Good Trouble: The Womxn Project mixes art with activism in their latest installation series

Photo Credit: Sara Archandbow

Art + Activism = artivism. And these artivists are coming from The Womxn Project, a non-profit organization focused on building a feminist, community-based movement to further human rights. Their form of artivism is to display words on businesses around Rhode Island to send a message – one that the community is feeling and one that others need to hear. 

The Womxn Project hosted their first artivism display piece in 2018. Their goal? To bring an immediate recognition to inaction with a “big, non-intrusive response.” Jocelyn Foye, director of The Womxn Project, says of the project’s beginnings, “We did it because we wanted to make a big splash that also invited folks who would be running the event to say a few words. It was a one-two punch. We organized it in less than 48 hours. We are a bunch of artists and know of this model [of art] happening for the last 20 years in the art world and beyond.”

These projected messages have returned in 2020, in response to the seemingly insurmountable social injustice happening in our country. The Womxn Project board member and artist Beth Bell says, “The projections bring the issues that our community is facing in Rhode Island directly to people’s backyards. Sometimes politics can seem like an abstract that is happening in the State House. But we can take these messages and project them on a beloved building or space that makes it more personal. Art has that power, to hit you in a more emotional, impactful way that makes you stop and pay attention for a minute.” And really, who isn’t going to stop to see giant words projected onto a building? The art is beautiful and loud, and it says exactly what it needs to. 

A few of this summer’s installations include one at the Black Lives Matter rally, where The Womxn Project and the Democratic Women’s Caucus displayed multiple sayings on the front of the State House, including “WHITE PEOPLE – DO SOMETHING.” Additionally, the artivists were seen at House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello’s office in Cranston, where the words “WHITE SILENCE – VIOLENCE” and “PRIVILEGE IS POWER, USE YOURS TO END RACISM,” were projected onto the outer walls of his office building after the speaker claimed on the radio that he was unsure if slavery existed in Rhode Island. The Womxn Project also projected a record of slaves from Rhode Island onto the wall. This summer had Daria-Lyric Montaquila reading Langston Hughes’ “Let America be America Again” at Linden Place Mansion in Bristol, and Tammy Brown reading “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro” on July 4 at DeWolf Tavern in Bristol. Videos of these performances are on The Womxn Project’s website, and I suggest you watch them.

Where does the art come from? Beth had this to say: “We started with one projector and a generator, and we are now upping our game by adding more teams and projectors so we can have a bigger impact throughout the state. Depending on the event, we mostly create our own imagery unless we are there to support another organization, like we did for the Dyke and Trans POC March and Vigil. We were there to amplify their voice and message, as allies.” 

There are additional installations planned for the summer (and hopefully beyond) through The Womxn Project. Your voice matters, and The Womxn Project is making sure the needs of the community (and country) are being heard.

To get involved, follow them on Instagram (@thewomxnprojecthq) or Facebook (Facebook.com/TheWomxnProjectHQ) or reach out to them via their website. Please note that the projections and artivism activities are typically not posted about in advance, get in touch if you want to help. 




School’s in Session: Administrators plan for a return to school as COVID rages on

It’s almost a Rhode Island tradition that schools are the news story of the summer, but this year it’s for a different reason. Governor Gina Raimondo announced in June that she expects all students in Rhode Island to receive in-person instruction at the start of the school year. COVID-19 is still endemic in American life, and at the end of this month more than 100,000 students will return for their education. In prior years, public schooling was facing a variety of crises: ranging from funding problems to bussing issues and aging building stock that in some cases were literally making students and staff sick. Compounding all these issues now is the omnipresent threat of the coronavirus. There is a distinct feeling of unease across the state this month, and it’s not hard to see why.

Districts were expected to hand in three plans each on July 17. For the first time in state history, all districts would be following a state-mandated calendar. The first plan required the districts to provide in-person learning for all students, with measures to protect students and staff from coronavirus. Schools had to come up with mask recommendations and cleanliness requirements, all while maintaining educational equity. In the second plan, districts had to make provisions for distance learning, where all students would learn online through some kind of video classroom system. The final plan was to be a hybrid of the first two, with some students learning from home and some students learning in school. Here’s a selected summary of them:

Planned If We Do, Planned If We Don’t

Unusually, Providence Public School District (PPSD) provided plans for four scenarios, breaking the hybrid plan into two. The district has guidelines for limited in-person learning and partial in-person learning. Upfront in the PPSD’s plans is increasing the bell times. Prior to COVID, the PPSD system ran on two different start times. In order to increase access to transportation, PPSD has opted for three start times in the upcoming year: 7:30am, 8:30am and for elementary schools, 9:30am. Kindergarteners will be placed in the closest school to their home, with students still allowed the option of walking or driving to school. Students will be screened daily for symptoms, and mask protocols will be in place. Students in grades K through 8 will remain in pods of up to 30 students. Middle and high school students will be in the buildings on different days to limit exposure and enable social distancing. 

Most notably, PPSD is offering a virtual academy. All students can use the virtual academy if desired, assessed on a semesterly basis. Students opting for this online option will maintain communication with their current schools, with teachers available at specific office hours. In their in-person learning and hybrid plans, the youngest and most at-need students will receive as much in-person instruction as possible. In a hybrid plan, older students will rotate in-school/at-home learning much like a traditional block schedule, with at worst, only the 11/12th graders receiving distance learning. For lunch time, any communal eating (in a cafeteria type setting) should be disinfected between each use. 

Barrington has similar plans to stagger start times, limit the number of students in schools and reduce “classroom transitions,” a euphemism for students’ in-between class times. Younger students will keep the same class size and develop new protocols for moving throughout the buildings. Students in 7th grade or higher will have class size capped at 15 students with three adults allowed in the stable group. Students will social distance in the classroom at 6 feet apart or the school will install dividers to keep germ transmission down.

Students and staff who are at-risk for COVID-19 at Barrington schools will be allowed online options. Schools will have policies in place to screen students for symptoms as they come in, and any student or staff member feeling sick will be expected to stay home. Staff will be discouraged from travel. A negative COVID test alone is not an acceptable reason to return to school if a student or staff member has COVID symptoms. Like Providence, meals will be pre-packaged instead of being served in order to curb chances of transmission. 

Newport’s plan includes students rotating from in-person learning to distance learning throughout the week in an A/B block scheduling pattern. Grades 6 and below would receive in-person instruction daily. All students would see staggered start times, with Wednesday dedicated to distance learning for everyone. The hybrid plan for Newport schools has all students on a rotating A/B block schedule divided simply into two groups alphabetically by last name. Their distance learning plan has pretty much its entire student body moved to a virtual education; students with only the most special needs have any possibility of in-person instruction.

Rhode Island Revolt?

Last week, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten announced any AFT chapter wishing to go on a safety strike or perform any advocacy or direct action would receive the full support and backing of the national. “We are not currently planning to strike,” said Maribeth Calabro, president of the Providence Teachers union. Calabro says they are planning to communicate with parents and other stakeholders to bring any concerns to district administration. If those concerns are not addressed by next month, the union will go from there. According to Calabro, at least 40% of Providence’s teachers have been there 20 years or more. While no one has the specific breakdown of the teaching workforce, it means a huge chunk of them are older and possibly at risk.

Calabro is also concerned about the state of disrepair in schools; Providence has school buildings where the windows literally do not open. Ventilation, a key component in curbing transmission of COVID-19, is almost impossible for a lot of schools in the city. Other concerns she has include how schools are going to accomplish mandatory fire drills without overcrowding the halls, and having enough PPE to ensure equity among the student population. 

Safety is the number one concern among educators this summer. “As a high school teacher, I cannot think of any plan right now to make me feel safe enough to teach in-person,” said one teacher in an emailed interview with Motif. “Having plexiglass, shields, masks, PPE, etc. does not change the fact that I would be seeing 100-plus students and teachers each week.”

High school students will encounter directly or indirectly up to 80 people per day. Teachers are also on record questioning the suspension of social gathering limits for classrooms. Most notably, during a public Zoom meeting of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, a student from The Met pointed out the hypocrisy of sending students back to school for in-person learning, while the Council met virtually.

“I don’t want to teach online,” said another teacher. “I love teaching in Providence, I love forging a relationship with students in person, I love my classroom. But the only way to begin this year … is online because the risk is far, far too great.” Distance learning was not ideal this past spring, the teacher admits. In his classroom, maybe 40% of students were showing up by the end of distance learning, compared to closer to 100% if it was a normal school year.

Best Laid Plans…

While the governor was hoping COVID rates would continue to plummet, in the past few weeks our number of daily cases has slowly crept upward, making it look like 100% in-person learning for the school year will approach impracticality. Key among the governor’s expectations is the use of distance learning as a semi-permanent backup when outbreaks occur in schools; however, no data exists for the effectiveness of distance learning. Motif asked during one of the governor’s weekly COVID press conference about the status of a formal assessment for distance learning in Rhode Island; Commissioner Angelica Infante Green answered it was scheduled for this autumn.

When Motif asked Governor Raimondo the same question in the first week of June what the plan was for a state assessment on distance learning, however, she answered one was underway. Commissioner Green issued a statement through RIDE that said: “We anticipate being able to field the first set of assessments this fall, with a first set of data available to our local education agencies in November. This will depend on several factors, including the availability of funding, the proposals we receive and the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” There was no response about the contradicting statements Motif pointed out, and the governor’s office did not answer or issue a statement.

All the school district plans are subject to change. RIDE announced last week that they will instruct each district which operational plan they should use to start the year — full in-person, hybrid or distance learning. The state will use metrics like the COVID-positive rate of the town, the readiness of the school district when it comes to testing and PPE in making their decision. The governor stated during a press conference last month that testing onsite at schools should have a turnaround of 48 to 72 hours, but as COVID surges across America, testing takes longer and longer.

As for what will happen in Rhode Island schools, only time will tell.




Ocean State Placed on Travel Restriction Lists: A summary of the governor’s August 5 press conference

All packed up with nowhere to go; RI placed on other states’ travel restrictions lists

Governor Gina Raimondo, RIDE Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green, and DOH director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott gave the COVID-19 press briefing today at 1pm.

Today’s COVID data is as follows: DOH is reporting 84 new cases since yesterday. “Certainly better than the triple digits we’ve been having,” said the governor. Seventy-nine people are hospitalized for reasons related to the coronavirus. Of those, 14 people are in the ICU, and five of those people are on ventilators. DOH also reports one additional death, a person in their 80s.

The press conference started a few minutes late today, as the governor explained she was surveying damage from yesterday’s intense winds and rain. “It’s a serious storm, it came and went quickly,” she said. According to National Grid, 150,000 customers had power outages across the state. At the time of the press conference that number had been reduced to 70,000. Important to note: Customers frequently means households, not individual persons without power.

The big news at today’s press conference was the Ocean State’s recent placement by other states in New England on travel restrictions lists. New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and others have mandated Rhode Islanders traveling to their states must be quarantined for 14 days or provide a negative COVID test. The governor was not surprised, saying, “We’ve consistently had days when we have over 100 new cases a day.” More than 11% of positive COVID-19 cases in Rhode Island are from state residents traveling to other states and then returning.

Social gatherings are still proving difficult for the state to control. The governor today repeated that the social gathering limit was 15 — 15 of the same people. Anyone violating the social gathering limit mandate without proper distancing or masks can expect a $500 fine for each individual at the gathering.

Rhode Island’s bars are failing to keep social congregations down. As a result, the governor today announced all bars should close by 11pm. Restaurants with bars could remain open for longer, but the bar area must be closed. The state has heard numerous reports of customers clustering at bars. Only 20% of bars are complying with DBR regulations to maintain some distancing or barrier separating bartenders from the customers.

Governor Raimondo also announced today the state had signed two new contracts with two commercial testing labs. Both have pledged to process 1,000 COVID tests daily. One of them, a local lab in North Kingstown by the name of Dominion Diagnostics, has said they will increase their capacity next month to 7,000. A low turnaround time on testing has proven key to contact tracing and combating the virus, as well as reopening schools later this month.

Any asymptomatic Ocean State resident between the ages of 18 and 39 can get a COVID test, the governor announced today. She wants to test as many young people as possible, as this age group has the largest proportion of percent positive cases. Interested parties should go to portal.ri.gov to schedule their test.

The state today broke down one of the metrics used to determine how schools could open later this month. That metric was the number of weekly cases in each town. Raimondo said today each town must have a weekly case incidence of fewer than 100 new cases per 100,000 people. Based on the data from last week, only Providence, Pawtucket and Central Falls would be unable to fully reopen their schools because of this one metric. Raimondo reminded listeners that there are four other metrics school districts must satisfy, including having a ready supply of PPE and a sufficient operational plan in place in case of outbreaks. “It really elevates the concept that as a state, we want to keep our eyes on the prize,” said Dr. Alexander-Scott.

Final decisions for which level schools will use to reopen will be handed down on the week of August 16. Raimondo also announced today the state will not force any student who does not feel safe to go to school. Distance learning and virtual options will be available to all students in the state.




Rock ‘n’ Roll Villains: Ravi Shavi unleash Special Hazards

On their third full-length release, Special Hazards, Ravi Shavi unleash a collection of 14 songs chock full of grooves, trashy surf and classic pop.  Gems like “Going Going Gone” come off like a letter to an old flame with singer/guitarist Rafay Rashid asking, “How’s the city, how’s your mom, do you still have a car, have you taken your pills, have you smoken a joint?”  The wistful chorus features backing vocals from Roz Raskin. One of the older songs in Ravi Shavi’s repertoire, “Is It True,” is a sunny burst of classic pop buttressed by backing vocals from Raskin as well as Kate Jones and Emily Shaw of The Sugar Honey Iced Tea. “High Hopes” has a Cramps-style guitar-from-the-gutter stomp with a guest appearance by Ian O’Neil of Deer Tick. O’Neil also appears on “Violence,” which has an early 2000s alternative rock flavor. “Absent Minded Fool” is a lament with the feel of a cool flamenco guitar gone wrong. The final track, “Casino,” is my favorite with its eerily seductive lyrics like, “Why don’t you take a gamble, I’ll be your casino,” floating like smoke through the air over a funky garage backbeat. Special Hazards is available now on Ravi Shavi’s Bandcamp page with physical copies on vinyl and CD coming later this year.  

I spoke with Rafay Rashid to discuss pandemic living, how he and guitarist Nick Politelli write, and the villainous undercurrent flowing through Special Hazards.

Marc Clarkin (Motif): How have you been spending this weird time we’re all in?

Rafay Rashid (Ravi Shavi): I’ve been kind of going through it with everybody else. I’ve always felt that the world is ending, and this has just been sort of more concrete or a manifestation of that. I’ve been writing more and doing some side projects. I’ve been trying to spend more time with my friends and family while still, you know, trying to keep the disease at bay. I just got tested a week ago, not because I had any symptoms; I was just curious. I was negative, so hooray, right? No COVID for me!

MC: One of my favorite songs on Special Hazards is “Sixes and Sevens,” where you have a great line in the chorus: “We’re not going to heaven, we’re still stuck in traffic.” How did that song come about?

RR: Well that was the pinnacle of me and Nick Politelli, our guitarist, just writing in a frenzy to create material for the album. We had come up with God knows, like 40 to 50 songs. When we whittled it down, that was one of the ones that stuck. We kind of knew when we wrote it that it was going to stick. It was just a combination of trying to figure out how to be as abrasive as we were on our first two records while reflecting a little bit lyrically. It was more of a statement song in terms of where we’re heading. All the songs were written before COVID-19 or 2020. We actually wrote all these songs lyrically about four years ago. So everything that you hear on the album lyrically has been written well before this time, but yeah, it kind of felt prophetic in a way. Not saying that we’re soothsayers, but I feel like there’s a sense that like everybody kind of knew where this was headed. “We’re not going to heaven, we’re still stuck in traffic” is like, we all have to work through a lot of things in order to get to this idyllic place that our collective imagination brings us.  

MC: “Red Hands” is carried by a funk backbeat that kind of reminds me of earlier Prince. Were there any new things you want to try with Special Hazards?

RR: So one thing about Special Hazards that is unlike the rest of the albums, it was a very concentrated time in which we were working on the album. On this one, because of the way the time schedule worked out with our label, we had a lot of time to work on demos. This was actually sort of a compendium of everything that we worked on while we were trying to catch up with ourselves in terms of releasing stuff to the label — whether it be album covers or waiting for the pressing plants, which take a certain amount of time. So we basically whittled it down to 50 to 60 of our best songs. I think this one was the most collaborative between myself and Nick. “Red Hands,” along with probably about 70% of the songs on the album, were a 50/50 effort between me and Nick, which was cool. So on “Red Hands,” Nick did all the music and I just wrote the melody and vocals on top of it. There was a cynical brooding element to it; our engineer pointed out that this is like kind of our foreboding album.  

MC: You made a video for “Casino,” which, in addition to being one hell of a jam, doesn’t sound like anything else you’ve done. How did that one come about?  

RR: I guess with songs like “Casino,” “High Hopes,” “Red Hands” and “Going Going Gone” we found a thread of a narrative in between these demos that we had done. Then we were like, “Where’s the story here?” even though we’re not really like a story or conceptual album band. We somehow found a story within the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink format. So we just picked the songs that fit the story, which was loose. It was somewhere between a heist and an emotional robbery. So there’s some love songs, there’s some nostalgic stuff, but then there’s some straight-up let’s go ahead and take what we can get type of thing. We did feel like the enemy a little bit — it came from a villainous perspective in a lot of ways.

Email music news to mclarkin33@gmail.com




Phillipe & Jorge’s Cool, Cool World: Nailed it!: Your superior correspondents know food when they see it

Out-thunk

During the COVID pandemic, no governor has surpassed Gina Raimondo or New York’s Andrew Cuomo in carrying out hard-assed plans. We are all familiar with Gigi’s now-famous “Knock it off,” and Cuomo seems to take some of his better moves from Raimondo’s playbook.

Cuomo is also far from shy. In a recent article, one of Cuomo’s aides said of his heavy-handed approach to governing that he saw himself as the hammer, and everyone else as nails.

But like the Orange Orangutan in the White House, Cuomo moved a little too fast with not enough thought. When Cuomo acted with too heavy a hand after lifting some restrictions on bars and restaurants, the bars were crowded and not self-distancing. So Cuomo did a quick U-turn and put out an edict saying only bars that served food could stay open. But one clever bar owner at an upstate New York pub started selling “Cuomo chips” for a dollar when the customers bought their beer, wine or drinks — a small bowl of potato chips that qualified as “food.” Cuomo’s gang then had to rush through another set of rules, describing what “food” would be interpreted as, essentially sandwiches on up.

Too clever by half, Andy. That was one nail that wasn’t going to be driven.

Sweet Lou

There was sadness at P&J’s Casa Diablo home when we learned of the death of the legendary former Pawtucket Red Sox veep and general manager Lou Schwechheimer due to COVID-related illness. Along with Ben Mondor and Mike Tamburro, this troika rescued the PawSox from the jaws of death and turned the team and McCoy Stadium into must-visit Little Rhody. (This will end in the next year when they move to Worcester, thanks to our politicos in one of the most clueless and boneheaded moves ever seen at the Smith Street legislative castle, and boy, is that a crowded field.)

Lou was one of the sweetest, nicest men we’ve ever met, and talented as well. He was a two-time Executive of the Year for the Pawsox’ International League, and was inducted into its Hall of Fame last year. He also treated P&J magnificently, having tapped Jorge to sing the national anthem at one game and letting Phillipe throw out the first pitch on a long-ago Memorial Day.

You put wonderful memories in countless fans, Lou. There is no measuring their impact on future baseball players and fans. Salud!

They All Look Alike

Following the George Floyd murder atrocity and the death of Rep. John Lewis, a race and social equity pioneer, white folks who aren’t actively protesting for causes like Black Lives Matter are finding it difficult to explain their support for racial equality without uttering the dreaded words, “Some of my best friends are Black.”

President Walking Eagle (he’s so full of shit he can’t fly) was too busy tweeting out lies and misinformation to attend any of the many services for Lewis. (The idea of The Donald even mentioning George Floyd is laughable.) Simply disgraceful.

This is called a dog whistle in politics. You can’t hear it, but the mutts in Walking Eagle’s base heard his message loud and clear: Trump has no respect for people of color, and has delivered to the MAGA Cap morons a concept that leaves them giddy.

Since Lewis was a member of Congress and there was a tribute to him in Washington, you can bet many pols were slicing onions under their noses and eyes to bring forth the expected tears. But Republican Senators Marco Rubio (retch!) and Dan Sullivan wanted to give a visual salute. So they posted photos of themselves with a Black man, who, unfortunately for them, was Rep. Elijah Cummings, who popped his clogs last October.

Meanwhile in Hollywood

Olivia de Haviland, one of the last surviving major stars of filmdom’s golden age, passed away at her home in Paris on July 26 at the age of 104. She is now indeed Gone With the Wind. Also, so long to Annie Ross, the great jazz singer from Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. She also appeared in a few films.

Let the People Be Heard

Now that the former Washington Redskins have finally dumped the “Redskins” from their name because it was deemed offensive, they need a new moniker. May Phillipe and Jorge suggest they do not consult the general public?

P&J point to the British Natural Environment Research’s Internet poll of the Great Unwashed to name their new polar research vessel. Through some high tech, big laughs trickery, the winning entry was “Boaty McBoatface,” hands down winner over the runner-up.

This obviously did not sit well with the stuffy, brass-necked British government, who wasted no time in getting their science minister to scuttle any hopes of a Boaty McBoatface cruising arctic waters. Sad.

But c’mon Washington football team. You have enough political lunatics in DC to warrant a new name like the Washington Fat Cats or Washington Money Grubbers, which we are certain would at least lead to a presidential endorsement. You’re speaking his language, folks.




Mother, May I?: Kids’ worlds are shrinking and it’s no fun — here’s how parents can help

My kids are in mourning. They miss spontaneous playdates with friends. They miss their out-of-state grandparents’ summer visit. They miss their freedom. And because they don’t have the emotional maturity to articulate those feelings, they bubble over in uncharacteristic and inconsolable bouts of tears, random questions that give me glimpses into their psyches and many, many sleepless nights. I thought I was doing everything right for them during the pandemic and subsequent lockdown. And now, I’m worried.

I spoke with Micaela Materne, a child development specialist, who says, “Kids are really good barometers of our emotions even if they’re underlying or unspoken. Children pick up on parents’ fear, anger or stress. And that’s going to stress them out. So they’re digesting a lot of emotions, but they don’t know how to get rid of them or express them.” Luckily, parents and caregivers can help kids exorcise those bad feelings. Materne continues, “I think for a lot of families, keeping kids home feels safest. But kids need an outlet for their emotions. They need to be able to burn their energy off on a bike ride or a run or whatever is therapeutic for that particular child.”

Julia Steiny, founder of the Youth Restoration Project says, “Kids are really lonely at this point. We know that the negative health effects of loneliness in adults is the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. But you can’t measure it in kids that way because is manifests differently.” Steiny suggests that parents gather kids into closed pods and then hang back to let them take the lead in exploring nature. They’ll discover social and emotional skills in the process and learn to cope with adversity and experiment with resilience. “Parents shouldn’t keep kids from experiencing that,” she says.

Materne also respects kids’ resilience, but cautions parents to be prepared to support them when they are not. “Kids need this bubble around them that allows them to fall almost flat on their faces, but there’s a hand to prop them back up before it gets really ugly.”

Karin Wetherill, co-director of the Rhode Island Healthy Schools coalition agrees with the importance of getting outside. “One blessing of this happening during the spring and summer is that we can get outdoors. Physical activity can boost your mood and lower stress.” Providence parks opened all of their playgrounds to the public in July and stations play ambassadors at the playgrounds from noon to 5pm, Monday through Friday, to greet visitors, ensure social distancing, provide masks and hand sanitizer, clean the playgrounds twice a day and educate visitors about safety guidelines. “They want to make sure families have access [to playgrounds] as safely as possible,” Wetherill says.

Licensed mental health counselor and registered play therapist Gabrielle Dworkin says that in her practice, she’s seeing a lot of kids with anxiety. “There’s also some depression,” she says. “Kids are sad about school and not seeing their friends. They’re sad about transitions as they enter new grade levels without saying goodbye to teachers. Many of them are grieving a loss.” Dworkin encourages as much safe interaction as possible. “I encourage Facetime. I encourage talking to friends on the phone.” She also mentions ways caregivers can bring forms of play therapy home. “Children express themselves through play,” she says. “They can use dolls, art, puppets or music. Whatever you can do to help the child express how they’re feeling because they don’t have the words to say, ‘I’m sad.'”

Materne echoes this sentiment. “Play needs to be a prioritized outlet. It’s how children can play out their fears and work through them, and also how they can find pleasure, comfort, relaxation and joy.” And she encourages caregivers to also find some time for play. “It shows our kids we practice what we preach.” 




Precarious Pandemic Predicament: Dying for music, but don’t wanna die for music

Okee dokee folks… I am in a bit of a precarious pandemic predicament. One one hand I REALLY want live music to start happening again; I want to get back to performing, writing about what is coming up, and reviewing and photographing shows. On the other hand I REALLY don’t think it is wise to be out because people are still getting sick and dying from the Trump Virus (COVID). Rhode Island WAS doing well, among the top states handling this, but we have started to backslide, so I don’t want to encourage anyone to go out when I don’t really want to go out. These days I only venture to the grocery store, and sometimes I feel like I am one of the few people taking this pandemic seriously because I have seen people publicly flaunting the fact that they are infected with the Moronavirus by NOT wearing a mask in a store or social distancing. People have been going out and having fun; I guess there is just no stopping them even in life-and-death situations. Some venues have been getting creative about presenting live music by holding drive-in concerts, socially distanced performances and livestreams from empty venues. I played one private show a few weeks ago. I felt safe because I was outside under a tent and roped off and distanced from people, and everyone in attendance wore a mask. In all honesty, if I did not feel safe I would have left and not done the show. As much as I agree with the sentiment, “Stay the fuck home!” I can’t force anyone to stay home, not even my parents or my girlfriend. They go out to casinos, restaurants and wineries, but I will not, not until the all clear is loudly sounded. Sure, you can take your chances, but PLEASE practice social distancing and try not to affect anyone else, especially if you have the Moronavirus. By the way, alcohol increases the affects of the Moronavirus, just so you know. Read on…

Festival fans have gotten extra depressed over the past couple of weeks and probably will continue to sink deeper in the coming weeks. The COVID cancellation of festivals like Newport Folk and Jazz, Falcon Ridge, Grey Fox, Rhythm and Roots, and Providence Folk Festival have left huge holes in the souls of the tribes of annual festival gatherers. Many have tried to connect online and listen to streams of past shows or livestreams of some of the artists who were scheduled to perform. While the internet is no match for a true festival experience, the upside is that you won’t have to use a port-a-john!

Some live music is coming back under strict guidelines, though the openings may be changed as the virus progresses. It is very important if you do attend any performance that you adhere to the rules that are in place for everyone’s protection. If they are not followed it could cause problems for the venue and cause another shutdown of that establishment. Don’t be the reason for closure and more importantly, don’t spread your germs!

Here are a few places that are currently presenting performances, though you will need to check for updates because the virus doesn’t play by the rules and can alter schedules at will. If you are in need of a good laugh, the Comedy Connection in East Providence has some big names stopping in for multiple dates. Chelsea Handler takes over from August 10 through the 12th, and you can take a “Break” with Michelle Wolfe, August 28 and 29. Giggle over to ricomedyconnection.com

The Rathskeller Tavern has a nice outdoor set up (according to my girlfriend) and has quite a few bands on the remainder of their summer schedule. Wild Nights, 7 Day Weekend, Paula Clare Blues, Nick Bosse, Another Tequila Sunrise, Steve Smith, Take It To The Bridge, Underestimated Prophet, Dirty Deeds and others are slated for shows until the end of August. For more, hit the back roads to thecharlestownrathskeller.com

PumpHouse Music Works in Peacedale lets the music play on their front lawn! Coming up: Sidy Maiga and Afrimanding with Rhode To Bali, Tai Chi Funk Squad, Dysfunktone, Guess Method & Smug Honey, Troy Gonyea Band, The Honk & Country DNA, Leland Brown Quartet & Blue City Quartet, Slurp & Dudemanbro, Duke Robillard, Will Evans, Fellswater and more. They will have an outdoor bar and food trucks available. Shady Lea to pumphousemusicworks.com for info and reservations.

The Complaints will be at Finn’s Harborside in East Greenwich on August 14 (finnsharborside.com). Strings Bar & Grill on George Waterman Rd in Johnston has Juxo & Lisa Marie on August 8 (stringsbar.com).
On Sunday, August 16, enjoy a Blues Concert with Helen Sheldon and The Trash Pandas at the Lippitt House Museum on Hope Street in Providence (preserveri.org/contact-lippitt-house-museum). The Last Resort in Smithfield has Aerosmith tribute Last Child on August 8 (thelastresortri.com).

Common Fence Music will present Jake Blount, an award-winning banjoist, fiddler and singer in a free online concert on Sunday, August 9 at 7 pm. A link will be provided at commonfencemusic.org at showtime and all tips go to the artist. A Musical Journeys interview with Jake will immediately follow the concert.

Lucy’s Hearth, Newport County’s only homeless shelter for children and their families, announces its virtual summer concert, We Love Lucy’s Hearth, slated to air Wednesday, August 19 at 8pm. Scheduled to appear are Nancy Paolino, Alan Bernstein, Mike Renzi, Slackwater String Band, John Monllos, Joanne Rodino, Dopey Lopes, Jimmy Winters, Carrigan Nelson, Jonathan Perry, Leslie Grimes and Matt Bruneau. Being homeless during this pandemic places additional stress on families and the services provided by Lucy’s Hearth. The suggested donation is $25. Warm up to lucyshearth.org for donation and viewing details.

A few years back, Canadian songwriter Kathleen Edwards quit the music biz and opened Quitters Coffee Shop in Stittsville, Ontario. If you are a fan like me, that was a disappointing decision. Edwards has done a bit of an about face and will be releasing her first full length recording in almost eight years. The album, Total Freedom, will be out the second week of August. To pre-order your copy keep your “Options Open” and get to kathleenedwards.com.

Brianna White, a Motif Music Award Winner, has just released new project called Resonate. White is known for her use of looping devices to enhance her solo performances. Her recorded material is radio friendly, catchy and slick. Check out her video for the song “Jaded” on her YouTube channel. Brianna is definitely one of the bright spots on the Rhode Island music scene. For more, hop over to brianawhitemusic.com 

Neil Young has reworked the lyrics and released the song “Looking For A Leader 2020” as a protest against the squatter in the White House. He is also considering bringing suit against the mango moron for his use of “Rockin’ In The Free World.” Go Neil! You can hear the song and read Neil’s take on things at NeilYoungArchives.com

One more thing, someone made a comment on Facebook last week that there is a lack of coverage for the local music scene by the RI press. That is completely untrue! Remember: If I don’t know about it, I can’t write about it. You have to send a press release at least two weeks before an event to be considered for coverage. It is just that easy. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading. If you all get sick from going out I don’t want to hear about it! JohnFuzek.com #DumpTrump2020




My Rhode Island: Photographer and physician Howard Schulman discusses his exhibit

We spoke with Howard Schulman, MD, whose photography show, My Rhode Island, is currently on exhibit at BankRI in downtown Providence through September.

Cathren Housley (Motif): Which came first, the photographer or the doctor?

Howard Schulman: As far as composing pictures and capturing things I’ve seen, that was definitely something that started after I became a physician. I started putting up photographs in my waiting room and got positive feedback from unassuming patients. I had my first show at AS220 in 1999. Since, I’ve done about four shows on my own, a couple other small group shows and about seven multi-artist shows. 

CH: What inspired you to begin taking pictures?

HS: I’m a curious person and do a lot of wandering around. When I came to Rhode Island, I thought the whole place was gorgeous. That’s what inspired me – and having a camera with me to record where I go and what I’m seeing is a natural fit for my lifestyle. If I do too much photography, it loses its fun, so it’s usually something that goes along with me when I am traveling or hiking or hanging out at a really cool place and exploring. 

CH: Did you have any formal education in photography? 

HS: After starting out, I did read or browse through a book or two and even tried a continuing education course at RISD, but I think my focus was mostly on trying to understand the mechanics – what the camera could do and how I could capture what I was seeing. The advice on photography I remember best was from Berge Zobian, owner of Gallery Z and a professional portrait photographer. He told me to aim down a little bit more and capture more foreground. It was always a fight, how much foreground to capture in landscape pictures, but Berge made me aware of it in a different way.

After I developed my own process and style I started looking at other photographers, known artists. I wanted to try and understand why people appreciated their work – why did viewers take a second look at a photograph after passing it; why did a person linger in front of a certain piece? To me, it’s always fun to spend time thinking about it. Clearly, some photographs work and others don’t – trying to capture whatever that is, is always a struggle.

CH: What other photographers do you like? 

HS: I own photographs by Herb Ritts and Josef Karsh; I also like Ansel Adams and Richard Avedon. I love looking at ancient photographs over 100 years old in museums, and I’m fascinated by photographs taken of people at the beginning of photograph, from 1840 through 1860. I’ve traveled all over the United States and the world for 25 years and always I’ve gone to the museums and outdoor art fairs wherever I went, so I’ve seen a lot. On Instagram, I like looking at other Rhode Island photographers. I appreciate other people’s black and white photographs, although for my photographs I strongly prefer color. I almost can’t imagine myself taking black & white photographs.

CH: What kind of equipment do you use?

HS: Up until a couple years ago when the digital cameras became good enough, I really loved my Pentax 67 camera, medium format. The negatives were five times the size of a regular 35mm camera and held detail in bigger enlargements. Now the digital cameras can handle that and there’s something new called RAW image format, which does a job in conjunction with the computer. With film, I had always had problems with content getting hidden by dark areas and washed out in others. With this technology, I’m able to capture what I’m looking at. 

CH: You had a show at BankRI with an opening planned for March 17 on Gallery Night. What happened?

HS: Before the reception, I had a strong hunch a lockdown was going to happen. It was just a question if my show would open before it did. I had already invited about everyone I knew, and Gallery Night had already arranged for a musician, food and publicity. But honestly, as a physician in the middle of the pandemic, there was so much else on my mind that the cancellation of a show that I had worked a year on and had waited over five years for, felt like a passing thought and not a major letdown. 

BankRI is currently open by appointment only; the show will remain until September. For a video walk through, visit https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BOVhNnl1AJE




Parenting on Pot: Our expert discusses the risks, rewards and recommendations

Cannabis is used by adults all over the world to take the edge off after a long day, to help ease debilitating medical conditions, or just to relax after putting the kids to bed. A 2017 survey of more than 10,000 cannabis users conducted by California cannabis company Eaze found that 1 in 5 respondents were parents, and 63% of them partake daily. These numbers certainly reflect a growing community of cannabis users in this new age of legalization for medical and recreational use in the US, but there is still a significant amount of stigma associated with cannabis consumption, especially when it comes to parenting.

Why is it that memes celebrating #winemom culture are seen as relatable, while many parents who use cannabis are still afraid to admit it to friends and other parents? It’s no secret that alcohol is by far the most glorified drug in American culture, but it’s pretty frustrating to realize that there are parents sitting in jail cells or fighting for custody of their children because of their medical cannabis use, while others drink alcohol in front of their kids every night, no questions asked.

“But what about the CHILDREN!?” (cue hand-wringing and Reefer Madness-esque paranoia) seems to be the last crumbling argument that proponents of the failed War on Drugs are using to support the continued prohibition of marijuana, a drug proven to be far safer than alcohol in spite of its
federal Schedule 1 status. Because of its longstanding illegality, the stigma against marijuana has been deeply implanted into the American psyche for generations, and it’s no surprise that parents feel that they would be judged or even vilified for their cannabis use. In fact, it’s justified — cannabis use continues to be levied against parents in custody battles, court cases and family disputes, even in states with legalized adult use.

Even before giving birth, mothers face scrutiny, and while the topic of cannabis use while pregnant is controversial and the research is minimal at best, it’s worth noting that an increased number of women are choosing to use cannabis medicine to ease some of the more challenging symptoms of
pregnancy; a recent survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network showed a doubling in the number of pregnant women who reported using marijuana in the previous month between 2007 and 2012 (4%), compared with just over 2% in 2002. When you consider that pregnant women are often given prescription drugs to combat morning sickness and pregnancy pain, it makes sense that they would seek out alternatives that they perceive to be safe, especially as cannabis culture and education are becoming more normalized and available.

When it comes to medical use of marijuana, many parents have found that they prefer the relief and cognitive presence offered by cannabis as opposed to opiates or other prescription drugs. While interviewing parents for a Leafly piece last year, writer Meg Hartley noted, “the thing that people don’t seem to realize is that having a chronic condition can severely and negatively impact one’s ability to parent, and pharmaceutical medications often come with side effects that exacerbate this problem. In many cases of chronic illness sufferers, cannabis is the option that yields the best ability to parent.”

Whether using it for medical or recreational purposes, many parents report appreciating the mindfulness, emotional availability and presence they experience when interacting with their children after consuming cannabis, in addition to the therapeutic effects.

I am certainly not suggesting that cannabis use in front of children is a good idea. In fact, there are a host of risks that should be assessed when navigating the waters of parenting on pot, but I would argue that parents should treat their cannabis like they would any other medicine or intoxicant in the home. We know that second-hand smoke is dangerous in any context, and it’s obvious that substances that could be harmful to children should always be kept locked away and securely out of the reach of children — including cannabis, alcohol, prescription drugs, and other chemicals. Similarly, parents’ first priority should always be the safety and wellbeing of their children, and any substance that could alter an adult’s reaction time or mental capacity in the case of an emergency should be carefully administered, and definitely not consumed prior to driving.

Most parents who consume cannabis do so after their children are asleep or in a discreet manner without their kids’ knowledge. When doing so, it’s important to know your effective dose, and to refrain from experimenting with new consumption methods or dosages when children may be present.
Many parents enjoy vaping or edibles as an inconspicuous way to consume cannabis, but should be wary of delayed or increased intoxicating effects of edibles, as strengths and reactions vary widely. It may be a good idea to start with edibles that come in 5mg (or less) “microdose” servings, but
regardless of strength, locking up cannabis edibles is critically important, especially since they often look like a treat kids might enjoy.

As cannabis becomes more ubiquitous among legal states and throughout the world, the stigma and misinformation surrounding the plant will surely diminish, and hopefully we can get to a place where drug education for children is actually science-based, unbiased, realistic and informative —
a far cry from the “Just Say No” messaging and DARE program scare tactics that were ingrained in so many of us. In the meantime, recreational or medical cannabis use presents a unique opportunity for parents to have honest, age-appropriate conversations with their kids about marijuana and other substances.

When talking to your kids about cannabis, it’s important to tell the truth about why people consume it, and to stick to the facts. Research shows that heavy cannabis use among adolescents can be detrimental to the developing brain, for example, but the gateway drug theory has been thoroughly debunked, so it’s wise to stay away from that message. Be honest about what you know and don’t know, and encourage your children to come to you with their questions about cannabis and other intoxicants – if you don’t know the answer, do the research and get back to them with your findings. It’s not your fault that you didn’t get a good drug education, but it’s your responsibility to ensure that your children have more reliable information than you did. Children are often capable of understanding more nuance than we give them credit for, and the simple fact is that they will most likely encounter cannabis at some point in their adolescent years, so it’s up to parents to make sure they are prepared with accurate and up-to-date information.

As the stigma fades and more parents come out of the cannabis closet, it is my hope that these important conversations will happen more and more frequently, and can complement improved drug education programs offered in schools. Sasha Simon, of the Drug Policy Alliance, is part of a pilot
program that seeks to make those improvements: “There’s been a lot of confusion societally, not just for children,” she says. “Most people have some type of drug in their life — alcohol, cigarettes, caffeine… The idea is to model it after sex ed,” she says. “We know abstinence doesn’t stop sex, and
[the same goes with drugs]. The majority try it before high school and the goal is to make sure they have realistic information and skills.” [Check out “Safety First: A Reality Based Approach to Teens and Drugs”, for more tools and resources to help with these conversations.]

Ultimately, we are still at a place where most adults don’t have all the information either, and all we can ask of parents is that they do the best they can when it comes to cannabis and their family, just as they do when they make decisions about their children’s food choices, health and extracurricular activities. At the very least, I think we can agree that parents deserve to be able to relax and live a balanced lifestyle at least as much as any other adult human, especially in a society as overworked, tense and anxiety-inducing as ours.




In Providence: The Republican that got away

If you had asked her four years ago if she’d still be hooking up with a Republican, she would have told you there was no chance of that happening.

“There was this confidence I had that once I got my life together, there were things I would change, and that was going to be one of them.”

She’d always had a habit of being attracted to people she wasn’t supposed to be attracted to. Guys whose stupidity turned her on. Women with anger issues who liked to throw glass objects out of third floor windows.

And Republicans.

“There was only one.”

One Republican.

“We matched on an online dating site, and I guess I hadn’t read his profile close enough, because when we sat down — we went to Garden Grille — when we sat down and started talking, he told me he didn’t usually go to places like that, and I didn’t know what he was talking about, but then he said he was more of a steakhouse guy.”

That turned into this conversation about eating habits, which turned into a conversation about voting habits.

“He was a fucking Republican.”

She was immediately repulsed and turned on.

“We started to fight so loudly that people in the restaurant were looking at us, and after 10 minutes of that, I asked for the check, and we went back to his place.”

A few weeks later, the election happened, and she decided she could never see him again. Not only was she sure he was a horrible person who had helped elect a monster to the Oval Office, but she wanted to become a better person as well. She wanted to get a better job, eat healthy, become politically active, and figure out how to pay an electric bill.

“I was back at his house on Christmas Eve and we argued about immigration for an hour before I climbed on top of him.”

Years go by and they continue to be on-again, off-again. She begins to, slowly, assemble something resembling a life in which she could find some pride. She did manage to get a decent job, which led to a better apartment, a roommate whose only flaw was playing Philip Roth audiobooks way too loud, and even a cat that liked her every other day.

“But I couldn’t get the dating thing down. I would keep having these one night stands, and the only long-lasting relationship I had was with this guy who had these unforgivable political stances on everything.”

Their sex was angry. Visceral. She recalls spitting in his mouth at one point — something she’d never wanted to do with any other guy. She’d leave scratch marks down his back. He’d call her names. She’d tell him to choke her and then afterward would tell him that he should never choke another woman unless they made it very clear that they wanted it, fearful that she was only turning this guy into even more of an asshole.

“I think he felt like he was scoring points by having sex with me and I felt the same way about him. It’s like we were using each other, but neither of us knew for what.”

When the pandemic started, the sex became more constant than it ever was, and even more tumultuous. She’d started working remotely and her hours were cut, which left even more time for her to hang out at his place and not alone at her apartment. Her roommate had decided to move in with his girlfriend, and she wondered if that girl was a fan of Portnoy’s Complaint. It wasn’t anything she had much time to think about. She was too busy feeling like … a girlfriend?

“It’s just hard to spend that much time with someone, even if you hate them, and not feel like you’re in a relationship.”

They started ordering take-out a few nights a week and eating it together. He would put on Fox News and she would threaten to take a baseball bat to his television. She would watch porn with him instead, and the two of them would find places outdoors to carry on just for the thrill of it. Those places included a parking garage rooftop, his office and an empty Crossfit gym.

“Because of course he does Crossfit.”

At the end of last month, she’d decided that enough was enough. While the pandemic allowed her to believe that there was no point in trying to foster some kind of healthy love life, the realization that this new normal might be a permanent normal meant that she had to start finding a better way to live within it.

“It had been years. I was so — there was a lot of shame attached to it. Because I think the attraction was all about making me feel something. It was hard for me to feel a lot about anybody who was like me, but if I met someone like him, I could feel, you know, all this anger, and that was something I could work, and that’s why I always let myself get into these really bad, um, positions with people.”

Midway through the last week of July, she texted to tell him that this needed to stop and that she wouldn’t be coming over anymore. He never responded, which is sort of what you have to believe he would do if you really think about it.

“Unless I hurt his feelings, but I doubt it. I never saw any sign of him having feelings, so…”

She’s got a date next week with a woman who works at a non-profit that helps the illiterate. When I ask her if the thought of dating someone nice is exciting for her, she admits that she’s having a hard time getting enthused about it, but she’s keeping an open mind and entertaining the possibility that something about this person will infuriate her.

“Here’s hoping, right?”