Black Folks Live with a Deadly Virus Everyday

Meet Guest Writer Angela Carr Patterson, Screen Shot 2020-05-26 at 10.20.40 PMentertainment executive, entrepreneur, Innovator, CEO, Film Producer, Author, Speaker and Spiritual Thought Leader.  Angela also is the Founder of The Fatherless Daughters Network and The Awakened Beauty Experience, the creator of The Journey to Being Process™ and The Divine Ache™ Life Cycles.

Read Angela’s provocative essay on the death of George Floyd, an African American man who died on Monday, May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Screen Shot 2019-11-12 at 3.51.09 PMDisclaimer: Let me start by saying that this article is not intended to offend or hurt anyone. But my intentions are to shake some things up…to step on some toes…to punch you in your gut…in your consciousness and to shift and wake up some folks. Most of you see me as gentle, loving and kind. I still am…but at times…I will become a force and voice for change. This writing is one of those times. I will be blunt, direct and perhaps a little harsh. But brutally honest. I truly believe these things need to be said. They have been said by others in other ways…and they will continue to be said until things change.

we believe you reap what you sow.

I grew up in a southern city, Columbia, SC. I remember as a little girl hearing my mom have the talk with my brothers. She would say things like, never run from the police, keep your hand out of your pockets, keep your ID on you. I also remember, my mom telling me as I started to drive to stay away from Forest Acres and West Columbia after dark. She said it was the clan territory.

As I became a mother of two sons, I remember having the same talk with them. I also told them to make sure when they went in a store to hurry and purchase what they went in the store to get. Because browsing simply was not a luxury for them.

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Now that my children are adults, they are now having the same talks with their children. Except now, they have to warn them about walking or jogging through a neighborhood, or be aware when you are having a cook out in the park, or sitting in Star Bucks, or yes…simply sitting in your house watching TV.

Every last one of us black folks have to take a deep breath when we are driving. Because we know that one simple innocent traffic stop of DWB (driving while black) could literally end in our death.

Now those of you who don’t share my same skin color, there’s a little voice in your head that will try to tell you that I am exaggerating. But deep within you…you know that I am not.

I … remember, my mom telling me as I started to drive to stay away from Forest Acres and West Columbia after dark. She said it was the clan territory.

Everyday we leave home could be our last day just because of our skin color. And we can’t wear a mask to protect us. I remember hearing stories from my grandmother about how black folks couldn’t walk down the street without being stopped. Or they couldn’t gather in groups of 2 or more because they could get locked up for loitering.

Black and Brown folks live through our own epidemic and pandemic every single day of our lives. Except our deadly virus is RACISM! It spreads so quickly and if it doesn’t physically kill us, it slowly kills us emotionally. And for some reason we haven’t found a vaccine.

 

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And to add insult to our wounds, we are accused of playing the “Race Card” when tragedy hits us and our communities for simply walking, jogging or driving. What the hell do you call it then if it isn’t RACISM?

Do you have any idea what it feels like to walk in a store with more money in your bank account than the store manager and get followed around like you’re about to rob the joint? Do you know what it feels like to be in a line and not recognized and watch someone else get pulled to the front? And you have to struggle whether or not to say anything because if you do, it could cost you your very life?

Do you know what it feels like walk around daily and be told by groups of people to go back to Africa…when we didn’t ask to come here in the first place?

We’ve learned how to live in a pandemic…called RACISM…a deadly disease that spread quickly…kills and destroys our communities daily.

Do you know what it feels like when even your best intentions are considered suspicious because you are not seen human…or equal…you are seen as subhuman.

Now, we here in the America have to sit and listen to a President who we KNOW hates us. How do we know? He demonstrates it to us daily.

Then to have so called “good white folks” tell us that he’s not racist. Like my mom used to say, “Don’t piss in my face and tell me it’s raining.” Because that’s exactly what it feels like when you defend this man to us. You need to know that’s how we feel EVERY time you defend him to us. It becomes difficult to hear you say you love us and you be okay with how this man treats us.

Now I want to say this. We black and brown folks are some of most brilliant people in the world. In spite of all the odds against us…we still find ways to succeed, to laugh, to win, to live, and to love. We walk tall with our shoulders squared, even when we’ve been beat down on every corner.

 

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We have learned how to code switch and to pivot when we are in your presence because we recognize that our brilliance would BLIND you if we really showed you who we are.

You see, we’ve learned how to live in a pandemic…called RACISM…a deadly disease that spread quickly…kills and destroys our communities daily.

But here’s the secret that you don’t know. The tides will eventually turn. We will rise to the top. And that disease…that Pandemic will eat at the host like a virus that destroys the body.

When you are a racist… or you condone it…you don’t get away with it. You will come face to face with what you have done and you will feel the pain of what you have caused others. It’s call Karma.

It never fails…I’ve seen it happen over and over again. Because we believe you reap what you sow.

So the next time you raise your confederate flag, your MAGA hats and your 2nd Amendment signs…I want you to remember this…

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

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We don’t want your pity…because we are proud people. We don’t want your money because we know how to make our own money…and stretch it to feed our entire community.

We don’t want your respect…because we don’t need it. What we want…what we really want is for YOU to recognize that you are living among some of the most powerful, amazing, strong, courageous, resilient and brilliant people in the land.

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Oops…but you already know this…this is the truth you know and the truth you fear.

 

 

Intimacies of Beauty ~ The Skinny

Screen Shot 2019-12-30 at 6.21.16 PMMeet Guest Christy Hyman, historian, 19th Century Studies at the University of Nebraska. Read her skinny on beauty and the practices we endure to maintain them.

℘So as my two wonderful braiders pulled at my hair in varying directions, one of whom was very pregnant and I was face-to-belly with her yet to be born baby more times than I would have liked, I thought about how much of a high-functioning introvert I am; how I have to mentally prepare for being around groups of people; and, how I don’t handle impromptu gatherings very well (I often get out of invitations at the last minute because I have not had time to do my mental preparation for crowds).

But then I think of how intimate our beauty practices are. Two braiders completely in my personal space as I sat poised, ramrod straight with a slight smile as if paparazzi might bust in at any moment; as if my steadied composure would make the photo look any better, knowing my hair half braided would look a total mess.

Then I thought about when I get Brazilians. You know, the wax? A total stranger seeing my privates. The full procedure means getting on all fours at the end as the esthetician rips the hair from behind. How awful? But it gets done because I, and a host of other individuals, embrace certain aesthetic standards we place on ourselves.

I am not shy, no, but I have to prepare for social gatherings. I am not shy, no, but I avoid impromptu gatherings.

I am an introvert but I will reveal my privates to my esthetician so that it is Brazilian appropriate. Ironic.℘

 

 

Maleficent ~ The Skinny

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Meet Guest Reviewer Lena Sledge, filmmaker at Sonny Brook Productions. Read her skinny on Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, and Michelle Pfeiffer.

℘It’s a white savior film that relegates people of color to the margins and makes them supplementary to their white counterparts. Even in battle, the black warriors are not given the ability to soar with their white counterparts, additionally characterizing them as underlings in their own culture.

Connal (Chiwetal Ejiofor) — the supposed most powerful of the Dark Fey — has his eyes on what is happening to his people. His keen senses account for his forethought to rescue Maleficent from the deep. He is killed, however, while protecting her. That is a disappointment.

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Chiwetal Ejiofor as Connal, the Dark Fey

The aggressive white male, Borra (Ed Skrein), however, causes disruption and chaos; he calls for war. He even excels in battle. Borra’s character arc allows him to evolve, while Connal, the leader and wisest of their people, dies with no fan fair or transformation. The film, in addition, wrestles from the black female elders their powers no matter that they band together to save Connal.

In essence, Maleficent’s  narrative is subservient in its message: Black people, their sacrifices, contributions, and abilities, are a means to an end that serve to propel white voices and accomplishments to the center while marginalizing those who are making the greatest sacrifices.℘

Lena Sledge is the director of Sense of Self, her new film about finding inner happiness. For more information on Lena Sledge and her project, ‘Like’ Sonny Brook Productions on Facebook and SenseofSelfMovie on Instagram.

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Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am @ The Ross

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It is obvious that Toni Morrison was the main arbiter of the documentary Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am. Directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, The Pieces I Am is more a review of the First Lady of Letters; more at a filmic admiration of her and less, much less, a discovery of anything new about this linguistic engineer of the English language.

I anticipated a documentary with an overview of her usual literary accomplishments, especially her novels, yes, of course, The Bluest Eye, Sula, Song of Solomon, and her Beloved, the latter for which she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993. Oh, yes, much on Beloved, accompanied by a film clip from Jonathan Demme’s film of the same name and the story of Margaret Garner, on whom the main character Sethe, played by Oprah Winfrey is based.

I expected her to talk about the emotional swerve she experienced when learning about winning the Nobel Prize. She does. Her tenure as a copy editor and her fight for economic parity working as an African American woman in the white male dominated world of publishing. She does. How she raised her sons Slade and Ford as a divorcee—she does. And the power of language and writing—she does.

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As the film progressed, however, I began to realize that what Greenfield-Sanders presented onscreen was all I was going to get. Any discussion of her novels Tar Baby, Jazz, Paradise, A Mercy, Home, God Help the Child, Love, and most disappointing, some conversation on her children’s books on which she collaborated with her son, Slade and her volumes of essays on topics such as writing, morality and goodness, school integration, race and the imagination … did not make the cut.

The documentary felt muted. I left in a silent anger, a silent anger I am monitoring even as I am recording this review. The Pieces I Am is but a regurgitation, then a distillation of interviews and commentaries past. It has a very present firewall that kept at bay my longing to learn more about our beloved Toni Morrison. You see, I had studied Toni Morrison in college; she was the Major Author I chose for my doctoral comprehensive exam. Even before college, I studied every single note—every jot and tittle about my beloved Toni Morrison.

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All of this I write to make known this: The Pieces I Am is for you, the audience who has a modicum of information about Toni Morrison. It is for you, the audience who has no other knowledge of her other than that she won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 and the swirl of controversy surrounding the Nobel from fellow writers.

It is for you, the audience, who curries an interest in literature, writers, black women writers, and Toni Morrison. It is for you and me, the teacher, who needs a teaching tool to situate any of her works for the students. No longer will you need to cherry pick interviews on youtube or print literature—they’re right there for you, for me, for us in Toni Morrison: The Pieces I am

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With these notes, I strongly encourage you to see Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am. It is an intellectual, fun overview of our First Lady of Letters. Her friends and colleagues defer reverence for all of her literary achievement and social currency. Friends and colleagues such as Angela Davis, Oprah Winfrey, Fran Lebowitz, poet Sonia Sanchez and Robert Gottlieb—the latter who was her colleague and editor. But the greatest gift in Toni Morrison: The Pieces I am is Toni Morrison … Her presence … She is there in all of her joy.

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In the Comfort of Joy ~ A Commentary

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Got Me back January 17, 2019 when my knee injury happened on the opening night of the show I directed, Who Will Sing for Lena. It was one of the coldest days of the year in Lincoln, Nebraska. For about three years, I had received the call to stop. To just stop. teaching Zumba x3 wk practicing choreo staff meetings teaching lit/film classes x2 wk semesters and summers writing editing performing travel and more travel meetings upon meetings grading papers office hours vocal coaching practice guest singing Stop! Please Stop! All of this, that, and the other–what my father would call ‘rippin’ & runnin’–took me out. I was devastated over the possibility that I may no longer be able to teach my beloved Zumba–this I learned in the emergency room after the outstanding performance at the Haymarket Theater. I wept well into the night. The Goddess, in all of her generosity, hastened Joy to me that next morning. In the comfort of Joy, I saw me. Right there. In that Holy silence.

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Vox Lux @ The Ross

 

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Written and Directed by Brady Corbet and narrated by Wilhelm Dafoe, Vox Lux is a riveting commentary on fame and celebrity culture in the 21st century. Natalie Portman stars as Celeste, a high school student who is thrust into stardom after singing at a memorial for her classmates who were shot and killed by another student named Cullen Active, played by Logan Riley Bruner. Celeste and her song-writer sister Eleanor, played by Stacy Martin, and her manager-with-no-name, played by an unrecognizable Jude Law, navigate the waters of the music industry as they ride the waves of drugs and alcohol and other means of self-abuse.

Watching Vox Lux is like treading on razor blades; so many scenes I wished for … no longed for Wilhelm Dafoe’s narration to relieve me of the cinematic cuts and bruises. Corbet, however, refused to alleviate my discomfort. Julia Heyman’s art direction adds salt to the wounds as she splashes scenes in hues of blue grey haze, midnight blue, black, white, sepia, and purple and teal laced with silver.

Celeste moves through the film like a marionette whose puppeteer had too many whiskey shots but still thinks he can manipulate the strings. She is so thin so fragile so fractured that you view in fear at some point her head is going to drop off and roll down the street into traffic or one of her limbs is going to break off and land somewhere along the way.

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There is more. Corbet frames Vox Lux within the context of gun violence and terrorism. We see, for instance, the bodies of slain students on the floor and slumped against the wall as young Celeste, played by Raffey Cassidy, bears witness to the murder of her classmates. Wait.

There is even more. You will feel the sound effect of each bullet as it travels through the barrel of the gun to reach its intended victim. No one will escape the trauma of this heart break.

For all of its nail-biting drama, Vox Lux loses itself somewhere out there, but the loss has to be noted. Corbet explores in Vox Lux the strain of memories. How does a witness to trauma bear up under the strain when she has survived? Celeste gains fame and celebrity after her performance at the memorial of her slain classmates; this experience has to have had a psychological impact. How does that fact translate the next day and the next and the next?

Screen Shot 2018-03-09 at 6.30.01 PMVox Lux plays through Thursday, January 31th at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

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Ben Is Back @ The Ross

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Holly (Julia Roberts) and Ben (Lucas Hedges)

Julia Roberts plays Holly Burns, a suburban housewife whose nineteen-year-old son Ben, played by Lucas Hedges, unexpectedly returns home on Christmas Eve morning from rehab for his treatment of opioid addiction. Much to the angst of her daughter, Ivy, played by Kathryn Newton and her husband, Neal, played by Courtney B. Vance, Holly is determined to prove that Ben is worth every ounce of her love and belief in him, even though she doesn’t trust him any farther than she can throw him.

Roberts is a gem in this movie as she strikes at the heart of every mother’s fear. She plays Holly with grit and depth, and we feel her frustration that she just may not be able to control everything in her universe since Ben is back. Written and directed by Peter Hedges, the film opens in Sloatsburg Village, a suburb of New York. The drama begins Christmas Eve night when the home is broken into and, even worse, the dog, Ponce, is taken by drug dealers. Ben laments his coming back has put the family in danger.

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Holly listens as Neal shares his concern now that Ben is back

The abduction of Ponce is cause for grave concern, and Holly curries patience as she tries to ally the fears of the smallest children, Lacey and Liam, played by Mia Fowler and Jakari Fraser respectively. Holly and Ben, then, embark on a twilight trek through their neighborhood in search of Ponce. On the ride, Ben points out a house he robbed, one where he and his male history teacher had an arrangement of sorts in exchange for drugs, and a seedy part of town where Ben once frequented.

Ben is Back joins Hollywood’s attention to suburban white teenagers and their problems with drug addiction. The camera romanticizes these teenagers; families are dramatized as fighting momma and papa bears who will stop at nothing to save the addicted child. Law enforcement is nowhere in sight, unless momma bear calls on them as does Holly in the police precinct. Even then, when she bangs on the window and wails in sheer desperation and pleads for them to arrest Ben because he has stolen her car, the police tell her to calm down and to wait her turn. Dickon Hinchliffe’s music score ensures the pull of the heartstring for wayward Ben. He’s just a teenager who went down the wrong path, and with a mother’s love and care, he will be alright. In addition, Hedges makes known and makes known clearly drug addiction affects not just the abuser but everyone within the home and those within the community. Fear and distrust find a comfortable residence not only in every space of the house but in the psyches of family members. We learn a young woman to whom he dealt drugs died of an overdose, and throughout the film, Hedges shrouds Ben in mystery.

Roberts shines in Ben is Back. She inhabits the stress of Holly’s try to control circumstances. The disappointment in the movie is Courtney B. Vance. The film underuses his talents in favor of Roberts; it’s just that obvious. His performance is an actor’s push to bring some value to a half-baked script that undoubtedly failed to meet up with his skill; it is painful to watch. When he tells Holly to come home, she says, “you take care of our children, and I’ll take care of mine.” Hedges, however, does not hesitate to ask, “Weren’t the class privilege, the breadth of love Ben received from his family and siblings, and the financial sacrifices made for him … enough?”

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Nation Hunger ~ Some Words

Screen Shot 2018-09-06 at 3.36.42 PM.pngBefore I begin Writing … , I have some words:

Be careful–very careful. When you beat down the door to drag a ‘moron’ out of the room, be aware of who is standing in the room–still. It is not empty.  Pay close attention to the person who scoots around the desk to pull out the chair for the next person to sit in it. Observe who will take the seat:

A well-versed and well-rehearsed official and his supporters who have been biding the time.

The emotional and psychological turmoil Americans have been experiencing every single day since November 2016 I believe, on serious reflection, has been well-orchestrated to create what I call Nation-Hunger for that someone else to take the helm. Once fed, and we are belching out perceived pleasure brought on by the change of the guard, watch how events will unfold. We will be too satiated and too distracted to respond because we will have been seduced into a faux-euphoria.

The strategy is brilliant in its simplicity. I fear, however, subsequent action on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will be treacherous in its implementation.

Be careful. IJS. Stay woke.

Maudie @ The Ross

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Sally Hawkins as Maudie

What is YOUR version of happiness?

Ushling Walsh’s newest film Maudie for certain will inspire you ask that question. Sally Hawkins plays Maud Lewis, the reclusive Canadian folk artist who rose to fame for her paintings of everyday ordinary life in Marshalltown, Nova Scotia. Ethan Hawke plays her husband, Everett Lewis, a fish peddler. Everett meets Maud after she arrives at his place in answer to a handwritten ad he placed in the local grocery store for a live-in housekeeper. She keeps the 9 ft by 10 ft 6 house in spite of her debilitating rheumatoid arthritis and her grump of her employer, Everett.

Everett and Maud, nevertheless, dwell in the house without the usual amenities … uhm … no running water, no indoor plumbing, no electricity – none of these — out in the middle of nowhere where the winters are ferocious. Uh uh … there is no heat. The couple live in these conditions until Maud’s death in 1970.

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Ethan Hawke as Everett

Painting gives Maude solace, and no wall, door, cabinet, window, appliance nor activity escapes the stroke of her brush.

Walsh’s interpretation of Maud brings to audiences a woman, who, in spite of her circumstances, yearns only for her paint, paintbrushes, and a seat by the window to create.

The fame her artistry brings is of no consequence to her.  Sally Hawkins plays Maud as an artist who just happens to sell her work. Fame is nothing she seeks but Ethan Hawke’s Everett finds the discovery of Maud’s work by the outside world discomfiting. The couple, nevertheless, endure each other. Hawkins and Hawke interpret Maud and Everett as a couple wrapped up in a blanket of a rugged and weathered primitive kind of love. If either one of us could have asked Maud, or Everett for that matter, how could they have lived in such a way. Maud would have answered this is MY version of happiness.

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A Quiet Passion @ The Ross

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Cynthia Nixon as poet Emily Dickinson

Miss Emily Dickinson composed almost 2000 poems from her room with a view of Amherst, Massachusetts. Her mother, Mrs. Emily Norcross Dickinson, inspired in her a love for gardening, and Miss Emily, along with her sister Lavinia, tended a host of plants in the conservatory her father Edward had built on the Homestead. She avidly read newspapers and periodicals; she waited with anticipation for the newest publications of poetry and fiction. Her favorite women writers were, among others, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, the Brontës, and the writings by her best friend Helen Hunt Jackson. The poems she wrote she enfolded into letters written to relatives and friends along with pressed flowers from her garden. As for her health, she experienced visual difficulties that required two six month trips to see Henry V. Williams a well-respected ophthalmic surgeon and Harvard professor. It is believed by some scholars her eye problems accounted for her desire to stay home until her death in 1886.

 

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Emily Dickinson and her sister Vinnie (Jennifer Ehle)

None of these activities, however, are dramatized in A Quiet Passion, Terence Davies’s bio-pic on the life of American poet Emily Dickinson. Played with exquisite self-possession by Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City fame, Davies imagines Miss Emily as a woman encased within the boundaries of the Dickinson family Homestead—a kind of self-inflicted imprisonment. Keith Carradine plays her father Edward who grants Emily’s request to write at night. From that moment on, Emily wrote her poetry between the hours of 3 a.m. and noon, times she believed the world itself was still and silent.

In A Quiet Passion, Emily eventually avoided the social life of Amherst—that of picnics, church socials, weddings and funerals, among other social activities; instead, the poet turned to a solitary reclusive existence. She enjoyed the company of her family, and, on occasion, witty exchange of banter with her friend Vryling Buffam, played with uncompromising joie de vivre by Catherine Bailey. The bio-pic, however, fails to portray Emily’s joy for nature nor is there an impression of any pleasure emanating from Emily’s writing of her poetry nor a portrayal of her excitement over receiving the latest news.

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Catherine Bailey, Emily’s best friend played by Vryling Buffam

Nixon, nevertheless, brings forth the strength of Emily’s independent spirit as well as her drive to nurture her own sense of self.

She doesn’t unravel Miss Emily; rather, Nixon delivers with a quiet passion how the poet navigates the socio-cultural restrictions of women living in the nineteenth century in the United States. Carradine interprets Mr. Dickinson as a father who didn’t see his daughter coming. Always a bit surprised by his daughter’s display of her intellect but, underneath, Carradine’s Mr. Dickinson curries a sliver of pride for his daughter’s courage. And Jennifer Ehle is delightful as Emily’s constant and loyal sister Lavinia.

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A Quiet Passion plays through Sunday, June 4 at the Ross Media Arts Center in Lincoln.

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