Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Monday, February 20, 2012

Artist Spotlight: Nicholas Murray

On a couple of occassions I've had the pleasure of seeing this dynamic artist showcasing his work in the community.  Each time I've seen him I've been impressed not only with the quality of his work but also with the genuine passion that comes through when he talks about his art.  So the last time I saw him I asked if he would indulge me with an interview for my blog.  To which he kindly accepted. 

I'm very pleased to introduce this friend of the J Spot, Mr. Nicholas D. Murray:

Nicholas could you please tell me a little about yourself?

My name is Nicholas DuPree Murray and I am 28 years old. I am a native to Phoenix, Arizona. The arts have always been something I have enjoyed to do, whether it is the fine arts (drawing, painting) or the performing arts (dance, music). I remember at a young age drawing stick figures and being so emerged in the act of creating art. Overtime this love of art emerged into my dream of becoming an animator and working in the art field.

Have you studied the arts formally?
My adventures in art began in childhood and have stuck with me since. Overtime this love of art emerged into my dream of becoming an animator and working in the art field, which led to my educational endeavors at Arizona State University in the Katherine K. Herberger College of Fine Arts in 2001. Overtime my skills in the fine arts developed in fine arts areas, such as drawing, painting, and sculpting. Nevertheless my main focus at the university was to learn and develop a solid understanding of animation, both 2 dimensional and 3 dimensional. I remember being a kid and being in awe of Disney animated movies. I used these films as a reference in terms of what I wanted to do for a career. The word animation in itself refers to bringing something to life, and is why I enjoy the art form so much to this day. After working on a project for weeks on end, seeing the finished product is most rewarding. I was also introduced to many historic figures in my courses at the university, which impacted my art as well. A Harlem Renaissance artist by the name of Aaron Douglas is one of these individuals that I used a reference in developing some of my art concepts. Douglas’s art revolved around African and Egyptian design concepts, which made him popular. His work sparked an emergence of many young African American artists and helped with the appreciation and development of African heritage and African American folk culture in art during that era. Aaron Douglas and his art was a guide for me to use in my artistic development at that time. After 4 ½ years of study and artistic development at Arizona State University, I earned my Bachelors of Arts degree in Digital Arts which has been one of the biggest accomplishments of my life.

What have you been doing with your art since college?
Right after graduating from college I joined the workforce…. I had to start repaying back those student loans. Lol- I began working at Chase bank, which is not what I expected especially after graduating from college with an art degree. Since then my jobs have not been related to any form of art, which brings me to my focus as of right now of marketing my work and getting my name out there as an artist. Nevertheless throughout the past 5 years I have created individual/ personalized pieces for people. Though not consistent, the future looks to be promising in creating more individualized art. As of right now my main focus is to complete my MBA, which will be at the end of March! Yay! From there I will focus full force on in marketing and selling my art, along with establishing my own business. I would like to dive more into animation, for the reason that there are not enough animation opportunities in Phoenix, AZ since Fox Animation Studios closed. I want to potentially establish an animation production company to revive the art form in this region of the United States. There is a lot that I would like to do, so I must focus on one thing at a time. We will see where life goes………In regards of purchasing my art, I have prints for sale. I am also open to discuss potential pieces for anyone who is interested in something unique and personalized. They just need to contact me. My art can be viewed on my official web site at www.nicholasdmurrayart.com.

Your Billie Holiday piece on display at the Lift Every Voice: Black Art Showcase is simply beautiful. How did you get involved with this project?
I heard about the at the Lift Every Voice: Black Art Showcase through a very close friend. As I stated, throughout the past couple of years my art has basically been on the back burner. My friend knows that and understands my longing to pursue and evolve my art, so he gave me the information, which I am glad that he did. I can truly say that this opportunity has sparked a new era in the development of my art, and has opened eyes to what I want and need to do in order to get my name out there.

As a professional artist, do you have any advice for young people wanting to pursue the arts as a career path?
My advice for young people wanting to pursue art is to maintain focus on what they truly want to do. Meaning, if art is your dream, passion, and drive then do it! I have found myself putting my art work on hold and focusing on things that were not that important in life. I know that I love art and creating art, and this is what I essentially need to do in order to truly be happy. Another suggestion is to have a back up plan throughout the pursuit and establishment of a career path in art. I feel that it is always good to have resources to fall back on.

Art is in the eye of the creator. People get caught up in wanting to create art that resembles other artist’s work, and if it does not look a certain way then it is not good in their eyes. I feel that this is a big mistake. Art in my opinion is individualized. It expresses an artist’s emotion and perspective during the time of creation. This is the beauty of art…. It can be what you want it to be, and it is allowed to be different. I guess the main point that I want to make to aspiring young artists is to be yourself, and let your art reflect who you are…. not what you think others want it to be. From there, natural artistic development is inevitable. Good luck!

I would personally like to thank Mr. Murray for taking time to sit down and answer some questions for The J Spot.  Best of luck in all of your future endeavors.  I'm looking foward to seeing what you do next.

If you would like to see some of his art pieces first hand, Nicholas will be exhibiting his art at the Invisible Heroes Black History month program February 21 at  Mt. of Olives Lutheran Church.  If you would like to learn more about Nicholas, please visit his website  http://www.nicholasdmurrayart.com/.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

LGBT Black History Month Program

Coretta Scott King once said, “I appeal to everybody who believes in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream to make room at the table of brother and sisterhood for lesbians and gay people.” LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) African-Americans have been everywhere in our history though often they go unseen. From politicians to poets, authors to activists, the stories of these heroes go unmentioned and forgotten because oftentimes we see their contributions as insignificant.

Invisible Heroes will resurrect some of these forgotten heroes. You will not see these individuals mentioned at other Black History month programs but their stories are important and their stories should be honored. This month we will shine the spotlight on several of these stories.

UGIMA (United Gay Informed Men of African-descent) is honored to present Invisible Heroes, an event that will honor LGBT African-Americans in history. The program will be held at the Mt. of Olives Lutheran church on February 21 from 6:30 - 8:00 PM.

The Anti-Valentine's Day Song List

So it’s Valentine’s Day and it seems that everything I read is about falling in love, staying in love or finding someone to love. I’m gotten to the point of love overdose and I feel obligated to go into my anti-Valentine’s Day mode. In the spirit of this I feel I need to post my top thirteen broken heart songs. If you’re someone in love then these are not the songs for you. This is for all my peeps who hate this holiday and all it stands for.

So here goes, my favorite “f*ck him, f*ck love and f*ck Valentine’s Day songs.
Thirteen: Chrisette Michelle - Ephiphany

Chrisette Michelle is one of my favorite neo-soul artists. But she sums up very eloquently in this song what any fed up girl must do before she walks out. You have to have that Oprah a-ha moment or an Epiphany before you can proclaim “it’s over.”

Twelve: Heather Headley – Gotta Go, Gotta Leave

I gotta go, I gotta leave, so please don’t make this hard for me. Heather – get you shit and get out girl. He obviously don’t care about you anyway. You can do better.

Eleven: Keyshia Cole – I Changed My Mine
Keyshia Cole’s debut album The Way It Is was to R&B what Alanis Morissette’s Bitter Pill was for pop music. It was the angry girls album. It was the album you played when you broke up with your boyfriend. And it’s first single I Changed My Mind (I Don’t Love You No More) spoke to the hearts of many angry girls.

Ten: Sunshine Anderson – Heard It All Before

Sunshine Anderson’s Heard It All Before was perfect. Great voice and great hook. The song just worked. I remember (in my past life) when I had give someone the hand and I started singing “heard it all before” in order to get my point across. Not sure if it worked but it did make me feel better.

Nine: Rose Royce – Love Don’t Live Here Anymore

“You abandoned me, love don’t live here anymore. Just a vacancy, love don’t live here anymore.” The perfect lines to open up a song about love long gone. I was very young when this song came out but for some reason it spoke to me even back then. The voice, the lyrics, and the music all blend together to make something that’s almost surreal.

Eight: Jazmine Sullinvan – Bust Your Windows

What can I say, a girl so angry that she took a brick and put it through her boyfriends window. If you’re so fed up with a person that you’ve reached this point then it is time to move on.

Seven: Beyonce – Irreplaceable

To the left, to the left. Why was this the anthem for some many women when this song came out. I’m very happy in my relationship but for some reason I still enjoyed this song. Maybe it helped keep me in check because I’ve never wanted to assume that I am so phenomenal that I can’t be replaced by someone else.

Six: Rihanna – Take A Bow

“You look so dumb right now, standing out side my house. Trying to apologize, you’re so ugly when you cry . . but it’s over now!” . This song came out shortly after Beyonce’s Irreplaceable and its no wonder there were so many comparisons between the two But as far as angry girl songs go, this one is one of the best.

Five: Tamia – Me

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this song. It is not your traditional angry girl song. This song is not so much about I’m mad at you so I’m going to press on. This song is more about I love me enough to not take your bullshit anymore. I love the fact that there is some personal accountability in the song.

Four: Janet Jackson – Son of a Gun

“Haa – haa, hoo-hoo, thought you’d get the money too, greedy muthafucka wanna have his cake and eat it too!” Speak on it Ms. Jackson (I call her Ms. Jackson cause I’m nasty). With a little help from one of the original angry girl anthem (Carly Simon – You’re So Vain) this song was on heavy rotation in my house when it was dropped.

Three: Chante Moore – Bitter

Nobody does a ballad better than Chante Moore. So it takes someone this special and this beautiful to say I hate you in such a poetic way. If you’ve never heard this song before please listen to all the way to the end. Only then can you fully understand how “so over him” she really is.

Two: Kelis – Caught Out There

“I hate you so much right now! AGGGGHHHHHHH!” I can still remember the summer when this was released. This song trumped all other angry girl anthems. It spoke to so many girls that were fed up. It was almost number one on my list but that honor had to go to . . .

Number One: Cee-Lo Green Forget You

I’m sorry, but my entire list this far has been angry girl songs. Then last year Cee-Lo Green came along with the song that captured what every person that has ever been in a breakup at some point feels. “Ooh – I really hate your ass right now!” It was catchy, it was different, it was perfect. Cee-Lo is the only male on the list but this song in my opinion had to be number one.

So what do you think, what other songs should have made the list?

10 Tips to a Long Lasting Relationship

With Valentine’s Day quickly approaching I figured I would do a special post for those in relationships, working towards a relationship, or desperately wondering why they’re not in a relationship. Last month marked fifteen fabulous years I’ve shared with my partner. I keep hearing from my single friends (and good God there are a lot of them) about how difficult it is to find and keep a mate. So on the eve of Valentine’s day I feel I need to offer this challenge to those struggling to find their “happily ever after.” Maybe the problem is you.

I keep hearing the same arguments over and over and over again: “He just wasn’t my type.” “The dating pool is so shallow here.” “All men are dogs.” It may be time to do some personal reflections because the problems do always lie externally. Remember, the only common denominator in all those bad relationships have been YOU! And I don’t want you to take this offensively. I am in no way trying to be judgmental or sarcastic. I am sincerely trying to offer helpful advice that could point you towards a relationship that is mutually beneficial, fun and long-lasting.

Unfortunately I’ve witnessed friends repeatedly make awful relationship decisions. Now I know what works for one person does not necessarily work for the next. But there are some truths that are just universal and I feel apply to almost all couples.

So below are some notes from me that I hope will help you in your quest for the love of your life. These are my laws of relationships that all should abide by. I hope you find them helpful.

Law 1. Relationships are not based on sex alone. I have quite a few friends that are meeting their “dates” on hook-up sites. Oftentimes they meet on Adam4Adam or Craigslist and their initial face-to-face contact is exclusively to have sex. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. It is important to have a healthy sexual release. But be a realist. Know that a hook up is just that - a hook up. And for those that really do enjoy courting and dating, in the beginning the sex usually is phenomenal. As time goes on, the limerace disappears and the sex may not happen as often. This is the normal progression of a relationship. This is not a sign that it is time to flee.

Law 2. There is no happily ever after. Far too often I have witnessed friends dismiss potential partners after just one disagreement. And usually it is over something petty, trivial or just plain stupid. I mean really – is it worth leaving someone great just because he/ she didn’t replace the roll of toilet paper. In all relationships there is going to be some discourse. The only way to stand the test of time will be to reflect on how you react in the rough times. I’m not saying you need to stay in an abusive relationship, but I am saying that you will never find someone you agree from now through eternity.

Law 3. If you were miserable before your relationship then you will be miserable in your relationship. Many people long for the perfect relationship because they think it will end whatever unhappiness or depression they are experiencing in their life. I have some really shocking news I have to share with you. You will never find happiness by looking for it outside of yourself. As much as I love Anita Baker’s You Bring Me Joy, that joy is only fulfilling if you already have self love. Having a special person in your life is not going to make you happy if you cannot make yourself happy. I hate to be the one that disappoints you but that’s just the way it is.

Law 4. The perfect mate does not exist. Don’t expect to change your partner into what you want them to be. Don’t think that with your help you can make him/ her into a better person. You must love and accept your partner as is – flaws and all. This is a tricky law because it is still very important that you know what your boundaries are. You cannot expect to love a person long term that doesn’t respect you and your boundaries. If smoking cigarettes is deal breaker for you then why in the world would you think can make a smoker “the one.” There is a difference between boundaries and preferences and people often mistake the two. Know your boundaries and if you enter into a relationship with a person that does not adhere to them that is more a bad reflection on you than on your mate. Your significant other will never live up to all the things that you want in a partner. Be able to love him/her as is.

Law 5. It is okay to have separate interests. My boo loves computer gaming. If he could he would marry his computer. I really don’t get it. I’ve tried playing World Of Warcraft and it held my interest for all of thirty seconds. I have an ungodly almost supernatural love of music. NeoSoul/ R&B. Hip-Hop. Pop. Even country. My partner could care less about new music Tuesdays but each week I have to check billboard.com to find out which artists are releasing something new. I don’t harass him about his computer time and he doesn’t bother me about my CD collection. And we have found a way to meet in the middle. I love all comic movies (X-Men, Fantastic 4, Spiderman, etc). Now we have discovered Comicon and we can both have our geek tendencies fed together at one event.

Law 6. Common Values are a Must. Different interests are one thing but different values are a totally separate subject. One thing I’ll agree with my old pastor on is this - “you must be equally yoked.” That means that the core values, principles and morals of one partner must be shared by the other. Let’s be real, a Christian and a crackhead trying to make it work just aren’t going to go the distance. A person that values monogamy is not going to last long term with a person that is interested in an open relationship. You must have a moral center equal to that of your partner.

Law 7. Don’t Always Take Advice From Your Friends. As much as I think this is a no brainer, this is really one of the biggest culprits in ending relationships. I want to know how is it that my friends, most of whom are single, feel they are equipped with the knowledge to save my relationship. Now if you’re talking to someone that is in a successful long term relationship and may actually know a little something about how to make one work, by all means listen. But oftentimes your friends speak from their own viewpoint. Just because they would react a certain way in a situation does not mean that is the way you should react in a relationship. Do what works for you and what feels right for you.

Law 8. Keep People Out of Your Business. For many this rule ties closely with the last rule (regarding your friends). You know how people say “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” That should apply to what happens between you and your partner also. If there is trouble in your home and you need external help, go to a professional. There is nothing wrong with seeing a couple’s counselor. But be weary of sharing all the intimate, personal details of your relationship with others close to you. The reality is people do not always have your best interest in mind. Misery really does love company.

Law 9. Allow your partner room to grow. As I stated earlier, Chris and I have been together for fifteen. I am not the same person I was fifteen years ago. He is not the same person he was fifteen years ago. Change is a necessary part of life and as your partner evolves you need to give them the space they need to become the person they are destined to be. With patience, love, acceptance, respect and communication, everyone involved can have personal development that helps (not hinders) the relationship.

Law 10. Don’t Take Your Partner For Granted. It takes two people to make a relationship (or three or more if you’re into that). The point is, you cannot always be “me” focused if you want your relationship to last long term. Sometimes you need to give your mate the attention they need. Do something to show your affection. You will be surprised at how far a spontaneous massage or breakfast in bed or an unexpected gift can go. Do something to show your partner that you care.

I hope this advice helps someone. These rules have worked for me and I really think if you apply them in your relationship they will work for you also. But I’ll be the first to admit, I don’t know everything. So if you have any additional tidbits that can help someone in their relationship, please feel free to share.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Birthday Arizona

On February 14, 2012, the state of Arizona turns 100 years old.  I have been a resident of this fair state since July of 1997.  As we approach the centennial of this land that I call home I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my time in the Grand Canyon State.

To the rest of the country Arizona is a state of racist.  We are the state that passed SB1070 and passed legislation outlawing ethnic studies.  To the rest of the country we are a state of homophobes.  California may have had Prop 8 but we passed the exact same thing with Prop 102.  To the rest of the country we are a state with a bigot of a governor and a history of hatred coming from the governors office.  To the rest of the country we are a state with crazy gunlaws and dangerously bizarre gunmen.  We are the state that did not want to acknowledge the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiay.  And finally we are the state that has 120 degree summers.

Granted all of these things are true.  However, as we celebrate Arizona's 100th birthday I want to take a moment to reflect on the good things I've come to appreciate about this state.  Since I've been here I'm come love many wonderful things about  Arizona. 

Sometimes it is very difficult for me (a progressive through and thruogh) to live in such a red state.  However did you know that this was the first state to have all women in its top five leadership positions?  I remember being on the capital lawn as Janet Napalitano was being sworn into her new office.  As I looked at the all female faces of the five people on that stage I remember thinking there must be something kinda special about this place.

Also as a same-gender loving person [in case you didn't know yes, I am a homosexual man] I'm continually surprised by the amount of gay and lesbian representation we have elected to office.  From Steve May to Ken Chevrant to Kristen Sinema, if you didn't know any better you might think that AZ actually had a fondness of the LGBT community.

People are quick to criticize Arizona as the state without culture.  However I will argue the opposite.  I have been repeatedly blown away by performances from the Arizona Black Theater Troup and the Arizona Ballet.  I am always pleased by shows from Nearly Naked Theater.  And we cannot overlook the poetry slams and open mics that bring us out to coffee houses all over the valley.  Admitedly we do not have the quantity of shows as a New York, an L.A. or an Atlanta but we are not void of culture as many would have you think.

I arrived in Arizona in 1997.  I started working for Xerox Corporation my first month here.  Fifteen years I am still with this phenomenal company that recognizes the value of diversity, invests in the development of its people and gives back to the communities where it is located.  I serve proudly as a member of GALAXE (the gay and lesbian association of Xerox employees) and Xerox Black Employee Caucus group.  The economy sucks everywhere.  Unemployment is an issue everywhere.  So as a person that is gainfully employed and somehow managing to pay my bills I am not going to complain.

Since living in Arizona I have earned my MBA from the University of Phoenix, I have served on the board of several terrific organizations and I have cultivated a circle of friends that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.  All in all, Arizona has been very good to me.

I dreadfully suffer through the summers here.  But if you can endure those months where you are painfully aware that you live in a desert, then you will enjoy the most pleasant winter that the country has to offer.  Everyone else wishes they were here as they suffer through snow, sleet and blizzards.  And if the heat becomes to much to bear it is only a short drive to the mountains or to the beach. 

We are a state with many issues.  But as we approach this milestone in history I don't think we should focus of the negatives.  We hear about the negatives of Arizona all the time (I'm sure I'll share some of them with you soon enough). For now I want to think about the things I'm proud of and I love about this state.

So I want to say Happy Birthday to you Arizona.  You're 100 years young and I wish you a long and prosperous future.   

Makes Me Wanna Holla . . .

When I first saw the video above I honestly did not know how to respond. My emotions ranged from anger to saddness to revenge to anger again. Three thugs decide to ambush a guy and throw him to the ground and ravagely abuse him. Please watch the video and you'll see that he did not see this coming and the attack happened so quickly he did not know how to (or have time to) defend himself. They're quick to call the victim a faggot but to me it appears that they are the punks.

Well I am happy to report that one of the men involved in this attack is currently behind bars and the other two will be their very soon.   The attack on Brandon White was vicious and cruel and these men will pay for this.  Christopher Cain is currently in police custody and one other attacker has been identified.  It has reported that the police are very close to identifying the third attacker.

How the hell does something like this happen.  The fact that these men video taped and posted this video is a sign to me that they are proud of what they did.  I'm sure when they get to court they'll come out with the "I'm sorry", "I'm remorseful", "We didn't know what we were doing" defenses. But these men need to do a lot of time in prison.  I hope their time there starts soon.