Beatboxer Finds New Sound in Opera by UChicago Composer

Augusta Read Thomas (left) and Nicole Paris (right) rehearse for the opera "Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun."

The following was published and broadcast by Chicago Tonight on WTTW on December 2, 2019.

by Angel Idowu

For years, beatboxer Nicole Paris and her dad Ed Cage have awed audiences with their beatboxing battles as Nicole and Popz. Paris recently broke from that duet to take on a feat of her own: beatboxing in an opera. When composer and University of Chicago professor Augusta Read Thomas had the idea to incorporate nontraditional sounds into her opera, Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun, she knew just who to reach out to: beatboxer Nicole Paris.

Christopher Taylor Receives the ASA Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize

Christopher Taylor

In defiance of traditional cultural history, Humanities scholar Christopher Taylor discovered that the people in the British West Indies considered themselves citizens of the British Empire. For his groundbreaking work, Taylor has received the prestigious 2019 American Studies Association Lora Romero First Book Publication Prize for the book Empire of Neglect: The West Indies in the Wake of British Liberalism (Duke University Press, 2018). “Empire of Neglect’s vast and original archival research provides a history of the British West Indies that sets the promise of political liberalism and emancipation against the actual effects of economic liberalism and free market policies,” said Deborah L. Nelson, the Helen B. and Frank L. Sulzberger Professor and Chair in the Department of English Language and Literature. “Scholars of the Caribbean have called it ‘field-making’ for its transformative arguments and methodological innovation.”

Humanities Scholar Explores Overlapping Worlds of Black and Trans Communities

For English Prof. C. Riley Snorton, being part of the communities he studies, informs how he approaches his work. Photo by Jean Lachat

Two black performers stand together, one in a tuxedo and the other in a flowing dress—their sex and gender uncertain. In choosing this century-old French postcard as the cover of his latest book, Prof. C. Riley Snorton wants to send a message: Trans identity is not new.

“If we look historically, we’re not only charting the lives of those who have existed in the past,” Snorton said. “We can also learn about what they were doing, and honor their lives and the survival strategies they employed.

“Our time is not so unique that we can’t learn from other times.”