An intimate evening with Junot Dìaz and John Fortè supports Community Services

Original article on MV Times by Gwyn McAllister

Junot Dìaz and John Fortè to perform at Gallery Josephine to benefit addiction recovery.

Junot Dìaz and John Fortè to perform at Gallery Josephine to benefit addiction recovery.

Only a handful of people will have the opportunity to attend what is, arguably, the hippest event of the Vineyard summer season. On July 29, Gallery Josephine in Oak Bluffs will host a benefit cocktail party with performances by Pulitzer prizewinning author Junot Diaz and composer, producer, and recording artist John Forte.

Forty tickets, at $200 each, will be sold for the event taking place in the lovely gallery and garden courtyard of the Arts District venue. The evening will feature food from the new Down Island restaurant and specialty cocktails.

Mr. Diaz will read from his most recent New York Times bestseller, “This Is How You Lose Her,” which was praised by Publishers Weekly as “searing, sometimes hilarious, and always disarming … Readers will remember why everyone wants to write like Díaz, bring him home, or both. Raw and honest, these stories pulsate with raspy ghetto hip-hop and the subtler yet more vital echo of the human heart.”

Mr. Diaz’ previous book, “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” Fellowship, PEN/Malamud Award, Dayton Literary Peace Prize, Guggenheim Fellowship, and a PEN/O. Henry Award. He is currently a professor at MIT.

Born in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey, Mr. Diaz is known for his unique voice, mixing up styles from street vernacular, his own version of Spanglish, and academic-speak. The author is an outspoken critic of the Dominican government’s deportation policies and immigration policy in the U.S.

John Forte, who will perform an acoustic set at the event, is a Grammy-nominated recording artist, composer, music producer, educator, and activist, who achieved fame as a member of celebrated hip-hop group the Fugees. He has released four solo albums and an EP, “StyleFree,” which combines social commentary with hope and inspiration.

The reception and performances will benefit Martha’s Vineyard Community Services’ New Paths Recovery Program. New Paths is an outpatient addiction program, which combines education, group therapy, stress management, mental health care, and peer support for those struggling with alcohol or drug addition.

Nyama Wingood, who owns Gallery Josephine along with her husband Bryan Daigle, is friends with both Mr. Diaz and Mr. Forte. “They are doing this as a favor, to help the cause,” she said. “I’m a big fan of both. They are tremendous talents and wonderful people.”

While both Mr. Diaz and Mr. Forte have strong ties to the Vineyard, the former has only read in public here once (last summer at the Noepe Center for Literary Arts). He will also speak at the Islanders Write event in August. Mr. Forte has never performed on the Island. The two uniquely 21st century talents are both dedicated activists who have agreed to participate in the event in the interest of helping a worthy local organization.

Mr. Daigle and Ms. Wingood are committed to raising awareness through art. The choice to support New Paths was based on the couple’s concern with an issue close to home. “This is my community. This is my home,” Ms. Wingood said. “Addiction is a problem that is affecting people that I know. Any of us on the Island are affected by this growing problem.”

Gallery Josephine was established in 2015. Their mission, according to their website, is to provide “a space to exhibit and sell the original work of artists who address sociopolitical realities through painting, photography, and sculpture.”

In addition to hosting art exhibits, the gallery owners are also committed to bringing activist writers, artists, and lecturers to the Vineyard for talks and performances. The artists that the gallery represents are all known for carrying a message through their work. The current show features the work of Paris-born, New York–based artist Jerome Lagarrigue. Mr. Lagarrigue has received several awards for his work, including the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award as well as the Ezra Jack Keats Award. Among his many honors and accomplishments, the artist illustrated a book of poetry by Maya Angelou, was commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera to paint “Tosca” as part of the opera’s set design, and was one of a hundred artists personally selected by George Lucas to participate in an exclusive project commemorating the original Star Wars trilogy.

A handful of Mr. Lagarrigue’s unique oil portraits adorn the walls of the sparely furnished yet elegant Gallery Josephine, where the readings and performances will take place.

Ms. Wingood is pleased to have the opportunity to help support the New Paths program. “All the best movements start in our neighborhoods, in our homes,” she said.

 

“An Evening with Junot Díaz and John Forte”: Friday, July 29, 6-9 pm. Reading and live music, specialty drinks and artisanal vegetarian hors d’oeuvres. $200. For tickets, visitgalleryjosephine.com. All proceeds benefit Martha’s Vineyard Community Services’ New Paths Recovery Program.