On Jan. 24, a lovely luncheon at the Baton Rouge Country Club was held for attendees of Friends of Magnolia Mound Plantation’s 19th annual Petite Antiques Forum. It followed what everyone agreed was a dynamic talk by Brock Jobe, professor emeritus of American decorative arts at Winterthur Museum Garden & Library, earlier that morning at the State Archives.
His talk dealt with the decline in price of American antiques as a result of younger generations' lack of affinity for grandmother’s china, crystal, linens and furniture. And, because trends almost always reverse themselves, for those of us who treasure such items, now is the time to buy. Table mates Chet Coles, Winnie Byrd and Florent Hardy and I all lamented this particular trend and volunteered to take whatever anyone would pass on to us. Chet even confessed he was attending an auction to purchase four more brass candlesticks to add to his already burgeoning collection.
After lunch, forum attendees headed to West Feliciana for tours of Retreat and Woodland plantations and St. Mary’s Episcopal Church.
“Simple and direct ... something anyone can read” — that’s how noted Louisiana author Ernest Gaines described the writing style of Jamel Brinkley as he introduced this year’s recipient of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence, also on Jan. 24. Fans of Gaines and the written word packed the Manship Theatre for this year’s presentation celebration, which, for the first time in several years, was rain free.
Brinkley won for his collection of nine short stories, “A Lucky Man,” set in Brooklyn and the South Bronx, where he grew up. It was chosen from among 18 manuscripts submitted for this prestigious award given annually by the Baton Rouge Area Foundation. The prize came with a specially created sculpture and a check for $10,000.
“I, too, had a collection of short stories, but the publisher wanted a novel,” recalled Gaines. “I told them I had one but they said, ‘Yeah, but no one read it.’ Most people think a novelist isn’t writing short stories, but the short story writer is just as much of a writer as a novelist. A collection of short stories is equal to any novel.”
Brinkley proved that sentiment true as he held the audience spellbound as he read from his collection. He also shared how he discovered Gaines’ novels while a student at Columbia University, first reading “Lessons Before Dying” followed by “The Diary of Miss Jane Pitman” and “A Gathering of Old Men.”
The night’s program also included the third annual school essay competition. This year’s contest had more than 400 submissions from Baton Rouge area students. Placing first, second and third in the elementary, middle school and high school categories were: Christopher Elliott, fifth-grader at Glen Oaks Park Elementary School, son of Trameka Elliott; Aditya Sekharan, third-grader at Highland Elementary School, daughter of Shyama Madhaban; Tyler Brooks Stevens, third-grader at Westdale Heights Academic Magnet School, son of Alyse and Alan Stevens; Zachary DeCuir, eighth-grader at Glasgow Middle School, son of Richelle and Ron DeCuir; Kamia Pickney, seventh-grader at Westdale Middle School, daughter of Renée Pickney and Jurse Johnson; and Jeremy Short, eighth-grader at McKinley Middle Magnet School, son of Margaret and Lamar Short Sr.; Fallyn Melton, sophomore at Woodlawn High School, daughter of Tara and Christopher Melton; Alex Nelson, sophomore at Episcopal High School, daughter of Anne and Andrew Nelson; and Magnolia Vincent, senior at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, daughter of Christina and Michael Vincent.
The celebration wrapped up with Brinkley autographing copies of his book at a reception.
Later on the 24th, I headed to LSU where the LSU Museum of Art was hosting its Director’s Circle Soirée at the University House. The evening was hosted by Jan and Sandy Arst, Beth and Butler Fuller, Susannah and Neil Johannsen and Jacki and Brian Schneider. Director Daniel Stetson talked about the museum’s upcoming events and the importance of the support of circle members.
I also got to visit with Matt Watson, Mathew Edwards and Adam Enamorado — all of whom I tried to convince to come with me to my next stop.
This debut costume benefit gala benefiting IRIS Domestic Violence Foundation and the Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and hosted by Women Wine & Connections was in full swing at the Time Out Lounge when I got there. Co-chairwomen Ellen Martinez and Evelyn Flynn asked women to come dressed in old ballgown, prom, bridesmaids and wedding dresses. The guys were challenged to dig deep into their closets for their best previous-decade ensemble. Richard Flicker was a scream in his 1976 LSU Shreveport sweater.
Rob Payer and his band, The Remnants, and their '60s' repertoire had everyone on the dance floor for most of the night.
Brotherhood Sisterhood Award
Jan. 25 started early with the Capital Area United Way’s Brotherhood Sisterhood Awards Breakfast at the EBR Main Library honoring Maxine Crump and Ralph Bender. This award, first given in 1963, honors individuals who have worked toward the elimination of bias, bigotry and racism across ethnic, gender and religious lines. Having known both of the honorees for some 30-plus years, I can honestly say both were most deserving on this honor.
Crump is the president of Dialogue on Race Louisiana, which facilitates often uncomfortable conversations between citizens in an effort to eliminate racism. Her award was presented by nominator Eric Dexter.
Bender, CFO with Manship Media, is a past chairman of the CAUW board and is never afraid to stand up for what’s right. He received his award from nominator Marvin Borgmeyer.
This year also saw the presentation of the first-ever “Pass the Torch” award, which honors individuals between the ages of 18-24 who are advancing the mission of Brotherhood Sisterhood. The award went to Jahi Mackey, founder and program director of the 821 Project, which promotes global citizenship by providing intercultural education programs throughout southeast Louisiana. He received his award from nominator Jose Torres.
In keeping with tradition, the breakfast concluded with everyone singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” accompanied by harpist Trenise Gauthier.
Dexter and Torres served on this year’s committee along with Rabbi Jordan Goldson, CAUW Vice President of Resource Development & Marketing Kyle Bove, sponsor ExxonMobil’s Megan Manchester, Heather Day, Joe Simmons and 100 Black Men representatives John F. Smith and Fred Sibley.
‘Kick it Out’
My schedule doesn’t allow me to very often take in performances by local arts organizations so I was happy I could attend Of Moving Colors’ 10th-anniversary performance of “Kick it Out ... Around the World” Saturday afternoon at the Manship Theatre. Garland Goodwin Wilson’s ensemble is a talented bunch. I was blown away by this entire production.
Standouts included the amazingly talented Julian Guillory, who danced in almost every piece; Gabby Danna; choreographer and soloist Bethany Jones McCullough and Christina Russo. Of course, the younger set totally stole the show as they danced to “Never Smile at a Crocodile” and “Chim Chim Cheree.”
The dances, choreographed to popular tunes like Ray Charles “Hit the Road Jack,” Dean Martin’s “That Amoré,” The Champs “Tequila,” Sarah Vaughn’s “Whatever Lola Wants,” Brenda Lee’s “Danke Schoen,” and Frank Sinatra’s “Come Fly with Me” and “New York, New York,” took the audience on a coming-of-age tour of the world with “Baby Girl,” who was vividly brought to life in the story penned by local slam poet Chancelier “Xero” Skidmore.
If you missed “Kick it Out,” make an effort to check out Of Moving Colors’ production, “Tell Me More” on March 22 at the Manship Theatre.
I heard that buddy S.J. Montalbano was having a book signing at Barnes & Noble Citiplace on Saturday and that a portion of the proceeds would benefit the radio training program at Baton Rouge Magnet High School, so I had to get a copy of S.J.’s autobiography, “I’m Leaving It Up to Me.”
Forum 35 handed out several awards at its Community Impact Breakfast Jan. 17 at Juban’s Restaurant. Guest speaker for the event was Stephen Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Association of Business & Industry. Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome offered opening remarks.
This year’s Baton Rouge Original Award went to Heather Day, owner of The Red Cake event planning and former president of Forum 35. “She has spent countless hours giving back to the community she lives in,” read her nomination letter.
The Baton Rouge Original Young Professional Award went to Racheal Hebert, executive director and founder of STAR (Sexual Trauma Awareness & Response). According to her nomination letter, Hebert’s “exceptional leadership and determined vision has had an enormous effect on survivors.”
Forum 35’s Corporate Member of the Year award went to the Baton Rouge Area Chamber for having the “greatest impact on the organization through active memberships and corporate support.”