character study: "father comes home from the wars (parts 1, 2 & 3)"

About eight years ago, a former colleague initiated his introduction with an assumption about our ancestry based on our shared surname – "you think at some point we were owned by the same people?" I knew his comment, although clearly inappropriate by human resources standards, was an attempt at a connection; a subtle commentary on a history that we will always carry on our backs and in our hearts. X, which as irony would have it is his nickname, still refers to me as his cousin when we occasionally communicate via social media. Because whether or not we’re connected by blood, oftentimes shades of you become your community.

The horror that is slavery needs no introduction. Placing a monetary value on human beings as a viable trade is a historical fact, as is the transition from plantations to prisons with Jim Crow absolution. Goodman Theatre's recently closed production of, Suzan-Lori Parks' Civil War epic, Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) directed by Niegel Smith is not just art for art’s sake. Parks curates pain and promise through a lyrical narrative of voices that scream obvious truths and foreshadows subtle consequences. This is the story of Hero who joins the Confederate army at the behest of his Colonel with freedom casually offered as active duty incentive. Hero is a contradiction. His betrayal of his lover Penny and his childhood friend Homer seems to barely disturb his conscience, yet the idea of escaping enslavement is equated with theft and this drives his sense of virtue. Has the cruelty of circumstance made civility and decency a detriment to survival?

Smith's interpretation afforded a symbolic oppression as the foundation to Parks' prose – the stage was structurally transformed into a Confederate flag and the enslaved characters were costumed in prison orange. This offered any audience member in a self-professed hashtag state of wokeness an opportunity to reevaluate Hero's "choices," as it seemed hypocritically effortless to view him as disloyal, self-indulgent, and arrogant. The irony of Hero wanting legacy in a system designed to erase your existence. And how daunting it will be when he realizes he could choose countless names and brides and he may never know lineage.

The oppressed often find that there is a peaceful solitude in pain; the blurred brushstrokes that issue picturesque promises of civil disobedience become a beautiful palette that chases the darkness. The reality is that woeful prayers inadvertently become whispered pleas and you start to recognize that this isn't the silencing of the masses. What you're hearing is the initial call of the resistance. I imagine, at one point, there was solace in that melody. Then history in its politically convenient and fabricated rhetoric is embraced with diluted fondness as opposed to a mirrored reflection of shame. We've come full circle – the brutality in acquiring stolen land, the moral justifications behind people as commodities, misplaced children as terror tactics, customer service support via the police department, gasping for justice, hoods but not hoodies. This is where we are, this is who we've always been. Hands up. Guns drawn. Take a knee. Don't shoot. Freedom was never free...

Photography x Liz Lauren :: Courtesy of Goodman Theatre.

Photograph One: Kamal Angelo Bolden (Hero), Aimé Donna Kelly (Penny), Michael Aaron Pogue (Fourth) and Ronald L. Conner (Third) in the Chicago premiere of Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by Niegel Smith (May 25 – June 24, 2018). 

Photograph Two: Sydney Charles (Second), Jacqueline Williams (Leader), Ernest Perry Jr. (The Oldest Old Man), Michael Aaron Pogue (Fourth), Ronald L. Conner (Third) and Kamal Angelo Bolden (Hero) in the Chicago premiere of Father Comes Home from the Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by Niegel Smith (May 25 – June 24, 2018).


dime playlist: papa don’t preach…

My father's transition was four years ago and it often still feels like it's only been four minutes. I haven't gotten past it, I didn't get through it, and I definitely can't make peace with it. It never actually occurred to me that my father’s death was an actual possibility. That one day my memories of him would somehow become more important than our time spent together. That the preciseness of nature’s intricate details, visible in his artwork, would translate into an infinite depth of comfort.

As a child, I remember sitting on my mother's lap on the floor of our dining room while my father played dj for hours. He would start at around eleven on a Friday night and jam until daybreak Saturday morning. It was subconsciously implied that my music preferences should venture far beyond the realm of appropriate and sweet. But never just for the sake of rebellion, rather because I needed to create the soundtrack to my own story.

It didn't occur to me until I was much older that the family late nights weren't specifically about quality time. My father was providing options. He knew that he was raising a starving artist. After hours is not about making poor decisions in bad lighting surrounded by questionable characters. That's the time of night when my imagination should be at its peak. I think his hope was that the foundation of these nights would come across via my pen and/or an easel.

Art was always his side hustle and everything he touched was a visual interpretation of sound and emotion. So, I choose to honor him today through the music from those late nights. The lyric pattern, the melodic tempo, the bass, the riffs – it seems easier to become those compositions. If I listen hard enough, if the volume is loud enough, I can hear his laughter. And for a moment, become oblivious to the fact that the reality of his absence is just as deafening.

::  With You x The Moments  ::  Favorite Line: "Loving you is easier than breathing."  ::  Album: Moments With You (1976)  ::  FYI: My parents danced to this song at their wedding.

::  Try Again x Champaign  ::  Favorite Line: "I could search the whole world over and never find what you were always giving me."  ::  Album: Modern Heart (1983)

::  Three Times a Lady x The Commodores  ::  Favorite Line: "And if I had to live my life over again, I'd spend each and every moment with you."  ::  Album: Natural High (1978)

::  Still x The Commodores  ::  Favorite Line: "So many dreams that flew away, so many words we didn't say."  ::  Album: Midnight Magic (1979)

::  A Change Is Gonna Come x Sam Cooke  ::  Favorite Line: "There have been times that I thought I couldn't last for long, but now I think I'm able to carry on."  ::  Album: Ain't That Good News (1964)

::  After the Love Has Gone x Earth, Wind, & Fire  ::  Favorite Line: "Something happened along the way and yesterday was all we had."  ::  Album: I Am (1979)

::  September x Earth, Wind & Fire  ::  Favorite Line: "Remember how we knew love was here to stay."  ::  Album: The Best Of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1 (1978)

::  Mercy Mercy Me x Marvin Gaye  ::  Favorite Line: "What about this overcrowded land? How much more abuse from man can she stand."  ::  Album: What's Going On (1971)

::  What's Going On x Marvin Gaye  ::  Favorite Line: "Picket lines and picket signs, don’t punish me with brutality."  ::  Album: What’s Going On (1971)

::  Ain't No Mountain High Enough x Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell  ::  Favorite Line: "No wind, no rain or winters cold can stop me, baby. Cause you are my goal."  ::  Album: United (1967)

::  Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing x Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell ::  Favorite Line: "No other sound is quite the same as your name."  ::  Album: You’re All I Need (1968)

::  If I Could Build My Whole Around You x Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell  ::  Favorite Line: "I'd put so much love where there is sorrow. I'd put joy where there’s never been none."  ::  Album: United (1967)

::  Your Precious Love x Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell  ::  Favorite Line: "I look in the mirror and I'm glad to see, laughter in the eyes, where tears used to be."  ::  Album: United (1967)

::  Hope That We Can Be Together Soon x Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes with Sharon Paige  ::  Favorite Line: "When I think about you, girl, chills run up and down my spine."  ::  Album: To Be True (1975)

::  Wake Up Everybody x Harold Melvin & The Bluenotes  ::  Favorite Line: "The world won't get no better if we just let it be."  ::  Album: Wake Up Everybody (1975)

::  Aways and Forever x Heatwave  ::  Favorite Line: "Each moment with you is just like a dream to me that somehow came true."  ::  Album: Too Hot To Handle (1976)

::  Back Stabbers x The O'Jays  ::  Favorite Line: "Blades are long, clenched tight in their fist, aiming straight at your back. And I don't think they'll miss.”  ::  Album: Back Stabbers (1972)

::  Forever Mine x The O'Jays  ::  Favorite Line: "You are that someone I've been hoping, I've been looking for all my days."  ::  Album: Identify Yourself (1979)

::  For The Love Of Money x The O'Jays  ::  Favorite Line: "For a small piece of paper, it carries a lot of weight."  ::  Album: Ship Ahoy (1973)

::  When A Man Loves A Woman x Percy Sledge  ::  Favorite Line: "Loving eyes can never see."  ::  Album: When A Man Loves A Woman (1965)

::  Ooo Baby Baby x Smokey Robinson & The Miracles  ::  Favorite Line: "My heart went out to play and in the game I lost you."  ::  Album: Going To A Go-Go (1965)

::  The Tracks of My Tears x Smokey Robinson & The Miracles  ::  Favorite Line: "My smile is my makeup I wear since my breakup with you."  ::  Album: Going To A Go-Go (1965)

::  We've Come Too Far To End It Now x Smokey Robinson & The Miracles  ::  Favorite Line: "For we've come too far to end it now."  ::  Album: Flying High Together (1972)

::  You Really Got a Hold On Me x Smokey Robinson & The Miracles  ::  Favorite Line: "I don't want you, but I need you."  ::  Album: The Fabulous Miracles (1963)

::  I Wish It Rain x The Temptations  ::  Favorite Line: "I'm a man and I got my pride, until it rains I'm gonna stay inside."  ::  Album: Wish It Would Rain (1968)

::  Papa Was a Rollin' Stone x The Temptations  ::  Favorite Line: "And when he died, all he left us was alone."  ::  Album: All Directions (1972)  ::  Inside Joke: Without fail, I would follow this line with "and not (a loan) from the bank."

::  You x Bill Withers  ::  Favorite Line: "Tomorrow depends too much on today and yesterday."  ::  Album: 'Justments (1974)

::  I Just Called To Say I  Love You x Stevie Wonder  ::  Favorite Line: "To fill your heart like no three words could ever do."  ::  Album: The Woman In Red (1984)

::  Superstition x Stevie Wonder  ::  Favorite Line: "When you believe in things that you don't understand, then you suffer."   ::  Album: Talking Book (1972)

::  Overjoyed x Stevie Wonder  ::  Favorite Line: "Over time, I've been building my castle of love just for two."  ::  Album: In Square Circle (1985) 

Photography x Corina Nika  ::  the view is from Kefalonia Island in Greece and was originally posted on her instagram feed


dime defined: ain’t no mama like the one i got…

“You throw stones, but you don't live in a glass house – you get the stones from your house. And at this rate, you're not going to have a house.” This gem was an observation from my mother, about my tendency to play judge and jury. She made this unsolicited personality assessment when I was in my late twenties. This wasn't the first time she questioned my choices. I think our first major disagreement was over a styling preference when I was about five years old. It was my understanding that the flap on my sailor inspired jumper should be displayed in the front, to highlight the detail. My mother was adamant that the flap was designed to reflect a sailor's actual uniform and therefore the back is still her obvious choice. It's irrelevant as to who won this battle. Fashion is subjective, there shouldn't be any rules.

My philosophy regarding rules isn't by accident. Rules did not define our home; my mother believes in structure and she is clear in her belief that discipline has to accompany ambition. When I wander from my journey's direct path, her love was and is fearless without condition and unwavering in support. I attended four colleges in four and a half years and she did not once make me feel unfocused. But she did become my much needed reality check. When my father made clear that college number four would be my alma mater because he wasn't paying for college number five, my mother suggested that I choose wisely. By the way, don't judge. I only graduated one semester behind.

Jo Ann Lee has supported my artistic approach to life and work with intention. She is proof positive that it really isn't worth it if you don’t have to work for it. My mother retired at age sixty five, having worked full time since she was seventeen years old. She turned what started out as a simple love for numbers into a supervisory role on Chicago's trading floors. This woman is every single thing I aspire to be. If God is in the details, his light is the compass for my mother's love. She finds beauty in silence, solace in faith, peace in the truth, hope in vision, and freedom in joy. I have had the blessing of viewing my reflection through her eyes and it is the ultimate compliment.


NAME: Jo Ann Lee | HOME GROWN: Chicago, IL | DAY JOB: Retired Commodities Supervisor | DREAM JOB: Writing greeting cards for Hallmark.


MEAL: Duck, cornbread dressing, candied yams, and cabbage. | DESSERT: Peach Cobbler | SEASON: Autumn | CITY: Las Vegas and New Orleans | CANDY: Awesome Blossoms and Milk Chocolate Gummi Bears | WORD: Balderdash | AGE: I enjoy them all, it beats the alternative. | SOUND: The sound of spirituals – I love the way they make me feel. | TEAM: Chicago Cubs | MOVIE: It's a Wonderful Life | CHARITY: Toys for Tots

Q & A.

Q:  Who would portray you in the movie version of your life? Feature film, straight to DVD, or Lifetime Movie?
A:  She hasn't been born yet. Hallmark movie.

Q:  What artists or songs would contribute to the film's soundtrack?
A:  LOVE SIDE A  –  With You x The Moments  ::  Love and Happiness x Al Green  ::  Because You Loved Me x Celine Dion ::  At Last x Etta James  ::  A House Is Not a Home x Luther Vandross  ::  Inseparable x Natalie Cole  ::  Through the Years x Kenny Rogers  ::  Still x The Commodores  ::  I Wish It Were Yesterday x Billy Paul  ::  (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman x Aretha Franklin  ::  For Once In My Life x The Temptations :: Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me x Gladys Knight & The Pips  ::  We've Come Too Far to End It Now x Smokey Robinson & The Miracles  ::  I Can't Stop Loving You x Ray Charles  ::  I Believe In You and Me x Whitney Houston
LIFE SIDE B  –  Amazing Grace x Tramaine Hawkins  ::  Say Amen x Howard Hewitt  ::  If I Could x Regina Belle  ::  Imagine x John Lennon  ::  God Bless the Child x Billie Holiday  ::  Open Our Eyes x The Gospel Clefs  ::  One Moment In Time x Whitney Houston  ::  What a Wonderful World x Louis Armstrong  ::  Jesus Is My Kind of People x Gladys Knight  ::  It's My Turn x Diana Ross  ::  Over the Rainbow x Patti LaBelle  ::  I Am Changing x Jennifer Hudson  ::  That's What Friends Are For x Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Gladys Knight, and Stevie Wonder  ::  Celebration x Kool & The Gang  ::  Lean on Me x Bill Withers

Q:  What's the best advice you didn't take? 
A:  Don't expect others to react with the same intensity about issues that are important to you. There have been times when I just didn't understand how someone who saw what I considered an injustice lacked the capacity for empathy.

Q:  What film title sums up your experiences with love thus far?
A:  Stairway to Heaven

Q:  If your beauty routine had to be condensed, what three products make the cut?
A:  Bath & Body Works Look Ma, New Hands, The Body Shop Coconut Body Butter, and Vaseline.

Q:  What is your alter ego's name? Describe her in one word.
A:  She Who Speaks With A Sharp Tongue. Optimist.

Q:  What's the title of your autobiography – using one color and one emotion?
A:  Endless Joy in a Tangerine Utopia

Q:  Food, water, and _____? What else do you need to survive?
A:  My Joy.

Q:  Would you rather have no regrets or no fears?
A:  No regrets. Most fears are addressed in the present. Regrets are issues from the past that tend to have you forever looking backwards; and sometimes, even second guessing yourself.

Q:  What's your definition of dime?
A:  A dime is informed, compassionate, kind and charitable. She's an optimist, but also a realist. A dime is able to read between the lines; and in an effort to realize another’s point of view, she makes it her responsibility to see the world from their perspective. She has passion, not only for her life, but also for the civility of the human experience. The kismet of sharing the same space and time on this Earth with family and friends is not lost on her and she is thankful to God for the blessing.

Q:  What words do you live by?
A:  “I shall pass through this world but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show or any good thing I can do, let me do it now, let me not defer it nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”  ::  “Peace if possible, but justice at any rate.”  ::  “Figures don’t lie, liars figure.”  ::  “Choose your battles.”

Illustration Credits: Mother created by and provided courtesy of Debra Cartwright. | Toni created by and provided courtesy of Jessica Durrant.


dime defined: charlotte cannon.


NAME: Charlotte Cannon | HOME GROWN: Born in Queens, New York; but raised in Florida and Arizona. | DAY JOB: Maker + Product Designer + Graphic Designer. | DREAM JOB: Architect (with a splash of product design).


MEAL: Dinner, anything made with love. | SEASON: Fall. The crisp, cool evenings. The colors. The peaceful lull just before the holidays. My birthday! | ERA: Edwardian (thank you, Downton Abbey). | CITY: Savannah | WORD: Yes | SOUND: Laughter | SCENT: Jasmine

Q & A.

Q:  Who would portray you in the movie version of your life? Feature film, straight to DVD, or Lifetime Movie?
A:  Feature film for sure! So many twists and turns! Possibly portrayed by Naomie Harris, Sanaa Lathan, or Thandie Newton.

Q:  What artists or songs would contribute to the film's soundtrack?
A:  Vance Joy, Mumford and Sons, CeeLo Green, John Legend, Ellie Goulding, and, wait for it... ABBA.

Q:  What's the best advice you didn't take? 
A:  "Be patient, everything will work out." I think if it doesn't feel right there's not much sense in waiting for something to change. Your life will go in the direction you take it. 

Q:  What film title sums up your experiences with love thus far?
A:  Grease (read into that however you see fit).

Q:  If your beauty routine had to be condensed, what three products make the cut?
A:  Mascara, Kat Von D Tattoo Eyeliner, and Shea Butter Lip Balm.

Q:  What is your alter ego's name? Describe her in one word.
A:  Luciana Fire. Hot.

Q:  What's the title of your autobiography – using one color and one emotion?
A:  Restless Girl, Scarlet Dreams. 

Q:  Would you rather have no regrets or no fears?
A:  No fears. I'd do everything I've ever wanted without reservation or hesitation. Also, I think regret is sourced in fear. Eradicate them both by being fearless.

Q:  What's your definition of dime?
A:  To me a dime is someone who is open, kind, yet unashamed and determined. She doesn't put limits on herself. She believes, she loves, she grows; but she's also an encourager and builds up those around her.

Q:  What words do you live by?
A:  Can't never could. 


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Photography provided courtesy of Charlotte Cannon. | editor's note: Charlotte's illustrations (Girl Gang series) and homeware designs (Rain Coasters, Rain Wood Tray, Alpaca Wood Display Dish) were featured in the photography, but not mentioned in the interview.


art studio: kathrin honesta.

kathrin honesta's illustrations create spaces. the subjects depicted become a community that encourages the viewer to stumble, to breathe, and to find contentment. the anxiety portraits series seems to suggest simple truths in that anxiety and fear aren't obscure emotions to anyone. the complexity lies in the often visceral reaction to these emotions. in direct contrast, the drowning in thoughts series conveys a literal interpretation of searching for balance. in this case, the subjects alternate between keeping their head above water or peacefully allowing the chaos to overflow. kathrin's depictions reflect the beauty of personal growth and how abstract the process can be.

images shown: anxiety portraits series | drowning in thoughts series | the light that saves me | the moon girl 

image credits: all artwork created by and provided courtesy of kathrin honesta.
connect with the artist: instagram | society6 | the undaunted dandelion

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