Jaszmine Asha Hawkins is a New Jersey-based visual artist whose artwork is vibrantly and beautifully unusual with her “big-lipped” and “alien-looking” figures. Currently she is looking for galleries who will showcase her work. For more information about her and to contact Hawkins, visit on her facebook or twitter page.
Professor, author and cultural analyst Louis Chude-Sokei speaks in his lecture, “When Echoes Return: Roots, Diaspora and Possible Africas (A Eulogy).” The lecture centers on the death of South African reggae singer Lucky Dube and how the fantasy of a singular Africa in roots reggae music has been both a dangerous space and a space for possibility for people in Africa.
Also, Chude-Sokei said later in the lecture that “there’s nothing more important than fantasy. Without fantasy, you don’t have politics. Without fantasy, you don’t have reality.” Thoughts?
Last week Lupe Fiasco premiered his video for “Bitch Bad.” With its use of minstrelsy and blackface, the video as well the song brings to the forefront once again the complicated position of the black entertainer in popular culture. What is the role and responsibility of a black entertainer to themselves and their audiences? What is the role and responsibility of the audience? The black entertainer is in a constant struggle to perform black complexity not only in a space limited by capitalist, colonial structures, but also shaped by the cultural, social and historical background of the performer and audience. Probably unintentionally, “Bitch Bad” highlights the constant negotiations within black performance today and in the past.
In “Bitch Bad,” Fiasco attempts to start a conversation about the confusion over the meanings of the word “bitch,” and the influence over young children who hear it in popular music and see mainstream popular music videos. Though in the verse brings up problems with the word, by the time the listener reaches the chorus, it sounds as if Lupe is demanding the extinction of the word after the use of old-fashioned dichotomy of the bitch versus the lady. Listening to the song again, whether he meant to or not, Fiasco slightly comes off as almost patronizing or paternalistic. He seems to be paying more attention to women (rappers and audiences) role in the usage of the word than on the men who also use it. Some of the lyrics come off subtly as blaming women and slut-shaming, especially in the third verse. He also disregards how female performers use the word sometimes as a form of subversion in a male-dominated industry. The word has a different meaning within a different performance context. These may not have been Fiasco’s intention, but the song can be interpreted as an oversimplification of the topic.
When councilwoman Letitia James said that Afropunk was about going beyond boundaries, she was right and this year’s festival did that in several ways. After last year’s cancellation due to stormy weather and my first attendance at Afropunk Fest two years, there have been big changes, some for the good and some for the maybe not so good.
This year’s festival was free for the first time and with that comes more people — a lot more people! The crowds were so overwhelming that I do not think the organizers even expected it. The schedule pamphlets were all gone before the first day was half over and the lines to get in and out were much longer than I remember. It was almost past capacity in the park! To top it all off, the crowds were unbearable to be in a times. Everywhere I turned, smoke — tobacco and weed swirling around my head! I think that was the most I had been around in my entire life! It did not help that the crowds were so packed, especially during the final performances that I felt as if I didn’t have any breathing room or space to move. Some people were rude, sometimes only saying excuse me to push past people to get to the front. I wondered how many of these people were there for the true essence of Afropunk or for a free festival to only enjoy the more popular acts.
The underworld culture of street dance in Soweto, South Africa, where dancers transcend their space and time with their bodies and minds. “The African Cypher is the birthplace of ritual celebration, council, story telling and dance … When he [Tom London] dances on the street corner with Mada [Sthembiso]; the kids, the tsotsi’s [gang member], the mamas, the unemployed and the hustlers all stop to watch him. I always wonder how it must feel to have that power residing right inside you. No props, no burning hoops — nothing. Whatever this dance thing is; it is beautiful — part circus/part soul. No matter the context or style. We all ultimately dance for an audience of one.”