Otherworldy Videos: Charter Magic

Marques Toliver —  “Charter Magic” from Butterflies Are Not Free (Source: The Now Playing Mag).

His lyrics are mystically beautiful:

Stop me if you can, if you can. I’m a free minded soul
You can not find me cause I”m on a different level than yours.
Catch me if you can, if you can. I’m about to explode.
You can not find me cause I”m on a different level than yours.

I’m on a journey to a place I’ve never known
 I’m on a journey so the land that has my soul.

A man and a woman came down to the waterfall, waterfall.
Or so the story goes
They were made from the light of history.
The Ancients made it so.

 I’m on a journey to a place I’ve never known
 I’m on a journey so the land that has my soul.

They walked through the fire.
Transformed into the lions to have the dreams.
Our power is many. We live in the valley.
We made the key to help you on your…

Journey to a place I’ve never known.
Journey to the land that has my soul.

This spell was made so long ago, long ago, long ago
The magic is so very old, very old, it made me who I am.

I’m on a journey to the land that has my soul.
I’m on a journey to a land I’ve never known.

Made from white fire. My spirit has left the floor.
You can not find me cause I”m on a different level than yours.
Catch me if you can, if you can. I’m about to explode.
You can’t find me or bind me, exorcise me.
I’m no demon, oh no.

A man and a woman came down to the waterfall, waterfall.
Or so the story goes.


Modern Griots: Flobots

The political rap and rock band, Flobots, consists of vocalists Jonny 5 and Br’er Rabbit, guitarist Andy Rok, drummer Kenny O, bass player Jesse Walker, and voilinist Mackenzie Gault. Not only is the group socially aware, but are also influenced by speculative fiction and other avant-garde artists. Jonny 5 likes magic realism and his favorite rapper is MF Doom. Br’er Rabbit (his name comes from a famous African-American folk trickster hero) idolizes Marvel characters like NightCrawler, the psychedelic rock band The Music Machine, the Akira film, The Dark Crystal film, and Digable Planets. Rok takes his influences from Parliament Funkadelic and The Roots, while O sets his eyes on being like Spider Man. Some of the artists on Walker’s list are Flea from Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Parliament Funkadelic, Bootsy Collins, Andre 3000, Common, Beck, and Dave Navarro of Jane’s Addiction. Last, but not least, Gault listens to a range including Bach, Common, The Roots, Queen, Miles Davis, and Simon and Garfunkle.

Their latest album, Survival Story, is as they describe: “A vision of hope for a world facing its limits. While others revel in the dystopian, the Flobots remain committed to their ability to rise together. Navigating the coming years will require new tools. It will require narratives that cause us to reexamine our priorities, redefine wealth, and re-inspire ourselves. It will require that we come together in the face of death and write the story of our own survival.”

“The Rhythm Method (Move!)”

By the way, this song is relevant to my thesis on percussion in hip-hop, which I will be finishing this semester! Yay!

The Fear of the Hood

Trayvon Martin’s death, which eerily reminds me of Emmett Till, has sparked a national outcry as well as a reminder that we still have a long way to go when it comes to race. For example, there is a tumblr page exposing the racist backlash of the black character Rue in Hunger Games, the racial description ignored by many in the book. The thoughts on Rue reveal the deeply embedded racial perceptions of black people, the same that led to the death of Trayvon.

Alicia McCalla has done a science fiction response to the case:

The hunt and murder of Trayvon Martin seems like a fictionalized scene from a teen dystopian novel similar to the Hunger Games. The only problem is that this scene is real.  I’ve been keeping up with the news on this case and I am both horrified and enraged.  My feelings stem from two fronts, one because I am Black and the other because I am a mother.  The injustice boils.

During the last three weeks, I have been planning my son’s graduation from high school. My husband and I have been so proud of his accomplishments.  He’s been accepted to several colleges, but we are especially proud of his acceptance to Morehouse College. It’s almost ironic that I’ve been planning for my child to become a legacy at the most prestigious institution for Black males in the world and Trayvon’s family has been planning a funeral as well as dealing with injustice and institutionalized racism.  My heart, soul, and prayers go out to Trayvon’s parents, family, friends, and loved ones. I stand with them in understanding and solidarity…

Read the rest here

What Is Afrofuturism? Part 7: From Urban Afrofuturism

Urban Afrofuturism posted on tumblr why afrofuturism is important to him:

“This started out rambling thoughts on my thoughts on Afro-Futurism. What it’s become is a long rambling essay/poem (!) on my worldview, my religious thoughts, and what I think of humanity and existence in general. I think I’ve finally found a framework that fully articulates all my thoughts while leaving so much room for growth and evolution. I’m very very happy with it. 🙂

I’ve been wondering as of late why I’ve been so attracted to to the idea of of Afro-Futurism and what that means for me personally.

And as of late, I’ve been framing Afro-Pessimism and Afro-Futurism as flip sides of a coin, kind of the two halves that form the whole of my personal philosophy and can sort of describe my experiences. I’ve appropriated the term Afro-Pessimism here – it refers more specifically to the condition of Africa, especially post 1980’s and the economic declines the continent faced then, or at least it was formed in that context. But that’s neither here not there for me. For me, how I conceptualize it is in relation to this quote by Frank Wilderson (obviously taken out of a wider context),

‘“[The Afro-Pessimists argue] that violence toward the black person happens gratuitously, hence without former transgression, and the even if the means of repression change (plantation was replaced by prison, etc.), that doesn’t change the structure of the repression itself. Finally (and this is important in terms of the self-definition of the white person), a lot of repression happens on the level of representation, which then infiltrates the unconscious of both the black and the white person…Since these structures are ontological, they cannot be resolved (there is no way of changing this unless the world as we know it comes an end…); this is why the [Afro-Pessimist relational-schema] would be seen as the only true antagonism (while other repressive relations like class and gender would take place on the level of conflict—they can be resolved, hence they are not ontological).”

Or essentially why I’m a misanthrope. I believe socially structures across the globe, while varying across the globe, will always situated to keep blackness and those of the African diaspora down. And by a wider extension, what I think this means is kyriarchal structures will be an ever present reality. I do not believe racism will ever disappear or not be a problem. I do not believe sexism will ever disappear or not be a problem. The same for any number of oppressions – cissexism, ableism, whatever, you name it, I think this are ever present realities. I do not believe that humans are inherently good.  For me these are ontological claims. This simple is the way the world is, these are conditions of our existence. This is reality

And the truth is reality depresses me, but I also think it bores me. As much as I claimed to be a physicalist (a position I occupied until literally a few days ago), the implications of that position, and the reality that we occupy bores me. And this is on several scales – from the mundane: really, my future is predicated on the arbitrary scaling of my academic efforts on a scale from 1 to 4? Really I have to spend the rest of my life trying to accumulate capital just to live in this society?; Or, to the more abstract: we are still judging and oppressing people based on their skin tone or gender presentation or sexual orientation? This is institutionalized?

We, as humans, could do so much more, could beso much more! But simultaneously, it is our humanity that limits us.

On the other hand, Afro-Futurism is the theoretical space that we could occupy – what we and the world would look like if we fulfilled the potential that humanists cite when talking about greatness we could achieve, the world that the anti-oppression fights for, the world that the scientist imagines. For me as a black man, that’s a world of constant redefinition, where I don’t have to give up my historical identity, but I don’t have to be limited by it either. Right? Black is the color of the cosmos, the black man is the cosmic man (Sun-Ra). It flips the existential absurdity of what it means to be black in a world that would deny me my humanity, and flips it on its head. It embraces the absurdism! What? I exist? I occupy physical space? I affect the universe, I AM the universe? That in and of itself is amazing. I am not human, I can be transhuman, I can be greater than human, I am a part of a whole that is greater than humanity. It deals with potential.

And so those who engage with afro-futurism, the artists, the musicians, the poets, the scientists, the anti-oppression warriors, they are the ones who explore the spaces of our potential – what we could be, what we are from different perspectives. Astronauts, aliens from outerspace, androids, Dust, stardust, atoms, ancestors and descendants, angels and demons, kings and queens and pharoahs, bois, grrls,. They take the historical, and the contemporary, and explore the possibilities. This isn’t about race, it also creates futures for genders, for sexualities, and it’s greater than all of that. And every venture into the afro-futuristic space is a small glimpse of that potential. Every subversion of the norms imposed on us is an exploration of that space.

¿Como el realismo mágico, el género metalingüístico?  Es el mismo.

And paradoxically it’s an exploration of our humanity. Because humans make this happen. Sun-Ra, Octavia Butler, Janelle Monae, Colson Whitehead, Terence Nance, Audre Lorde, Malcolm X, Barry Jenkins, Nicki Minaj,  – these are all people. All flawed – but there’s something greater there too right? Taking the parts, and making something greater than the sum.

And why Urban? For me, I’m a product of the city (urban youth, the metropolis kid). And the city, both real and imagined is where all of this coalesces. It represents the best and the worst of us – a monument to that potential that we have, so many people in concentrated physical spaces, so much technical and engineering achievement, structures that scrape the sky!, so many minds in one place, so much community, and yet simultaneously, always the cite of festering squalor, of high crime, of segregation, of apathy and antagonism. The urban environment, real and imagined, is the physical home of humanity, what we’ve done with nature.

I don’t believe in a God, and I don’t believe in the supernatural. But I do believe in something bigger, and when I say bigger I mean beyond human conception. But just because we can’t conceive of it doesn’t mean we aren’t a part of it. (My goodness…have I discovered religion? ( ._.)) Maybe it’s irrational, but I’ve ceased to define everything irrational as inherently bad. Epistemological Claims.

It’s the little things.

NewModelMinority always says #BlackGirlsarefromtheFuture. And that makes me happy.

Sun-ra says the black man is the cosmic man. And that makes me happy.

There’s so much more that I can’t even begin to list. 

But this is what Afro-Futurism means to me.”

Moving-on-the-Wires: Call for Participants: Beyond and Between the Crescent and the Cross

If any of you are interested, here is a project about the diaspora and spirituality that I saw on poet Caits Meissner‘s blog:

“My name is Kameelah Janan Rasheed and I am a photo-based artist, archivist & historian, writer, and high school teacher based in Brooklyn, NY. I am embarking on a new project that I have been dreaming about for over a decade. At 26, I feel ready to take on this project called BEYOND AND BETWEEN THE CRESCENT AND THE CROSS.

Working primarily as a photographer, but also as an oral historian and an archivist, I seek to document the varied ways people of African descent in America explore spirituality outside of the traditional iterations of Islam and Christianity. I was raised in Sunni Muslim family, attended a Catholic high school, and currently live in an Hasidic Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn. Still a practicing Muslim, my curiosity piqued at the age of 15 when I began to research the Moorish Science Temple and Black self-proclaimed prophets of the early 1900s.

Looking beyond the hue diversity of my community, simply, I want to document our spiritual diversity. I want to hear stories. I want to ask questions. I want to connect paths. I am interested in interviewing and photographing self-identified Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Rastafarians, Mormons, Moors, Five Percenters, non-identifying, Agnostics, Atheists, etc. of African descent/Black based in the United Stated. Let’s connect. The end “product” of this work is an audio and photography-based exhibit that will start as a growing web-based archive.  If you are interested in being interviewed and/or photographed (this can be a portrait of you, a physical space, a material/artifact, etc.) or have questions/suggestions, please contact me directly.

Email: kameelah.rasheed@gmail.com // Phone: (347) 903-5475 

I am based in Brooklyn, NY and more than willing to travel to Upstate NY and throughout the five boroughs, New Jersey, D.C/Maryland/Virginia, Connecticut, Philadelphia, and Boston. When I secure additional funding, I will be able to travel a greater distance so please let me know if you’re interested even if you do not live in the areas listed above.

While this whole project is unfolding, I will be posting research and process notes here.

I am excited to hear from you!


Kameelah Janan Rasheed”

If I Had My Way…

Soul Sci-fi posted this as a potential comic:

“Dominique finds herself trapped at The Crossroads, the pathway between flesh and spirit, where she faces an inquisition from a handful of lethally unpredictable voodoo gods. From sailing the River of Souls with Baron Samedi, god of death, to confronting the overwhelming vastness of the Universe from the back of Damballah the sky serpent, Dominique’s trials will strip her bare…and threaten her very soul”