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Collaborating with visual artist and writer Flo Oy Wong and with the Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center (API Cultural Center), composer and bassist Marcus Shelby is composing a 60-minute suite of music for jazz orchestra based on Oy Wong’s book, Baby Jack Rice.

Oy Wong’s narrative is based on the childhood memories of her husband, Edward K. Wong, who grew up in Augusta, Georgia, during segregation. As young children, the Chinese American Edward and the African American brothers Boykin and Cush became best friends despite the strict social legislation of the times that dictated racist separation of whites and blacks. Because Chinese Americans were neither black nor white, their place in this segregation was not clearly defined. The story has been told in the children’s book Baby Jack Rice and explored further in artworks by Flo Oy Wong.

Shelby is building on prior projects of creating music as a means to understand, illuminate, and learn from history. Oy Wong will create new art works on the theme of Baby Jack Rice to be rendered both as an exhibit/installation and projections as part of the performance.

API Cultural Center, founded in 1996, supports and produces multidisciplinary art that reflects the experience of Asian Pacific Islanders living in the United States. In this project, it will facilitate a series of residency activities, support the work of the project principals, and manage the premiere at the African American Art and Culture Complex.

 Pictured: Marcus Shelby with Flo Oy Wong; photo by Andi Wong