Forgetting Why We Remember

Today is Memorial Day and while many of us celebrate the holiday with barbecues and trips to the beach, I think it is also important to remember the solemn history behind this holiday. In today’s New York Times, David W. Blight published an article recounting the origins of Memorial Day after the Civil War through Reconstruction, and how the marginal stories of the holiday have been largely erased by the mainstream official story. Blight, who is currently a professor of history and the director of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition at Yale, will be releasing soon his new book, “American Oracle: The Civil War in the Civil Rights Era.” Have a great Memorial Day!


Gil Scott Heron: A Poetic Revolutionary

Yesterday, I was sad to find out that singer and poet Gil Scott Heron died at the age of 62. Best known for his poem and song, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” Heron was one of the important links between the 60s Beat poets and the Black Arts/Power Movement, and the Hip Hop and Spoken Word generations. Many poets and writers, such as Chuck D from Public Enemy, Kanye West, Common, Talib Kweli, and poet Lemn Sissay, credit him with teaching them how to speak and write in way that is meaningful to their audience. Also, several rappers, like West, have sampled his music in their own songs. Heron influenced many on the importance of caring about others, about their own community and about those less fortunate, even through his own struggles with drug abuse. Heron was a legendary poet, singer and man, and I wish I had the chance to see him and meet him. But now I hope he is finally at peace. Rest In Poetry.

The Revolution Will Not be Televised 

Home Is Where the Hatred Is 

Kanye West – My Way Home (Sampled Home Is Where the Hatred Is)

We Almost Lost Detroit 

Common – The People (Samples We Almost Lost Detroit)

Black Star – Brown Skin Lady (Also samples We Almost Lost Detroit)

Lose Control!

via The Ase Fountain

“AfroFutures. Postmodern Ancients.

Spoek Mathambo – Control

This is such a great video, it can be read on so many levels. A South African cover version of an English tune (Joy Division She’s Lost Control) to me it plays with the kinds of images that signal a terrible, fearful ‘voodoo’ to the mainstream. Western images of traditional African spirituality usually imply loss of self, loss of control, reversion to a mindless savagery that only rational Western ‘civilisation’ cures. Spoek plays around with these images and recasts them in a hip, unsettling, AfroFuturistic video that deserves wider viewing. Big up Spoek!”

Techno/Electronic music is not my favorite genre, but this is too cool to deny! Also, check out The Ase Fountain on Tumblr; it is a very interesting site that covers the various cultures of the African Diaspora.

Sorry, You’re Not That Original

Grace Jones and Lady Gaga

One of the reasons I was never impressed with Lady Gaga is that I feel as if what she does and wears has been done before and she does not even do a great job at naturally making it her own. Here is a picture I saw on Tumblr today comparing Grace Jones and Gaga, and so this will be a small taste of one of my upcoming posts…

Jon Stewart, I Love You!

This is why I believe it is important to put things into context, including historical context. It provides for a better argument. Jon Stewart of The Daily Show totally owned Bill O’ Reilly on his own Fox News show. He could not even properly answer Stewart’s questions; he looked like a complete and utter fool. Also, Stewart showed respect to Assata Shakur by saying the name she goes by now, not her government name. Stewart revealed the racist and elitist undertones of Fox News and O’ Reilly’s argument against the Obamas inviting Common to the White House and the ridiculousness of O’ Reilly trying to differentiate between Common and other musicians like Bono, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash. My respect for Stewart has reached another level.

Backslide to the Moonwalk

I remember growing up how I gazed in amazement when I saw Michael Jackson doing this move. Every time I tried to do it, I felt I could never do it justice, my feet would always find it hard to slide back properly.

To this day, I think Michael Jackson is one of the greatest dancers of all time! Do you know why? It is because he had so many dance influences, from Gene Kelly to James Brown. As Jackson said, “Study the greats and become greater.” And guess what, that famous “moonwalk” of his is not even his dance. I know, gasp!

I was watching “Soul Train: The Hippest Trip in America,” and Jeffrey Daniel, a dancer on the famous TV show and one-third of the group Shalamar, talked about the moonwalk and how he influenced Jackson to do the dance.

At the 1:43 mark, you will see Daniel do the moonwalk or backslide, as it was called before. This video premiered a year before Jackson made the dance famous at Motown 25 in 1983. As seen with Daniel, the dance was a part of the breakdancing and popping dance technique. Actually, Jackson was a huge fan of Soul Train and learned the dance from Daniel.

However, Daniel did not invent the “moonwalk” either. Other musicians and dancers performed it as far back as the early 30s. Tap dancer, Bill Bailey, and Jazz bandleader, Cab Calloway, did the first recorded versions of it.

Bailey at 0:49

Though Jackson never claimed that he created the move, many people think he did because it became popular with him. This is probably due to a number of reasons: the magnitude of Jackson’s impact on pop culture, his smoother dancing skills and the slight invisibility that Black culture has within dominant culture. Many cultural phenomenon did not gain popularity till much later and usually with someone else who was more famous.

But, I still love Michael doing that move and I can do it now too!

Postmamboism: History Through Music


“Open your ears to hear words, songs and other important matters.”

Last week, while looking up poetry from the Harlem Renaissance writers, and the Jazz drummer, Art Blakey, for my honors thesis, I stumbled upon a piece by Ned Sublette wrote two years ago about his theory of “Postmamboism:”

“…Postmamboism is closely allied with (but not limited to) history, anthropology, linguistics, literature and critical theory, cultural studies, religious studies, urban studies, communications, performing and plastic arts, and all manner of Africanist and Hispanist study, to say nothing of musicology and ethnomusicology. Overlapping with other theoretical perspectives, Postmamboism is intrinsically cross-disciplinary and bi-directional: if music provides a way to hear into history, history also provides a necessary grounding to the study of music.

Postmamboism acknowledges a dialectic between its essential reference point of music that is popular (literally, of the people, signifying music that springs from historical roots and, relying on memory and person-to-person transmission, is infinitely renewable), and pop, which is presentist and must be mediated, consumed and replaced. Postmamboism speaks in the vernacular, deprivileging jargon, cultic language, and hyperpolysyllabicism. Postmamboism values the testimony, experience, and vocabulary of cultural practitioners, because for Postmamboists as for musicians, theory must be connected to practice…”

Ned Sublette is a writer, historian, photographer and singer-songwriter, who has written several books, including “The Year Before the Flood” about the city of New Orleans. He definitely has an interesting theory, especially with the progressive and activist tone of it, and it should receive more attention; maybe I will become a postmamboist one day.

And speaking of Mambo, here is Arsensio Rodriguez, the Cuban bandleader who claimed to be the “Father of the Mambo” and from whom the first quote is derived.