Alicia Hall Moran

Jason Moran and Alicia Hall Moran performing at the Regattabar, Cambridge, MA, February 15, 2011. Photo: Gregg Conde.

AS THE ARREST OF HENRY LOUIS GATES JR. on the steps of his own house made clear, the dynamics of racialized subjection are particularly vexed in ivory-tower towns like Cambridge, Massachusetts. On the one hand, black bodies are continuously surveyed and assessed as either “hood,” “Harvard,” or “homeless”; on the other, the city and its environs play host to a range of the most visible African-diasporic cultural institutions and practitioners anywhere. Yet there are, of course, much-needed escapes from these specular extremes of life lived black.

It was just this kind of phenomenal experience—of solace and sublimity, communion and catharsis—that Alicia Hall Moran conjured into being for an intimate crowd in February at Cambridge’s Regattabar, a jazz venue in the upscale Charles Hotel. A classically trained soprano, Hall Moran has increasingly come to work within the spaces

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