‘Two Wings: The Music Of Black America In Migration’ Celebrates A Journey Millions Took

Alicia Hall Moran and pianist Jason Moran perform Two Wings: The Music of Black America in Migration at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Jati Lindsay/Courtesy of the artist


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Jati Lindsay/Courtesy of the artist

At the turn of the 20th Century, millions of African Americans moved from the rural South to the country’s Northern cities in of a new beginning. That time of discovery, awakening and Renaissance came to be known as The Great Migration. Now, nearly a century later, singer Alicia Hall Moran and pianist Jason Moran have mixed original music with artistic work from that time period — spoken word, spirituals and recordings from Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, Nina Simone and more — to create an evening of music called Two Wings: The Music of Black America in Migration.

Two Wings got its start when Carnegie Hall invited The Morans to contribute to its recent Migrations Festival. It became a deeply personal process for The Morans. Jason says living in Harlem with their 11-year-old sons means that they’re surrounded by art and culture born out of The Great Migration. “Looking up across the street at the hospital and see Charles Alston,” Jason says. “Aaron Douglas paintings are in the YMCA on 135th St.”

One of the songs in the show Alicia sings is the pop tune “How You Gonna Keep ‘Em Down on the Farm,” a song that in context is asking about a better life for African-American soldiers returning from World War I. Alicia says creating this concert has been a journey for her.

“I could not tell you the gratitude I’ve experienced because of doing this research; for the people who’ve stayed and the people who left and also, the people who made the journeys back and in between,” she says.

Two Wings, the title of the performance, is inspired by ones of Alicia’s favorite Negro spirituals: “The lyrics are, ‘I want two wings to veil my face, Lord / I want two wings to fly away / If these two wings fail me then give me another pair.'”

Jason Moran and Alicia Hall Moran think deeply about how the past is preserved and kept vital through music and culture.

Dawound Bey/Courtesy of the artist


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Dawound Bey/Courtesy of the artist

The concert mixes moods, sometimes sustaining a feeling of peril. opera tenor Lawrence Brownlee sings this spiritual made popular by Lead Belly. During the show, performers and speakers follow one another sometimes overlap.

Two Wings premiered at Carnegie Hall in March, then went to Washington D.C., then to Hamburg, Germany, and now Chicago.

“James P. Johnson kind of made a piece of music called the Carolina Shout,” Jason Moran explains. “In a way, it also acknowledge people who left the Carolinas to come up north and all of these musicians and especially pianists in Harlem would have to learn the song so that they could battle ea ch other on it.”

The Morans — as artists and as people of color — think deeply about how the past is preserved and kept vital through this culture. They’re keeping the great migration alive and breathing, through song.

Two Wings premiered at Carnegie Hall in March, then went to Washington D.C., then to Hamburg, Germany, and now Chicago.

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Colorado Caps Insulin Co-Pays At $100 For Insured Residents

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, pictured in January, signed a bill into law on Wednesday placing a $100 per month cap on insulin co-payments starting next year.

David Zalubowski/AP


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David Zalubowski/AP

As nearly 7.5 million Americans contend with covering the skyrocketing costs of insulin to manage the disease, diabetics in Colorado will soon have some relief.

A new law, signed by Gov. Jared Polis earlier this week, caps co-payments of the lifesaving medication at $100 a month for insured patients, regardless of the supply they require. Insurance companies will have to absorb the balance.

The law also directs the state’s attorney general to launch an investigation into how prescription insulin prices are set throughout the state and make recommendations to the legislature.

Colorado is the first state to enact such sweeping legislation aiming to shield patients from dramatic insulin price increases.

“One in four type 1 diabetics have reported insulin underuse due to the high cost of insulin … [t]herefore, it is important to enact policies to reduce the costs for Coloradans with diabetes to obtain life-saving and life-sustaining insulin,” the law states.

The price of the drug in the U.S. has increased exponentially in recent years. Between 2002 and 2013, it tripled, according to 2016 study published in the medical journal JAMA. It found the price of a milliliter of insulin rose from $4.34 in 2002 to $12.92 in 2013. And a March report from the House of Representatives, found “prices continued to climb, nearly doubling between 2012 and 2016.”

Dramatic price hikes have left some people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes who use insulin to control their blood sugar levels in the unfortunate position of making dangerous compromises. They either forego the medication or they ration their prescribed dose to stretch it until they can afford the next prescription.

In some instances, those compromises can lead to tragedy. As NPR reported, an uninsured Minnesota man who couldn’t afford to pay for $1,300 worth of diabetes supplies, died of diabetic ketoacidosis, according to his mother. The man, who was 26, had been rationing his insulin.

The move in Colorado comes on the heels of recent commitments by manufacturers to limit the drug’s cost to consumers, which in turn comes on the heels of mounting pressure (and some skewering) from elected officials.

Following a U.S. Senate Finance Committee hearing in February and a subcommittee hearing in the House in April, pharmaceutical company leaders have reluctantly admitted they have a role to play in reducing drug prices.

Last month Express Scripts, one of the largest pharmacy benefit managers in the country, announced it is launching a “patient assurance program” that will place a $25 per month cap on insulin for patients “no matter what.”

In March, insulin manufacturer Eli Lilly said it will soon offer a generic version of Humalog, called Insulin Lispro, at half the cost. That would drop the price of a single vial to $137.35.

“These efforts are not enough,” Inmaculada Hernandez of the University of Pittsburgh School of Pharmacy tells NPR, of the latest legislation in Colorado.

Hernandez was lead author of a January report in Health Affairs attributing the rising cost of prescription drugs to accumulated yearly price hikes.

While the Colorado out-of-pocket caps will likely provide financial relief for diabetes patients, she noted “the costs will kick back to all of the insured population” whose premiums are likely to go up as a result.

“Nothing is free,” Hernandez said.

“It also doesn’t fix the real issue,” she added, pointing to her own research which found “that prices have increased because there’s not enough competition in the market, demand will always be high and manufacturers leverage that to their advantage.”

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‘Booksmart’ Director Olivia Wilde: Teen Movies ‘Made Me Excited To Be Young’

Beanie Feldstein, left, and Kaitlyn Dever, play Molly and Amy, two star students who decide they need to cram four years of high school partying into one night in Booksmart.

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Annapurna Pictures

Right after Olivia Wilde saw Lady Birdthe 2017 film about the loving, infuriating, infinitely complicated relationship between a teen daughter and her mother — her first impulse was to pick up the phone to call her mom. Now, when the credits roll on Wilde’s new film Booksmart, audiences are dialing their old high school best friends.

These are the friends who got you through adolescence, Wilde says — the ones who knew you best, allowed you to be vulnerable, and saw you in a way that was “more intense and intimate” than romantic relationships. Wilde continues to have those friendships today — this film, she says, is “my way of honoring the female friendships that have sustained me.”

Booksmart tells the story of two star students headed to the Ivy League. For years, Molly and Amy have put academics first, but the night before graduation, they realize that the kids who partied also got into good schools. Worried that they’ve missed out, the two friends decide to cram four years of high school partying into one night.

Wilde says Booksmart is a “love letter” to the ’80s and ’90s movies that defined her adolescence — and she hopes it will help today’s teens “celebrate being young.” Wilde says she’s “endlessly inspired” by young people: “They really, actually, make me feel optimistic about the future, which is hard these days,” she says.

This is Wilde’s directorial debut, and she says the pre-release jitters are both far better and far worse. “I’ve never been so anxious to release something into the world, but I’ve also never been so proud,” she says.


Interview Highlights

On pushing back against the stereotypical “boxes” of teen movies

You think this is going to be a movie about two nerdy young women who are eager to assimilate to be accepted by their peers. What it really is, is the story of two very smart young women who are unapologetic about their intelligence, who go through a transformation to realize that they have misunderstood their peers to be one-dimensional when actually everyone around them is also very smart. They’ve just been living their lives differently.

We wanted the audience to go on this journey of realizing that every stereotype they expect from a teen high school film is actually not what it seems — and that there’s complexity and nuance to these characters that I hope will inspire people to allow for that same complexity in their peers and in themselves today.

On celebrating platonic friendships

Society gives us so much context for the romantic relationship — there are so many love songs about romantic relationships … beginning the middle and the end. We have very few love songs, movies, stories about friendship — platonic friendship — and yet it is in so many ways deeper. …

People realize this later in life after maybe romances come and go — that those friendships are incredibly significant. And I hope that this film allows people to look around them and value those friendships even more.

On how actors Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein prepared to portray a “layered, deep,” 10-year friendship

They knew that in order to create this chemistry they were going to have to build a history. … So I suggested that they live together [during the making of the movie] and during preproduction as well. Because they needed to spend enough time together where they were no longer sort of charmed by the newness of a friendship. They needed to sink into it a little bit more and spend some time just getting to know each other in all types of moods. …

They lived together in LA for at least 10 weeks, and they spent every waking moment together, and they drove to work together — and what they created is a texture that you can feel when you watch the film.

On teen friendships as a training ground for loyalty and betrayal

There is something in these very intense friendships in our youth where any sort of resistance is seen as betrayal. And there is a pivotal scene in the film where one character reveals that she isn’t actually on board with the plan that the other thought they had agreed upon. And in that moment there is a fissure — there’s a crack in between this very, very intense union.

I wanted to highlight that that kind of trauma to a young relationship is something that is necessary in order for relationships to evolve and for us as individuals to evolve. You must be able to tell your closest ally: I disagree with you. I am my own individual. And so we really worked hard on that argument and showing that in order for these two to continue as friends they have to go through this kind of traumatic break.

On aiming to make an “anthem” for Generation Z — the generation born in the mid-90s and early 2000s

I grew up watching The Breakfast Club and Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Say Anything, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Clueless — and those movies were more than just movies to me as a young person; they kind of contextualized the adolescent experience for me. They made me excited to be young and that was my goal with this movie — it was to allow this young generation — Generation Z — to feel that they had been kind of immortalized. …

It must be so hard to be a young person right now. We’ve put them in such a difficult situation. … They’ve decided to demand a different paradigm. They say: We are going to change the way we look at gender, sexuality, politics. They kind of incorporate politics into their individual identities and they really understand the significance of their voice.

Actors Kaitlyn Dever, left, and Beanie Feldstein work with director Olivia Wilde on the set of Booksmart.

Francois Duhamel/Annapurna Pictures


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Francois Duhamel/Annapurna Pictures

On asking her Generation Z cast members to help make the script sound authentic

When I hired them I brought them together and said: “We’re going to read the script and every time something feels inauthentic, I want you to raise your hand and tell me. If there’s a moment that you think could sound more organic, I just want you to rewrite it in your own voice.” …

Sometimes it was just sort of slang that would be a little bit more natural. Sometimes it would be something more significant, like: There used to be a line in the script where Molly said to Amy, “You’ve been out for two years and you’ve never had a lesbian experience. I want that for you.” And when we were rehearsing, the girls called me over and said: “You know, Liv, we don’t really say ‘lesbian experience,’ we would just say experience.”

And I thought: That’s great. Change it. That’s wonderful. … Things have really changed … Ten to 13 years ago when I was playing a young, queer woman on network television on The O.C. it was a very different conversation. It was all about owning labels and being very upfront about labels. … It was a different conversation at that time.

On whether this film about female friendship could have been made by a man

I’m sure it could, and it would just feel slightly different. … Men can make stories about women — just like Bo Burnham’s incredible film Eighth Grade. … I encourage men to direct films about women, and I encourage women to direct films about men — because we kind of have to break out of this assumption that female directors are here to tell “the lady stories.” … It’s not necessary to separate us. …

Amy Heckerling directed both Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Clueless, and it’s probable that a lot of people growing up on those films didn’t realize they were both directed by a woman. … I hope [audiences watching Booksmart] just feel that it’s a good film that feels authentic and funny, and that when they look up and see that it’s a woman they say, “Oh, that’s interesting.”

Mallory Yu and Sarah Handel produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Beth Novey adapted it for the Web.

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