Tuesday, August 8, 2017

John Malveaux: Part 20-LBCAA 30 year history

Steve Leary "El Presidente" performs Saturday in Long Beach. (Photo courtesy Steve Leary)

Long Beach Press-Telegram

Performer sees music as a unifier

FESTIVAL: Steve Leary draws on his African-American and Latin roots.
By Greg Mellen
Staff Writer
Posted: 09/10/2009 09:37:40 PM PDT

LONG BEACH - As an artist and a person, Steve Leary straddles two worlds.
To look at the 6-foot-7 African-American former pro basketball player is to get one perception.
To hear him speak in his native Spanish and listen to his Latin-infused hip-hop music, is to get an entirely different perspective.
And through his music, Leary hopes to become a bridge to bring the two cultures together.
"I haven't hit the big time yet, but when I do, it's all over," Leary says. "I'll use my powers to unite everyone." 
It may sound like idle boasting, but to get to this point in his career and life, Leary has had to manage tricky currents of dual identity, and to embrace diverse cultures.
Long Beach will get a chance to see this unusual amalgamation Saturday when Leary, who has several stage names and personas, including El Presidente, plays at 6:10 p.m. at the inaugural Latin American Parade and Festival downtown.
Born and raised in Panama as the child of an American serviceman, who returned to the U.S. when Leary was young, and a Panamanian mother, Leary is very much a man of two cultures, two identities.
When Leary was 16, he came to the United States to live with an uncle in South Central Los Angeles. At Manual Arts High School, he got a rough introduction.
"Being black-Spanish in the U.S. is no joke," he says.
It was the late 1980s and Leary says racial tensions between Latinos and blacks were particularly high.
"My friends were Mexicans because I could speak with them and blacks were looking at me like, `Why are you talking to them?"' Leary says. "It was a culture shock. In Panama we didn't really have racism like that."
Leary says that during his first year in high school he was regularly beaten and robbed of his lunch money by his black classmates.
Eventually, for his safety, he transferred to Los Angeles High School.
It was through basketball that Leary first bridged the culture gap. Although he only played volleyball and soccer in Panama, Leary was cajoled into hoops.
"That was one of the reasons Americans embraced me," he says. "I wouldn't talk much and after they embraced me it was hard for them not to like me."
Leary played at El Camino College and Cal State Los Angeles. He also played for Magic Johnson's All-Stars, an international barnstorming team.
"Basketball was a way for me to see my American side," Leary said. "Then hip-hop came and I said `Oh, man, I'm home."'
The Central Area Association sponsored Leary at the Long Beach festival after he had performed at a photo exhibit in Long Beach featuring Afro-Mexicans called "Journey to Black Mexico."
John Malveaux of CAA said Leary was a natural fit.
"Part of CAA's mission is bridging different communities and cultures and he's an artist who quite conspicuously brings Latin and African-American cultures together."
Since 1997, Leary has been performing extensively, primarily in Mexico.
Locally, he has played venues such as the Stock Exchange, Key Club and the House of Blues in Hollywood.
In 2006, he won top Latino hip-hop artist at The World of Rap awards in Las Vegas.
Leary is finishing an album and would like to follow with the "Presidential Tour."
Leary says he sees a huge relatively untapped market in Latin hip-hop, especially with the African-American sensibility he brings.
"There's no one out there who looks like me," he says "I have the best of both worlds now."



Media Credit: Grace Orozco
CELEBRATION: Roots poetess Sufia Giza performs poems at PCC on Thursday, Feb. 18 as part of the Black History Month activities.

Long Beach City College Viking News

Peace, unity on stage
Issue date: 2/25/10 Section: City Style

About 100 people came and went during an hour-long performance by roots poetess Sufia Giza and reggae singer Claudius Linton at the PCC, on Thursday, Feb. 18.

After being introduced by vice chair of the Cultural Affairs Committee Martha Childress, each performer brought their own message of peace and unity through song and spoken word as part of LBCC's Black History Month activities.

Linton sang six songs while strumming his acoustic guitar, including "Crying Time," a Rasta consciousness anthem showcasing the lost message of leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., which was first released in 1976.

Linton began his career by taking singing lessons with Bob Marley and Peter Tosh in Jamaica in the 1970s.

Linton finished his set by covering Bob Marley's "Redemption Song." As he sat at the edge of the stage several people walked up to him and placed money by his side.

He said, "It is a beautiful day and I wanted to keep the audience focused. We have to keep positive."

Giza performed poems from her latest album "Sankofa Times" with a background of reggae beats and accompaniment by bassist Del Ferron.

Some tracks included "Armchair Revolutionries," Human Cargo," "Morena/Black Woman" and the debut track "Lover's Recipe."

During the performance of "Prisioneros De Guerra/Prisoners of War," Giza encouraged the audience to chant the chorus "prisoners of war" while she chanted back in Spanish.

She also read a poem called "Langston's Blues," a tribute to poet Langston Hughes.

Cultural affairs chairman Micheaux Fortson said he was pleased and proud of the event.

"I'm a poet myself and I'm glad that this is taking place. We really take pride in this. Our mission is unity and diversity and expression is key," he said.

Sheet metal major Ulysses Lee said, "It's (Giza's poetry) really closer to heart and it's appropriate for Black History month."

Giza said, "I think it went really well. There was some head-nodding and I noticed as I went along that some people were humming the words."

She also gave praise to Linton as she signed autographs', "I was so pumped up to be on the same stage as Claudius. It's good to be home

John Malveaux of 

Part 20-LBCAA 30 year history

Classical music is the primary but not exclusive music style produced by MusicUNTOLD.  Musicuntold presented the Spanish speaking African American hip hop rapper El Presidente (Steve Leary) during the first and second 2009 & 2010 Long Beach Latin American Music Festivals. El Presidente was the only hip hop artist on the extensive line up both years. His performances provided striking pictures of diversity. Each performance of approximately 1,000 or more (children & adults) rocking and waving hands to the beats and clean lyrics of a 6’7’’ very dark skinned African American rapping in Spanish on an outdoor stage. See Greg Mellen Press Telegram article-attachment 1

In contract to the 2010 African American Heritage Month recital featuring Countertenor Darryl Taylor (Part 13), Msicuntold presented hip hop poetess Sufia Giza at Long Beach City College-PCH campus. Sufia Giza describes herself as an ancestrally inspired Artist who uses words to incite and inspire. She informally learned Spanish from neighbors in San Bernardino and perform poetry and hip hop in English and Spanish. See Long Beach City College Viking News article-attachment 2.

 MusicUNTOLD presented world music legend Salif Keita from Mali, Africa at the Long Beach Performing Art Center in June 2010 with albinism exhibit and discussion as educational component (Part 14). MusicUNTOLD presented “PiWAI & NASAMBU Acoustic Music and Soul Stories from Kenya, Zimbabwe, and Beyond” live at Long Beach Manazar Gamboa Community Theater preceeded by video studio session at Long Beach City College. Each artist accompanied the other in performance of original songs and telling of African stories (verbal portraits of African folklore and proverbs).  Piwai & Nasambu each played multiple instruments. See/hear  complete video studio session https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGzN2xkmXcM

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