First, as Dragnet's all-business detective Joe Friday used to say, "Just the facts, ma'am." Here they are: 1.1 million people in the United States are currently living with AIDS. The Center for Disease Control estimates that another 300,000 Americans are HIV-positive but do not know it, and every year, the United States experiences an estimated 40,000 new cases of HIV infection.
As disheartening as these facts may be, there is a way to help. The Tucson AIDSWALK is a way to raise money and awareness for those in Southern Arizona battling HIV/AIDS. How does it work? Participants register (on the phone or at www.aidswalktucson.com), get people to sponsor them and participate in either the 10K non-competitive run or traditional 4K walk (there is a $10 runner/walker fee unless the participant is a youth--grades K-12--or raises more than $10 in sponsorships). It's that easy.
Anne Maley, the executive director of the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF), notes in a press release, "One hundred percent of the monies raised by walkers remains in Southern Arizona and supports critical services for people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS and (funds) prevention programs for people at risk for HIV."
SAAF expects a turnout of more than 4,000 for this year's event. Those who do not wish to run or walk can still donate either their time or money. Although there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, getting involved in AIDSWALK is a great way to help generate funds for research. --M.P.
You may be interested to know that the University of Arizona's Poetry Center frequently has readings by nationally renowned poets and writers. If you're a fan of all things literary, then you owe it to yourself to check out http://www.poetrycenter.arizona.edu for a complete listing of upcoming readings and events.
Among the ranks of upcoming writers appearing at the Poetry Center is Claudia Rankine, a Jamaican-born poet whose latest book of poetry, Don't Let Me Be Lonely (2004), received rave reviews, including--grab your Oxford English Dictionary now--this lofty and academically slangy one from the Minneapolis Star Tribune: "
Don't Let Me Be Lonely is a success, possessing a clarity--an absence of jargon/impenetrable mystagogery--that tropes the common experimental model of opacity ... ." Exactly.
Seriously, Rankine is a remarkable talent. Her resume includes an master's degree from Columbia University, four books of poetry, co-editorial duties on American Women Poets in the 21st Century: Where Lyric Meets Language (2002) and a teaching position in the University of Houston's writing program.
As its title suggests, Don't Let Me Be Lonely is filled with thoughtful and poignant observations on the times we live in and other lonely, sad things. Take this excerpt, from visiting her grandmother in a nursing home: "But sadness is real because once it meant something real. It meant dignified, grave; it meant trustworthy; it meant exceptionally bad, deplorable, shameful; it meant massive, weighty, forming a compact body; it meant falling heavily; and it meant of a color: dark. It meant dark in color, to darken. It meant me. I felt sad."
To combat loneliness, check out Rankine at the UA this Wednesday. It's free, which is definitely something to smile about. --M.P.
At 21, most people are enjoying the benefits of their age (i.e. the ability to legally drink). At 21, Erin Howell is prepping to release her second CD, Smiles, touring and working on her first film (i.e. being a bit more ambitious).
The majority of Howell's Smiles is composed of the songs of famous film legend--and legendary drinker--Judy Garland. As the press release notes, Howell sings the "songs that Judy sang in her younger years. The happy songs."
Howell is very proud of the album, and she believes it has a special place among the current musical landscape. "I think we've come out with something special and different for this time," Howell says in an e-mail interview. "I believe that it's a cross-generational work."
Fans of all generations can enjoy classic Garland tunes like "After You've Gone" and "You Made Me Love You," but Howell is proudest of the four original songs on the album, which she feels are "strong on lyric and story."
Born in Burbank, Calif., to parents in the film and recording industry, Howell now calls Tucson home. Aside from touring and promoting Smiles, she is also working with on her first feature length film, "a contemporary film musical," with her older brother Luke.
During portions of her concert in Tucson, Howell will be joined by local friends and collaborators, including the Arizona Rose performers and Green Valley Singers--that is assuming they're in town. "Many of them are snowbirds, and I'm hoping they all make it back in time."
To find out who will perform with Howell as she releases Smiles, go see her concert this Saturday. Somewhere over the rainbow, tickets are $14 in advance and $15 the day of the show. --M.P.
Back in September 2003, the Southern Arizona Blues Heritage Foundation (SABHF) decided to throw an all-day blues festival. The result? Judging by the attendance, the event was seemingly a smashing success, with thousands of patrons checking out the music and indulging in the various food and beverage booths.
Now, two years later, SABHF will try to top itself with this year's festival, which has attracted some top local and national blues acts. SABHF is an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization designed to promote blues music around Southern Arizona. With the help of some top-notch sponsors, including the Tucson Weekly (don't mention it), Zia Records and Golden Eagle Distributors, SABHF hopes to up the ante with this year's festival.
This should not be too hard based on the national talent they have managed to round up, including Kelley Hunt. Born in Kansas City, Hunt is a talented musician who has worked--mostly incognito--for other, more famous musicians. In fact, it was while pitching songs for Trisha Yearwood that producer Garth Fundis recognized her potential, realizing he had a true talent on his hands.
After working on the new material and building a consistent fan base on the road (she did have two previous albums that sold a combined 80,000 copies), Hunt was ready for the big leagues with the release of New Shade of Blue. Luckily for her, audiences were ready, too, and late this summer, the album debuted at No. 9 on the Billboard blues chart.
So, to see a blues fairytale come true (that would be Hunt) wrapped inside of a free blues festival (thanks to SABHF), head on over to Reid Park this Sunday. The Tucson High Steel Drum Band (presumably doing something bluesy) will open the show, and Kelley Hunt will perform at 5:15 p.m. --M.P.