skirt chaser. But he was fun, exciting, and her over-protective mother (in this case, grandmother) disapproved, so he had to be Mr. Right! Right? Needless to say, the marriage lasted just long enough for him to think he could “lay hands” on my grandmother and she ended it.

Time went by, she met my grandfather, they got married, and she needed to fill out the paper work for a legal name change. Betty had passed away by this time and my grandmother was looking for a way to say “Thank you for raising me and I’m sorry I didn’t appreciate you sooner.” She decided that, although she would always respect her birth mother, the woman she had become was forever tied to the principles Betty taught her. She decided to legally change both her first and last name.

I think she saw it as the great secret of her life. Something that gave her a certain “Je ne sais quoi.” My grandfather probably knew her “real” first name. But neither of them would ever tell the rest of us. She took that knowledge with her to her grave. I’ve often thought about trying to discover her secret. I have an Ancestry.com account, but I go back and forth in my mind about whether it would be a betrayal of her confidence. Then again, if I knew it, I’d name a daughter after her. I still haven’t decided and I may never decide. But films like the one above are a nice reminder that I have a rich cultural history with “new”, “fresh” stories to discover every day!

If you live in the Atlanta area and are interested in other global/ cultural events in the Arts, check out CENCIA’s website. Their current schedule takes audiences from France to Greece to Brazil and back to the United States. Talk about culture! ~ cS

Exploring This Great City of Mine

A few weeks ago, I was in the midst of pre-wedding chaos trying to finalize a stream of last minute details. It was beyond wet and soggy outside, I had two major appointments to go to after work, and no access to a car.

Yeah, it was about to be one of those days.

But I had just finished writing my post about Where The Rabbits Have Been Hiding and had prepared myself to “push through the struggle” for the sake of checking several things off my to-do list that absolutely HAD to get done. Admittedly, I did have to give myself a little pep talk. I thought, “Constance, it’s not like you haven’t taken the bus a million times before, so forget about the fact that you’ve gotten more than a little spoiled with regular access to a car, it’s time to get back to your roots and tough it out. Let’s go!”

Cheesy, I know, but it served it’s purpose. I went online, looked up the bus routes and times that I would need to connect to, and planned out my full trip. Of course, nothing went according to that plan.

I got stuck at work five minutes later than I wanted, the clock on my computer jumped ahead five minutes, and the combined effect left me scrambling because I thought I’d just missed my first bus.

I frantically started walking up the block trying to figure out a way to still make it to my first appointment on time. I vaguely remembered that the bus I needed made several stops near my job. I may have missed the closest one, but if I could run up ahead to the next, I might be able to catch it. I started out in a full sprint – Jackie Joyner Kersee didn’t have nothin’ on me! I made it five city blocks in under two minutes flat, and was just beginning to congratulate myself on a job well done, when the passing thought occurred to me that I wasn’t completely sure this was the location of the next stop!

I mean, I was almost sure. I’d glanced at the bus map and it definitely mentioned something about Spring Street, but was it the corner of Spring & Marietta Streets exactly? I couldn’t remember. Ten minutes later, there was no need to question my memory any longer. No bus had ever arrived and I was even more late than when I started.

I didn’t know what to do at this point, but I couldn’t just stand around waiting for a miracle, so once again I went into “JJK” mode, and started sprinting. Within five more blocks, I was covered in sweat (okay, so I’m no Olympic athlete after all) and the hem of my pants were soggy from the rain. Leave it to Atlanta weather to be disgustingly hot and torrential downpour raining at the same time. The thought had occurred to me more than once so far that this entire situation was beyond comedic in its absurdity.

Well, almost. If it were an episode of “New Girl” instead of my life.

It seemed almost definite that I was going to miss my first appointment, but I still had that whole “push on, through the struggle” mantra ringing in my ears and I couldn’t bring myself to give up just yet. Ten minutes later, I got a little miracle after all. The sound of an approaching bus made me turn around just in time to see my saving grace pulling up like something out of a dream. I promise you, it was epic. The skies parted and there were doves.

Okay, maybe I’m being a little over dramatic, but seriously, you had to be there.

I still haven’t figured out how the exact bus I needed managed to arrive at that moment – was the driver extremely late? was I ahead of schedule and I didn’t know it? did I channel my inner athlete and get 20 minutes ahead of the bus after all? I’m almost positive that last one was a “no” – but whatever the reason, five minutes later I was pulling up to my stop three blocks away from my appointment.

Of course, there was no direct Marta access to the front of the building I was going to; but after everything I’d already been through, I thought that walking three more blocks would be no big deal. Again, I was wrong. If it had been torrential downpour raining earlier, what I experienced in the next few minutes was easily a re-creation of Noahs great flood. By the time I arrived, it wasn’t just the hem of my pants that were soaked but my entire outfit.

My destination was the King Plow Arts Center for a paid business meeting, but I was in serious danger of missing the opportunity. I’d been splashed by passing cars, dunked in massive puddles, and was completely unfit to be seen. I was already five minutes late, and now I needed to stop at a restroom just to make myself presentable. Once again, I didn’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

Ironically, my business meeting was not directly arts related, so having never been to the campus before, I had no idea I was at The King Plow Arts Center. The complex is a large one, so it took at least another ten minutes to find the exact office I was looking for, but I’d realized where I was by now, and was beginning to see a ray of sunshine in this dreary day.

Surprisingly, my colleague was still willing to meet with me, and even better, when I finished the meeting I spent the next twenty minutes exploring the site. By the time I left, the sun had come out for good and I had a three block trek waiting for me to get back out to the nearest Marta stop. I arrived just in time to see the bus pass me by, but somehow I couldn’t muster up the angst to be as upset about it as I should have been.

I like to think of myself as “in the know” when it comes to most of the major art venues in Atlanta, but although I was aware of Midtown West and Marietta Street as an arts district, I’d never taken the time to truly explore the area. I decided that missing the bus to my next appointment gave me the perfect opportunity to play “tourist” for the day and focus on the little details.

I walked past junk yards, the Atlanta Department of Water Works, abandoned lots, and Christmas lights decorated shacks. In the process, I fell in love with this amazing city all over again, and found myself wishing I were the type to walk around with a professional camera around my neck at all times. Instead, my cell phone would have to make due.

An hour later, I finally dragged myself up to the entrance of my second appointment just in time to see another bus roaring past me. This time I didn’t have to think twice about what to do. I laughed out loud!

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