Always Be… Creating

Hi friends,

Nothing about the Town Hall 20-21 calendar is normal. Coronavirus left no aspect of society untouched but perhaps nothing yielded so quickly, so uncontroversially, as our choice to gather—for art, for community, for worship, for anything.

We can choose not to gather, but artists never really choose not to create. Because music isn’t summoned by a concert. Sculpture doesn’t materialize in a museum. Fiction doesn’t assemble itself into a bound volume. A devoted artist is always singing, shaping, reaching; every finished work is the start of the next. Artists are explorers at the edge of human expression and discovery; the places and moments where we gather with them are just appointments with their life’s work in progress.

Last month you might have noticed that Town Hall’s first ever Digital Season started heavy on conversations. Our spring events showed us they translate online without much “signal loss”; they actually gain a cool informality. But figuring out what music can be online requires considerably more inspiration.

Curators Joshua Roman (Town Music) and Jon Kertzer (Global Rhythms) assured us that this moment demanded a different way of connecting for artists and audiences; all our existing shows for this year needed to be postponed or reimagined. Global Rhythms will begin its reboot after the new year, but Town Music kicks off this month with a season devoted, essentially, to what artists do in that space between concerts—space experienced by audiences as a kind of “silence” that’s, in reality, anything but.

To open the season Joshua decided to come back to Seattle, where he began his professional career. It’s the last place he truly called home, and he’s returning not for an appointment but for a 10 week performance period. This Fermata will be the busiest silence you’ve ever heard, featuring rehearsals or jam sessions, conversations or composition or concerts, all captured and shared through our Digital Stage. The programming will be whatever emerges between an artist and a producer and an audience in a period of personal and societal pause.

Joshua and Town Hall envision this event as a time to find new strength; a time to reconnect with priorities and possibilities; a time to prepare for what comes next, knowing that nothing is guaranteed. Town Music has always provided up-close access to Joshua’s artistic curiosity and we hope this will be the perfect culmination of a relationship we’ve developed over his 13 seasons as Artistic Director.

Along with the calendar’s other arts offerings this month—the return of Philharmonia Northwest; three extraordinary Earshot Jazz shows from our Forum (which converts rather nicely into an intimate online club for the 2020 Festival); the warmly hilarious Katsura Sunshine, live from Japan with a modern expression of the 400 year old tradition of Rakugo comic “standup” and storytelling; and Arts Adventure, a city-wide, all ages scavenger hunt featuring dozens of local arts partners—Joshua’s program marks a perfect kickoff for our exploration of how the internet can actually enhance our experience of art, rather than simply remind us of what we’re missing…

Because let’s be honest—none of us expected to unpack our beautiful new home, only to box it up six months later and move it all online.

We can’t wait until we are able to gather with you together again, but until then we will do everything we can to offer the sustenance of issues, ideas and inspiration, and to help make this time of exile as rich and fulfilling as possible.

 

Wier

A Five-Decade Debate as Important as Ever: James Baldwin and William F. Buckley Jr.

On February 20 at Town Hall, Nick Buccola brings to the the stage a debate about race reverberating 50 years on. 

“I knew I was black, of course, but I also knew I was smart. I didn’t know how I was going to use my mind, or even if I could, but that was the only thing I had to use.” James Baldwin grew up poor in Harlem in New York City. His stepfather treated him harshly, so from a young age Baldwin retreated to libraries where he read and started to write. By his 35th birthday, he’d become one of America’s great writers, penning such books as Go Tell It On the Mountain and Notes of a Native Son. He also came to be considered one of America’s great thinkers and human rights advocates, stepping forward to guide critical discussions in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

“Liberals claim they want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” William F. Buckley Jr. was born in 1925, not long after Baldwin, in the same city. Privileged, his mother filled their home with servants and tutors. Buckley attended Yale, became an informant for the FBI, and worked for a time with the CIA. He also founded National Review, a publication that has become a prominent voice on the American right and has played a significant role in the development of conservatism in the United States.

These two men—diametrically opposed intellectuals—met at the University of Cambridge on February 18, 1965. There they debated the question “Has the American Dream been achieved at the expense of the American Negro?” Yes, said Baldwin. “I picked the cotton, and I carried it to market, and I built the railroads under someone else’s whip for nothing.” No, said Buckley. “The fact that your skin is black is utterly irrelevant to the arguments you raise.” Buckley positioned himself in the debate as a reasonable moderate, one that resisted social transformations Baldwin sought—in particular, desegregation. “The fundamental friend of the Negro people of the United States is the good nature and is the generosity and the good wishes…the fundamental decency,” Buckley said, “of the American people.”  

Fifty-some years later, debates on race relations are still at the fore of our country. Viewpoints on race are still in sharp contrast; in a 2018 Gallup Poll 54% of non-Hispanic whites said black and white relations are good, as opposed to 40% of blacks who said the same. This is marked drop even from 2001 where 70% of blacks said relations were good—more so, at that time, than whites (62%).

On February 20, Linfield College professor of political science Nicholas Buccola joins us to tell the full story of the Baldwin Buckley debates. His book The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William Buckley Jr, and the Debate Over Race in America explores the radically different paths of Baldwin and Buckley and the controversies that followed their fraught conversations. Buccola shows how the decades-long clash between these two men illuminates America’s racial divide today and echoes the necessary work still to be done by liberals and conservatives alike. 

Buccola delves into Baldwin and Buckley’s conversation as a remarkable story of race and the American dream that still resonates today—an unforgettable confrontation that pitted Baldwin’s call for a moral revolution in race relations against Buckley’s unabashed elitism and implicit commitment to white supremacy.


Join us on February 20 for this important talk. Tickets are on sale now ($5, and FREE for anyone under the age of 22).

The debate:

We Did It!

Our General Manager, Mary Cutler, floated into the office this morning, arms swaying and voice sing-song: “Today is a normal day. Let’s all pretend it’s a normal day.” It is, decidedly, not a normal day. But we echoed her feigned calm and did our best to think about anything other than what was happening across the street. Our final inspection was underway. If given the thumbs up, the building—after nearly two full seasons of renovation—would officially be ours again.

That calm pretense was traded for cheers as Mary shared the good news: we passed. As of 11:46 am today, May 16, Town Hall Seattle is no longer a construction site.

The staff raced over and (without hard hats!) entered through the freshly painted 8th Ave doors, explored stairwells, and marveled at the Reading Room’s bare but beautiful form. We gathered on the Great Hall stage to pop a bottle of champagne, toast one another and the community that made this possible—and also to really feel what’s on the horizon. Wier’s toast hit home: “Twenty years of Town Hall. And now, right now, we get to start it all again.”

Whether you’ve been with us since 1999, met us during Inside/Out, or are stumbling across this post because a friend happened to share a link: we are so incredibly glad you’re here. The future and possibilities of Town Hall have never been quite so bright, and each of us are necessary to manifesting its potential.

We mean that in the grand sense, and also in the practical. This summer is our soft launch; there’s still a lot of fine tuning ahead of us and we need your help–your presence and participation–to get it right. Please lend us your patience (and opinions!) as we grow into the new building, and we hope you’ll enjoy new details coming into place every time you visit this spring and summer (from smaller items like wayfinding signage to big things like bar service and commissioned artwork). With your help, the building will be the best version of itself in time for our big Homecoming festival this September!

Our very first event in the Great Hall is just days away (Tuesday, May 21), and we can’t imagine a more fitting debut for the room. Joshua Roman, our longtime friend and Town Music Artistic Director, will lend us his virtuosic talents in a solo cello concert. There are still a few tickets remaining, and we hope you’ll join us to help mark the moment.

Even as we celebrate the end of our own renovation, we should note: more than just Town Hall has been under construction. Our full block is in the midst of being developed. While the plaza and Ovation towers are being built, the Forum is accessible via our new at-grade West Entrance, reachable from the loading zone on Seneca street.

Jamming at SeaJAM

Somehow, in all the years I’ve lived in Seattle, I haven’t found my way to Mercer Island. I know it’s not that far, so it’s not like I couldn’t find the time. After all, the first week I was here I hit all the guidebook hotspots—the bridge troll, the gum wall, the Space Needle. Over the years I’ve caught up on some of the must-do spots and best kept secrets as well. I’ve hung out at KEXP’s Gathering Room and taken in a live broadcast while enjoying some coffee from La Marzocco. I’ve chased away the winter with some mead from the White Horse Tavern in Post Alley. And now, thanks to the energetic lineup of SeaJAM, I’m finally going to make it to Mercer Island in style!

SeaJAM is a weekend-long festival (December 8-9) hosted at the Stroum Jewish Community Center. They’re jamming all weekend long in celebration of Hanukkah, and they’ve put together an amazing festival of Jewish and/or Israeli dance, comedy, music, theater, and more. Saturday features performances by klezmer champion David Krakauer, legendary funk trombonist Fred Wesley, and hip-hop renegade Socalled. That’s a collision of musical styles I’m excited to see!

On Sunday morning I’ll wake up early and take in some Mercer Island scenery. I’ve heard good things about the hikes in Pioneer Park (always open to trail suggestions!), and I’ll need something to energize before the festivities start back up at noon. For all the parents out there, make sure you stop by and see indie-pop band The LeeVees at their 1:00PM performance for the “Hanukkah Rocks” Family Dance Party. There are also plenty of Hanukkah games and art (although you’ll find me by the food trucks.)

To pass the time until the shows that evening, I’ll probably check out Island Books. I’m a frequent visitor to Seattle’s wide array of bookstores, including Elliott Bay Books, Third Place Books, and of course Twice Sold Tales.

Then on Sunday night I’ll find a seat for a new dance performance from emerging choreographer/dancer Rebecca Margolick and composer/graphic artist Maxx Berkowitz, as well as an appearance by comedian Cathy Ladman. She’s been on The Tonight Show nine times, written for TV sitcoms, and appeared in Charlie Wilson’s War, Mad Men, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and most recently Modern Family.

SeaJAM has something for everyone, whether it’s comedy, food, art, a family dance party—or if you’re like me, a chance to finally explore a part of Seattle that you’ve been missing out on. See you there!

Grab your tickets in advance from SJCC.

Celebrating Harold Weeks with Some Ragtime Ditties

Harold Weeks’ name has nearly been lost to history—but Town Hall is here to reclaim it. Weeks (1893-1967) was a Seattle songwriter and a church leader. He was a trustee for Fourth Church of Christ, Scientist. That church building just so happens to be the one Town Hall owns and that we’ve been doing a massive renovation on. We’re set to re-open the historic structure in March 2019.

The building was constructed in two stages between 1916-1922, at the peak of the Christian Science movement. Built in the Roman Revival style by Portland architect George Foote Dunham, it has a large portico with six two-story columns fronting Eighth Avenue, a central dome with an oculus, large art-glass windows, and elaborate window treatments with pilasters and a balcony on the Seneca side.

It was this building that Harold Weeks would attend on Sunday mornings. And it was this time, 1916-1922, that ragtime music was all the rage across the nation. Weeks wrote plenty of ragtime ditties during this time. In fact, he’s mentioned several times in the original Town Crier, where Town Hall’s blog takes its name. In the August 14, 1915 edition it’s noted, “Harold Weeks of this city is the composer of words and music of ‘My Honolulu Bride,’ and Alec M. Malin another of our residents, has written a dance tune called ‘The Alaska Rag.’ This blending of southern seas and northern snows should result in an Elliott Bay temperature.”

In the February 12, 1916 edition the writers praise Weeks’ new tune ‘No Fair Falling in Love,’ saying, “Mr. Weeks is certainly coming to the front as a composer of popular music.” By November 26, 1921, Weeks’ popularity is cemented. In an ad for Youngstrom & Nelson’s new modern music shop, they tout their “complete line of Columbia Records and Harold Weeks’ well-known line of Popular Sheet Music.”

One particularly popular piece of music was his tune ‘Seattle Town’ which Weeks wrote around the time the art glass windows were being installed in the Fourth Church building. President Harding was coming to town with the US Navy Fleet, and Mr. Weeks wrote this piece with a swell of civic pride for Seattle. In the September 1, 1923 edition of the Town Crier, they mention “Tiny Burnett and his men furnished an acceptable music program headed by ‘Seattle Town,’ Harold Weeks’ latest.”

Weeks’ “Fuzzy Wuzzy Bird” performed by the Al Burt Dance Orchestra (1922)

Aside from his activities as a songwriter and church leader, Weeks was associated with the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers; Christian Science Publishing Society; and the National Temperance League. He died in 1967. His correspondence, writings, sheet music, scrapbook, and phonograph records are held at the University of Washington’s Special Collections library. Some of the sheet music they own includes such tunes as “Fuzzy Wuzzy Bird,” “My Kandy Girl in Old Ceylon,” Moonlight Makes Me Think of You,” “Mew-Mew Rag,” “Hindustan,” “Love’s Canoe,” and of course “Seattle Town.”

 

You can listen to more of Weeks music here.

Who Does Progress Look Like?

Social change isn’t just an idea. It’s people on the street forming demonstrations, rallies, and movements that prove the power of collective action. Town Hall is proud to feature two speakers whose work is tapped into that action, and who join us to introduce the people who are embodying change today.

L.A. Kauffman (11/7) has spent more than thirty years immersed in radical movements as a participant, strategist, journalist, and observer. She shares her front-line perspective, delving into the history of America’s major demonstrations to teach us how to read a protest. With insight on protestors ranging from their overall organization and makeup to the signs they carry, Kauffman explores the nuanced relationship between the way movements are made and the impact they have.

Blair Imani: Modern HERstory (November 9, 2018).

At the heart of these movements there are often individuals—and activist Blair Imani (11/9) intends to make sure they are not forgotten. She shines a light on under-celebrated individuals who have made huge contributions to critical social movements over the last century, but who are often overlooked due to their backgrounds or communities of origin. Imani offers us a radical and inclusive approach to history, celebrating women and nonbinary champions of progressive social change.

People drive progress. These speakers remind us that it’s critical to remember the individuals who’ve made social change possible. Listen in and learn about what it means to be the first one to the streets—and the kind of difference we can make when we demonstrate together.


Don’t miss Imani’s event on 11/9 at The Riveter.

“The War of the Worlds” Terrified The Nation… Or Did It?

It’s the 80th anniversary of Orson Welles’s famous radio broadcast of “The War of the Worlds.” Performed in 1938 as an episode of the American radio drama series The Mercury Theatre on the Air, it allegedly caused mass panic, though, as we explore below, the scale of the panic may be overblown.

The Boston Globe, Halloween morning, 1938.

Seattle Radio Theatre, KIRO Radio, and Town Hall Seattle will present an 80th anniversary live broadcast on October 25, 7:30PM, at SIFF Cinema – Egyptian Theatre.

Before you attend and get spooked, here are a few interesting facts about the original broadcast:

The episode was an adaptation of the science fiction novel of the same name written by H.G. Wells. A futurist and prophetic social critic, Wells has been referred to as the “Shakespeare of science fiction.” His works include The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, and The Invisible Man.

H.G. Wells’ book version of the story, first published 1898.

The story of invading Martians was presented realistically, but disclaimers played throughout the episode professing its fictional nature.

The radio play featured work from several prominent Hollywood legends-to-be including Orson Welles himself, who had yet to achieve fame as a filmmaker. His first film, Citizen Kane, didn’t come out until 1941. The script’s author, Howard Koch, would go on to win an Oscar in 1944 for his screenwriting work on the Humphrey Bogart film Casablanca. The composer for the fateful night’s episode, Bernard Hermann, would go on to most famously write the movie score for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.

The telephone switchboard at the studio immediately began lighting up with calls from confused or frightened listeners. By midnight, the lighted bulletin that circled the New York Times building read: ORSON WELLES CAUSES PANIC.

Thousands of people across the country called the police, newspapers, and more, asking if what they heard was real.

Amidst all that, perhaps the most terrified listeners were in Concrete, Washington. By coincidence, during the midpoint of the broadcast, the power went out throughout the town. Some listeners ran into the mountains. Others grabbed guns awaiting the attack.

Days later, a reporter asked Welles, “Were you aware of the terror such a broadcast would stir up?” He replied, “Definitely not. The technique I used was not original to me. It was not even new. I anticipated nothing unusual.

Orson Welles performs.

Was their truly mass hysteria? There’s been some debate. Snopes is on the case.


Join us at the 80th anniversary live broadcast on October 25, 7:30PM.

$5 kids 12 and under | $10 Town Hall Members | $15 General Admission

Sikh Captain America Combats Discrimination

This article was originally written and published as part of the TeenTix Press Corps, a program that promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. This piece was written and edited by members of the Teen Editorial Staff, the leadership board of the Press Corps. Town Hall is thrilled to partner with the TeenTix Press Corps to help amplify these young writers’ voices. 

Written by Lily Williamson


When I think about America, especially in our current political climate, I think about prejudice. Bigotry seems to have infected every part our nation and, as a teen, it often feels like reducing the amount of discrimination in our country is simply impossible. Many current events and happenings in the news pile on, spreading hate and contributing towards a perpetual feeling of political stagnation and ambivalence. But Vishavjit Singh, in both his exhibit, “Wham! Bam! Pow!” at the Wing Luke Museum, and talk, “Vishavjit Singh: Sikh Captain America” at Town Hall Seattle, shows that combating discrimination, while not an easy task, is something each and every one of us can and should be working towards.

Singh, a self-described “accidental cartoonist” and former software engineer, was pressured by his parents to pursue a career in the sciences. He was inspired to start drawing in the aftermath of 9/11, after experiencing and witnessing harassment and discrimination against anyone who looked similar to the perpetrating terrorists. Singh remembers finding out that the towers had been attacked—he was at work when he saw it on TV. Immediately, another employee was staring at him. Singh states that “his angry, bloodshot eyes was my first introduction of things to come.” And things only got worse—as Singh was driving home, “just about every driver on the road… took time to flip [me] off or scream at [me] in anger.” In the period directly after the attack, Singh had to work from home in order to avoid harassment.

But Singh realized that the people who were harassing him were “good people” who simply “made that decision to use…ignorance and fear and project it onto people.” So, Singh set out to confront what he calls “turbanphobia”—the “irrational fear of turbans and people who wear them”—using humor. He decided to draw cartoons that feature Sikh Americans, as well as perform on the street  by dressing up as a Sikh Captain America (he even visited Seattle as Captain America this past May) in order to start conversations about what an American really is.

Singh’s exhibit, while quite small, makes a statement. It mainly focuses on his cartoons, but also gives an introduction into his activism as Sikh Captain America and his story as a Sikh American who survived the 1984 anti-Sikh genocide. Singh’s art is simple yet bold, and its bright, eye-catching color palettes give his comics an amusing, energetic feel. However, the art’s message is what really shines. Singh’s cartoons are based around the everyday predicaments of Sikh Americans, but they also bring to light the discrimination that many Sikhs are subject to. Many of Singh’s cartoons riff on popular art pieces, such as one entitled We Are From Freaking Right Here, a take on Grant Wood’s famous painting, American Gothic. It portrays a Sikh man and woman in the same pose as the couple in American Gothic, saying “We are from freaking right here. Next question!” By taking inspiration from a well-known painting that was intended to be an example of the everyday American, Singh shows that the typical, everyday American can be anyone, not all of whom are expected.

Singh’s cartoons are so effective because they’re so personable. They tell Singh’s own story, which he believes is the most effective way to combat prejudice. When he sat down with TeenTix to do a pre-show interview, Singh told us that he believes that “sometimes the world will define us by using labels… and [those labels] don’t tell you who [someone] is.” But by “find[ing] ways to tell your story but also creat[ing] a place to listen to other people’s stories,” we can, as a society, become more empathetic towards the struggles of others and start to understand and accept people who are different than us.

The United States has an undeniable problem with unjust discrimination, but that is slowly starting to change—mostly because of activists like Singh who teach lessons about the importance of compassion. Vishavjit Singh’s exhibit shows that change is not only possible, but something each of us can contribute to.


TeenTix is a youth empowerment and arts access non-profit. For more information about TeenTix click here. To learn more about the Press Corps program, click here.

Welcome to the Town Crier

“A city’s streets to me are like the wrinkles on an old face,” wrote Margaret Bundy, the editor of Seattle’s Town Crier from 1930 to 1934. “They depict the comedy and tragedy of the life that has passed there; in short, they reflect character.” Town Hall has reflected the character of Seattle for 20 years. As a shared stage for Seattle’s cultural producers and civic groups, Town Hall is where Seattle comes together—to express our creativity, to listen and be heard, and to consider what sort of future we want to create together. And housed in a 102-year-old landmark building, we feel a deeply rooted connection to our town’s history.

That said, welcome to our new blog, the Town Crier, harkening back to our past while propelling us forward.

The original Town Crier was a weekly magazine, published between 1910 and 1938. It focused on Seattle’s news, arts, and culture. It represented a diversity of local voices, featuring artists, musicians, photographers, actors, and more, alongside reviews of local performances and discussions of local, national, and international events. The parallels to our own bustling, broad calendar are undeniable, and as we revitalize our century-old building (its set to reopen in March 2019!)—giving new life to an old name feels especially appropriate.

Town Hall strives to capture today’s voices, just as The Town Crier did a century ago, in fresh and illuminating ways. Through our blog, we’ll profile Town Hall’s speakers past and present—visionaries and thought leaders in the arts, sciences, and civics. We’ll interview Seattle’s policy makers and culture shifters. We’ll invite our community to contribute their own words and experiences. We’ll have a little fun. We’ll ask questions, and by doing so, hopefully we’ll all learn something new. Because Town Hall is a place to reflect—and inspire—our best impulses: creativity, empathy, and the belief that we all deserve a voice.

We look forward to sharing this all with you in Town Hall’s official blog, the Town Crier.

A Shield as a Weapon Against Intolerance

It’s a funny thing—the skinny guy with the turban, glasses, and big beard wandering around New York City dressed up like Captain America. People are smiling. People are laughing. People are joyously putting their arms around him to get a selfie. Sikh Captain America is a popular guy in the streets with that charming outfit, that disarming smile, that shield. Hashtag superhero. Tweet. Retweet. Instagram heart. Facebook post. Heart emoji. Hashtag America.

Sikh Captain America’s name is Vishavjit Singh and he’s had a mob come to his house to murder his family. He’s been called names: “clown,” “genie,” “raghead.” Singh wears a turban. He has a beard. He has brown skin. After 9/11 he didn’t leave his house for two weeks, afraid to. Once he did he was eyed, ridiculed, made fun of, yelled at, derided. Once, not five minutes after taking off his Captain America outfit and getting back into his street clothes, someone yelled at him across the street, “Osama bin Laden!”

Singh started writing cartoons of Sikh characters soon after 9/11. He himself grew up in the Sikh faith (the 5th largest religion in the world) and wanted to start making Sikh characters known. One day he drew a Sikh Captain America. Drawing the Sikh superhero he thought we should relish our diversity and understand our commonalities. Then, in 2012, a mass shooting took place at a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. A white supremacist opened fire, fatally shooting six people and wounding four more.

The shooting affected him. Perhaps, he thought with much cajoling from friends and associates, he should don the Captain America costume and step out into the streets. Those horrible tragedies led him to this—the smiling people, the laughing people, the people eager to take their photo with him. “My palms were sweating,” he says on that first foray into New York’s streets. “I was scared out of my mind.” He got hugs. Cops came up to take pictures of him. A fire station invited him in. He was pulled into a wedding. “I quickly realized I was onto something good.” Ever since, he’s traveled throughout the country, and beyond, to fight intolerance. “We all have stories to tell,” he says. “We just have to reach out to people and ask what theirs is.”

I asked Singh for his story.

He was born in Washington, DC but moved to India as a young child. He left India and came back to the states soon after Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. The news spread fast the day of Gandhi’s death; the assassins were her own bodyguards and those bodyguards were Sikh. Mobs, eager for revenge, roared into the streets looking for Sikhs.  The Singh family was terrified. They survived, with the help of their neighbors, but thousands were not so lucky. Sikh men and boys were burned alive. Sikh women were victims of sexual violence. Sikh businesses, homes, and houses of worship were gutted. He’s drawn these experiences into his cartoons. “We need to read our history, tell our stories, and make more connecting points.”

He returned to America and attended college, turbaned and bearded. People laughed at him, and told him to go back to where he came from. He’s an American citizen. “I began questioning why I needed to stand out. People look at me wherever I go.” He took off his turban, got a haircut, and shaved his beard. After he did it, “No one was looking at me! People thought I was Hispanic and started speaking to me in Spanish. I told them I didn’t speak Spanish. They asked, ‘Then what are you?’.”

Singh’s return to his Sikh roots took years. He’s grown his hair long again. He’s grown his beard back. He wears a turban. Also? He wears a superhero costume. “I’m trying to confuse peoples’ initial perceptions. Confusion leads to exploration, exploration to learning, and learning to understanding.”

“Why can’t we all be Captain America?” Singh asks. “We all can be Captain America. Why can’t a girl be Captain America? A black person?  A woman? An old man? A child? We’re all Americans. We should not be defined by labels…I am more,” Singh says, “than what you see.”

An introvert by nature, Singh has certainly stepped out of his comfort zone and he suggests that we all take a few steps outside of our own comfort:  “We need to create a safe space for each other. We can learn so much from each other.” As Captain America he goes to comic book conventions, camps, retreats. He lectures to children and adults, and he exhibits at museums  (including WHAM! BAM! POW! Cartoons, Turbans & Confronting Hate, now showing at the Wing Luke Museum).

Why? He doesn’t want anyone to feel like he’s felt his whole life: like ‘an other.’ “We write our story every day. Find a way to tell it,” he implores us. “Find your voice. We all have a voice.”

Who is Vishavjit Singh? A Sikh, an American, a cartoonist, a husband, a son, a brother, a writer—more than all that. He teaches us that we’re more than a label, more than the sum of our parts. He’s Captain America, and he’s here to tell us: so are we all.


Don’t miss Singh’s event at Langston Hughes Performing Arts Center on October 1st and 7:30PM. Reserve your tickets here.

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