Sunday, February 10, 2019


Florida Premiere of film biography of first Black Female Nobel Prize Winner directed by  Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

Dwight Casimere with Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Director-Tony Morrison: The Pieces I Am

                                         The author in a moment of deep reflection

by Dwight Casimere

Celebrated photographer Timothy Greenfield-Sanders reaches deep into his roots as a cinematographer and his treasure trove of photographs and remembrances assimilated across the landscape of a more than 30 year friendship with the trailblazing author to create a complex, all-encompassing portrait in  the biographical film Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am, in its Florida Premiere as a Marquee Presentation of the 36th Miami Film Festival.

Archival footage, artful animation and initimate photographs are interspersed with Morrison's own musings, spoken  directly to the camera, and reflections by the likes of revolutionary Angela Davis, who Morris recruited to write her autobiography at the tender age of 28,  Fran Lebowitz, Walter Mosley, Russell Banks and her longtime editor Robert Gottlieb, Peter Sellars, and others. The celebrated poet Sonia Sanchez offers some particularly illuminating reflections on the great writer, that are as indelible as the words of Morrison herself. Expert cinematography by Graham Willoughby, skillful editing by Johanna Giebelhaus, and a haunting score by Kathryn Bostic, give the film its  lingering impact.

Born Chloe Ardella Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, the 88 year old author grew up in a multi-ethnic working class community that she described in the film as a "true melting pot."  Her parents instilled in her a love of learning and reading, which was also, perhaps, planted in her DNA by a grandfather who said he read the Bible, cover-to-cover five times. The feat is extraordinary, because, at the time, it was considered illegal for a black person to learn to read. The consequence of being caught was death. That declaration in the film is accompanied by one of Greenfield-Sander's  powerful black and white portraits of a pair of work-worn black hands, resting in an artful position on top of a Bible. That image sets the tone for the superb blend of visual images and spoken word that propels this superb biographical documentary.

Morrison's enrollment in Howard University in 1949,  immersed her further into Black culture and identity. It was also where she met her  husband, Harold Morrison, a Jamaican architect and faculty member in 1958, after she had returned to teach there.

After a stint as an editor with a publishing company in Syracuse, New York, she became the first black editor at Random House in New York, where she would blaze a trail for not only herself, but a host of other black luminaries, including Angela Davis, Muhammad Ali,  Henry Dumas, Toni Cade Bambara, and Gayl Jones, whose autobiographies she edited and published. 

Morrison's own writing had an opportunity to flourish and gain a worldwide audience at Random House.  Her first novel, the Bluest Eye, took the literary world by storm in 1970. Subsequent efforts, Sula, Song of Solomon, Tar Baby, Jazz, Paradise, and God Help the Child, cemented her name in the pantheon of great African American authors. Eventually, her longtime editor, Robert Gottlieb convinced her to give up her  position to devote full time to her writing. 

The year 1993, Morrison made history as the first African American woman to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. We see her in a regal gown as she accepts the award and gives a landmark speech on the power of language and literature. 

                                           Accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993

                                      As the trailblazing author and editor at Random House

                                  In recent years as Professor Emeritus at Princeton University

In 1998, she won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature for Beloved, which was simultaneously turned into an Academy Award nominated feature (Best Costume Design-Colleen Atwood)  film produced by its director, Jonathan Demme and Oprah Winfrey among others and starring Winfrey and Danny Glover. The film garnered an Oscar nomination and critical acclaim, but registered little at the box office. It was still an important film because of its story, culled from the bloody pages of slavery's history.

                                    Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover in Beloved

Morrison told how the film was based on the true story of a slave woman who chose to murder her own children rather than see them raised in slavery. Only the daughter is actually killed, and the woman is tried for murder. The issue at trial is whether she should be punished for destroying property, (i.e. slaves) or for murder, which would affirm her identity as a full human being, the thought of which was antithetical to the concept of slavery.  Morrison said the story haunted her for years and begged for her to turn it into a novel. The film was a failure, but the concepts it raised are still being grappled with to this day.

In the final minutes of her film, Morrison tells how the concept for Beloved came to her in a vision. She saw an apparition of a fully clothed woman emerge from the waters off the edge of her waterfront home, complete with an  ornate hat on her head. The woman sat briefly on a bench at the end of the pier, then suddenly disappeared. That, Morrison said, was the spirit of Beloved, and the inspiration for her novel.

Morrison remains a formidable voice to this day. At 88, she is professor emeritus at Princeton and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama in 2012. 

              Toni Morrison receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am


Director: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Producer: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Johanna Giebelhaus, Chad Thompson, Tommy Walker
Executive Producer: Michael Kantor
Production Company: Perfect Day Films
Music: Kathryn Bostic
Cinematographer: Graham Willoughby
Editor: Johanna Giebelhaus
Cast: Toni Morrison, Angela Davis, Fran Lebowitz, Oprah Winfrey, Hilton Als, Walter Mosley, Sonia Sanchez, Robert Gottlieb, Farah Griffin, Russell Banks, David Carrasco, Paula Giddings, Richard Danielpour, Peter Sellars


by Dwight Casimere

The 2019 Chicago Auto Show is officially underway. The 111th edition of the largest automotive exhibition in North America is officially open to the public now through Monday, Feb. 18 at McCormick Place. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle joined 2019 Chicago Auto Show Chairman Ray Scarpelli Jr. and General Manager Dave Sloan on stage to cut the ribbon to open the show. 
Hundreds gathered for the ribbon cutting ceremony, which featured the Army ROTC Color Guard from the University of Illinois at Chicago and the national anthem by musician Natalie Cochran. 
First staged in 1901, the Chicago Auto Show is the largest auto show in North America and has been held more times than any other auto exposition on the continent. With more than 1 million square feet of exhibit space, visitors will find more than 1000 vehicles, technology displays, and hand's on driving experiences. 
The Chicago Auto Show has something to offer everyone, whether you're interested in purchasing a new vehicle, checking out the hottest concept cars, experiencing interactive displays, or just taking the family out for a fun day, there's so much to see and do at the 2019 show," said Chicago Auto Show Chairman Ray Scarpelli. 
Special-themed days include Sports Team Pride Day on Feb. 11, Women's Day on Feb. 12, Hispanic Heritage Day on Feb. 15, Chicago Friday Night Flights on Feb. 15, featuring local Craft Brewers, A Safe Haven Chicago Auto Show Food Drive Feb. 13-15 and Family Day on Feb. 18.
MotorWeek has awarded the Hyundai Veloster N the 2019 Drivers' Choice Award for Best Sport Coupe. The annual MotorWeek competition has been ongoing consecutively for 38 years. The Drivers' Choice Awards ceremony was held during the 2019 Chicago Auto Show.
"Receiving an accolade such as Best Sport Coupe from MotorWeek, Television's Original Automobile Magazine, is very rewarding and helps position Hyundai in a league of elite honorees," said Scott Margason, director, Product Planning, Hyundai Motor America. "Hyundai's first U.S. market N model leverages the outstanding, new-for-2019 Veloster platform, showcasing an even higher level of performance appealing to the most discerning of automotive enthusiasts."
Alfa Romeo today unveiled the limited-edition 2020 4C Spider Italia for North America, limited to only 15 vehicles.
The 2020 Alfa Romeo 4C Spider Italia offers driving enthusiasts a mid-engine design inspired by the brand's legendary racing history and represents the essential sportiness embedded in the brand's DNA.
Kia is also using the Chicago Auto Show to bring us the updated, 2020 Sportage. The overall package doesn't change too much, but the Sportage wears new front and rear fascias, and gets a smattering of new driver assistance tech.
Lexus is bringing another Inspiration Series model into the world -- this time, in the form of the seductive LC 500 coupe. Whereas the last Lexus LX Inspiration Seriesmade the Lexus LX 570 look as though it was in mourning, the LC, instead, is dressed decidedly brighter, wearing Flare Yellow paint, yellow accents adorning the cockpit and a dash of extra carbon fiber inside and out. 
Like every Inspiration SeNext, the Rogue Sport gets a slight overhaul for 2020, though the compact crossover largely stays the course. You'll be able to spot an updated Rogue Sport thanks to its slimmer, more attractive headlamps.
The Rogue Sport's big upgrade is on the safety tech front. Nissan now makes its Safety Shield package standard, which includes automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, blind-spNissan has a pair of crossover-shaped debuts for the Chicago Auto Show. The first is a special edition of a well-liked SUV, and the other is a substantial refresh of a smaller crossover.
The Rock Creek Edition is simply a $995 rugged interior and exterior appearance package, but your extra dough also gets you a sweet set of wheels, along with splash guards and a trailer hitch with a wiring harness. You can read more about the Rock Creek Pathfinder here.


One of the most significant reveals in Chicago is the new Subaru Legacy. We were initially wowed by the Legacy's large, portrait-oriented Starlink infotainment system touchscreen, which takes a page from the vertically oriented units in the Tesla Model S and Model X as well as the Ram 1500 and Volvo's Sensus Connect interface. Thankfully, Subaru has left us physical buttons for often-tinkered-with functions such as the volume, radio tuning and temperature controls. 
But there's more good news for Legacy fans. The turbocharged engine is back. In addition to a base, 2.5-liter H4 engine, the Legacy is available with the 2.4-liter turbocharged H4 engine we first tested in the Ascent SUV. All-wheel drive is, of course, standard, and every single Legacy gets the company's suite of EyeSight driver assistance tech. Click hereToyota has a healthy lineup of debuts this year in Chicago, the biggest of which is the refreshed 2020 Tacoma. The updates aren't too extensive, but hey, the truck finally gets Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and even Amazon Alexa. Otherwise, it's the same Tacoma we've known for a while, but for pickup buyers, that's just fine. 
Toyota will also be debuting the 2020 Land Cruiser Heritage Edition to celebrate the storied off-roader's 60 years -- one-sixth of which have been consumed by the current-gen beast. Yep, it's due for a redesign. 
he Jetta GLI is back, as the sedan-shaped brother to the wonderful Golf GTI. The GLI builds on all of the things we like about the Jetta -- mostly its onboard tech -- and adds some great performance upgrades.

For starters, the Jetta GLI gets the same 2.0-liter turbo I4 engine as the GTI, with 228 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is available as an option. A multilink rear suspension, electronic front differential and larger brakes will help it be a whole lot better to drive, too. Read more about the new Jetta GLI here.