BY AMY Z. QUINN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week, PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!
ON THE COVER
CITY PAPER: I thought about resisting the urge to make a joke here about how every family has skeletons in its proverbial closet in reference to Sam Adams’ fantastic piece on a woman’s coming to terms with her ancestors’ history in the slave trade. But once I saw that photo caption titled “Ghana, but not forgotten,” all bets were off. Either way, the story of Philadelphia native Katrina Browne’s confrontation with the knowledge that she’s descended from a man who was the biggest slave trader in this country’s history is affecting and beautifully told. And that’s no joke.
As she began to research, Browne discovered that the DeWolfs were not just any slave traders, but the most prolific slavers in U.S. history, shipping tens of thousands of Africans to the West Indies and returning home with ships full of molasses, which could be converted into rum. In The Slave Ship: A Human History, Marcus Rediker relates a voyage in which DeWolf tied a sick African woman to a chair and threw her overboard rather than risk infecting the rest of his human cargo. He was tried for murder and acquitted. When asked if he repented his actions, DeWolf said he was sorry to lose a fine chair.
In family lore, James DeWolf and the descendants who followed in his footsteps were memorialized as rascals and rapscallions, or as pirates sailing the high seas. But lurking somewhere underneath was a tacit, almost vestigial understanding of the family’s dark past. Although Browne to this day cannot remember the conversation, her college roommate remembers them discussing Browne’s family ties to the slave trade long before she received her grandmother’s booklet. “At first, I was shocked,” Browne recalls. “And then I realized I already knew, and the shock was that I had repressed it.”
There are a few moments when it felt like Browne’s sense guilt verges on posturing — a white woman who cuts her blond hair short so as not to be an “affront to black beauty” is a bit of an eye-roller. But there’s no doubting the veracity of her family’s story or the very real, very tangible affect the long tail of the slave trade has on our society, and this one family in particular, even today. Browne’s documentary film, Traces of the Trade, will screen at the National Constitution Center on April 24. Details at www.constitutioncenter.org.
PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY: OK so I know Paperboy’s been slacking of late — a thousand pardons, SinJin — so I peeped into the PW archives to see if their recent cover stories have risen above the sports, sex and food circles of journalistic hell. Let’s see now, March 12 had Wells gassing about footie, March 19 was junk food, and last week was a babe in a baseball jersey. So it appears we’re picking up right about where we left off! And I have to believe Kia Gregory’s defection to the Inky isn’t going to help much, though we wish her much and well-deserved success. But this week, at least, PW comes correct with some news you can use, with a guide to the 2008 Philadelphia Film Festival, which kicks off tonight. I ain’t mad.
“We look for films that have a Philadelphia sensibility,” says Ray Murray, artistic director of the Philadelphia Film Society, which organizes the festival. “We can be a little artsy, but we also have prereleases of studio films.”
There will be more than 260 screenings at six different venues over 13 days. About 70,000 people are expected to attend—which is a bigger draw than most big-city festivals but smaller than the hundreds of thousands of people who attend top-tier festivals like Sundance, Toronto and Cannes.
“Thousands of films are made every year, and only a few get theatrical releases,” says Murray. “People aren’t satisfied by what’s out there in the general theaters. They want to see independent films, and the festivals may be the only time to see some of these films on the big screen.”
Other highlights of the Film Fest package include a Q&A with First Lady of Philadelphia Lisa Nutter, a longer-than-it-needed to be Q&A with the always tiresome Jay McCarroll (who says he moved back to Philly from NYC because “frankly I was sick of people recognizing me. It’s fun to be recognized, but on a daily basis I felt like I couldn’t leave the house unless I was dressed up, and I hate that shit.” Uhh, thanks?) and a well-done and quite handy rundown of what’s worth seeing at the festival. We do wish the big festival closer, Patti Smith: Dream of Life, would have been available for preview. Ah well, we’ll wait for the premiere like everyone else.
INSIDE THE BOOK
CP: A weekend in a women’s homeless shelter — a good story even if it did involve a teensy bit of fraud to report; Mary Patel reps Tigre Hill’s new documentary, and Brian Howard reps Patel’s — the winningly titled Electile Dysfunction! Can you feel the love, my people?
WINNER: CP, for proper use of the word “rapscallion.”