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20 Something Black

A new generation of African Americans are defining what it means to be black in the 21st century.

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A new generation of African Americans are defining what it means to be black in the 21st century.

by Marcus Hill

I stared at it every day trying to figure out who these people were. I was only five and had no idea who these four black guys were in this photo. 

My mom had a picture hanging by the kitchen with a gold frame and a slightly black canvas with four faces in the picture: one at 12 o’clock, one at three, one at six and one at nine. I finally decided to ask her who these four guys were. Were they friends of the family, family or co-workers?

“That’s a picture of (clockwise) Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Elijah Muhammad and Marcus Garvey,” she explained. Once she said Elijah Muhammad, I tuned out. “Oh, I knew I knew him. He’s related to Muhammad Ali, right?”

I knew who Ali was because my dad watched boxing a lot when I was a kid and schooled me every chance he could. As you should know, however, Muhammad Ali and Elijah Muhammad are not related. At age five, though, it made perfect sense. I have made multitudes of progress the last 18 years. At one time, my race was making progress toward bettering itself.

Now that the gazelle has no lion to elude, many believe the fight is over. The strive for equality, however, is a fight that is never truly finished.

It wasn’t long ago black people took something known as “the paper bag test.” If you were lighter than the bag, admission to affluent schools was certain. If not, test givers shipped you to the black schools. Sounds farfetched, but unfortunately it was true. This “test” wasn’t used just for schools; any place with a “Whites Only” sign and you were hit with a pop quiz that required no studying. 

“Jim Crow laws didn’t give blacks a chance,” said Dr. Locksley Edmondson, Professor in Africana Studies and Research Center at Cornell University. “Black people were incarcerated much more than others. And everything was against their favor.” 

We were fighting for a future in the United States but a lunch bag dictated how far that road went. Attire, behavior and education didn’t determine our spot in society. My mother constantly voiced frustration of how intolerable it was to live in that era. She had no choice but to stomach any bigotry thrown her direction. 

My mother and father—like most other blacks growing up in the 1960s and ‘70s—earned every bit of respect a black person could during those times. No matter how much they went through, they persevered to show they were stronger than what society threw at them. Black people everywhere were under a microscope, and the media dissected every decision made by us. Anything done in front of a camera might harm the black power movement  and cause a possible setback with our progress.

“I think TV helped the Civil Rights movement expose the way blacks were being treated,” Edmondson said. “It showed what blacks experienced and it helped to somewhat change that treatment.”

Edmondson stressed the importance the media had on the rise of blacks and our issues during the Civil Rights movement. Tommie Smith and John Carlos displayed that impact with their gesture at the 1968 Summer Olympics. Both were black Olympic sprinters competing for the United States during abysmal times for their race. Both Olympians made a silent, but loud, statement when they raised their fists with a black glove representing “Black Power” at the medal ceremony.

Their protest against segregation on such a platform caused Smith and Carlos to face serious troubles with the International Olympic Committee as well as in the U.S. Although no words were spoken at the podium, the message was loud. Smith and Carlos’ simple gesture was crucial in black history. It not only provided an important moment for our culture, it showed that to get a point across, you have to stick your neck out there. 

“Black entertainers made a critical impact with American culture,” Edmondson said. “Many of them participated in the civil rights movement. That work made a big impact on the culture.”

The hard work of important historical figures is lost among most of today’s black youth. The need to protest for equal rights decreased dramatically. The opportunity for blacks to gain educational fairness in America exists in nearly every state and province. Blacks, Hispanics and the various cultures in the U.S. can enter just about any store with no racial issues. Now that the gazelle has no lion to elude, many believe the fight is over. The strive for equality, however, is a fight that is never truly finished.

My generation lulled long ago on this endless conflict. Swag is more important than education. A pair of $160 shoes is more significant than saving for a future. For some it comes from a sense of entitlement. For others it’s a lack of understanding the bigotry and societal issues we faced to get what we have now. 

That, along with misinterpreted messages from the media,  gave too many young blacks the impression that they’re entitled to $100,000 jobs out of college without making a name for themselves. Hearing musicians talk about how much money they’ve made at a young age paints an asinine picture for the listener.

What’s skewed, skipped and sometimes overlooked is the relentless perseverance that went into the level of fame achieved. Restless nights, years of frustrations and patience go into an album, movie or even a single to reach perfection. Sometimes years go into notching a role for a movie or TV show. The image for some in young Black America is that we can buy status rather than earn it. 

The image portrayed by rappers and Hollywood—expensive wardrobes, pricey houses, flashy cars or being icy—has tarnished and nearly devastated the image our elders fought for decades ago. Martin Luther King did not march and preach for the N-Word to taint every-day conversation. It is a word that is used, however, like its meaning is harmless. Self-image has become more important than our overall image as a race. 

Many shows we watch, too many YouTube videos and so many “ratchet” or ghetto fights involve us in the most ignorant and ridiculous situations. Decades of trying to achieve equality in America were seemingly falling into place. The work and patience of our elders started benefiting our futures in the corporate world and for educational purposes. We unfortunately became infatuated with obtaining temporary status rather than long-term achievements. Our culture was something you could obtain rather than who you were.

At some point being black stopped being a race and became a rank. Something bought with attire or based off behavior. Something anyone could achieve if they spoke a certain way or went through the same hardships that are typical of our culture. Having run-ins with the law is almost a gateway to that status of being black. Those troubles diminish our successes.  

We’re in the news more often for crimes, and other legal issues than for a breakthrough in corporate America. Entrepreneurs such as Diddy, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and Beyoncé (among a few others) reached high statuses in the corporate world and showed our youth that an affluent background is no longer a correlation to becoming successful in America. Their work proved that you could be from the ghetto, in a gang or sell drugs and still spurn your past with persistence and dedication to your craft. So why is that message falling on deaf ears with kids in my generation?

Perhaps by the glorified images portrayed to all of America displaying us in expensive chains and clothing? Or for the lyrics spewing through our headphones? Wherever the discrepancy lies, we need to establish a sense of pride and self-respect we once displayed. Our culture needs to show that we have more than swag to offer the world.         

It wasn’t long ago that we strove for excellence, marched, fought, and protested for the right of equality in the United States. Today, if it’s not for a new pair of Jordans, you won’t catch us outside for days at a time. Dedication to our race needs to return. Respect for whom and what we are needs to return. So many people in our race expect respect and opportunities without truly working for either. 

Success in the corporate world rather than working just to make money needs to become an expectation—not a pipedream. Money isn’t always the key to an escape or a better future when you don’t have the necessary tools and knowledge to put it to good use. The younger generation of blacks have to reinvest in the areas other than our outfits or the best pair of shoes or an expensive new trend in black America. We have to invest in the areas our ancestors fought so hard and gave so much to give to us—the right to be educated, the right to be represented, the right to assemble, the right to live free from fear of oppression. 

When we as a new generation of blacks do that, we’ll finally have answered the troubling issues of our race and will be back on track to a prominent role in America.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
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Music

Acoustic heartbreak in the Colorado San Juans with John Statz

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John Statz by Veronica Holyfield

Songs about heartbreak should resinate. And with John Statz they do. They’re equally soft and striking.

His new full-length album “Darkness on the San Juans,” available May 11, takes an acoustic turn from his other recent work. Then, he had full bands in studios. With this project, he gathered a few friends in his living room to record.

Like heartbreak itself, the album is more personal, more raw and more intimate. The Wisconsin native who now calls Denver home said he hasn’t done something quite as stripped down in a while, and when it came to get back into songwriting after the release of his last album last summer, there was also a reason to write.

It was the aftermath of a breakup.

“We retrace our steps. We look at what we thought we knew. We ultimately discover and face the truth under the stories we told ourselves along the way,” he says of the album.

In addition to the post-love songs, the album features a few songs Statz previously worked on but didn’t have a place on an album, and songs that are meant to be more acoustic. “Presidential Valet” is the story of Armistead, President John Tyler’s valet, or slave, who died alongside seven others in an explosion after Tyler and members of cabinet were watching the firing of the “peacemaker” in 1844.

So, this album is about heartbreak. Did that change how you wrote or approached the album at all?

Yeah. It just kind of comes out more — I don’t know — when you’re writing about heartbreak it’s just seems like the easiest type of writing. It’s just pouring out of you. You don’t have to come up with a concept or a story or any of that.

In the bio you released ahead of this album, it references a pretty famous Ernest Hemingway quotation: “Write hard and clear about what hurts.” Maybe as a writer I hear about this all of the time, but there’s definitely a writing style associated with Hemingway — to write very concise and clear. Did you take any of that with you into the songwriting or was it all about the emotion?

You know, it was the emotion part. I didn’t think about that, but the songs are fairly concise and short. So I appreciate that might also be relevant there even though I didn’t intend that.

The title of this album is “Darkness on the San Juans.” Explain that a little bit.

It’s a line in the song “Highways.” Geographical references are all over my songwriting. On every album I’ve ever written. So it’s a song about driving places with someone and either ending up back at those places later and having other memories being their previously. The San Juans was one of those locations that was important.

Why do you think you end up writing about places so much?

I mean, an obvious answer is that I spend a lot of time driving around to gigs, and I’ve been a lot of places because of that. And just for fun. I love roadtripping around Colorado, and camping and that sort of thing. So it’s not a planned thing. I’m living and breathing this lifestyle from A to B to C and that infiltrates the writing. But also, it’s a convenient rhyming scheme. Sometimes it can be hard to find a word, but there’s usually a city that will fill in.

How long did it take you to finish this album, being that the concept is fairly raw?

It all happened pretty fast. The two non-heartbreak songs, “Presidential Valet” and “Old Men Drinking Seagrem’s,” were older. They’re social commentary tunes. But I just hadn’t recorded them to yet and I was waiting for an acoustic album to do that. I started writing in the summer. I decided in December to record them. I called my friend Nate, flew him out in January. And we recorded it in three days in my living room.

Had you recorded like that before?

It’s been a while, but yeah. My first couple albums that I made when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin, were like that: recorded at home and more stripped down with the production and just making use of what we had. The last three albums were full bands or went to a really professional studio. This is how I made records way back.

Why did you decide to do it this way?

The songs mostly had an acoustic feel, and I sing in my living room a lot. I have this open, high ceiling. So I play my guitar and sing in my living room a lot. I think it sounds cool in there. I thought we could make a cool recording there. I liked the idea of making this intimate album in my home. It was a comfortable, cozy way to make an album.

So everything about this album seems more intimate that what you’ve done in the last few years.
Yeah. Definitely. Everything is. There’s only four musicians on this album, and one of those is my roommate who did knee slaps.

I also noticed on the album credits was an oatmeal container.

So I bought a plastic egg shaker because I thought I maybe wanted to some percussion. But it just didn’t sound that cool. I was like, well we have oatmeal around the house. There wasn’t much left in one container and so we shook it and it was a way better shaker sound, you know?

The inspiration for these songs were the feelings that linger after a break-up. Was there a cut-off point there since emotions always evolve, especially in these instances?

It’s a process. A relationship ends and we all go through the phases. Months go by and you change how you feel. The me that wrote those songs and recorded them months back is a different person. I’ve evolved in the process.

Did you have to simmer to write these songs or was it immediate?

I wrote the first song like a month after. I was trying to write again because I write in cycles. I had just put out an album at the beginning of last summer and when I’m in album release mode I’m not writing as much. But when that’s over I want to write. This time I wanted to write again and I had a fresh reason. I find it a little uncontrollable. I’ve never not written about any breakup I’ve ever had. It’s just part of the territory of being writer. I haven’t written anymore since I wrote those. I’m in album-release mode. I think I decided I’m done with these songs on this album. That’s part of the reason why I wanted to get it out. This part of my life is completed and now I will write a bunch of songs about U.S. presidents or something like that.

I noticed on your social media you like presidential biographies.

Yeah, I do. My friend Jeffrey Foucault is a songwriter and he gave me a LBJ biography. I really liked it, so I thought I’d give George Washington a try and I just kept going.

How many are you up to?

I’m almost done with Grant, so 18.

So far do you have a favorite based off of biographies?

Grant has been really interesting. Lincoln was fascinating. Martin Van Buren. Great sideburns.

Back to the album. Do you think the listener can hear an evolution throughout the album?

Yeah, those songs were written at different times, so probably. I’d say it’s a snapshot of what somebody goes through, or at least what I went through. But I think what most of us go through after a breakup.I just think most people have been through it so I hope they can identify.

I just think most people have been through it so I hope they can identify.

You can purchase Darkness in the San Juans at johnstatz.com. 

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
Continue Reading

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Denver’s Wes Watkins dynamic new future-funk EP is from another planet

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Future-Funk Party Starter | Wes Watkins

Dreams Out from Denver’s best kept secret Wes Watkins wears so many musical hats it needs a rack; downtempo G-Funk homage and sweltering nee-Soul / Rn’B are all over this release, all covered with a thicc pop glaze and a penchant for electronic-sonic experimentation that keep every song fascinatingly adventurous while maintaining a danceability and groove that easily, easily warrants multiple listens. Don’t sleep on this one.


Lo-Fuzz Folkie | Hoi Ann

The beauty of Hoi Ann’s Tangenier lies in both what you can hear and what it may want you to not hear. Lo-fi folk and bedroom-pop are easily tangible on its surface, but the buzzy electronic tones that sparingly flourish the 5 songs of this release lie low and create a unique aural atmosphere for listeners, like hidden secrets for your ears only.


Indie-Punk Sweeties | Gestalt

The pop-punk shred-bois in Gestalt are back at it again; The irresistible combo of the Get Up Kids earnest midwestern-emo and smart pop-punk wit of the Wonder Years is strong on the tracks that encompass LongBoix, as is an acute fondness and growing appreciation for the finer indie rock of yesteryear. Well I guess this is growing up.


Psych-Rock Screamcore | Gone Full Heathen

On their criminally good self titled EP, Fort Collins heavies Gone Full Heathen friggin dare you to try and trap them in a single genre. Nice try, but they’ll just chew right through your puny ropes using a gnashing blend of crushing stoner-rock laced hardcore punk and overdriven psych-rock / post-metal induced bite like the righteous rock and roll wolves that they are.


All releases available for purchase now thru Bandcamp. Go Local!

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
Continue Reading

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The Haze Craze for Lazy Days

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There are many different styles of beer. Ranging from light lagers (think Bud Light) and ales to sours, stouts, and IPAs.

Within those styles, however, are varying styles.

For example, one would think a sour beer is a sour beer, right? Wrong. According to the Beer Judge Certification Program, which defines every style of beer, there are six recognized European sour styles.

For IPAs, there are seven. American beers have four; stouts have three… You get the point.

Even with viewing the list of recognized styles, it’s not a complete list.

Take New England IPAs (NE IPA), as a prime example. Many breweries are currently mass producing this style of beer, and it’s selling like crazy.

You may have heard one of your annoying beer loving friends talk about drinking a “juice bomb,” or a requesting a “hazy IPA” at the pub, and shrugged it off. It turns out, they (sometimes) know what they are talking about.

What makes NE IPAs so popular when compared to a more traditional, West Coast IPA? NE IPAs have all of the hop flavors, without an overabundance of bitterness.

Instead of constantly adding hops throughout the boil to achieve a fruity flavor balanced by bitterness, the NE IPA has a small hop addition at the begging, and then nothing else until after the boil has finished.

That translates into a beer with very little bitterness, and plenty of hop aroma and flavor. Hops like Citra, Mosaic, Mosaic, Galaxy, and El Dorado are most common in NE IPAs, according to the Homebrewers Association. Those hops tend to impart a fruity, and dare I say, juicy flavor profile.

Between the juicy flavor and the seemingly natural haziness to NE IPAs, it’s not far fetched for an NE IPA to look like a tall glass of orange or grapefruit juice, only carbonated and full of alcohol.

NE IPAs are starting to gain momentum here in Colorado, with breweries turning their focus to the haze craze. Specifically, Odd13, WeldWerks, and Epic Brewing coming to mind.

Odd13 is based in Lafayette, Colo. and has a long list of NE-inspired IPAs constantly rotating through the tap room and distributed throughout the state. Codename: Super fan and Noob are two beers that are found in cans, and both offer a different approach to the haze craze.

WeldWerks is based in Greeley, Colo. and has accumulated a cult-like following in just a few short years for its Juicy Bits NE IPA. The brewery just started self-distributing locally, so you’ll have to make the trip to the brewery and pick up a crowler or four. Be sure to check the WeldWerks Facebook page for availability and limits. Yes, they have to place per person limits on how much you can purchase.

Epic Brewing recently announced its NE IPA, which will rotate between four different flavor profiles throughout the year. The cans will look the same but will be different colors as a quick way to tell identify which version you have.

So the next time you walk into a brewery or liquor store, it’s OK to ask for a hazy or juicy IPA. It’s a thing, and, frankly, they are damn good.

On Tap: By the time this hits newsstands, ThunderZone Pizza & Taphouse will have opened on the CSU-P campus. Located at 2270 Rawlings Blvd., the ThunderZone features 32 taps, a carefully curated tap list, and is locally owned.

At the opening, the tap list includes tasty brews from the likes of Florence Brewing and Lost Highway.

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.
Continue Reading

One more thing...

Local and independent journalism is under threat in the West and you change that.  With corporate raiders slashing newsrooms across the West, the PULP is one of the "Last Locals" in Colorado to produce original, compelling journalism missing in today's profit hungry world. But that costs money, time and hard work. We don't believe in spamming you with ads or putting up restrictive paywalls and that's why we need your help.

For every contribution, we put 100% back into producing original and amazing journalism. That's a promise only a local and independent newsroom can promise. Take heart because you will fuel stories just like this one and the future of journalism.

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