April 13, 2017

An installment in our weekly series, The By and By.

From the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University: To introduce our first story for The By and By, a writing-and-audio narrative around the new book The Blood of Emmett Till, we asked its author, Timothy B. Tyson, to reflect on the overwhelming response to the book since its release, why the story of Emmett Till continues to resonate so profoundly.

November 20, 2018

Track 5 – “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)” by Ruby Johnson

Then there’s the stripe of love-sickness where you’re not even sure it’s hurting. The pain often masquerades as energy, even optimism, yet there is always, in Johnson’s phrasing—in the way she hesitates against the beat—the hint of denial and delusion, and the suggestion, in those seconds where her voice rises and cracks, of trouble ahead. It might let you sleep, but it will be with you first thing, and stay with you all day. 

March 11, 2019

A feature essay from the North Carolina Music issue.

I don’t know if Kenny Mann has ever been in therapy, but I do know that he is exceedingly honest and possesses an uncommon sense of self-awareness. He willingly raises and struggles with difficult issues, like when he volunteered, “There’s an injustice to it but only eight percent of our income comes from African Americans,” and then followed up that insight with, “The number-one worst thing in this industry is racism.” 

“Do you ever feel like you are disrespecting yourself?” I asked Mann after he recounted all the times he’s made jokes at the expense of himself to put white people at ease. 

“Sometimes, but what clown doesn’t?” 

November 20, 2018

A feature essay from the North Carolina Music Issue.

Perverse? Yes. Blasphemous? Maybe. But not irreconcilable. To contemplate the meaning of Jodeci is to grasp at the intersection of religion and excess, of devotion and abandon, of agape and eros—a space where holiness and hedonism coincide. Sacred and erotic poetry, after all, are not dichotomous, but rather the most intimate and ancient of bedfellows, from Sufi mysticism to Ovidian elegy. The meme may be “If the Love Doesn’t Feel Like ’90s R&B I Don’t Want It,” but literary history knows that Jodeci’s ars amatoria continues a millennia-old poetic program that welds the object of affection to something of the divine, a slippage between the beloved and the god, which the poet-scholar L. Lamar Wilson describes as “sacrilegion,” a never-ending hunger for the unattainable object of erotic perfection. 

November 20, 2018

A feature essay from the North Carolina Music Issue. 

Rapsody now dons the mantle for a long tradition of black women, particularly those from the South, forcing Americans to look in the mirror of our professed ideals and to face the ills that haunt us. She carries the torch the outspoken, Tryon-born Nina Simone held high in the heat of the last century’s civil rights movement, before she fled to Europe for respite and asylum. She embodies the quiet fire and sensuality of the diminutive Roberta Flack, born in the Asheville-area town of Black Mountain, whose blend of torch ballads, folk, soul, gospel, and disco transformed what could be decidedly black and land in the genre of “pop music” as the civil rights fight gave way in the latter part of the century to the cultural appropriation that integration wrought.

November 20, 2018

A feature story from the North Carolina Music Issue. 

The Wrays had an old-world, Keatsian melancholy. It bloomed in the kitchen of their 6th Street home in Portsmouth, Virginia, where, from about 1951 to ’55, they recorded songs on a one-track, mostly originals written by Vernon. This was back when the music was fun, before it became a business. It’s the sort of thing that’s dashed off and then mislaid and vanishes somewhere. Sherry found the masters in a box of her dad’s stuff that, horrifyingly, was bound for the dump. She rescued them, and named the disc 6th Street Kitchen. The vibe is Elvis doing Dylan’s Great White Wonder: gushy, drunken ballads, some barely a minute long, and rapturous in the way that the smallest beginnings can express enormous feeling.

November 20, 2018

A poem from the North Carolina Music Issue.

My burnt body hangs crisscross over Carolina beach dunes below where 
family gathers children’s ringing sand splash toys tangled in teenage lust 
the skin consciousness potential of everyone eyeing one another 
in sunbursted bottoms there is nothing here but the bliss of this day 
& so I think on death hanging out over the Atlantic so many dead 

November 20, 2018

A poem from the North Carolina Music Issue.

It’s not what you think, not a back-tease aerosol of a band 
head-banging to a half-cracked amp nor the flame-decal of a beater 
revving the gravel lot out back, hungry for a big-tiddied girl to stumble
out cork high and bottle deep. 

November 20, 2018

A poem from the North Carolina Music Issue.

Once, I trusted a hand pointing north; 
once, I called for a wolf 
and a man walked out of the night. 

I walked Youngsville and marked myself down on a map 
I was making. 

 

November 20, 2018

A poem from the North Carolina Music Issue.

It rises from dust, rakes in the populace, 
feeds them fried Twinkies, fried trees if they could 
put them on a stick and powder them in sugar. 
Bodies bunch up: the perfumed, the balmy, 
the whole way to watch the potter at his wheel, 
the carver and his knife, the knee-high rope 
around an old America.