Essential DC, History, Interviews, Life in the Capital, Opinion, Special Events, Sports Fix, The Features, They Make DC, We Love Arts

Local Indigenous Artist Showcases the Racism of Redskin

(c) Gregg Deal

(c) Gregg Deal

Those who think the continuing movement to change the name of the local pro football team is a waste of time and trivial were clearly not at the recent Art All Night event here in the District. Secreted in one corner of the venue was local Indigenous artist Gregg Deal. His project, “Redskin,” took on the racial overtones of the team moniker and projected it at his audience.

What he, nor spectators or his helpers predicted was just how pointed it ended up being.

Deal first let me know of the project in early September. What initially struck me about his proposed performance piece was the fact he was willingly subjecting himself to some serious abuse. Natives in the area–as well as those protesting football games elsewhere in the country–have always been subjected to abuses by team fans, especially if they’re open about their opposition to the name. (Witness the reactions by fans, as recalled by several Natives, during a recent taping for The Daily Show.)

So why do it, especially in an art venue? “As people of color, or more specifically, Indigenous people, we deal with something called microaggression. It’s the needle pricks in our general American society and culture that says or does things that are offensive to Natives. They’re called ‘microaggression’ because they are passive aggressive enough to get by your average person, but still aggressive,” said Deal. “For example, when I worked at the National Museum of American Indian in 2004-2005, someone asked me if I still lived in a Tipi. This would be microaggression because it’s an insane questions that is based on stereotypes, but it’s also a statement about what this person believes quantifies me as an Indigenous person.”

The term ‘redskin,’ painted faces and faux headdresses, drunken war chants – these are all examples of microaggression. Deal’s performance piece was meant to use all of these abuses, commonly found in tailgate parties at FedEx Field and used by team fans around the world, over an eight-hour period. “I ended up calling it after just over four hours,” said Deal. “All of us–my friends who were helping me and myself–were just mentally and psychologically drained from the experience.”

Bryce Huebner, an Associate Professor at Georgetown University, was one of Deal’s assistants who played a part of one of the abusive fans. “I said things that I would never say in real life, in hopes of making it clear how ugly and harmful the casual racism against indigenous people in the United States is,” he said. “I was struck by how difficult it was to start playing that role, when I arrived my heart was pounding and I could hardly speak; but more troubling by far was the fact that it became easy to continue as I started to play off of the other actors. There’s an important lesson there: if you surround yourself with people who espouse hostile attitudes, it’s much easier to adopt those attitudes yourself.”

Deal said a lot of the audience mentioned to him how truly real it felt, watching it unfold, and he agreed. “After it got rolling, the invective felt truly real, like a few situations I’ve found myself in around the District.” When I mentioned that a Huffington Post review said it was unauthentic because he had used his friends as the antagonists, Deal laughed. “They should’ve been in my place, then. It certainly felt real to me.”

Deal (seated) in the middle of his "Redskin" performance. (c) Darby

Deal (seated) in the middle of his “Redskin” performance. (c) Darby

Tara Houska, a board member of Not Your Mascots and a big proponent of the name change movement in the District, was one of the audience members. “The experience of watching Indigenous-based racism being hurled at a Native was difficult, to say the least,” she said. “Some of those phrases hit too close to home, and brought me back to moments in which I’ve experienced racism. At times, it was hard to keep in mind that it was a performance. I wanted to yell at the antagonizers to back off, and felt the hurt Gregg must have been feeling.”

Both Houska and Deal were also participants in the recent Daily Show segment that showed a panel of team fans and a panel of Indigenous people who, after separate discussions, confronted each other through the show’s direction. The segment has had mixed reaction in the press, with a lot of sympathy generated for the four white fans (who all self-identified as some fraction of various tribes, but with no real knowledge of their heritage – or, in one case, how generational fractions work). The incidents taped at FedEx field later between some of the Native panelists (specifically, the 1491s) and fans weren’t shown, which is unfortunate.

“Honestly, both the Daily Show and my art performance felt very similar,” said Deal. “The racism against Indigenous people in this country is so ingrained it it’s culture that the only way a team could exist as a mascot (which is defined as a clown, a court jester, by the way…nice ‘honor’) in the first place. The Washington Redskins–and other Indian mascots–are a really good illustration of not only how disconnected America is from it’s own history, but how disconnected it is from the issue of equality towards Indigenous people is. We are literally sitting on an issue where a significant amount of this country’s Indigenous are saying ‘it’s offensive’ and the answer is ‘no, it’s not offensive at all!’”

Gregg Deal with "Colonialism"

Gregg Deal with “A Nice Can of Colonialism”

Deal went on to say the whole movement to change the name isn’t really about offense, but about equality. “What you’re looking at is the tip of a very big iceberg of issues that are simply illustrated by this specific issue. The fact that we don’t seem to own our identity enough for someone to allow us to assert that identity appropriately, but that a corporate sports team is making billions from our image and likeness and has the audacity to fly it under the flag of honor is insanity,” he said. “Let’s be honest here, it’s not about honor, tradition, or any other lame excuse Dan or his constituents are saying. It’s about money, and the fans have all bought into supporting one of this country’s financial top one percent.”

Houska felt that Deal’s passion really came through in his performance piece, and she applauded him for taking a stand in such a public way. “I think it was a very in-your-face method to get locals aware that Natives experience racism, including the racist imagery and name of the Washington team,” she said. “We have all experienced being belittled and told to ‘get over it.’ I hope that people walked away with a sense of understanding that microaggression is a very real and damaging thing. And how it feels to be deluged by caricatured Natives via the Washington football team and having no say in it, despite being the subject of that caricature.”

Deal agreed. “I believe the term REDSKIN, if it belongs anywhere…it belongs to Indigenous people. In the same way the Black community essentially own the N-word,” he said. “While there are different schools of thought on that word and it’s usage in the Black community, it’s understood that if you use that word outside the Black community, you’re a certain type of person. The word ‘redskin’ belongs to us, and it’s not up to [non-Indigenous people] how it’s used.”

For more information on the name change social media movement, visit Eradicating Offensive Native Mascotry, Not Your Mascots, or follow the #changethename hashtag on Twitter.

Food and Drink, Interviews, Music, People, We Love Arts, We Love Drinks, We Love Food, We Love Music

Spotlight: Carlie Steiner and Tea Time DC

Hey DC, it’s time for tea with one of my new favorite bartenders, Carlie Steiner. I first met Carlie a few weeks ago, and after a few coffees and a rather short meeting, we were already scooting all over town in her new Vespa, Sophia, shooting back and forth about classic cocktails, and quickly becoming fast friends.

If there’s one piece of advice I can give about the food and bev scene in DC, is don’t follow places, follow people. No matter where you go and what you like, I guarantee that if you develop a relationship with a bartender, server, manager, barista, whatever, you will love wherever it is they are working or whatever it is they are doing. Try to get less caught up in what new bars are opening and instead try to make connections with industry people that you like and respect, because if I follow them wherever they go, you’ll have the same great experience every time. And Carlie is one of those people to follow.

Fairly young to the DC bar scene, Carlie started in New York at culinary school, where she honed her skills as a chef, learning valuable techniques to put to use behind the bar and in the kitchen. It’s no wonder then that she was hired right out of school to work the bar at José Andrés’ Minibar, where she made such an impression that she was moved over to his new, experimental cocktail lab, Barmini. Continue reading

Interviews, Special Events, The Features

Vincent Musi and Exotic Pets, By Way of National Geographic

Vincent J. Musi, courtesy National Geographic

Vincent J. Musi, courtesy National Geographic

Tomorrow night, veteran photographer Vincent J. Musi will take the stage at the National Geographic Museum. He’ll be discussing his latest story in the April 2014 magazine, “Exotic Pets,” where he explored the deep connections some people have with creatures not found in the corner pet store. He’ll be sharing images and stories from this assignment and other forays into the world of animals.

We’ll be giving away a pair of tickets to the show, so leave a comment below, using your first name and a valid email address; we’ll draw the winner before noon tomorrow. The event starts at 7:30 p.m. and parking is free at the museum’s garage after 6 p.m. for those attending the program.

Musi took a moment to answer some of our questions about his work and the project.

How did you approach the Exotic Pets project?

My goal was to offer a voice to people who had experience with exotic animals in a straightforward and non-judgmental way. These are folks who tend to get marginalized in what can be very sensational coverage by the press. I was looking for diversity in experience, animals, and opinions. Anyone who had a direct relationship with an exotic animal.

What was the most unusual pairing or situation you came across?

A breeder of jungle cat hybrids in Florida had a huge Tortoise, Canada Goose and a Pot Bellied Pig as her personal pets. Nothing can prepare you for the site of a Mountain Lion lounging pool-side at a brick ranch house or a white-tailed deer with her own bedroom.

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Get Out & About, Interviews, People, Special Events, The Features

Speeding Through the Appalachians With Jennifer Pharr Davis

Every year, hundreds of hikers attempt to traverse the 2,181 miles of the Appalachian Trail that stretches from Georgia to Maine. The typical journey takes at least four months. In 2011, long-distance hiker Jennifer Pharr Davis accomplished it in a little over 46 days. She became the trail’s overall speed record holder and the first woman to do so.

Thursday evening, Davis visits the National Geographic Museum to share her story about this incredible achievement. National Geographic is giving away a pair of tickets to a lucky WeLoveDC reader for the event. (See the end of the article for instructions on how to enter.) Davis sat down with WeLoveDC to talk about her accomplishment and time on the trail.

What inspired you to attempt the fastest hike of the Trail?

I had hiked the trail twice before, once in 2005 as a traditional thru-hike taking 4 months, and again in 2008 where I tried to set a new women’s record. I did that, hiking the trail in 58 days and averaging 38 miles per day. But coming off Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia where I finished my hike, I knew instantly that I had a lot left in the tank and that I hadn’t pushed myself to the max. So I immediately starting contemplating the possibility of doing it faster and of possibly trying to break the overall record of 47 days.

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Education, Interviews, People, Special Events, The Features

Meet Travelers Who Make a Difference

Every year, National Geographic celebrates individuals who travel the globe with passion and purpose. These travelers represent a style of travel, motivation, or method that informs and inspires us. Last year, more than 1,500 nominations were sent in to National Geographic Traveler for their annual Travelers of the Year award. The magazine staff selected those who turned trips into opportunities to assist with conservation efforts, connect with local cultures, volunteer, challenge themselves, deepen familial and community bonds, and engage the world in a meaningful way.

This Thursday, National Geographic will host a discussion with seven of their 2013 winners. And WeLoveDC wants to send one of our readers to this insightful program with a pair of tickets to the program and reception!

Panelists at the evening program will be Hilda and John Denham, who established the Pacuare Nature Reserve in Costa Rica to protect turtle nesting areas; Alison Wright, a photojournalist who launched the Faces of Hope Fund to provide medical assistance, education, and aid to children around the globe; Shannon O’Donnell, who began Grassroots Volunteering, a database of volunteering and sustainable tourism opportunities; Molly Burke and Muyambi Muyambi, founders of Bicycles Against Poverty in Uganda; and Tracey Friley, a youth travel advocate who began the Passport Party Project for helping underserved girls get their first passports.

These travelers went a step beyond a simple vacation and strive to make a difference through their journey. Often, it is an experience, sight, or object that inspires their change of direction. “I traveled several times to Costa Rica during the eighties to see the turtles and went to many beaches on both Pacific and Caribbean coasts,” said Hilda Denham. “I was fascinated by what I saw but was shocked by the poaching that was going on everywhere. Legislation came too late, and has always been ineffective.”

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Adventures, Interviews, People, The Features

My DC in 2013: Ben

In a few short hours, 2013 will end and another year in this city begins.

When Jenn asked me to pen this story a few weeks ago, I wasn’t exactly sure how to approach it. I considered a monthly perspective, then a “best of” format. Perhaps a look at a list of the site’s best offerings from our talented writing pool? Or maybe a review in photos (and steal Mosley’s thunder)?

In the end, I figured I’d do what I do best: sit down, put fingers to keyboard, and reflect. Because in the end, this was a year of reflection for me. I’m not even sure this collection of rambling will make sense to most, but it’s better than nothing, right?

Don’t get me wrong; this was a good year for me overall, if you look at the positives overwhelming the negatives. But looming large over me for a good part of the year has been that of a directional “where do I go now?” struggle that is beginning to resolve as 2014 dawns. Continue reading

Entertainment, Interviews, Music, People, The Features

Celebrating an Irish Christmas with Moya Brennan

The first time I heard Moya (also known as Máire) Brennan sing, it was on a friend’s Clannad album during an intense study period at college. The music, with its ethereal tones and haunting vocals, imparted a sense of peace and calm, allowing our study group to finally settle down and prepare for finals.

My music taste has evolved over the years, but my love for Celtic and Irish music hasn’t waned. In fact, it’s grown. And central to that has been Moya’s incredible music.

I had a chance to talk with her last year before and after her St. Patrick’s Day concert. It’s a great look into her approach and style, and even though her concert tomorrow is a Christmas one, still very relevant.

YouTube Preview Image

Brennan visits Washington tomorrow as part of a short U.S. tour with her Christmas show “An Irish Christmas.” The two performances, 3 and 7 p.m., will be at the Grosvenor Auditorium at the National Geographic Museum, located at 17 and M Streets, NW. The tour is part promotion of a re-release of her popular Christmas concert album. Both shows are sold out.

The “First Lady of Celtic Music” began her professional music career with Clannad back in the 1980s. The band, featuring many of her family members, started out of her father’s pub, Leo’s Tavern. Clannad is considered the flagship group that started the Celtic music movement. “We didn’t intentionally want to go out and become famous and make a lot of money and everything because we very much, when the band was formed, sang traditional Gaelic songs,” Moya said in an interview with CBN last year. “And even in Ireland people thought we were mad.”

Moya launched her solo career in the 1990s and to date has released seven albums. Her music career spans more than 20 albums, film scores, and collaborations with other well-known artists like Robert Plant, Shane MacGowan, and Bono. Continue reading

Interviews, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Ed Cunningham

Photo Courtesy of ESPN

Photo Courtesy of ESPN

Ed Cunningham grew up playing football at Mount Vernon High School in DC’s backyard. His ability to play the game and play it well enabled a successful career as a professional football player and on-air sports analyst. The athleticism he exhibited on the field led Cunningham to a Rose Bowl Championship — that he won — in college before he continued on to spend time in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks in the 90′s.

Most recently, Cunningham finds himself working as a college football analyst for ESPN. And this weekend, ESPN is bringing Cunningham back home to call the Clemson at Maryland football game which is scheduled to air at 3:30 p.m. ET this afternoon.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

Now that I have lived away for so long, I think it is the accents of the people. There is such a unique way of speaking here, and it always reminds me of being a kid in such a great place.

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Interviews, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Geoff Grubbs

Photo Courtesy of Geoff Grubbs

Photo Courtesy of Geoff Grubbs

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

When he first moved to D.C. in 1972, Geoff Grubbs knew a different town than the one we know today. People were moving out of the city and into to the suburbs and the first section of the Metro was being built. It was — simply put — a different time for the city and for Grubbs himself.

Fast-forward to present day and Grubbs lives and works in D.C. as the owner of a small independent environmental consulting firm but now finds himself on a mission. That mission is to help fund the research that will bring about the next generation of drugs not yet invented to help treat his form of lymphoma. It’s this circumstance, he said, that reignited his love for the city in which he lives. Why? The unfortunate circumstances have provided a new perspective, reminding him why he loves living in here and how lucky he is to do so.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

I came to DC from west Texas in 1972 for a job I really wanted at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Despite my enthusiasm, I was used to wide open spaces and it was hard to adjust to living in the humid and seemingly crowded East.

But I adjusted fast. It took just a motorcycle and some income to figure out that DC was a far more interesting and fun place than anywhere I had ever been.

More than four decades later, I can proudly say that I still love DC. I’ve made life-long friends and never intend to live anywhere else. DC public schools were great for my kids who are both now grown and thriving. I love the shore, I love hiking in the Shenandoah, I love the people, and most of the time I love the Nationals.

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Entertainment, Interviews, Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: A Q&A with Andy Suzuki of Andy Suzuki & The Method

Photo Credit: TalismanPHOTO

Photo Credit: TalismanPHOTO

Smooth melodic vocal lines in the spirit of Amos Lee and Sara Barellies with a touch of soul and an energetic blend of folk-rock rhythms reminiscent of John Mayer — that’s what Andy Suzuki & The Method bring to the table.

The band, fronted by the songwriting trio Andy Suzuki, Jason Gorelick, and Kozza Babumba (the grandson of Grammy Award-winning Nigerian percussionist Babatunde Olatunji), is an independent New York City-based group that recently released their highly anticipated album Born Out of Mischief as a result of a crowd-funding effort.

In the fall of 2012 they played internationally with a wildly successful 3-week tour in Southeast Asia and now Andy and the guys are on a U.S. tour with a stop at Ebenezers Coffeehouse in DC this Friday night.

The band’s sound — especially on your most recent release Born Out of Mischief — has a catchy yet familiar feel to it. It’s a pop rock album with elements of folk. Who are your biggest influences and how do you pay homage to them in your music?

We feel like we have finally found our sound in Born out of Mischief. A little bit of folk. A little bit of pop-rock. With a little but of a country-bluesy vibe. As far as our influences, they are all over the map, but to pick a few. We love how Ben Howard creates bridges through builds and repetition. We love how Amos Lee makes everything sound soulfully-bluesy. And we love how Peter Bradley Adams arranges his songs to sound incredibly lush. Hopefully you can hear some of these influences in our Born out of Mischief. We also kinda like to think of ourselves as similar to Tracy Chapman. But a little more Asian. And a little more country.

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Entertainment, Interviews, Music, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Jonny Grave

Photo by Rachel Levitin

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

It’s no easy feat pulling off a performance in honor of late Blues guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughn but that’s exactly what Jonny Grave and his band The Tombstones did this past Saturday night at Iota Club in Arlington, VA. The performance was part of the 1983 Classic Albums Concert featuring three other DC area acts and Jonny’s job was to close out the night.

Despite being a bundle of nerves, Jonny executed the performance with precision and passion. He went into the project knowing what musical challenges lied ahead and came out victorious on the other side by the night’s end.

Jonny was first introduced to American folk music at an early age by his very musical family while growing up in the DC area. By fifteen, he started learning slide guitar techniques by listening to old Blues records. By seventeen he was performing them live. Since then, he’s become a staple of the DC Blues scene.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

Well, for starters, I’ve lived in the area my whole life. I was born in Silver Spring, very close to Sligo Creek. I spent a lot of time going downtown, seeing museums and galleries. When I was a teenager, I started venturing on my own into DC, away from the large attractions, and into the neighborhoods. Adams Morgan fascinated me. Eastern Market was like a dream. Michael Jantz got me to start playing at Wonderland, and the folks at Nanny O’Briens finally got me on their stage. When I was 21, I moved to 10th and S st., and that’s when I really fell in love with the city. I made friends with a lot of musicians, artists, bohemians, Hill staffers, and bartenders. I started playing more. The city kind of opened up for me. They say that home is where the heart is, and mine is right here.

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Entertainment, Interviews, Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: A Q&A with Bleu

Photo Credit Casey Curry

He’s served as co-writer and producer for chart-topping acts like The Jonas Brothers, Hanson, Selena Gomez, and Demi Lovato but before all of that, Bleu started as a solo singer-songwriter out of Boston. A big break of sorts came in 2002 when the song “Somebody Else” off his upcoming 2003 major label album Redhead was released as part of the Spider-Man soundtrack.

When relations with his label were severed, Bleu took to new musical projects. Over the past few years, Bleu has worked hard to garner support from his fans through crowd-funding campaigns like Kickstarter (he won their 2010 award for Best Music Project) and most recently Pledge Music. And now, he’s embarked upon the first-ever Pledge Music sponsored tour with Will Dailey as of this week in anticipation of his newest album To Hell with You being released.

You can check out one of his two DC area tour stops by visiting Ramshead Onstage in Annapolis, Md. on Monday September 16 or Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Va. on Tuesday September 17.

On your last album Four, the themes ranged from death to God to the afterlife and even your legacy. For your upcoming release To Hell with You, what would you say the themes are and why?

I’m not sure if I’m sad or happy to say that the themes haven’t veered that much. I’m just as obsessed with self-obsession, mortality and spiritual-pitfalls as ever…but I think the musical-settings are quite different on this record, and I’m personally excited about the new juxtapositions that have come out of that.

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Entertainment, Interviews, Music, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Don Kim

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

If you need a reason to smile then Don Kim is a guy who can help get the job done. Whether he’s on stage cracking a joke, at home playing music with his friends, or out at a bar playing a game of darts with a beer in hand, Don’s the kind of guy you want to be around.

Most recently, the ukulele toting singer-songwriter released an animated music video for his song “Beaver + Duck = Love.” Go ahead and try to watch that video without cracking a smile. I triple dog dare ya.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

For a long time, I didn’t love DC (gasp!). I went to college at the University of Maryland (Go Terps!) thinking that I was hitting the road as soon as I was done. I tried to leave but I was immediately drawn back. Over time, I realized that all my complaints about this area were because I wasn’t looking for the right things. Sure it’s stuffy, there’s lots of politics, and jumbo slice tastes horrible (except when drunk), but it’s also full of highly under-appreciated art, culture, and music. It’s home to me because whatever I’m in the mood for, I can find it and I’ve been spending the last 5 years looking for all the gems that this area has to offer. It’s been an amazing adventure and I learn something new about this place everyday.

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Interviews, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

She Loves DC: Kaya Henderson

Photo Courtesy of Andy Le DCPS

Photo Courtesy of Andy Le DCPS / Pictured: Kaya Henderson (center)

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Kaya Henderson is an education advocate. In June 2011, Henderson was confirmed as the Chancellor of the DC Public Schools but even before then she was hard at work assisting where she could in regards to education. Henderson came to DCPS as Deputy Chancellor in 2007 after time spent as a corps member at Teach For America and as the Vice President for Strategic Partnerships at The New Teacher Project.

Through it all, Henderson has maintained her commitment to, “holding all students to high expectations, providing them with access to high quality teachers and leaders, and creating the most rigorous and innovative instructional environments to ensure their success” in DC’s public schools. And despite the job’s daily rigors, her work is her passion and not even the most difficult of hurdles will keep her from attempting to achieve her goals when there are a student’s best interests are involved.

While Henderson hails from Mt. Vernon, NY, she’s called DC home for many years and is happy to have “hung her hat” in this city.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you? 

They say home is where you hang your hat, so DC is home because it’s where my hat is hung! I have a great home in an amazing neighborhood (Brookland). I’ve built my family here and am surrounded by awesome friends and professional colleagues. I love that the city has range – you can be as high-brow or as get-down as you like and feel comfortable. But most of all, I love the people in this city. Washingtonians are exciting, resilient, creative, and fun!

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Entertainment, Interviews, Music, The Features, We Love Music

We Love Music: The Cowards Choir

Photo Courtesy of Andy Zipf

Photo Courtesy of Andy Zipf / Phot by Matt Williams of Clubhill Media

Andy Zipf is resilient. If there’s anything he’s learned in his time as a professional musician it’s that hard work pays off, but never right away. It may take years or even decades to accomplish the lofty goals he’s prepared for himself, but it’s with those goals in mind that Zipf is embarking upon the next chapter of his musical journey.

After working at his music full time for the past decade, Zipf is starting anew with a fresh moniker — The Cowards Choir.

It’s been 10 years since you started working in a professional capacity as a musician. But now, we see a shift. Tells us more about your decision to press forward with your music as The Cowards Choir as opposed to presenting yourself as Andy Zipf? 

I had been considering the name change for a couple years. It was something in the back of my mind, waiting to surface at the right time. I felt ready to begin that new chapter now. The Cowards Choir is an extension of who I am. I’m not abandoning my identity. I’m building onto it.

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Interviews, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

She Loves DC: Andrea Rodgers

Photo Courtesy of Andrea Rodgers // Pictured: Andy Cohen (left), Andrea Rodgers (center), Wolf Biltzer (right).

Photo Courtesy of Andrea Rodgers / Pictured: Andy Cohen (left), Rodgers (center), Wolf Biltzer (right).

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Andrea Rodgers is an inspired and busy woman. After tragedy struck on September 11, 2001, Rodgers became heavily involved in the DC charity circuit in order to give back to her community as best as she could. She joined the Junior League of Washington in 2003 and came in 2nd in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Man & Woman of the Year fundraising competition in 2004 — and those are just a couple of items that have kept her busy the past few years.

When she’s not lending a hand on a host committee or at a gala, Rodgers serves on several alumni groups near and dear to her heart as well as acting as President and CEO of a non-profit, Courage for Kids. Somewhere in between all of her activities, she still finds the time to act as the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of her blog Miss A, which covers a variety of topics referencing charity and style in 21 major U.S. cities.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you? 

The relationships that I have made over the past 15 years in the DC area are what make DC feel like home to me. Having grown up in a small town in North Carolina, I love the small town feel of Washington — running into people I know unexpectedly, discovering that my acquaintances know each other and no skyscrapers.

I enjoy all the green spaces we have in Washington and how quick and easy it is to get to a great park for a walk or run, to hike along the Potomac on the Billy Goat Trail, or to book a tennis court at Haines Point or Rock Creek. I love seeing the beautiful Potomac and the opportunity to go boating with friends. It’s no surprise that it helps make our fair city one of the healthiest in the country! I was born in the Netherlands – my mother is Dutch and my father is American ­– so I traveled often to Europe growing up. This being my background, I love the international aspect and sophistication of Washington. We have people here from every country in the world.

Walking around the city I enjoy overhearing someone speaking a foreign language. If it’s Dutch, I always surprise the foreign traveler by starting a conversation in my native language. We are blessed with so much in terms of art and culture in DC through the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian and other theaters and museums. As someone who double-majored in Economics and Politics at Wake Forest University, I love being so close to all the political action. Continue reading

Entertainment, Interviews, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Jody Avirgan

Photo Courtesy of Jody Avirgan and Ask Roulette

Photo Courtesy of Jody Avirgan and Ask Roulette

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Jody Avirgan likes questions more than answers. As a result of that, he is now the host of a unique conversation series called Ask Roulette. The live show encourages strangers to ask each others questions on stage. And, for the first time, the New York based show is coming to DC. The show is scheduled for Friday, August 9 at Politics and Prose with special guests Clinton Yates on The Washington Post, Dave Weigel  of Slate, and Linda Holmes of NPR’s Monkey See.

According to Avirgan, “Ask Roulette is a little hard to envision but the crux of it is that audience members show up with a question they want to ask a stranger. All the questions get put in a box then randomly selected. When you come on stage, you answer a question from a stranger, then turn around and ask a stranger your question. There are also special guests at each event. Questions are long, short, serious, silly, whatever. Any question goes. And of course you can just watch.”

When Avirgan’s not spending time on Ask Roulette, he works as a producer for NPR’s New York station WNYC radio. But not so long ago, Avirgan grew up in DC.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you? 

Well, my parents are there, still living in the same house, so there are inherent memories of home tied up with any time I come back. But I really do like the fact that, to most Americans, DC is an abstraction — a company town filled with hired political guns. The disconnect between that vision and the DC I know – one full of real people and everyday pleasures, makes it that much more special. It’s like we’re all in on a secret together.

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Interviews, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Jason Mendelson

Photo Courtesy of Jason Mendelson

Photo Courtesy of Jason Mendelson

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Jason Mendelson is an explorer. Mendelson first made his way from Tampa, Florida to DC with his wife nearly three years ago. Since then, Mendelson’s embarked upon a unique and time-consuming project — writing a song for each and every Metro station in the WMATA system. Along side his band, The Open Doors, Mendelson has released four volumes worth of what he calls “Metro Songs.”

When he’s not working on Metro Songs, Mendelson is an avid supporter and member of the DC-area music community. Whether he’s playing bass in a band one night, singing lead for The Open Doors on another, organizing (and executing) a “Classic Albums” concert, recording in his home studio, or out on the town catching a show, Mendelson’s devotion to making and listening to music is a physical display of genuine passion.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

The things that brought my wife and I here are not necessarily the same things that make it home for us now. After living our whole lives through 2010 in and around Tampa, Florida, we wanted a change and narrowed the selections down to D.C. for its superior job market and Alexandria specifically for safety and accessibility. The things that make it home to us now are all the wonderful friends and connections we’ve made, and all the great things to do in the area. We frequently visit museums and parks and attend arts events here that eclipse their sunshine state counterparts.

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Interviews, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

He Loves DC: Chris Cicatelli

Photo Courtesy of Chris Cicatelli

Photo Courtesy of Chris Cicatelli (pictured, center)

Whether he’s surrounded by a cloud of diamond dirt on the sandlot, getting creative inside the television studio, or recording the latest in a string of podcast episodes at his home studio, Chris Cicatelli is known throughout the DC area — especially among a couple different softball leagues. His charismatic personality coupled with his love for being around people are attributes that people flock to, particularly when he’s acting as his infamous alter ego: Coco Caray, sports announcer.

What is it about DC that makes it home to you?

I moved to DC in 1983, my dad got a job with CNN as a political and we made the move to DC/MD. After being here for so long, I have to say, what makes DC home to me is the spring and summer seasons. The cherry blossoms, the monuments in the spring. It is truly a beautiful city in the warm weather months.

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Interviews, People, She/He Loves DC, The Features

She Loves DC: Kristine Thomas

Photo Courtesy of Kristine Thomas (Pictured: center)

Photo Courtesy of Kristine Thomas (Pictured: center)

She/He Loves DC is a series highlighting the people who love this city just as much as we do.

Kristine Thomas is a goal-oriented woman. Her goal is to live as eco-friendly of a life as possible all while encouraging others in her own community to do the same. And now — as a happily married mother of one living in hometown of Washington, DC — she’s doing exactly that.

Thomas was born and raised in the District before moving to New York City where she graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology. While there, Thomas gained the skills necessary to survive in the world of fashion by working jobs in public relations and event planning. The next chapter of her life moved her west to San Francisco where she embraced a green lifestyle while continuing her career in marketing and advertising.

Currently, Thomas is back in DC and has been quite active in the community since her return. In November 2011, she found inspiration in motherhood and started Dewdrop — a fashion events and fashion-forward clothing swap company. Thomas started Dewdrop in honor of her love for fashion and style but also because she’s a mom now. “I have to be creative with how I shop. Hence, the company was born,” she said.

“Not only is swapping smart shopping but is also a good way to preserve the environment for future generations.”

What is it about DC that makes it home to you? 

I grew up here so it’s home in a sense that I could still go to my parents’ house for dinner and that I still have friends from my childhood years I hang out with. I love how DC has changed so much. What makes it home to me now is that it has more of a stylish, urban vibe to it. Having lived in New York and San Francisco, I’m glad to see boutiques and restaurants pop up like I would see in those cities.

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