If you have been following the news, you most likely have heard about Azealia Banks’ interview on Hot 97, in which she gave an honest critique of appropriation of the cultural forms that originated in black cultures: “I feel, just in this country, whenever it comes to our things, like Black issues, or Black politics, or Black music or whatever there’s always this under current of a ‘Fuck you.’ Like ‘Fuck y’all niggas. Y’all don’t really own shit. Y’all don’t have shit…Like you’re trying to smudge out…it’s like a cultural smudging is what I see. And when they give these Grammys out all it says to White kids is ‘You’re great, you’re amazing, you can do whatever you put your mind to.’ And it says to Black kids, ‘You don’t have shit, you don’t own shit, not even the shit you created for yourself.’ And it makes me upset in that way (Source: Madam Noire.).
She continued: “What bothers me is when you have the media [which] is really evil. I told you that undercurrent of like “fuck you” and the sensationalization that comes around it. There was this time in the summer where I picked up the New York Post, and the cover was ‘Hip Hop Is White.’ They do that on purpose. They’re trying to erase us. They’re trying to erase all of our books and scripture. Everything that we’re supposed to know about ourselves is gone. Completely fucking gone. Never to be seen again.
The fact that metallurgy was started in Africa – agriculture, all those things that created the world are ours. It’s really upsetting when you read your social studies textbook and all you see is stories of you under some White person’s foot or you failing… I don’t wanna share [Hip Hop] with y’all. I’m sorry I don’t…This little thing called Hip Hop that I created for myself, that I’m holding on to with my dear fucking life – I feel like it’s being snatched away from me. It’s not, but they do that just to fuck with you. Why y’all trying to fuck with me?” (Source: All Hip Hop).
But as others have said before, this is nothing new. We have had to confront cultural exploitation for a while now. The only issue I had with what Banks said is I wanted her to continue putting it in a larger context of the twinning of white supremacy and capitalism not give personal attacks. White supremacy favors whiteness over everything and everybody else, and with capitalism, it can suck dry the cultural traditions and productions of local cultures like an invasive species, breaking them from their origins and deeper meanings for empty shell trends to sell to the highest bidder. It is through these erasures of origins and decontextualization of cultural art forms that we have difficulty claiming our cultural traditions, that they were cultivated in our communities. The mainstream will quickly disregard our right to claim and benefit from them for their own greedy, personal gain. As Greg Tate said “black culture matters” and so does black contributions.
The Azealia Banks interview fit well with a recent panel I attended about our communities moving forward our presence into the future, whether it is our art forms, our rituals, our values, or our institutions, and below is the recap from the event:
Futuring the Presence of the Blackness in Arts by the Renegade Performance Group
Recently I was part of Going If you would like Natural’s 10th anniversary photoshoot event at Afropunk and my hair was styled by a gifted hair stylist and jewelry maker Shakilla, who calls herself a loc sculptor, and her work is filled with truly divine masterpieces. Her styling business, A Manifestation of a Vision, is filled with her unique visions that she recently realized uses mathematics as well to structure the designs. The entire week and half I wore her design, I was like a mini-celebrity and even received comparison to a few characters in sci-fi films and shows. I was happy to be part of her first photoshoot to showcase her work and push her business out there more. If you would like to have your hair done by Shakilla, this is her number – 917-573-9937- and tell her I recommended her! Check out the pics below:
Attending the Black Comic Book Festival for the first time this year introduced me to a wide scope of the comic book world from the lens of the black community and so I wanted to share some of the creators and their works that I came across while there. It was difficult walking around the presentation tables and stopping myself from buying all the comics there, but I did get a couple:
*The first table I went to was the artist John Jennings and I purchased the African American Graphic Classics. As someone who does write poetry, this was a great find for me. It’s a similar idea to a book I had when I was younger, illustrator and author Ashley Bryan’s book of illustrated African-American poetry. Various comic and graphic artists, such as Jennings, Lance Tooks, and Afua Richardson, illustrate several short stories and poems from various authors, including Zora Neale Hurston, Alice Dunbar Nelson, W.E.B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes.
*Walking around I saw many male creators in the comic and science fiction industry, like the Craft family, N Steven Harris, Mshindo Kuumba, I enjoyed particularly seeing black women who were part of it as well, like Evolve‘s Kia Barbee. I met illustrator and animator Tiana Mone’e Scott, who has done work with Cartoon Network and PBS. At the right below was one of my favorite pieces that she had on her table. See more of her work here.
Sekou Sundiata – “Space”
Last weekend, I attended the Tongues of Fire tribute to Sekou Sundiata at the Apollo and I must say it was a beautiful, stirring and electrifying tribute. Curated by musical director Craig Harris, the show included his band Nation of Imagination as the musical background as for a few moving musical numbers, some with lyrics written by Sundiata and sung by the three singers of the band (“Song for a Friend,” “I Found God,” “The Writer,” The Sea.”). The other performances were a mixture of spoken word performances of works from Sekou Sundiata and Amiri Baraka arranged with music as well as performances from The Last Poets member Abiodun, rapper Rakim and Nigerian artist Wunmi.
The show opened with poet Liza Jessie Peterson reading “Urban Music” from Sundiata’s album Long Story Short and continued with Amiri Baraka’s “In the Tradition” and “Something in the Way of Things,” the humorous critique of today’s hip-hop with Abiodun and Rakim, “Some of It’s Hip, Some of It’s Not,” and ended the first part with Sundiata’s “Sound of Memory” and a funky “Blink Your Eyes” with Vernon Reid and all the performers.
The second half of the show began with Ngoma Hill’s reading his yoruba-inspired poem, “Poem for My Egun,” leading to a cacophony of poems and music with Peterson, Baraka, and Abiodun performing together “Reparations,” and “Whys.” Wunmi grooved on stage, even getting down with Harris, during the performances of wish-to-return home “The Healing Song” and Baraka’s recitation of Sundiata’s “Space.” Rakim was brought back out to finish the night with his classics, like “The 18th Letter,” bringing the night packed already with so much to a full-circle.
Starting this month until October, there will be several events celebrating poet, playwright, educator and activist Sekou Sundiata, all part of Blink Your Eyes: Sekou Sundiata Revisited, a New York City-wide retrospective. There have been a few events this month already, including one with Tracie Morris, and during next two weeks will be events at The Apollo Theater and The Poets House. All the events will include a wide variety of artists and creatives, including Amiri Baraka, Nona Hendryx , Vernon Reid, and Greg Tate. Below are a few of his memorable poems (I love the musicality and cultural awareness of his poetry), and you can read more on his website:
Philosophy of the Kool
a blues for poets
I been swimming since water,
learning to sing like the songs.
The oldest one I know goes like this:
Some people came from the trees,
I remember coming out of the undertow: the ocean
of seas: the electricity the explosions
billlions of us crashing with the waves,
then blown away into memory.
You can still hear us in the piece of a beat
or in that music made from scratch.
The first words still had roots,
like a James Brown syllable.
It was a single cell one minute, a slam dunk the next.
Speed was our need.
Since yesterday was International Women’s Day and today is International Fly Girls Day, here is post dedicated to some topics, news and resources about us black women. But first, “I’m Every Woman” from Chaka Khan, one of the first music videos:
Below are videos of the conversations and lectures from the Alien Bodies Conference that took place in February:
Keynote with Alondra Nelson
*Tonight illustrator and animator Tim Fielder will be sharing his work Matty’s Rocket— an episodic-animated series & web comic. The event will have guest appearances and readings from writers Liza Jessie Peterson and Melanie Maria Goodreaux. They will read Afrofuturistic pieces aloud while Fielder will illustrate their work on the spot!
*Accra Dot Alt will be returning tonight with their Talk Party Series in Ghana celebrating singer Tawiah’s mixtape Freedom Drop.
*Today, the filmmakers for the upcoming film, Oya: Rise of the Orisha, opened their Indiegogo page. The film “focuses on a young woman named Adesuwa who has the unique ability to transform into the fearsome warrior goddess, Oya, the Orisha of change. When she changes, she gains amazing abilities. We follow Adesuwa as she goes on a head-stomping mission to keep the doorway between the Orisha and humanity closed. Be prepared for an action packed , mystical adventure as we explore the world of the Orisha.”
*Kwan Booth, who edited Black Futurist Speaks, is hosting Black Women From the Future event in Oakland, California on Saturday in celebration of both Black History Month and Woman’s History Month in March. Today is Nina Simone’s birthday, so it’s perfect timing. For more information on the event and the artists featured, click here.
* Griotworks is presenting “‘Afrofuturism’: Exploring the Future of Black Media, Myth and Culture” event on Sunday in Philadelphia, Pennsylviania. The conversation will focus on the history and future of Black movies and media, taking into consideration the seven slavery-themed films coming out this year. For more information, click here.
*CCCADI and ImageNation are presenting the “8th Annual Re-Defining African American Convening: What’s At Stake?” on February 26th in Harlem, New York City. The topic is: “Who are the REAL African-Americans? Navigating Identity Nuances of African Peoples in America.” For more information, click here.
*The Liberator Magazine released their latest issue, “The Last Generation of Black People.” My essay, “The Percussive Approach,” is one of the writings featured. Buy a copy here.
*Accra dot Alt announced El Anatsui’s exhibition “Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui” will be at Brooklyn Museum Also, go to Accra dot Alt for other news happening in Accra, Ghana.
*Boston Fielder of Muthawit will be on the Anti-Robot Radio show tommorow at 7pm.
*Mother Tongue Monologues for Lesbian Ancestral Wives and Revolutionary Women Speaking the Unspeakable will be performed tomorrow at the Schomburg Center in Harlem.
*BAM New Voices in Black Cinema starts today and will be premiering tomorrow both The United States of Hoodoo (which I will be reviewing) and Tey with Saul WIlliams. For more info., click here.
*MoCada opened a new exhibition, eMerging: Visual Art and Music in the Post-Hip-Hop Era.