SassyBlack’s Ancient Mahogany Gold Is Natural Therapy for the Independent Soul

SassyBlack Texas Isaiah
Having started my career as a music/arts/culture writer up in Seattle, the Emerald City’s Afrofuturist artist Catherine Harris-White, AKA SassyBlack, has long been on my radar as someone I sought to cover and, eventually, interview. Harris-White’s musical alter ego makes space-age electronic soul that’s a breeding ground for radical self-love. The unapologetically Black and queer artist who studied jazz vocals and graduated from Cornish College of the Arts works the same vein as Lizzo’s self-care-focused Coconut Oil. On Ancient Mahogany Gold, Harris-White’s new LP as SassyBlack, she sometimes flirts with the idea of having a partner, but the object of her affection and protection is usually herself.

I recently fulfilled my destiny and spent some time on the phone with Harris-White, discussing her evolution, her creative process, and the many opportunities she’s seized on her journey to becoming a successful, self-made independent artist, starting with her time as one-half of the hip-hop/soul duo THEESatisfaction.

“Oh gosh, so much has changed, because when THEESatisfaction started I was really young,” says SassyBlack. “I had just graduated from college and I was like 21 going on 22, and I was just like still super fresh. I had been training to perform and I was in bands, so I had already been performing a ton, but I wasn’t super confident about performing by myself because I always leaned on other people. And that’s a typical thing for a vocalist: to just kind of lean on other people to kind of highlight what you do. Especially because I don’t have an instrument besides the one that lives in my body.”

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Composer Gabriel Kahane on Marrying Social Justice With Contemporary Classical Music

Gabriel Kahane
Gabriel Kahane Josh Goleman

This weekend, the Oregon Symphony will raise the curtain on one of their most ambitious ventures to date. At three concerts, the orchestra will be joined on stage by Gabriel Kahane, the musician and composer who was recently brought onboard as the organization’s first creative chair.

The role is a continuation of the commission Kahane was given by the Symphony to write a piece that dealt with the issue of homelessness in America. His finished work, the exhilarating and damning emergency shelter intake form, is an oratorio that uses the words and language of the titular documents, along with interviews he conducted during his volunteer work at a shelter in Manhattan, to examine our broken social structures and collective lack of empathy.

The project went so well that Kahane and the Symphony helped craft a staff position for him that will task him with composing three new pieces for the orchestra, as well as help produce two concert series that will serve to both take the organization outside the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and keep them connected to modern classical composers and the pop music world.

To inaugurate this collaboration, Kahane will be performing with the Symphony, taking six songs from his politically-driven 2018 album Book of Travelers and adapting them for the full orchestra, as well as singing a particularly haunting song from his 2014 album The Ambassador.

I caught up with Kahane to talk about his new gig, what he has in store for the ensemble, and the pieces he'll be performing this weekend. His answers have been edited for clarity.

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All you want for Christmas is free parking? In Downtown Portland, your wish is granted!

When you head to Downtown Portland this month, count on saving money with the annual Free Parking Sundays. Simply grab a validation voucher for your SmartPark ticket at the PDX Pop-Up Shops in Pioneer Place or Boys Fort on SW Morrison.

You’ll save $5—and take paying for parking out of your holiday budget! What you spend that cash on instead (a chocolate-graham treat from 1927 S’mores, perhaps?) is completely up to you.

Visit for holiday happenings!

Food News: Openings, Closings, and Lots of Holiday Events

Salt & Pepper
Salt & Pepper Mercury Staff

If you're still digesting that Thanksgiving gluten-free stuffing... WELL THAT'S TOO BAD. Because here comes a big spoonful of food and drink news to plop on your plate. (Want some gravy with that?)


One of the founders of Portland's artisan baking movement, Pearl Bakery (102 NW 9th), is shutting its doors after 22 years in business, per the Oregonian. Their final deliveries will be Tuesday, December 10.

Also closing next week, On Deck Sports Bar & Grill (910 NW 14th), which is saying goodbye after 15 years of grub, glugs, and games, according to their Facebook page.


The Portland Monthly reports that Chef Gregory Gourdet (Top Chef finalist, Departure) will be finally creating his own concept restaurant in 2020 focusing on "wood-fired cooking, global influences, and most importantly, traditional Haitian cooking—the iconic dishes, and the food of his youth."

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Burn This Theater Review: Is Lanford Wilson's Revived Play a Story, an Exercise, or a Pedestal for Male Rage?


When I consider Asylum Theater’s production of Burn This, first and foremost in my mind are the stinging moments when the sassy roommate character, Larry (Michael J. Teufel), flounced onstage like gay men in the ’90s were expected to flounce, and the audience exploded with laughter. Those laughs hit me like needles and trapped me in a mire of disbelief—are we still doing this?

Hall Monitor: Schnitzer’s Blitz

Jordan Schnitzer

Jordan Schnitzer isn’t used to losing.

Schnitzer, the Portland real estate investor buoyed by his family’s financial success in the steel industry, is easily one of the city’s wealthiest residents. Whether it’s through massive campaign donations or pressuring powerful pals for favors, Schnitzer usually gets his way.

But it appears no amount of string-pulling or hobnobbing will get Schnitzer’s latest crusade off the ground.

To cringeworthy results, Schnitzer has spent the past year lobbying to turn the long-empty Wapato Jail—a remote North Portland detention center he purchased from Multnomah County in 2018—into a massive homeless shelter. Despite his deep pockets, Schnitzer says he needs extra funding to get the project off the ground and wants the cash-strapped public sector to pitch in.

For Schnitzer, who owns more than 20 downtown buildings, the proposal makes his campaign to remove homeless locals (or, as Schnitzer calls them, “unfortunate people”) from the streets of Portland feel a little less sinister. But Schnitzer’s plan to shuttle homeless people to an isolated compound 10 miles from the city center (where the vast majority of homeless services are located) has never gained traction.

Zero local public officials support Schnitzer’s proposal.

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The Expanse Returns with a Bold and Smart Fourth Season

Amazon Studios

“They made their own clouds,” a man from Earth says in the fourth season of The Expanse, as he looks down at a terraformed Mars. “Brings to mind the people who built the great Gothic cathedrals. Knowing they’d be long dead before their work was finished, trusting their great-grandchildren would lay the final stones. We’ve lost that kind of generational thinking on Earth. Here, you see it in everything they do.”

It’s easy to get swept up in the big ideas of The Expanse. Based on the books by James S.A. Corey, it breathes gritty, grimy life into a future where humankind has colonized Mars and the asteroid belt, and now, thanks to a mysterious but probably insanely dangerous stargate, can reach a dizzying array of other star systems. There’s a Sagan-sized vastness to its perspective, where structures that are billions of years old loom on alien horizons and Lovecraftian terrors—given sci-fi names like “the protomolecule”—lurk both among the stars and, for some unlucky bastards, inside our guts.

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Good Morning, News: Impeachment Articles, Questioning Cash Bail, and 🌹Bus Lanes🌹

Stay up to date on Portland news and politics. Looking for fun? Here are the best Things to Do in Portland today.

Portland Bureau of Transportation

Good morning, Portland! You better not pout, because John Waters is coming to town.

Here are the headlines!

Impeach Trump: Nancy Pelosi announced this morning that House Democrats plan to draft articles of impeachment—meaning the long, winding train of impeachment is pulling into the next station. Coincidentally, I am "drafting" the "article" of Good Morning, News right now!

Impeach Bush: The New York Times has published never-before-seen illustrations by a Guantanamo inmate, based on his recollections of the CIA's torture program. They're grim, but more than worth looking at.

Cash Bail's Cost:

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Blazers Recap: Beating the Kings on Pride Night

Bruce Ely -

It was Pride Night at the Moda Center and the Blazers celebrated by taking down the Sacramento Kings, 127-116. CJ McCollum had the hot hand for the Blazers, leading all scorers with 33 points. Four out of five Blazers starters scored 20 points or more, including Carmelo Anthony, who enjoyed another good night. Kent Bazemore had breakout game as well, leading the charge off the bench with 15. The Blazers have now won four of their last five games, though each win has been against a sub-par team. Stiffer competition is on the way as the Lebron James Lakers show rolls into town Friday.

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The True Horror of the Holidays: Check Out the Mercury’s December Picks at Movie Madness!


The holiday crevasse is upon us: a gauntlet of bad weather, dark days, reckoning with mortality, and familial control, all smeared over with a thick compote of forced cheerfulness. That’s why, this month, I chose films that speak to the true horror of the holidays. Let the catharsis begin!

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John Waters Interview: Mr. Know-It-All Talks Tarnished Wisdom and Why He Stopped Making Films


John Waters doesn’t plan on making a movie any time soon, even if it’s been 15 years since his last feature, 2004’s A Dirty Shame. If the stories the 73-year-old cult filmmaker recounts in his latest book Mr. Know-It-All: The Tarnished Wisdom of a Filth Elder are to be believed, Waters was fine with giving up negotiations with studios and producers.

While the back half of Waters’ memoir imparts that promised “tarnished wisdom” (music recommendations, how to deal with air travel and public speaking, drugs, etc.), the early chapters describe time spent making movies within the Hollywood system—after he scored a modest hit in 1988 with the surprisingly adaptable Hairspray—and watching his last three directorial efforts die at the box office. It’s dishy fun with plenty of behind-the-camera gossip and tales of screen legends like Tab Hunter, Traci Lords, Patricia Hearst, and Sam Waterston.

Waters has zero regrets. He’s made the campy, trashy films he wanted to make. He now makes a tidy living from his regular one-man shows. The biggest success on that front is his annual A John Waters Christmas, where he offers acerbic and naughty commentary on the holiday season.

In advance of his upcoming appearance at the Aladdin Theater on December 6, Waters spoke with the Mercury about his tour, his new book, and staying influential into your seventies.

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Cash Bail Comes With a Cost. Would Portland Be Better Off Without It?


Sometimes it’s an upcoming job interview, or a work shift that can’t be missed, or rent that needs to be paid. Sometimes it’s caring for a child, or helping an elderly parent, or being home for the holidays. And sometimes, it’s every possession a person has.

Those are the kind of things that are often at stake when Amanda Trujillo and Gina Spencer help bail someone out of jail. As the co-founders of the Portland Freedom Fund, Trujillo and Spencer use community donations to pay the cash bail of Black and brown people who have been charged with crimes in Multnomah County and are in jail awaiting trial.

Trujillo recalls that one man they bailed out last year had already been in jail for about 90 days—long enough for his landlord to evict him for having missed rent payments and to get rid of all his belongings when he couldn’t show up to collect them.

“He literally lost everything by being in jail for three months,” Trujillo says.

Stories like this one aren’t uncommon, says Carl Macpherson, director of Metropolitan Public Defender (MPD), the largest public defense firm in Oregon. Macpherson is helping lead a local fight to eliminate the use of cash bail in Multnomah County’s court system. It’s a topic that has also become a central issue in the 2020 race for Multnomah County district attorney.

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Local Musician Lauren K. Newman Dead at 41

Lauren K Newman
Lauren K. Newman courtesy of the artist

According to multiple reports from friends and collaborators on social media, multi-instrumentalist, writer, and recording engineer Lauren K .Newman has died at the age of 41.

A fixture of the Portland music scene since relocating here from Pensacola, Florida, Newman juggled multiple musical projects including her one-woman post-rock project LKN, the improvisational metal duo Palo Verde, experimental ensemble Painted Debris, and noise rockers Lonesome Traveler. Along the way, she also contributed articles to Larry Crane's Tape Op magazine, and handled the engineering, mixing, and mastering of both her own music and that of several other local bands.

The cause of Newman's death is not yet known, and, according to her older brother Jamie Newman, there likely won't be an answer to that question for another five months. All that her family and former bandmates could confirm was that she had been dealing with health problems, specifically advanced Crohn's disease, since she was a young kid. And according to her collaborator and friend Conan Neutron's recent Facebook post, her health was getting worse recently, but she kept quiet about it as she "didn't want to be seen as a 'musician with a disability.'"

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Label Accuracy for CBD Products Is a Joke


CBD products are all the rage, and so is the debate as to their effectiveness. Some believe it’s nothing more than modern day snake oil, predicated on baseless claims and promises. Others believe it can be a matter of the product using alcohol distillate versus full spectrum CBD. And don’t forget the people who believe that CBD is far more effective when used with more than the government appointed.3 percent THC. (Slowly raises hand....)

But left out of that conversation is the question “Does the CBD product I’m using actually contain the amount of CBD stated on the label?” Because it would be nutso if you bought something that had less CBD that listed, correct? Thank goodness we have a strong system in place to keep that from—

Oh, for fuck’s sake.

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Tonight! It's the I, Anonymous Show! (With a Very Special Guest!)


HEAR YE! HEAR YE! If you're a fan of comedy and laughing your guts out, then you will not want to miss TONIGHT'S installment of the I, Anonymous Show! Based on the Mercury's non-award winning column where everyday folks submit their most secretive thoughts, rants, and confessions anonymously, the I, Anonymous Show takes the wildest and wackiest of these submissions and reads them LIVE ON STAGE. Your host is one of the 2018 Mercury Geniuses of Comedy, Kate Murphy, who will be joined by a fantastically hilarious panel of local and national comedians to discuss and dissect each one of these submissions, and let me tell you, IT IS SO FUN.

Tonight Kate will be joined by Mercury Genius of Comedy 2019 Tory Ward as well as the super funny Jake Silberman and Dylan Jenkins, as well as a verrrrry special fourth guest, former Portlander now making it big in LA, Simon Gibson! So what are you waiting for? Get your tickets NOW for tonight's WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 4 edition of the I, Anonymous Show playing at Curious Comedy Theater. It's gonna be a blast!

I, Anonymous Show, Wed Dec 4, 7:30 pm, Curious Comedy Theater, 5225 NE MLK, $10 advance at

Good Morning, News: Kamala's Out, Trump's Pissed, and Meet Your New Feminist Impeachment Hero, Pamela Karlan

Stay up to date on Portland news and politics. Looking for fun? Here are the best Things to Do in Portland today.

Law Professor Pamela Karlan gives zero fucks as she reads corrupt Republicans the riot act in todays impeachment hearing.
Law Professor Pamela Karlan gives zero fucks as she reads corrupt Republicans the riot act in today's impeachment hearing. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

GOOD MORNING, PORTLAND! Every other word is "uh-huh," "yeah," "okay." Could it be that you are at the crib with another lady? LET'S GO TO PRESS.

Let's start the morning with some IMPEACHMENT NEWS: Today kicks off the House Judiciary Committee's first public hearing over whether or not the president should be impeached (he should and with vigor). The morning started with testimony from constitutional scholars who will talk about how Trump's presidential corruption is without equal. Expect a lot of idiotic bickering from Republicans, who are still reeling from the damning report issued yesterday by the House Intelligence Committee which provided solid proof that the president “placed his own personal and political interests above the national interests of the United States.”

Sick impeachment hearing burns thus far:

The House Intelligence report also clearly documented how Trump's crony lawyer Rudy Giuliani was up to his neck in corruption, constantly bypassing National Security Council and State Department aides to enact his own foreign policy.

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