Francis Flisiuk

Francis Flisiuk

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Sign posted in town sparks debate, gets torn down — Should the swastika be re-appropriated as a symbol of the resistance?

Last week locals reported on Facebook that dozens of posters depicting Nazi imagery went up on various signposts around Congress Street. At a quick glance, the poster depicted a black swastika, but a closer inspection revealed that the poster was actually intended as an antifascist one with the word TRUMP arranged to create a swastika in the negative space.

The signs prompted a tricky question among Portlanders: could a symbol of hate be reappropriated?

Seemingly, whomever put up the sign deliberately meant to equate Trump’s widely perceived hatred toward minorities on the same moral plane as the atrocities once committed by Nazi Germany. (The poster prints the message “join the resistance: indvisibleguide.com” on the bottom, but a spokesperson for the site said they have nothing to do with the posters. It’s not even clear that this poster wasn’t part of some smear campaign from a right-wing agitator).

“While Trump’s equivocation on the evils of white supremacy and neo-Nazism should not be tolerated, the image depicted on the poster is offensive and hurtful, and the use of our website without our knowledge is disingenuous,” said Sarah Dohl, the Communication Officer for Indivisble.

While it’s a safe bet that many Trump supporters would condemn this poster, what proved more interesting in the online conversation is the extreme difference in opinion amongst those that would agree that Trump emboldens Nazis.

When local jazz singer VIVA (who preferred being identified by this name for this story) posted the photo of the poster on her Facebook page, it generated a heated discussion about whether the poster functioned as an appropriate form of protest.

Opinions seemed divided into two schools of thought. The first one being that hate symbols should never be re-appropriated regardless of the good intentions behind it. People viewing the poster quickly or at a distance could easily mistake it as a “legitimate” Nazi poster, rendering its original message as ineffective and needlessly offensive.

“It reads as a swastika,” said Don Marietta, a longtime resident of Portland, and political organizer who worked on the Bernie Sanders campaign, to the Phoenix. “If you disregard the small print, it could read as pro-Trump and proNazi. It's trying to argue using the opponent's paradigm. Which is never a winning proposition. Ultimately, calling Trump a Nazi is not going to do as much good as pointing out how he encourages hate.”

Musician Sean Libby, a member of the band Johnny Cremains, said that he tore down about 100 copies of the poster last week, on the grounds that no matter the intention, swastikas have no place on Portland’s streets.

“I took them down because I've been brought up that swastikas, when aligned with the tri colors of white, red, black, are a powerful hate symbol,” said Libby to the Phoenix. “Seeing these every 30 feet down Congress wasn't something I wanted people walking to work or kids going to school in the morning having to see. The idea that it was a resistance poster seemed a little far fetched.”

For Libby, simply slapping the words “Resist Trump” doesn’t sanction the use of an image that was used to promote genocide. He said that one doesn’t have to be “black, Jewish, gay or otherwise to recall that the symbol once stood for murderous oppression, instead of a Trump resistance.”

Representing at least 24 progressive organizations, the political action group Mainers For Accountable Leadership also denounced the posters, saying that “slurs and epithets of this kind have no place in Maine politics and are completely inconsistent with Maine values.”

“We stand in defense of diversity, equality, compassion, and plurality. Ideologies that promote white supremacy, fascism, white nationalism or ethnic hatred are completely inconsistent with those values or American traditions,” wrote a spokesperson for MFAL in a public statement. “Whatever our view of President Trump, the posters are equally shameful and unacceptable.”

Others vehemently disagreed, arguing that one of Maine’s largest progressive groups equated the violent actions of white nationalists as tantamount to a symbol on a poster. The counterpoint, which was voiced by some Jews and people of color in Portland, was that symbols are not tantamount to violence and that the swastika could be an effective, albeit shocking way to raise awareness of the injustices happening in Trump’s America.

“This is a matter of feelings over existence,” wrote one person who identified as Jewish who will remain anonymous because they couldn’t be reached for comment. “Don't spare our feelings when trying to maintain our lives. We are fighting against fascists. Sorry that a symbol of our oppression makes you white people so uncomfortable. I, for one, would rather see it stay up so that I don't have to suffer another holocaust.”

Local resident James Melanson said that he “absolutely supports resistance tactics that challenge the status quo.”

“People are often angry if you wake them up abruptly,” said Melanson. “And it's easy, in a place like Portland, for people to stay in a place of deep sleep. Violence against people of color, LGBTQIA people, immigrants, Muslim people, is often not made visible. Things get swept under the rug here, for various reasons, and the image of Portland as a safe haven gets privileged over the truth.”

“VIVA,” a woman of color, expressed disappointment that so many white people are horrified at the poster without acknowledging that they represent what white America is for someone who doesn’t pass as white/cis/straight in this moment of time.

“These posters made everyone here feel the proximity and ugliness of the hate going on in this country,” said Viva. “Protest is still not illegal and still not lethal.” VIVA wrote a comment on her page addressed to her white friends and fans that she agreed to share here:

“I wonder if you've considered what it tells me that you are so uncomfortable seeing this close to home you'd rather tear down these posters than allow them to do their job in spreading the conversation to people who would rather ignore them. You don't like Nazi imagery, so you take it down? That's privilege in action. As a woman of color I can't just choose not to see this problem. I do not have that luxury.”

  • Published in News

8 Days A Week: Ear Candy, Brain Food, and Sublime Moments

THURSDAY 31

IN MEMORIAM | Almost 100 people are dying every day from drug related accidents or overdoses. Experts say that half a million Americans will die from opiates in the next decade. The problem isn’t going anywhere, and we’ve heard disturbingly little out of both LePage and Trump’s administration on strategies to alleviate this deadly crisis. For now, Mainer’s will gather in Monument Square for International Overdose Awareness Day, to do the one thing they unfortunately know all too well: grieve the loss of a loved one impacted by this epidemic. If you know of anyone who’s perished from drug addiction, write their name on a paper lantern, and honor them with others who might share your pain.

| FREE | 6:30 pm | Monument Square, Portland | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. |

 

DRAWN AND QUARTERED | Any aspiring cartoonists or visual humorists should definitely swing by MECA this evening for a dose of inspiration (and maybe some jealousy). The talented illustrator Mimi Pond (whose work has appeared in the Simpson’s, the LA Time, Seventeen Magazine, and National Lampoon to name a few) will be sharing some tricks of the trade, as well as some insight into what it takes to create a compelling graphic novel.

| FREE | 7:00 pm | Osher Hall, Maine College of Art, 522 Congress St., Portland | https://www.meca.edu/ |

 

HATE THYSELF | This “sad af” emo, pop punk dance party at Empire, could easily double as a chance to purge whatever emotional baggage has been weighing you down all week. Pretend it’s 2002 and come shake it off to some post-hardcore hits.

| FREE | 10:00 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | http://www.portlandempire.com/ |

 

FRIDAY 1

 

RALLY AGAINST HATE | In light of massive amounts of resistance, word on the street is that several far-right/white nationalist rallies that were once scheduled across the country have now been canceled. While those fools are hugely outnumbered, countering their racist agenda is far from over. While some Portlanders use First Friday as a chance to buy and sell art, local activist Harlan Baker is fulfilling a small but important role: he’s utilizing the increased foot traffic downtown to urge others to publicly denounce white supremacy. Join him and others for the monthly Say No To Racism rally.

| FREE | 5:30 pm | Monument Square, Portland |

 

BYE BYE SUMMER | Fans of controlled explosions won’t get any other chances to see fireworks locally this year. If that bums you out, take advantage of this big show igniting into the sky after the Seadogs take on the New Hampshire Fisher Cats. Boom.

| $14 | 6:00 pm | Hadlock Field, Portland |

 

CHARMS AND HOPE | One of the area's best, and most dedicated reggae acts play tonight at Mayo Street Arts. Mystic Vibes, a Portland five-piece, debuted in 1998, and have been the primary source of Rastafari philosophy, and true to form reggae music for Mainers ever since. If the events of this week have put you in a bad mood, these guys might hold the cure.

| $12 | 7:30 pm | Mayo Street Arts, 10 Mayo St., Portland | http://mayostreetarts.org/ |

 

FIST PUMP TIME | New York based band Wild Adriatic is known to put on a flawlessly tight rock-n-roll show. They mix in the right amounts of grit, groove, and grime to keep their sound interesting, and do get a little predictable with their guitar riffs, but only when the moment calls for it. They’re playing a full-throttle show tonight at Port City featuring lyrical themes of personal evolution, political strife, and frequent heartbreak. Joining them are the McLovins, another politically conscious, but 100% fun prog-rock foursome.

| $12 | 8:00 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | http://www.portcitymusichall.com/ |

 

EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED | Trying to describe Dreadnaught’s music in words is like trying to sing underwater; it can be done, but it still doesn’t sound right. I’ll give it a shot anyway. At times the ambitious Portsmouth trio sounds like conventional prog-rock, other times they let loose with funky grooves, avant garde blues, and deranged punk anthems. And they’ve also flirted with country rock and black metal too. Take their latest 6th album Hard Chargin’, it’s all over the place stylistically, but that’s what their fans have come to love. It seems like Dreadnaught’s built around bucking rock trends and combining that attitude with a whirlwind pace for an exciting time. Also on the bill are Sunrunner and Galactacos.

| $10 | 8:00 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | http://www.portlandhouseofmusic.com/ |

 

SATURDAY 2

 

FIGHT BACK | John Jenkins, an author, educator, and martial artist says that the difference between being paranoid and prepared is being informed. I would agree. And when it comes to self-defense, Jenkins wants local women to get informed. He’s launching an accessible, approachable, and incredibly useful self-defense course built around these four tenets: simplicity, avoidance, focus, and escaping. We are lucky enough to live in a fairly safe city, but it can never hurt to feel empowered and ready if a street encounter turns ugly.

| $28 | 11:00 am | Portland New Church, 302 Stevens Ave., Portland | http://movementnerdsunite.com/ |

 

2017 IS WEIRD | Surely it can’t be overstated that we live in unsettling times. We’ve got a reality star president who’s undermining our national security by going off on Twitter (to name just one of countlessly disturbing behaviors). Nazis and Anarchists are relevant again, and battling it out on the streets. Trust in the press is at an all time low. People are debating what is and isn’t free speech. The oceans are rising, and robots are getting exponentially smarter. North Korea’s successfully testing ballistic missiles. This particular moment in time is simultaneously strange, scary, exciting and absurd, yet many of us (particularly those with social privilege) seem content with ignoring our collective issues in favor of updating our Snapchat and tuning into the new Rick and Morty episode. Well, the creatives over at Mayo Street Art want you to snap back to reality and experience their latest performance: Bread & Puppet: Our Domestic Insurrection. With a giant puppet spectacle, the aim to highlight all the urgencies and absurdities of life in America today.

| FREE | 5:30 pm | Fort Allen Park, Eastern Promenade, Portland | http://mayostreetarts.org/ |

 

HUMAN SOUNDS | Four great bands are converging at Geno’s for such a cheap, introspective, and talent packed show, that it’d be a faux-pas to miss. Portland’s quintet Arcadia will be there and are stoked to debut their new single “Dryspell,” a tune about a couple struggling with love and loss. Also on the bill are on the Maine made jam rock band Hours North, the ethereal rock band Dreamer & Son, and the thought-provoking indie-rock trio Mirth. If you’re uncertain about where you're floating off to in life, these bands offer sounds that make you feel grounded and confident.

| $10 | 9:00 pm | Geno’s Rock Club, 525 Congress St., Portland | https://bandofmirth.bandcamp.com/releases |

 

SUNDAY 3

 

JERK CHICKEN AND TUNES | Kicking back with some authentic live reggae music and deliciously spicy Caribbean food, in the best park in Portland, sounds like the perfect way to break up a lazy Sunday afternoon. Bring a blanket and just witness the present moment for a minute during Reggae In Da Park 2017.

| FREE | 2:00 pm | Deering Oaks Park, Portland |

 

8days scottymcreery

WORSHIP THE IDOL | If I asked you who won American Idol in 2011, is there any chance in hell you’d be able to produce a name? Google tells me the winner was a chap named Scotty McCreery, who used the publicity in tandem with his talent to launch an enviously successful career in country music. Indeed he became the youngest artist to have a country music album debut on the top 200 general Billboard charts. That’s impressive for a dude born in ‘93. Anyway, he’s coming to town today, which is probably a big deal for some people and just whatever to the rest of us. If you like mainstream country-rock, and maybe wouldn’t mind staring at some sparkly blue eyes and a chiseled jaw line (the dude’s a handsome one), this show’s for you.

| $30 | 8:00 pm | Aura, 121 Center St., Portland | http://auramaine.com/ |

 

MONDAY 4

 

WORKERS UNITE | In more ways than one, we work in an economic system that favors profits over the well-being of its workers. The folks over at the Southern Maine Workers Center believe that everybody has a right to dignified employment. What does that mean? Well, for starters, it means people shouldn’t be working while they’re sick, yet many do out of fear of losing what few wages they could earn that day. Here’s a crazy idea: why not send them home and pay them anyway? Everybody gets sick after all. This labor day, join the SMWC and at least eight other progressive organizations in a march and rally that’s calling for paid sick days in Maine, so that lower middle-class earners don’t have to forsake their very well-being for a couple more dollars in their paycheck. They believe that paid sick leave for everyone isn’t just a moral imperative, but a public health necessity.

| FREE | 10:00 am | Maine Irish Heritage Center, 34 Gray St., Portland | https://maineworkers.org/ |

 

TUESDAY 5

 

BRIGHT BEATS | Watch the sun retreat behind the horizon to the otherworldly beats of DJ and producer Mosart212 when he performs an elevated set on the rooftop of Bayside Bowl. Known for his eclectic trip-hop style and beautiful grooves, Mr. Nunez will surely create the perfectly chill atmosphere to whittle down the stresses of the day.

| FREE | 6:00 pm | Bayside Bowl, 58 Alder St., Portland | https://www.baysidebowl.com/ |

 

WEDNESDAY 6

 

NOT SO WILD | We’re running out of truly wild places in this country. Sure, we’ve got protected wildlife reserves, and National Parks, but even those aren’t completely free of human impact. Take it from Les Stroud, who traveled to the world’s remotest places on his genre-starting hit show Survivorman, and reflected on a recent podcast that even in the middle of nowhere it’s still easy to find evidence of human activity, whether it be through power lines, railroad tracks, or even a discarded plastic bottle just beginning its 1,000 year decomposition cycle. Although we humans have thoroughly dominated every corner of the world, we still have to share the space with other organisms. The process of “rewilding,” a conservation strategy that involves restoring natural ecosystems to their former, pre-industrial glory, could help reverse some of our most egregious encroachments upon nature. Could rewilding count as an effective form of environmental activism? What would local efforts look like? Nature loving Portlanders will gather to discuss, will sipping on some sweet booch from the Urban Farm Fermentory. Join them, if you care.

| FREE | 5:00 pm | Urban Farm Fermentory, 200 Anderson St., Portland | https://www.fermentory.com/ |

 

VR HACK NIGHT | Enthusiastic techies are confident that we’re only a decade or two away from virtual reality technology that’s indistinguishable from real life. I think that’s a bit optimistic. If you’ve ever messed around with a VR headset, you know what I mean; choppy frame rates, less than photorealistic graphics, and a short but noticeable delay in rendering when you turn your head, makes it hard to sell the illusion that you’re in another world, and not just wearing a heavy pair of goggles with screens in them. However, current technologies still offer a unique, fun, and bizarre experience. Seriously, if you’ve never tried them, they’re definitely worth a first-time demo. Big Room Studios is opening its doors for folks to try out some hardware including the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift with Touch, a bunch of Samsung Gear, Google Cardboard, a PlayStation VR, and some 360 video cameras.

| FREE | 7:00 pm | Big Room Studios, 4 Thompson’s Pt., Portland | https://www.bigroomstudios.com/ |

 

Eilen Jewell Joanna Chattman photo

Eilen Jewell has been playing hard to categorize "country music" since 2006. Photo By: Joanna Chattman.

FINDING TREASURE | Described as honest, confident, and powerfully versatile, Eilen Jewell’s nothing short of a bonafide musicologist. Her undying passion for studying American music has armed her with the skills necessary to thoroughly captivate a crowd. This “Queen of the Minor Key” does this by disarming listeners with her gorgeous voice, and then transfixing them in place with vintage sounds and vision of forgotten country backdrops. And she plans to do just that when she tours through Portland with her newest release Down Hearted Blues. But writer her off as just another country singer. With her intimate knowledge of styles spanning bluegrass, blues, folk, rockabilly, surf-noir, and classic rock, and a palpable love for musical storytelling, such a label would surely be selling her short.

| $18 | 8:00 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland | https://onelongfellowsquare.com/ |

 

THURSDAY 7

 

CERTAIN FUTURES | Consult these pages next week for details on what we humbly believe are Portland’s finest cultural, educational, and recreational offerings. There’s never enough space to highlight everything Portland has to offer, so we curate the ones we think are most worth your precious time. There’s only so many hours in the day after all! Next week we’re thinking of looking into these (likely) memorable events: a panel discussion at the SPACE Gallery about what it’s like to navigate through life in Maine as a young Muslim girl, another discussion/lecture at the Portland Ballet Studio about women in the arts industry, a very fun free film screening at Congress Square Parks (wuxia fans, stay tuned), and an Overnight Low concert at the Portland House of Music with Bri Lane as the opener. Until then, hit us up on Facebook or Twitter if you feel like there’s something else that should be blinking on our radar.

8 Days A Week: Time Machines, Politically Conscious Comedy, and the Fight of a Generation

THURSDAY 24

FLASHBACK | In these anxiety-inducing times, where it seems that World War III, Civil War II, or domination from technological overlords could each easily be over the horizon, many of us are missing our youth. If you’re a '90s kid like me, you probably yearn for those simpler times, back when your only concern was pulling a rare Pokémon card from a booster pack and making it home from school on time to catch TRL on MTV. (Apparently, MTV is rebooting the music video show this October — people love nostalgia!) The point is, it might do you good to pretend you’re in the carefree '90s again, and here’s an easy way to do so: Hello Newman’s playing nothing but '90s pop hits for free at Hadlock Field. After their throwback concert, the Portland Sea Dogs are playing the Rumble Ponies complete in their old 1997 baseball uniforms. I recommend leaving your smartphone at home to really sell this illusion of time travel. | FREE | 5:00 pm | Hadlock Field, 271 Park Ave., Portland | http://www.milb.com/index.jsp?sid=t546

 

GET UNCOMFORTABLE | What happened in Boston last week was surely inspiring; an estimated 40,000 people showed up with signs, chants, and, in light of the violence of Charlottesville, their vulnerable bodies to reject white supremacy and those that encourage it. But America’s oppressed classes are asking for more from the so-called “resistance.” What are all those well-intentioned leftists going to do in their everyday lives to dismantle white supremacy? Because yelling at racists is easy, but leveraging one’s role in a system that privileges one race over others isn’t, the folks at the Treehouse Institute plan to host a forum addressing this unfortunate reality called A Seat At The Table. It’s planned as a structured discourse, but also a radical listening session. There are more meaningful ways you can resist white supremacy that go beyond just posting a status, and marching in the summer sun for a couple hours. Find out about em. | FREE | 5:30 pm | Red Thread, 1 City Ctr., Portland | http://thetreehouseinstitute.org

 

BYE BIG BROTHER | There’s a lot of talk about extreme political polarization nowadays, and if we’re to continue that conversation, perhaps it’s best if we brushed up on some history of fringe movements. Let’s hear from an expert about it! The Pulitzer Prize winning writer Thomas Ricks is visiting Portland (thanks to Longfellow Books and the Portland Public Library) for a talk about his latest work Churchill and Orwell: The Fight For Freedom. He’s studied the lives and works of Winston and George extensively and thusly can shed light on the commonalities between resisting an authoritative right and left. Fascism and oppression can take many forms; let’s not forget that. | FREE | 6:30 pm | Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Sq., Portland | https://www.portlandlibrary.com

 

FRIDAY 25

 

WINTER IS COMING | Summer’s winding to an end; how much time did you spend outside? Your answer is likely “not as much as I’d have liked to.” Yet, considering the next month, September, is often just as beautiful as August in Maine, you’ve still got time to embark on some nature adventures. Today kicks off the annual Life Happens Outside Festival, an event that’s practically begging you to unplug for a bit and take up a sport or some other recreational activity. Over 40 workshops and vendors will be there (as well as booze, food, and live music if you get bored) designed to explore topics like solar energy, coastal navigation, hiking safety, camping tips, how to find clean water outdoors, and how to read a map and compass. Plan one more big trip before it gets too nasty outside! (But then again, we feel like autumn is the best time to hike a mountain.) | $20 | 6 pm and All Day August 26 | 10 Thompson’s Pt., Portland | https://www.lifehappensoutside.org

 

THE RHYTHM OF LIFE | I’m convinced that there isn’t a single person that could honestly say they dislike the sounds off of Bonobo’s sophisticated new album Migrations. While Bonobo (real name Simon Greene) might not awaken a budding obsession for hazy downtempo electronica, you can’t deny that his latest is virtually diss-proof. He’s touring at the State Theatre today for a show that will undoubtedly be easy listening at worst, and an evocative sonic journey through language, culture, and dreamy textures at best. | $25 | 8 pm | State Theatre, 625 Congress St., Portland | http://www.statetheatreportland.com

 

CHILDREN OF THE SUN | The Micromassé jazz trio are sharing the stage with Katie Matzell, an accomplished local soul singer for a concert that’s bright, super-affordable, and wholesome. Pete Dugas on Micromassé’s organ playfully dominates over the sound and leads the ways through some tightly choreographed, and downright groovy compositions. Their latest work, Anthropocene, is a delight, but if you’ve paid a modicum of attention to the local jazz/funk scene, you already know that. | $12 | 8 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland | https://onelongfellowsquare.com

 

THE SHOW GOES ON | Management at Geno’s Rock Club fell into some hot water last week. I won't go into too much detail (it's mostly he said, she said at this point), but the gist of the drama is that a former employee wrote a widely read post online accusing the manager's fiancee of transphobia, amidst what she reports as a "malicious, sustained campaign of harassment against her." The person that deployed the hurtful language in a private conversation has since publicly apologized, as well as the rest of the Geno's management team. But people are still really pissed. Some have promised to never visit the club again. However, I do suspect that Geno's will weather this storm of controversy. The venue serves so much more than just its owner and manager, however intolerant of different gender identities they may or not be. Geno’s has been one of the few remaining spots in town where musicians/bands across the genre (and talent) spectrum are welcomed on stage for a chance to earn their chops with a dedicated crowd — often times free from judgment! But smaller, more inclusive venues like this need the community’s trust in order to pay their hard working acts, and who knows where that’s at right now given the torrent of one-star reviews it received on Facebook in the past week. Ultimately these murmurings of a boycott hurt the musicians that are just trying to get some rare paid stage time. Perhaps that’s the best argument for continuing to support the club; musicians need your ears. This evening Last Mercy Emissions presents a stimulating bill of loopmasters: Crimewave (electonica, hip hop), Trele the God (trap music), and Fenimore (vaporwave). | $5 | 9 pm | Geno’s Rock Club, 625 Congress St., Portland | 207-221-2382

SATURDAY 26

 

SUPPORT ARTISTS | About 100 local craftspeople will be showing off their wares today in between High and State streets. Think of it as a little mini First Friday Art Walk. It’s probably high-time that you bought something special for your parents. Here might be a good place to buy them something nice; older people love baskets, ceramics, fabrics, trinkets, and fine-art pieces, I hear. Besides, random gestures of goodwill seem to be a scarcity nowadays, and you don’t want to join the crowd do you? | FREE | 9:00 am to 4:00 pm | Congress St., Portland | http://www.mainecrafts.org

 

WHO’S THE ALPHA? | Today’s a huge day for fighting sports fans. They’ve waited all summer for this historic matchup: Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor. This fight’s a big deal because Floyd’s an undefeated boxer, and McGregor’s a notorious MMA fighter, which means it will be not just brutal, and unpredictable, but the first fight pitting together opponents from different fighting backgrounds. The two have been at each other throats with vicious insults and brags, hyping up the fight to max for several months. These two fighters are such zany characters that the drama of it all has even attracted the interest of non-MMA fans like me. McGregor’s a hot-headed, tattooed, Irish monster who’s the type to order a million-dollar suit with the words “Fuck You” printed as the pinstripes, while Mayweather’s a legendary African-American boxer, with huge arms, an unavoidable right hook, and an ego that’s only eclipsed by his penchant for shit-talking. If you don’t have Pay-Per-View to watch the battle, there are two good spots in town airing the madness. For a $15 cover charge, you can watch the fight at Binga’s Stadium or the Fore Play Sports Pub. You might want some people around for emotional support anyway.

| $15 | 6 pm | Binga’s Stadium, 77 Free St., Portland | http://www.bingasstadium.com

 

FINE STRINGS | The exceptional mandolinist Joe K. Walsh and the Grammy-nominated bluegrass performer Celia Woodsmith are on stage tonight at One Longfellow Square, reminding guests that soul-stirring string music can easily double as an antidepressant. | $20 | 8 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland | https://onelongfellowsquare.com

 

TRUTH TO POWER | Some powerful forces in underground hip-hop, both locally and beyond, are converging on the SPACE Gallery for an onslaught of intense beats, rhymes, and maybe even some sociocultural analysis. Maine’s BRZOWSKI will be there debuting his third proper solo album, backed by the metal rock dudes of Vinyl Cape. Also on the bill is the genre-tweaking Ceschi Ramos, Portland’s rapper and hip-hop mobilizer Stay On Mars, the fun and lighthearted Spoken Nerd, and the trip-hop DJ Quiet Entertainer. There’s a lot of talent available to sample here for the measly fare of $8. | $8 | 8 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | http://space538.org

 

SUNDAY 27

 

YOUNG AND OLD | If for some reason you’ve ever wanted to dunk Mayor Ethan Strimling in a tank of water (or maybe just meet him, I guess), this Senior Carnival Smash would be the chance to do it. It’s an outdoor gathering in Edward Payson Park geared towards kids and seniors. If someone in your family fits that description and/or gets excited about magicians and hot air balloon rides, stroll by the fun if you’re in the area. | FREE | 10 am to 2 pm | Edward Payson Park, Ocean Ave., Portland

 

 

MONDAY 28

 

BREAK BREAD | I don’t know about you, but I’m not one to turn down a free meal, especially one featuring food from Baharat, the Portland Food Coop, and Wayside — all of which are top-notch quality. They’ll feed the neighborhood at this pop-up picnic that might make you realize the benefits of urban farms and community-led sustainability efforts. | FREE | 6 pm | Boyd Street Urban Farm, 2 Boyd St., Portland | www.waysidemaine.org/picnics

 

GET SILLY | Laughter’s strange and great, isn’t it? It’s a form of communication understood around the world. It makes breathing easier, and can help with depression. And at the very least, it feels good to submit to a completely involuntary burst of laughter. You can nurture this often overlooked, but quite mysterious emotional response at Blue, where these comedians will share their material: Kwasi Mensah, Colby Bradshaw, Connor McGrath, Jack Slattery, and Dawn Hartill. The hilarity starts on the Worst Day of the Week. | $5 | 8 pm | Blue, 650 Congress St., Portland | http://portcityblue.com/

 

ONE OF A KIND | Monday of the Minds, virtually Portland’s only serial show dedicated to local hip-hop, returns tonight with epic performances from GVTZ, Shameek The God, Notoriety, Spocka Summa, Peace Out Pat, Murka, and Ill Murray. | FREE | 9 pm | Flask Lounge, 117 Spring St., Portland | http://flasklounge.com

 

TUESDAY 29

 

WATERWORLD | Plenty of our readers aren’t leaving Portland anytime soon; some never will. And if you’re committed to this coastal town, at some point, you should familiarize yourself with how it could be impacted by climate change. In many ways, we live in a bowl with rising waters on three sides. With the rate the world’s warming, it’s almost guaranteed that coastal cities like ours will soon deal with problems related to this encroaching mass of seawater. Some like New Orleans, Miami, and Venice, already are. The scientists and educators over at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute are hosting a 90-minute presentation of what Portland might expect, and what you can do about it. | FREE | 6:30 pm | Gulf of Maine Research Institute, 350 Commercial St., Portland | http://www.gmri.org/events/calendar/preparing-sea-level-rise-0

 

HOW IT'S MADE | There’s no doubt the present (and future) of media exists on some version of the Internet. And experts say the primary way Internet users consume story-driven media is through video. Because of our obsession with smart editing, beautifully framed shots, and creative perspectives, cinematographers are typically respected across the board by the general public (unlike some directors or actors that work alongside them). We often think of cinematography as a “made it” career. But have you ever wondered what it takes to make a good video? Learning the techniques behind the craft should be super interesting, when the Emmy award-winning, globe-trotting cinematographer Zach Zamboni joins Portland Press Herald Features reporter Chelsea Conaboy for Maine Voices Live to discuss his time working on Anthony Bourdain’s travel food shows, where he brought cinematic aesthetics to nonfiction videos. | $10 | 7 pm | One Longfellow Square, 181 State St., Portland | http://www.pressherald.com

 

WEDNESDAY 30

TRUTH TELLER | Hari Kondabolu, a steadily rising star in the comedy scene is returning to Portland for a stand-up show that shouldn’t be missed. His jokes are smart, poignant, and cut through political hypocrisy like a verbal razor. Kondabolu’s material explores race, gender, and class issues, but doesn’t hold back any punches that might make white folks in the crowd uneasy. For example, his most recent work The Problem With Apu, debuting this fall on TruTV, is a documentary exploring racist stereotypes of Indians and other people of color in comedy and films; it’s depressing, but at the same time, Kondabolu somehow made the issue funny. Fans of his report that he jokes about oppression and representation issues, but without making light of them, or resorting to any homophobic, racist, or classist caricatures. One might even call him woke. Go see him and restore your faith in truly progressive comedy. | $33 | 8 pm | Aura, 121 Center St., Portland | http://auramaine.com

 

THURSDAY 31

 

NEXT TIME | Maybe I still haven’t gotten used to disassociating September with the start of a new grueling school year, but there’s something depressing about the last day of August. It just feels like since the last summer month is over, there’s nothing but cold weather and workplace drudgery ahead of us for the next several months. But of course, this mindset is simply an illusion; good times only end if you let them. These escapes from the monotony of it all seem worthy of previewing next week: five metal bands of varying degrees of nihilism will throw down at Geno’s, the Bayside Trio will perform chamber music in Congress Square Park, an evening vigil for Mainers lost to drug overdoses will commence solemnly in Monument Square, the Downeast Soul Coalition will funk out during a free concert at Fort Allen Park, No Plan B will kick off at Thompson’s Pt, a light and sound show being billed as an “immersive, multi-media tent event,” and the Anju restaurant will take over the Urban Farm Fermentory for a kombucha and noodle pairing party.  

Resisting The Alt-Right: Solidarity with Counterprotesters in Charlottesville

About 400 people gathered in Monument Square Sunday for an anti-racism rally in light of the recent clashes between anti-fascists and the so-called "alt-right." The rally was organized online by civil rights groups March Forth and the Portland's Women March, and bookended by a spirited acoustic performance by musician and Bangor Daily News photographer Troy Bennett, who sang to the crowd: "Whose side are you on?" Speakers included organizer Naomi Mayer, Portland resident Kenneth Bailey,  Muslim activist and student at the University of Southern Maine Hamdia Ahmed, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Diane Russell, and member of the International Socialist Organization Caitrin Smith-Monahan. The ralliers' collective message was clear: there needs to be a stronger, organized response to the rising levels of racism against immigrants, minorities, and people of color they feel the Trump administration seems to passively support at best, and tacitly embolden at worst.

All images by Francis Flisiuk.

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Roles of Engagement | Pictured above is a man who identified himself as lawyer Thomas Connolly. When he arrived at the rally dressed in a satirical amagalmation of a klansmen, a circus clown, and Donald Trump, he garnered mixed reactions. While his provocative costume was met with laughter, smiles, and request for selfies by some ralliers, others were not amused. The costume was meant to poke fun at the President, he said, and highlight both his ineptitude and praise he receives from racist groups like the KKK. But several Portlanders tried to get Connolly to remove his hood, saying that the gag wasn't worth running the risk of making others uncomfortable, especially people of color. He politely but sternly disagreed, saying that "people need to understand shock humor." Connolly stayed throughout the rally, causing distractions, even after one black man approached him and said, "I get what you're doing, but this is all kinds of messed up."

 

  • Published in Columns

When Words Can Kill: Should the ACLU Have Defended the 'Unite the Right' Riot?

In the aftermath of Saturday's bloody "Unite the Right" demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia — which included hundreds of white supremacists and which the American Civil Liberties Union publicly defended — some progressives are wondering whether the organization can still be considered a valuable ally in the fight for social justice.

Before the riot devolved into a violent conflict, the ACLU took to Twitter to state that the white supremacists who organized it had a right to mobilize.

“The First Amendment is a critical part of our democracy, and it protects vile, hateful, and ignorant speech,” read the post. “For this reason, the ACLU of Virginia defended the white supremacists' right to march.”

Later, after the world learned an anti-racist paralegal woman — Heather Hayer, 32 — had died when a "Unite the Right" demonstrator drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters. Dozens more activists were gravely injured from the attack and other assaults from white supremacists, the ACLU expanded on their opinion in a press release stating that they were “sickened and distraught by the vile acts committed in Charlottesville.”

“White supremacy is abhorrent. Bigotry, racism, and hatred in any form are indefensible. Violence of any kind combined with any of the above is terrorism,” read the statement. “We condemn it, as we do the reprehensible individuals and organizations responsible both directly and indirectly through their words and deeds. As of this writing, this includes our president who condones today’s inhumanities by default.”

But the ACLU’s failure to condemn the rally before it started and quickly devolved into a riot, followed by their largely symbolic stance after blood was shed, earned them harsh rebukes from progressives, especially those that equate hate speech with literal violence. Because the organization defended the event but not the hateful messages it promulgated, many saw the ACLU as having its cake and eating it too. Some critics went as far as to blame the political violence on the complacency of the ACLU, and call for them to be defunded and/or sued.

One member of the ACLU of Virginia's board, Waldo Jaquith, even resigned from his position in the wake of the ACLU’s decision.

“What’s legal and what’s right are sometimes different. I won’t be a fig leaf for Nazis,” wrote Jaquith on Twitter. “We need the ACLU. We need it so much. But we also need it to change, just a tiny bit: don’t defend Nazis to allow them to kill people.”

Here in Portland, during a rally held in solidarity for the victims of Charlottesville, an estimated 400 people gathered Sunday night to denounce white supremacy in Monument Square. When asked about their views on the ACLU, ralliers showed mixed opinions.

“I feel like the ACLU is just normalizing fascism,” said Susan Juliette, a young resident of Portland. “It’s not about free speech, it’s an incitement to violence. When you support it, you are complicit.”

Mayor Ethan Strimling was at the rally, remarking how on many occasions when the country has been reeling from displays of hate and violence, the city of Portland gathers rapidly to reflect its values of peace and tolerance. Despite recognizing the vile nature of the Unite the Right rally, Mayor Strimling felt that the ACLU had no choice but to defend it.

“Freedom of speech is very important. It’s served those fighting the powerful for a very long time, but we have to keep things nonviolent,” said Strimling. “When words can lead to violence you have to look carefully and prosecute if it’s a hate crime.”

Ella Smith, a social services worker in Portland, said that she supported the white supremacists’ right to march initially, but that they had clearly crossed a line into a hate crime.

“They do have a right to demonstrate but they don’t have a right to try and start a race war, which is what many have stated they want to do,” said Smith. “They showed up in full battle gear and surrounded a church. This was not just a gaggle of guys in Confederate flag shirts.”

Marc Harrington, a resident of Hallowell who drove to Portland to attend the rally, agreed, saying that “unfortunately the ACLU had to let them march,” because if they didn’t it would set a dangerous precedent that could dampen the free speech rights of people fighting for good causes.

“You have to let them march, but I don’t think they should have been marching with fire and guns. The whole thing was a symbol of violence. They knew what they were doing. If a whole bunch of black people decided to walk down the street with guns and torches, you’d have the National Guard on them instantly,” said Harrington, who is black.

Before determining whether or not the ACLU’s position on this issue is the right one, it’s important to acknowledge the important work the organization has done in its 97 years of existence. Since its inception, the ACLU has championed causes and individuals that were deeply unpopular publicly, for the benefit of the greater good. They’ve typically been the target of right-wing hatred for their defense of radical communists, transgender students, atheists, anti-war protestors, animal rights activists, pro-choice people, and in some cases, even Muslim extremists.

The ACLU exists to unequivocally defend the civil liberties of all, which in this case, means the First Amendment rights for white supremacists. Their mission is a bi-partisan one; they defend everybody’s rights as laid out in the American Constitution. To them, hate speech is worth defending because it’s legal.

Others at the rally had trouble reconciling this absolutist stance on free speech, with the very real blood that was spilled in upholding it. Should ideas rooted in the oppression of non-whites remain supported just for the sake of principle?

“It’s tough to understand how to respond,” said Ryan Dunfee, the community manager at AddUp, a branch of the Sierra Club. “I don’t think we’re even equipped to make that judgment call. But I also think if we don’t have systems in place to defend free speech we begin to erode the institutions that protect all of us. I think one thing we are in danger of losing in our current time is that need to defend these universal rights, and to apply them only selectively to those who agree with us. This only invites those who disagree with us to do the same. While neither I nor the ACLU condone the violence or the views of white supremacists, we will lose something fundamental if we can't agree on the ground rules for our democracy."

“As someone who has spent a career fightingracism, I deeply believe in the ACLU’s First Amendment work,” said Cecilia Wang, a civil rights attorney.

“It's amazing how frequently the ACLU has to repeat this basic tenet of civil liberty, and how invariably mad it makes people,” wrote Michael Tracy, a journalist with progressive news outlet The Young Turks on Twitter. 

But in the cases when this “basic tenet of civil liberty” tangibly leads to violence, as it did in Charlottesville, how is it still defensible? Do the American people trust their institutions enough to distinguish between hurtful free speech and violence-inciting hate speech? 

If yelling FIRE in a crowded theatre is illegal, then it's no surprise that some think that chanting white supremacist rallying cries to a mob of angry armed racists should be too.

 

  • Published in News

Fighting Climate Change: Could carbon emissions be curbed by taxing them?

Last month the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii recorded its first ever carbon emissions reading that was in excess of 410 parts per million, marking a milestone: the Earth hasn’t had this much carbon in the atmosphere in 66 million years.

A recent scientific study titled “Trajectories Toward the 1.5°C Paris Target” predicts that the Earth will pass the critical warming threshold agreed upon by participants of the Paris Climate Accords within the next 15 years.

The science is settled; something needs to be done to curb carbon emissions now, or the effects of climate change might be irreversible.

But many scientists, economists, and politicians on board with fighting climate change are worried we won’t be able to slow down emissions enough to have an impact on global temperature without some kind of market-based solution.

A carbon tax could be that solution.

Ed Pontius, the co-chair of the Portland arm of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby, a nonpartisan organization mobilizing around climate change initiatives, was tabling at the Festival of Nations two weeks ago, telling people how it works. He seems to think that it’s the best strategy we’ve got against climate change, saying that it “will reduce greenhouse gas emissions 52 percent below 1990 levels within 20 years while growing the economy and saving lives.” The idea is hardly new, but it’s gaining more political clout recently because it’s managed to win the approval of some conservatives, who appreciate the way it empowers the market and encourages research into alternative energy sources without too much meddling from government regulations.

Pontius’ vision of a carbon tax is slightly different than others currently being debated about. He called it a carbon fee and dividend. Here’s the way he envisions it working: any company using or selling carbon based fuels (coal, oil, gas) pays a fee that would start at $15 per ton of CO2, and then all of the money that’s collected would be distributed evenly amongst the American people in the form of dividend checks.

“This approach helps us to control carbon, and it creates jobs, and improves the economy,” said Pontius. “It’s meant to move us more steadily toward a sustainable future.”

According to Pontius, if companies are forced to pay a fee on greenhouse gas emissions, then they’d be incentivized to adopt cleaner energy practices, and cut down on carbon to save money. Pontius said that one day we need to phase out fossil fuels altogether, and this could be the economic solution that slowly weans companies off of it.

“If a company chooses to make a t-shirt using dirty fuel, it will end up costing more, and the consumer will be less inclined to purchase it,” said Pontius. “They’d more likely purchase a shirt made with more sustainable practices.”

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Ed Pontius wants companies to pay extra for the dirty fuels they use and sell. Under the carbon fee and dividend plan he endorses, the American people would get that money back.

A major critique of a carbon tax is that by raising the cost of carbon based fuels, companies will charge more for energy, raising the cost of goods and services as well. The worry is that ultimately, the financial burden will fall back on the individual consumer.

While Pontius said that about 5 percent of the population would have a rough time during the transition, eventually, “everybody would benefit.” According to him, the money received in annual dividend checks would offset the higher cost of living.

Another point of contention around this issue has to do with developing countries, where entire energy economies rely primarily on dirty fuels. Should poorer countries have to pay higher fees for energy to combat a problem they largely didn’t create in the first place? Shouldn't they be allowed to prop up their industries the same way America, China, and European countries did during the energy boom of the last century?

“When one major nation puts it in place, the trade implications is that other nations will want to follow suit because they won’t want to have fees and tariffs imposed on their products that come in to benefit us,” said Pontius.

Last June, the city of Portland endorsed a plan for a federal carbon tax, becoming the 36th American city to do so.

But as Sarah Braik, the second co-chair of Portland’s Citizens Climate Lobby, work around this issue can’t be done in silos, because carbon emissions “don’t recognize borders.”

“Cities can’t do this work on their own,” said Braik. “We need to move from climate debate to climate action.”

Today Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Chile, Switzerland, and the Canadian province of British Columbia have all implemented some sort of carbon tax, and their economies are strong. Economists and environmental advocates consider Sweden’s carbon tax model as the most successful, however, they tax their carbon at $150 a ton, far more than the figure that Pontius suggested.

Overall, environmentalists agree that a carbon tax is a good idea, but unless everybody's on board — especially the world’s biggest polluters America, China, and India — the actual effect on emissions and global temperature will be negligible.

“I am confident this could work, but the level of damage that climate change is going to do makes it very urgent,” said Pontius. “We need to act now.”


Francis Flisiuk can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Published in News

8 Days A Week: Dead Whales, Resurrected Goddesses, and Other Hallucinations

THURSDAY 10

 

ATLANTIC INJUSTICE | The sixth screening in the Portland Public Library’s free Point of View Documentary Series commences this night, offering a break from an otherwise stressful and menial existence. Watch it, and step into the lives of others who undoubtedly have it worse off than you, but still manage to be more interesting. That’s because the film, The Islands and the Whales, follows the people of the North Faroe Islands and their high seas struggle whale hunting in polluted waters. You see, it’s hard to compare to grizzled seaman fighting for their daily survival. These native islanders have an extremely rough, unhealthy life, thanks to the dirty industries that poisoned their resources. If depressing nonfiction films about man’s relationship to the natural world are your thing, here’s a chance to observe.

| FREE | 6:30 pm | Rines Auditorium, Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Sq., Portland | https://www.portlandlibrary.com/

 

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John Hodgman and Jean Grae play many characters while on stage together. 

SPIN DA WHEEL | John Hodgman’s a writer and comedian who’s a big creative force on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Jean Grae’s a multi-genre artist and speaker. Apart from their race and gender, these two stage performers have a lot in common. Both can sing. Both command the stage. And both are hilarious, charming, and witty; and they’re friends that tour together! How marketable! Catch their who-knows-what's-gonna-happen variety show dubbed plainly “Jean and John,” at the Port City Music Hall. Laughter’s pretty much guaranteed. | $30 | 8 pm | Port City Music Hall, 504 Congress St., Portland | http://www.portcitymusichall.com/

 

MAGA MESS | You might disagree with politics, but you can’t deny that Ted Nugent can shred a guitar solo like nobody’s business. He’s playing in town — in Aura of all places — for all you gun-toting, overtly patriotic, expired rock loving, “politically incorrect” readers out there. Which I suspect is about eight percent of you. Grab a cowboy hat and rock on inside the club, or boycott the event in disgusted defiance; we’re just here to tell you it’s happening. | $35 | 8 pm | Aura, 121 Center St., Portland | www.auramaine.com

 

HEAVY LANDSCAPES | Portland’s Capture the Sun create a compelling atmosphere with their soaring rhythms and increasingly intense guitar instrumentals. The lack of vocals keeps their music distinct and focused. They’re not as heavy as the two other bands they’ll be sharing the stage with this night — Objet and Destination:Void — and squeeze in enough break sections from their onslaught of sounds to let listeners ponder where it took them. A post-apocalyptic wasteland? A mountaintop utopia? The very moment a planet formed? It’s up to you really. Let your imagination run wild when they debut some tracks from their latest, an epic sonic expanse titled Terra Ignora.

| $7 | 9 pm | Empire, 575 Congress St., Portland | http://www.portlandempire.com/

 

FRIDAY 11

 

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Explore the cosmos inside your head with Highly Suspect's anticipated new album, The Boy Who Died Wolf.

NOISE THERAPY | Will your mind be blown by the track “Hello, My Name is Human” when Highly Suspect runs through their most recent album The Boy Who Died Wolf? It’s considered the best from their new work. We’d say it’s fast-paced punk done right; dynamic and intense, yet light-hearted and grungy. They’re joined by And the Kids, a youthful indie-rock trio that claims to transform “existential crises into pop euphoria.” | $25 | 8 pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland | http://www.statetheatreportland.com/

 

TRIBAL FEMINISM | A trio of master percussionists will be channeling the energy of a Sumerian goddess through drum beats and harmonies if you want to deviate slightly from your downtown stroll and into an ancient soundscape. They’re called Inanna — Sisters In Rhythm and seem to be a welcome distraction. We’re sure you’ll hear them thundering anyway. | FREE | 6 pm | Congress Square Park, 599 Congress St., Portland | http://congresssquarepark.org

 

NEW MOVEMENT | We just had a First Friday so I imagine you’ve dipped into the New American Sculpture exhibit at the PMA by now. If not, that’s also completely reasonable; life’s too demanding these days to pay attention to every single new art exhibit. Time is precious! Regardless, this night might be the best one for a museum trip, as the staff there will pose an interesting question: what would their statues look like in motion? The immensely talented performers of the Portland Ballet Company will answer with performance, translating the raw, eternal stillness of sculpture into vivid motion and grace.

| $8 | 5 pm | Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Sq., Portland | http://www.portlandmuseum.org

 

SATURDAY 12

 

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On top of the Thompson's Point show, Guster will also be playing an intimate show on board a boat in Casco Bay, but there's no room for you. 

OCEANSIDE SATELLITES | In our jaded consumer culture, denouncing what’s popular and mainstream is popular and mainstream. Good bands take a lot of unnecessary heat and hate these days — even ones with a big grassroots following, and buckets of money like Guster. Maybe the haters are just envious. Although many like to mock Guster, we happen to think they should garner more respect, at least from the people that know the band from more than just references in pop culture. In any case, Guster will be fine without the support of those on the fence. Almost a thousand people will go see these Boston pop-rockers play on Thompson’s Point today, so you’ve got time to decide whether you actually care for them or not. The concert’s openers are pretty dope too: Portland’s own Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, Spencer Albee, and the Ghosts of Paul Revere. | $40 | 6 pm | Thompson’s Point, Thompson's Point Rd., Portland | http://www.thompsonspointmaine.com/

 

ROCK THE BASEMENT | The nonprofit organization Go Big For Hunger is hosting another concert in line with their ongoing mission of addressing childhood hunger in Maine, where it’s said that one in four kids experience food insecurity. Jam out to some nostalgic '90s hits courtesy of bands Syd’s Kids, Squagmyre, and Lazy Beyond Description. Throw a couple bills at these folks doing good honest work in this profoundly unjust world. | $20 | 8 pm | Portland House of Music and Events, 25 Temple St., Portland | https://www.portlandhouseofmusic.com

 

HAPPY BDAY | Tandem Coffee has proven that as long as you brew delicious java and bake great morning treats, you can sell them in an old gas station building next to an operational gas station and still be one of the hippest spots in town. (I guess it helps if you renovate it beautifully.) Tandem’s turning five years old today, which calls for a celebration. Head over to their party for booze, hot dogs, lawn games, karaoke, ice cream, and some above average mingling. Oh, and coffee too. | FREE | 5 pm | Tandem Coffee, 122 Anderson St., Portland | https://www.tandemcoffee.com/bakery

 

SUNDAY 13

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Providence's punk group the Downtown Boys are not here for your white tears.

RESIST (BUT HAVE FUN) | After learning about the political leanings of Providence’s radical rock band Downtown Boys we’re reminded of this quote by Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” This punk band would agree by saying that apolitical music doesn’t exist; in a world rife with corruption and inequalities, even when you remain silent, you’re making a statement. What a musician chooses not to create art about can say a lot about their character. And staying “out of politics” isn’t the most effective use of one’s privilege. That’s basically the ethos behind the Downtown Boys who make clear what side of history they’re on, by serving up most of their songs with a dose of social justice. Lyrical themes range from fighting racism and homophobia to police brutality and the prison system. With a no-fucks-given attitude, they’ll perform serious songs off their latest album Cost of Living, and play their small part in chipping away at the ultra-powerful establishment. These sonic activists are joined by the diamond-sharp vocalist Bright Boy, and the hardcore feminist outfit Phallus Über Alles. | $12 | 8 pm | SPACE Gallery, 538 Congress St., Portland | http://space538.org/

 

STORIES THAT MATTER | We need more movies that humanize immigrants, and accurately portray the complexities of issues around identity, inclusion, and assimilation. Although we haven’t seen it yet, judging from the trailers, the drama The Visitor seems to achieve this. It’s screening tonight outside in Congress Square Park if you’re in need of an antidote to some of the xenophobia present in mainstream media and culture at large. | FREE | 8 pm | Congress Square Park, 599 Congress St., Portland | http://congresssquarepark.org/

 

MONDAY 14

 

TUNES FOR THOUGHT| Brooklyn’s psych-folk-rock band Grizzly Bear are back after a five-year hiatus with a new album called Painted Ruins. It’s not out until the 18th, but it’s garnered some positive reviews already, with critics writing that it sounds like the same cool, weird guitar music Grizzly Bear fans are used to, but with a more synthy, stripped down approach. It’s not as dense and beautifully textured as previous works like Shields, but it still demands attention, and easily facilitates a close listening. They’ll be joined by a previous collaborator: Portland’s Nat Baldwin, a writer, academic and solo musician, who you probably know better as the bassist for the Dirty Projectors. | $45 | 8 pm | State Theatre, 609 Congress St., Portland | http://www.statetheatreportland.com

 

TUESDAY 15

 

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Heather Perry and Hopper McDonough sought to document the people toiling away in our collective blind spot. 

FACES AND VOICES | Maine creators Heather Perry and Hopper McDonough set up a portrait/interview booth outside the huge shipyard in Bath and waited to see who’d be willing to talk to them about what their work was like (turns out, it’s pretty grueling). Over the course of their stay, they documented stories from 50 of Maine’s gritty, hard hat wearing shipyard workers, the ones curious enough to check out the photo booth in between cigarette drags on their lunch break. The oddly intriguing portraits and quotes they procured are on display in the lower level gallery of the Portland Public Library. Perfectly lit and well composed, these shots, titled Southgate Faces offer a rare glimpse into an overlooked industry. | FREE | 9 am to 5 pm | Portland Public Library, 5 Monument Sq., Portland | https://www.portlandlibrary.com

 

MAN ON THE ROOF | Portland’s amorphous electronica rocker, Dan Capaldi (who bounces between several different bands) will don the familiar one man stage persona of Sea Level at an unfamiliar spot: the rooftop of Bayside Bowl. It may be the best place to catch his polyrhythmic waves, or at the very least, the sunset! | FREE | 6 pm | Bayside Bowl, 58 Alder St., Portland | https://www.baysidebowl.com

 

WEDNESDAY 16

 

IRIS REDUX | Here’s likely the biggest event happening today: the band that provided the emotional backdrop to all of your high-school slow dances is making a rare Portland appearance. The Goo Goo Dolls play the pier with their latest album, Boxes, and some classic hits. We’ve matured since the days of their radio domination, but have they? Do they still deserve that much airtime? Certainly. Tickets are steep, but many are finding the chance to revisit their youth worth it these days. | $25.75-99.75 | 6 pm | Maine State Pier, Portland | http://www.waterfrontconcerts.com/

 

THURSDAY 17

 

WATCH AND LEARN | Next week offers a lot to do, but Thursday requires some consideration, as some interesting events fall around the same timeframe. Choose wisely! First up, there’s a chance to pull the blinders off our eyes with the Portland Library’s screening of Raising Bertie, an unflinching look at growing up black in rural North Carolina. Several have  After that you’re evening could take rapidly different turns. You could head to Falmouth to the Maine Audubon and get up close and personal with our state’s raptors, eagles, and owls, during an outdoor event about birds of prey (there’s beer!). Or, you could stay in town for the Afro-Latin-reggae-fusion bonanza happening at Slab thanks to the heart-stirring talents of Taina Asili y la Banda Rebelde. If you’re feeling like getting down to some reggae, but are yearning for grass at your feet (and a better view), the Eastern Promenade’s hosting the seven piece roots reggae collective Royal Hammer. Until then, enjoy life, it's the only thing we’ve got!

New Country, New Challenges: Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center Provides Much Needed Support

The Greater Portland area is changing in many ways. One of the more obvious is its demographics.

Over the past five years, the city’s seen an influx of immigrants, coming primarily from places like Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, and the Congo. Catholic Charities — which provides Maine’s only refugee resettlement program — has assisted 642 primary refugees, 34 secondary migrants, and 85 asylees into new homes in Portland in 2016, and the numbers of arrivals are expected to be similar this year. Many of these immigrants come to Maine hoping to carve a new life for themselves, void of economic stagnation, famine, war, political persecution, or other forms of oppression.

But when immigrants arrive stateside, they’re often met with a different set of unique, life-altering challenges.

A new organization aims to ameliorate some of those challenges. It’s called the Greater Portland Immigrant Welcome Center, and it held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last Monday at its new facility with Senator Angus King, Attorney General Janet Mills, City Manager Jon Jennings, City Councilor Pious Ali, and dozens of other business and community leaders in attendance. The center is poised to be a one-stop-shop for any immigrant — regardless of status — to visit and access a wide variety of resources designed to ease some of the burdens associated with the transition to American society.

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From left to right: Tarlan Ahmadov, director of refugee services at Catholic Charities, Janet Mills, Maine's Attorney General, and Senator Angus King. 

The center, located on the third floor of 24 Preble Street, is a new, sleek-looking modern facility decorated with art from local artists. It’s equipped with the tools and a staff capable of addressing a New Mainer’s initial goals, which, according to the folks working there, tend to be learning English, launching a business, applying for citizenship, finding a job, and/or securing housing.

The ethos behind the Immigrant Welcome Center is to connect and collaborate with those organizations already working on immigration and integration issues — places like the New Mainer’s Tenant Association, the Maine Immigrant Rights Coalition, and the New England Arab American Association, to name a few. The center’s mission is a synergistic work environment, complete with co-working space and meeting rooms where reps from different companies can build work off of each other and share resources, information, and assets. The IWC wants to go beyond immigration organizations working in silos.

That mission is what excites Micky Bondo, a Congolese immigrant, about bringing her work to the center. She’s the co-founder of In Her Presence, an organization led by immigrant women, that seeks to bring them “out of the shadows and on the stage.” Bondo works with women from 11 different nations and offers them classes on the English language, and health and wellness topics.

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Micky Bondo, the assistant executive director of In Her Presence.

“We find out that immigrant women are often so lost and isolated, so we created a platform for them,” said Bondo. “We want their dreams to stay alive.”

We spoke with the interim Executive Director of the Immigrant Welcome Center Alain Nahimana, who sought asylum from political persecution in Burundi seven years ago, and has lived and worked on immigration issues here in Maine ever since. He offered us the following insight into why Portland needs such a center, and what other hurdles immigrants have to go through in order to thrive and succeed in a new country.

The interview has been slightly edited for grammar and clarity.

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One of the brains behind the Immigrant Welcome Center, Alain Nahimana. 

What’s the overall mission of the Immigrant Welcome Center and why does Portland need one?

This idea came from a conversation between me and Damas Rugaba an immigrant from Rwanda. We talked about our desire to empower groups working on immigration issues and have them focus more on their programs instead of logistics. We need to focus more on opportunity.

We also asked ourselves, how do we change the narrative around immigration and tell our story and our aspirations? How do we change the narrative from what we’re hearing in the mainstream media?

What services are you going to offer?

The programming is built on three main pillars. The first is the English Language Learning Lab, which is incorporating technology into the class. It allows people to learn English very quickly, which they need to get into jobs or to do business.

Secondly, the center has a hub for entrepreneurship for immigrants. Providing them the training necessary to start a business in the United States and connecting them with lending institutions so they can access some capital. And we’ll help those already established with technical support.

Finally, we believe you can’t have an inclusive economy without an inclusive democracy. We’re focusing on citizenship by having a permanent campaign to encourage people to apply for citizenship and be engaged through civic engagement. Immigrants need to be a part of the political discourse, so they can have their voices heard. It’s very important.

What are the biggest challenges new Mainers face upon arrival?

The biggest challenge for anyone coming here is learning the language. Many people come with skills or some abilities to learn a new skill. But whether or not you want to do business, or get a job, the language is key. I honestly believe the language is one of the biggest barriers to becoming fully integrated and thrive. There needs to be opportunities for immigrants to learn English quickly.

Many immigrants I know work, their problem is not necessarily finding a job. But when you have someone that doesn’t speak English, it’s hard to get hired. You need to speak the language.

Employers want people that are ready to work. We see an aging population leaving jobs in Maine, and we need to replace those people leaving them.

Has any aspect of your work changed at with Trump as President?

Immigrant integration is a very complex issue. Before Trump, for three years I worked on the defensive. [Nahimana worked previously at the Maine Immigrants Rights Coalition.] There were already budget discussions that impacted immigrants. There were proposals by Governor LePage to cut General Assistance to asylum seekers.

The organization continued to work on the defensive; we weren't driving the narrative. We weren't telling our side of the story. Why do people want to come here? What are their aspirations? What are their dreams? And what are we doing to get our goals accomplished? Now we built a very modern and nice space where we want to tell our story. We want to thrive, succeed and become contributing members of society.

The Trump administration has triggered something positive in many members of the Portland community. We’re getting support from them. Because of his attacks on communities of color, we are seeing people coming out, fighting back and supporting immigration and integration.

By attacks, do you mean Trump’s proposed travel ban?

Not just the travel ban, but the wall, and the narrative that anyone coming from elsewhere is unwelcome. The climate of deportations we’re seeing now. The message coming out of Washington is not what people believe in.

Will the Center also help refugees?

Absolutely. We use the word immigrant because no matter where you come from, or how you’re getting here, you’re an immigrant. We’re not discriminating based on one's immigration status.

Legally, a refugee comes with a residency permit. An asylum seeker has to apply for asylum and be allowed to come into the country. When people are here and are waiting for their status, they apply for a 150-day work permit but they face the same barriers as other immigrants — [such as] language, finding a house. There is housing discrimination against immigrants.

What about Maine is attractive to immigrants?

Politically, Portland’s the best place in Maine where you have a great support for immigrants. I came to Maine to visit an old classmate that I met at the University of Burundi. When I arrived I saw that there was already a Burundian community here. That was attractive to me. It’s very important when you’re a newcomer that you find someone from your own country who speaks the same language. That’s hard to find in a very big city or rural state where you’re by yourself. People go where they can find their same communities. Naturally, immigrants help other immigrants.

I like this state. I don’t think I would be able to do what I do in another state. People are very welcoming here. There is some improvement needed of course, but I’ve seen very few people coming to Maine and then leaving. I’ve seen people leave and come back. It has a quality of life that all people can connect to.


Francis Flisiuk can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

  • Published in News

Bud and Breakfast: Maine's First Cannabis Inn Opens Amidst Slight Controversy

Cornish Maine is now home to a new cannabis venture that’s attracted both tourists and controversy.

 

The Laughing Grass Inn held their soft open party last week and generated a lot of buzz. Why? Well, the 200-year-old, 16 room house doesn’t just invite visitors to indulge in the region's bucolic pleasures: it offers a chance to wake-n-bake too.

 

As part of the all-inclusive package, guests at the historic, country-themed inn are served up a cannabis infused breakfast, with choices ranging from 20, 50, or 100 mg for “experienced eaters.” Fans of non-psychoactive breakfasts, can, of course, order one without a cannabis infusion.

 

Later in the afternoon, 4:20 pm to be exact, the cannabis happy hour starts, when the “bud bar” opens and visitors are gifted bowls, and joints, stuffed with marijuana grown right here in Maine. A volcano bag filled with cannabis vapors gets passed around as well.

 

Trinity Madison, the executive chef at the Laughing Grass Inn told the Phoenix there’s no smoking allowed inside, but guests are encouraged to spark up on the porch or outside on the lawn.

 

“The Inn is absolutely beautiful, my most favorite building in Cornish,” says Madison. “I got a lot of support for this, and received so many responses since our launch party.”

 

But not all the responses have been positive. Madison says she’s caused a bit of a stir in her idyllic village.

 

“There’s a lot of controversy here now because of me,” she says. “A few very loud people oppose me and are trying their hardest to stop a legal venture.”

 

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The cannabis chef at the Laughing Grass Inn, Trinity Madison.

Madison estimates that about four people vocally oppose her cannabis Inn and hold some sway over the town’s selectmen, who have been actively trying to shut it down, despite it being in accordance with the current laws. So far they’ve unsuccessfully tried to revoke the Inn’s liquor license.

 

The town of Cornish is voting on August 9 on whether or not the town would permit recreational marijuana sales. Some of the people opposed to Madison’s venture believe this will spell trouble for the Laughing Grass Inn.

 

“People keep coming at me saying ‘the vote is happening, we’re going to make sure you don’t move forward.’ But the vote doesn’t affect me, I don’t sell marijuana,” says Madison.

 

Under Maine’s current marijuana law, the Laughing Grass Inn is perfectly legal. It exploits a loophole (which we’ve covered extensively in this column) that allows adults 21 years of age and older to “gift” up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana to other adults.  

 

“I’m not in violation of any laws,” says Madison, who also got approval from the town’s sheriff, and code enforcer.

 

To make sure nobody would perceive Madison’s operation as a one that outright sells recreational marijuana, she ensures guests enjoy plenty of other amenities as part of their stay. Included in the price of the stay — at least on the weekends — is live music, fire-eaters, glass blowing demonstrations, educational speakers, and cannabis cooking demonstrations.

 

“What people pay for, they get it in services,” says Madison.

 

The Laughing Grass Inn is not technically open yet, but folks there are hosting a “Bud and Breakfast event” from August 15 to September 7, as a means for locals to “get a feel for the establishment.” So far though, bookings have been completely from other states, like Georgia, California, New Mexico, Connecticut, and Massachusetts.

 

“We’re interested in being a part of the community,” says Madison. “And I’m bringing some much-needed tourism to Maine, and I’d like to continue.”

 


 

Like getting stoned and enjoying the outdoors? You can book a room here: http://thelaughinggrassinn.com/  

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Ancient Highs: Cannabis' Long, Weird History

The history of humans and cannabis is a long, tumultuous love affair that you probably haven’t dedicated much thought to.

 

Nowadays, ingesting marijuana is discussed endearingly in countless forms of media. We sing songs about it, watch TV shows around it, blog about growing it, and gloat about cooking with it. The love for cannabis extends far past college campuses and music festivals — how many homes do we visit that have some sort of glassware on the coffee table? Marijuana culture is mainstream culture now, and the existence of this column is one of many examples of that.

 

But the thing is, marijuana’s been mainstream since we hunted for food and gathered around fires for warmth. Since ancient times, the plant’s been recognized for its medicinal and cerebral qualities. It was only in the last century that marijuana’s been demonized in politics, religious sermons, and culture at large. Although it seems it took a long time to exorcise the ghosts of the Reefer Madness days, (and some would argue that we haven't finished) we’ve shifted the public discourse back toward a generally positive view of marijuana.

 

This week we’ve plucked some factoids from cannabis’ rollercoaster of a historical timeline to help put into context the journey this amazing plant took from obscurity to popularity, and then from taboo to ubiquity. Here’s part one of our brief history of cannabis.

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The Original Stoners - 2700 BC

 

References to cannabis use extend as far back as 2737 B.C. when the Chinese Emperor Shen Neng mentioned its healing properties, and placed it among other staple herbal remedies like ginseng and ephedra. He called the plant “ma” and brewed it into tea. The Chinese appreciated this.

 

 

Then God Said, Let’s Get High - 1500 BC

 

If there is a God (and he’s an Abrahamic one), then he created every plant and animal, including marijuana.

 

According to historical linguists like Polish born Sula Benet, cannabis may have been referenced in the Bible. Exodus (30:22-23) includes a recipe for holy oil made from fragrant herbs, olive oil, and kaneh-bosem, which etymologists understand to mean cannabis.

 

Was Jesus anointed with oil made from cannabis extract? Maybe. Later in the New Testament (which would be around 30 AD, for purposes of this timeline), Jesus anoints his apostles with the same holy oil Exodus described. Traces of cannabis residue have been found in ancient pottery in Judea, so it’s quite possible that Jesus “the anointed one” was something of a stoner prophet. The dude loved promoting peace and walking around barefoot, so he fits the bill.

 

Pharaonic Order: Bury Me With A Kief Stash - 1213 BC

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Seshat was an ancient Egyptian goddess of record-keeping and measurement who was commonly associated with marijuana. The flowers of the plant adorn her head. 

When archeologist examined the mummy of Ramesses II, they found an ancient cannabis pollens caked on his eyelids. It’s unknown whether Ancient Egyptians revered the plant for spiritual or medicinal properties, but either way, they had it.  

 

Ancient Indians Loved Marijuana Milkshakes - 1000 to 600 BC

 

The cannabis plant made its way to India from China, and once it arrived, it never left. Ancient Indians invented bhang thandai, a cannabis reduction made with milk that was used to as a muscle relaxer and a treatment for a wide range of maladies. A couple hundred years later it appeared in the Ayurvedic (a system of Indian medicine) treatise of Sushruta Samhita noting it as a cure for leprosy. Of course, cannabis can’t cure leprosy, but it might have made users suffering from the disease more content with their unfortunate situation.

 

Centuries later ganja would be regarded as a holy plant by the Sadhus, Hindu monks who smoke it (to this day) to help lubricate their paths to enlightenment.

 

The Romans Use It For Sexual Suppression (And Rope) - 70 AD

 

Apart from the Greeks, the Romans were likely the horniest people in the Ancient Mediterranean world. So horny, that some people worried the Empire would crumble from degeneracy (it would about 650 years later). One of these people was Pedanius Dioscorides a Roman army doctor and botanist who wrote in De Materia Medica urging his countrymen to use the juice of the cannabis plant to suppress sexual longing. He probably wasn’t popular at dinner parties.

 

Later Romans would prove less of a buzzkill and use cannabis’ fibrous cousin hemp as a way to make military grade rope for their mighty legions.

 

Muslims Invent A Potent Alternative: Hashish - 800 AD

 

The spread of hashish, a powerful concentration of the marijuana's psychoactive resins, is directly linked to the proliferation of Islam throughout the Middle East.

 

The Quran forbade its followers to intoxicate themselves with alcohol, but it didn’t mention anything about cannabis. Muslims took advantage of this, despite the warning of Arab physician Ibn Wahshiyah who urged his patients to steer clear of the extract which he considered a deadly poison.

 

Despite pockets of misunderstanding, use of hashish exploded throughout the Muslim world, with the mystical Sufis encouraging followers of Allah to use it as a tool to connect with the divine. A special prophet of marijuana even emerged from these psychedelic travels who the ancient Muslims called Al-Khadir or "The Green One."

 

Today, Sharia Law condemns the use of cannabis, but back in the Golden Age of Islam, it was celebrated.


Francis Flisiuk can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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