June 17, 2021
In Her Own Words
My music is a polyrhythmic expression of my queerness, Blackness, and Southernness. It is best conveyed with the support of expert musicians whose astuteness of craft and joy for life elevate my expression. I thrive in a space of collaboration and am nourished by the energy of a live audience. As I told freelance music writer and comrade Grayson Currin, “The musicians I respect have never been beholden to their assigned genre. You have to recognize your ability to be dynamic, even when genres are telling you that you’re not.” Performing as part of this series I had the pleasure to curate is my most recent effort at defying genre and prescribed roles.
About Shirlette Ammons
Shirlette Ammons is a Durham, North Carolina-based poet, musician, emcee, and film creative whose highly collaborative work defies genre. Interrogating her own relationships to gender, Blackness, and Southernness, Ammons’ upcoming recording, Spectacles, is a “poignant expression of her own multitudes, rendered by a modern wellspring of Black Southern brilliance and her wider creative community,” says writer Grayson Currin.
A Cave Canem fellow and a 2013 recipient of the North Carolina Arts Council artist fellowship, Ammons has toured Germany, Switzerland, and Austria as part of the Purple Velvet International Female Hip-Hop Tour with all-female emcees representing three continents: sookee (Germany) and Lex La Foy and DJ Doowap (South Africa).
Ammons is also accomplished in the realm of TV and film, working as a producer on the Emmy Award-winning PBS docuseries A Chef’s Life, as well as Somewhere South. She also served as a producer on The Seeds We Keep, a hybrid art essay and documentary short for Oxford American, and Stay Prayed Up, a feature-length concert documentary exalting the musical legacy of eastern North Carolina gospel trio the Branchettes.
For 10 years, Ammons also served as youth arts coordinator at The ArtsCenter in Carrboro, North Carolina, where she offered arts instruction every day after school to hundreds of young artists.
Ammons envisions her guest curatorial work with the Moss will draw upon her deep community orientation as someone born and raised in the small eastern North Carolina town of Mt. Olive. Ammons’ interests span the gospel tradition, the “covert musicianship” of the juke joints and cat houses where music was played historically in her region, underground marginal economies of Black and queer music, and coded language that relates to Southern and rural experiences.
This is the first performance by Shirlette Ammons at the Moss Arts Center.
Please note, there will be no livestream option for this performance.