Saturday, June 14, 2014

Young chef Robinson ready to serve with D. Arthur’s Catering

Desmond Robinson prepares to serve food at the "Brunch Showcase."
Desmond Robinson had his fill working as a senior education coordinator for training and development at Regional One Health, formerly the Regional Medical Center at Memphis. He’d spent his time in the labor pool and decided to follow his dreams. 
   “I quit so I could become a fulltime caterer,” said Robinson, who’d been catering public and private parties, events, weddings, bridal showers and the like for more than two years before officially launching D. Arthur’s Catering. He has clients in Memphis, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Arkansas, Louisiana and Dallas. 
   “I enjoy catering much better and always wanted to be a chef,” said Robinson, 28. 
On June 1st, the young chef provided an ample sampling of his palatable treats during a “Brunch Showcase” at the newly-built Beale Street Landing on the Riverfront. 
   The atmosphere was conducive for such a showcase and replete with succulent, attractive food that included chicken and waffles, seafood mac & cheese, loaded potatoes mac & cheese, pepper jack mac & cheese, veggie crepes, collared greens egg rolls, mini fish tacos, chicken drumettes, and five different desserts stations.
   Robinson’s parents, Arthur and Anniece Robinson, stood proudly among the crowd, observing while their son worked his magic. He donned a white chef uniform, served and mingled with guests that numbered more than 125. They came expecting a treat and Robinson delivered.   
   “He is an all-around renaissance kind of guy and an upstanding kind of fellow,” said Anniece Robinson, expressing how happy she’s been after her son decided to stay in Memphis to pursue his career in the culinary arts. 
   “We have too many of our children leaving Memphis, and I’m glad he stayed,” she said.
A pretty good cook herself, Robinson encouraged her son to seek his own path and offered to do all she could to help him get to where he wants to go. “I’m sure he’ll do just fine,” she said.
   During his formative years, Robinson observed carefully the Food Network’s Emeril John Lagasse, an American celebrity chef, restaurateur, television personality and cookbook author. Smittened, he envisioned “throwing down” just like Emeril. 
   “Now that I’m older, I’m a fan of so many chefs. I don’t have a favorite,” he said.
   Would Robinson like to become the next superstar chef on the Food Network channel?
   “Sure, I would love an opportunity to cook on the Food Network,” he said.
Robinson actually has limited formal training in the culinary arts. After graduating Whitehaven High School in 2003, he received a Bachelor’s of Art degree in communications from the University of Memphis in 2007, and a master’s degree in higher education and administration from Louisiana State University in 2011. 
   “It wasn’t until after undergrad in 2008 that I decided to go to culinary school,” said Robinson. “I went for one quarter and didn’t finish.”
   Attending culinary school really wasn’t an option, he said, particularly after acquiring the skill set firsthand from his mother, aunts and grandmothers on both sides of the family. The bloodline, he surmised, makes him a bona fide cook.
   “There are a lot of good cooks in the family. I got it naturally. That’s been my niche,” said Robinson, adding that if food is tantalizing to the taste buds and looks scrumptious, people would purchase it. 
   Robinson creates his own recipes and takes other recipes up a notch or two. He has a team of 20 people – servers, drivers, trainers, dishwashers and cooks – to help him create the ambience that his clients expect.
   “We’re looking for other cooks who are experienced and qualified to come in knowing what to do,” said Robinson, who hopes to take his catering business to a whole new level to attract a broader clientele locally and nationally.
   Memphis, however, is his hub of operation.
   “It allows me to be flexible and creative. I can create different menus everyday of the week and design tables, food, and the overall d├ęcor.”

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Fulton Four: A family of artists

The Fulton Four: Walter Fulton Jr., Gloria Fulton Singleton, Vickie Fulton, Jerome Fulton. 
A current of creative energy flows through one Memphis family and sparks the imagination of four of the matriarch’s eight children. Decades ago, Willie Bell Fulton and her deceased husband, Walter Fulton Sr., would discover that something within four of their artistic children needed to be expressed on paper, canvas, fabric, furniture, wall, glass, wood or any other surface.
   Walter Fulton Jr. (also known as “Atoosie”), Gloria Fulton, Jerome Fulton and Vickie Fulton each possesses a talent for either drawing, painting, designing, illustrating, cartooning, quilting, sewing, upholstering, crocheting, and simply bringing to life works of art that depict their myriad experiences.
   Gloria Fulton calls their talent a “gift” and added that her parents bequeathed it to each one of them. “My mother had a thrifty hand; she was creative,” she said. “But painting and construction came from my dad. For example, I remember him painting a portrait of my mom.”
   Willie Bell Fulton, who was married to her children’s father for 64 years, busied herself in the early days cooking, cleaning and sewing clothes to make ends meet in the Hyde Park community. However, she wasn’t aware at that time that her children were budding as young artists – with the exception of Walter Fulton Jr.
   “The only child of mine that I really noticed with the talent for art was ‘Tootsie,” Ms. Fulton recalled. “I saw a creative spirit in him at an early age. He was a different child. But the others…I was busy at that time taking care of them.”
   Now they are making their own mark as individual artists and collectively as the Fulton Four.

Walter “Atoosie” Fulton Jr.:
In pursuit of opportunities

   It would be futile to try to define Walter Fulton Jr. or attempt to box him into a single category. He has the skills to move linearly or laterally in the art world and has no qualms about taking his art on the road or settling for a stint in a bustling city for artists.
   Fulton has lived in Florida 12 years; New York, 5; Los Angeles, 4 ½; Atlanta, 5; and Las Vegas, 2 ½. When he’s back in Memphis, he’s painting, drawing, cartooning, illustrating, designing fashions or sewing clothes and, to no one’s surprise, preparing to globe-trot to the next city for another adventure. 
   “All my life, I’ve been somewhere,” said Fulton, 64, always in pursuit of making a living even if opportunity isn’t knocking. “You might as well enjoy yourself. God will provide what you need.”
   Although Fulton generally follows the market that is conducive to his style of art, the thought he’s had of launching a line of clothing – after designing and manufacturing it – has not faded from memory since he first learned to sew. He hopes to develop the idea into a business and employ people. 
   “I love to paint and draw, but I would love to manufacture cotton clothes – shirts, pants, dresses and skirts – and be a viable player in the game (the fashion industry),” said Fulton, noting that Memphis is the purveyor of cotton, “so why not use cotton to manufacture clothing?”
   Fulton understands the world around him – its beauty, significance and functionality. “Everything you do has art in it,” he said. “The only thing is how do you take it and put it on the market.”
   When he was budding as an artist, Fulton received art scholarships from the 10th to the 12th grade at Douglass High School to attend summer school at the former Memphis Academy of Art. After graduating high school in 1968, he received another scholarship to the art school – this time as a bona fide college student.
   Like his siblings, Fulton has a spiritual side that radiates when he speaks. He recounted a story that he shared with homeless men, comparing stones to talent.
   “I work with the homeless and often tell them about the story of David, how he defeated the giant with five smooth stones. I tell them that the stones are talents and that they have to use their stones to defeat their giants.” 

Gloria Fulton Singleton:
Recycling discards into works of art

   If art is the explicit purpose of man’s existence on earth, then everything that Gloria Fulton Singleton sees in her mind’s eye can be transformed or repurposed as a work of art. She is the quintessential recycling artist who sees beauty and meaning in discards.
   A painter, muralist, interior designer and decorator, woodworker, upholsterer, art teacher and seamstress, Singleton parlays her skills into works of art that are useful, functional and appealing to the homeowner.
   “I’ve always been around creative people,” said Singleton, 62, adding a tagline to her style of art: “Fulton’s Art & Home Furnishings.”
   The artist attributes her creativity to her mother, a seamstress; her late father, a painter and woodworker; and her late grandmother, a shoemaker. She credits her brothers Walter and Jerome for hewing a path in the arts for her to follow and esteems Estella Cash, who taught sewing in the Hyde Park community.
   “If you wanted something, you made it, painted it, or recycled what you had,” said Singleton, drawing her experiences from her youth while growing up in a household of nine other family members. Those early influences, however, would enable her to harness her creative energies. 
   “I like a beautiful, peaceful and cohesive environment. That’s what I strive for,” said Singleton, who works with children at Mustard Seed Studio teaching them the art of sewing, crocheting and knitting. Her ultimate goal is to teach children and employ women. 
   Singleton graduated from Douglass High School in 1970 and afterward matriculated at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Ray Vogue School of Fashion Design in Chicago, the Tennessee Technology Center at Memphis to study carpentry, and the University of Memphis.
   Her current focus is on art and home furnishings.

Jerome Fulton:
Recreating the Old South in multi-media

   There’s a little history and antiquity in the artwork that Jerome Fulton creates. He’ll take you back to the Old South and elsewhere, where life for African Americans is seen through a kaleidoscope in cotton fields and roving landscapes, where multi-colored, multi-patched quilts are suspended from clotheslines while a slight breeze nip at their fringes, and where the blues reverberates from guitar strings.
   “I’ve always been fascinated with Africans, the drums, and their music. It’s part of who we are. It’s in our bloodline,” said Fulton, 60, whose varied images of the Old South speak the language that he conveys on paper, canvas and through various found objects that comprise some of his wood constructions.
   It was during the summer months in Clarksdale, Miss., that images of southern life would emerge and eventually become a focal point in some of Fulton’s mixed media paintings and drawings. An aunt, he said, lived in Clarksdale and visits there would open his eyes to a new world, which stirred his interest to recreate the era’s enduring legacy – albeit good or bad for African Americans. 
   “It was in Clarksdale that I learned to appreciate music, experience the great feel of country air and love for southern folks,” said Fulton. “The first sunset that I saw at the age of 8 inspired me to always look for beauty in colors.”
   Fulton is a graduate of Douglass High School. He’d dreamed of creating beautiful works of art on paper, but discovered a watercolor technique that he’d borrowed from his instructors – watercolorists Dolph Smith and Fred Rawlinson – at the former Memphis Academy of Art (Memphis College of Art), where he graduated in 1976.
   “I love watercolors,” said Fulton, who took what he learned from his instructors and breathed new life into the fluid technique of watercolors by inserting, transferring or adhering photographic images of rusty shacks, people and building to a watercolor board.
   After college, Fulton lived in Chicago for 28 years drawing and illustrating and returned to Memphis 5 years ago to give us a history lesson on southern culture. 

Vickie Fulton:
Communicating through patchwork quilts

   Hand gestures and a radiant expression frames Vickie Fulton’s face when she expounds upon her newly discovered talent for quilting. It had been a long time coming – an innate ability that was once dormant – but the creative urge to speak through her quilts has emboldened her and awakened the artist within.
   “When I’m sewing quilts, I’m singing, meditating, praying, and listening to God, and trying to solve the world’s problems,” said Fulton, 58, who took three quilting classes from Anne Harper and Andrew Hayes at the Josephine K. Lewis Center for Senior Citizens at the corner of Bellevue Boulevard and North Parkway.
   However, before finding solace in stitching quilts, Fulton taught in the Legacy Memphis City Schools for 25 years. She’d devoted considerable time in the classroom teaching the curriculum and imparting to her students a sense of history from an African-American perspective.
   Although the field of education was foremost Fulton’s passion, it is quilting that piques her interest of late and imbues her with sheer joy. “I’m still in the line of education,” said Fulton, who delights in designing each quilt in a way that educates, that tells a story.
   For example, in “Secret Code Quilt,” the artist stitched a colorful patchwork using images of African American slave quarters and abolitionist Harriett Tubman, each juxtaposed against vibrant colors symbolizing secret messages that were deciphered by slaves seeking to escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad.
   “When I wake up in the morning, I start quilting and don’t stop until the night,” said Fulton. “In my sleep I’m sewing. I’m always thinking about new projects. My spirit and soul are in my quilts. They are like children.
   “It’s therapy to me. I’m engrossed in thought on each piece,” said Fulton, noting that she hasn’t sewn since high school but picked it up in a snap. “I love it. It’s a lost art. And my goal is to bring it back.”
   Fulton graduated from Northside High School in 1974, from Southwestern Christian College in 1976 with an associate’s degree in social work, and from Lipscomb University in 1979 with a bachelor’s of art in social work.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ministers in the hunt for votes

Dr. Kenneth T. Whalum Jr., Rev. Hubon Sandridge, Bishop Edward H. Stephens Jr., Bishop Brandon Porter
With the Democratic Primary for the Ninth Congressional District about two months away, ministers in dueling camps are taking a stand, leaving those in tune with their spiritual guidance to determine if that influence should extend to the voting booth.
While such division is not new, some are suggesting that this time around the stakes are higher for African Americans in the district represented by incumbent Steve Cohen since 2006.
In May, more than a dozen ministers convened near the National Civil Rights Museum to announce their support for Atty. Ricky Wilkins, who – along with community activist Isaac Richmond – is challenging Cohen in the Aug. 7th primary.
The names of a contingent of ministers backing Cohen were detailed recently in a widely circulated announcement, making it clear that they have a different perspective on what is needed in the district going forward.
So, while Greater Community Temple Church of God in Christ Bishop Brandon Porter is urging voters to embrace Wilkins and give “change a chance,” the Rev. Hubon “Dutch” Sandridge, pastor of Thomas Chapel Baptist Church, insists Cohen’s record of service and his political pedigree make him the clear choice. 
“You can’t take a novice and put him in a congressional seat,” said Sandridge, referring to Wilkins, former chairman of the Memphis Housing Authority. “He does not have a record to stand on. He doesn’t have the political record that can touch Steve Cohen’s record and years of service. Just saying I’m a black man doesn’t have anything to do with leadership.”
Noting the dozen-plus ministers who were named in the recent release and others that he asserts support him privately, Cohen, said, “I am proud that such a distinguished and diverse group of men and women have endorsed my candidacy.” 
For some clerics, making public declarations in support of one candidate over another is par for the course. They argue that their involvement in the political process is no more than an extension of their duties in and away from the pulpit. 
Bishop Edward H. Stephens Jr., senior pastor of Golden Gate Cathedral, said politics in its purest form has the ability to move people. He encourages his members to get involve and vote for the candidate of their choice. 
“The church is the voice for our community…the megaphone and mouthpiece…to get information out. You can’t complain if you don’t exercise your right to vote,” said Stephens, a prominent Wilkins supporter.
Stephens, who joined other ministers in the May public showing of support for Wilkins, reiterated that he has nothing against Cohen. It would be good for African American kids to see an African American occupying the congressional seat in Washington, he said matter-of-factly. 
“Cohen is a good man, but African-American people don’t have representation,” said Stephens, using as a hypothesis a non-Hispanic representing the Hispanic community. “Why would a black person represent the Hispanic community? Another Hispanic understands the community better.”
After introducing Cohen at the opening of his East Memphis campaign headquarters Saturday (May 31st), the Rev. Dr. Kenneth T. Whalum Jr., pastor of The New Olivet Baptist Church, railed against Cohen’s detractors, who he said maintain that a “Jew” cannot represent a predominately African-American district. 
“It’s the height of disingenuous presentation to suggest that a Jew cannot effectively represent black people,” said Whalum, a former school board commissioner. “Black preachers get in the pulpit every Sunday, every Wednesday in Bible study, and preach and teach about how a Jew has been effectively representing us in heaven for 2,000 years. 
“I just think it borders on stupidity,” he said. “Steve has been an excellent representative before he went to Congress.”
Wilkins, who has said “diversity of representation” should be appealing and valued by people regardless of their political affiliation, has emphasized his academic pedigree and his public and private career.
“There is a lot more to Ricky Wilkins than just being a black man,” he said the morning of the endorsements by the ministers. “I just happen to be a black man.”
Whalum says race is the issue, offering this context:
“Black people have been in charge politically for decades, yet the masses of black folks are worse off now than they were when Boss Crump was in office. That’s the race issue to me.”