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Black communities were the victims of residential redlining beginning in the s, creating generations of wealth disparity and inadequate services. In April , the city, like others across the country, boiled over into violent unrest following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. In , Freddie Gray , a black man arrested for illegal knife possession, was gravely injured while in police custody and died a week later, setting off protests calling for the investigation and prosecution of the officers responsible.
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The sculptor Joyce J. Wallace, 27, is part of the new guard, a photographer whose work shifted after attending a rally held in response to the killing of Trayvon Martin in Baltimore has thus far resisted the overdevelopment that has sanded off some of the weirder edges of other cities with thriving arts communities like Austin, Tex. Rather than lamenting the bygone days of some artistic peak, the city is able to point to a living lineage, a continuity that is renewed with each new generation.
I think of Ali and their peers like Butch Dawson and Jpegmafia , for example, responding directly to the legacy of Baltimore club, a genre that remains largely unknown outside the city. Rather than tearing things down and starting new, the artistic tendency of the city is to create layers, riffing on what came before and changing it in the process. In the course of writing this essay, I was surprised by the number of people who, even as they protectively warned me against essentializing or pigeonholing the city, posited Baltimore as a microcosm of the country as a whole.
But Baltimore also feels, in its insistence on maintaining a local culture through community and self-identity, like a holdout from an older tradition, one that can get lost under new construction.
The city will change, one hopes — socially and economically — for the good. But, with any luck, it will continue to be the odd, ambitious place where murderous drag queens roam the streets.
Why Baltimore Persists as a Cultural Beacon. Log In. RE The song that became the anthem of the club was Heroes by Bowie. SS Nobody should knock escape and fantasy, dressing up like a Hollywood film star because they're getting away from it, escaping the nine to five. Everyone was so dressed up. Steve Strange was in full Elizabethan costume.
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There was another woman dressed as Marie Antoinette. I mean, everybody in there went on to become culture icons, but at the time we were just teenagers, coming out of the punk scene and bored as hell. RE It was like being at a big happy fancy dress party.
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We were happy because tomorrow we'd be on the dole. It was different to anything else that was going on at the time. You wouldn't hear terrible music or be patronised by a horrible person from the 70s with a satin jacket or have a personal appearance by Tony Blackburn. We were playing electronic music like Kraftwerk because we fucking loved it, not because we were being paid to. SS I ran a very tight ship in terms of my door policy.
I wanted creative-minded pioneers there who looked like a walking piece of art, not some drunken beery lads. People would ask, "Why aren't we getting in?
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RE Boy George was the coat-check guy at the club. He was like the pied piper; 50 kids would follow him around. He was a real star, like Marilyn; they were living in a squat on the dole but they were walking around saying, "I am a star. When Culture Club brought out the single White Boy it didn't do anything. George was selling clothes in a shop on Carnaby Street telling the customers, "I've got a record out, you'd like it!
It's reggae-ish! SF Steve Strange got into a bit of a weird power trip when he was on the door.
It was really nerve wracking, and you didn't know if you were going to get in or not. And then once you did get in you had lots of people being bitchy. I remember pushing my way through to get to the loo and this guy went, "Oooh!
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It touched me! RE Michael Jackson and Bowie came to the club for the music. I was totally in awe. The makers asked me to meet them at 6. We ended up on Southend beach! He closed the beach, so at least that was glamorous. Bowie's known as a very clever thief, that's why he turned to the Blitz, because he wanted to be part of London's most happening scene.
Latterly, word spread and the press was trying to pin a name on to us. Finally they came up with new romantics. I do think the affluence and crazy marketing of the 90s killed people's creativity. It was all like, "You've got to have this or you're nobody. He thought, 'I can't handle this', and wouldn't answer the door when George knocked.