“The future is always here in the past” – Amiri Baraka

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The My-Stery: “Get In-Formation: Black Performance, Black Code and Black Spies”

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The Mask as Technology Part 3:

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Source: AllHipHop.Com

Although I tried not to add onto the dozens of think pieces that are already out there about Beyonce’s latest video, “Formation,” sometimes I like to jump on the bandwagon to either use it momentarily like a free ride to a needed destination or to veer it off into my own direction.

The video has opened the door for much conversation and possibility of new connections, which to me is the main benefit of it, and there has been valid thoughts on all sides about it from the possible meanings of its symbolic artistic imagery and bringing some focus to black cultures that often have been forgotten, marginalized or denigrated, even by black people themselves, to the critiques that highlight the problematic centering of a cis-gendered, non-queer, high class, wealthy, light(er)-skinned, thinner celebrity against the marginalized realities of poorer, lower-class, heavier-set, darker-skinned, queer and transgendered people. Looking at the video and listening to the lyrics, it is difficult to ignore its use of Western capitalistic and white-centric measures of power, including Givenchy and Bill Gates, and their stark contrast against the images of disasters that affected those marginalized communities and black traditions that helped us to survive the violence and trauma created by the former. It does appear on the surface to be a form of capitalist opportunistic exploitation, appropriation and a softer silencing/erasing of marginalized cultures despite the “inclusion” of their imagery.

But as a creative writer/artist myself, I tend to look at culture and imagery more ambiguously. In trickster philosophy, various contradicting realities and meanings exist at once; we all wear various conflicting masks to negotiate with and maneuver through society at large. At the end of the day, Beyonce is a pop artist, not an activist per se, and just as I can learn and be inspired by various sources, I can be inspired by her work and apply it back to my own work.

Certain aspects of “Formation,” and responses to them, kept stirring thoughts in my mind, especially in relation to recent posts I had on this blog. Not saying all the thoughts below went through Beyonce’s mind, but these are the thoughts her video inspired in me. Let us look beyond Beyonce because it, for me, is not about her but the larger symbolism and archetypes that are part of human psyche and social cultures.

Here is a list of my (random) thoughts:

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Moving on the Wires: The Spiritual Technologist Essay

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Spirit TechFor Black History Month, I present to you my published essay, “The Spiritual Technologist: An Afrofuturistic Techno-Ethos:”

Using the title of the character Rinehart from Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man,” I explore briefly the concept of the spiritual technologist as a way to develop my own philosophical ethos for the movement of Afrofuturism.

You can buy the essay for $1.99 at Smashwords!


Modern Griots Interviews: : Louis Chude-Sokei Part 2

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Welcome back! Here is part 2 of my interview with Louis Chude-Sokei! You can read part 1 here

9780819575777“…What will matter in the long term is the impact we have on the (Sci-fi) genre itself, not on its packaging or clichés…”

4) Science fiction and fantasy have in the past been centered around European/Western stories and tropes and even in Afrofuturism, it was promoted previously as mostly Western/U.S.-centric. Briefly, how do you see Caribbean cultures, African cultures and other cultures around the world as early incubators, already exploring those ideas of science fiction, fantasy and futurism? Why is it important to explore those ideas in these cultures?

Science Fiction (SF) itself was produced directly by the response to slavery and colonialism in England and America.  This is a fact.  Therefore SF has always had within its DNA racial, colonial and sexual concerns—so its a mistake to see the genre as either “white” or “Western” or “European” since all of those categories depend on slavery and colonialism and, of course, industrialization.  As such it isn’t necessarily anything-“centric,” though the modern history of SF hasn’t been as good as it should be about making all of this clear, hence the necessary interruption that is Afrofuturism as well as the explosion of global SF.

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Modern Griots Interviews: Louis Chude-Sokei Part 1

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Happy New Year!!!!! Welcome back to Futuristically Ancient!

InterviewpicLast year, I introduced to you all to the upcoming release of Louis Chude-Sokei’s The Sound of Culture. Well, the book is finally here and I had the privilege to interview Louis about his book and his research. Louis is a truth-speaker and an illusion-breaker who is not afraid to challenge and enlighten us on preconceived notions about our identities and histories. That is what I enjoy about this is exploring and presenting the numerous looks into our past that help us to understand and weave together our current time and move us forward! Enjoy Part 1 of Louis’ interview today and part 2 on Wednesday!

“…I also began to think through theories of masquerade and carnival as a way of apprehending the productive instability of so-called “blackness” and to subject American racial thinking to a more diasporic lens…”

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Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School Part 2

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Several months ago I attended the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School. While due to my other work I didn’t get a chance to do a recap of the event right after, it had a profound effect on me. I took all the notes I had from it and wrote a series of poems inspired by the different panels and workshops I attended.

This is my holiday present for you! I posted Part 1 yesterday and I will leave the poems up for a few weeks. Then I will probably make a small e-book chapbook out of the poems for you to buy!

Enjoy! See you in the New Year!

 

Day Two

What is black love?

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Modern Griots Recap: Poetic Fragments from the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School

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Several months ago I attended the Afrofuturism Conference at The New School. While due to my other work I didn’t get a chance to do a recap of the event right after, it had a profound effect on me. I took all the notes I had from it and wrote a series of poems inspired by the different panels and workshops I attended.

This is my holiday present for you! Part 2 will be up tomorrow and I will leave the poems up for a few weeks. Then I will probably make a small e-book chapbook out of the poems for you to buy!

Enjoy!

 

Day One –

Constructs. Narratives.

 

The Narrative as Technology

(Inspired by Womack’s Keynote)

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Modern Griots Reviews: Nichol Bradford’s The Sisterhood

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“Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds…” – Marcus Garvey/Bob Marley

71maqobuaklEveryone wants to be free, but most people don’t know how to be free. Either we are physically enslaved and imprisoned, or we are mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and financially in bondage. The latter are mostly invisible chains; it is harder to be conscious of their existence and how to escape them. It is hard to be conscious of the ways in which we who have been oppressed internalize and repeat the oppression that has been placed upon us.

Inspired by the women she met in her life, like her late mother and other women leaders she met in the AKA, African-American MBA Association and business school, Nichol Bradford set out to write a mission-driven story that explores those very ideas. Through the genre of political action thriller, Bradford sets a world where black women are the main leaders and heroes, and are taking back their freedom. After a decade of writing and then publishing the book, The Sisterhood has inspired many women with the tools they need to go after their true purpose in life.

Instead of creating simply a self-help or motivational book, Bradford instead wrote a riveting novel of what can be called “applied fiction.” Because sometimes the best way to teach is through a story and Bradford shows it!

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Moving on the Wires: ‘The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics’

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Louis Chude-Sokei, the author of  The Last ‘Darky‘: Bert Williams, Black-on-Black Minstrelsy, and the African Diaspora, will be releasing a new book, The Sound of Culture: Diaspora and Black Technopoetics.

Chude-Sokei, as he has done in his previous work, explores the complexities of race and ethnicity through a Caribbean lens. As someone who calls myself Afro-Caribbean-American, I realize how sometimes I don’t neatly fit into a dominant idea of blackness, which is usually centered around U.S. America black cultures. Because of that, I often notice how Black people from all over the world often have to adjust their ethnic identities by putting on, by playing with, by expanding the definitions of blackness.

In his first book, The Last Darky, Chude-Sokei examines the life of Bert Williams, who was from the Bahamas, and how minstrelsy weirdly became a technology Williams used to complicate blackness, to explore and break from the boundaries of the stereotypes of blackness. It explores how someone who was an immigrant, who had a different ethno-cultural identity, but was also considered superficially black, related to and navigated the world of blackness in America. It explores the intersections between, carnival/playing mas, masquerade, blackface and creation of identity.

In The Sound Culture, Chude-Sokei continues his exploration of the intersections of music, race, ethnicity, masquerade/carnival, minstrelsy, science fiction, and technology/machinery in the modern world through the lens of Caribbean creolity or hybridity.

Below are the table of contents for the book to pique your interest:

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Modern Griots Interviews: Nichol Bradford and The Sisterhood Part 2

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Nichol Bradford Source: TTConf.org

Welcome back to part 2 of my interview with Nichol Bradford, author of the novel, The Sisterhood!

For a bit of a refresher, please read Part 1!

In the second half of the interview, Nichol tells us more about her career and her vision for implementing aspects of video gaming into her work at the Willow Group, where she is developing her ideas of “transformative technology.” If you have not read Amiri Baraka’s “Technology and Ethos,” you should because I believe it gives a great context into understanding Nichol’s mission for the Willow Group and The Sisterhood.

 

5) You wrote that you are “fascinated by human potential,” and have “always been interested in how technology can help individuals expand beyond their perceived limits to develop and transform themselves to the highest level.” What is your specific definition of technology and in what ways can humans create innovations in technology and create a culture of technology that benefits and strengthens society more than harm it?

For me, technology is defined as any time human beings create processes or devices to do things. The baseline spirit remains the same whether it’s an arrow tip chipped from stone, or meditation, or a mainframe, or your iPhone. The key to understand is that “technology” is not going away, because the curiosity and experimentation of humanity is not going away. So fast forward to today, and the tech we have now, and it means get used to it, AND develop ways to live with it and specifically design technology to support our softer side – our psychology, our emotions, and our storytelling that reminds us what matters most.

” I’m a bit of a Trekkie, so of course I love the Holodeck. But if you dig beneath that concept, it becomes about using technology to explore our inner landscapes.”

This brings us to transformative technology, which at its core says harness that design for our internal betterment and not just our productivity. So this can be anything from a meditation app to bio-feedback to more intensive interventions like direct stimulation. The purpose of these specific examples addresses the essential part of our question, which is how do we create a technology culture that benefits society, and the answer is that we focus our extraordinary human creativity and curiosity on designing interventions that teach pause, reduce fear and thus fear based attacks, and allow us to become more aware so that we can choose our response rather than be dragged along by our fight/flight responses to life.

6) How did working in the gaming industry influence your writing, human psychology and social interaction? How does technology, psychology, gaming, storytelling and mythmaking, and social culture intersect and influence one another?

The thing that drew me to gaming was the intersection between technology and storytelling, and the idea that we could use this platform to understand and enhance ourselves. I’m a bit of a Trekkie, so of course I love the Holodeck. But if you dig beneath that concept, it becomes about using technology to explore our inner landscapes. The thread that runs from games to my novel to my adventures in meditation has been exploration for the purpose of freedom. True mental freedom – attaining this, enabling this, scaling this combines technology, psychology, gaming, storytelling, mythmaking, and social culture.

7) What inspired you to start The Willow Group and can you explain your idea of “transformative technology?”

The last decade found me exploring the idea of transformative technology in the video game industry, where I served as a senior executive with responsibility for strategy, operations, and marketing for games internationally for major brands that include: Activision/Blizzard, Disney, and Vivendi. Most recently I managed the operations of Blizzard properties, including World of Warcraft, in China. During this time, I also began to meditate and saw interesting parallels between it and gaming. Both enable delight, flow, and access to dynamic states of consciousness. Meditation, though, goes even further and can profoundly and positively impact well-being. It seemed logical to me that technologies that directly impact human experience could do so as well, but no one seemed to be seriously working on it. So, I left Blizzard to pioneer Transformative Technology.

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Poster for Inaugural TTC Event last month

For the last year I have applied my strategy and execution skills to creating and enabling these types of profound impacts via technology. I started by partnering with one of the largest academic research projects in the space and helping them take an experiment online. This provided critical data at a scale that didn’t yet exist regarding what was possible.

Next, I began to seek out and work with others who understood the potential. Together we started to form a nascent industry and its needed infrastructure. This has grown to the point that the first Transformative Technology Conference happened in Palo Alto this Fall.

My contribution to this burgeoning industry includes co-founding a transformative technology company, and a university research lab to create and produce hardware and software that will revolutionize how traditional approaches like meditation are updated and made more reliable and effective. Meditation has been proven to have a powerful impact on well-being, focus, and emotional regulation, especially during stress. The presence found in meditation is similar to the heightened flow states achieved in games or sports, except that it brings the sensation of flow more deeply into daily life. These products will bring the infrastructure of experiences like gaming to the adventure of personal transformation, and deliver it on a global scale.

“…During this time, I also began to meditate and saw interesting parallels between it and gaming. Both enable delight, flow, and access to dynamic states of consciousness…”

8) What future plans do you have for yourself, your writing career and The Sisterhood? Do you plan to have a sequel?

The Sisterhood is a part of a trilogy, all of which are outlined. I’m focused on getting part one out to as many women as possible and then will hide myself away somewhere and write the sequel.

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You can find out more about The Sisterhood and Nichol Bradford’s work at: http://www.mskincorporated.com  and http://www.nicholbradford.com

Coming Soon:

Stay tuned for my review of The Sisterhood!


Modern Griots Interviews: Nichol Bradford and The Sisterhood Part 1

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Nichol Bradford Source: Black Girl Nerds

Syncing up with my work as the literary director of the Queens Book Festival, my first official return post is my long overdue interview with Nichol Bradford, author of the novel, The Sisterhood!

Nichol Bradford has had an accomplished career, first as an executive in the gaming industry, and now as founder and CEO of the company, the Willow Group, developing what she calls “transformative technology.” While, yes, we humans have been innovative when it comes to technology, I can’t say that we have been as innovative  psychologically, socially and spiritually. I see Nichol’s work as part of the legacy of Amiri Baraka’s questioning of modern technology in “Technology and Ethos.” The Willow Group’s mission is to use “effective technologies for creating permanent positive shifts in peace of mind, mental balance, life satisfaction and happiness. From ancient practices to cutting-edge science, our programs help you assemble a personalized program to reach your goals.”

As an explorer of human potential, and how technology can bring about transformation in our everyday lives, helping us to expand beyond our perceived limits, Nichol has combined her knowledge from business, gaming industry and her work with The Willow Group to write her first book, The SisterhoodThe Sisterhood follows the story of an organization of the same name led by nine black women. The book opens up with the death of its visionary leader, Vivian Delacroix, and how the remaining leaders cope with not only her tragedy but also moving on with the organizations mission to develop sciences and technologies to empower communities, of especially women, all over the world, confronting Cocanol drug cartels, corrupt governments, secret societies and a media circus surrounding Vivian’s assassination, and dealing with their own personal lives.

We see what these women are willing to sacrifice to create break the mental chains of society and create a better, more whole future for others. At a deeper level, The Sisterhood is a blueprint for how to make changes in one’s life, how we can use the principals of visionary planning, financial literacy, science, technology, martial arts, leadership, spirituality, community service and responsibility to change our world.

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